The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Opinion & Letters to the Editor

March 27, 2014

Why our brains just cannot let this mystery go

(Continued)

The disappearance of Flight 370 pings some of our most basic cognitive drives.

Gopnik and colleagues say that studying how babies engage with the world illustrates what they call our "explanatory drive." It is, they write, as fundamental as the drive for food or sex: "[W]e look beyond the surface of the world and try to infer its deeper patterns. We look for the underlying, hidden causes of events. We try to figure out the nature of things." They describe how, "When we're presented with a puzzle, a mystery, a hint of a pattern, something that doesn't quite make sense, we work until we find a solution." We feel dissatisfaction when we remain baffled and feel what they call a "distinctive joy" when it all snaps into place. We have endlessly pounced on clues about Flight 370 — two passengers with stolen passports, a pilot with a flight simulator in his home, the presence of lithium batteries in the cargo hold — and consecutively concluded the plane was lost due to terrorism, pilot suicide, or catastrophic mechanical failure. But no wonder this story grips us: It is as if a whole village has been eaten, and there is a predator we haven't been able to detect.

Being human, when it comes to our innate drives, we are seriously prone to overdoing it. In "The Invisible Gorilla," Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons write, "Our minds are built to detect meaning in patterns, to infer causal relationships from coincidences, and to believe earlier events cause later ones." Our extraordinary pattern-seeing abilities serve us well but also lead us astray. "At times, we perceive patterns where none exist, and misperceive them when they do exist."

This perhaps is why on CNN you can hear experts debate whether some satellite imagery supposedly identifying remains of the plane truly shows its debris, other ocean junk, or glints from the sun.

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Opinion & Letters to the Editor
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    “I don’t read The Washington Post. That is not where I get my ideas.”

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Patrick Gannon This isn’t medical marijuana

    As state legislators debated allowing the use of an extract from marijuana plants to treat seizure disorders over the past couple of weeks, it was evident that social conservatives – there are many of them in the General Assembly – felt a tinge of unease about it, even as almost every one of them voted yes.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Doug Creamer Friends and contentment

    Last week I made my annual trip up the mountain to Sparta. My friends have a secluded home near a babbling brook. Their home and property are a haven for peace. It’s a two-plus hour ride to their home that doesn’t feel that long because I look so forward to my time with this great couple. When I arrive, the conversation seems to pick up right where we left it the last time we saw each other.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Thanks for the honest deed

    I would like to thank the person that found my wallet in the parking lot of Harris Teeter on July 23 and turned it in to the Albemarle Police.

    July 29, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • We need your help

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    July 28, 2014

  • Council asks veterans to seek office

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    July 28, 2014

  • Mike Walden The gains and gaps in our economy

    Twice a year, I pull out my cloudy crystal ball and attempt to make some predictions about the direction and pace of the North Carolina economy. I just finished my latest effort and, as usual, the results are a combination of pluses and minuses.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jason O. Boyd Yellow journalism takes on new form, people are dumber for it

    Time to get on the soapbox for a few minutes.
    Let me clear my throat. Eh ... hem!
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    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Brent Laurenz Special election adds to the mix

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    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

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