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How Your Mind Works

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posted on Nov, 2 2014 @ 09:45 AM
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There is something enormously frustrating at the heart of the human condition.

All of us succumb to it; the smartest of us and the dumbest of us. Nobody exists beyond it's arm.

What is this? I'll write it like this:

Affect -> Cognition

What does this mean? Here, I'll back up and frame it so that you can get a fuller sense of what it is I'm talking about:

Context -> Representation

Chances are, you understood neither of these terms, but they are at the heart, the very crux, of how we relate with our worlds. So pernicious is the delusion of self-certainty that even in academic psychology today representation -> context is actually the operating bias.

It's absolutely ridiculous, but it is nevertheless true. We human beings are CONSTANTLY, over and over and over again, like dumb-ducks, quacking mindlessly into the middle of the road, ignoring this basic, fundamental rule of thumb of consciousness (which even David Hume understood back in the 18th century): Affect influences our cognition. Or, if you've never heard the word "affect", feeling, emotion, directs our thinking.

What can be more important in a persons education than to know and understand the rules that operate in our mind? For example, the Context-Representation binary above is another bias that is frustratingly ignored; and this is impressive if you think about it: intelligent, seemingly self aware, studiously minded people, can't even come to grips with what they're emotional and self systems make very hard: if you've spent your PERSONAL life INVESTED in exploring human mind in terms of REPRESENTATION, when someone tells you thats wrong-headed - and it is - you will feel compelled to reassert the truth of the representation perspective.

Same thing with damn near everything else. People in our world - especially with our technologies destroying our ability to concentrate and focus - there is endless evidence and sound reasoning for why climate change is dangerous: the natural response? IGNORE.

Why does this happen? These are the rules of consciousness.

The human mind is built from childhood up by Self-Other relationships. This means that the human self, from the get-go, is subjectively embedded in a CONTEXT: it doesn't merely "represent" what it sees as it has very little latitude in CHOOSING what it represents.

The brain takes short cuts: past relational patterns PREEMPT cognition - or what we subjectively experience in our minds as our thoughts and feelings. A past, salient relational pattern - embodied in the environment as a situation, activates into awareness a thought: the feeling, the affect, works surreptitiously by biasing the direction of consciousness in a rather simple way; yes or no. You can either be disposed, or not be disposed, to think about something.

Take climate change - the absolute pinnacle example of how this works. The other day I was watching a replay of a basketball game from the day before; being from Canada, I was astonished - and offended - to see that the ad which preceded the replay was an Alberta Tar Sands ad which argued that being pro key-stone pipeline would create chemical factory jobs nation wide. Wow, I thought to myself. This is the most egregious, inappropriate type of advertizing. The Alberta Tar Sands are Justifiably considered a poisionous, careless, mindless, and greedy endeavor by Albertan and Canadian - and American - oil and chemical interests to squeeze as much profit as possible out of an industry that since 1988 has been unequivocally shown to be seriously meddling with our planets atmospheric balance. The logic is simple: our atmosphere gives us life: the nitrogen and oxygen components - the major parts - are mostly permeable to solar energy, which means they aren't really important in terms of temperature regulation. Carbon dioxide, conversely, a mere 280 ppm in 1780, reacts with intense vibration when it's atoms are hit with solar energy. OK. So now we know that carbon dioxide plays a role in regulating temperature, and thus, is regarded as a "green-house gas". Since the start of our industrial revolution we've released carbon deposits in the earth - as oil, methane (natural gas), and coal - back into the atmosphere by burning them; thus, today, carbon dioxide has increased to 395 ppm. Clearly, and undeniably, this isn't a "normal rhythm"; ice core samples definitively show that carbon has not changed this drastically in over 5 million years. It is obviously us - and our burning of products that released carbon dioxide as a gas - which has led to this increase.

The scientific logic is actually simple and should, I think, lead to the same conclusion in every mind: we need to curb our fossil fuel usage. Which means, consequently, that we must, alas, forgo the profits of the Alberta tar sands.

But clearly this information isn't "hitting" human minds in the same way; and this, according to the ecological model of human cognition, is what would be predicted.

Each of us have different developmental histories, so therefore, the "linking up" of this information with our individual minds will 'hit it' in different ways; immediate context - the people around you, in which SHARED-MEANING is made - is the biggest determinant. But this is only the "outside" picture. On the inside, within each of us, is an evolutionary history. Our minds are BORN into this history; our subjectivities are constantly being formed by a basic, fundamental LAW of human cognition: We can only think what feels good.

