Ever wonder how seemingly rational people do incredibly dumb things? Like IntoTheWild where a boy purposefully stacks the odds against his survival. Or this person who has Body Integrity Identity Disorder and is lopping her legs off (Granted, I'm taking "rational" to mean anything that does not decrease my odds of surviving and reproducing, but that's just me ;).

The more I read, the more brains look like a composition of volitions that blend together as a chorus to seem like one unified voice. From HowTheMindWorks we know that the brain looks like a von Neumann computer with a lot of peripherals (video card, audio card, speech card, memory, general purpose CPU, etc.). Somehow, from these components, our idea of self emerges.

For most people, this self looks unified all the time. When we think narratively or visually, we hear one voice or see one screen. With a bunch of components firing on a problem, the resultant single voice/screen probably resembles a choir (i.e. audio and/or video streams are intelligibly multiplexed).

Because we experience choral thought, we don't always know whether some brain component is dominating the show. You have probably been through at least one situation that got out of hand, and now that you look back at it, you wonder what the hell you were thinking. This shows that one brain component does not always dominate. It also shows that we could benefit by making better decisions were we able to control which brain component is dominating.

Historically, we have tried to gain this control by training to a set of scenarios. By confronting a difficult situation repeatedly, we can learn to engage our rational decision-making brain component. But this works only for situations similar to the training. We need a way of identifying which brain component is dominating.

Instead of targeting the scenarios for training, we should target each brain component. For each component, put ourself in a situation where it dominates. Then associate a pitch or color to that component. To do this, we just need a list of components and a group of friends to practice with.

Perhaps in the future, we will be able to use fMRI to further target components and avoid sub-optimal responses to situations.

Interesting idea. In order to do that properly I think you would need some kind of live display of brain activity while you interacted with your friends. Otherwise how are you going to know that you're really activating the part of the brain you think you are. -- David W
Another comment (gee it would be nice if I could include paragraph breaks in my comments ;) ), I think reading fiction, biography, and history is a helpful practice for avoiding temporary insanity. You can mentally place yourself in the position of whomever you are reading about and consider what you would do if you were that person. Then when you encounter similar circumstances in your life the decisions you made while reading will play out in your actions (hopefully anyway). -- David W
Visualization certainly helps, but probably not as much as practice. I'm assuming that practice creates a more similar neurobiological environment more similar to a real life experience. I think I need to create some practice scenarios. -- Patrick.