Short-term memory is key to psychological understanding

Short-term memory is where the rubber of human psychology meets the road.

It is the active part of human psychology as it functions in real-time.

New research indicates that the thalamus, which relays almost all sensory information, is central to the operation of short-term memory. Without the thalamus, short-term memory does not occur.

See Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop and New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus for background.

Short-term memory is a changeable “program” that deals with and responds to the world quickly. It is the main determinant of how “you” are in the moment.

Short-term memory maintains persistent activity (in the brain/body) by relaying its components through the thalamus in response to real-time conditions.

If we discover a mistake in our short-term memory, it is typically very easy to change. For example, if you realize you forgot to set your clocks ahead, your short-term memory will quickly adjust. You might feel a little dumb for a moment, but usually it is no big deal.

This example shows how our short-term memory is connected to long-term memories, to planning, expectation, and our general sense of the world around us and what we are doing in it.

FIML is an effective form of psychotherapy largely because it focuses on the short-term memory.

By targeting short-term memory loads, FIML helps partners discover how their psychologies are actually functioning in real-time during real-world situations.

Correcting mistakes in short-term memory immediately changes how we function.

Changing the same mistake several times very often removes it entirely from the long-term memory, from the overall functioning of the individual.

New research: short-term memory depends on the thalamus

Karel Svoboda, lead author of the study, says:

It’s like a game of ping-pong. One excites the other, and the other then excites the first, and so on and so forth. This back and forth maintains these activity patterns that correspond to the memory.

“It was unexpected that these short-term memories are maintained in a thalamocortical loop. “This tells us that these memories are widely distributed across the brain.” (Storing a Memory Involves Distant Parts of the Brain)

The study is here: Maintenance of persistent activity in a frontal thalamocortical loop.

Ninety-eight percent of all sensory input is relayed by the thalamus.

FIML provides an engineer’s point of view

Through real-time inquiries during real moments of real life, FIML reveals the tools and thought processes of the engineer, as they are being used.

As the receiver of a FIML inquiry, you are asked to reflect on the moments just passing.

Your answer provides a lot of information to both you and your partner.

Your partner also has information and insights into what their mind was doing, how it was modeling you and planning a response.

These shared insights are the practical details of your psychologies as they are actually functioning in a real situation.

It is transformative to see these details often.

To do this, I think you have to use a method like FIML because FIML has no presuppositions. FIML does not ask you to believe anything; just do the method.

FIML provides an artist’s point of view

Through real-time inquiries during real moments of real life, FIML reveals the palette and tools of the artist, as they are being used.

As the receiver of a FIML inquiry, you are asked to reflect on the moments just passing.

Your answer provides a lot of information to both you and your partner.

Your partner also has information and insights into what their mind was doing.

These shared insights are the details of your psychologies as they are actually functioning in a real situation.

It is transformative to see these details often.

To do this, I think you have to use a “game” like FIML because FIML has no presuppositions. FIML does not ask you to believe anything; just do the method.

Consciousness is that which chooses

Anything that can choose is conscious to that extent, to the extent that it can choose.

In this respect, “that which chooses” has cognition of its options and also tends to make anti-entropic choices, choices that go against the entropy of itself. (If it did not do this or stopped doing this, it would not survive long. Its anti-entropic choices take energy from the environment, of course.)

Choosing and going against entropy does not mean always doing this correctly or in the best way.

It can be argued that matter also chooses or participates in some overarching principle of choice or selection. Matter’s very common cause-and-effect relations with itself must be based on something besides matter itself.

Consciousness, thus, can be defined as that which:

  • chooses
  • has cognition of options
  • is primarily anti-entropic for itself

We can also say that this same consciousness as just defined:

  • chooses though not always well
  • has cognition though often mistaken
  • is anti-entropic in ways that can be counter-productive

Matter itself conforms to principles—the laws of physics—though these do not appear to apply or apply well to chaos, radiation, quantum fluctuations, black holes. Nor to themselves in the sense that they do not reveal where they come from.

This suggests that matter itself persists under unknowable conditions much as we do.

