Sunday, December 16, 2007

Frog Brain Theory


Has this ever happened to you?
You're watching television, surfing the 'net or flipping through a magazine. A gruesome photo startles you. The reaction is instantaneous- so fast that, if you look away, you may not remember many details. You've somehow managed to scare yourself before taking the whole thing in. How is that possible?
That's where my Frog Brain theory comes in. Let's say I happen upon a scene from "Zombie Butcher Weasel Bloodbath III." More than one part of my brain reacts. By the time my conscious, articulate brain thinks Wait a second! That's not marinara sauce! , a more primitive part of my brain has already sensed danger and triggered the fear reaction.
I call this privative part of my my head Frog Brain.
A frog probably doesn't think, Gosh, that approaching predator could kill me. It'd better flee. He panics. He leaps. I suspect parts of our brains react the same way. The difference between us and the frog is that we can think about our reactions. Explain them. Justify them. "Of course the picture startled me," I might explain. "It was hideous! No, I don't want another look." Never mind that logically, I shouldn't be alarmed because it's only a picture.
Frog Brain doesn't understand pictures. He sees blood and hits the panic button.
I wonder if Frog Brain's dubious reactions fall beyond hitting the panic button. Is his crude sense of "that's bad!" behind our superstitions? Our prejudices? Our bad habits and behavior?

3 comments:

Sally said...

Get non frog brain working on Pioneer Woman contest today with $500 Amazon prize. I bet you can win it!

STAG said...

In my martial arts, I use the frog brain to fight with. Only I call it the "dinosaur brain". Its pretty primitive, incapable of understanding concepts like "thats only a picture", and is not the same as Freud's "subconcscious mind", though it seems quite similar at first blush.

Its the only thing which works fast enough for me to actually fight. I drive with it too...and you do too. You would not be able to drive without it. And Video Games mess it up big time, which is why video games can be evil, but not in the way people normally think they are. Its that "alternative reality thing" which is so bad.
But I digress. I guess I am saying...I agree with you, and can prove it.

Namowal said...

Thanks for steering me to the contest, Sally. I'm thinking....

You are correct, Stagg. Frog Brain drives, does marshal arts, ties shoes, makes coffee and many other tasks we can do without articulate thinking.
Another Frog Brain story involves antrograde amnesia- the kind where the victim can't remember events that happened after his brain injury. A doctor introduced himself to the guy, jabbed him with a pin when they shook hands, and left. He returned several times later. The patient thought he was meeting someone new each time, but he refused to shake his hand. He always had an excuse not to do it, none involving getting jabbed. His Frog Brain, unaffected by the amnesia, was looking out for him.