The importance of the Readiness Period for speech, listening, and decision making

Libet gave participants of his experiments a simple task, while measuring their brain activity: they had to decide to flex a finger whenever they wished, and note the position on a fast-moving clock at the precise moment they took the decision.

The result was that the brain showed activity at least 400ms before the participants became aware of their “decision making.”

Here’s a diagram showing what’s going on:1

“RP” stands for “Readiness Potential,” that is, the supposed build-up in brain activity before the decision to act and the subsequent action. What we see is that this brain activity starts before the participants became aware of their intention to flex the finger.

The results have led the no-Free-Will crowd to [falsely] exclaim, “see, everything is driven by your brain, and you taking decisions is just an illusion!”

However, this seems to be a typical case of taking something very specific and isolated out of context and then drawing conclusions based on existing biases.

link

The exercise of free will in basic FIML is done during the “Readiness Potential” period described above. FIML done with a partner is an exquisite exercise of free will that completely changes how we speak and listen for the better. FIML is somewhat difficult because it requires being aware of the Readiness Potential period close to its onset. But this can be learned with practice. Buddhists or others who practice mindfulness may find this part of FIML to be rather easy. From this point of view, FIML can be described as mindfulness shared by two people, or pair-work mindfulness. FIML mostly focuses on interpersonal speech and listening but also includes all other interpersonal semiotics. More posts related to FIML and brain science can be found here. ABN

Psychological optimization

Why settle for not being crazy when you could be going for psychological optimization?

A mental disorder, also called a mental illness or psychiatric disorder, is a diagnosis of a behavioral or mental pattern that can cause suffering or a poor ability to function in ordinary life.

Why settle for being able to “function in ordinary life” when you could have an extraordinary life?

Why take pills to get by when you could be optimizing your brain?

Humans go for optimization whenever we can. We optimize technology, our diets, our medical treatments, our educations, even our friendships.

Optimization : an act, process, or methodology of making something (as a design, system, or decision) as fully perfect, functional, or effective as possible.

Hell yeah. That’s what you want for your mind, your life. Why settle for less?

OK, that does read like a sales spiel, but I will deliver.

All you have to do is put time and thought into the process of optimizing your psychology. An optimized psychology is an optimized brain and life.

First, you have to learn how to do FIML.

This requires about as much time and effort as learning to play a musical instrument at a beginner’s level. About as much time as it takes to learn to drive a car. Or to learn to play pool well enough to enjoy it.

FIML takes less time to learn than a semester at school, whatever grade. Less time than most job-training courses. Less time than becoming a decent amateur cook. Less time than buying a house or redoing your kitchen.

The hardest part about FIML is learning the technique through reading. Start here: How to do FIML.

The second hardest part is having a friend or mate who is willing and able to do it with you. Sadly, this is a deal-breaker for too many people.

I hate saying this, but it is fairly normal for people world-wide not to have a friend who is close enough to do FIML with. This is the result of so many non-optimized psychologies in this world.

Many people have five or more “good friends” and a loving spouse, but not even one of them willing or able to do FIML.

Their excuses will be they can’t understand it, don’t want to bother, don’t want to be that honest, don’t want that kind of relationship, don’t have the time, etc.

The result is they and you will continue to languish in less than optimal mental states. Moods, alcohol, pills, arguments over nothing, ridiculous misunderstandings, ominous silences, severance of ties, and worse will rule your world(s).

For most, the best relief they will find are self-help books based on generalities, career books about “getting ahead” as defined by more generalities, nonsense about “loving yourself,” low levels of religious belief and practice, exercise programs, etc.

You didn’t learn to drive a car that way. Driving a car requires interaction, observation, the help of another person.

Your psychology needs similar kinds of input.

Once you have learned to do FIML with a trustworthy partner, the practice will tend to self-generate because the insights gained will be real and have real and deeply felt benefits for both partners.

Besides the “how to” and FAQ links at the top of this page, most posts on this site describe some aspect of FIML practice.

For psychologists, I honestly do not see how you can claim to be able to treat other people if you have not done at least a few years of FIML practice or the like. Human interactions without any technique for consistent meta-control and understanding (which FIML provides) are 100% guaranteed to be riddled with misunderstanding and wrong views.

first posted 04/14/16

Me on the outside vs me on the inside

This image was used on a social anxiety site to illustrate what it says. My take on it is virtually everyone in the world is like this if you expand social anxiety to mean inner confusion.

