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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The authors state that:

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

The full abstract says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genes, behavior, intelligence and how they are linked

This subject can no longer be avoided by anyone interested in anything.

Here is the best brief overview of this subject I have ever seen: 10 Replicants in Search of Fame.

The author, James Thomson, has very capably summarized a longer paper: Top 10 Replicated Findings From Behavioral Genetics.

Both papers are worth reading, but Thomson’s is the better place to start for most people. Here is a sample:

Rather than asking whether a monolithic factor like parental control is primarily responsible for non-shared (unique) effects, it might be necessary to consider many seemingly inconsequential experiences that are tipping points in children’s lives. The gloomy prospect is that these could be idiosyncratic stochastic experiences. However, the basic finding that most environmental effects are not shared by children growing up in the same family remains one of the most far-reaching findings from behavioral genetics. It is important to reiterate that the message is not that family experiences are unimportant, but rather that the salient experiences that affect children’s development are specific to each child in the family, not general to all children in the family.

Here is another:

More than 100 twin studies have addressed the key question of co-morbidity in psychopathology (having more than one diagnosed disorder), and this body of research also consistently shows substantial genetic overlap between common disorders in children and in adults. For example, a review of 23 twin studies and 12 family studies confirmed that anxiety and depression are correlated entirely for genetic reasons. In other words, the same genes affect both disorders, meaning that from a genetic perspective they are the same disorder.

Very small decisions and what they show about us

A very small decision I make on many mornings is which coffee cup is going to be mine and which goes to my partner.

The two cups we normally use are the same and I cannot tell one from the other. If I thought one was better than the other, I would give it to her.

What happens is at some point while I take the cups from the cupboard and set them on the counter, I incline toward deciding that one of them will be for me and one for her. This “decision” is so small I describe it as “incline toward deciding.”

As I continue preparing morning coffee, my very small decision about which cup is mine spends more time in my mind. By the time I pour the coffee, I am generally always mildly set on which one is going to be mine for the morning and which hers.

My initial “inclining toward deciding” has changed into my being “mildly set on” which cup is mine. I might even feel a bit possessive toward “my” cup as I pour the coffee.

The main point is that once we make even a very weak decision or incline toward a weak decision it requires energy to change that.

Of course, I do not really care which cup I get and yet I have inclined toward one or decided on one of them. At some point in this process you have to do that.

If I try to change my decision once the coffee is poured and give “my” cup to my partner, I am aware of expending a bit of energy.

The energy required to change which cup is mine is greater than the energy required to decide which cup is mine. I only fell into my initial decision but must climb out of it if I want to change it.

I bet you do this or something like it, too. Just watch yourself and observe it happening. Once you see it, try changing to the other cup or whatever it is you have chosen.

It’s not hard to change your decision but it decidedly requires a little bit of energy. That may be some of the smallest mental energy you will ever exert, but you will have to exert it.

I find I feel a bit awkward when I change my initial decision. It seems my mind is already set at some lower level so the meta-level that  changes that does not have the right networking or connections for the transition to be completely smooth. This is the opposite of the initial decision which seems to have required little or no energy. And has managed to grow bigger all on its own, outside of my awareness.

Notice also, if you are like me, you will happily give your partner the better cup if one of them is better. That decision, too, will require energy to change, maybe even more energy than if the cups are the same. This probably happens because if you change your decision to the better cup (for yourself), you will also feel a bit selfish in addition to the above considerations. This will happen even if your partner wants you to change cups.

So either way—changing between two cups that are the same or changing from the worse cup to the better one—you will need to expend a bit of energy, even though your initial decision probably required none at all.

Repost: Networks of words, semiotics, and psychological morphemes

On this site we have claimed many times that words and semiotics are held together in networks. We have further hypothesized that “psychological morphemes” are also held together in networks.

A “psychological morpheme” is the smallest meaningful unit of a psychological response. It is the smallest unit of communication that can give rise to an emotional, psychological, or cognitive reaction.

Of course word networks, semiotic networks, and emotional, psychological, and cognitive networks all intertwine with each other.

FIML practice is designed to help partners untangle unwanted emotions from these intertwined networks. FIML practice focuses on psychological morphemes because they are small and thus rather easily understood and rather easily extirpated from real-time contexts (when partners are interacting in real life in real-time).

The hard part about FIML practice is it is done in real life in real-time. But the easy or very effective part about FIML is that once partners learn to do it, results come quickly because the practice is happening in real life in real-time. It is not just a theory when you do it in that way. It is an experience that changes how you communicate and how you understand yourself and others.

In FIML practice partners are mindful of their emotional reactions and learn that when one occurs, it is important to query their partner about it. They are mindful of psychological morphemes and as soon as one appears, but before the morpheme calls up a large network leading to a strong reaction, they query their partner about it.