Ignoring for the moment developmental arrests that lead to pervasive contemporary pathologies (anxieties, paranoias etc), for the most part, our biology causes our brains to prefer 'perspectives' with a positive affective state. The example from before can be reduced thusly

A) climate change is BAD ----->
B) Lets change the subject

In between the feeling and the desire to think about something else lies the evolutionary lacuna; the force that impels our thinking. The felt "badness" - not even consciously recognized, but implicitly made by the form of the claim, engenders a movement within the mind towards states that are metabolically - and subjectively - paths of least resistance; thinking about something 'negative' or 'stressful' costs energy; and unless you have been "tooled" with a perspective that can give this statement "meaning" - that is, a respect for science, a proclivity for reasoning, quieting down emotion and paying attention to your own response as you "link up" with your environment - the invariable response will be: lets talk about something else.

The example I give above is "only" about the biggest issue of our era; but everyday smaller things happen in which this principle is continuously operating; to do or not to do; is really about 'to think or not to think'. It's all about our capacity to feel things that can sometimes be uncomfortable, but which nevertheless need to be felt.

So why can we be so shallow? How have we gone as far as we have - externally - without a corresponding awareness of our internal processes? Frankly, for me, climate change is a natural outcome of this mode of relating; if we deny what is inside us that needs to be felt: if we dedicate ourselves fully to the capitalistic prerogative: PRODUCE! EXCEL! GROW! without the brake that lets us see the full picture and prevent future problems - than we will hit a brick wall; recognize - when its too late - that we've been deluding ourselves all along.




posted on Nov, 2 2014 @ 10:50 AM
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a reply to: Astrocyte

Your post sounds confused.

Basic human psychology operates on all levels.

Governments, companies, media etc all utilise psychology to their advantage, such as : limited informaton, control, sales techniques, brainwashing etc.

Everything has context. Contemporary society varies upon location and for subsets of society and individuals. It is all relative.

Until responsible use of psychology is practiced universally, there would be misuse of it and that obviously varies within context, for example, pop music media taking advantage of certain types of society that meant that basically possible vulnerable young women thought it okay for ''shaking their 'booty''' barely dressed without a clue that it is indecent and morally corrupt.

Context means this:

www.thefreedictionary.com...


con·text (kntkst)
n.
1. The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
2. The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.

[Middle English, composition, from Latin contextus, from past participle of contexere, to join together : com-, com- + texere, to weave; see teks- in Indo-European roots.]



posted on Nov, 2 2014 @ 11:03 AM
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I have mentioned this in previous threads of similar ilk, but 'Thinking Fast, and Slow' by Kahnemann focuses on issues like this. The many cognitive biases and heuristics of which we are afflicted by are symptoms of our natural tendency to rush through our lives. We make the quickest, least arduous judgments instead of taking a step back and thinking in a more rational way. It happens to us all, hence we are all capable of applying logic, reasoning and even statistical analysis to the plethora of stimuli that meets us in everyday life (of which adverts are one such example).

I would say rather than saying it is a problem with our biology, it is a case of our biology's evolution not keeping up with the evolution of society.



posted on Nov, 2 2014 @ 01:57 PM
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Mm.... ok. I kinda think the whole cognition question is a bit more complex than you have described it here, and even not so well known- there are contrasting theories and research that shows it isn't that clear cut.

In my own simpler lay person opinion, based on personal experience, I doubt any of us can perceive the world totally objectively. That objective world may exist, but we cannot perceive it, or at least never in it's entirety.

But the example you use, of global warming, is not very compelling.

For example, motivational intensity can have a big effect upon our scope of cognition. If we perceive that something is out of our control to influence or change, then we will be more likely to ignore it. We will tend to conserve energy for contexts in which our action can actually have a chance at being influencial.

For most people, the subject just looks to be beyond our power to change at this point- it is happening. Getting mad about that is about as useful as getting mad about winter being one of the seasons (though I often feel tempted to go on strike about that....
).

But your theory presented would create some problems- it would mean no one would perceive or anticipate anything negative or uncomfortable. A person afraid of being raped, careful about who and where she places herself in vulnerability, would only be able to imagine and project the possibility because they think rape is good.

But that is a typical reaction of a person who had been raped in the past (so yes, our patterns of perception and cognition are largely determined on our past experience) but they would be trying to avoid it happening again because it is not good, painful and traumatizing.

