Anyone who drives to work knows the strange sensation of realising that you have no memory of driving the last few kilometres. It is as if you turn on an autopilot in your brain. Because your brain is a master of pattern recognition, it analyses the route and all the movements like handle turning that takes you to the destination then converts it into a habit. After many commutes, the habit is so strong that the brain does not need to spare any thought on the activity. Ergo, your brain literally turns on an autopilot for you so to spare brainpower.
Thanks to this autopilot, the brain does not have to think about the drive to work. This means that it creates no new memories about the commute and you come out the other side not remembering the drive. An analogy would be to think of your brain’s information processing ability as if it was taking photos. The more new information it processes, the more photos it takes. Because your commute is an automatic process, the brain takes hardly any photos. Therefore, the “album” has few photos and takes little time to flip through. In comparison, your brain takes far more photos if you were to spend an equal time exploring a new scenic route. When you look back on this drive, the album is much thicker and you perceive it as a longer, more detailed memory.
Of course, this is extremely dangerous as your brain’s autopilot does not protect you from changes to your usual commute, such as a car swerving into you by accident. The automatic process means your brain is less ready for information processing and you have a delayed reaction, which may cost you your life.
The same goes for meeting a new person. On a first date, you learn many things about the other person and your brain frantically takes as many photos as it can. Looking back on it, it feels as if every second lasted forever and you can remember every little detail like the song that was playing in the background or the colour of her nails. But twenty years down the line, a day with that same person might feel less special and more “automatic”. Just like your drive to work, such an “autopilot” might result in a horrible accident.
So never stop paying attention to details, avoid forming ruts with surprises and new things. Don’t let your relationship turn into a boring commute.