Strategies to find your lost keys

Strategies to find your lost keys

Wednesday, October 12th. The amygdala has started to work reacting to some contextual stimulus. The working memory has been partially activated and the cingulate cortex has begun to monitor the activity. The prefrontal cortex, with boasting technocrat authoritarianism, has taken the control. It is fusing the sensing, emotional and mnesic information giving way to make a motor decision. There is no doubt, I have lost the keys again, I’m late and I don’t know where to start the search. I evaluate the alternatives. I usually leave them at the entrance hall, hanging from that screw that I put in a provisional eternal way. They can also be in the bedroom, inside the Cairo bowl or inside the jeans pocket, which I have used yesterday. Rationally, the most coherent action is to look first at the hall, but in the case that the keys are not there, I have to come back and that is a great time-wasting. I only have ten minutes left to pick up the high speed train to Barcelona. Therefore, I finally decide to watch in the bowl first and afterwards inside the jeans, and if I don’t find them I will look at the screw, which is on my way out.


Already heading Barcelona, inside the train and without the keys, I think about my decision. I really don’t know if my searching strategy has been optimal, neither if my reasoning has been determined by my subconscious brain. I would like to launch a question: do I have decided by reasoning or my brain had already the answer, conditioning my decision? Antonio Damasio and John-Dylan Haynes do not have doubts about this issue. The decision cognitive process “is just the tip of the iceberg”. Therefore, my brain already knew which decision was optimal.
My wandering inevitably took me to an obvious and realistic conclusion. The brain connections, developed during the years by means of learning, and using the senses as the interface with the world, are the ones that determine the most part of the decisions. I try to remind a high school biology class where the teacher explained this process in a simplified way. Of course, it can be demonstrated through pavlovian conditioning, or in other words with the stimulus-response theory. If a reward is obtained when an action is realized, thanks to repeatability we learn which is the most convenient decision alternative.

Already satisfied with my reasoning and served with a coffee at the dining car, I write down the different options that I had this morning to prove that I have made the correct decision. The problem started with the subjective information about the keys location: high probability of finding them at the hall and medium probability of finding them in the jeans and the bowl. If I can quantify that information, the only thing I have to determine is which searching path is the best. Thus, I need the actions sequence that gives maximum probability of finding the keys, which is the same to look for the sequence that gives minimum probability of not finding them. I raise my gaze and I take pleasure of my own explanation. The train car is getting full of people, maybe because it is lunch time. I stare again at my sheet full of hieroglyph and I continue engrossed in my task. After doing some math, I check that ordering the places from greater to less probability and visiting them according to that order could be the best strategy. While I bite my green pen with anxiety, I discover that the method doesn’t always work and more questions arrive without an answer: What happens if the time is critical? And what about if already choosing a decision the alternatives change?… But the fact that make me feel unease is to think that even making the right decisions, why haven’t I found the damned keys?

Once in my seat, with the eyes wide shut and a little bit sleepy, I receive a message on my cellphone that says: – remember that I have taken the keys to water the plants. When you come back, please call me. Kisses-. With a half-smile I curl up in the seat.

The adrenaline has dropped and the somatotropin has risen. The synaptic connections used that day are reinforcing. There is no doubt, I am falling asleep.

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