Tag Archives: brain

More Softiness!

Yesterday I posted my thoughts about empathy and kind of wondered aloud why I find it easy to get so deeply immersed in a fictional drama that I can be moved to tears; sometimes to really distressful levels of sadness and grief. At the end of that post I wrote:

I want to understand what is moving me when this happens. On some levels it seems patently ridiculous to get so emotionally involved in a fiction story. On the other hand, perhaps it is really what makes us human. I’m wondering if someone with a more classical education than I have knows more of the thinking humans have brought to the subject. I’m sure some in the Arts (especially the Theater Arts) have tackled it. I’ll have to do more research. In the meantime, I’m glad there’s plenty of tissue in the house.

As it turns out, thanks to a friend I discovered an interesting answer through a wonderful TED talk by VS Ramachandran, a Neuroscientist who has studied the functions of mirror neurons. It would seem there is overwhelming evidence we humans are more closely connected than I was hinting at.

In his talk he says, “There is no real independent self, aloof from other human beings, inspecting the world, inspecting other people. You are, in fact, connected not just via Facebook and Internet, you’re actually quite literally connected by your neurons.” I find this resonates in many ways with my understanding of Systems Dynamics, Quantum Theory, and Zen and goes a long way toward answering my question. Frankly I find it a meaningful addition to my understanding, but still find myself wondering why it manifests itself so powerfully in some . . . and not at all in others. After all, the world is filled with people who are anti-social in varying degrees of severity from mild conduct disorders to outright sociopathy or APSD.

Regardless, there is much value in this talk. He speaks of the wonders of the human brain and, with respect to the issues I raised yesterday, uses words like imitation and emulation, ultimately winding his way to empathy. Rather than repeat any of his talk, I urge you to listen to it. There’s at least one very cool surprise a little more than halfway through. At less than eight minutes, it’s really engaging. Here’s the video. I’d love to hear what others think of this:


This is NOT Your Grandparent’s Brain

The Divided Brain

Beancounters on the left and ne'er-do-wells on the right. Is this accurate?

This morning I came across this picture – actually a drawing – in Facebook that purported to characterize the two hemispheres of the human brain. As long as I can remember we’ve been told the left hemisphere is the seat of rationality and the right the seat of emotion and artistic endeavor.

I shared the picture on my Timeline, along with my observation that the left depicted “bean counters” and the right “ne’er-do-wells”. It was a light-hearted attempt at defining the so-called characteristics of each hemisphere.

However, I soon received somewhat of an admonition that all this was a fallacy, accompanied by a link to a wonderful animation (set to a lecture by the psychologist Iain McGilchrist) from the folks at RSAnimate, and I wanted to share it.

If I understand McGilchrist’s description of the brain’s activities, I believe the left side can be seen as the analytical part and the right can be seen as the synthetic (in the sense of synthesis; not man-made or chemical) part of how we see the world.

As one who considers himself a Systems Thinker and, especially, on a blog entitled Systems Savvy, this makes a great deal of sense to me, though I must admit I was in thrall to the belief that our left and right hemispheres were more like the graphic and less like the video. I, therefore, share them both and am curious to see if anyone will take the time to watch the video and tell me what they think. Have at it!

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