On this, the last day of February, I recall how I used to pity those poor kids who could only celebrate their birthdays on the actual date, every couple of years. I felt uncomfortable about the ambiguous nature of the leap year birthday. I mean, those poor kids had to hesitate and figure out an understandable response to the question, “How old are you?”.
I have always had a distaste for ambiguity. Therefore, I ask a lot of questions. (Liars HATE it that I ask a lot of questions. I catch them off guard, it seems…) I ask people a lot of questions, not because I’m nosy but because when I have all the facts about a given situation, I can make better decisions for myself. It isn’t a judgement issue. It’s more like: “If you’re going to do this….then I’m going to do that.” “If you are going to call back later, I’ll leave my phone on. If not, I’ll turn it off so I won’t be disturbed while I work.” It isn’t that I’m asking someone TO call back. Whatever their decision about this is, will be fine with me. I just want to know one way or the other so I can take action accordingly.
Turns out that science has now substantiated why ambiguity bugs me ( or all of us) as much as it does. The phenomenon actually screws with our heads. According to a study published in the Journal of Science, the reason lies in how the brain responds emotionally, and sometimes, even illogically, when forced to make decisions based on conflicting or little evidence. These so-called ambiguous decisions are different from decisions that we think of as risky decisions. No wonder the person who is being lied to, for example, appears so nutty to the rest of the world. That person is being fed conflicting information. The heart hears what it wants to hear, but the head says, “Um….hold on there just a minute….That doesn’t make sense!”
Wait….If it looks like a duck…then, it IS a duck….but it also looks like a rabbit. Which do I choose?
When faced with a risky decision, one is not sure about the outcome of a particular choice but can have a notion about the probability of success. In an ambiguous decision, a person is ignorant of both factors. Thus, the uncomfortable feeling….the uncertainty, and sometimes illogical and absurd behaviors.
Brain specialists would say ambiguity is the discomfort from knowing there is something you don’t know that you wish you did. This probably stems back to the fight or flight area of the brain, the hippocampus, and is a matter of survival. In the previously mentioned experiment, subjects were given the opportunity to place ambiguous bets while their brains were scanned using a functional magnetic resonance imager (fMRI). In this part of the experiment, participants were given the choice between placing a monetary bet on the chances of drawing a red card from a “risky” deck that had 20 red cards and 20 black cards…that is, where the probability of choosing either color was 50-50, and making the same bet with an “ambiguous” deck where the color composition of the cards was unknown.
In the majority of cases, the participants decided to place the risky bet. Logically, however, both bets would have been equally good because in both cases, the chance of pulling a red card on the first draw was 50-50.
The brain scans taken during the experiment revealed that ambiguous betters were often accompanied by activation of the parts of the brain known as the amygdala and the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC). These are two areas of the brain that are involved in the whole emotions processing thing. The amygdala has been found to be closely associated with fear, which, again, harkens back to being in survival mode. If you think about it, a correlation between aversion to ambiguous decisions and activation of emotional parts of the brain makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view. Do I go into that dark cave or don’t I? Well, first, I need to know if a saber toothed tiger is in there, right? And I’m going to be a little nervous about it until I find out. Should I leave my boyfriend or not….Well, first, I need to find out if he really IS cheating on me. In the modern human brain, this translates into a reluctance to bet on or against an event if it seems at all ambiguous.
The results of this study could help those of us in the field of Psychology, understand how humans make decisions in the real world, because the choices people make are often based on very limited information. (i.e…..All signs point to cheating, but he denies it….or I’m not going to walk into that dark cave if there’s a tiger in there, because it will eat me alive. )
Makes sense to me.
Anyway….Happy Birthday, Leapers…er…Leap Yearlings…um…people whose birthdays are on leap year. Here’s a nice mug. Have some coffee.
We celebrated my birthday two days ago with a beautiful array of activities and interactions with friends and family.
The day began with a beautiful 3 a.m. text message greeting that made my heart sing, accompanied by a funny, musical phone message so garbled that I could barely hear it, because of the bad connection, but it still made me smile. Things just kept getting better and better throughout the day. Phone calls….gifts….beautiful gestures made by various people. I truly felt loved.
John had arranged a beautiful brunch cruise along the Willamette River aboard a yacht. The weather was cold and overcast, but the sun broke out from time to time, making the trip absolutely perfect. The yacht was three stories tall, and we periodically strolled from deck to deck, enjoying live jazz and beautiful scenery.
Here is a little video of the cruise:
Ingrid , shown below with her glass of sparkling apply juice, was the star of the show when she sang happy birthday to me.
I cried from the sweetness of this gesture, which was something that she cooked up herself. As you can see, the crowd was also touched by this. I love how she bends that note at the beginning of the song. So cute!
John enjoyed the gorgeous scenery as much as I did.
The food was exquisite, and we had delicious, fresh mimosas to go with.
The whole trip lasted around 2.5 hours. It was peaceful, beautiful, and much appreciated by this birthday girl….and by a little piggy (shown below).
Afterward, we attended an awesome art show, which I found wholly inspiring. Then, we went to my daughter’s house for a traditional dinner. She baked the most delicious coconut cake for me, which Ingrid decorated with pretty gold candles.
I felt truly blessed this year….truly loved and deeply happy, knowing that those who took the time out of their lives to acknowledge my birth really love me. Sometimes, I feel like the luckiest woman alive. This was one of those perfect birthdays that I will never forget. Many thanks to my family and to my friends who made it all possible.
Whoa….It looks like we just may have a new blues hero here! Teen guitarist Chase Walker is being referred to as “the new Stevie Ray Vaughan”, or “the new Kenny Wayne Shepherd.” American Blues Scene calls him one of the top 10 musicians under 18 you should know. After I watched this video I knew why. Wow.
Walker, who is from Riverside, California, was born in 1998 and didn’t start playing guitar until 2010. His influences include Vaughan, Warren Haynes, the Black Crowes and the Black Keys. Since I knew Vaughan a little bit, I’m excited about this.
To quote the Big Bear Grizzly, the Chase Walker Band formed in 2012 and includes Matt Fyke on drums and vocals and Randon Davitt on bass and vocals. In 2013, Walker’s song “Too Many Days Ago” was a finalist in John Lennon International Songwriting Contest.
The band released its debut album, Unleashed, last year.
Here is a little blurb from the new show, “Empowering Women Everywhere, ” which is hosted by my friend, Nann Gill.
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