Aylán, a ray of light

Aylán, un rayo de luz

History is full of images that remain etched in humans memory and arrive to cross generations. The visual sense, along with the sense of smell, are both of the 5 senses more powerful to promote memory as evidence the studies of Martin Linstrom, a reference to applied neuroscience (his book Buyology shuoul be read by everyone who is interested in emotions).

Journalists and public opinion have expressed in these days different points of view of the photo of the body of the syrian child at the seaside. This photo has become viral very quickly due to its impact in Twitter and Facebook, but especially for its impact on our consciousness. Some think that all show their humanity sharing this material when everyday thousands of children die in wars like Iraq, Syria and Sudan and nobody remembers it; Some complain about the morbidity of this photos using the migratory refugee crisis, most of them syrian, who are being denied in some countries, mainly Hungary. But…

Was it necessary to publish the photo of Aylan?

Aylán en las portadas de todo el mundo

Moreover of the si was or not necessary, the truth is that the photographed Aylan death has served to open the consciousness of thousands of people who have even given a room in your home to accommodate a refugee. Aylan, which it means light, has enlightened a hidden conflict. But…

Why Aylan photo has been able to remove the collective unconscious?

All of us have seen in Aylan our son, our nephew, our grandson. We have mobilised our self because the human being is essentially emotional. Because we have quickly identified an uncertainty: What if I happen to me? What if it were my child? Therefore, this picture has permeated the memory of all of us. Here we have the contradiction: the selfishness of our primitive brain has activated one of the most important solidarity wave that we have experienced in recent history.

Each one of us saw the photo for fist time and felt chiefly a combination between sadness and anger, later was formed in us a feeling that activated our instinct of solidarity, protection and shelter.

It’s sad that the human being needs to be exposed to this type of pictures to react, but so does our brain, we are irrational beings who react, but so does our brain, we are irrational beings who react especially to stunning visual stimuli, breaking our perceptual barriers. This help us to open our eyes and see reality as it is, without neither preconceived prejudices nor principles. As the psychologist Drew Westen demonstrated only when alert emotional mechanisms are activated, people change their behavior. Facts like these are can mobilize people who think differently and feel united by the same cause.

This picture will be stored in our memory, will go down in history with capital letters, along with other like that girl, Kim Phuc, burned by napalm, running down a road in the Vietnam War or the faces of spanish postwar period that we all have remembered again nowadays.

Foto histórica de la niña, Kim Phuc, quemada por el napalm, corriendo por una carretera, en la Guerra de Vietnam

For the same reason that these images permeate our memory, our mind is programmed to remember more profusely positive experiences. The expert Timothy Ritchie, of the University of Limerick, in Ireland, confirmer that this is an universal phonomenon, which afects to all human species. It’s important that history is written and studied, if it’s possible with audiovisual files, with the hope that events like this one will shed a ray of light to future generations.

Bárbara Aucejo Devís

Research Director of Emotion Research LAB