View Full Version : Another datapoint on how we perceive ourselves

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01-04-2012, 01:15 AM
"A lot of people thought the sense of self was hard-wired, but it's not at all. It can be changed very quickly, and that's very intriguing,"


01-04-2012, 06:14 AM
Henrik's work speaks to the idea that there is no such thing as a soul or a self that's independent of the brain.

I'm sure religious people will find that a tough pill to swallow. Very thought provoking subject nonetheless.

01-04-2012, 06:35 AM
Yes agreed.

The learned ego identity is useful and changeable.

Since we know through neuro-plasticity that hard-wiring is change-able, there perhaps are many things we accept/perceive as reality that we want to challenge.

Perhaps 2500 years of Buddhist peace of mind is getting some validation?

01-04-2012, 08:02 AM
I'm sure religious people will find that a tough pill to swallow. Very thought provoking subject nonetheless.

Personally I find this soul business too much of a leap in an uninteresting direction. What is fascinating to me is the extent to which the "reality" (or perhaps "the reality") is a biochemical construct that can be manipulated or "hacked" if you will.

In ten seconds, with a pair of VR glasses.

01-04-2012, 08:39 AM
Sounded like it was mainly just tricking the senses. It's not as though people actually believed they were in another body, or were able to control it. They just "felt" like they were.

Keith Larman
01-04-2012, 09:41 AM
What's deeper about this sort of research is two-fold. One is pointing out that all the senses work together in a unified fashion where speaking of any one sense in isolation of the others generally makes little sense. The second then is how active the brain is in "constructing" our reality for us from the input field but also from our understandings of things.

I'm hard of hearing with a difficult hearing loss profile. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that hearing aids were able to be tuned properly to my loss. But once I had a reasonably well tuned set of hearing aids it was extremely difficult for me for a while to function. So much noise, so much information constantly overloading my brain. I could only wear them for a short duration and over time I was able to build up to a point where I could wear them almost all day.

Then one day something curious happened (well, curious for me as a person at that point working in Psych research with a degree in philosophy). One day one of my aids malfunctioned. So I went to work without them. I was in a meeting and I realized my hearing was *terrible*. Okay, it was terrible before, but I was having trouble understanding things people were saying that prior to my hearing aids I was able to easily hear. I was in a closed room with only a few people and they weren't talking over each other. But I just couldn't make out what they were saying...

So I thought about it that night. Had my hearing gotten worse? What was going on. The next day I'm in another meeting and I'm finding it easier to understand again. Not great, but better. Over the next few weeks while my aids were being repaired my hearing rapidly improved back to where it had been. Certainly not great but I was functional again for the most part if conditions were good.

My hearing aids came back and I gladly put them back in. Damned if it wasn't super loud, distracting and stressful as hell all over again. But this time it only took a little while for me to adjust. Soon I was back to "normal".

What I soon realized is that I had learned to focus my vision (and everything else I suppose) on whoever was speaking. With a hearing loss there are all sorts of subtle cues that would help me "understand" what someone was saying. Sort of like the idea of lip reading. I came to realize that what we do isn't literally lip reading. And it's not like they portray in the movies. I'm not watching their lips. I'm watching everything. And when I'm watching everything I can literally *hear* what they're saying better. It's not like there's a translation layer going on, I literally *hear* it better.

When I first put in my hearing aids the brain was bombarded with a level of noise that I simply had never experienced. It took a lot of time for the brain to do what "normal" hearing people already do automatically -- namely ignore the fan noise of the computer, the ventilation system, the creaks of the floors, the passing traffic noise, etc. All you city people know the experience of going out in to the desert on some cool night and being confronted with a "deafening" silence. You notice the silence. Not because you notice the sound when you're in it, but because your brain works constantly to filter it out for you outside your conscious view.

