The brain is not for thinking

  What is the nature of human beings? What makes us different from other species?
  Many would say it’s our ability to think: birds fly, fish swim, people think (thinking here means problem solving, reasoning, complex reading, or any kind of mental work that requires effort).
  Shakespeare praised our cognitive abilities in “Hamlet”: “What a work of man is! How noble is his reason!” However, after more than three hundred years, Henry Ford sarcastically said: “Thinking is The hardest thing in the world, and that’s probably why only a few people can think.”
  They’re both right. Humans are indeed good at certain types of thinking, especially compared to other animals, but we rarely use them. Cognitive scientists would also add: Humans don’t think much because our brains are not designed to think, but to avoid it. Not only is thinking laborious, as Ford says, but it is slow and unreliable.
  The brain can do many things, and thinking is not what it is best at. For example, the brain also enables you to see and move, functions that are far more efficient and reliable than thinking.
  When you walk into a friend’s backyard, you don’t say to yourself, “Ah, there’s some green stuff in here. It could be grass, but it could be something else on the ground. That rough brown thing standing up. What is it? Maybe a fence?”
  You capture the whole picture in a flash: the grass, the fence, the flower bed, the gazebo. Your thinking system can’t immediately calculate the answer to a question the way your visual system captures the whole picture in an instant.
  Second, thinking is laborious. You don’t have to struggle to see, but thinking requires concentration. You can do other things while watching, but you can’t think about other things while solving problems.
  Finally, thinking is unreliable. Your visual system seldom gets it wrong, and when it does, you think you’re seeing something similar to it — close if not quite right. Your thinking system can’t even come up with an answer close to the correct one: your answer may be completely wrong.
  If we are all so bad at thinking, how do we spend our days? How do we find our way to work, and how do we find bargains at the supermarket? How do teachers make decisions in their day-to-day teaching?
  The answer is: when we can get away with a task, we don’t think, we rely on memory instead.
  Where do you turn when driving home? How to mediate disputes during recess? What should I do if the boiling water in the pot overflows? In making most of our decisions, we don’t stop to consider possible solutions, infer and predict various possible consequences, etc.
  As some psychologists put it: “We do what we do most of the time.”
  Even though it may be relatively complex, like driving home from school, you may feel as if you are In “autopilot” mode, you are actually using your memory to direct your actions. Using memory doesn’t require much attention, so you can daydream, even if you’re braking at a red light, overtaking, watching for pedestrians, etc.
  You may have already had a similar experience when traveling, especially in countries where you don’t speak the language, everything is unfamiliar, even a small action requires a lot of thought, such as buying a can of soda from a hawker, you need to buy a can of soda from a hawker. Identify the taste on the packaging in foreign languages, communicate with the hawker, and look for the coins or banknotes you need. That’s one of the reasons why travel is so exhausting: all the little things that are enough to “autopilot” at home require your full attention.
  The implication for pedagogy may sound brutal. If people are not good at thinking, and even try to avoid it, how can students’ attitudes to school be any better?
  Fortunately, the story is not over yet. Although we are not good at thinking, we actually like to think. We are born with curiosity and look for opportunities to think. But because thinking is hard, it needs the right conditions for this curiosity to survive, otherwise we will soon give up the idea of ​​thinking.