Under current worldwide social norms, inner confusion reigns because there is no way for individuals to communicate with profound authenticity, no way to connect on authentic levels. The closest most people can get is shared ideals, shared vows, shared beliefs, all mere pale shadows of true authenticity.

Those who lack profound authentic communication must needs necessarily also lack authentic self-knowledge. You cannot know thyself all alone. You must be able to communicate it, communicate with it, interact with it to know it. And you must be able to do this with a knowing other who is doing the same with you. This is so because our psychologies are based on interpersonal communication. There is no other way.

FIML practice can correct virtually all interpersonal communication problems between two people. FIML optimizes interpersonal communication and by so doing optimizes self-knowledge as well.

first posted APRIL 10, 2018

FIML and memory distortion

Here is a study that shows how quickly we distort our memories: Event completion: Event based inferences distort memory in a matter of seconds. The study concludes, in part, that “…results suggest that as people perceive events, they generate rapid conceptual interpretations that can have a powerful effect on how events are remembered.”

This study shows that our memories of events are dynamic and can become distorted very quickly. These findings well support FIML practice, which is based on quick interventions while we are speaking to capture sound, usable data that both partners can agree on.

Blogger Christian Jarrett writes about this study saying that “memory invention was specifically triggered by observing a consequence (e.g. a ball flying off into the distance) that implied an earlier causal action had happened and had been seen (Your memory of events is distorted within seconds).” Well-put. From a FIML point of view, we generate or maintain neurotic interpretations (mistaken interpretations) by believing we are “observing a consequence…that implied an earlier causal action had happened.” When we misinterpret an utterance during a conversation, we tend to do so in habitual ways; we tend to respond to that utterance as if it had meant something it did not; we tend to understand the “consequence” that happens in our minds as “implying” or being based on something that our partner actually had intended when they had not had any such intention.

This study illustrates very well why FIML practitioners want to develop their skills so that both partners are able to quickly disengage from their conversation while taking a meta-position that allows them to gather and agree upon good data that they can discuss objectively and rationally. When your partner denies that they meant what you thought they meant, this study will help you believe them.

As the Buddha said: “The mind is everything. What you think you become.”

first posted JANUARY 12, 2012

Is morality a fundamental part of nature?

Viewing nature as a signaling network shows its advantage with this question.

Instead of asking where our moral sense comes from, we ask instead what makes for a good signaling network?

The answer is “good organization.”

By “good,” I mean efficient, well-made, good use of resources, easy to maintain, rational, etc.

You are a signaling network.

A well-organized you will probably tend to be morally pretty good and wanting to get better at it, depending on your conditions.

Of course some people view “morality” as whatever is in their best interests. And that is a type of moral thinking. When it is found out, though, most other people, very reasonably, do not like it.

If we view nature as the evolution of signals and signaling networks rather than as the evolution of matter, we will see that changes in signal organization are fundamental to the evolutionary process.

In this sense, it is the most ordinary thing in the world that you, a complex signaling system that is conscious, would consciously seek good organization and/or want to adapt your organizing principles, both objective and subjective, to conditions that impact you.

Conditions that impact you are signals being perceived by the signaling network you think of as yourself.

Your adaptations, both small and large, will encompass many moral considerations and choices.

Morality can be viewed as a kind of organization. The networks that make up your being must organize their relations with the world around them and other sentient beings. We make many moral decisions when we do this. These decisions are an integral part of how we are organized.

Last night I heard a drunk swearing at his friend from the street. “You fucking bastard…” etc. Not well-organized, but still he was yelling a local version of morality and this was fundamental to his networks and behavior.

first posted MARCH 4, 2017

UPDATE 11/09/22: The above shows that what we scientifically think of today as evolution does not contradict what might be called spiritual evolution, or Buddhist evolution that happens in three ways combined: through 1) morality/ethics; 2) concentration/mindfulness; and 3) wisdom/understanding. Karma is the path of our mind as it wends through its various and numerous realities, sometimes tending toward goodness or the Tathagata, sometimes tending away. By consciously contemplating our signaling networks and describing them to ourselves and close friends we can make our signals clearer and more ethical and thus become wiser, have better understanding. The act of doing this is a kind of concentration or mindfulness. It really doesn’t matter what your religion is, including atheism or even oblivionism, honestly analyzing your signaling will change you probably for the better. ABN

Uncertainty in human social interactions

All human interactions entail some uncertainty and most entail a lot.

