Many times before I’ve written about our habits and how we act and behave. I’ve written about how our unconscious is controlling our everyday life. And there’s a reason why I keep coming back to this.. It’s by repeating things we learn.
Today I’ll write about patterns. Patterns help our brains make sense of our environment, but too many can lead us astray. In the end of the article I’ll show you a couple of examples. I’ll show you how your brain is always filling in the blanks when processing the world. And whether you realize it or not, your life contains a series of patterns that repeats again, again, and again.
Your patterns and habits are controlling your everyday life and maybe your free will, is really a habit?
Your brain is hard-wired to interpret everything that happens around you through the filter of patterns that it’s created from your past experiences. Your mind’s pattern-recognition runs fast and without you realizing it. It’s subtle behind your decisions made during your days. A mental shortcut has been providing an evolutionary advantage.
Usually I try to keep my articles easily-read but some of you like to get nitty gritty.
Pattern recognition and the formation of habits take place in basal ganglia, a brain structure which also play an important role in the development of emotions and memory.
Whenever you experience something new, your brain is firing neurons in specific patterns. If you have the same experience again, the neurons fire a similar pattern and when repeated enough times your brain creates a special neural pathway. Those patterns are called habits and are loops that start with cues from the outside world.
Basically, when the habit loop start, our brain eases the way with dopamine, a pleasure-producing chemical. This makes it enjoyable for us to follow such patterns and encourage us to repeat the process.
Humans are creatures of habit and studies have shown that habitual behavior accounted for 45% of what people did in a day.
How long it takes to form a pattern depends on the complexity of the behavior that you’re turning into a habit. Studies have shown that it takes between 18 to 254 days depending on which habit to become ingrained.
Your brain’s pattern system is actually pretty useful for you. Imagine if you had to think hard about every single thing that you did, studying it carefully and analyzing the information in order to make a decision. You’d be totally overwhelmed. By remembering things you’ve done before and reusing that information to quickly make sense of your current experiences, your brain can go on autopilot and give you time for things that really matter. The autopilot is a very useful skill which enables you to, for example, put your clothes on with little effort every morning.
Marketing experts for retail stores have realized the benefits of knowing our pattern-formation mechanism and our buying patterns and are constantly looking for ways to subtly influence them. According to one habit expert named Duhigg, one big retailer has figured out that women who buy certain items, such as vitamins and unscented lotions, are often pregnant. The retailer is therefore mailing them coupons for baby products, in an effort to form the habit of buying these items from that store.
Additionally, your brain is so eager to take shortcuts that even if the actual reality doesn’t fit, it sometimes will misinterpret stimulation and perceive patterns that aren’t there. An illusionist can use observers’ reliance on visual patterns, for example, to fool them into thinking that he’s miraculously finding certain cards over and over as he seemingly shuffles the same deck of cards—when in fact, he’s actually switched to using a rigged deck while they were distracted.
How much do you know about your brain and patterns? Let’s see how these examples below turns out..
Which one of these images features more triangles?
Did you answer the one to the right? That’s wrong. It’s the one to the left! (Congrats if that was your answer)
The right one has no complete triangles at all! The Gestalt Law of Closure explains that your brain relies on previous experience to fill in the pieces of the triangle pattern that are missing, so you imagine that they’re where you’d expect them to be in order to complete the pattern.
Look closely at the tiles marked A and B and see if you can see a difference.
Does it seem as A is much darker than B? They are actually the same color!
In the first picture, the blocks surrounding A has a lower contrast and the blocks surrounding B a higher. This is fooling your brain into interpreting them as different shades. The second trick is based on the apparent soft-edged shadow, which makes it more difficult to process subtle changes in contrast.
So don’t believe everything you see!