Given the fact that I’m not a neuroscientist (nor do I play one on TV,) I tend not to have a whole lot of insight into the workings of the human brain. Aside from whatever I might have learned from wandering into a random linkbait article on Buzzfeed or some news article I ran across while bored, the vast majority of the insight I might have into the function of the human brain comes from dealing with the one in my own head. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the situation) I’ve had more than enough time to familiarize myself with it and figure out some of its quirks. Which is nice and everything, but the problem is that I can’t ever seem to get the thing to go away for some reason. I’ve been informed by various sources that this would turn out to be a Very Bad Thing if it ever happened, but there are definitely times when I would not complain all that much if given the opportunity to take leave of my senses for a while… Just as long as I could observe the whole process from a safe distance. Which generally tends not to be the case. For better or for worse, I’m kind of stuck with the brain I’ve got, even if we tend to have our disagreements at times.
For example, I’ve noticed lately that my brain has a rather annoying habit of taking random bits of whatever conversation is currently happening, digging up some old song lyric that I haven’t heard in months, and then promptly getting that song stuck in my head for the next week and a half. During a hallway conversation at work, me and a couple of co-workers were discussing various methods of ensuring uniform inputs while running some voice recognition tests we planned to do. Rather than rely on the person doing the speaking to be consistent while speaking into the microphone, the discussion turned to using pre-recorded voice samples, which would then be played back to make the voice recognition requests. As we discussed this, the need for a new set of speakers for playback came up in the conversation. I was sort of half-engaged in this particular discussion, since it happened right when I was trying to walk out the door to leave for the day (something else that happens all too often, but that’s a topic for another post,) which left my brain plenty of time to correlate that with the lyrics to a song I hadn’t heard in years, which in this case happened to be “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” by Billy Joel. I suspect that for most people, their brains might happen to latch onto some little bit of a song lyric stored in the long-term memory, let it roll around for a few minutes in short-term memory, then file it away again for some other time. My brain, on the other hand, seems to want to bring up every single note of the whole entire song and make me listen to it in my head for hours, if not days. By the time I finally made it out the door after the above conversation, I was singing the song in the car on the way home.
This type of thing isn’t a particularly uncommon occurrence for me. And it’s just one of the many tricks my brain seems to enjoy playing on my conscious at inopportune times. Another particularly annoying habit I’ve noticed is that my brain doesn’t like passing up information. Even if it’s something small and inconsequential, for some unknown reason I have to know what exactly it says, especially if it’s going to be something I’ll pass by on multiple occasions. Of course, once I have actually read it and know what it says, then it doesn’t matter anymore, and I can go back to ignoring it just like everything else. If there’s one thing I can’t get enough of for some odd reason, it’s information. Whether it’s spending three hours reading Lord of the Rings wiki pages trying to figure out what the heck I just watched (me and my friends have been in the process of gradually going through the extended versions of the Lord of the Rings movies over the course of several nights recently) or having to turn around and go back to figure out what a sign says that has absolutely no bearing on anything I do whatsoever, my brain seems to crave information. It doesn’t seem to care what kind of information it’s getting, just make sure to keep the stuff coming.
Then again, this isn’t always necessarily a bad thing. One of the former managers I’ve worked with in the course of my career has told me that he thinks such tendencies can actually work to someone’s advantage when it comes to testing software. After all, it’s a lot easier to spot when something looks wrong when it jumps out at you like that, at which point you probably remember how you got there to try and retrace your steps. There’s also that little bit of extra motivation that comes from knowing there’s something not working right and just knowing there has to be some way to reproduce the problem. And although there are times when you’ll see weird things that just don’t ever seem to happen more than once (and it’s entirely possible that you might end up chasing after them anyway.)
It’s somewhat odd to think of the brain and the mind to be two separate (and often opposing) entities, but in many ways that theory seems to explain a lot. After all, it seems like I spend a lot more time fighting with my brain sometimes than I do cooperating with it. And there are definitely times when it seems to have a mind of its own, for better or for worse. Then again, it’s the only brain I’ve got, so until I can figure out where I can come up with a replacement, I guess I’ll just have to deal with it, arguments and all.