Facts So Romantic

This Is How Your Brain Walks the Dog—a Dialogue

Habits: You two were arguing, I just kept walking. Felt like the right thing to do.Photograph by evrymmnt / Shutterstock

INT. HOME OFFICE—DAY

BODY, a middle-aged woman, is working at a computer, trying to finish a plan for the household budget.

Habits

Oh! It’s time to walk the dog.

BODY stops typing.

Central Executive

Uh, oh right. The body has to walk the dog. Come on, girl.

BODY walks outside with the DOG on a leash. The DOG is a pug.

EXT. THE SIDEWALK—DAY

Default Mode Network 

How are we going to afford to keep the second car? Maybe we should cancel one of our three streaming services.

Reward System 

Oh, look at that sun. What a nice day! Let’s stop and let the sun shine on the face before we walk into the shadow of that building.

Habits 

No, let’s keep walking.

Reward System 

No, let’s stop—

Central Executive 

We’re walking. The dog needs to go.

Default Mode Network 

Does Disney+ really have enough content to warrant the monthly fee they’re charging? The kids already own half of Disney’s catalog on DVD…

BODY sees a discarded aluminum can across the street.

Central Executive

Aluminum is, environmentally speaking, very costly to produce, but is one of the most recyclable materials out there. Lots of energy gets preserved….

Habits 

Keep walking.

Central Executive 

The body should go pick up that can and carry it home to the recycle bin.

Reward System 

But it’s all the way across the street! It’s a busy road!

Central Executive 

It’s the right thing to do.

Habits 

Let’s just keep walking.

Central Executive 

Think of how good you’ll feel when the body tosses that can into the recycle bin!

Reward System 

But that’s like 11 minutes away.

Habits 

I’m with Reward System on this one. Ignore it.

Central Executive 

Fine.

Default Mode Network 

We’re cancelling Disney+ when we get home.

Reward System 

What about the next season of The Mandalorian?

BODY keeps walking DOG. A cold wind blows by.

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Reward System 

Ah! The body should have worn a coat.

Central Executive 

That’s true. Why didn’t it?

Habits 

It’s been pretty mild lately. I didn’t think of it.

Reward System 

Let’s go home.

Central Executive 

The dog hasn’t done her thing yet.

Habits 

Let’s keep walking down this street like we do every day.

Reward System 

I’m cold. I hate this.

Central Executive 

You got your way with the can, now shut up and leave us alone.

BODY walks into an intersection without looking.

Reward System 

You’re cold too, not just me. Body, turn around.

Central Executive 

You can take it. The dog—

A car stops just short of the dog, honking its horn.

Central Executive 

What happened?

Habits 

You two were arguing, I just kept walking. Felt like the right thing to do.

BODY waves apologetically and moves out of the intersection.

Reward System 

That was scary. You should have been paying attention.

Central Executive 

But I was—Arrrrg.

DOG finally pees. The next three lines are spoken simultaneously.

Habits 

Time to go home!

Reward System 

I want to go home!

Central Executive 

We should go home now!

BODY walks home and gets back to work on the document.

INT. HOME OFFICE—DAY

Central Executive 

The body has to get this budget squared away…

Default Mode Network 

The body is going to cancel Disney+. That should help.

Central Executive 

Thanks.

BODY types for a minute.

Reward System 

...I’m hungry.

Jim Davies is a professor at the Department of Cognitive Science at Carleton University. He is the author of Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power and Riveted: The Science of Why Jokes Make us Laugh, Movies Make us Cry, and Religion Makes us Feel One with the Universe. He is co-host of the award-winning podcast Minding the Brain. His new book, Being the Person Your Dog Thinks You Are: The Science of a Better You, comes out in February 2021.

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