Nonsense Makes You Smarter

Yetty believers may not be so crazy after all. Actually, they just might be smarter.

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See sasquatch on your latest trek? Have you ever popped your head out of your tent in the wee hours of the morning and sworn there was a unicorn by the fire? Well, it turns out these absurd and unexplainable experiences might just make you a better outdoorsman/women.

A new series of studies published in Psychological Science by Travis Proulx and Steven J. Heine, suggestss that exposure to the absurd and surreal, may trigger ‘implicit learning’ or knowledge gained without awareness.

So, say your hiking deep in the backcountry and you stumble across a Lazy Boy with no indication as to why or how it got there. As you stand there utterly dumbfounded, your brain is not as confused as you may think. It’s actually reaching out and identifying new patterns in your surroundings, such as animal tracks or possibly even safety hazards.

The researchers claim that this heightened awareness is connected to our own innate reaction to cling to our biases when threatened. For example: when faced with death you might become more religious or patriotic. Or more simply, it helps you maintain meaning. They also claim that the brain evolved to predict and identify patterns. So when faced with nonsense, the brain finds new ways to make sense. (Got to love the awesomeness of our biology!)

So get out there and find that yeti/unicorn/Nessie, heck lets all just take a moment to contemplate the absurdity of life in general. Feel any smarter, notice anything new? I’m with the New York Times on this one, “disorientation begets creative thinking.” And it just might come in handy the next time you’re out there in the great wide-open.

-Jordan Olmsted

How Nonsense Sharpens The Intellect (The New York Times)

Photo Credit: Tony V