Word and phrase valence as keys to understanding human psychology

Since virtually everything we do, think, and feel has some linguistic component it follows that our perceived valences of words and phrases will be reliable indicators of our psychological makeup.

This is especially true if our perceptions of these valences is “captured” in fraught contexts in real-world, real-time situations.

To be even clearer and more precise, it is fair to say that it is only possible to capture actual real valences in real-world, real-time situations.

When we do not work with real-world, real-time situations, we are capable only of working with the idea of them, a theory of them, a memory of them. And none of that can possibly capture the actual valence as it actually functions in real-life.

The theory, memory, or idea of a psychological valence associated with words and phrases occurs at a different level of abstraction or cognition from the valence itself.

Theories, memories, and ideas of psychological valences can be very interesting and are worth pursuing, but they are not the thing itself and as such have only a weak capacity or power to grasp the actual psychology exposed by actually observing valences in action in the real-world.

In a post yesterday—Words and word groups mapped in the brain—I discussed the following video, which is well-worth viewing again if you missed it the first time.

Yesterday, I said:

From these maps we can see that word groups have idiosyncratic arrangements, associations, and emphases.

And from this we can understand how analysis of interpersonal communication details can lead to beneficial changes in word group arrangements and thus also human psychology.

The video is very helpful for visualizing how words and word groups are organized in the brain. And this illustrates how and why FIML works as well as it does.

By “capturing” actual verbal psychological valences in real-time, real-world situations, partners gain immense insight into how their psychologies actually function in the real-world, how they actually deal with real life.

Focusing on very brief real-life valences has another very large benefit: though the valences are as real as they come, they are also very small, comprising nothing more than part of the working memory load at the time.

This is a bigger deal than it might seem. Virtually all of us have been trained by years of theorizing about our psychologies to see even very small incidents of real psychological valence as aspects of some theory or story about them.

No, no, no. Don’t do that. Just see each one for what it is—a brief valences that appeared briefly in working memory; and that has been “frozen” by the FIML technique as a small snapshot to be identified and understood as it is.

First get the evidence, get the data. Those valence snapshots are the data. Get plenty of them and you may find that you do not even need any theory about what they are or what caused them.

They just are. Indeed, theorizing about them makes them different, bigger, or worse while simultaneously hiding their real nature.

Most of us do not know how to think about real-world, real-time valences because we tend to always fit them into into an a priori format, a format we already believe in. That could be a theory of psychology or a take on what our personality is or what the other person’s personality is.

In the maps shown in the video, that would constitute a whole brain response to a small valence that appeared only briefly.

By using the FIML technique, you will find it is much easier and much more beneficial to reorganize small parts of the verbal map one piece at a time than to reorganize the entire map all at once based on some idea.

In practice, FIML deals with more than just words and phrases, but the whole practice can be largely understood by seeing how it works with language. FIML treats gestures, tone of voice, expressions, and so on in the same way as language—by isolating brief incidents and analyzing them for what they really are.

Words and word groups mapped in the brain

This is interesting.

From these maps we can see that word groups have idiosyncratic arrangements, associations, and emphases.

And from this we can understand how analysis of interpersonal communication details can lead to beneficial changes in word group arrangements and thus also human psychology.

It is very likely that other aspects of communication—gesture, tone of voice, accent, and so forth—will also present idiosyncratic arrangements and emphases; and can be beneficially changed through detailed analyses of their components.

More here: A map of the brain can tell what you’re reading about

Brain networks act dynamically, rapidly reorganizing on both spatial and temporal scales

A new model of the brain is emerging from research that shows that:

The brain is highly dynamic, reorganizing its activity at different interacting spatial and temporal scales, including variation within and between brain networks.  (The spatial chronnectome reveals a dynamic interplay between functional segregation and integration)

Traditionally, models of brain activity have assumed networks were spatially more fixed. More information about this study can be found here: Structure of Brain Networks Is Not Fixed, Study Finds.

In Buddhist literature, it is frequently stated that one’s karma can be completely changed in the “duration of a single thought,” or words to that effect.

If we understand karma to mean the work or ongoing functional habits of the mind, and consider that in light of the above findings, we may fairly conclude that thousands of years of Buddhist practice have been based on valid insights into how our brains actually operate.

Buddhist concepts of non-attachment, emptiness, and impermanence can also be seen in this light. And this would apply both to individual psychology, group psychologies, or the cosmos itself from a Mind Only perspective.

A good tool to have is the understanding that even deep psychological states can be transformed in a moment’s time. Consider also that the Buddha did describe some individual traits as “persistent” or unchanging even after enlightenment.

Information streams plus interpersonal communication are the foundations of philosophical psychology

In this context, an information stream is a stream of information that largely fills the minds of all who are in it such that they know much more about that information than any other.

They value that stream and believe it or believe in it more than any other stream. All human cognition and psychology is taken from and conditioned by primary information streams.

