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Wondrous TruthsThe Improbable Triumph of Modern Science$
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J.D. Trout

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780199385072

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.001.0001

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The Biology Behind the Feeling

The Biology Behind the Feeling

The Neuroscience of Explanation

Chapter:
(p.55) 3 The Biology Behind the Feeling
Source:
Wondrous Truths
Author(s):

J.D. Trout

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199385072.003.0003

Some of the most elevating experiences of mental life get their start in the moist circuitry of the brain. Insight and understanding may seem like lofty endeavors, but there is a gritty biology roiling beneath that “Aha” of insight, or that good feeling of explanation. In humans, it is rooted in the reward cycle, heavily recruited for learning. Unfortunately, when it is difficult to trace the source of our success and failure, that good feeling arises when we are wrong as often as when we are right. Unlike the honeybee and newt, humans are capable of deliberate, self-guided action. We can adopt metacognitive strategies to overcome simple explanations when they tempt us with a cheap reward. Sometimes the best explanation is not the most pleasant. And this is what makes it so hard to track truth using the feeling of explanation.

Keywords:   reward, metacognition, insight, learning, good feeling

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