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.


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

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

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  

Consciousness, Big Data, and FIML

Modern neuroscience does not see humans as having a discrete consciousness located in a specific part of the brain. Rather, as Michael S. Gazzaniga says:

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. (Source)

Computer and Big Data-driven sociology sees something similar. According to Alex Pentland:

While it may be useful to reason about the averages, social phenomena are really made up of millions of small transactions between individuals. There are patterns in those individual transactions that are not just averages, they’re the things that are responsible for the flash crash and the Arab spring. You need to get down into these new patterns, these micro-patterns, because they don’t just average out to the classical way of understanding society. We’re entering a new era of social physics, where it’s the details of all the particles—the you and me—that actually determine the outcome.  (Source)

Buddhists may recognize in these insights close similarities to core teachings of the Buddha—that we do not have a self; that all things arise out of complex conditions that are impermanent and changeable; that the lion’s share of “reality” for any individual lies in being attentive to the moment.

Notice how similar Pentland’s insights are to Gazzaniga’s—the whole, or the common generalities (of society), can be far better understood if we can account for the details that comprise them. Is an individual mind a fractal of society? Do these complex systems—societies and minds—both use similar organizational processes?

I am not completely sure how to answer those questions, but I am certain that most people are using similar sorts of “average” or general semiotics to communicate and think about both minds and societies. If we stick with general averages, we won’t see very much. Class, self, markets, personalities don’t give us information as sophisticated as the detailed analyses proposed by Gazzaniga and Pentland.

Well then, how can individuals cognize Gazzaniga’s “multitude of widely distributed specialized systems and disunited processes” in their minds? And how can they understand how “the products” of those processes are actually “integrated” into a functional “interpreter module”?

And if individuals can cognize the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter,” how will they understand traditional psychological analyses of the self, personality, identity, biography, behavior?

I would maintain that our understanding of what it is to be a human will change deeply if we can learn to observe with reliable clarity the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter.” That is, we will arrive at a completely new understanding of being that will replace the “self” that truly does not exist in the ways most societies (and people) understand it.

FIML practice shows partners how to observe with great clarity the “disunited processes” that “integrate” into a conscious “interpreter.” Once these process are observed in detail and for a long enough period of time, partners will realize that it is no longer necessary to understand themselves in the “average” terms of self, personality, identity, biography, behavior, and so on.

Partners will come to understand that these terms denote only a more detailed version of a naive, static view of what a person is. Most psychology is largely a more detailed version of a naive, static view of what a person is.

We see this in Gazzaniga and Pentland’s findings that are derived from complex analyses of what is actually happening in the brain or in the multitude of real transactions that actually comprise a society. We can also see very similar insights in the Buddha’s teachings.

It is my contention that FIML practice will show partners the same things—that their actual minds and actual interactions are much more complex (and interesting) than the general semiotic averages we normally use to understand them.

From a Buddhist point of view, when we “liberate” ourselves from “attachment” to “delusive” semiotic generalities and averages and are truly “mindful” of the “thusness” of the ways our minds actually work, we will free ourselves from “suffering,” from the “ignorance” that characterizes the First Noble Truth.

first posted SEPTEMBER 1, 2012

Neuroscientists unravel the mystery of why you can’t tickle yourself

…The leading theory holds that tickling provokes laughter thanks to a prediction error by the brain. An unpredictable touch confuses it, sending it into a mini frenzy. Self-touch is always predictable … so, no frenzy.

But Brecht thinks it’s not really about prediction. Instead, he suggests that as a person touches themselves, the brain sends out a body-wide message that inhibits touch sensitivity. “We think what is happening is the brain has a trick to know: As soon as you touch yourself, don’t listen,” he says. If it didn’t, he argues, we’d all be constantly tickling ourselves every time we scratched an armpit or touched our toes.


Honest feedback: Barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback


Feedback is information provided to recipients about their behavior, performance, or understanding, the goal of which is to foster recipients’ self-awareness, and behavioral reinforcement or change. Yet, feedback often fails to achieve this goal. For feedback to be effective, recipients must be receptive and accurately understand the meaning and veracity of the feedback (i.e., discern the truth in feedback). Honesty is critically important for both receptivity and discerning the truth in the feedback. In this article, we identify barriers to receptivity and discerning the truth in feedback and illustrate how these barriers hinder recipients’ learning and improvement. Barriers can arise from the feedback itself, the feedback-giver, and the feedback-recipient, and both parties share responsibility for removing them.


