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YOUR BRAIN ISN'T A COMPUTER. IT'S A QUANTUM FIELD


Irrationality in our thinking has long troubled psychology. When others inquire how we are, we normally say "fine" or "good." However, if we are asked about a specific event — "How did you feel about the major meeting with your boss today?" — we instantly refine our "good" or "fine" comments on a scale from dreadful to great.


We can contradict ourselves in a few sentences: we're "good," but we're unhappy with how the meeting went. So, how can we be "good" in general? Bias, experience, knowledge, and context all interact consciously and unconsciously to drive every decision we make and emotion we exhibit. Human behaviour is difficult to predict, and probability theory frequently fails to do so.


Enter quantum cognition: a group of researchers discovered that, while our choices and beliefs don't always make sense or match a pattern on a macro level, they can be predicted with startling precision on a "quantum" level. In quantum physics, inspecting a particle's state affects the particle's state; similarly, the "observation effect" influences how we think about the topic under consideration.


The quantum-cognition idea allows psychologists and neuroscientists to comprehend the mind as an exquisite cosmos rather than a linear computer.


In the example of the meeting, if someone asks, "Did it go well?" we immediately think of ways it did. However, if he or she asks, "Were you nervous about the meeting?" we might remember that it was pretty scary to give a presentation in front of a group. The other borrowed concept in quantum cognition is that we cannot hold incompatible ideas in our minds at one time. In other words, decision-making and opinion-forming are a lot like Schrödinger’s cat.

The quantum-cognition theory opens the fields of psychology and neuroscience to understanding the mind not as a linear computer, but rather an elegant universe. But the notion that human thought and existence is richly paradoxical has been around for centuries. Moreover, the more scientists and scholars explore the irrational rationality of our minds, the closer science circles back to the confounding logic at the heart of every religion. Buddhism, for instance, is premised on riddles such as, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without it.” And, in Christianity, the paradox that Christ was simultaneously both a flesh-and-blood man and the Son of God is the central metaphor of the faith.

For centuries, religious texts have explored the idea that reality breaks down once we get past our surface perceptions of it; and yet, it is through these ambiguities that we understand more about ourselves and our world. In the Old Testament, the embattled Job pleads with God for an explanation as to why he has endured so much suffering. God then quizzically replies, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (Job 38:4). The question seems nonsensical — why would God ask a person in his creation where he was when God himself created the world? But this paradox is little different from the one in Einstein’s famous challenge to Heisenberg’s "Uncertainty Principle": “God does not play dice with the universe.” As Stephen Hawking counters, “Even God is bound by the uncertainty principle” because if all outcomes were deterministic then God would not be God. His being the universe’s “inveterate gambler” is the unpredictable certainty that creates him.

The mind then "gambles" with our "uncertain" reason, feelings, and prejudices to form conflicting thoughts, ideas, and opinions, according to quantum cognition. Then we combine those conflicting possibilities to relate to our "certain" reality. We modify our thoughts by studying them at a quantum level, and by changing them, we change the reality that shapes them.

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