11. The spiritual and cultural influence on the thinking process
The regional and national culture in which a person grows up influences what this person finds important and worth remembering. Culture is expressed in typical patterns of thought of a very diverse nature.
The social class in which a person grows up, for instance, determines and shapes their views and is often passed on from parent to child. Class plays a role in personal and family relations. In addition to class, education is an important influence on cultural thinking.
Education is based on various principles and is nationally and politically influenced. Political, religious as well as philosophical points of view shape the contents of education. The Ministry of Education, examination board and competition between schools all ensure basic skills are taught at an agreed level.
After education, people start work and/or family life. The acquired social position influences a person’s experiences and views. This represents directly personal influences, whereas cultural factors usually play a role at a national or even international level.
The arts and literature shape society. The extent to which they influence an individual’s life varies. Religion also is a prominent factor in shaping a country’s culture morally as well as ethically. Media and public opinion influence people’s thoughts.
Not everyone is able to form personal views without considering printed and electronic media. Few original and independent spirits exist in the world. Man is a herd animal, following opinion leaders that express their feelings best. Human thinking and behaviour are determined by direct and indirect environmental factors. How, then, does this affect memory?
An individual’s cultural baggage is stored in their memory. It determines the emotional labelling of received stimuli. What is deemed important gets more emotional importance and meaning and, consequently, ends up higher in the hierarchy of memory.
Insignificant events are not labelled to be remembered. The extent of importance is determined by the extent to which people feel committed to a subject. Cultural baggage is etched in neural networks, which process internal and external stimuli.
Underdeveloped parts of the neural network hardly influence human behaviour. Frequently used parts of the neural network communicate intensively with their familiar counterparts within the neural network.
Patterns of thought are controlled and become predictable in this way. Frequent exposure to similar views and stimuli shapes fixed patterns in the brain. The brain selects received stimuli according to these patterns.Stimuli that fall outside the scope of these fixed patterns are barely noticed, if they are received infrequently.
The brain is allowed a selective approach to the continuous flow of stimuli, so it can separate the wheat from the chaff and create a balanced and tranquil way of thinking with space for meditation, rest and concentration – required to perform all actions a human being has to perform. If there were no selection of stimuli, a person would be egged on in despair, chaos, disturbance and insecurity.