Behave: The Biology of Humans at our Best and Worst Books

Chapter 2: One Second Before

Frontal Cortex – Conclusions

Interesting article by Daniel Wegner attached here

  • Daniel Wegner (Harvard psychologist) demonstrated a two-step process of frontocortical regulation (A) one stream identifies X as being very important; (B) the other stream whether the conclusion is “Do X” or “never do X”. And during stress, distraction, or heavy cognitive load, the two streams can dissociate; the A stream exerts its presence without the B stream saying which fork in the road to take. The chance that you will do precisely the wrong thing rises not despite your best efforts but because of a stress-boggled version of them
  • Frontal Cortex conclusion: The mantra is that it makes you do the harder thing when that is the right thing.
    • “Doing the harder thing” effectively is not an argument for valuing either emotion or cognition more than the other. For example, we are our most prosocial concerning in-group morality. when our rapid, implicit emotions and intuitions dominate, but are most prosocial concerning our-group mortality when cognition holds sway
    • it’s easy to conclude that the PFC is about preventing imprudent behaviors. But that isn’t always the case.
    • Like everything about the brain, the structure and function of the frontal cortex vary enormously among individuals; for example, resting metabolic rate in the PFC varies approximately thirtyfold among people.
    • “Doing the harder thing when it’s the right thing to do”. “Right” in this case is used in a neurobiological and instrumental sense, rather than a moral one
    • Consider lying. Obviously, the frontal cortex aids the hard job of resisting the temptation. But it is also a major fronocortical task, particularly a dlPFC task, to lie competently, to control the emotional content of a signal, to generate an abstract distance between message and meaning. Interestingly, pathological liars have atypically large amounts of white matter in the PFC, indicating more complex wiring

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