To deal with uncertainty, humans use heuristics (“rules of thumb”) that generally are based on what they perceive to be normal or required in the situation at hand. These heuristics come from experience, from role models, from organizational structures, beliefs and so on.

A recent study—Uncertainty about social interactions leads to the evolution of social heuristics—explores:

…an evolutionary simulation model, showing that even intermediate uncertainty leads to the evolution of simple cooperation strategies that disregard information about the social interaction (‘social heuristics’).

This study uses simulations to tease out how social heuristics and social cooperation evolve in very simple game scenarios.

If social games have rules, we can change how much uncertainty they contain and how best to cooperate within them.

This is essentially what FIML practice does. FIML greatly reduces interpersonal uncertainty between partners while increasing cooperation by having a few fairly simple rules.

When uncertainty is lowered and cooperation increased between partners, psychological well-being and understanding is proportionally enhanced. This happens because social interaction and communication are basic to human psychology.

The study linked above employs simulations to show a sort mathematically forced evolutionary outcome arising from initial settings. I believe FIML is similar in this respect, though the FIML game involves complex humans rather than simple sims.

I often wonder why no one has discovered the rules of FIML before. So many great thinkers, but not one found these key rules for optimal communication and psychological understanding. I believe there are two basics reasons for this: 1) FIML requires developing dynamic metacognition during real-time real-life communication events and this takes practice; and 2) most great thinkers that we know about today and hence could learn from also had great status, and this prevented them from noticing the deep flaws in interpersonal communication that FIML corrects.

first posted JUNE 1, 2018

Narcissism, alcoholism, and malice

Narcissism is an interesting condition because it does not appear to have a large genetic component, if any, and it can be understood as a cognitive strategy.

Narcissism often co-occurs with alcoholism or is the result of alcohol addiction.

I think it is probably a mistake to say that narcissism leads to alcoholism because alcoholism so often begins in the late teens and early twenties when personality and cognitive strategies are not well developed.

We generally study language and cognitive development by studying growing children, but we can also gain valuable insights into language and cognition by studying how they decline in alcoholism and other degenerative conditions later in life.

My sense is that in alcoholics, narcissism can be understood as an overall cognitive strategy that works because it is a simple and relatively easy way to organize general cognition.

With fewer things to consider, the narcissist is better able to function while drunk or while suffering the neurotoxic effects of years of alcohol abuse.

Why are narcissists and alcoholics so often malicious?

I think the reason is much the same as the argument above: malice is a simple, self-centered response to poorly understood or completely misunderstood social stimuli.

Malice is a side-effect of the simplicity of the narcissist’s overall cognitive strategy which has placed enormous emotional weight on an inflated sense of self.

In terms of FIML theory, narcissism is a dominant network of semiotics centered around self-interest and self-aggrandizement. (Narcissism as a cognitive strategy)

I think FIML practice would be very difficult, maybe impossible, for mid-stage and beyond alcoholics due to reduced capacity for the meta-cognition needed for FIML.

A non-alcoholic narcissist or an alcoholic in the earlier stages of the disease would, in my opinion, benefit greatly from FIML practice if conditions are good.

Rather than being a mysterious force directing personality, I believe narcissism is cognitive strategy. As such it is based on self-centered heuristics that are founded on semiotic networks that can be perceived through FIML practice.

I also believe that these networks almost certainly will be identified by brain scans or other instruments within the next few decades.

first posted APRIL 22, 2016

Signal intensity

An important part of FIML practice is understanding signal intensity. That is, how big or strong or important the signal in question is.

FIML practice was designed to work with small signals and works best when close attention is paid to small signals. These “small signals” can be ones you send to your partner, ones your partner sends to you, or the ways in which either one of you interprets any signal at all.

Small signals are of great importance because they can be signs or aspects of larger or habitual ways of interpreting signals. Small signals can also generate mistaken interpretations that have the potential to snowball.

