• How does our memory work?

    We have to firstly explain a bit how our brain processes information – how our memory works. Memory is general speaking one network of networks in the brain, build up and strengthens by the connections between the neurons in these networks. A connection that is not used very much is weak and may have “empty” synapses (the situation we do not use our memory a lot or not at all) and of course a connection that is used quite often does have strong synapses (we use our memory on 100%).

    How we learn things on conscious and unconscious level 

    Once the connection starts getting used, and we start to learn something new, there is an increase in the amount of neurotransmitters released, and empty terminals of the neurons get filled and the synapses get stronger. We call this working memory. That is the chemistry behind our memory; very, very simple explained. Everything we`ve learned, was hardcoded, “uploaded” in our brain this way (our behavior, language, emotions, body language, skills, knowledge, etc.). This is how the very structure of the brain's neurons network is structured and continuously changed. We know now how mother nature empowered us. 

    Implicit and explicit memory 

    When we really learn something and don’t forget it (we speak here about long-term memory) the neuron actually makes is able to make more connections between the neurons and the architecture of the brain has been changed. This happens every time we fitness our memory, consciously or but not least unconsciously. This is the part we are now interested in. 

    When it comes to organization of our memory we speak besides short term and long term memory also about implicit and explicit memory. Let me explain this first a bit. Short-term memory can hold unrehearsed information for about 20 seconds. Everyone can imagine what is here behind this. Under long term memory, we have declarative memory (explicit), which handles factual information in language and symbols, or semantic memory as well as memory for time-based events. Non-declarative (implicit), memory holds actions, motor skills, conditioned reflexes, and emotional memories. 

    Have in your mind that our unconscious brain processes and sifts vast amounts of information looking for patterns (200,000 times more information than the conscious mind). To have fully understood this: every second the unconscious brain processes bits of information and on the other hand the conscious brain processes maximum 40 bits of information a second. That means that 99.999996% of all algorithm in our brain neuron networks are on the unconscious level. Fascinating, or? 

    How does our unconscious brain process the information? 

    When the unconscious brain sees two things occurring together (e.g. many male senior managers) it begins to expect them to be seen together and begins to wire them together neurally. This is how the brain does it, right? Our brain wants to make quick grouping, simply said. To make it easy and quick for us. We can speak here about “quick thinking” and “slow thinking”. Why does it work like this?

    Safety gateway in our unconscious brain 

    Brain imaging scans have demonstrated that when people are shown images of faces that differ to themselves, it activates an irrational prejudgment in the brain's alert system for danger. This happens in less than a tenth of a second. Our associations and biases are likely to be activated every time we encounter a group member, even if we consciously think that we reject a group stereotype. The brain has a 'safety gateway' where these instincts can be shunted to the brain's social processing areas where our actions become empathetic. If this gating and shunting does not take place our instincts become behaviour. Implicit bias is activated automatically and it includes emotions or feelings about the target. 

    Unconscious bias is the opposite of our intuition 

    Social psychology calls this phenomenon "social categorisation‟ whereby we routinely and rapidly sort people into groups, clusters, levels, etc. This preference bypasses our normal, rational and logical thinking. We use these processes very effectively (we call it intuition). This preference bypasses our normal, rational and logical thinking and the categories we use to sort people are not logical, modern or perhaps even legal and here we can see these as systematic thinking errors. Unconscious Bias is processed at an unconscious level without our awareness that the bias even exists, let alone influences his or her behavior. 

    When is unconscious bias most active? 

    General speaking: when we have very limited capacity in our brains to control biases. When we are stressed, frustrated, angry or threatened these emotions overwhelm our resources and bias is left unfettered and wins. 

    IAT (Implicit Association Test) has been found to reliably measure implicit or unconscious attitudes, including implicit bias. 
    Leonard Mlodinow, "Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior"

    What is you opinion? What are you most excited about? Share your opinion with others in the comments below the article. 

    If you liked the article, please share it! 

    My name is Jaromir Prusa (@nacesteskoucem), I am dealing with professional coaching, lectoring and professional networking. I particularly specialize in executive coaching, facilitation council and professional business networking. You can contact me (LinkedIn profil),  right HERE.

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