We see what we are used to seeing; and interpret it as we are used to

A new study shows that what we see is often a distortion of what is really happening. A short article about that study provides a good overview: Altered images: New research shows that what we see is distorted by what we expect to see:

New research shows that humans “see” the actions of others not quite as they really are, but slightly distorted by their expectations.

The study is here: Perceptual teleology: expectations of action efficiency bias social perception.

I think it is fair to speculate that the conclusions of that study apply not just to visual information, but to all information. For example, much of what we consider to be psychological continuity is habit based on introspective deformities.

See Psychology as “signs of something else” for more on this topic.

See also: Seeing the best way forward: Intentionality cues bias action perception toward the most efficient trajectory.

first posted AUGUST 8, 2018

Just 1.5% to 7% of the human genome is unique to Homo sapiens, free from signs of interbreeding or ancestral variants

Less than 10% of your genome is unique to modern humans, with the rest being shared with ancient human relatives such as Neanderthals, according to a new study. 

The study researchers also found that the portion of DNA that’s unique to modern humans is enriched for genes involved with brain development and brain function. This finding suggests that genes for brain development and function are what really set us apart, genetically, from our ancestors.

As little as 1.5% of our genome is ‘uniquely human’

The study: An ancestral recombination graph of human, Neanderthal, and Denisovan genomes

Lies and self-deception

Most Buddhist practitioners will immediately understand and agree with the results of a recent study that shows that people feel better when they tell fewer lies. The study (Telling fewer lies linked to better health and relationships.*) is modest but worth considering.

Notice that the improvements found in the study come from refraining from lying.

“We found that the participants could purposefully and dramatically reduce their everyday lies, and that in turn was associated with significantly improved health,” says lead author Anita Kelly. (Same link as above.)

A good deal of Buddhist practice involves refraining from unwholesome thoughts and behaviors and ultimately eliminating them. Refraining from lying, or “false speech,” is the fourth of the Five Precepts, which are the basis of Buddhist morality. Lies cloud the mind and hinder clear thinking.

Buddhist mindfulness gets us to slow down and question how sure we are of our thoughts, feelings, and judgements. It helps us refrain from willfully lying, and it  can help us refrain from unconsciously lying if we have the help of a trusted partner.

Another term for unconscious lying is self-deception. Self-deception may make us feel good for awhile in some circumstances, but in the long-run it is much the same as any other kind of lying. It’s not true. It constitutes inner false speech and causes serious intellectual and emotional contradictions that will almost certainly lead to wrong thoughts, behaviors, and interpretations.

Michael S. Gazzaniga in a recent online essay has this to say:

The view in neuroscience today is that consciousness does not constitute a single, generalized process. It involves a multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes, the products of which are integrated by the interpreter module….Our conscious experience is assembled on the fly as our brains respond to constantly changing inputs, calculate potential courses of action, and execute responses like a streetwise kid. (Source) [original source missing. substitute source here]

It is our “interpreter module,” to use Gazzaniga’s words, that can and does unconsciously lie to us or allow us to engage in self-deception.

In the same essay, Gazzaniga also says:

In truth, when we set out to explain our actions, they are all post hoc explanations using post hoc observations with no access to nonconscious processing….The reality is, listening to people’s explanations of their actions is interesting—and in the case of politicians, entertaining—but often a waste of time. (Source: same as above)

FIML practice may not be capable of giving us access to “nonconscious processing,” but it will give us access to what is/was in our working memories while showing us that what we said or heard may have been vague, ambiguous, muddled, or wrong.

With the aid of a trusted partner, FIML helps us catch our minds on the fly. Partners are encouraged to refrain from long explanations and just stick to what they remember having been in their minds during the few seconds in question. This forestalls long, self-deceiving explanations.

Beginning FIML partners will likely be amazed at how often their interpretation of what their partner said is completely wrong.

FIML emphasizes using trivial incidents because partners will be much less likely to self-deceive when the incident is minor. A minor mistake is easier to change than a major one. If partners keep working with minor mistakes and clear them up as soon as they arise, how can major misunderstandings even develop?

In the future, we may have brain scans that can help us separate fact from fiction in our minds, but for now, I know of no better way to do it than with a trusted partner in FIML practice. Your partner will help you see the minutiae of your mind as it actually works and impacts them. This leads to a large reduction in lying and self-deception and an increase in feelings of well-being and mutual understanding.

first posted August 6, 2012

The brain as a guessing machine

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A new approach to the study of mental disorder—called computational psychiatry—uses Bayesian inference to explain where people with problems are going wrong.

