We’ve all been there. It’s late at night and you’re home alone.
You’re taking a shower in the dark. The sound of the water muffles all other ambient sounds. As you start to shampoo you hear a *clunk* –What was that? Did you just knock over the conditioner? Or maybe, maybe an inbred rape enthusiast just crawled into the tub and is next to your frail naked body right now! EEP! All of a sudden you can hear the water drops tinkling against his child-size handcuffs. You flail your arms and open your eyes wide, maybe even peek behind the curtain. But no one’s there. Then you spend the next 3 minutes trying to clear the soap from your eyes, but are sort of afraid the shower stream may be too powerful for a direct hit to the eyeball.
Is this not a common experience? Perhaps my example was more revealing than instructional.
Either way you’ve heard bumps or creaks in the night and thought ‘who’s there?’ Well, you’ve just been had. Or HADD. There’s a reason why our minds immediately jump to a ‘who’s there’ conclusion rather than a ‘what type of inanimate object or natural process might have caused a similar sound’ conclusion. Our brains are equipped with a Hyperactive Agency Detection Device. A hair-trigger module in the brain that causes a tendency to overestimate and attribute agency in fleeting sights, sounds or even eerie inclinations. You’ll easily mistake a shadow for your stalker ex-boyfriend, but when he shows up silhouetted against the window during a thunderstorm, you’ll never mistake him for the wind. After all, back in the day it was better to flee from imaginary jungle beasts than end up inside a real one’s face.
Human supernatural bias can be boiled down to a hair trigger agency-attribution-system coupled with our ridiculous imaginations and solipsistic paranoia. The entire “spooky” genre unfolds. Ghosts, spirits, gods, aliens, and dare I mention it, ‘orbs’. Cuz things tend to go bump in the night, and if we can’t figure out what it is, then gosh darnit, we’ll just have to make some shit up!
Happy New Year everybody! Though the new year doesn’t officially kick in for me until I stop accidentally writing ’2010′ on stuff. What’s really bizarre is that I’ve been doing this my whole life. Hm.
I wanted Nadir to kick off 2011 with this gem of a comic because the HADD is one of the foundations of understanding our own cognitive faculties. It finds itself snuggled right in with the rest of the “You Cannot Trust Your Brain” subjects, and I wanted to put it out there early so we can get to some real meat once the groundwork is laid out. The HADD presents itself as a tiny, yet very convincing voice deep within our lizard brain. It is a primal force, responsible for much more than just night bumpiness, as Nadir eluded. You’re going to be seeing it again in future strips about anecdotal evidence, astrology, and conspiracy theories. In fact, the latter could be considered “Ultra Hyperactive Agency Detection” where every event is guided by an unseen, sometimes evil hand. Similarly for Astrology, HADD came into play from the first moment when early humans looked up at the stars and asked not, “What are those?” but “What are those for?”
The HADD is undoubtedly an awkward vestigial function of our brains, a part that needs to find an explanation for everything. But the more we discover about the world around us, the more we find that stuff just happens. For no reason– and this is both amazing and beautiful! But it scares the bejeezus out of some people, and they rush to gods, karma, and the illuminati for answers to make some sense, and in a way, gain some control over their lives. But coincidences and surprise occurrances are a matter of statistics. What’s truly mind-boggling is when nothing happens at all.
OH HEY! Some housekeeping before I go! You can now “like” Sci-әnce on Facebook! Go ahead! Mash that button with an over-eager fist and get updates on new comics, fun facts, and more! You should also add us on twitter for maximum awareness of our every action. Redundancy is key here. Also, be on the lookout for full-page graphic novel style comics every now and then! It’s going to be a great year!
This post was brought to you by Thorium (Th)
EXTRA! “The HADD also serves as a stress release mechanism. When you do not know what caused something you worry about what it might have been. But if you have an explanation (even if it’s patently absurd), it gives you some sense of control and stability. And ideas that bring comfort spread like a virus. -Nadir”