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How Our Brain Separates Fact from Possibility

Author: NeuroGym Team | 2021

How your brain functions might seem a bit obscure to you, but a bit of the puzzle starts falling into place when you realize the power language has on your thinking.


The words you choose have a great deal to do with cognitive function, so why not learn how to use them to your advantage?

The Impact of Word Choice on the Brain

The brain is so fascinating that researchers, scientists, and academics continue to study it and get to know its inner workings better. It’s a good thing because once the brain is understood better, it can be used more optimally.

The linguistic and psychology departments at NYU recently completed a study on cognitive functioning. The study focused specifically on how a person’s choice of words affects activity in the brain.

Language is the one thing that all of us have in common. We use it to communicate with each other and with ourselves through the use of thoughts. Admit it: Many of us even speak to ourselves in the mirror! There is truly no way that you can separate yourself from language.

Facts Versus Possibilities: The Powerful Difference

Consider the following two statements:

  1. "The sun is shining, so I can go swimming."
  2. "I might go swimming if the sun continues to shine."

These two statements are about the exact same thing: swimming on a sunny day.

Which one of these statements is more believable to you?


The first statement explains exactly what is going to happen: This person is going swimming. There is no question about it. The statement reads like a fact and is said with conviction, so there is no reason to doubt what will happen.


The second statement uses the words might and if which indicates possibility. These words convey uncertainty about whether swimming will actually occur. It is a small change in wording, but this creates a big difference in cognitive function.


Which One Wins?

When we investigate facts versus possibilities, we are looking at the use of modal words. These are words that help verbs (doing words) and convey intention.

In the example statements, modal words include am, might, and if.

There are other modal words like may, maybe, can, must, could, and would. These words appear in many sentences, but the one you choose to use impacts the believability of what you say.

You want your words to come across as the truth, so you should choose vocabulary that doesn’t create any questions about your intentions.

Facts always win.

Enhancing Brain Activity Through Language

The NYU study proved that factual language always has a greater impact than language that leaves room for possibility.

The researchers used magnetoencephalography (MEG) to map out the brain activity of participants in the research study while exposing them to factual and speculative language. MEG measures the production of electrical currents in the brain when it is exposed to information.

Participants’ brains would light up with activity when presented with facts while possibilities didn’t get as much cognitive attention. The researchers used the MEG results to identify parts of the brain that separated information into fact and possibility.

As soon as the brain perceived facts, it paid more attention, which added credibility to the statement and any information that followed. Overall, factual language is the way to go.

Get to Know Your Brain Better

The brain is a fascinating tool that you use every second of the day. Its importance underlines why you should get to know your brain better.

Register for the upcoming Brain-A-Thon and hear the truth straight from six brain experts.

Your Brain Can Change

What do you think of the brain and how it functions? Do you think it can change?

Well, it can!

Consider for a moment that your brain interpreted the two example statements of swimming in different ways. It believes one statement that swimming will definitely occur, while it doubts the other statement because there is uncertainty.

Your brain made this decision based on the choice of vocabulary alone. By changing your word choice, you can change your brain.

Awareness of Brain Function

Your brain learns to function in specific ways. It is conditioned from birth and throughout school to absorb and process information in certain ways. Your surroundings and current environment affect your brain, and you become set into certain patterns of thinking.

This situation affects you greatly—it causes negative thinking resulting in negative behavior, limiting beliefs, and even a lack of self-esteem.

The NYU study has placed all of this in a different light and made it clear that your brain can change. It is doing so simply by using different words.

Now that you are aware of this fact, you can work on improving your cognitive functioning. When you do this, you take control of your mind, you change your thinking, and you get more out of life.

The question now becomes: How do I change my brain?

Brain Training Is Possible

Cognitive training describes the process of changing your brain and thinking. This is formally known as neuroplasticity.

Your brain moves constantly. It’s exposed to stimuli, processes the information; checks if it is known or unknown; and determines a suitable response. All of this occurs through neural networks which are the paths used to convey information through the brain.

Neural networks strengthen through repetition (or habit), and you can build new ones at any time. It’s also possible to alter your ingrained neural networks by changing the way you think or act.

Training your brain opens you up to a whole new cognitive world where you decide on how your story goes instead of giving in to the default choices of your mind. That is an amazing amount of power to have!


Choose to Change

You can continue to think the way you have always done and be satisfied with the life you have, or you can make the decision to change. It has to be a conscious decision! You are the only one in control of your destiny, so change is part of your future.

Changing your brain isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take time, but every minute that you choose to work on it is another minute closer to the mind you desire.

Brain training is a practice in excellence that becomes a habit. You have to commit to changing the functionality of your brain. When you find yourself straying from your desired way of thinking, you have to correct yourself and get back on track.

Get a Head Start On Cognitive Change

Brain training might seem like it is difficult, but it’s not. It’s just a series of techniques that turn into mental success.

You can learn all these techniques (and more!) by attending our free virtual Brain-A-Thon. Coaches and neuroscientists will share the secrets to unlocking the full potential of your brain, so get ready for a world of change.

Train Your Brain With Innercise™

Changing the way you think is done most easily through Innercise™—a mental workout. There are many Innercise™ workouts that you can find on the blog, and all of them will help you to shape your brain.

Why Innercise™ Works

Innercise™ uses your own mental power, awareness, and scientific knowledge to change how your brain works. This is amazing because you are reshaping your entire brain through thoughts alone.

When you get your thinking right, you enable self-belief. This allows you to create plans and visualize your life as you want it, which allows you to take action.

Innercise™ helps you to move from manifesting ideas to achieving them in the real world. Once you are able to do this, your confidence grows, and you become unstoppable.

Language and Innercise™

Thoughts are necessary for Innercise™, and thoughts are made from words. This makes your language choice a good place to start when you want to change your cognitive functioning.

Take note of the language you use on a daily basis, especially when talking about yourself, and consider how you could change the modal words. Alter your vocabulary to convey certainty instead of possibility. This will train your mind to think in terms of facts and make it easier for you to achieve your goals.

Try It Now

Start changing your brain with an Innercise™ right now. Find a pen and paper, and then proceed with the following steps.

  1. Take six deep breaths and relax.
  2. Write down a goal or wishful thought you have for yourself. For example, you could write: "I wish I had my own business," or "If I work harder, I might have financial freedom."
  3. Identify the modal language and uncertainty in what you have written down. You are now aware of it, so you change it.
  4. Rewrite the goal or thought so that it conveys certainty and gives you something to work for in the future. For example, "I will be a business owner," or "Financial freedom is close because I work hard."
  5. Use the rewritten statement as a daily affirmation to strengthen your neural pathways.

It’s Time to Take Action

The foundation for brain training is already active in your life. All you need to do now is act upon it.

The upcoming Brain-A-Thon is the ideal event for you to learn more about your mind and how to get the most from it. Don’t wait a second longer—secure your space now.

About The Author

NeuroGym Team

NeuroGym Team: NeuroGym’s Team of experts consists of neuroscientists, researchers, and staff who are enthusiasts in their fields. The team is committed to making a difference in the lives of others by sharing the latest scientific findings to help you change your life by understanding and using the mindset, skill set and action set to change your brain.

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