Issues in Interdisciplinarity 2018-19/Categorisation in the Brain

  • Every day, we make sense of our surroundings by categorising the information we see or hear. This is done either intentionally or unintentionally. It is important to note that when categorisation is done unconsciously, this may be accompanied with biases.
  • The way we categorise and label elements in our daily life can in part be responsible for Racism and Sexism as it influences how we make sense of our surroundings. (Hierarchical classification - are there ingrown reasons for the patriarchy?)
  • Ambiguity in categorisation - categories can mislead us. Ambiguity of words and how we group words together - some words are spelt the same but have different meanings. In Chinese, it even boils down to the tone - a simple change in tone and how you accentuate the word can completely change the meaning of the word.
  • Different methods of organising things - do we organise element based on context or time, or the way it made us feel, or what we can associate it with (eg “as blue as the ocean” - invokes senses and allows accurate representation of descriptions with scenery we are accustomed to). This automatically creates categories of things that the brain finds similar (we distinguish living and non-living things). There are however limitations and challenges on how we organise elements; memory is faulty and can lead to illusions, we create categories as we go along. Life doesn’t fit into clear-cut boxes, although some people may argue it is a mere simplification for understanding, all models of life are wrong and can only reflect a small part of the matters at hand. We categorise things to cope and make it simpler for us but these are inaccurate, missing out various elements and leaving crucial facts out.