Sunday, October 7, 2018

Still pursuing the unconscious mind

Somewhere I got the idea that David Eagleman was an author worth reading.  I downloaded "Incognito" and read it. It was very good. I knew it was good enough that Lynn would like it and I read the book a second time, aloud, to her.  I found myself thinking of what I had read and describing the book to others.

A couple of weeks ago, I was looking through the table of contents on Kirbyvariety, my web site when I found this page:

I felt confident that I would not find anything listed that I was not already fully familiar with, but I was wrong.  I could recall the first two listed and the last one but I had forgotten about the two by Prof. Wilson. I have been looking at them again.  As usual, I find important ideas and examples that I feel like I have never seen before.

In the past, habits have seemed the best evidence I know about that I have an unconscious mind and that it directs many things in me.  I have read before that many procedural patterns of thought reside in the head for a long time. So, I am not surprised that I can ride a bike, as I have since I was 7 years old. Recently, the change pocket in my car got so full that my garage door remote no longer stays in the pocket and often tumbles out on the floor of the car.  Just try moving that device to a new location and see how you find yourself feeling around for it, where it "ought" to be but isn't.

Today, reading in "Strangers to Ourselves", Prof. Wilson explained that when we look at a scene, we quickly and unconsciously decide what is important and what isn't.  I am familiar with the famous invisible gorilla exercise, and I realize that my own mind or someone else can get me to pay attention to one aspect of something and miss another aspect completely.

The performer-magician Apollo Robbins is famous for his pickpocket abilities.  He is expert at getting people to pay attention over there while he picks their pocket over here.  If you look at the page linked above, you will probably also see some links to Robbins' performances.  

Buddhist and modern breath experts often mention breathing as a body process that is under unconscious control but can be temporarily taken over by the conscious mind, as when you breathe deeply and slowly for a few breaths.  The direction of attention seems to be a similar process. The eye will go to movement without conscious decision to look that way, but we can concentrate our vision on a butterfly if we want to.

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