That is a little bit the point.
We think… and we think we know what we think, but actually, we don’t. Not precisely, really.
You know, basically what we think is a narration that our brain tells us. Of course, our brain is an extraordinary machine, it would be crazy not to define it as one of the most extraordinary (if not the most extraordinary) organ that nature ever generated, and I’m not saying it’s lying.
But it guesses. Like… a lot.
And it needs coherence, so it will do its best to connect the information it gets in order to complete the vision of the world it already has. That’s why fake news works so well, that’s why it is so difficult to change our mind about certain subjects.
It would mean to be in contradiction with what we previously thought: it’s called cognitive dissonance and we hate it.
There is a very interesting experiment on this subject conducted by Michael Gazzaniga on patients who have undergone an operation to dissect the corpus callosum which normally unites our two hemispheres. Here it is summarised in an extract from Albert Moukheiber's French language book "Votre cerveau vous joue des tours":
It must be taken into account that language is a lateralized function of the brain and that information received by the left eye is processed by the right hemisphere and vice versa.
Michael Gazzaniga asked patients who had undergone surgery to cover their left eye (the eye that has no access to the language function) and look at a picture with only their right eye. When questioned about what they see, the patients have no difficulty in answering.
Gazzaniga then presents them with a new picture and asks them to look at it with their left eye (linked to the right hemisphere of the brain, which has no access to language). The patients cannot enunciate what they see. Gazzaniga then asks them to draw the same image; while they could not verbalize what they saw, they are able to draw a picture of it!
"Gazzaniga went even further by developing a new experimental protocol” and here's where the really interesting part for us begins.
"As in the previous experiment, he shows images to a patient with his left eye covered. After showing him a first picture representing a chicken foot, Gazzaniga asks him to choose from several pictures the one that best corresponds to what he has just seen. The patient points to the picture of a chicken. Asked why he chose it, the patient replies that he chose the chicken because he had seen a chicken foot in the first picture. The experiment is repeated, this time looking with the left eye (the eye that does not have access to the ‘language’ function). This time a picture of a house under snow is shown. Among the pictures that are later shown to the patient to choose from, he rightly chooses a snow shovel. But when he has to explain the reason for his choice things get complicated; he does not answer ‘because I have just seen a house in the snow’ and he does not even say that he does not know, but he answers ‘Hmmmm, the shovel is for cleaning the chicken coop’”.
Here is a case of extreme confabulation: the patient goes so far as to invent a reason to justify his choice a posteriori in order to maintain his coherence.
We like to understand, we like coherence, in fact, we like it so much that sometimes we give up on properly understanding the reality to devote ourselves to the narration we own.
Don’t get me wrong: mostly, it’s for the best. It helps us in the daily navigation of life. But sometimes, like everything we are not aware of, it might bring us to take absurd positions, and to do anything to justify what we have been doing…