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Author Topic:   On Objectivity and the Mindless Middle
Rahvin
Member (Idle past 35 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


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Message 1 of 17 (549199)
03-04-2010 7:11 PM


On this forum, as on any debate forum, the topic of objectivity vs. subjectivity is often raised. Some of us try to maintain objectivity in our arguments; others make no claims of objectivity at all. Some members adhere rigorously to facts; others are convinced that religious experiences and dogma show that the "facts" have been misinterpreted. In all of these cases, we all fight (or attempt to fight) the innate problems of human bias, the inevitable coloring of our interpretation of facts by our own already-established opinions.

And then there is the Mindless Middle.

quote:
Objective
5. Not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased

Maintaining objectivity in an argument is the practice of arguing on facts and logic alone, with no input from personal emotions or opinions. The focus is on that which is objective, that which exists outside of the mind. None of us are perfect at this; some of us don't even try.

The human mind is influenced to an unbelievably large degree by our subconscious, a creature that has evolved to deal not with a world of logic and reason, of statistics and mathematics and observations, but rather a world of immediate action, of real predators that may be lurking in the shadows, and a world that was impossible to control to any great degree.

Our subconscious mind makes snap decisions for us; decisions we are not consciously aware of, but that we feel as a sort of "gut instinct." While our conscious mind is fully capable of rationality, or impassionate logic and reason, we are constantly assailed by the immediate conclusions of our subconscious mind - conclusions that are based not on facts and evidence, but on previous personal experience and instinct.

This emotional mind colors our perceptions. It can cause us to recognize false patterns and "see" something out of the corner of our eye - a useful survival instinct when there may, in fact, be a predator lurking in the shadows (it's not paranoia, after all, if they really are trying to eat you), but significantly less so when testifying in a trial as to the identity of the person you barely glimpsed. Our subconscious mind considers events of significant emotional impact (things we desire greatly, like wining the lottery, or fear greatly, like terrorism) to be more likely or at least worthy of a response than events of low emotional impact (traffic fatality statistics). Our subconscious cannot even differenciate between fantasy and reality; to the subconscious mind, a dream and a memory create equal familiarization - an emotionally charged dream will color our "gut feelings" more than a bland but detailed memory.

Most relevant in here, however, is our innate desire for fairness. It doesn't matter whether this is the result of cultural influence or an actual built-in instinct. The fact is, most of us have a tendency to prefer solutions that we consider "fair." Unfortunately, our subconscious mind, as earlier noted, doesn't even pretend to try to obtain all (or even any) of the facts before making its decision. Instead, it takes what is immediately available in terms of information, previous experience, and even fantasy.
The result is the Mindless Middle - the position that interprets "objectivity" as maintaining "fairness" to all parties - regardless of factual accuracy. That sense of fairness, like our other subconscious "gut feelings," has its place (for example, choosing a fair punishment for a crime), but only when guided by the rational, conscious mind.

"Teach the Controversy" is one of the results of Mindless Middle arguments. The thought is that by "telling both sides," objectivity is maintained. This, of course, is false: objectivity is maintained only by impassionately following the available facts to whatever logical colcusions they may lead, regardless of emotional impact, personal preference, or human bias. In teh case of the Evolution vs. Creation debate, available scientific facts and theories lead inexoribly to an old Earth in an older Universe, where life has increased in diversity over time through descent with modification guided by natural and sexual selection and genetic drift. Fairness is propagated by "telling both sides" of the Evolution vs. Creation dispute, but Objectivity gets the short stick.

In any given dispute, the Mindless Middle tell us that "truth" lies somewhere between both extremes.

The facts tell us otherwise: sometimes one side is completely wrong; sometimes one side is compeltely right; and sometimes nobody is even close.

We see this effect in politics as well. Many people consider both Republicans and Democrats (here in the US, anyway) to be examples of two extremes, and that the "Correct" course of action lies somewhere in betweenthe right and left.

There is no analysis of fact in such a position. In any given debate (say, raise taxes vs. lower taxes), very few people even look at the budget and create a cogent, logical, and factually-supported arguemnt. Instead, either personal preference takes over ("it's MY money, you can't have it,") or the Mindless Middle ("maybe we should compromise, and do a little of each") typically hold sway. No facts are investigated, but the Mindless Middle considers itself to be "objective" because it didn't "take sides."