Information streams are essentially “religions.” They include all of the world’s religions in addition to other fundamental belief systems such as science, politics, atheism, a life of crime, and so on.

Interpersonal communication is the most intimate or subjectively honest communication an individual human engages in.

The quality of our subjective honesty defines human life on planet earth, especially conscious human life.

The following follows:

  • it is impossible for any individual human to know more than a few information streams well
  • very few, if any, humans have really good interpersonal communication; very few are deeply, effectively, and richly subjectively honest with anyone else
  • thus, virtually all humans are trapped within the confines of their information streams (“religions”) and their unrequited personal subjectivity
  • and thus as a substitute, we fight or feel sad or become narcissistic or seek reclusion or take drugs or pursue money and power or sports and so on

I would maintain that once you see the above trap we humans are in, if you are of sound mind, you will want to escape.

We can never fully escape our need for some information stream (we have to have something) but we can escape to some extent by knowing that there are many information streams and none of them (as far as we know) can claim perfect information.

And, though we can never fully escape subjective isolation, we can escape to some extent by doing FIML practice.

The best way to view information streams is learn about a good many of them and then assign probabilities to how true they seem to you.

For example, I might hold that a materialist explanation of the cosmos has a 10-15% chance of being completely correct and a 25% chance of being a valid part of a larger whole that is more correct but has not yet been determined or discovered.

Assigning percentages mainly helps the mind categorize and assign resources. This, in turn, affects what we read, talk about, and do.

In addition to the percentages provided above, I might assign another 25% to the Buddhadharma and another 25% to the Buddhadharma plus all of the other world religions. Then I might assign 15% to the invented God argument and then some to the simulation argument and so on.

You can do this in any way that suits you. Your percentages don’t have to add up to one hundred, but it is good to have at least a rough calculus to provide some order to the many streams of information available to us.

My own percentages go up and down. The largest one is I cannot honestly be sure of very much but believe it is profoundly worth trying to be more sure or better at trying.

I believe the above description plus having some dedication to an endeavor sort of like that is a good definition of philosophical psychology.

To my eye, philosophical psychology is a good information stream to be in because it stresses how we think and what we think about while also paying full attention to our humanity.

Machine learning used to successfully predict psychosis

A very interesting study shows that a computer analysis of language use has predicted early signs of future psychosis with ~90% accuracy in at-risk individuals.

,,,results revealed that conversion to psychosis is signaled by low semantic density and talk about voices and sounds. When combined, these two variables were able to predict the conversion with 93% accuracy in the training and 90% accuracy in the holdout datasets. The results point to a larger project in which automated analyses of language are used to forecast a broad range of mental disorders well in advance of their emergence.  (A machine learning approach to predicting psychosis using semantic density and latent content analysis)

An article about the study says:

The results showed that higher than normal usage of words related to sound, combined with a higher rate of using words with similar meaning, meant that psychosis was likely on the horizon. (The whisper of schizophrenia: Machine learning finds ‘sound’ words predict psychosis)

Phillip Wolff, an author of the study, says of it:

“This research is interesting not just for its potential to reveal more about mental illness, but for understanding how the mind works — how it puts ideas together. Machine learning technology is advancing so rapidly that it’s giving us tools to data mine the human mind.” (Ibid)

Our need to stimulate the brain stem by pushing through difficulties or challenging our senses

…Here’s the crucial part: This expectation is likely to extend the effects of stress-induced pain relief beyond immediate cold exposure. If such an expectation – “I confronted the cold and feel invigorated” – is fulfilled, it will lead to the release of additional opioids or cannabinoids from the periaqueductal gray. This release can affect the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, further enhancing a feeling of overall well-being. This positive feedback loop is implicated in the well-known “placebo effect.”

More generally, techniques such as those Hof uses appear to exert positive effects on the body’s innate immune response as well. We expect them to also have positive effects on mood and anxiety because of the release of opioids and cannabinoids. Though these effects have not yet been well studied, by evoking a stress-induced analgesia reaction, we think that practitioners may assert “control” over key components of brain systems related to mood and anxiety.

At present, millions of people use drugs to help with feelings of depression and anxiety. Many of these drugs carry unwelcome side effects. Behavioral modification techniques that train users in ways to influence their brain’s homeostatic system could someday provide some patients with drug-free alternatives. Efforts to understand links between the brain’s physiology and its psychology may indeed hold the promise for a happier life. (Cold comfort: exposure to chilly temperatures may help fight anxiety)

This article describes a very interesting finding that seems to explain why some people like intense sports such as rock climbing, motorcycling, free diving, skiing, and so on.

It also seems to explain why toughing it out is often the best medicine for what ails us or the best method for moving forward with our lives.

Intense religious practices, chanting, long meditations, silence retreats also seem to be drawing on stimulating the periaqueductal gray area of the brain stem.

To some extent, FIML practice does something like this by stopping conditioned and instinctual responses as soon after they have arisen as possible. Doing this requires a mental toughness and perceptual acuity that frequently carries over to other activities.