From a talk given by psychologist Dan Gilbert (rough transcription):
In 2 million years our brains nearly tripled in size… and one reason is that our brains gain a new part. That part is the frontal lobes, in particular the pre-frontal cortex. Now what does the prefrontal cortex do for you? … One of the most important things it does is an experience simulator. Pilots practice in flight simulators so they don’t make real mistakes in planes. Human beings have this marvellous adaptation that they can actually have experiences in their heads before they try them out in real life. This is a trick that none of our ancestors could do, that no other animal can do quite like we can…”
Today I was taking Lillian to her swimming lesson up at the pool on campus. I was putting her swimming stuff, in a bag, onto the carrying rack on the rear of the bike.
Lillian said “Don’t you want me to carry that?”
“No,” I said. “It’ll be fine there.”
“But what if it drops off?”
“I’ll pick it up and put it back on.”
“But what if you don’t hear it?”
“I guess I’ll have to go back and get it.”
“But what if you can’t find it?
“Then I suppose I’ll have to keep looking.”
“What if you run over it?”
Seems like her 5-year-old pre-frontal cortex is working just fine…