Your brain does everything for you, but it’s also somewhat of a mystery. As much as you learn, however, your brain is always a few steps ahead of you. Throughout our daily lives, neurology colors all sorts of your perceptions and interactions. These tricks your brain plays on you are fascinating and might add some perspective to some of your stresses.
Your brain convinces you of all sorts of untrue, or distorted things every day. False memories are a famous, and creepy example, but there are more mundane distortions that we experience too. t’s not all bad that your brain isn’t projecting complete truth. It helps you wade through all of your experiences.
Here are 5 weird tricks your brain plays on you every day, explained by science.
It Makes You Think Others Can Read Your Mind
If you’ve ever walked to the front of a room nervously, or gone grocery shopping when you were sad after a breakup, you may have experienced the feeling that everyone in the room knew exactly what was going on in your mind. This phenomenon is a trick of your brain, however, called “The Illusion of Transparency.”
“The illusion of transparency is a cognitive bias that causes us to overestimate the degree to which other people can read our emotional state,” Itamar Shatz, PhD candidate at Cambridge University and author of Effectiviology, told us. “For example, if you’re giving a public talk, the illusion of transparency could cause you to think that the audience can tell how nervous you are, even when that’s not the case.” Because you are so used to having full access to your own feelings, your brain can forget that others don’t have the same point of view.
It Makes You Think Everyone Notices When Something Embarrassing Happens
Another daily trick your brain plays on you is zooming in on your most embarrassing moments, making you think everyone around you noticed too. This cognitive bias is called “The Spotlight Effect.”
“The spotlight effect […] causes us to assume that we are being observed and noticed by others more than is actually the case,” Shatz says. “For example, if you make an embarrassing mistake or have a bad hair day, the spotlight effect could cause you to overestimate the likelihood that other people will notice or remember it.” Similarly to the Illusion of Transparency, this phenomenon happens because when you are hyper-focused on something, your brain tricks you into thinking everyone else is, too. Turns out, they’re probably focused on their own bad hair days.
It Distorts The Facts About People We Dislike
When you dislike someone, you’ve probably realized that everything they do is annoying. From the way they part their hair, to the way they chew, to the way they sign off on emails, your brain catches every piece of data possible to dislike. Turns out, your brain is tricking you with this.
“We tend to ignore the good traits and facts about people we don’t like,” Dr. Bryan Bruno, medical director at Mid City TMS, told us. “We also distort the facts in order to fit our view of dislike for that person.” So while the person you dislike may actually have some redeeming qualities, your brain once again zooms in: focusing on only what bothers you.
It Makes You Follow Orders
The famous Milgram Experiment, which used simulated electric shocks to show the horrifying effects of obedience, has become more controversial in recent years. Still, the findings that people will go to great lengths for authority do seem to hold up, even if perhaps not as much as Milgram’s research suggested.
“Our brain primes us to follow orders just because it comes from an authority figure,” Dr. Bruno says. To what degree your brain convinces you to follow arbitrary authority is up for debate, but if tricks you into following all sorts of social codes of authority every day.
It Makes You Think Just Like People Around You
Even if you have a diverse set of family and friends, it turns out your brain is likely priming you to think and act like them. Think about your group of friends, for example, you may have your own little “language” among you, funny only to the people in your group chat.
“We tend to think and act like those around us,” Dr. Bruno says. “Groups of friends tend to think, talk, and act the same. Close-knit groups of friends can even start to look the same over time, according to several studies.” While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does mean your brain may be tricking you into thinking you’re a little bit more unique than you think.