Science vs. Art
Ever start to relive a moment from your younger years only to be contradicted by someone else who was part of the moment?
For instance, say you had a brother who always blew up his toys with fireworks. As you recall the event, you might swear he used to blow up some of your toys too, although someone else might disagree. What is worse is when a third person jumps in and says you're wrong, although you remember the moment like anything else.
According to this article, here's what happened: You clearly recalled your brother blowing up toys with fireworks. You remember the days when this event excited you, and perhaps you remember an event when your brother destroyed one of your toys, which wasn't so enthralling. As you look back on a toy that became nothing more than plastic burned down to static drips like dry wax, you might swear to the heavens that your brother destroyed your toy in one of his pyromaniac moments.
But still, your brother and whoever else swears you're wrong. It's like that you've confabulated.
"Confabulate" was definitely not a word I learned until I read this article, and if it was on the GRE I sure failed that question. Basically it means that there were gaps in your memory that you filled in with plausible events from other memories or with scenarios that made sense with all of your previous knowledge.
Don't worry, though, you're probably not suffering from a mental or emotional disorder . . . yet.
This is just the beauty of how the mind works. Of course, once you confabulate (I love saying that word!) too often and too much of a story, you should probably be checked out. Otherwise, it's our natural storytelling process.
See, the mind doesn't really care about information nor does it remember it that well without a narrative. Sometimes when I used to take a test, I would recall a joke that was made while I was studying a certain subject. Many people remember things when there is some sort of story surrounding it. It's how Bill Nye can teach hyper-active kids the most boring concepts in science.
The downside of all this is many people have either chosen science or art. As it relates here, sure you remember a narrative better than a singular set of facts, but science can explain way. There's no magic or mystique to it, which is the very essence of art.
A lot of fiction has become unpopular because science explained some of the elements and made certain ideas erroneous at best. Think old-school sci-fi films and how you laughed at their notions of space.
It doesn't have to be science vs. art though. There's no reason you can't understand a situation and still admire the magic behind it. In fact, here's what Michael Gazzaniga, a cognitive neuroscientist and the author of Who's In Charge has to say:
"Gazzaniga suspects that narrative coherence helps us to navigate the world – to know where we're coming from and where we're headed. It tells us where to place our trust and why. One reason we may love fiction, he says, is that it enables us to find our bearings in possible future realities, or to make better sense of our own past experiences. What stories give us, in the end, isreassurance. And as childish as it may seem, that sense of security – that coherent sense of self – is essential to our survival."
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