Content from the source material

Rationality and emotional resilience are neural connections that can be strengthened.

Through this neural mechanism, self-awareness can enhance our life experience.

Social Neuroscience

When we express ourselves and our views are appreciated, dopamine neurotransmisson activates our reward neural network. This increases our feelings of empowerment and self-esteem.

In this way our beliefs or thoughts can have a powerful impact on our body chemistry.

In a similar way, specific neurons and neurotransmitters can trigger a defensive state when we feel that our thoughts have to be protected from others. When we are confronted with differences in opinion, the chemicals released in the brain are the same ones that try to ensure our survival in dangerous situations. No matter how valuable an idea, the brain has trouble processing it when in this state. On a neural level, it reacts as if we are being threatened, even if this threat comes from harmless opinions or facts that we may otherwise find helpful or could rationally agree with.

Conversely, social validation has been shown to increase the levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, which allows us to let go of emotional fixations and become self-aware more easily. Social psychology often looks at our basic human need to fit in and calls this the “normative social influence”. By studying this influence, we see that our actions are often the result of validation we get from others.

Culture and Identity

Neuroscience is giving us a better understanding of how we construct both our personal and social identity.

For example when we observe others performing an action, or imagine it, mirror neurons fire and make us feel as if we are performing and experiencing it ourselves. Because of this, we can experience within ourselves emotional feedback, or imaginings, as if it comes from someone else.

The mirror neuron does not know the difference between itself and other and is one reason we seek social validation and want to fit in.

But we can also use this system as a tool to self-reflect.

When there is a duality between how we view ourselves and how others view us, confusion results and can negatively effect us in terms of identity and self esteem. Brain scans show we experience these negative emotions before we are even consciously aware of them.

When we are self-aware, however, we can identify and alter misplaced emotions because we control the thoughts that cause them. This activity directly impacts how memories are labeled and retrieved and how they are restored.

Self observing profoundly changes the way our brain works. It activates the self-regulating neocortex regions, which give us an incredible amount of control over our thoughts and feelings.

Every time we do this, our rationality and emotional resilience are strengthened.


For more, check out this video ‘Athene’s Theory’. It is about an hour. Some of it you may agree with, some you may not. The first half is applicable to this topic, while the second half goes into more of a DeGrass-Tyson feel.


Evaluation of Digital Source Material: Aside from the content, covered above, let us change our frame of reference and examine the material as an example learning media and its application of 21st Century Literacy Skills. Referencing Jason Ohler’s evaluation criteria, let’s look at Athene’s: 1) content understanding 2) presentation and performance and 3) media grammar.

1: Content Understanding:  While the video has been panned by several people in the ‘physics community’ and his public persona, based on his youtube reputation prior to the publishing of this video, ran contrary to this content, some who know him stepped up to give insight into who he is and his methods of research. By second-hand accounts he is highly intelligent with a degree in computer science. He studied “high-level Harvard textbooks” for nearly a year to give substance to this presentation.

He appears to have a grasp on many of the foundational concepts. This presentation is his synthesis of how these scientific concepts work together. So, of course, it’s a theory. But it appears to be a genuine attempt to bring high-level concepts to a wider audience and it was well-received by the youtube community.

His theory is based on some foundational assumptions that some may not agree with. For example, his idea that our social instincts are based on neurological circuitry is a simplification and suppositions about human evolution are questionable. Nevertheless, many of his ideas can be found in older Buddhist teachings about the illusion of self and the distributive nature of of identity. In the years since its publication, he has apparently shifted gears and dedicated much time to charitable work.

2: Presentation & Performance: I thought the presentation itself was top notch. He used three different methods to convey his message; spoken word, on-screen text and high-end visual effects. From the research I did, it appears he came from the gaming community, so his visuals are highly stimulating. He did a good job of making a heady topic, with a lot of scientific jargon, interesting to a non-academic audience. His tone and presentation was consistent and drew the audience in to a range of complicated concepts that are hard to make accessible.

3: Visual Grammar: This presentation made excellent use of music. It appears it was scored, rather than laid over a pre-recorded sound track. His use of 3D animation and film was highly elucidating for the concepts he spoke of. He obviously spent a generous amount of time planning this project, mapping out its components and editing it. He also realized the dense nature of the information and stated as much in the beginning to prepare the viewer for what was coming up. His understanding and use of this medium is highly attuned and it shows in this presentation.


For More

Communications professor Corey Anton from Grand Valley State University also reviewed this video:


This lecture

“The machine, the ghost, and the limits of understanding”

by Noam Chomsky may also shed some light on this