This is not to say that one "side" or another is always right, and the other always wrong. In the real world, binary debates are rare; even in the Evolution vs. Creation debate we don't have two sides - instead we have Theistic, Atheistic, and Agnostic Evolution supporters who will each argue amongst themselves even if they all support the Theory of Evolution (see Straggler and RAZD's famous arguments as an example). On the otehr side we have Old and Young Earth Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents (who may or may not classify themselves with or against the Theory of Evolution), a multitude of different religious perspectives, and all manner of other "sides" that flavor the debate.

In this case "objectivity" is not some philosophical chimaera made from every point of view. Only an emotionless analysis of the facts can grant an objective conclusion.

The Mindless Middle is so named because, at it's core, it is the thoughtless "gut feeling" that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I say "thoughtless," and I mean that term quite literally - there is no thought performed, no analysis of fact, that leads to the conclusion. In a debate on whetehr the Earth is flat or round, the Mindless Middle wouldn;t even attempt to look at orbital photographs or mathematical derivations of the curvature of the planet, but would isntead say that the Earth is something between flat and round (perhaps a square? More likely a hemisphere).

How to we avoid the Mindless Middle and maintain real objectivity?

By paying attention to the definition of the word "objective" (specifically, definition 5).

"Not influenced by personal feelings, interpretations, or prejudice; based on facts; unbiased"

We maintain objectivity by shunning emotional reactions, including the emotional preference for "fairness." We maintain objectivity by focusing on the facts available to us, and only the facts, and drawing logically consistent conclusions. We maintain objectivity by disregarding the number of proponents and opponents involved, the number and degree of other conclusions, and remembering that not all conclusions and positions are mutually exclusive. Perhaps most importantly, we maintain objectivity by acknowledging that which we do not know, because otherwise our subconscious mind will fill in the unknowns for us, and it is always possible that all of us are wrong because we do not have all of the facts.

This is why the scientific method includes the reproduction of results and peer review. Peer review is not a popularity contest, as some people seem to believe. When we say that there is a "scientific concensus" that a given model is accurate, it has nothing to do with the number of people involved. Instead, it means that many independant minds attempted to objectively analyze the theory, and were unable to find any logical inconsistencies in teh conclusion, any errors in the methodology, and that the results were readily repeatable on demand. By asking multiple independant teams for criticism, we attempt to eliminate any inherent personal bias.

Why by objective in the first place?

Hoping, wishing, dreaming, fearing, and believing have nothing to do with whether a given statement is true or not. Despite what Oprah and some of her guests say, "positive thinking" by itself will do nothing. You can't wish yourself into a winning lottery ticket; no matter how badly a starving man in the desert wants food, his desires do nothing.

Whether we believe that life's variety is the result of evolution, or special Creation, or an extraterrestrial High School genetics project gone wild, has absolutely no relevance as to which one (if any) has any degree of accuracy.

Only objectivity allows us to be reasonably assured that our conclusions accurately reflect the real world external to our minds. If wishes were wings, we wouldn't need airplanes.

EDIT - "Is it science?" I should think.

Edited by Rahvin, : No reason given.


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Message 2 of 17 (549235)
03-05-2010 5:39 AM


Thread Copied from Proposed New Topics Forum
Thread copied here from the On Objectivity and the Mindless Middle thread in the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Taq
Member
Posts: 8213
Joined: 03-06-2009
Member Rating: 3.9


Message 3 of 17 (549255)
03-05-2010 10:38 AM


Another example of the Mindless Middle in the evo v. creo debate is the insistence that the scientific model is flawed because it excludes the supernatural. This is seen as "unfair" by those who believe in the supernatural even though there is no objective reason to consider the supernatural in the first place.

The same effect can be seen in the philosophical argument between Russell's Teapot and a God of the Gaps. The ID argument boils down to inserting a designer where we least knowledgable. We hear time and again that scientists are ignoring the "possibility of a designer" just as we ignore the possibility that there is a teapot in the orbit of Mars. Even more, one of the main arguments from ID proponents is that if something "looks designed" then it is designed. I can't think of any argument that is more subjective than this.

ID/creationism does fill in the blanks with subjectivity, or religious belief to be more accurate. There is no reason that the supernatural or a designer should be considered if you start from the facts and move towards a logical conclusion. The only argument being put forth to include them is an appeal to fairness.

