We often see the mind as a single or singular warehouse or machine. However, the theory of brain modularity proposed by Robert Kurzban offers us a more open and revolutionary idea. In fact, according to the researcher, our mind would be an infinite collection of opposing modules that emerged throughout evolution to face problems and adversities.
That's right, the theory falls within what is known as Evolutionary Psychology, an approach that proposes to study the mind and behavior based on the phylogenetic development and evolution of the human species.
Brain modularity and contributions of evolutionary psychologist Robert Kurzban
Robert Kurban has refused to study consciousness and other types of cognitive functions. For him, the mind is made up of a series of modules in the form of a network that operate with each other producing a result in the form of thought.
These modules can contradict each other.. This is the incredible explanation of why we can think one thing and the opposite, or have opinions and feelings faced in certain aspects of life.
The key to Kurzban's theory is what these modules are and how they interact with each other. That is, explain his theory of brain modularity, which he does in his book Why is everyone hypocritical? Evolution and the modular mind.
The modules of our mind
Kurban proposes, in his theory of brain modularity, that our mind was acquiring a series of mental structures throughout evolution. These would have the function to facilitate thinking and adaptation to a highly changing and demanding environment.
An effect of this modular mental network is that, by facilitating the thought process, it makes almost everything happen at a totally unconscious level. People do not really know what they think and the extent of what they think, they only perceive the final result (they perceive the thought).
This makes on many occasions we are not aware of why we make certain decisionsWe believe that we are wrong or perplexed about our own behavior. Who has not ever said that "what I have done is not my own"?
In summary, the mental modules were acquired throughout the evolution of the spice, operate as a gestalt and help us think and adapt to new situations. However, as a counterpart, they hide almost all of our thinking and often causes perplexity or cognitive dissonance. Efficiency is the key to survival.
Brain modularity and self-deception
Do we really believe in something or do we want to believe in something? Because it's not the same. In fact, it is not the same to deceive than to deceive oneself.
Many times self-deception is part of an evolutionary strategy, totally unconscious to us. Many times, we think we are better than we are, we believe that we cannot have an accident or anything bad can happen to us. Similarly, many think they are more attractive than they really are.
What is the function of all this? Make us gain confidence in ourselves and, therefore, increase our possibilities to act and achieve our goals. We will always have the question that do we really believe our own fallacies and exaggerations? Maybe the question is not so much that as the result they produce.
In line with what the theory of brain modularity, we will always see the final result of our thinking, the result that it produces. We do not see everything behind the thought produced.
Advantages and disadvantages
How advantages of brain modularity We have the following:
- Economy and efficiency of thought
- We can make quick decisions.
- Quick extraction of conclusions about certain situations (heuristics)
- It motivates us or drives us to act more, thinking less. As we have seen, thinking too much paralyzes and abuses, is what happens to the obsessive.
- Network thinking, handling a huge amount of information
As for the disadvantages of brain modularity we have to:
- Cognitive biases
- Situations of cognitive dissonance
- The background and reality of thought is not accessible to consciousness
- Self-deception is really that, a fallacy far from reality. To what extent is it positive to see ourselves better or worse than we really are?
- Barrett, HC, & Kurzban, R. (2006). Modularity in cognition: Framing the debate. Psychological Review, 113, 628-647.
- Kurzban, R. (2012).Why everyone (else) is a hypocrite: Evolution and the modular mind. Princeton University Press.
- Zak, P. J., Kurzban, R., & Matzner, W. T. (2004). The neurobiology of trust.Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1032(1), 224-227.