This practice leads, we have claimed, to a fairly smooth and effortless extirpation of unwanted psychological responses. This happens, we believe, because the data provided by the partner that “caused” the reaction shows the partner who made the FIML query that the psychological morpheme in question arose due to a misinterpretation. Seeing this repeatedly for the same sort of neurotic reaction causes that reaction and the psychological network that comprises it to become extinguished.

A fascinating study from the University of Kansas by Michael Vitevitch shows that removing a key word from a linguistic network will cause that network to fracture and even be destroyed. An article about the study and a link to the study (pay wall) can be found here: Keywords hold vocabulary together in memory.

Vitevitch’s study involves only words and his analysis was done only with computers because, as he says, ““Fracturing the network [in real people] could actually disrupt language processing. Even though we could remove keywords from research participants’ memories through psycholinguistic tasks, we dared not because of concern that there would be long-term or even widespread effects.”

FIML is not about removing key words from linguistic networks. But it is about dismantling or removing psychological or semiotic networks that cause suffering.

Psychological or semiotic networks are networks rich in emotional meaning. When those networks harbor unwanted, inappropriate, or mistaken interpretations (and thus mistaken or unwanted emotions), they can cause serious neurotic reactions, or what we usually call simply “mistaken interpretations.”

We believe that these mistaken interpretations and the emotions associated with them can be efficiently extirpated by revealing to their holder the “key” psychological morphemes that set them off.

My guess is the psychology of a semiotic network hinges on repeated reactions to key psychological morphemes and that this process is analogous to the key words described in Vitevitch’s study.

Vitevitch did not remove key words from actual people because it would be unethical to do so. But it is not unethical for consenting adults to help each other find and remove key psychological morphemes that are harmfully associated with the linguistic, semiotic, cognitive, and psychological networks that make up the individual.

Panpsychism, pansignaling, and Buddhism

Panpsychism means “all mind” or mind in all things, with an emphasis on cognition being a fundamental aspect or part of nature.

Pansignaling means “all signaling” or signaling in all things, with an emphasis on signaling being a fundamental aspect or part of nature.

I like the term pansignaling because it gets us to look at the signals, without which there is nothing.

Another word that is close to these two is panexperientialism, which connotes that “the fundamental elements of the universe are ‘occasions of experience’ which can together create something as complex as a human being.”

These ideas or similar can be found in the Huayan and Tiantai schools of Buddhism.

Highly recommend giving these ideas some thought and reading the links provided above.

I  tend to favor thinking of this stuff from the signaling point of view. A signal can be found, defined, analyzed, and so on. A signal is a fairly objective thing. When we consider signals and consciousness, it is very natural to consider that signals are parts of networks and that networks can be parts of bigger networks.

As I understand it, panexperientialism holds the view that atoms have experience, and that molecules have experience as do the atoms that make them up… and so on till we get to cells, organs, brains, human consciousness. Human consciousness, which is fundamentally experiential, is what humans mainly think of as experience. At all levels, the “parts” of human consciousness also are conscious or cognizant and thus capable of experience. Thus, there is no mind-body problem. Cognition or awareness is part of nature from the very bottom up. For example, a single bacterium can know to move toward something or away from it.

Life is “anti-entropic signaling networks” that organize, self-organize, combine, cooperate, compete, eat, and change constantly. From this, we can see where impermanence and delusion as described in Buddhism come from.

People suck at judging others

A new study indicates that “it is incredibly easy to be mistaken” about another human being’s intentions.

Dr Warren Mansell, lead author of the study, said:

We think we know what someone is doing just by observing them… But our study shows that it is incredibly easy to be mistaken… In psychological research, for example, this study suggests that some behaviour studied may be no more than a side effect of participants’ true intentions. (Source)

Dr Mansell says that if you want to know people’s true intentions, you need to ask them. His study is designed to help psychologists and others be better at changing people’s unwanted behaviors, but it really applies to all of us because none of us is good at inferring the true intentions of others without asking them.

The study is here: Control blindness: Why people can make incorrect inferences about the intentions of others.

The abstract:

There is limited evidence regarding the accuracy of inferences about intention. The research described in this article shows how perceptual control theory (PCT) can provide a “ground truth” for these judgments. In a series of 3 studies, participants were asked to identify a person’s intention in a tracking task where the person’s true intention was to control the position of a knot connecting a pair of rubber bands. Most participants failed to correctly infer the person’s intention, instead inferring complex but nonexistent goals (such as “tracing out two kangaroos boxing”) based on the actions taken to keep the knot under control. Therefore, most of our participants experienced what we call “control blindness.” The effect persisted with many participants even when their awareness was successfully directed at the knot whose position was under control. Beyond exploring the control blindness phenomenon in the context of our studies, we discuss its implications for psychological research and public policy.

I would maintain that all people very often “fail to correctly infer” the intentions of people interacting with them and that this effect snowballs, thus causing either confusion or retreat to easily shared social norms (which may themselves also be misunderstood).

FIML practice is designed to overcome this problem for all forms of communication that occur between FIML partners.