Association and dissociation
The brain is a pattern matching machine. When we are repeatedly presented with a pattern we starts to see what relates and what doesn’t. This is what, in psychology terms, is called association and dissociation.
There is a rather common heuristic used within the field of psychology that brain cells “that fire together wire together.” The meaning of that statement is that, as learners, we put meaning onto things that occur together in the same context or time. The classical psychological experiments by Pavlov showed how stimuli that is presented together “associates”. What this means is that meaning itself is transferred to the things that something is presented together with. The most famous example is Pavlov’s bell, that for his dogs got so associated with food that the dogs started to drool simply from hearing the sound of the bell.
Dissociation is created when we observe that something no longer happens within a context. It is when we learn that we thought was true really isn’t or that maybe it is more nuanced than it first seemed.
Dissociation is also when we choose not to acknowledge things. It is the brains way of filtering out the information that is not relevant in the current context. When we are really focused on something our minds keeps track of and associates things within a specific context, but tries to ignore and dissociate everything else. Dissociation is the brain’s way of creating relevancy.