In “The Eureka Hunt,” Jonathan Lehrer talks about studies into the brain and how people come to an insight. The studies cited compare the right hemisphere of the brain and the left hemisphere, and then the prefrontal cortex, which plays the role as conductor in deciding which area of the brain is used.
“The Eureka Hunt” talks about the way the brain comes to a solution. Often, if there isn’t a “eureka” moment, then the brain will likely not come up with a solution to many puzzles. Also, if the brain spends too much time focusing on one issue, then it is likely the person who is thinking will hit a brick wall and won’t be able to come up with a solution. But if that person then goes for a walk, or distracts themselves in another way, the solution could come to them as their brain’s subconscious continues to work out the problem. The studies find that if an issue is concentrated on too much, then the brain won’t be able to figure it out. The research that is described in the article provides the scientific proof that certain areas of the brain are triggered when trying to figure out a problem, realizing the problem through a sudden insight, and then the excitement that comes after that “eureka” moment. In Denis Seguin`s “The Anti-Socialite,” he describes people who have Asperger’s syndrome. It explains the psychology of people who have the mental condition which is an offset of autism. The article describes the challenges of people and the families of those who have the condition. It also touches on the idea that people who have Asperger’s syndrome aren’t necessarily lacking anything, they just happen to have more developed math and engineering skills, for example. The fact that they don’t have social common sense actually caters to their abilities elsewhere, the article says. The article seems to explain what some people already assume, and that is that many people who are socially awkward are talented in areas of math and science, for example. Autism seems to be the extreme example of that. Both pieces paint a clear picture of the connection between the mind’s workings and the actions. They detail that people are really a product of their brain’s activity, and can’t fully control their actions.
The concepts of both works explain aspects of the capabilities of human psychology. Throughout “The Anti-Socialite,” Seguin describes the ways in which people are more capable when they have autism. “At age thirty-eight – the year he won the Fields Medal, the mathematics equivalent of the Nobel Prize – [Borcherds] was diagnosed with AS. He is now a math professor at Berkeley,” (Seguin,2008, Par. 6). While in “The Eureka Hunt,” Lehrer describes the ways in which people are more capable when they have a moment of insight: “If subjects didn’t solve [the puzzles] in a sudden ‘Aha!’ moment, they didn’t solve them at all,” (Lehrer, 2008, Par. 11).
The themes in both works use trees to describe the mental phenomenon that is being recorded. Lehrer quotes cognitive neuroscientist Mark Jung-Beeman as saying, “Language is so complex that the brain has to process it in two different ways at the same time. It needs to see the forest and the trees. The right hemisphere is what helps you see the forest,” (Lehrer, 2008, Par. 9). Similarly Seguin describes a quote from Tony Attwood, an autism expert, who says, “In the typical child, one tree grows quickly and dominates the clearing, shades the other plants, takes all the nutrients from the soil, and inhibits the development of competing plants. Now for the typical child that [tree] is the social part of the brain. But if that plant is not as dominant and doesn’t inhibit the others, then other plants will thrive,” (Seguin, 2008, Par. 25).
In Lehrer’s case, the use of the left side of the brain is inhibiting the use of the right side. In Seguin’s case, the fact that the social part of the brain isn’t being used allows for the use of other areas of the brain. These forest comparisons both point to the fact that the use of one area of the brain is at the detriment to another.
The issues in both works centre around the idea that both conditions are still a mystery, because of their nature: they are both heavily weighted on the psychology of each human subject. Throughout Lehrer’s article, scientists would constantly compete with the fact that they were unable to pinpoint the precise reason problems could often be solved from a moment of insight, when the answer would just come to the test subject, “The answer seemed to appear out of nowhere,” (Lehrer, 2008, Par. 15). In Seguin’s article, there is still a mystery as to why the people with autism are interpreting the world differently. “Attwood likens the diagnostic process to a hundred-piece jigsaw puzzle. ‘Each piece is a fragment or characteristic of AS,’” (Seguin, 2008, Par. 41).
In closing, while people would often like to think they are in control of their actions and the way they think, they are nothing more than the product of the way their brain functions. Those who have moments of insight can’t intentionally control the right hemisphere of their brains to come to the insight. Similarly, people with autism can’t control the way they interact: they will always lack social skill but excel in other areas. If people could control the way their minds work, then maybe they could change their destiny.
Lehrer, J. (2008, July 28). The Eureka Hunt. The New Yorker. Retrieved from
Seguin, D., (2008) The Anti-Socialite. The Walrus. Retrieved from