Your theory would be stating a person feeling that way WANTS to be raped again.


In the example you used (and I find the post confusing as a whole, as you seem to get very intense about the example you used- is the subject affect and cognition, consciousness and behavior..... or is it global warming?)

I experience a limited scope of cognition due to my motivational intensity. There was a time about fifteen years ago where it struck notes in me, and I moved into a living situation that limited as much as I could in my own participation in the process, and increased my chances of survival, and then... I ran out of motivational intensity. I do not percieve much else I can do at this time that would make any difference, so I go on to exploring other issues.

I know a woman who is always getting upset about various injustices in the world and pounding on tables and yelling about them, and all she ends up with is health issues because her organs get flooded with hormones in reactions to thoughts, which she cannot do anything about. It looks like a bad idea.



posted on Nov, 2 2014 @ 05:09 PM
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a reply to: Bluesma

Hi Bluesma.




Mm.... ok. I kinda think the whole cognition question is a bit more complex than you have described it here, and even not so well known- there are contrasting theories and research that shows it isn't that clear cut.


Depending on your framework.

Of course, for example, there are basic fields like "cognitive science", "neuroscience" and "psychoanalysis". The assumption is, they're all different. But in fact that they describe the same mind. There needs to be an "ecological" coming together of these fields, and for me anyways, you see that in the embodied/enactive cognitive science approach which gives precedence to ecological models - self/body + environment; as well as the relational/interpersonal psychoanalytical approach, which essentially does away with the nonsense metapsychologies of Freud, Adler, Jung, Klein, etc, and really looks at the human being in terms of how it functions with others. This field has been supplemented particularly by developmental psychology and attachment theory.

All together, you get a view of cognition that is very "processed" based, in which it is impossible - and arbitrary - to ignore the person IN THE ENVIRONMENT. This is what Jerry Fodor and people who follow his obviously false beliefs believe.




In my own simpler lay person opinion, based on personal experience, I doubt any of us can perceive the world totally objectively. That objective world may exist, but we cannot perceive it, or at least never in it's entirety.


I never made claim to knowing absolutely. To me, all science is approximation. We just get closer to what is "objectively" true - and it would presumptuous for anyone to say that their perspective is absolutely true.




But the example you use, of global warming, is not very compelling.


Link

Hopefully this was more clear.




For most people, the subject just looks to be beyond our power to change at this point- it is happening. Getting mad about that is about as useful as getting mad about winter being one of the seasons (though I often feel tempted to go on strike about that....


Yes, this is true. This is one of Amos Tsversky/Daniel Kahnemans findings. But, Kahneman is a bit of a dissociated robot: good at finding problems within his system, but unknowingly caged by his own system of thought (check out "dont even think about it" for a view of what Kahneman thinks about climate change).

Overcoming this problem - this apathy - means TRANSCENDING ourselves. For Kahneman, an expert in finding biases, it doesn't seem possible. And thats understandable; this is not his field of inquiry; he knows biases, but his understanding of the subjective experience is totally missing in his worldview.

This is why the author of Dont Even think About It, George Marshall, ultimately dismisses Kahnemans evolutionary prosaic view in favor of a psychoanalytical approach: because it is only by anayzing and understanding what we feel - what is relationally significant to our own thinking and feeling - and thus are dissociative vulnerabilities - can we discover ways out.

This is what psychotherapists do everyday. There are ways out; but its "emergent"; its an issue of complexity, de-rigidifying past structures of thought and opening yourself up to new ways of being.




But your theory presented would create some problems- it would mean no one would perceive or anticipate anything negative or uncomfortable. A person afraid of being raped, careful about who and where she places herself in vulnerability, would only be able to imagine and project the possibility because they think rape is good.


I wasn't denying evolutionary "soft-assembly"; yes, we have, according to Jaak Panksepp, 7 basic emotional processes: fear, Care, rage etc. But this is only a "soft-assembly"; its what were built with, but that doesn't mean it can't be usurped by metacognitive processes.



posted on Nov, 3 2014 @ 12:49 AM
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originally posted by: Astrocyte
a reply to: Bluesma

I never made claim to knowing absolutely. To me, all science is approximation. We just get closer to what is "objectively" true - and it would presumptuous for anyone to say that their perspective is absolutely true.


Hiya!

I meant that that was the part we converge on in view. It was not meant to oppose your opinion. I gathered that part of your op referred to the subjective bias which clouds and limits our cognition. This is something we agree upon.