Bayesian inference is a method of statistical reasoning used to understand the probability of a hypothesis and how to update it as conditions change.

The idea is that people with schizophrenia, for example, are doing a bad job at inferring the reasonableness of their hypotheses. This happens because schizophrenics seem to be less likely to put enough weight on prior experience (a factor in Bayesian reasoning).

Somewhat similarly, “sensory information takes priority [over previous experience] in people with autism.” (Bayesian reasoning implicated in some mental disorders)

Distorted calculations — and the altered versions of the world they create — may also play a role in depression and anxiety, some researchers think. While suffering from depression, people may hold on to distorted priors — believing that good things are out of reach, for instance. And people with high anxiety can have trouble making good choices in a volatile environment (Ibid)

The key problem with autism and anxiety is people with these conditions have trouble updating their expectations—a major component of Bayesian reasoning—and thus make many mistakes.

These mistakes, of course, compound and further increase a sense of anxiety or alienation.

Like several of the researches quoted in the linked article, I find this computational approach exciting.

It speaks to me because it confirms a core hypothesis of FIML practice—that all people make many, significant inferential mistakes during virtually all acts of communication.

In this respect, I believe all people are mentally disordered, not just the ones who are suffering the most.

I think a Bayesian thought experiment can all but prove my point:

What are the odds that you will correctly infer the mental state(s) of anyone you speak with? What are the odds that they will correctly infer your mental state(s)?

In a formal setting, both of you will do well enough if the inferring is kept within whatever the formal boundaries are. But that is all you will be able to infer reasonably well.

In the far more important realm of intimate interpersonal communication, the odds that either party is making correct inferences go down significantly.

If we do not know someone’s mental state, we cannot know why they have communicated as they have. If our inferences about them are based on such questionable data, we are bound to make many more mistakes about them.

first posted MAY 15, 2016

A study that supports FIML

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This study–Preventing the return of fear in humans using reconsolidation update mechanisms–supports FIML practice, which works by having partners volitionally interfere with neurotic responses as they occur, thus preventing reconsolidation of the neurotic memory (habitual response).

Truthful data supplied by a FIML partner provides much better (updated) information to the partner inquiring about their incipient neurotic reaction than that partner has had up to that point. This new non-neurotic information that is “provided during the reconsolidation window” results in neurotic responses “no longer [being] expressed”, often within just a few sessions.

The linked study is about fear, but I bet the findings will apply to all sorts of neurotic responses. In FIML practice, we have defined a neurotic response as a “mistaken response” or one not based on good data or evidence.

The technique used in the study produced “an effect that lasted at least a year and was selective only to reactivated memories without affecting others.”

Since most FIML partners will continue doing FIML practice for more than a year, the effects of FIML sessions and follow-up sessions dealing with neuroses should last as long or longer. If an old neurosis regains its power, skilled FIML partners should be able to deal with it rather quickly.

FIML posits that neuroses are very often the result of nothing more than mistakes in listening or speaking. This means that we can expect proto-neurotic mistakes to arise with great frequency (several per hour in most conversations). And this means that FIML partners will want to continue using basic FIML practices whenever they interact.

Another point: the linked study concludes that the effect of their technique is “selective only to reactivated memories without affecting others.” This seems to be the case with FIML practice as well. Memories are not being erased by drugs or other kinds of physical interference. Rather, they are being upgraded during the crucial “window of reconsolidation”. This upgrade does not directly change other memories, though in FIML practice since core neuroses are being confronted, effects will be widespread throughout the organism, causing beneficial changes in personality, behavioral strategies, autonomic responses, ancillary neuroses, and so forth.

I, for one, do not see any other way than FIML practice to deal with the plethora fundamental mistaken interpretations that occur in all human minds and with great frequency. Traditional talk therapy or the more common drug therapies used today can only deal with very general aspects of the fundamental cause of neurotic suffering–humans tend to make a great many mistakes when they speak and when they listen and these mistakes tend to compound and turn into ongoing mistaken interpretations (neuroses) of the self, the world, and people around us.

first posted APRIL 13, 2012

Future Science – The Wave Genome – Quantum Holography of DNA with Ulrike Granögger

UPDATE: This video is thought provoking and surely valid in many ways.

