Friday, September 30, 2011

Out in the countryside of the mind

Cordelia Fine's A Mind of Its Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives

Shankar Vedantam's The Hidden Brain: How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives

Prof. Timothy Wilson's Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious

Wray Herbert's On Second Thought: Outsmarting Hard-Wired Habits

I often find myself reviewing Ornstein's hypothesized sensitivity of our human wiring.  He thought we seemed to be put together in a way that organizes our minds and perception systems according to
  • Recency - what was I just doing?
  • Comparison - is this our biggest pumpkin ever?
  • Vividness - is this extra-real in some sense?
  • Meaning - does this mean I will be rich?  Eaten alive?

He makes clear that he means that these types of awareness are part of many levels of our nervous system, not just the high levels up in the brain.

But I am quite aware that my thoughts come from somewhere.  Sometimes, they are about things I don't see any point in thinking about right then.  When I am lusting after cashews but trying to concentrate on paying bills, I resist getting diverted to nuts.  

Where did the thought of nuts come from?  Who ordered that thought front and center?  I have not read anything that really makes clear what part of me sends pre-thoughts to the parts of me that create conscious thoughts.  I am still on the lookout for good, reliable, evidence-based explanations of the conscious mind, the subconscious mind, the unconscious mind and connections and communication between them.

A hot topic in neuropsychology and related subjects these days is "brain plasticity".  The discovery that the brain has parts and subsections but that it does "re-wire" itself as a result of training, learning, experiences is fairly recent.  Recently, reading "Rewire Your Brain" by John Arden, I saw that because we are complex beings and because we have important individual histories that shape us, there are probably several different sources that contribute to what gets thought.  Quite a while back, I learned about "emergence", a way of describing a phenomenon that comes not from a single basic source but EMERGES from a collective, whether it is a group of atoms or bees or vibrations. 

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