The Owl Brain
The ‘Owl brain’ is all about complex thought. It isn’t exclusively human – there is no reason to believe that other animals don’t have something similar and plenty of evidence to suggest that they might (interestingly, whilst owls have a reputation for being wise, they don’t actually have much space for their brain because their eyes take up so much room!). However in humans, this system is particularly well developed and it helps to give us a lot of the traits that we see as being particularly human. So what does it do?
The ‘Owl brain’ is responsible for calm, logical thought and forward planning as well as controlling current behaviour. We tend to use it when we are relaxed and it helps us to come up with plans, ideas and abstract thoughts. These things on their own might not always be essential for survival – especially in emergencies, which is why in an emergency your ‘Chimp brain’ takes over. However detailed thought and can be very useful. If most people who go into the woods alone without a spear tend to get eaten by the wolves, then it is important to think about this before setting off into the woods. It’s not too difficult to see how a little forethought might be helpful.
Some Owl brain traits include:
What we term as the ‘Owl brain’ has an important job in filtering urges or instincts that we might have and deciding whether or not they would be helpful. This is a very important function for the brain as not all instinctive responses are necessarily helpful to us in the longer term. Interestingly, this is an ability that is much less developed in children and teenagers than adults, which perhaps explains why children are more likely to be brutally honest with you if you ask their opinion, instead of being really polite and nice so that you don’t feel bad.
The Owl brain works fairly slowly looking at all the options – it doesn’t need to hurry too much because it is always used when you are thinking ahead. Whereas the Chimp will rush and bark orders like a sergeant major (which is very useful in an emergency), the Owl will often take its time before coming to a conclusion. Don’t forget that this might be the case for your students as well.
It doesn’t like making decisions:
The Owl brain is always waiting until it has all the information before it makes its decision – if it thinks that there is more to get then it is more than happy to defer judgement. This can be both good and bad.
Planning ahead/ coming up with ideas:
Once the Owl brain has decided on what it thinks the situation is, it can plan ahead on that basis. Maybe going into the woods alone at night isn’t such a good idea? The Owl Brain is also the part that uses logic to come up with novel ideas – if mixing copper and tin is good for making tools then what about trying copper and something else?
Reflection and abstract thought:
If you have ever heard of those famous experiments where they take animals and put a mirror in front of them to see if they can recognise themselves, then that’s the Owl too. Being able to think that maybe that image of a scary competitor is actually you is a complex thought process.
The ‘Owl brain’ is very much interested in planning for the future and learning things. This is a great advantage as it enables us to increase our understanding which we can then apply in future situations we can’t anticipate to good effect. If we have a very good understanding then we are likely to make good choices based on that. The Owl brain makes the final decisions of what we will do based on what the Chimp is saying and what it is thinking.
What about when things tend to happen together on a regular basis? Next week we will explore what the Computer Brain is, and how it affects our habits. See you then!
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