Jonah Leher Your Brain on Error

by Steed Dropout
Aug. 1, 2012


Suppose I were Jonah Leher, with a degree from Columbia in neuroscience, and I had just resigned from a staff-writer’s job at the New Yorker, and oh yes, I’m a butt of bloggers, all gunning for me, to link to my viewers.

My fall stemmed from charges I conflated, possibly invented some Dylan quotes in my latest book on the brain.

As Leher, I offer this breakthrough in neuroscience — “Your Brain on Errors: How Our Brains Fuck-Up.”

Riggedly (sic) controlled laboratory brain imaging of the frontal lobe light up the lobe when we err/error. Also lighting is a nearby creativity lobe. Researchers concluded there was a conflict between creativity and linear action.

In other words, our errors stem from a battle in our brains pitting productivity against creativity.

I offer my own last book as an example. My frontal lobe knew I was manipulating my quotes to support my thesis, but the parietal lobe pressed for a creative resolution to the conflict.

Our brains set our deadlines. If I know I must file a piece by three, my brain conspires to keep me from fact-checking every last detail. For example in the lead paragraph above, we say “degree from Columbia” without checking, because our brain is racing (and, of course, lighting up).

Moreover, the brain’s creativity center, is telling us, “who the heck cares where this guy went to school.” The important thing is he studied neuroscience. Columbia has a certain following. Creativity dictates Columbia become a meme for “in-the-know.”

We know this because our in-the-know lobe lights up.

Similar brain functions that trip us up:

(1) Convenient, but false memories that light up.

(2) Brain impulses conspiring to defend the false memory.

(3) A Freud lobe, which can make us suck when we mean to spit.

(4) A brain media filter, which tricks us into thinking no one will see or actually read us.

(5) The Fuck-It effect, which starts in the visual cortex, grabs a ride on a fast-moving electrical impulse to the MAC (motor association cortex), overriding better judgement.

Last but not least:

(6) Point of No Return. A struggle to the death between the cerebellum and the pons in which our mind dictates that we must continue, even though we sense disaster.

See our related piece: Correct This: Journalistic Mistakes in an Age of Corrections

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