Why Our Brains Love Origins

Why Our Brains Love Origins

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We like to know where things come from. We like stories. We like nice tales. We need our myths, our origins, our creations. So uncomfortable is it for us if something doesn’t have a cause that we strive to determine one, one way or the other, even absent the necessary evidence. Psychologist Tania Lombrozo argues that such impromptu causal explanations are critical to our everyday cognition. They contribute to improvements in learning. They can foster further exploration and idea generation. They can help us form coherent beliefs and generalize about phenomena—and then use those beliefs to understand, predict, and control future occurrences and, in turn, form new beliefs. Explanation is natural, just as it is spontaneous. Children as old as eight give explanations for all matters of phenomena as a matter of course. Lombrozo calls them promiscuously teleological: explaining things by the purpose they serve instead of digging deeper for meaning. When in doubt, our brain takes the easiest route to determining causality, and it does so quickly and authoritatively.

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