An example of a habitual way of interpreting signals might be a person who grew up in a less wealthy environment than his or her partner. The less wealthy partner may tend to interpret spending or not spending money differently than the other partner. This could manifest as stinginess, being too generous, or as mild anxiety about money in general. Of course, both partners will be different in the ways they interpret signals dealing with money. Their semiotics about money will be different.

FIML partners would do well to deal with these differences by paying close attention to small signals of that type the moment they come up. This is where partners will come to see how this entire class (money) of signals is affecting them in the moments of the lives they are actually living. It’s good to also have long general discussions about money, but be sure to pay close attention to the appearances of small signals.

From this example, please extrapolate to the signaling areas that matter to you and your partner. These may include anything that causes mistakes in communication or anything that causes either partner to feel anxiety or discomfort.

A good way to gain access to this perspective is to also pay close attention to how often you and your partner miscommunicate about trivial material things. Notice how often—and it happens a lot—you misunderstand each other about even the simplest of concrete, material matters. For example, what kind of lettuce to buy, where you left the keys, is the oven off, etc.

All people everywhere make many communicative mistakes in matters as small as those. If we do that in the material realm, where mistakes are easy to see and correct, consider how much more often and how much more serious are signaling mistakes in the emotional, interpersonal realm.

When you do a FIML discussion with your partner, be sure to frequently include an analysis of how big or small the signals in question are—how intense they are. Remember that FIML practice strongly encourages discussing even the very smallest of signals. FIML does that because small signals are easier to isolate and analyze; clearly seeing a small signal often is sufficient to understanding a big habit. Small signals can snowball, so they should not be ignored.

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first poster OCTOBER 1, 2012

Autocatalytic systems

An autocatalytic system is a system that can “catalyze its own production”. Autocatalytic systems are usually called “autocatalytic sets”, but for our purposes using the word system may make the concept clearer.

FIML is an autocatalytic system that allows partners to reestablish the terms of their relationship, their psychologies, and their comprehension of the world around them. Strictly speaking, FIML is a non-autonomous autocatalytic set because FIML uses an abundance of language and ideas that come from outside of itself.

FIML is a small set of precise behaviors that allow partners to communicate with great clarity and without interpersonal ambiguity. Interpersonal ambiguity is the cause of much suffering. FIML does not tell partners what to think or what to believe. It simply provides them with a set of tools that gives them the means to develop in ways that seem best to them.

FIML is primarily a communication technique, but the discoveries it leads to will cause partners to remake their understandings of who they are and how they understand themselves. Once partners have learned the system, they will find that it autocatalyzes, causing them to remake themselves with a freedom that had not been possible before.

FIML differs greatly from mainstream psychology because mainstream psychology is not autocatalytic. It is analytical, theoretical, or medical. The individual sufferer seeks a professional who diagnoses their “problem” based on a static standard and then prescribes medication or some kind of therapy that will also be provided by an expert. In contrast, FIML teaches partners how to communicate with sufficient clarity to comprehend themselves. As it autocatalyzes, FIML quite naturally leads partners to make beneficial changes in themselves as they discover new meanings in each other and the world around them.

I had been searching for a word like autocatalytic for some time. This morning I came across the following piece, which led to this post: The Single Theory That Could Explain Emergence, Organisation And The Origin of Life. The study on which that article is based can be found here: The Structure of Autocatalytic Sets: Evolvability, Enablement, and Emergence.

I am sure I have taken a few liberties with my application of this theory, but went ahead with these ideas anyway because one of the key features of FIML practice is it “auto-generates” or autocatalyzes itself. Once you get going and see how to do it, FIML practice almost runs by itself, allowing partners near infinite freedom to pursue whatever they want with it.

first posted  

This is what happens when people don’t do FIML

The tough loss on Thursday comes as Bündchen reportedly gave Brady an ultimatum that threatened to end their marriage.

‘Gisele told Tom either he leaves football to spend time with the family or she is gone for good,’ a source told Us Weekly, according to Page Six.

‘She doesn’t want him to continue to get injured and not be able to enjoy life in the future. She is doing it for her family.’

The couple’s marriage seemingly began to unravel after they reportedly got into a fight over his decision to ‘un-retire’ from his  football career.

link

Clearly, it’s not just this one thing. This is years in the making and neither has ever had a clue what the deep issue is or how to fix it. Both were able to train and perform at the top of their games, but never learned how to talk to each other. ABN

Signals and morality

A valuable and basic definition of morality might simply be “clear signaling.”

