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.

Campus PC: It’s the Dumb Students


Good essay worth reading.

FIML partners, note that the core problem is failure to understand the speaker’s real intent. This can be due to not being smart, but is also commonly due to habit. Our subcultures teach us to listen in the ways we do. Not to detract from the essay, but my guess is that the author will himself be a “dumb” interpersonal listener by FIML standards. ABN

Listeners are different from speakers

A listener’s state of mind is different from a speaker’s.

It is more dreamy, often more visual, and has a wider range of associations in play.

For this reason, listeners often react more to their own minds than to what the speaker meant.

An example of this occurred recently.

While my partner was speaking, she referred to someone as a “douche bag.” She meant to distinguish that person from someone else with the same name (who is not a douche bag).

As she said “douche bag,” a strong image rose in my mind of the person in question being pushed into a region of darkness.

In response to that image, I protested “he is not a douche bag”; not so much to recover his honor or reputation as to keep him from being pushed further into the darkness.

She changed her wording and the conversation went on. I completely forgot the incident and the image that had arisen in my mind.

The next morning my partner brought the subject up again and explained in FIML detail why she had used “douche bag.” The memory came back to me.

It’s a good example of how a speaker’s mind differs from a listener’s.

An example of explosive arm’s length (non)communication

The following video provides a good example of arm’s length communication happening in a public forum.

This is a type of formal communication in that it follows some basic forms and deviation from them is rarely allowed. Private communication, in contrast, is intimate communication between close friends where deeper levels of subjectivity are allowed, even desired.

No need to watch too much of this vid because it quickly becomes a ridiculous shouting match:

Do I even need to point out that no one even bothers to define racism? It’s a strong semiotic that once hurled tends to prevent further thought.

My point today is not Trump and the judge, but rather how Trump and the judge is a good example of something that can also happen in private settings.

When nebulous words, ideas, values, or beliefs become strong symbols in private conversations like the word racist in the video, confusion, bad feelings, alienation, or apathy will be the result.

In arm’s length communication, the instinctual human lurks behind signs and symbols much like a wild animal in the forest.

In formal settings, this is typically not a huge problem because everything is predefined. In the video, the exchange is largely a performance designed to excite the viewer.

In private settings between close friends, however, arm’s length communication is a recipe for disaster.

This is so, because even if there are no bad motives, there will be bad interpretations. And these bad interpretations will snowball and eventually lead to problems.

Since almost all of us have been raised in environments that only allow arm’s length communication and see it as the norm, almost all of us carry very heavy psychological baggage.

Few of us know how to overcome the very serious limitations of the communication norms we have learned.

The people in the video are being ridiculous, but almost all of us are just as ridiculous in our own kitchens.

If you want to do better, practice FIML.

Computational psychiatry

Computational psychiatry is a fairly new field that

…seeks to characterize mental dysfunction in terms of aberrant computations over multiple scales….

….Aberrant decision-making is central to the majority of psychiatric conditions and this provides a unique opportunity for progress. It is the computational revolution in cognitive neuroscience that underpins this opportunity and argues strongly for the application of computational approaches to psychiatry. This is the basis of computational psychiatry. (source)

One important computation that I believe is missing from our current understanding of human cognition is the high rate of interpersonal communication error.

Interpersonal communication error is especially significant psychologically because so much of human psychology is based on and grows out of interpersonal communication.

If we are making a lot of mistakes when we communicate with friends, family, spouses, and so forth, it follows that our psychological make-up will be burdened with errors that contribute to mental illness and poor functionality overall.

My considered guess is that most people make several serious mistakes in speaking or listening every hour.

In normal interpersonal conversation, most people  mishear, misspeak, misinterpret, or misunderstand several times per hour.

These mistakes can be very serious. Often they snowball to produce strong emotional reactions that have no basis in fact.

The day will surely come when we will have technology that measures mistakes in communication. Before then, we have to use special techniques to find and correct communication mistakes.

Firstly, we have to recognize that such mistakes are common. Secondly, we have to understand that even a single small mistake can cause big problems. Thirdly, we need a technique to find and correct our mistakes.

FIML or something very similar to it is the technique we have available today. FIML is based on the idea that communication mistakes are common, serious, and have very significant psychological ramifications.

Over time, FIML practice completely changes the way we view communication, self, and other.

Whole brain transformation through micro accumulations

Can we achieve whole brain transformation through an accumulation of micro inputs?

In other words, can we achieve deep transformation by gathering many small bits of information? Or by many small insights?

To ask is to answer. Most deep transformation happens this way.

We see something, see it from another angle, see it again and again, and eventually a transformation happens. It takes time.

We don’t usually make deep changes in a single moment with no prior accumulation of bits of knowledge or insight. What happens is the bits accumulate into a large enough mass of information and we “suddenly” change.

Changes of this type can occur within skill sets, within thought and emotional patterns, and within our general psychology.

An example of this kind of change happened to me recently.

For years, my partner had been telling me that I have a “positive neurosis” about some friends of ours. (A positive neurosis is an “overly-optimistic mistaken interpretation of something.”)

And for years, she tried to convince me that I was making a mistake. My mistake persisted for a long time because we rarely saw those friends.

Persisting for a long time was sort of good because it showed me how deep-seated this mistake was and that I have made it in many areas of my life.

My positive neurosis was that I thought these friends were extremely open to freewheeling discussions where almost anything can be said.

“No, they are not like that. You just think they are like that,” my partner said.

It came to pass that I found out she was right. Those friends do not like that sort of discussion. They do not even understand what the point of it could be.

So I changed. I made a deep transformation in how I see them, how I see myself, and how I see other people in general.

I now know that I have to be more careful in how I speak and in what I assume about others. Some people are discomfited by freewheeling talk and suffer from it. Not my intent! A positive neurosis to think otherwise!

This realization came about slowly—first through a long accumulation of bits of information coming from my partner and then by a more rapid understanding that what she had been saying was right when we had a chance to spend some serious time with the friends in question (who are still friends, I think).

My partner got me to see that through an accumulation of many FIML queries and follow-up discussions about those friends. Even though I never agreed with her, I did store her views away in my mind.

When circumstances were right, I saw she was right and I was wrong and changed.

I do not feel ashamed or sad or humiliated. I simply realize that I was wrong.

An accumulation of many micro bits of information caused a deep transformation in my mind as soon as conditions were right.

FIML shows us that finding out we are wrong about stuff like that is great, wonderful, the best thing.

I am going to suffer less and our old friends, and others, will too. A mistake I have been making and that was a fairly large part of my mind is gone and now I am free to fill that space with better stuff.

Most FIML queries are about the two partners who are doing FIML. What happened above is a type of FIML that involves our understanding of other people.

The one above bore good fruit because the long time duration forced me to see how deep my mistake was.