Edited by Taq, : No reason given.


  
dronestar
Member (Idle past 720 days)
Posts: 1379
From: usa
Joined: 11-19-2008


Message 4 of 17 (549258)
03-05-2010 11:10 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rahvin
03-04-2010 7:11 PM


thanks
Hi Rahvin,

Thanks for disseminating this term and its full explanation. I've often encountered this frustrating debate 'gambit', but didn't know how to label it. Now I do.

d


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Straggler
Member (Idle past 10 days)
Posts: 10285
From: London England
Joined: 09-30-2006


Message 5 of 17 (549262)
03-05-2010 12:25 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rahvin
03-04-2010 7:11 PM


Mindless Middle of Agnosticism
Only objectivity allows us to be reasonably assured that our conclusions accurately reflect the real world external to our minds. If wishes were wings, we wouldn't need airplanes.

Unsurprisingly I agree with you. My own particular bugbear with the "mindless middle" is with those who insist on agnosticism towards some things (bizzarrely fervently) whilst rejecting other equally unevidenced unfalsifiable unknowable concepts as "absurd" purely because people happen to believe in the former but not the latter. It amounts to nothing more than the circularity of citing belief as evidence upon whcih to justify belief.


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onifre
Member (Idle past 1331 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 6 of 17 (549277)
03-05-2010 2:04 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rahvin
03-04-2010 7:11 PM


Unconscious Mind
Hi Rahvin,

I'm having trouble following your entire post. I get what you mean by "mindless middle" and I agree that "Only objectivity allows us to be reasonably assured that our conclusions accurately reflect the real world external to our minds. "

But what do you mean by "unconscious mind" and how does it differ (in a functional way) from our conscious mind? What evidence do you have that it makes "decisions"?

I've never heard or read anything about that, most of the time when I've seen the term "unconscious mind" it is used very loosely. You however are presenting it as something factual and/or something objectively evidenced, which I would be very interested to learn about.

You said: "Our subconscious mind makes snap decisions for us," and "Our subconscious cannot even differenciate between fantasy and reality; to the subconscious mind, a dream and a memory create equal familiarization - an emotionally charged dream will color our "gut feelings" more than a bland but detailed memory." - I don't believe this is a very accurate statement, again, unless you are using the word "subconscious" in a way that I'm not getting.

More to the point, are you saying that there is a conscious mind and an unconscious mind? And if so, can you provide evidence to support that because I would honestly love to read about that.

- Oni


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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 35 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 7 of 17 (549304)
03-05-2010 5:26 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by onifre
03-05-2010 2:04 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
Hi Oni,

I'll begin by saying that a lot of my commentary on the human subconscious has come from The Science of Fear by Daniel Gardner. It's a damned good book, and deals a lot with why collectively we're so terrified of things like the 9/11 attacks while we just passively accept freeway death tolls, despite the fact that an objective analysis of the numbers shows that we're far more likely to be individually affected by an auto accident than by terrorism.

But what do you mean by "unconscious mind" and how does it differ (in a functional way) from our conscious mind? What evidence do you have that it makes "decisions"?

Many experiments have been done relating to how the human mind functions. I'll give a few examples from The Science of Fear, because I happen to have it handy. The first deals with what the author terms "the Law of SImilarity."

quote:
Psychologists found that when they asked students to eat a piece of fudge shaped like dog feces, the students were - shall we say - reluctant. The students knew the fudge was fudge. But it looked like dog feces and that triggered a feeling of disgust- another bit of ancient hardwiring - that they couldn't shake.
The Science of Fear, p.25

The Law of Similarity refers to the tendency of the unconscious mind to assess that appearance equals reality, regardless of what the conscious mind knows. In the above example, the unconscious "gut" triggered a feeling of revulsion that was instinctual simply because the fugde looked like poo, and that feeling persisted even though the students knew with their conscious minds that it was just fudge.

The author later expands on this example with students who were asked to fill a tube labeled as a poisonous substance with sugar (note that the students themselves filled the empty containers with sugar), and were reluctant to eat it simply because of the label - direct knowledge of teh contents be damned.

Later, teh author notes another interesting tendency - when you are presented with a number immediately prior to or contained in the question, your estimation is likely to be higher or lower depending on the number presented.

The example used was "how old was Ghandi when he died?" In the first example, people were first asked if Ghandi was older or youuger than 9 when he died. In the second, people were asked whether he was older or younger than 140.

In the first example, the average guess was 50. In teh second, the average was 67.

