Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Evolution of the Individual: The Brain and its Construction of Reality

genesisbui's picture

Genesis Bui
Assignment #8
17 December 2010
The Evolution of the Individual:
The Brain and its Construction of Reality
In order to understand the evolution of the individual one must explore the brain. The brain is clearly the feature that differentiates Homo sapiens from all species. It is the source of all human contemplation. It dictates how we are, what we desire, and our actions. All these advantages or disadvantages are “simply [caused by] the activity of these little specks of jelly in [one’s] head” (VS Ramachandran on your Mind). The brain has the capability to automatically categorize every concept that crosses an individual’s perception. It becomes a filing cabinet between objects and their concepts. Then allows an individual to construct a sense of reality.
But unfortunately, when creating this construction the individual comes across a vulnerable point. Every human being has his or hers own awareness of what is believed to be reality, but there is so much ambiguity and room for error that one cannot conclude its definition. There are instances where defining reality becomes so inconclusive that it brings about doubts of its existence. It is then that the individual begins the endless evolutionary journey to make sense of reality.
The brain evidently is capable of holding a vast amount of information outside of the individual’s awareness, the consciousness. Everyday we are confronted with numerous representations. A relatable example of such representations can be found in the lives of a college freshman. Students arrive to college to meet new people and see new places that at a glance becomes extremely difficult to sort. But our brain creates categorizations of these everyday representations. These representations become “memory structures called schemas; they are organized beliefs and knowledge about people, objects, events, and situations” (Nolen-Hoeksema 650).
An example of a schema used by the brain, can be seen through this example. A healthy individual is told to imagine a person, and the fact that this person is a woman is the first attribution given. Automatically, the brain is able to recollected and compile all the events, objects, and people that represent a woman. Essentially, the brain compiles all the information and creates a prototype of a woman. But this attribution is not enough. Later, one is told that this woman is Chinese. And again your brain begins to sort out all the representations one has of Chinese women. Then the assumption is made that she is perhaps a smart and studious person; because Chinese women are relatively known to be as such. But this all leaves to a very inconclusive measure until one meets this woman. However, does that disclose the fact that she exists in one’s reality?
Another facet that one can explore is the memory that one collects of one particular individual.  As a child I have fond recollections of my grandfather. He existed at one point in what I thought to be apart of my reality, but later I found was erased with his death. It is then that one is disorientated with the fact that essentially a whole world of perspectives, and individualism has ended.  
I brought to myself this idea that I could make my grandfather live again. For awhile, I can recall that my grandfather essentially became what one would call an “imaginary friend”. And in some sense, I can say that I was able to bring my grandfather back into what I perceived to be my reality. I created him through the very same constructive process that you may used to imagine the Chinese woman. Through the compacted representations I had of my grandfather, I created a prototype of him. To this day I can say that I have overcome this peculiarity of a childhood wish, but essentially I believe that his presence is still living in me.
As I sleep, my brain is sorting and filing all the thoughts created throughout the day. But without realizing it, it is able to create constructions outside of the conscious world—these are my dreams. It is then that I find myself eating dinner with my grandfather. I see myself as an adult and my grandfather as I remember him. I tell my grandfather of all my new experiences. And he responds to me, “Yes I already know.” Essentially, he exists. So long as my brain continues to hold the constructions of what he is, so long as my brain remains larger than the sky, he will continue to live on.

Works Cited
Nolen-Hoeksema, Susan, Barbara Fredrickson, Geoff Loftus, and Willem Wagenaar. Atkinson & Hilgard's Introduction to Psychology. Atkinson & Hilgard. 15. Canale: Cengage Learning EMEA , 2009. 319-357, 648-675. Print.
"VS Ramachandran on your Mind ." Ted Ideas Worth Spreading. Web. 16 Nov 2010. <>.