If I harm you, I am messing with your signaling, making it less clear. If I deceive you, I am doing the same.

If my own internal signaling is unclear, confused, or contradictory, I am probably going to cause harm to others whether I mean to or not.

If we see humans as signaling networks at various levels of clarity or confusion, we can remove terms like self, personality or ego. “I,” then, am a system or network of signals that interfaces and interacts with other signaling networks.

By extension, there is no need for terms like “narcissist” or “abusive personality” or any of the other many, many words we normally use to describe human signaling networks.

For example, we can see that each human does social management within their own signaling system and as that system interacts with other human signaling systems. We compose a signaling system that we want others to see and then display it.

When a person often uses social signaling to manipulate, control, or deceive others, we can say they are doing malignant or immoral signaling instead of saying they are “narcissists” or “abusive personalities.”

The advantage of removing those traditional terms that assume an intentional personhood (narcissist, etc.) is we can see much more clearly what is actually happening.

With respect to narcissism,  we can clearly say what a “narcissist” is. When narcissism is redefined as a signaling problem, we can also see that many narcissistic acts are done out of ignorance more than “selfishness.” People believe that they are supposed to be selfish or secretive or withhold important information simply because they do not know another way to act or have had long experiences with others who signal in those ways.

Of course, all of us manage our signaling systems to put us in a good light, at least to some extent. Refraining from gross behavior at the dinner table is a form of manipulating the signals you send to others. Since that is objectively a kind act, it is not narcissism.

Signaling integrity between adult friends is rarely perfect or even very good. Not because many of us don’t want that, but because we don’t know how to do it. Rather than make virtually all signals clear through a technique like FIML, we are forced instead to use off-the-shelf cultural norms to communicate our “personalities” to others.

Besides the few crude markers like punctuality, basic honesty and reciprocity, basic pleasantness, etc., it is very difficult to know another or even oneself without detailed control over the signaling we do with them.

If morality is seen as fundamentally a signaling issue, then the soundest ethical position would be to make our signaling clearer, more honest, less manipulative. Clarity depends on detail. In this light, we can say that there is a sort of moral imperative to do FIML or something very much like it.

first posted OCTOBER 24, 2014

Deception (or truth elision) in communication

To communicate, we often must ignore the truth or falsity of a statement, our own or someone else’s.

I believe it is an instinct to do this; that it is part of our instinct to communicate at all. Communication requires cooperation, an agreement to be agreeable enough to get the message through.

We might call ignoring truth or falsity in communication “truth elision” or “psychological elision.” Elision means to omit something. Psychological elision would mean omitting or not mentioning psychological truths.

We do a lot of truth elision to save time. In professional or group settings it is hard to communicate any other way because there is not enough time to be perfectly truthful and most people will not care. They just want to socialize and/or get the job done, not search for truth.

Most communication is like that. Most messages are not even superficially analyzed. Semiotics glide through our minds without any thought to their deep origins or interpretations. Truth and falsity are frequently elided.

Like all instincts, our instinct to cooperate by ignoring the truth or falsity of many statements can be misused to consciously deceive.

Indeed, we frequently deceive even ourselves by accepting our own statements as true when analysis would show they are not. One way we succeed in doing this to ourselves is by simply avoiding the analysis—analysis elision.

This is where a simple instinct starts to go bad. A basic need to cooperate on the signs and symbols of communication gets twisted into tricking people, deceiving them, even deceiving ourselves.

The way to see this most clearly and to stop doing it with at least one other person is FIML practice. One of my main goals for this website is to show how and why communication goes bad and how and why it harms us. At the same time, I present a practical way to fix the problem described—FIML.

first posted 12/05/18

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Note 10/10/19: I think the above sheds light on false confessions and pretty much all self-abnegating lying on the spectrum trending down from a false confession with legal consequences.

Abusers work these ill-defined and difficult to grasp areas to dominate, entrap, and manipulate others. Narcissists and other “strong” or “clever” dark personality types use our fundamental willingness to cooperate against us.

Gas lighting greatly relies on people’s willingness to ignore truths and accept falsities about themselves. If there is more than one gas lighter at work, victims may even accept blame for things they know with certainty are not true.