This is a guess, made by people whi didn;t know the actual answer. Our unconscious gut shapes how likely we perceive any given answer, and our gut likes what it's familiar with - including what it's most recently heard. So, if you hear a really high number before you're asked to pull a random age out of your head, you're more likely to respond higher than someone who recently heard a lower number.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. Pick up the book - it's worth a read.

I've never heard or read anything about that, most of the time when I've seen the term "unconscious mind" it is used very loosely. You however are presenting it as something factual and/or something objectively evidenced, which I would be very interested to learn about.

The unconscious or subconscious mind in the context I'm using it is simply that part of the brain that functions based on instinct without our awareness of why it makes the judgments it does. We can work it out with experiments like the above, but we aren't aware at the time why we're picking a higher number than others are...or even that we're doing it at all.

Politicians and advertisers use the subconscious mind all the time. Why do you think terrorism and pedophiles and other such objectively rare but emotionally scary and dramatic topics garner such an immensely strong reaction, while nobody can be bothered to give some funding to renovate a bridge that hasn't had proper maintenance funding in a decade?

Why do you think sex sells? Consciously we all know we aren't going to be dating supermodels just because we drink Bud Light (in fact, there may be an inverse correlation there...) but an advertisement filled with scantily clad models playing volleyball will sell more beer than a random guy saying it tastes good.

You said: "Our subconscious mind makes snap decisions for us," and "Our subconscious cannot even differenciate between fantasy and reality; to the subconscious mind, a dream and a memory create equal familiarization - an emotionally charged dream will color our "gut feelings" more than a bland but detailed memory." - I don't believe this is a very accurate statement, again, unless you are using the word "subconscious" in a way that I'm not getting.

At another point in The Science of Fear, the author refers to a study in 1976 where one group was asked to vividly imagine Gerald Ford winning the election and making his acceptance speech. Another group was asked to do the same for Jimmy Carter. They were then asked who they thought was most likely to win. Can you guess the results?

Those who vividly imagined Ford wining considered it more likely that Ford would win. Those who were asked to imagine Carter winning considered it more likely that Carter would win.

It's about familiarity - our subconscious considers that which is more familiar to be more likely...but it can't differentiate between real and imagined memories.

More to the point, are you saying that there is a conscious mind and an unconscious mind? And if so, can you provide evidence to support that because I would honestly love to read about that.

Yes and no. There aren't really two separate "minds" working at odds in the human brain. However, there is a part of our brains that gives us our initial emotional "feeling" towards any given situation. It triggers immediate unease when we see others frightened. It makes us feel comfortable when we're in familiar surroundings. It gives us that "gut" feeling on whether we should take that risk. Describing it separately from the conscious mind is simply a way to better convey what's going on behind the scenes. If I were to put it into computer terms, the conscious mind would be software, and the subconscious mind would be hardware - the operating system doesn't manually direct the video card or control the timing of the RAM or processor frequencies, even as information is passed bettween the hardware and software regularly. So too we are not aware or in control of all of the processes that go on in our brains, even though our awareness receives information from the non-aware portions in the form of immediate instincts and gut feelings (incidentally, the information transfer does go both ways - we can train our immediate instincts to a degree, and this is in large part what happens when training in sports and martial arts, and why right now you're reading without consciously thinking about every letter that forms the words in this sentence).

And more to the topic of this thread, it's the source of appeals to emotion. When someone argues that x is true because x is personally preferable to them, that's their "gut" telling them that x is more likely to be true. When politicians describe terrorism as the single greatest threat to America, that's their "gut" lending more importance to a dramatic negative event that they personally fear, even though an objective analysis would show that even a 9/11 once every week, while certainly terrible, wouldn't have as much of an impact in terms of lives lost as highway traffic, or smoking.

And the Mindless Middle is nothing more than an appeal to emotion - the basic desire to be "fair" to all "sides," creating an illusion of objectivity without actually engaging any analysis of fact.


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nlerd
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 48
From: Minnesota
Joined: 03-03-2010


Message 8 of 17 (549315)
03-05-2010 6:41 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by onifre
03-05-2010 2:04 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
But what do you mean by "unconscious mind" and how does it differ (in a functional way) from our conscious mind? What evidence do you have that it makes "decisions"?

Phobias and irational fears are a good example of the subconscious making decisions for a person. Many people for example are afraid of spiders even though they know that spiders will most likely not hurt them.

Driving is another example. When you first start learing to drive every action is conscious and thought out, but after you've done it enough you can drive without thinking about it.

