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Why we love explanations, myths & origins

Why do our brains love stories about how we – and everything else – came to be? What’s so fascinating to us about myths? If these questions are of interest to you, then this article might be worth your while. (It’s a short article).

[…] we like to know where things come from. We like stories. We like nice tales. We need our myths, our origins, our creations. […]

Explanations can even enhance our own comprehension: when we explain something to someone, we understand it better ourselves. It’s called the self-explanation effect and has been demonstrated numerous times in the real world. For instance, students who explain textbook material perform better on tests of that material than those who study it twice. Students who are trained in self-explanation perform better on math problem-solving tests—and are better able to learn new mathematical concepts. […]

That’s a very good point. Neuroscience has shown that we remember things better when we “attach” them to already existing knowledge. And what else is an explanation other than connecting new information (or new concepts, or new knowledge) with already existing information in your brain?

Explanation = connecting new information with information that already exists in your brain.

Explanation is natural, just as it is spontaneous. Children as old as eight give explanations for all matters of phenomena as a matter of course. Lombrozo calls them promiscuously teleological: explaining things by the purpose they serve instead of digging deeper for meaning (i.e., they are more likely to say that a mountain exists to be climbed and not because of some geological forces that happened to shape the earth a certain way). And we never really outgrow this childhood tendency[…]

This is an interesting observation, because there is much to it indeed. It feels almost comforting to explain things by their purpose. Think about it: Why does honey exist? Well, to be eaten of course! This could almost be a line out of Winnie The Pooh.

Our brains love simplicity. Simple explanations almost always win over complex, sophisticated ones, especially if we package a simple explanation into a story. And this is especially true if such an explanatory story can make sense out of several factors at once.

You can read the full article here: Hunters of Myths: Why Our Brains Love OriginsBy Maria Konnikova, Scientific American


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