As with so much in this world, immoral people put time and energy into fooling those who have not put time or energy into the dark arts.

Buddhists all know about wise compassion. We also need wise understanding of the world and wise cautiousness about the full scope of human motivations.

Our tendencies to go along with falsity can be seen in every part of life, from small corners of our own lives to the great expanses of entire societies.

Google and FIML

Google has helped all of us upgrade our info about the world around us, whatever we are interested in, etc.

In the past, people had brains as complex as ours and a love of good information as great as ours, but they had to make do with less.

Somewhat resembling Google, FIML practice upgrades interpersonal information shared by (usually) two people.

Rather than guess and fill our minds with superstitions about the people we care about most, FIML allows us to “look up” the info we need when we need it.

This has a dramatic and beneficial effect on both the self and other(s). The foundations of human psychology are exposed in FIML practice.

Once you see how FIML works and what it does, you will be doing it as often as you jump on the computer to look up something you want to know.

FIML is advanced interpersonal technology that makes first-rate psychological information as readily available as a computer search. It does take some practice, but is emotionally even more valuable than Google.

first posted SEPTEMBER 9, 2016

Just six years ago when this was first posted, I was still naive about Google, which is a beast at both gathering and curating information. The analogy posed above belongs to a different time. Properly done, FIML practice does not curate information or selfishly gather information and hide it as Google now does. ABN

Inventing your own communication system

If you know a system well and change parts of it to make it more efficient, that system will work better.

Evolution works this way “mindlessly” in the sense that we assume today that there is no plan behind evolutionary change. If something works better it tends to replace that which it works better than.

Another “mindless” example is AI systems that invent their own languages:

An artificial intelligence system being developed at Facebook has created its own language. It developed a system of code words to make communication more efficient. The researchers shut the system down as it prompted concerns we could lose control of AI. (Researchers shut down AI that invented its own language)

The linked article mentions other AI system that have similarly invented their own communication systems. These systems work but humans are not able to understand them.

All of this shows that communication systems have their own logic and that they can be made more efficient by pursuing that logic.

This is what FIML does through the use of a few new rules for speaking and listening.

FIML emphasizes and provides techniques for:

  • analysis of real-time communication
  • much greater accuracy in real-time communication
  • much greater mutual understanding, efficiency, and satisfaction

By improving your communication system(s) and removing error from it, FIML greatly enhances psychological well-being.

FIML works with the communication system(s) you already have. FIML does not tell you what to think.

first posted JULY 27, 2017

Belief, knowledge, and well-being

Belief means you are mostly convinced but not completely sure. Knowledge is more certain. These two words can be used as follows—I believe the universe probably started with the Big Bang, but I know the earth revolves around the sun.

We derive a degree of intellectual well-being from the beliefs and knowledge afforded us by modern science and engineering. But knowing that the earth revolves around the sun or that the Big Bang is the most likely explanation we now have does not provide us with very much emotional or psychological well-being.

We need more, or we need something different, to achieve a deep state of emotional well-being.

To achieve a deep state of emotional well-being we need to know that we can really believe at least one other person. That person should be our primary interlocutor, the person we deal with the most. If we cannot believe that person and/or they cannot believe us, we can’t achieve a deep state of emotional well-being.

To the best of my knowledge, there exists no common communication system (or even uncommon one) that allows us to deeply know and believe someone else, except the FIML system.

The reason this is so is all other human communication systems rely too much on implication, interpretation, and assumed shared beliefs.

When you do any of those things with your primary interlocutor you will necessarily make mistakes and/or be uncertain about what they are saying or how they are understanding you. Mistakes and uncertainty create shadowy feelings and wrong or multiple interpretations in the mind. Rather than have a clear knowledge of what your partner thinks or understands, you will be guessing.

Even if you are right every time you guess (and this is not possible), you will still have no way of being certain. You will not know if you are right or not. And your partner will have the same problem with you.

Emotional well-being depends on the quality of our communication with our primary interlocutor. There are substitutes—careers, religions, political causes, money, power, sex, etc.—but none of these will ever equal the emotional well-being that comes from very high-quality communication with your primary interlocutor. To have high-quality communication, you and your partner must have a system that removes doubt and uncertainty and replaces them with knowledge and belief.

first posted JULY 12, 2012