Have you ever considered that who you think you are is a mental construct of your thoughts, beliefs and experiences and that your identity is forged by this construct? Neuroscience tells us that once we form a perception of the world we find it very difficult to see in ways different to what we already expect.
In his book Iconoclast, neuroscientist Gregory Berns states that the brain is structured for efficiency, not original thinking, so the average person’s brain falls into efficiency traps. The brain functions more efficiently when our perceptions match what is already stored in our memory files. It is much easier to place an event, emotion, thought or visual into a file that already exists than to create a new file. Fear of uncertainty and public ridicule further re-enforce concepts we already hold to be true that have a history of support and acceptance.
“Everything that the brain sees or hears or touches has multiple interpretations. The One that is ultimately chosen—the thing that is perceived—is simply the brain’s best guess at interpreting what flows into it…These guesses are heavily influenced by past experience and … what other people say.”1
People who go against the grain (of either past experience or the opinion of others) or change their stripes midstream are often cast out. This is true socially and politically. Most leaders rarely change their opinion and perceptions based on new information or changes in circumstances. These changes come slowly and many only realize their mistaken perceptions in hind sight long after they have left political office. The brain does not embrace uncertainty, ambiguity and novelty easily. The iconoclast leader is a rare bird indeed.