Humans initially made connections between people, places, things, and events as a matter of survival. Over time those connections have helped people to not only survive, but also thrive. However, not all connections are accurate. Once these incorrect connections have been made, they are often difficult to change. In the first article of our series on Misconnections, we will explore The Connection Illusion.
Since humans make millions of connections per day, inaccurate associations are inevitable. Those mistaken connections occur for various reasons. Some of them occur because survival instincts kick in. Other times, we make misconnections because of previous misconceptions or instilled beliefs. Meanwhile, other mistakes occur because of the illusions that two or more things are connected when in reality they are not.
This series explores each of these types of misconnections. It also explores how these misconnections are reinforced. The series will conclude with a look at how we can retrain our brain to make better, more accurate connections.
We are all familiar with illusions that a magician performs on stage. Magicians use techniques to distract the the audience. While the audience is paying attention to one thing, the magician performs tthe movement necessary to complete the trick.
Connection illusions work in a similar way. Emotion or physical reaction distracts the mind and suddenly a new connection is made where none actually exists.
No More Cake
A connection illusion sometimes occurs when a person catches a stomach bug. Often when this occurs, the last things the person ate before becoming ill no longer appeals to the person. So, if the person ate carrot cake before coming down with the virus, they may no longer desire to it eat. Even if carrot cake was previously their favorite, they may turn up their nose at it for weeks, months, or even years.
The carrot cake did not make the person sick. Perhaps the whole family got sick. And, no one else ate carrot cake. The person’s logical mind knows the cake is not at fault. However, they made a connection between cake and feeling unwell. Once made, the person may need to put in a good deal of time and effort to break this connection.
London No More
Some connections based on illusions are even more indirect. In these cases, a person’s mind creates a connection between two events that happen concurrently although there is no direct relationship between the events.
For instance, if a person is on a trip to London when their grandmother dies. That person may associate sadness with London and not desire to go there again. Some might even have a belief that if they go there someone will die. Others can covert this to a connection that travel has negative consequences. This may sound ridiculous and for some people, they would not make this connection. However, they may make misconnections in a different circumstance.
Don’t Mess With My Ritual
Misconnections can drive people to have rituals and beliefs that have no scientific foundation or logical basis. For instance, athletes are known for their pre-competition rituals. Many athletes must eat particular things at particular times, listen to particular music, wear a certain pair of socks, etc. Although some foods or the right mindset can enhance performance, often these rituals seem absurd to the outsider.
The TV show Reba demonstrated this phenomenon in an episode where she held the team dinner at her house. There was an entire set of rules of how the dinner was to be held, including the specific brand of potato salad to purchase. Inadvertently, the wrong brand was purchased and everything was fine until the team found out. The team then became convinced that they would lose. Reba arrives at half-time and saves the day by bringing the right brand of potato salad or so the team believes. In actuality she simply changed the label on the container to make them believe it was the “winning” brand.
Although this episode of Reba is a comic dramatization of the importance of rituals on the mind, a person can definitely believe consciously and unconsciously that they are doomed to lose if their ritual is not followed.
Results of Connection Illusions
Connection illusions can result in many rituals, phobias, and biases. In situations where there is some level of connection, the illusion is often of a much greater connection than actually exists.
Up next: Survival Instincts and Misconnections