This paper provides useful insights into how to give and receive feedback and what can prevent that from happening successfully. FIML practice, which can be thought of as a form of micro interpersonal feedback, overcomes all barriers mentioned in the paper. FIML works well because partners: 1) make a prior agreement to do it and how to do it; 2) ask for feedback that is immediately useful to them; 3) ask immediately upon noticing the need for feedback; 4) ask for very specific information residing solely in their partner’s working memory; 5) all of the preceding points contribute to small and easily kept honest bits of very reliable feedback. Since the topic of the feedback is very small and mutually agreed upon by both partners is can be understood as a significant kind of objective reality that exists between the two of them. This greatly promotes interest in the practice and honesty between partners. ABN

The value of introversion, and probably reclusion

Do reclusive and monastic religious practices foster wisdom about the human condition?

A new study indicates that they may.

Insights into social psychological phenomena have been thought of as solely attainable through empirical research. Our findings, however, indicate that some lay individuals can reliably judge established social psychological phenomena without any experience in social psychology. These results raise the striking possibility that certain individuals can predict the accuracy of unexplored social psychological phenomena better than others. (Social Psychological Skill and Its Correlates)

In an article about this study, its authors say that introverted people tend to be better at observing others because they are good at introspection and have fewer motivational biases. Here’s that article: Yale Study: Sad, Lonely Introverts Are Natural Born Social Psychologists.

first posted MARCH 17, 2018

To readers of ABN

ABN has gained many more readers since coverage of covid and other matters became of more pressing importance. They still are more pressing since our very existence as a free society is at stake.

That said, please do your best to understand and practice FIML with your spouse or best friend. FIML is a life-changing practice that will reveal the building blocks of both of your makeups in a most wonderful way.

Positive change through FIML is easy in the sense that each building block is small. Being small, they are easy to analyze and not difficult to accept if we see we are in the wrong. This promotes rapid incremental transformation for the better.

A little change here, a little change there, patterns are recognized and rather easily transformed into something much more adaptive, real, appropriate for your lives. No theory or concept of personality is necessary. No training in psychotherapy is necessary.

The simple dynamic of FIML done honestly and in friendship will help both of you feel much better and be much more authentic to yourselves. FIML is a process, a dynamic method. It has no other content save what you bring to it. ABN

Psilocybin breaks rigid patterns in the depressed brain, study shows

Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, can ‘open up’ the brains of people with depression, helping patients to overcome rigid thought patterns and negative fixations, new research suggests.

A study led by the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research has shown that psilocybin therapy increases brain connectivity in people living with depression, even weeks after the treatment. The psychedelic acts in a way that conventional antidepressants do not, suggesting that psilocybin could be an effective, viable alternative to treating depression.   

“These findings are important because for the first time we find that psilocybin works differently from conventional antidepressants, making the brain more flexible and fluid, and less entrenched in the negative thinking patterns associated with depression,” says Professor David Nutt, head of the Imperial Centre for Psychedelic Research. 


Dual-Process Theories of the Mind as means to analyze real-world, real-time interpersonal data

…Despite their differences, dual-process theories share the common idea that thoughts, behaviors, and feelings result from the interaction between exogenous and endogenous forms of attention. Both types of attention can be applied to representations to increase or decrease their level of activation. As the activation level of a representation increases, so does its accessibility, which in turn increases the probability that it will influence behavior. In times of conflict [When a FIML query is initiated], accessibility can be managed (i.e., maintained or inhibited) during the stream of processing by the control of attention. In a sense, the “source” of attention (LaBerge, 2000), that is, whatever mechanism that applies the activation to the representation, can be thought of as the gateway of accessibility that is the essence of controlled processing.

Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity and Dual-Process Theories of the Mind

FIML practice is a form of mindfulness training with the addition of controlled attention processing which enables rapid gathering of real-world data followed by analysis thereof. This controlled attention processing is a learned behavior shared by both partners. The general concept of this learned/trained behavior is explained in How to do FIML. Individual partners adapt this learned/trained behavior to their own lives. In this sense FIML itself has no content. It is wholly a technique that allows rapid analysis of agreed upon objective interpersonal data. ABN

Procedural and implicit memory described

  1. Is procedural memory implicit?
  2. Is implicit memory the same as procedural memory?
  3. What is an example of an implicit memory?
  4. Why is procedural memory considered a form of implicit memory?
  5. What are the two types of implicit memory?
  6. Does implicit memory decline with age?
  7. Is procedural memory affected by amnesia?
  8. What is the difference between episodic and procedural memory?
  9. What are the 2 types of implicit memory?
  10. What are the three types of implicit memory?
  11. Are habits procedural memories?
  12. What are the 3 stages of memory?
  13. What age does implicit memory develop?
  14. Does procedural memory decline with age?
  15. Is episodic memory long-term?
  16. Does semantic memory decline with age?
  17. What is the role of procedural memory?
  18. How do you test for procedural memory?