The point here is that our experienced reality (the world as we perceive it) is heavily constructed by our internal systems. It is a complex combination of *everything* coming in. Most don't realize this, but our visual acuity is rather terrible outside the center of our focus. But we would all swear what we're looking at is perfectly clear from side to side, top to bottom. But frankly our eyes don't work that way. We dart around filling in blanks while our brain fills in the rest. Early on with high def monitors some were working on the idea of having a camera track the user's focus on the screen to devote cpu cycles to only making that area high def while the rest could stay low res. Done correctly (which was very difficult) users would see a "full" high definition screen even though the computer was only drawing a small portion in high resolution.

There has also been some great research on magicians by neuro-biologists. How do things like misdirection work. Doing a simple toss of a coin from one hand to the other repeatedly, if the magician palms it in the throwing hand skillfully on the final toss most observers would say they literally *saw* the coin go from one hand to the other. But it didn't. Were their perceptions incorrect? I'd say no, they *saw* it. It just wasn't really there. The issue is that our apparatus is extremely active filling in an awful lot of what we perceive of as reality.

The systems can be skewed. The systems can be hacked in a sense. That's why so many leading things in aikido can work so well. But also why it has to be subtle.

Another interesting factoid from magicians is that a slightly circular movement forces the viewer to work harder to track. A straight line movement is "predictable" so the eyes will immediately travel to the end and then come back. A slightly curved movement isn't predictable so they will tend to focus harder on movement as it occurs basically reducing their ability to "see" anything else going on. So think about all those fancy hand wavy things magicians do. Then think of those hand wavy things some in Aikido do... Focus, tracking, leading... Hacking the system. Controlling the system.

We tend to look at our perceptual systems as discrete, independent things. In some sense they are. But all that input goes in to the brain and is in fact woefully inadequate on its own. Anyone with a sense impairment can give stories like mine. I literally hear better when I can see your face which is why I *hate* talking on the phone. Hearing aids or not it is difficult for me. But once I can see your face I can "hear" you better. Consider also research on lying. Those skilled at lying will often avoid using the telephone. The reason is that they use body language, reassuring smiles, a small touch, body movements, proximity, etc. to add sincerity and to "work" your perceptions. When it is just down to the voice insincerity for most becomes more obvious (unless you're a *really* good liar).

Anyway, enough rambling from me. Just an area of personal interest to me. The whole thing about the "soul" strikes me as a silly detour and irrelevant to the research. It's about perception and how perception is in fact "perceived". :)

01-04-2012, 12:01 PM
Sometimes I like to step outside of myself to analyze things from an objective perspective. When debating, I often frame my argument in such a way that I put the facts at hand before my own opinions and feelings. In this way I isolate the matter at hand from myself so that ad hominems, strawmans, and other tools of misreason can not be used against it.

I find it very interesting this idea of getting people to see-hear-feel from the vantage point of another, or simply just from a perspective beyond their own.

Another concept would be simultaneously perceiving things from your own perspective and that of somebody else. Similar to the way our brain takes input from two separate eyes and synthesizes it into a singular form of interpretable data. Or like reading and listending to a side conversation at the same time.

01-04-2012, 02:19 PM
...But frankly our eyes don't work that way. We dart around filling in blanks while our brain fills in the rest.

Reminds me of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_W-IXqoxHA Our capacity to overestimate the fidelity of our senses is quite amazing.

01-05-2012, 10:40 AM
I love this stuff! It's so interesting how many holes in our perceptions there are, and how suggestibility lends the brain to painting a whole new landscape...metaphorically speaking of course. :)
Proprioception effects are a great example of how we presume to have a real understanding of where some given point on the body is in space, but where in fact we only have an approximation that generally works.
Also, I think back to the movies they'd show at the county fair of a first-person perspective riding in roller coasters and car chases. People would act as if they're suddenly falling or are about to hit an oncoming stack of fruit boxes.

01-06-2012, 01:30 AM
And then there is time perception: http://edge.org/3rd_culture/eagleman09/eagleman09_index.html

If I was a religious person, I would have probably demanded some explanations from the creating deity.