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❚ introspective ❚ stories ❚ fantasies ❚ mimetic ✱ Elephant in the Brain

brain’s press secretary interpreter module

All human brains contain an interpreter module whose job is to make sense of experiences by constructing explanations in the form of stories integrating information about the past, present, self, and outside world. When the flow of information breaks down, the interpreter must weave more tenuous or fabricated explanations. This module takes on the role of a “Press Secretary” responsible for explaining our actions, typically to third parties.

Press secretaries, like those working for political leaders, fill an epistemically ambiguous niche at the boundary between decision-makers and outsiders. While close enough to be privy to some details, they are distant enough to lack full knowledge. Press secretaries speak authoritatively while actively exploiting this ambiguity, hoping educated guesses are taken as fact. Their role is structured to deliver counterfeit explanations while making them hard to detect. It is the job of our brain’s Press Secretary to avoid acknowledging our darker motives, especially when personal gain may come at the expense of others, tip toeing around the elephant in the brain.

The Self acts less like an autocrat making decisions and more like a press secretary. Its job is not to decide but to justify decisions to external audiences. We are the Press Secretaries within our own minds, posing as privileged insiders for the parts of the mind that we identify with though we don’t have particularly privileged access to the information and decision-making that goes on inside. The parts we think of as our conscious selves (“I,” “myself,” “my conscious ego”), are the ones responsible for strategically spinning the truth for an external audience. While thinking ourselves adept at introspection, we are almost like outsiders within our own minds.

linked mentions for "brain’s press secretary interpreter module":
  1. pervasive tendency to rationalize

    While we may not be entirely or irredeemably self-deceived, we are often rewarded for acting on selfish impulses yet less so for acknowledging them,