There have been a series of investigations performed to illuminate human thought processes, and let me tell you, the results are fascinating in their ramifications.
1) The brain consumes something like 1/5 of the energy expended by the body, although accounting only for something between 2 and 5 percent of the body’s mass.The brain is an energy hog.
2) The human brain evolved as a response to environmental conditions. A smart generalist can be successful in adapting to fluctuating circumstances whereas a creature with specific adaptations and little latitude for change may become extinct in short order. Example: the adaptive generalist white-tailed deer vs. the specific-needs panda. White-tailed deer: there are millions of them, to the point that they have become a pest. Pandas: maybe 2000 total.
3) The human brain uses the very least amount of energy when the owner has made up his or her mind about something. These are called “convictions”, or “beliefs”. The mind is made up, there’s no reason to change, and the brain can rest in its little hammock of relaxation, conserving energy just as it would have had to do back in the cave days to survive the inevitable famine.
4) Sometimes, though, people have to think. That’s why they evolved that big-ass brain in the first place, but they are still programmed to conserve energy. If a person has to think about his-her beliefs, and then decides to CHANGE those beliefs, that process requires significantly more energy routed through the brain to accomplish. So if the cave-guy is looking at a bush with something kind of different behind it, he could comfortably stay established in his belief that it is a rock behind that bush. But if he uses more energy and changes his belief to the idea that there is a saber-tooth tiger behind that bush, the expenditure may save his life.
5) The most energy consumed by the brain occurs when the owner has to suspend the process of belief/non-belief, and wait for more information to come in. When new information arrives, the brain sorts through all of it on its way to a conclusion. Very energy-intensive, and actually kind of a luxury that our original cave-people didn’t have, what with fending off starvation and hiding from predators and all that. If those people expended lots of energy thinking about things, it could push them right over the mortality edge.
So the baseline for human comfort is simple, straightforward belief in something. No thinking required, just comfy, non-demanding belief. Actually having to change our minds about something is way less comfortable, because it requires lots more energy. And to suspend belief and wait for information, and then weigh and assign that information – far, far more energy-intensive, and something to be avoided when possible because you might really need those kilocalories in the near future.
Okay think about it. Use that big-ass brain to suss this out. See all those people in front of their TV sets? Lots of energy saved there. Judging from their really wide rear ends, probably more than enough. Take a look at a local Tea Party get-together. Big old people, lots of signs with serious spelling errors, not a lot of analysis going on, just rock-ribbed conviction. More energy saved.
Couple years back some scientists mounted another study. It was simple. They took two different movie reviews and presented them both to the test subjects. The subjects were asked to read the two reviews, then answer these questions: Which movie would you rather see? Why? Synthesis and analysis at the most basic level possible. And guess what? Most people couldn’t do it! Analysis and synthesis were too friggin’ difficult! No wonder we have people parading around claiming they know the truth of the 2nd Amendment when they can’t even figure out which movie they want to see. No wonder there are folks who claim an unerring interpretation of the Constitution when they can’t even drum up the energy to make a comparison. Like cave people, they just sit there, happy and peaceful and exerting no effort to either understand the world or better it.
This is the America of the 21st century. And it is pathetic.