I am going to align two core ideas presented in the video and briefly explain how they relate to FIML practice:

DNA can be spoken to

and

while the chemical structure of DNA molecules will be almost the same in virtually all organisms, the electromagnetic informational signals or holographic images that travel upon these molecules can be vastly different

a language/semiotic signal occurs in a context. when we correct a language/semiotic signal through FIML we prevent an error from changing the context, which it is liable to do.

by doing this many times, we strengthen a healthy (mutual & individual) mind context; strengthen its coherence and efficiency while also strengthening the method for doing this

in a wider sense, “correcting” for good ends could also be “manipulating” for bad ends.* in a narrow context between two people playing the FIML game, manipulative correcting for bad ends could happen but would be difficult to maintain over a wide/large interpersonal context though this is possible. an evil FIML partner is possible. it is also possible for both partners to be evil

that said it is easier to be good and more satisfying to be good, so more FIML partners will tend toward the good than the bad. good FIML partners will strengthen their shared holographic context and expand it in good ways

*scams, propaganda, cheating, etc

Metacognition and real-time communication

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Metacognition means “awareness and understanding of one’s own thought processes,” or “cognition about cognition,” or “being able to think about how you think.”

To me, metacognition is a premier human ability. How can it not be a good thing to be aware of how you are aware and how you think and respond to what is around you?

In more detail:

The term “metacognition” is most often associated with John Flavell, (1979). According to Flavell (1979, 1987), metacognition consists of both metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive experiences or regulation. Metacognitive knowledge refers to acquired knowledge about cognitive processes, knowledge that can be used to control cognitive processes. Flavell further divides metacognitive knowledge into three categories: knowledge of person variables, task variables and strategy variables. (Source)

Most people do metacognition and are aware of doing it. We do it when we plan, make decisions, decide how to get from one place to another, how to relate to one person differently from another, and so on.

Where we don’t do metacognition is in real-time communication in real life, where it matters most. This is not because we are not able to do it. It is because very few of us have the right technique, Flavell’s “acquired knowledge” that allows us to do it.

If we have the right technique, we will be able to gain a great deal of knowledge about real-time cognitive process while also learning how to control them.

FIML practice is a metacognitive practice based on, to quote the above source, “acquired knowledge about cognitive processes… that can be used to control cognitive processes.”

In the case of FIML, the “acquired knowledge” is the FIML technique which allows us to gain conscious “control over cognitive processes” of real-time interpersonal communication.

FIML is different from other analytical communication techniques in that FIML provides a method to gain control over very short or small units of communication in real-time. This is important as it is these very short real-time units that are most often ignored or not dealt with in most analyses of human communication.

If you know how to catch small mistakes, they become sources of insight and humor. If you don’t know how to catch them, they often snowball into destructive misunderstandings.

FIML is fairly easy to do if you understand the importance of correcting the minor misinterpretations that inevitably arise between people when they speak and communicate. By using the FIML metacognitive method, partners gain control over the most elusive kinds of interpersonal error which all too often lead to serious interpersonal discord.

FIML can and does do more than catch small mistakes, but first things first. If you cannot correct small errors in real-time communication, you are not doing anything even resembling thorough metacognitive communication.

first posted JUNE 11, 2015

How the brain processes new information

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A new paper provides fascinating insight into how our brains amass information and organize and assess it in real-time.

The paper—Cliques of Neurons Bound into Cavities Provide a Missing Link between Structure and Function—proposes that “the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.”

The full intro to the paper:

The lack of a formal link between neural network structure and its emergent function has hampered our understanding of how the brain processes information. We have now come closer to describing such a link by taking the direction of synaptic transmission into account, constructing graphs of a network that reflect the direction of information flow, and analyzing these directed graphs using algebraic topology. Applying this approach to a local network of neurons in the neocortex revealed a remarkably intricate and previously unseen topology of synaptic connectivity. The synaptic network contains an abundance of cliques of neurons bound into cavities that guide the emergence of correlated activity. In response to stimuli, correlated activity binds synaptically connected neurons into functional cliques and cavities that evolve in a stereotypical sequence toward peak complexity. We propose that the brain processes stimuli by forming increasingly complex functional cliques and cavities.

The cliques of neurons that grow and connect in real-time make up the transient “architecture” of awareness as it changes and responds to stimuli.

You can observe a process that seems to fit this description by simply turning your head and looking around. As your eye settles on something to consider in more detail, neuronic cliques will grow in your brain based on that stimulus.

Depending on the significance to you of what you are looking at, further associations drawn from memory and emotion will aggregate around it.

Interestingly, the concept of transient neuronal cliques that grow into larger structures fits very well with the Buddha’s Five Skandhas explanation of the path between perception and consciousness.

