I left academia this year, probably for good, but I look back fondly on all the mysteries. Cognitive science has unearthed a constellation of enigmas – systems in the mind that alter or completely defy our ideas about how we think. Introspection, it turns out, is a bit shit; self-awareness deeply myopic. There’s a lot more going inside our skulls than we realize.
One central idea that’s turned up again and again is the power of exposure. It turns out that much of our cognition is associative. When it comes to thinking, we are, to a surprising extent, what we see, what we hear, and what we read. Everything that comes into the brain adds to a semantic network that influences our thoughts and actions. People do act on what they consume, and, if I may overstep the bounds of firm science for a moment – writers do write what they read.
Everyone, not-writer or, in particular, writer, should read Catherynne Valente, just in order to have her inside their skulls.