Overcoming this problem - this apathy - means TRANSCENDING ourselves.
... in favor of a psychoanalytical approach: because it is only by anayzing and understanding what we feel - what is relationally significant to our own thinking and feeling - and thus are dissociative vulnerabilities - can we discover ways out.
This is what psychotherapists do everyday. There are ways out; but its "emergent"; its an issue of complexity, de-rigidifying past structures of thought and opening yourself up to new ways of being.


(I only take out parts of a paragraph to shorten this post I am making... I want to make it clear what parts I am responding to, but the phrases I use to indicate that are not necessarily the most important or significant in that passage)
I would have to agree, and think many of us do do that (or perhaps only those who grew up in a family of shrinks! I don't know...
)

But in the case of global warming, I might actually need you to give me some motivation. On my own, I cannot see what I can do today to influence this. It seems to be inevitable at this point in time- the only thing to do now is what I have already done- find a home with everything one would need to survive, stock up on supplies and food, and hunker down.

I do not want to waste energy fretting over something, without being able to put that concern into some sort of action.

I didn't quite understand your response to my point that the good/bad affective response could not be the sole determiner of cognitive scope. Perhaps you could clarify for me?


edit on 3-11-2014 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



posted on Nov, 3 2014 @ 01:42 PM
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a reply to: Bluesma




But in the case of global warming, I might actually need you to give me some motivation. On my own, I cannot see what I can do today to influence this. It seems to be inevitable at this point in time- the only thing to do now is what I have already done- find a home with everything one would need to survive, stock up on supplies and food, and hunker down.


You know, bluesma, I've been dealing with "developmental trauma" since I was 16. I am 29 today. If you met me at 19, compared to the person who I am now, you would probably be confused. That two different 'selves' - experienced so differently by the interlock, could inhabit the same body is a startling thing.

I feel like I have a good understanding of the human mind - because I work with my own mind everyday; I am constantly baffled and amazed by how it works - by it's myriad connections; salience, subtly wedded to situational contexts. My internal states fluctuates and "I" - the observing self who experiences it all, has to sometimes intervene - pay attention to the elements of "its experience" - map how the body constantly reacts before I even know - and how I can fall into certain traumatic developmental grooves; my consciousness 'falls' into them, and before I know it, I'm grasping; I'm struggling. I lose my self - in dissociation - without even seeing how it happened.

But then I realize something. "I" am something that is 'without'. I am my body, but I am also 'not my body'. My body is something I interact with and use to create my experiences. This complex emergent function - self awareness - whatever it is, is something to truly marvel at. It is the key to our liberation.

I mention this because how things 'seem' from without is so often determined by a particular self-state. A self-environment conjunction preempts awareness and provides a 'framing' that gives the world a certain experiential feel; launching affects into our bodies which our minds inveterately 'react' against.

You and I both recognize the problem of climate change, but you and I do not feel the same about it. For whatever reason only you can understand and try to discover - you have resigned yourself to a very, depressingly bleak view: its hopeless. Just prepare yourself for the mad-max future ahead with food, guns, and a place for yourself and loved ones.

I on the other hand, learning through my own life experiences how the "I" - or observing self - can transcend its own self reifications, believe that our societies can go through something similar; not 'in a flash', of course, but gradually, we can improve our education systems to improve how people think (that is, make them less 'object' oriented and more attuned to the intrapsychic processes within themselves, and thus, more aware of the 'subjectivity' of others); we can continue to press other people in our daily relationships to THINK about climate change. This is how psychotherapy works: the clinical developmental psychologist Peter Fonagy (at university of london) has developed the concept of 'mentalization', which means the ability to think about what is 'felt', but exists unconsciously as an unformulated level of experience. Unformulated experiences influence us through 'enactment'; we do, we avoid, and we 'feel' better. All the time imagining that if we 'think' about something 'negative' - we'll "tax" ourselves. While it is true, in the beginning, that a stressful subject matter might drain "our brain" - and bodies of vitality, increased mentalization actually allows us to entertain different perspectives while not succumbing to the instictive bias of psychic equivalence: thinking about something does not mean you "accept" it; it simply allows us to be aware and in charge of the different elements of our experience. By 'mentalizing', we achieve a deeper level of psychic integration. This "law" - you could say - is essential in helping people with severe pathology to break down imagination-destroying dissociative structures, and frees those emotional energies which the dissociation kept rigidly in check.