This paper also seems to explain why FIML practice works. FIML interrupts the (re)formation of mistaken neuronal cliques in real-time, thus preventing the (re)association of (mistaken) established mental states with new perceptions. If there was no mistake FIML affirms that truth.

By consciously interfering with habitual neuronal cliques, FIML eliminates the false and unwanted psychological structures that give rise to them.

FIML works because large (mistaken) psychological brain structures rely on reconsolidation through the continual processing of “new” information that falsely reconfirms them.

As such, human psychology to a large extent is an ongoing self-fulfilling prophesy.

Here is an article about the paper: Brain Architecture: Scientists Discover 11 Dimensional Structures That Could Help Us Understand How the Brain Works.

first posted JUNE 17, 2017

Study supports FIML practice

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This study—Neural Correlates of People’s Hypercorrection of Their False Beliefs—supports the contention that FIML practice can produce deep, wide-ranging, and enduring changes within the brain/mind of practitioners.

The basic finding of the study is:

Despite the intuition that strongly held beliefs are particularly difficult to change, the data on error correction indicate that general information errors that people commit with a high degree of belief are especially easy to correct. (Emphasis added.)

According to the study, this happens due to:

…enhanced attention and encoding that results from a metacognitive mismatch between the person’s confidence in their responses and the true answer.

This is exactly what happens when a FIML query shows the questioner that his/her assumptions about what their partner’s thoughts or intentions were were wrong.

Initially, FIML partners may experience some embarrassment or disbelief at being wrong. But since FIML queries are generally based on negative impressions, after some practice being shown to be wrong will typically produce feelings of relief and even delight.

A FIML query will generally arise out of a state of “enhanced attention” and usually further increase it by being spoken about. Incidentally, this is probably the most difficult aspect of FIML practice—controlling the emotions that accompany enhanced attention, especially when that attention concerns our own emotional reactions.

With continued practice of FIML, however, even strongly held erroneous interpersonal beliefs will be fairly easily corrected whenever they are discovered during a FIML discussion. Correcting core false beliefs (mistaken interpretations) has a wide-ranging, beneficial effect on all aspects of a person’s life.

Since the hypercorrection effect discussed in the linked study only occurs during moments of enhanced attention, the FIML technique of focusing quickly on good data agreed upon by both partners can be seen as a way of inducing states of enhanced attention that will lead to deep changes in both partners. This technique (using good data) also turns the discussion from one about feelings to one about “information,” which the study finds makes errors “especially easy to correct.”

Furthermore, since FIML practice tends to deal with very small incidents, the enhanced attention FIML induces works like a laser that quickly and painlessly excises erroneous thoughts and feelings while they are still small and have not been allowed to grow into full-blown emotional reactions.

first posted OCTOBER 31, 2015

The science of psychedelics and religion

Very pleased to read about a study on psychedelics and religion: Religious leaders get high on magic mushrooms ingredient – for science.

I am not at all surprised that of the lucky people chosen for this study, “So far everyone incredibly values their experience. No one has been confused or upset or regrets doing it.”

I call them lucky because where else can you get medical-grade psilocybin?

If anyone hears of another study like this one, please let me know! I want to join.

More on Buddhism and psychedelics can be found here: Are We Misunderstanding the Fifth Precept?

Edit: 3:30 PM: Research Shows Magic Mushrooms Can Offer Real Benefits in Depression Therapy. Quote:

A review of the research on combining therapy with the psychoactive component from magic mushrooms has concluded it’s not only a safe and effective way to treat conditions related to anxiety, depression, and addiction, it could be better than many existing forms of treatment.

first posted JULY 9, 2017

How working memory works and doesn’t work

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A new study on working memory has some intriguing insights into how working memory works and how it doesn’t work.

It’s widely known that when working memory is overtaxed, confusion results, skills decline, while feeling of frustration and anger may arise. The reason for this seems to be:

Feedback (top-down) coupling broke down when the number of objects exceeded cognitive capacity. Thus, impaired behavioral performance coincided with a break-down of Prediction signals. This provides new insights into the neuronal underpinnings of cognitive capacity and how coupling in a distributed working memory network is affected by memory load. (Working Memory Load Modulates Neuronal Coupling)

A well-written article about this study contains the following diagram and explanation:

This article—Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync—also contains the following passages and quote from one of the study’s authors:

Miller thinks the brain is juggling the items being held in working memory one at a time, in alternation. “That means all the information has to fit into one brain wave,” he said. “When you exceed the capacity of that one brain wave, you’ve reached the limit on working memory.”