Edited by nlerd, : No reason given.


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marc9000
Member
Posts: 1079
From: Ky U.S.
Joined: 12-25-2009
Member Rating: 1.6


Message 9 of 17 (549329)
03-05-2010 9:30 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Rahvin
03-04-2010 7:11 PM


Hi Rahvin, good topic!

On this forum, as on any debate forum, the topic of objectivity vs. subjectivity is often raised. Some of us try to maintain objectivity in our arguments; others make no claims of objectivity at all. Some members adhere rigorously to facts; others are convinced that religious experiences and dogma show that the "facts" have been misinterpreted. In all of these cases, we all fight (or attempt to fight) the innate problems of human bias, the inevitable coloring of our interpretation of facts by our own already-established opinions.

And then there is the Mindless Middle.

We see this effect in politics as well. Many people consider both Republicans and Democrats (here in the US, anyway) to be examples of two extremes, and that the "Correct" course of action lies somewhere in betweenthe right and left.

Whether we believe that life's variety is the result of evolution, or special Creation, or an extraterrestrial High School genetics project gone wild, has absolutely no relevance as to which one (if any) has any degree of accuracy.

Only objectivity allows us to be reasonably assured that our conclusions accurately reflect the real world external to our minds. If wishes were wings, we wouldn't need airplanes.

Economist Thomas Sowell wrote a book a few years ago called “A Conflict of Visions” , and I think it neatly sums up the beginning areas of what causes the human bias that leads to most of the complications that you describe above. He divides the two extremes by referring to them as “constrained” vs. “unconstrained” visions. While Sowell applies this mainly to conservative vs. liberal politics, I think it also figures heavily in the creation vs evolution debate as well. I’ll try to condense, as briefly as possible, how he describes those two opposing “visions”.

The constrained vision looks upon human limitations, imperfections, and egocentricity as unchangeable, and seeks to make the best of the possibilities of life within those constraints, rather than “dissipate energies in an attempt to change human nature”.

The unconstrained vision believes in the constant creation of new benefits, by yet untapped potential of human beings. That humans are perfectible, “meaning continually improvable rather than capable of actually reaching absolute perfection”.

This isn’t to say that the constrained vision doesn’t believe in technological advances, but it does have limits in what it believes humans are capable of. The unconstrained vision has few, if any of those limits, and of course the vision of most of today’s scientific community is unconstrained. It’s gotten to the point where definitions of objectivity have become subjective.


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onifre
Member (Idle past 1331 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 10 of 17 (549374)
03-06-2010 1:23 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Rahvin
03-05-2010 5:26 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
Hi Rahvin,

Thanks for this very clear explanation and I actually was looking for a new book to read so I may check it out.

First, I get the overall meaning of what you're trying to explain in this thread. My issue I guess is with the author's use of the term "subconscious" - it seems to be very misleading. He seems to be using the term to indicate another consciousness seperate (sub) from normal consciousness. An area in the brain that has instincts, urges, desires and thoughts - that can make decisions or feel things - when that is not the case at all. And if that's what he/she is claiming, then I feel he/she is making some very false and unevidenced assertions.

Maybe I'm reading too deep into it, but for example:

Rahvin writes:

The unconscious or subconscious mind in the context I'm using it is simply that part of the brain that functions based on instinct without our awareness of why it makes the judgments it does.

But this is the function of the whole brain, there is no seperation. Insticts and urges are chemical reactions to stimuli, not subconscious decision making.

I hope I'm making sense?

However, there is a part of our brains that gives us our initial emotional "feeling" towards any given situation.

Do you have evidence to support that? Because what you are describing is a part of our brain that gives us "qualia" - an area that gives us our subjective experiences.

And more to the topic of this thread, it's the source of appeals to emotion. When someone argues that x is true because x is personally preferable to them, that's their "gut" telling them that x is more likely to be true.

Yeah, I agree. Every single sentient being, I would guess, experiences reality in this way, subjectively.

And the Mindless Middle is nothing more than an appeal to emotion - the basic desire to be "fair" to all "sides," creating an illusion of objectivity without actually engaging any analysis of fact.

I know lots of people like this, and I actually envy it to an extent. Outside of debate, or a debate forum like this one, this "mindless middle" seems like the less stressful way of dealing with things - just not give a shit, and giving both sides equal relevance. I personally can't be that way - I guess I'm wired to object and argue - but I can see how it's an appealing position to take.

