The Null Device
Posts matching tags 'mind'
Artificial intelligence/cognitive science pioneer Marvin Minsky, who has recently written a book on the mechanisms behind emotions, gives an interview, weighing in on intelligence, cognition, the nature of self and the ineffable mysteries of life:
Q What, in your view, is love?
A There's short-term infatuation, where someone gets strongly attracted to someone else, and that's probably very often a turning-off of certain things rather than something extra: It's a mental state where you remove your criticism. So to say someone is beautiful is not necessarily positive, it may be something happening so you can't see anything wrong with this person. And then there are long-term attachments, where you adopt the goals of the other person and somehow make serious changes in what you're going to do.
Q And what is the self?
A We often imagine that there's a little person inside ourselves who makes our important decisions for us. However, a more useful idea is that you build many different models of yourself for dealing with different situations -- and each of those self-images can add to your resourcefulness.
Shamelessly plagiarised from Mind Hacks:
A list of delusions taken from the psychiatric literature that don't seem that delusional when you think about them:
To quote Salvador Dalí, "The only difference between me and a madman is that I'm not mad".
- "The earth is doomed"
- Patient with Alzheimer's reported by Sultzer et al. (2003)
- "Bill Gates is destroying my files and spying on me"
- 32 year old patient reported by Podoll et al. (2000)
- "A local gang is going to mug me"
- South London patient reported by Freeman et al. (2001)
- "I drove two people mad when I was 11 to 14 years old"
- Patient from a study by Rhodes and Jakes (2000)
- "My thoughts are being controlled by TV newscasters"
- Inpatient reported by Noffsinger and Saleh (2000)
(via Mind Hacks)
Cognitive neuroscience researcher Ogi Ogas describes how he used techniques from neuroscience to win a quiz show, getting questions he did not consciously know the answer to:
Cognitive models developed by my advisor Gail Carpenter suggest that a more effective way to evaluate an intuition is to consider its mnemonic associations. If you can mentally trace some of the cognitive links of an intuition (through a process similar to priming), these links may suggest whether the intuition is meaningfully connected to the correct answer or whether the link is trivial, incidental, or wrong. For example, given the question "Bucharest is the capital of what European country?", you might have an intuition that the answer is Hungary, because the actual capital of Hungary--Budapest--sounds like "Bucharest" and is thus unconsciously linked. In this case, naively following your unexamined intuition would lead you away from the correct response: Romania.
My $250,000 question presented me with a case of pure intuition. "The department store Sears got its start by selling what specific product in its first catalog?" Since pop culture esoterica and business origins are outside my domains of interest, I did not know the answer. But for some reason, even before the four possible answers appeared, I thought of watches. When "watches" turned up as one of the choices, I reflected on it further. I did not feel any certainty. But why did my brain come up with "watches?" ... As I concentrated on my watch intuition, I began to think about railroads. My brain's memory pattern of watches was somehow linked to a memory pattern of railroads, and my railroad memory also evoked a memory of Sears. Though I still could not work out the explicit connection between watches and Sears, I satisfied myself that "watches" had some deep mnemonic relationship to both railroads and Sears--perhaps at some point in my life I had read that Sears originally delivered their watch catalogs by railroad?
Later, in the tranquility of my apartment, I discovered that 23-year old railroad station agent Richard Sears sold watches to other station agents along the Minneapolis and St. Louis Railway for a full year before meeting up with Alvah C. Roebuck. I never did discover how this obscure factoid had left its faint trace upon my brain.
Mind Hacks, the new O'Reilly book of cool tricks and experiments in applied neurology, is out now; the O'Reilly page includes some sample chapters in PDF format. If that's not enough, there is a Mind Hacks blog, constantly publishing new material on similar topics.
This sounds immensely cool: two people are writing a book for O'Reilly's Hacks series on taking advantage of the quirks of one's brain. Or, as Cory Doctorow says, a guide for overclocking your amygdala:
I'm talking about minute-by-minute stuff: This is why you scratch your face when somebody else does. This is what will grab your attention in the corner of your eye, and this is what won't. Why the status icons in the corner of your desktop should be black and white and not in colour. That's what Brain Hacks is about, letting you see how all that works, from a standing start.
There's so much I want to say right now. From what I've learned, and the way it's changed how I look at the world - I can now follow the way my attention gets attached to the internal and external world, anticipate what's going to cause subliminal behaviour, and induce it in other people (but don't tell them I've been doing that), oh and the philosophical implications too - to the process: our use of a wiki for research and organisation (the most successful usage I've seen), the pitch process, the nature of writing, writing under pressure, re-learning how to follow citation trails, balance opinions. That can all wait.
An article about synaesthesia, and in particular, the tendency to associate colours with letters. The article gives a table of letters and their colours; are they more or less universal, or specific to one particular case?
I suspect that synaesthesia isn't all that exotic, and most people experience mild forms of it. I for one remember associating letters with colours when I was younger, though the colours were different (A,E and M were red, B was green, C and G were orange-yellow, and H was either red or blue). Some years later, I developed the theory that the mapping came from a set of alphabet blocks I played with when I was an infant.
Research in neuroscience suggests that conscious free will may be an illusion, with decisions being made in the brain before they reach the conscious mind.
What Libet did was to measure electrical changes in people's brains as they flicked their wrists. And what he found was that a subject's ''readiness potential'' - the brain signal that precedes voluntary actions - showed up about one-third of a second before the subject felt the conscious urge to act. The result was so surprising that it still had the power to elicit an exclamation point from him in a 1999 paper: ''The initiation of the freely voluntary act appears to begin in the brain unconsciously, well before the person consciously knows he wants to act!''
Then the experimenters would use magnetic stimulation in certain parts of the brain just at the moment when the subject was prompted to make the choice. They found that the magnets, which influence electrical activity in the brain, had an enormous effect: On average, subjects whose brains were stimulated on their right-hand side started choosing their left hands 80 percent of the time. And, in the spookiest aspect of the experiment, the subjects still felt as if they were choosing freely.
Which makes sense; if cognition is a physical process, then so would be decision-making. And it could be that the conscious mind is a very small part of the processes of the brain.
I've suspected for a while that our conscious minds don't so much do the thinking as weave together a coherent internal narrative from the myriad of subconscious processes in our heads, providing a serial stream of consciousness essential to having the sense of self and the ability to introspection. So it could be that we don't consciously make any decisions, only rationalise what the physical processes in our brains do.