The prefrontal cortex seems to help construct an internal model of the world, sending so-called “top-down,” or feedback, signals that convey this model to lower-level brain areas. Meanwhile, the superficial frontal eye fields and lateral intraparietal area send raw sensory input to the deeper areas in the prefrontal cortex, in the form of bottom-up or feedforward signals. Differences between the top-down model and the bottom-up sensory information allow the brain to figure out what it’s experiencing, and to tweak its internal models accordingly. (Emphasis added)

Working memory works via connections between three brain regions that together form a coherent brain wave.

Notice that “an internal model of the world,” which is a “top-down signal” within the brain wave feedback loop, predicts or interprets “bottom-up” sensory input as it arrives in the brain.

I believe this “top-down signal” within working memory is the reason FIML practice has such enormous psychological value.

By analyzing minute emotional reactions in real-time during normal conversation, FIML practice disrupts the consolidation, or more often the reconsolidation, of “neurotic” responses. (Disruption of neurotic response in FIML practice)

FIML optimizes human psychology by helping partners intervene directly into their working memories to access real-world top-down signals as they are happening in real-time. Doing this repeatedly reliably alters the brain’s repository of top-down interpretations, making them much more accurate and up-to-date.

The model of working memory proposed in this study also explains why FIML can be a bit difficult to do. Partners must learn to allow a FIML meta-perspective or “super top-down” signal to quickly commandeer their working memories so that analysis of whatever just happened can proceed rationally and objectively. It does take some time to learn this skill, but it is no harder than many other “automated” skills such bicycling, typing, or playing a musical instrument.

first posted JUNE 7, 2018

CLIP (Contrastive Language–Image Pre-training)

We’re introducing a neural network called CLIP which efficiently learns visual concepts from natural language supervision. CLIP can be applied to any visual classification benchmark by simply providing the names of the visual categories to be recognized, similar to the “zero-shot” capabilities of GPT-2 and GPT-3.

…CLIP (Contrastive Language–Image Pre-training) builds on a large body of work on zero-shot transfer, natural language supervision, and multimodal learning. The idea of zero-data learning dates back over a decade8 but until recently was mostly studied in computer vision as a way of generalizing to unseen object categories.910 A critical insight was to leverage natural language as a flexible prediction space to enable generalization and transfer. In 2013, Richer Socher and co-authors at Stanford11 developed a proof of concept by training a model on CIFAR-10 to make predictions in a word vector embedding space and showed this model could predict two unseen classes. The same year DeVISE12 scaled this approach and demonstrated that it was possible to fine-tune an ImageNet model so that it could generalize to correctly predicting objects outside the original 1000 training set.

CLIP: Connecting Text and Images

Nonconscious brain patterns can be modified through rewards

…In Decoded Neurofeedback experiments, brain scanning is used to monitor activity in the brain, and identify complex patterns of activity that resemble a specific memory or mental state. When the pattern is detected, we give our experimental participants a small reward. The simple action of repeatedly providing a reward every time the pattern is detected modifies the original memory or mental state. Importantly, participants do not need to be aware of the patterns’ content for this to work.

Nonconscious brain modulation to remove fears, increase confidence

Study: Differential Activation Patterns in the Same Brain Region Led to Opposite Emotional States

“Informed consent” means being informed

Ensuring that patients clearly understand risks — including known risks as well as potential unknown risks — is an important component of the informed consent process. This is all the more true when the intervention is experimental and lacks long-term safety data, as is the case with the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines against COVID-19. The FDA authorized the two vaccines for widespread emergency use based on just two months of clinical trial data.

Immunologist: Pfizer, Moderna Vaccines Could Cause Long-Term Chronic Illness

Also from that link:

In new research published in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, immunologist J. Bart Classen warns the mRNA technology used in the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines could create “new potential mechanisms” of adverse events that may take years to come to light.

There are several links to peer reviewed papers in the above article. There is no question that the covid vaccines hold unknown risks that health care providers are legally required to inform their patients about.

See this for more: COVID-19 RNA Based Vaccines and the Risk of Prion Disease

UPDATE: Dr Simone Gold “The truth about the CV 19 vaccine

This is also interesting: Review of evidence that epidemics of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes/metabolic syndrome are polar opposite responses to iatrogenic inflammation

NOTE: I am not an anti-vaxxer. I am a rational thinker and a big fan of free-speech. Since I am not seeing major news stories outlining the risks of some vaccines, I am providing this information to readers. It is very disturbing to me that individuals who provide information like this can be mocked, deplatformed, even accused of promoting pseudoscience when we are doing the opposite.