Your Brain Predicts (Almost) Everything You Do

Cutting-edge neuroscience shows that your brain isn’t built for thinking—it’s made to predict your reality, and you have more power over that perception than you might think.

From the moment you’re born to the moment you draw your last breath, your brain is stuck in a dark, silent box called your skull. Day in and day out, it continually receives sense data from the outside world via your eyes, ears, nose, and other sensory organs. This data does not arrive in the form of the meaningful sights, smells, sounds, and other sensations that most of us experience. It’s just a barrage of light waves, chemicals, and changes in air pressure with no inherent significance.

Faced with these ambiguous scraps of sense data, your brain must somehow figure out what to do next. Your brain’s most important job is to control your body so you stay alive and well. Your brain must somehow make meaning from the onslaught of sense data it’s receiving so you don’t fall down a staircase or become lunch for some wild beast.

How does your brain decipher the sense data so it knows how to proceed? If it used only the ambiguous information that is immediately present, then you’d be swimming in a sea of uncertainty, flailing around until you figured out the best response. Luckily, your brain has an additional source of information at its disposal: memory.

Your brain asks itself in every moment, figuratively speaking, The last time I encountered a similar situation, when my body was in a similar state, what did I do next?

Your brain can draw on your lifetime of past experiences—things that have happened to you personally and things th