Visual working memory in aphantasia: Retained accuracy and capacity with a different strategy


Visual working memory paradigms involve retaining and manipulating visual information in mind over a period of seconds. Evidence suggests that visual imagery (sensory recruitment) is a strategy used by many to retain visual information during such tasks, leading some researchers to propose that visual imagery and visual working memory may be one and the same. If visual imagery is essential to visual working memory task performance there should be large ramifications for a special population of individuals who do not experience visual imagery, aphantasia. Here we assessed visual working memory task performance in this population using a number of different lab and clinical working memory tasks. We found no differences in capacity limits for visual, general number or spatial working memory for aphantasic individuals compared to controls. Further, aphantasic individuals showed no significant differences in performance on visual components of clinical working memory tests as compared to verbal components. However, there were significant differences in the reported strategies used by aphantasic individuals across all memory tasks. Additionally, aphantasic individual’s visual memory accuracy did not demonstrate a significant oblique orientation effect, which is proposed to occur due to sensory recruitment, further supporting their non-visual imagery strategy reports. Taken together these data demonstrate that aphantasic individuals are not impaired on visual working memory tasks, suggesting visual imagery and working memory are not one and the same, with imagery (and sensory recruitment) being just one of the tools that can be used to solve visual working memory tasks.


Aphantasia means “the inability to form mental images of objects that are not present.” ABN

The human brain can process images very quickly: MIT reserachers

CAMBRIDGE (CBS) — The human brain is capable of processing images viewed through the eyes for as little as 13 milliseconds, according to research conducted by Massachusetts Institute of Technology neuroscientists.

That processing speed figure is significantly faster than the 100 milliseconds reported in earlier research, the MIT News Office reported.

The new MIT study appears in the journal Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics. In the research, investigators asked subjects to look for a particular type of image, such as “smiling couple,” as they viewed a series of as many as 12 images, each presented for between 13 and 80 milliseconds

“The fact that you can do that at these high speeds indicates to us that what vision does is find concepts. That’s what the brain is doing all day long — trying to understand what we’re looking at,” Mary Potter, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and senior author of the study, told MIT News.

Rapid-fire processing of images could serve to help direct the eyes to their next target, Potter said. “The job of the eyes is not only to get the information into the brain, but to allow the brain to think about it rapidly enough to know what you should look at next. So in general, we’re calibrating our eyes so they move around just as often as possible consistent with understanding what we’re seeing,” she said.


The paper is here: Detecting meaning in RSVP at 13 ms per picture.

FIML works with information rapidly entering the working memory, much of which is visual. Psycholinguistic auditory information can also be received and processed very quickly. Consider some tones of voice. FIML seeks to beneficially interfere in the processing of immediate interpersonal information in order to understand its deep psychological roots. The FIML technique is fairly easy to do if it is understood that the critical focus is on information that just occurred. ABN

Neural noise indicates our working memory may encode Bayesian probabilities of its contents

The uncertainty in working memory may be linked to a surprising way that the brain monitors and uses ambiguity, according to a recent paper in Neuron from neuroscience researchers at New York University. Using machine learning to analyze brain scans of people engaged in a memory task, they found that signals encoded an estimate of what people thought they saw — and the statistical distribution of the noise in the signals encoded the uncertainty of the memory. The uncertainty of your perceptions may be part of what your brain is representing in its recollections. And this sense of the uncertainties may help the brain make better decisions about how to use its memories.

…the idea that we are walking around with probability distributions in our heads all the time has a certain beauty to it. And it is probably not just vision and working memory that are structured like this, according to Pouget. “This Bayesian theory is extremely general,” he said. “There’s a general computational factor that’s at work here,” whether the brain is making a decision, assessing whether you’re hungry or navigating a route.


FIML practice works precisely with the probabilistics of working memory. If the range of doubt in a perception is stronger than normal, it may prompt a query. If the range is stronger than normal and may indicate danger, a query is more likely. It would make sense that our assessments of these factors would be Bayesian. When perceptions are psychologically important, any Bayesian analysis will require assessing the subjective context into which the perception enters, which implies further Bayesian analyses. It would be wonderful if we had machines that could do this for us, but they will only be invented years from now if ever. For now, we can use our own minds to accomplish this through FIML practice. If you can understand the linked article, you should be able to see the value of FIML which collapses a Bayesian probability curve into the certainty of a single point. Psychologically, when this is done hundreds of times, the results are extremely satisfying. ABN