- Oni


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onifre
Member (Idle past 1331 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 11 of 17 (549377)
03-06-2010 1:44 PM
Reply to: Message 8 by nlerd
03-05-2010 6:41 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
Hi nlerd,

Phobias and irational fears are a good example of the subconscious making decisions for a person.

I get it in this context. But again, it is misleading. There is no subconscious part of the brain that makes conscious decisions - and that's what it sounds like when you say, "Phobias and irational fears are a good example of the subconscious making decisions for a person."

A more accurate way IMO to say it would be that phobia's and irrational fears are chemical reactions due to stimuli, that act in a specific way because of the way the person's brain developed.

- Oni


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Rahvin
Member (Idle past 35 days)
Posts: 3964
Joined: 07-01-2005


Message 12 of 17 (549388)
03-06-2010 3:47 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by onifre
03-06-2010 1:23 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
My issue I guess is with the author's use of the term "subconscious" - it seems to be very misleading. He seems to be using the term to indicate another consciousness seperate (sub) from normal consciousness. An area in the brain that has instincts, urges, desires and thoughts - that can make decisions or feel things - when that is not the case at all. And if that's what he/she is claiming, then I feel he/she is making some very false and unevidenced assertions.

You seem to be interpreting "subconscious" as being a discreet lobe of the brain that has its own consciousness.

That's not what I (or the author of The Science of Fear) am saying at all.

I am saying that the human brain has many autonomous functions that are not controlled by our awareness. For instance, you do not consciously control your heartbeat, or the digestion off ood. It's all handled automatically. The same with the visual cortex - you aren't aware of the process of receiving signals from the optic nerve and processing them into images.

Remember my brief example of reading? The "subconscious" that I'm talking about is partially evident there. I'm not consciously thinking about how to spell every word that I'm writing, or where I need to place my fingers on the keyboard. I have learned the English language and typing to the degree that writing this message (well, the writing part, not coming up with the message itself) is only barely conscious. I;m doing it without thinking. That is the subconscious I'm talking about.

It's what gives a martial artist his immediate reflexes - repetitious training can allow conscious behavior to "sink down" to the level of a near-autonomous response.

But this is the function of the whole brain, there is no seperation. Insticts and urges are chemical reactions to stimuli, not subconscious decision making.

I hope I'm making sense?

Differentiate "brain" from "mind." The mind is the end result of the brain, but there's a reason that psychology and neurology are separate fields. Again, I'm not claiming that the cerebral cortex or the prefrontal lobe is specifically responsible for this. You;re right - it is the entire brain, because we're talking about a large subset of autonomous functions that range from reading and other aspects of language to walking to some functions that affect our conscious reaction to stimuli.

Do you have evidence to support that? Because what you are describing is a part of our brain that gives us "qualia" - an area that gives us our subjective experiences.

Again, I'm not talking about neuroscience, and I'm not telling you that there's a specific lobe of the brain responsible for all of this. I am saying that you and I are not consciously aware of all of the functions our brains perform, and that specifically some of those unconscious processes color our conscious reaction to stimuli.

Someone brought up spiders. I hate spiders. It's completely irrational, and I will bring to bear vastly greater force than necessary to exterminate any who enter my home, to the point that I could actually damage my own property with my completely unjustified response.

It goes so deep that I actually have an aversion to touching a picture of a spider.

This is what I'm talking about. I consciously know that the picture is not a spider. In most cases I know that even if it were, the spider could not or would not hurt me (not many species are aggressive towards humans, and relatively few species are capable of causing injury to a healthy adult).

But somewhere behind what I rationally think and know, I associate the picture with the thing that I hate, and my "gut" tells me "don't touch, that's a spider!" That feeling is not something that I consciously control, though I can recognize it as irrational and irrelevant and try to ignore it.

Do you better understand what I'm saying?


This message is a reply to:
 Message 10 by onifre, posted 03-06-2010 1:23 PM onifre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 14 by onifre, posted 03-13-2010 12:19 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
nlerd
Member (Idle past 1984 days)
Posts: 48
From: Minnesota
Joined: 03-03-2010


Message 13 of 17 (549391)
03-06-2010 5:31 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by onifre
03-06-2010 1:44 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
I get it in this context. But again, it is misleading. There is no subconscious part of the brain that makes conscious decisions - and that's what it sounds like when you say, "Phobias and irational fears are a good example of the subconscious making decisions for a person."

