Frankly, I don’t know how your brain works, nor do you. I don’t know how my brain works either (assuming it does). And the bad news–or the good news, depending on how you look at it–is that no one else does either. Bad news if you’re trying to find a cure for Alzheimer’s; good news if you get a little queasy about telepathy and “mind-control” stuff. Not that mind-c0ntrol (behavioral conditioning) can’t be accomplished without actually knowing how it works inside the brain.
I think a little mystery is a good thing. While there is a certain loneliness inherent in the human condition, expressed in the simple saying, “You can never really know another person”, if you could, would you? I personally am not ready to be Borg…but I digress.
Today we will discuss two important concepts relative to brain function: phobias, and chocolate cake.
First let us define phobia: it’s something YOU are scared of. If I’m scared of something, it’s an endearing quirk. If you’re scared of something, you’re irrational. Let’s take two examples.
First ailurophobia, or fear of cats. Fakename has never understood this, but she has a theory as to why it might develop. Cats apparently don’t have the facial muscles to be particularly expressive. They can move their ears, and open and close their mouths (very useful for eating), and they can twitch their noses, but the eyes are the problem. They don’t blink often, and so appear to be staring, which we humans interpret as aggression. Not to mention all the times they’ve sucked the breath out of our sleeping babies.
Second, gephyrophobia, fear of bridges. This is not as uncommon as you might think. Let’s pause for a moment to say that an anxiety doesn’t reach the level of phobia unless it affects your behavior. Such as–I will never again travel from Tallahassee to Jacksonville without going however many miles out of the way I have to go to reach it from the south. Never again will I do that I-10, I-95 Junction thing with the elevated roadways. But mostly, it’s bridges over water that are scary.
This is a relatively new development for me, because I have driven over some monster bridges. The Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. Not to mention the Huey P. Long bridge. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The Confederation Bridge between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island in Canada–actually, I was a passenger for that one, but still. However, nothing compares bridge-wise to the Sunshine Skyway Bridge over Tampa Bay. I date my personal bridge phobia to having to cross it. I had never experienced anything like it.
It’s described as “one of the world’s longest bridges with a cable-stayed main span”. The cables are painted yellow, and here’s the deal: when you hit the section of road where the cables are, it sets up a sort of optical illusion which is disorienting. Behold:
Curiously, Fakesister shares this fear of bridges. Last year she took a trip to northern California and we had some discussion about how and if she would make it over the Golden Gate. Somewhere out there is a scientist who would like to study us.
Finally, some scientists did an experiment that went like this: A group of people were asked to memorize either two-digit numbers or seven-digit numbers, then all they had to do was walk down the hall, go into another room, and repeat the numbers. But they were interrupted by being asked to choose a snack: a refreshing bowl of healthy fruit, or chocolate cake. It turns out that the people who had to remember seven digits were twice as likely to choose the chocolate cake. This proves, or suggests…something or the other. There was no word on whether either group remembered their numbers. You can see the story, which aired on NPR, here.