We as a society - so object oriented - all need collective therapy. This can happen, and already is happening, through a type of mass education. What we can do in schools is mostly directed towards the next generation - the young adults of 2030. But for the rest of us inured to the cultural priming of the late 20th century and early 21st century, certain concepts and ideas need to enter the public lexicon: mindfulness, attachment parenting, eating organic, positive psychology: these are all designed to improve peoples thinking and bring them closer to an 'ecological' awareness.

On a political note, one of the ironies of contemporary politics is how the left - democrats - keep shifting the cultural baseline leftwards, so that republicans are forced to support policies that are more in line with modern progressive values.

Hopefully, it'll become untenable - not just on the left, but on the right - for people to support fossil fuel industries, knowing what we do about what the continued burning of fossil fuels is doing to our planets climate and life-systems.



posted on Nov, 4 2014 @ 03:07 AM
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originally posted by: Astrocyte
a reply to: Bluesma

You and I both recognize the problem of climate change, but you and I do not feel the same about it. For whatever reason only you can understand and try to discover - you have resigned yourself to a very, depressingly bleak view: its hopeless.


I can't help but object here- your description of my perception and feelings about it doesn't feel accurate at all. I feel that is a huge misunderstanding.

It is the words "resigned" , "depressing", "bleak", "hopeless" that clash with my feelings. In order for those "negative" emotions to be present, a judgement upon the subject must be made- that it is wrong, bad, not as it should be, undesirable.
It sounds as if you have applied your judgement into your attempt to understand my view?

You would have to take out your subjective judgements in order to switch over to seeing from another's point of view!

I do not feel such a judgement. We're talking about a change in the environment - from something we are familiar with to a different one. The types of challenges we face daily will be different. Change always involves some pain, or difficulty, but that doesn't eliminate the possible positive outcomes or products.

Talking with my pregnant daughter yesterday about labor and delivery... we could say it will hurt like a son of a b*tch, it will be tiring, you might wish you were dead in some moments. If she's lucky, like me, it will last three hours, if not, it could be twelve. But not for a moment did we feel it was hopeless, dreadful, bleak ahead. It is simply a part of a bigger process.

I feel the same considering the subject of global warming. My husband and I are somewhat "preppers", it is like a hobby, I guess. It is fun thinking up solutions to potential challenges. He actually had a mold made to make his own bullets. We moved to a place in which things like electricity get cut off in extreme weather (we had none all this night, we're having a horrendous storm). We had no water for the last three days. It all kinda serves as training drills. And we discover positive things- like that sitting around the fireplace instead of each family member in their own world with a tv, book, or computer, is really awesome! Family cohesion is enhanced when we have to gather wood, or plants, or hunting together. There is some experiences of getting in touch with our most primal physical needs that is quite pleasurable. It sort of brings our concerns and emotions into the same arena- eliminating much of the differing subjective experiences. When you all are tuned into the concern for finding water, there is less misunderstanding about what the other is thinking and feeling.

I could go on and on with why I don't feel a judgement on the upcoming changes as necessarily "bad", and perhaps there is a strong measure of rationalisation involved, to facilitate adaptation.

My point really being- in order to understand anothers view, you would have to move through a state of objectifying the concept- removing all subjective personal judgements, learning what theirs are, and applying those.



I on the other hand, learning through my own life experiences how the "I" - or observing self - can transcend its own self reifications, believe that our societies can go through something similar; not 'in a flash', of course, but gradually, we can improve our education systems to improve how people think (that is, make them less 'object' oriented and more attuned to the intrapsychic processes within themselves, and thus, more aware of the 'subjectivity' of others)


That is an honorable proposal, it would be cool if more of the population learned how to do that objectification, then projection into others subjective worlds- it would eliminate a lot of misunderstandings!
But global warming is happening NOW- extreme weather is happening NOW. Is there time for this gradual evolution in humanities mentality before we are actually faced with the struggles our environment will put before us?





Hopefully, it'll become untenable - not just on the left, but on the right - for people to support fossil fuel industries, knowing what we do about what the continued burning of fossil fuels is doing to our planets climate and life-systems.


Oh... I guess my visions for the future include that as being unavoidable. I see a breakdown of our current modes of communication (electricity) which would put an end to such global markets. That being one of those challenges that is also a positive thing on a larger scale...
edit on 4-11-2014 by Bluesma because: (no reason given)



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