I wouldn't say that its misleading, I was just using it as an example of something that is not controlled by the "conscious mind". You can know that whatever you fear (a spider for example) can in no way hurt you but you will still go out of your way to avoid it.

Do you have any irrational fears (spiders, planes, snakes, heights)? I'm sure you do, we all do, and if you do how do you explain what causes them?

A more accurate way IMO to say it would be that phobia's and irrational fears are chemical reactions due to stimuli, that act in a specific way because of the way the person's brain developed.

Any action taken is a chemical reaction due to stimuli, that act in a specific way because of the way a person's brain developed. That doesn't mean you are consciously aware that you are doing it, my younger brother used to pick his nose all of the time and didn't even realize he was doing it.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 11 by onifre, posted 03-06-2010 1:44 PM onifre has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 15 by onifre, posted 03-13-2010 12:45 PM nlerd has not yet responded

  
onifre
Member (Idle past 1331 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 14 of 17 (550181)
03-13-2010 12:19 PM
Reply to: Message 12 by Rahvin
03-06-2010 3:47 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
Hi Rahvin, sorry for the late reply.

You seem to be interpreting "subconscious" as being a discreet lobe of the brain that has its own consciousness.

That's not what I (or the author of The Science of Fear) am saying at all.

I was interpreting it that way.

The "subconscious" that I'm talking about is partially evident there. I'm not consciously thinking about how to spell every word that I'm writing, or where I need to place my fingers on the keyboard. I have learned the English language and typing to the degree that writing this message (well, the writing part, not coming up with the message itself) is only barely conscious. I;m doing it without thinking. That is the subconscious I'm talking about.

In this context I fully understand what you, and the author, mean.

I am saying that you and I are not consciously aware of all of the functions our brains perform, and that specifically some of those unconscious processes color our conscious reaction to stimuli.

I'm not aware of any conscious processes in the brain -vs- unconscious. I see something, things happen between my eye and brain, then I react - I'm an not conscious of any of it.

I'll grant you that, since we are each equiped with a different brain, every single persons reaction to stimuli will be different. This is I guess what you mean by certain functions in our brain that color our reaction to stimuli?

But somewhere behind what I rationally think and know, I associate the picture with the thing that I hate, and my "gut" tells me "don't touch, that's a spider!" That feeling is not something that I consciously control, though I can recognize it as irrational and irrelevant and try to ignore it.

Do you better understand what I'm saying?

I get that you react to certain stimuli in a unique way. I guess what I would ask for now is an example of a feeling that you can consciously control, so I can fully understand what you mean.

Thanks for your patience Rahvin.

- Oni


This message is a reply to:
 Message 12 by Rahvin, posted 03-06-2010 3:47 PM Rahvin has not yet responded

  
onifre
Member (Idle past 1331 days)
Posts: 4854
From: Dark Side of the Moon
Joined: 02-20-2008


Message 15 of 17 (550184)
03-13-2010 12:45 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by nlerd
03-06-2010 5:31 PM


Re: Unconscious Mind
I was just using it as an example of something that is not controlled by the "conscious mind".

But there is no conscious mind -vs- unconscious mind, there is only the mind. And if we are being specific in our use of terms, the"mind" is consciousness.

If we change our terms from mind to "brain," and say, the conscious processes in our brain -vs- the unconscious processes in our brain, then I'd ask for an example of a conscious process in your brain?

IMO, it is all an unconscious process. Some dictated by stimuli, some a reaction to stimuli with an added reason based on phobias, etc., some with genetic predispositions as well.

(Example: I am gentically predispositioned for fight instead of flight)

But I don't think any of us are consciously aware of the processes in our brain.

That doesn't mean you are consciously aware that you are doing it, my younger brother used to pick his nose all of the time and didn't even realize he was doing it.

Well sure, you are not consciously aware of certain actions.

But say for instance, you consciously see a piece of paper and grab it. The information hit your eye, some kind of process takes place between your eye and brain, and your hand reached out for it.

Now your little brother is sitting there watching TV. His nose has an itch, some kind of process takes place between the nose and the brain, and he picks his nose.

The only difference in the 2 cases is being consciously aware of the stimuli. The process, as you can see, is the same.

- Oni


This message is a reply to:
 Message 13 by nlerd, posted 03-06-2010 5:31 PM nlerd has not yet responded

Replies to this message:
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