What Could Be the Neuroscientific Bases of Our ‘Need to Be Right’?

Read about ‘Curiosity Embryos’

ACHTUNG! WARNING! I suspect this line of questioning without answers yet could be uncomfortable to those who feel very attached to a need to know already and predictably feel a need to be right… A pretty normal feeling. Give it a go, see how it feels ; P 

I could generate a lot of prior knowledge, hypotheses and/or suppositions for these questions. However, I’m actually just going to leave them here in their primitive ’embryonic’ state as a demonstration of the foundation of open-ended curiosity (a deliberate challenge to ‘knowing’ and ‘rightness’)…

In preparation for my questions about our right-needing brain:

Reflective Exercise 1: Try paying attention to whether your mind is automatically generating suppositions of answers to these, even in the absence of definitive knowledge? I know my mind does ; p

Reflective Exercise 2: Even if the science-y stuff feels intimidating… Do the questions below give you some ‘brain embryos’ of your own? Do they make you perceive the ‘need to be right’ from a different perspective? Do they make you realise how complex of a phenomenon something so seemingly simple might be? Do they give you a smidgeon of insight into the beautifully intriguing (in my opinion, anyway) complexity of our brains, bodies, minds, emotions and psychology that you’d previously not thought of? If the questions have provoked any of these things and conventional ‘intelligence’ is a value or goal for you, is the thinking not a worthwhile effect in itself, even without the ‘facts’ or ‘knowledge’? Did the questions take your mind elsewhere? Can there be value in sitting with our emotional intimidation and insecurities, for the higher purpose of letting new, potentially valuable information in?

After reading below, where did your mind take you?

 Leave me a comment. I’d love to know- even if it took you somewhere unrelated like your belly-button fluff!

What Could Be the Neuroscientific Bases of Our ‘Need to Be Right’? My questions without answers yet:

Seemingly unrelated image to make you ponder.
  • How would objectively measurable criteria be defined for the phenomenon of ‘needing to be right?’
  • How has the above already been defined and tested?
  • How much is it tied in with our ‘believing brain?’
  • What would be the functional and survival consequences of ‘not knowing’ or not believing we’re right?
‘Thinking brain’, ’emotional brain’, survival brain’
  • Which emotional networks are activated when we’re exposed to contradictory information?
  • Which higher ‘reasoning’ networks of the brain are activated when we’re exposed to contradictory information?
  • Which motor/behavioural networks are activated when we’re exposed to contradictory information?
  • Time-wise (temporally), is there a difference in onset of activation of particular networks?
  • If so, are emotional networks first to activate?
  • How do each of these networks activate each other and feedback on each other?
  • Do different types of contradictory stimuli (e.g. political information vs cultural information vs philosophical information vs information with a direct personal or survival impact) elicit activation of different networks, different intensity and duration of activation? 
  • How do different environmental experiences affect the activation of these networks over time?
  • What networks are involved in acceptance of being ‘wrong’?
  • What networks are involved in acceptance of ‘not knowing’?
  • How would the above two be defined for objectively measurable criteria?
  • What research has already been conducted in this area?
  • How else (using other terms, other concepts) would the neuroscientific bases of the ‘need to be right’ have been studied already?
  • What are the bodily (somatic) physiological consequences of  receiving contradictory information or ‘not knowing’? 
  • Could the above be similar to stress/’anxiety’ response? I.e. increased ‘fight or flight’ mechanisms (sympathetic nervous system activation)? Increased cortisol production? Increased heart rate? Increased blood pressure?
  • If the above were the case, could that feedback drive a mental (neuro-cognitive) response to find ‘right’?  Okay, I’m starting to get really specific…

I’ll stop myself now. Otherwise I’ll continue to incisively question the shit out of this query to ever-smaller questions of questions of questions of questions, down the rabbit warren of proliferative unknowns and I will never do my washing.

Where did your mind take you?

 Leave me a comment. I’d love to know- even if it took you to uranus!

Do you have any knowledge about this?

I’d love to know about that too. You can be my out-sourced brain.

7 thoughts on “What Could Be the Neuroscientific Bases of Our ‘Need to Be Right’?

  1. To such scientifical questions, I have no answers at all. When reading the first few questions, I thought I might have an answer, but after a short self-reflection, I’m not sure. My mind really went blank when reading the last few questions. I need to reboot haha

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reflections on your mental processes Ye-Chen, that’s exactly part of the conversation I wanted to have with this post! I can relate. When I’m reading about topics I’m unfamiliar with like I.T. or sport, I can only concentrate on the unfamiliar for so long before I get fatigued with processing.

      I have become aware though, that whatever information I expose myself to regardless of how irrelevant or uninteresting to me it is, even if I don’t gain direct nuggets of knowledge, it always serves to add something. A slightly more complex understanding, a new line of thought, an expansion of a line of thought I’ve already engaged in.

      If you have time, or feel the brain-power, I’d be interested to know if any of my questions gave you a new thought or gave you some insight into a complexity of the brain and body, the process of scientific enquiry etc that you hadn’t previously considered. I would love to hear if you feel like it.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting questions! In many areas of expertise, I am indifferent to being wrong or not knowing the answer. But when it comes to fields that are “my” specialities (writing/grammar), I find myself getting uncharacteristically angry when someone challenges my beliefs, especially in a scenario where I’m teaching and my students question me and I’m supposed to be the “authority.” Once a student corrected my use of “paradox” and I got downright enraged (in my head–I tried not to let it show)! And afterwards, I was thinking, “What’s wrong with me? Who cares?” Also, when I was a kid, my dad was fond of saying, “I’m telling you” when he wanted to prove me wrong, a statement which always triggered me!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for your insightful, self-aware reflections! This is the type of conversation I’d ultimately like to build on my blog if possible. I’m very similar. Quite comfortable not knowing or being wrong generally, but very much have defensive, threatened feelings when contradiction relates to something important to me. It’s been quite liberating over the years to realise, though, that these feelings are less frequent and less intense and that’s come with increased skill at communicating and facilitating discussions with conflicting points of view. I have a felt reaction to the ‘I’m telling you’s’ as well.

    In thinking about my own and others need to be right, these series of questions occurred to me because underlying our psychology is our brain at work and our brains, therefore our psychology always serve some function. I haven’t looked into it yet, but my question about the survival consequences of never believing we’re right, is actually a hypothesis that at the extreme end of the scale, we would be arrested with indecision and inaction if we never believed we were right (I’m sure there will be cases of brain damage in which this has been investigated), and we all have examples of being indecisive in the face of too many options. At the other extreme, remaining stubbornly committed to feeling right in the face of contradictory evidence or even just not being able to know becomes dysfunctional as well- also something we would all have numerous examples of in ourselves and others.


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