The advantage of neuroscience

A Conversation with Rebecca Saxe

“The advantage of neuroscience is being able to look under the hood and see the mechanisms that actually create the thoughts and the behaviors that create and perpetuate conflict. Seems like it ought to be useful. That’s the question that I’m asking myself right now, can science in general, or neuroscience in particular, be used to understand what drives conflict, what prevents reconciliation, why some interventions work for some people some of the time, and how to make and evaluate better ones.”

“One of the questions I’m asking myself from my work is the question I’ve always been asking myself: how is it going to be useful? I have an idea for how the kind of work I do could be useful, but I’m not at all sure this is possible, or possible in my lifetime. The idea has a big version and a little version. The big version has to do with self-knowledge and understanding ourselves. The big idea is that neuroscience is a kind of self-knowledge. It’s a way of understanding our minds and our behaviors. If we get it right, if we really come to understand our brains, we will understand ourselves, we will be better at predicting our behaviors in contexts and in ways that really matter. In trying to run a society, you need to know how the elements of it would work, just as much as to run a machine you need to know how the physical elements work.

Our society is built of a bunch of minds trying to work together. It seems like having better, more scientific understanding of the mind is the only possible way to have a better functioning society. That’s the big idea, which seems quite ludicrous. Then the question is to try to work it out in an example. The example is almost as ludicrous. The example I’m working on right now is conflict and conflict resolution: how to make groups of people that are suspicious of one another and on the brink of war with one another more tolerant, more accepting, more forgiving, and more capable of working together. There are a bunch of ways that the kind of neuroscience I’ve done could help in that context.

“The science that I do is on how our brains let us think about other minds. There’s at least three ways that that kind of science could help us think about conflict. One is the idea that conflict is actually conflict about other people’s minds. What conflict is, in part, is the suspicion of other people’s motives, the inability to trust and forgive, and the way that our expectations of group boundaries make us less empathetic and more damning of other people’s actions.

“People who have studied conflict, especially intergroup conflict before, have focused on fear of the unknown. But I think that there are these very strong expectations of malice and lack of expectations about reasonable other perspectives that are real drivers of conflict. There’s empirical evidence that I can talk about that’s part of the cycle of what keeps a conflict going. Understanding the perception that other people are irrational, and only understanding the language of violence is part of what keeps the conflict going. So that’s one way.”

REBECCA SAXE is an Associate Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience in the department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. She is also an associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. She is known for her research on the neural basis of social cognition.

Protams, tas viss tā ir. Ļaunprātības piedēvēšana (strong expectations of malice) citiem un saprātīgas rīcības neredzēšana (lack of expectations about reasonable) citos, tie ir nesaprašanas un sociālu konfliktu veidotāji. Tas viss tā ir.

IMHO šeit vietā piezīme: mums jāizveido sevī spēja ieraudzīt, ka citi rīkojas nevis ļaunuma vai naida dzīti, bet – nezinot. Visi cilvēki rīkojas nezinot un nesaprotot, tā ir jebkuras ierobežotas informācijas apstrādes mašīnas nolemtība un aksioma: mēs nevaram rīkoties saskaņā ar zināšānām, kuru mums nav.

Vispārcilvēciskāka un realitātei tuvāka pozīcija pie citiem vairāk redz nevis pārkāpumus, bet gan lielāku, vispārīgāku likumu nezināšanu. Tādā skatījumā visas mūsu līdzcilvēku novirzes redzamas kā nezināšanas izpausmes, kuru vienīgā ārstēšana ir zināšanu, izglītības izplatīšana. Šādā skatījumā konfliktu risināšana reducējas uz kopēju vērtību atrašanu, noformulēšanu un šo vērtību loka paplašināšanu.

Our society is built of a bunch of minds trying to work together. It seems like having better, more scientific understanding of the mind is the only possible way to have a better functioning society. That’s the big idea, which seems quite ludicrous.

There is nothing ludicrous. This is the only way. I.V.


About basicrulesoflife

Year 1935. Interests: Contemporary society problems, quality of life, happiness, understanding and changing ourselves - everything based on scientific evidence.
This entry was posted in Common, Contemporary Society Problems, Understand and Manage Ourselves, Values and Sense of Life. Bookmark the permalink.

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