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Q: How can some people behave unintelligently and irrationally, when all human beings have a highly evolved brain?

Krishna: I loved this Q!

If I say most people behave irrationally at one time or the other in their lives? Even intelligent people can behave illogically sometimes according to experts. And you will be surprised to hear this: even scientists take unsound decisions occasionally. Aren't there any exceptions?

Only intellectuals make 'less mistakes' while reasoning. Because they are strict critical thinkers.

There can be several reasons for this unreasonable behaviour of individuals.

Our intellectual capabilities depend on our thought processes. And our thought process is influenced by several factors. 

In order to understand the problem, first we will have to understand the brain chemistry, circuits and neuro-anatomy with the help of some examples  ...

The Thalamus : Greek for ‘little chamber’ the thalamus appears as two symmetrical almonds located deep in the cerebrum. Thought to be the brains switchboard it relays sensory data to the cortex, as well as regulating sleep-cycles, motor-control, and alertness. The Thalamus as a switchboard, takes incoming calls from the outside world, and then decides which department to put them through to.

The Striatum : Resembling a seashell, tightly wrapped around the Thalamus, the Striatum is primarily concerned with transmitting complex data to different parts of the brain. Latin for ‘furrow,’ if the Thalamus is the switchboard of the brain then the striatum is the wiring which allows messages to come through correctly.

The Orbifrontal Cortex: One of the most mysterious areas of the Prefrontal Cortex is the Orbifrontal Cortex. It is thought to be heavily involved in executive decision making, and determining the value of positive or negative experiences. In scientific terms it is the system that deals with environmental ‘reinforcers,’ and behavioural conditioning. If scientists are right, it is one of the key parts of the higher-order brain, and one of the most important tools in adaptive learning, helping us decide whether we should keep behaving in a certain way because of the reward, or avoid it because of punishment. For this reason it is rather like a manager of a  telecommunications company.

So anything can go wrong anytime in the functioning of any of these things in a person's life because of various reasons.

The loop: These three interconnected structures appear to be malfunctioning in the brains of individuals with conditions like Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD). The ‘vicious cycle’ metaphor, could not be more apt, because all three structures work together in a complex feedback system. This takes the form of an electrical ‘loop’. The ‘cortico–striato–thalamo–cortical’ (CSTC) circuit is probably what creates the broken record effect of OCD.

Yet what is the difference between the OCD brains and their “normal” counterparts? For the last thirty years brain-scan’s have consistently shown, the parts of the brain involved in the feedback loops of those suffering obsessions and compulsions are overactive. Sensory data travelling through the wiring of the Striatum becomes corrupted. This in turn leads the Thalamus switchboard to receive an unclear message. The Thalamus, then relays the unclear message to the Cerebral Cortex. Because the message is unclear, the brain, becomes “overexcited” and the threat of harm becomes terribly exaggerated. Thoughts become “trapped” in the feedback loop and become obsessions. In turn the orbifrontal cortex is activated. Its aim is to judge the corrupted message, but misapprehends the supposed harm, and causes us to act, in maladaptive ways. These become compulsions. The anxiety which is the raw energy of OCD is in part created by this faulty feedback loop.

Studying the mechanism that guides the exquisite wiring of neural circuits in a developing brain—tells us  the faulty circuits that may lead to brain disorders ranging from autism to mental retardation. Faulty wiring occurs when RNA molecules embedded in a growing axon are not degraded after they give instructions that help steer the nerve cell. So, for example, the signal that tells the axon to turn—which should disappear after the turn is made—remains active, interfering with new signals meant to guide the axon in other directions. Disorders associated with faulty neuronal circuits include epilepsy, autism, schizophrenia, mental retardation, depression and spasticity and movement disorders, among others. Scientists found a process of brain wiring that is much more dynamic than was previously known—and thus more prone to error.

Abnormalities in connections between different areas, electric circuit malfunction, can lead to several mental conditions.  People will have to get the right treatments to overcome these conditions.

 

                                                             Dark and light shades of human nature

                                                   Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa's art work on this theme

                                                                http://www.kkartfromscience.com

Okay, if you again ask me this Q, 'even if a human brain is in a good condition, why do some people behave illogically?', my answer would be ...

That is the most important Q to understand to solve this problem of irrationality.

To think perfectly in a critical way, you will have to have all the right conditions. What are those right conditions?

Right fact based full knowledge on anything and everything. This will assist you in understanding a problem, analyzing and finally solving it in the right way. Example: If you are not aware that microbes cause certain diseases, your limited knowledge makes you think some God 's angry with you and cursed you  and that 's why you 're suffering and that thinking makes you go for animal sacrifices to appease the God. That might not give you a desired result because you are not treating the disease in the correct manner. 

That going for 'animal sacrifices' might have origins in 'cultural and traditional conditioning of minds'. If you cannot overcome these conditioning of minds ( cultural, traditional, political, religious, ideological, and emotional ), your thought process again goes faulty.  Cultural and traditional things denote and deal with ancient uninformed thinking process and therefore, need not  be correct.

Then you have to free yourself from cognitive biases    and fallacies that try to influence your thought processes. You have to  try to be completely neutral and highly rational. Click on the links given in coloured words and read what these biases and fallacies are and how they influence our thinking process. Most people don't even know that these things exist and that they are hijacking their cognitive capabilities!

One good example is 'Brexit'. Most people in the UK were emotional while voting for Britain's exit from European Union. They were also biased towards their country's 'capabilities' and 'nationalism' influenced their voting. They never thought about the consequences. When experts warned them, tehy refused to listen to their 'good  words'.  And now ... they are facing the worst of conditions and suffering ... need we say more?

We are facing such situations in many parts of the world now.

Ability to draw inferences or conclusions that are supported or justified by genuine evidence and evidence only. Judging according to established  professional or scientific rules or criteria using only scientific methods and methodology is lacking in irrational minds. Instead other things that are just misinformation that screws up your thinking is being accepted without giving it a second thought.

Ability to overcome fear and other uncontrolled emotions: Lack of confidence because of lack of knowledge, right thinking, makes people illogical too. To clear your mind of fear, you should try your best to get the right information, and that in turn leads to the right  analysis of a situation and then the problem solving. You can hit the bull's eye only when your aim is perfect.

We will have to really train ourselves to overcome all these problems that interfere with our intellectual capabilities. Just having the right tool and an evolved brain is not enough. How  capably you can use it  is what dictates who you are. 

Read these article that give more insights  into this problem:

Critical Thinking 

Scientific Thinking

The right way to boost your intelligence and become insanely creati...

Science's rules are unyielding, they will not be bent in any way fo...

cognitive biases     

 fallacies

Question based on the above answer of mine...

Q: What decreases our best cognitive functioning?

Krishna: Heavy smoking, binge drinking, doing drugs, substance (like thinners) abuse, very low sugar levels in the body (because our brain needs sugar to function optimally), no exercise ( exercises boost blood flow to the brain), low nutritional value or junk foods, idle brain ( you know what I mean, don't you? ), not having enough  sleep, high stress levels, very low levels of knowledge, conditioning of minds, biases and fallacies, fear and other uncontrolled emotions, no training in the right thinking process, some medicines and very old age if you are not careful enough. 

These are the most important ones.

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