Mindfulness and error recognition

Mindfulness practices improve our ability to recognize error.

A recent study shows this by monitoring brain activity with an EEG.

The EEG can measure brain activity at the millisecond level, so we got precise measures of neural activity right after mistakes compared to correct responses. A certain neural signal occurs about half a second after an error called the error positivity, which is linked to conscious error recognition. We found that the strength of this signal is increased in the meditators relative to controls,” said Jeff Lin, co-author of the study linked just below. [emphasis mine](link to quote: How meditation can help you make fewer mistakes)

The study is here: On Variation in Mindfulness Training: A Multimodal Study of Brief Open Monitoring Meditation on Error Monitoring.

Few Buddhists will be surprised at the general findings of this study.

Error recognition is what first got me to read about this study.

The findings became even more interesting to me when I saw the statement about the one-half-second error positivity response in the quote above.

Error recognition or the recognition that one might be making an error is key to successful FIML practice.

The second key is to act on our recognition quickly, within a few seconds if possible.

I have always figured it takes about a half second more or less to feel a slight disturbance that tells us we might be forming a wrong impression about what someone is saying or doing. That we might be making an error.

It is this disturbance that tells us it is time to do a FIML query. Virtually every time I do a proper FIML query I find I am either flat out wrong or wrong enough to want to revise my original impression.

In the past, have called the slight disturbance mentioned above a “jangle,” a term I don’t really like because it makes the response sound stronger than what it is. From now on, I may refer to it as the “error positivity response,” though maybe that’s not precisely the same and it is jargony.

In Buddhism, the response is probably the second of the five skandhassensation.

Buddhist practice will definitely make you more aware of the second skadha or “error positivity response.”

By being aware of this response in conversation with a trusted partner, FIML practice helps us take our mindfulness to a new level by providing  us with the opportunity to ask our partner about their intentions. That is, the check our mental work for error.

If this is done quickly enough to preserve clear memories of 1) your “error positivity response” and 2) your partner’s memory of what was in their working memory at that moment THEN you both have one of the few psychological facts you can both be sure of.

Facts of this sort are not just psychologically of great significance, they are also of philosophical significance because they really are one of the very few fact-types you can truly know about your own idiosyncratic existence; your own very weird being.

I believe this is why the Buddha emphasized the importance of the moment.

FIML practices explodes the moment or expands it to include more reliable information (your partner’s input). And this allows both of you to do a really good analysis of what just happened, what that moment entailed.

And doing that many times, will help both of you see how you really are. It will help you break fee from erroneous psychological frames or theoretical misinterpretations of any type.

Two excellent articles on the LeBaron killings in Mexico

From a few days ago: The LeBaron Massacre Seems to Have No Tie to Nxivm – More Likely Drugs or Water Fight

The LeBaron massacre – where three mothers and six children were killed – looks less like an accidental killing – of women and children caught in a crossfire of rival drug gangs – and more like targeted murder.

Reportedly, there were three SUV’s – where the woman and children were killed – one of them 10 miles distant from the others – which suggests this was no accident, not a case of mistaken identity.

The killing of women and children could be interpreted as the most ruthless message: ‘We will stop at nothing. Your entire clan will be exterminated.”

The LeBaron clan are not passive players in their north Mexican world. They are a white, polygamous Mormon group – some of them old-style Mormons right out of the days of Brigham Young. But they are not members, however, of the Utah Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints… (use link above for rest of story)

And earlier: The LeBaron Massacre and the LeBaron Connection to Nxivm and Keith Raniere

See the Frank Report for more stories on this topic and NXIVM.

Working memory is the fulcrum of psychology

It is the hinge between inner speech and outer speech. Psychology doesn’t happen without working memory.

Yet working memory is elusive. You hear something and speak to it but did your interlocutor mean that or even say it at all?

Let’s define outer speech as speech spoken to another person. Inner speech spoken aloud is still inner speech.

Inner speech informs outer speech and often becomes it. Same thing goes for outer speech. It can be taken in and reshape inner speech in very deep ways.

During the dynamic of two people talking to each other, our working memories are tasked with listening and responding as best we can. TBH, we usually don’t do that very well.

Many mistakes happen during active speech exchanges. I don’t think I need to prove that.

If what is being exchanged has psychological import, to that degree mistakes can be serious or not.

What is weird to me is our entire sense of who we are is built on the insecure fulcrum of our working memories as we speak and listen.

This happened between your mother and father and between them and you and everyone else you have ever spoken with. It’s all very messy, uncertain, filled with potentially extremely grave errors.

This is part of the deep foundation of our psychologies but it is not often mentioned or taken into account nearly enough.

We go for theories about ourselves because they are established outer speech that we can take in and adapt to. To me, that is weak. A very weak way to understand yourself.

Inner speech as subversive marker of psychology. True speech passes quickly

Inner speech—what we say to ourselves when alone—provides a reasonably good outline of our conscious psychology, an outline of how we understand ourselves.

Inner speech may also include semi-conscious information and subject matter.

When engaged in personal art and poetry inner speech frequently draws on unconscious material, though it is difficult to know where to draw lines between that and psychology. Art is all but defined by its capacity to evoke many interpretations.

Inner speech wanders and can become subversive, even if beautiful, by confirming misunderstanding.

When we are consciously mindful of our inner speech and deliberately pay extra attention to it (a valuable practice), our speaking will change because whenever we strive or focus on anything our relationship to it changes.

When speech pays attention to itself, it brings recursion, one of its core features, to bear on itself. In doing that it raises self-awareness to higher macro-levels or causes self-awareness to view itself from different perspectives.

Consciousness seems to require consciousness of something; in this case it is consciousness of consciousness, a very simple thing actually.

Does water know it’s wet? I don’t know. Does consciousness know it is conscious? Of course it does. We must admit here, though, that what we are conscious of is often wrong.

Being wrong is a big problem with inner speech. I might be talking rather passionately to myself about something that never happened the way I have come to see it. We all know this, though it’s hard to know what to do about it.

That’s probably a big piece of what the Buddha meant by delusion, or even wrong speech. Mumbling away in my own head about something I am completely wrong about!

Oh well.

With an honest partner at least I can get an honest answer about whatever they are thinking right now and compare that to whatever I thought I saw in them. And from that I can tell whether what I thought I saw in them was right or wrong.

That is very good information, some of the best. Let a few seconds pass and their memory will already be eroding, their information not-so-slowly consumed by inner speech.

Friends will typically provide all the inner speech you want, but we would be back at square one if we took that in place much better information from as close as possible to the actual moment that just occurred.

If you think about it, you will probably agree that we can really only gain an objective insight into our psychology in the moment with an honest partner. And in those instances, we will mostly only gain insights into small bits of it.

Fortunately, with time and an accumulation of many small bits of information like that, we will see much better outlines of our psychologies than either our own inner speech can provide us or that can be provided by any theory that comes from outside.