What we do not know does not just include metaphysics but also anything we can imagine. At some point, we just won’t know anymore.

Socially, we rarely know the motives of others. Psychologically, we often cannot be rational about our own motives. And even if we are being rational we often base our decisions on bad data or incomplete or unknowable data. We often do not understand or even know what our own motives are.

When there are many factors, we become confused. Our minds feel chaotic. We become anxious, indecisive, emotional. This is a form of consciousness trying to make choices, struggling to choose, to select.

Memory-guided behaviors employ spatial “maps” in the brain

A new study seems to show that the brains of rats—and by extension ours as well—use a spatial “mapping” system to encode more than just space.

This suggests that mammalian brains encode “continuous, task-relevant variables” in “common circuit mechanisms” that can “represent diverse behavioural tasks, possibly supporting cognitive processes beyond spatial navigation.” (Mapping of a non-spatial dimension by the hippocampal–entorhinal circuit)

It does seem that we do a lot of thinking, remembering, and associating in systematic or roughly systematic ways. And it does seem that these systems resemble spatial ones.

Ever notice how amazing it can feel to stumble upon a new view of a spatial system you already know well? “So that’s where the duct goes through the wall!” Or, “I never realized that Bob’s Street intersects Jones right here!”

When we explore our psychological “maps” in interpersonal settings using FIML techniques, we gain access to details that reorganize those “maps” in a similar way to the example above. Small insights can yield amazing results.

Typically, normal psychological maps are distorted impressions of the psychological space around us. FIML allows us to see in our psychological “maps” a level of detail or resolution that cannot be gained in any other way.

Understanding verbal, emotional, semiotic, and associative details is key to understanding our “psychological locations” in this world.

If we can have illusions about our bodies, how much more can we about other people?

A recent study, The Marble Hand Illusion, demonstrates that by simple manipulation of perceptual input, people can be induced to change their perceptions of their own bodies.

The authors state that:

“This novel bodily illusion, the ‘Marble-Hand Illusion’, demonstrates that the perceived material of our body, surely the most stable attribute of our bodily self, can be quickly updated through multisensory integration.”

The full abstract says:

Our body is made of flesh and bones. We know it, and in our daily lives all the senses constantly provide converging information about this simple, factual truth. But is this always the case? Here we report a surprising bodily illusion demonstrating that humans rapidly update their assumptions about the material qualities of their body, based on their recent multisensory perceptual experience. To induce a misperception of the material properties of the hand, we repeatedly gently hit participants’ hand with a small hammer, while progressively replacing the natural sound of the hammer against the skin with the sound of a hammer hitting a piece of marble. After five minutes, the hand started feeling stiffer, heavier, harder, less sensitive, unnatural, and showed enhanced Galvanic skin response (GSR) to threatening stimuli. Notably, such a change in skin conductivity positively correlated with changes in perceived hand stiffness. Conversely, when hammer hits and impact sounds were temporally uncorrelated, participants did not spontaneously report any changes in the perceived properties of the hand, nor did they show any modulation in GSR. In two further experiments, we ruled out that mere audio-tactile synchrony is the causal factor triggering the illusion, further demonstrating the key role of material information conveyed by impact sounds in modulating the perceived material properties of the hand. This novel bodily illusion, the ‘Marble-Hand Illusion’, demonstrates that the perceived material of our body, surely the most stable attribute of our bodily self, can be quickly updated through multisensory integration.

If people can change physical perception of their hand in five minutes, our sense of the world around us must be as susceptible.

Our sense of our bodies in the world depends on the world around us. Our sense of our minds in the world depends on the people around us. We speak to ourselves with the same language we use with others.

If our core interpretations of self and other are wrong, we will make downstream mistakes and bring suffering to ourselves and others.

If those same interpretations are right, we will make downstream improvements.

The world answers us through science, reason, and imagination. Other people answer us on their own volition. We can get immediate truthful responses from them if they are willing.

Other people are the only entities in the world that can communicate in detail with us about their interpretations at a level commensurate with our own minds.

Since our interpretations include them, we can best improve those interpretations with the help of them.