Ten Percent Myth

Kevin Cornwell kcornwell at home.com
Mon Feb 18 01:55:13 EST 2002


10% usage of your brain?  I think that is very optimistic.  Like
others have posted in this thread, you do use all portions your brain
to some degree and at times.  A key variable is where consciousness
is.

A method of understanding the usage of the brain might include the
idea of conscious/unconscious processes.  Imagine something like a
analog continuum.  In one direction you have things that are in
conscious awareness and control, such as the form of these letters
that you are reading at this moment, the colors on the screen, and the
direction of your eyeballs.  In the other direction of this continuum
you have things that operate typically (or normally) in the "un" or
"sub" conscious portions of your brain, such as your breathing rate,
blinking or balance (as a example).  Now, obviously since i have
mentioned these things, and brought them into consciousness you are
now consciously aware of unconscious processes and in such you can
slow your breathing, blink faster, etc.  Any way a lot of process lie
even further down the line in unconsciousness, like your blood
pressure, heart rate, body temperature, etc.  And when you are really
conscious of something, such as very painful or pleasurable
experience, your ~attention~ most likely is not on those unconscious
processes, but those unconscious portions are still there, running in
the background, so to speak.  Anyway your awareness is most likely of
specific feelings perhaps, or something you heard or see.

So if you are 10% consciously aware of all that you can be aware of,
that is to say you are in a super dupper heightened state in my
opinion.  For example, if you can be conscious of your past, like what
you did yesterday, or the day before or a week ago or a month ago or
how ever long ago, then that is a lot of things to be aware of.  You
entire past history is something that you could potentially remember
thus bring into consciousness.  That is a LOT of data.  This does not
even take into account what you are not aware of now that is occurring
at this very second, such as the sounds in the room, the comfort of
your left foot, the temperature of hands, the other things in your
peripheral vision that IS there.  As you notice more of what you could
be feeling, seeing, hearing, and making more distinctions conscious, I
am sure you are beginning to get an idea of the vast amounts of stuff
out there, as well as "in there" that you are not paying attention to.
 Thank goodness you don't have to, or driving a car, while chewing on
a snack, shifting gear and talking on the phone would be impossible. 
Now, when each task is learned and goes into "unconsciousness" then
you can add to it and move on to a new level.

So it seems that with all that IS going on all the time, perhaps we
only consciously pay attention to a small portion of what is possible
to be experienced at any given point in time.  Now, if you have ever
watched another person sleep you know that their consciousness has
essentially given control of ALL processes to the unconscious portions
of the mind.   They still breath, have a heart rate, etc.  And if
something happens that their unconscious "thinks" requires MORE
conscious attention then that will come into consciousness.  And they
simply wake up.

To some of you these ideas may have never been thought of before, and
now that it is conscious you may have new ideas as to what you can
control that might have been for you a "automatic" process.  To
further exemplify this concept; you have read or heard of people who
can slow their heart rate, lower their blood pressure and breathing
rates directly.  These are people who have learned how to "adjust"
deep unconscious processes.  Some find it so appealing they stay there
 :-).

Anyway 10% to me seems awful high.  I imagine that at any given point
in time we are consciously aware of only a tiny sliver of what is
going on.  Does this mean that we only use that sliver and the rest is
simply wasted grey brain goo?  I don't think so.  I can still get on a
bike and ride it smoothly even though I have not rode in years, I can
recall sights and sounds from a multitude of experiences from my past.
  These experiences are stored in my neurons.  Waiting to be used for
some purpose that I consciously or "unconsciously" decide.

A great example of the conscious/unconscious dichotomy is
(written/spoken) language.

"A big green apple hit me on the head while I was reading about lions
in Africa"

Even as you read those words, you sorted through your own history,
very quickly activating parts of your brain for certain experiences,
concepts, ideas, in order make make sense of that.  Thus using more of
your brain, but not ALL of it ALL at once.  Language is sequential. 
Well, that is, until you made a picture of it, in your mind.  :-)

"Heather Graham thought my Picasso with its unique purple frame was
cool"

/kc




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