Psychological Fragments: Ease and Uncertainty

Cognitive ease states that how efficiently we process information influences our attitude and feelings toward whatever that something is that we are mentally engaged with; moreover, our motivation to expend effort and move toward (approach) or opt for conserving energy and not taking action toward whatever the perceived end goal might be is also affected by our evaluation of the relative amount of effort (i.e., cost) and appraisal of the expected outcome (i.e., reward).

Furthermore, research continues to highlight that uncertainty is closely intertwined with stress, as researchers Peters, McEwen, and Friston underscore in their 2017 article exploring the connections between uncertainty and stress:  “Applied to our everyday life, this means that we feel uncertain, when we anticipate that outcomes will turn out to be something other than expected – and that we are unable to avoid surprise. As all cognitive systems strive to reduce their uncertainty about future outcomes, they face a critical constraint: Reducing uncertainty requires cerebral energy.”

When conceptualized in this manner, it becomes easier to understand our cognitive processes from a cost-benefit system based on forms of energy as the common currency; however, this serves only to model, or construct a somewhat clearer mental representation of what is happening in our inner worlds. This stops short of providing more information for understanding the ways in which our drives and motives are set into motion through our perceptions, appraisals, and wagers on future events and actions.

Reference

A. Peters B. S. McEwen K. Friston. (2017). Uncertainty and stress: Why it causes diseases and how it is mastered by the brain. Progress in Neurobiology. Volume 156, September 2017, Pages 164-188. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pneurobio.2017.05.004