Despite believing that we are in control of our own destinies, many of the decisions we make are actually the result of a rich web of interaction between all the people that surround us.
So, while we like to think that we dictate outcomes by utilising the power of our own unique brains, much of what we do is actually unconscious reaction to the behaviour we observe in other people – who are themselves reacting to the crowd around them. As the renowned neuroscientist David Eagleman puts it, “half of our self is actually other people”.
Except when a large crowd gathers on a race-day, the level of interaction is so high that you could probably say that “ninety percent of our self is other people.” Which is a great excuse for coming home drunk without any money – because only ten percent of the fault can be attributed to you. And it’s a good reason for sharing your winnings with friends by buying a round at the bar – after all, your decisions are really their decisions: they deserve to be rewarded.
But where does that leave us in these socially isolated times? When we no longer receive those vital stimuli from the people around us, do we become less brainy? Well, speaking from personal experience, I suspect we probably do. It might explain why I put yoghurt in my coffee this morning and milk over my bananas. Or maybe I’m just tired…
Social neuroscientists have discovered lots of ways in which interaction with other people changes the way our brains operate. So for example, not only do we keep memories fresh by recounting stories to our friends, scientific trials have demonstrated that it is possible to make up entirely new memories, false ones, by introducing fake ideas about the past into everyday conversations. And while this could be a great way to fill the gap left in the formbook by the current pandemic, I’m more interested in harnessing the power of collective memory to create an experience that can give us all a bit of comfort while we are being starved of racing action at Kelso.
I would like you to write to us (Kelso Racecourse, Kelso, TD5 7SX or firstname.lastname@example.org) with your racing memories. We’d like to hear about your first visit to Kelso races; that date you enjoyed at the races with the girl who turned out to be your wife, or the man who turned out to be your husband; or the day you scattered someone’s ashes by the last fence; backed a big-priced winner; lost a fortune; witnessed a future Grand National winner. We want to hear it all – and we’ll share the best anecdotes, especially those that link to the memories of others, at a later date for a bit of collective therapy.