Ming the Mechanic:
What you believe is what you will get

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 What you believe is what you will get2003-10-31 14:51
6 comments
by Flemming Funch

Curt Rosengren mentions a fine little article in Discover Magazine about how our brains are wired for getting us what we expect we'll get, even when it doesn't make sense.
"Touch a pencil with all five fingertips of one hand, close your eyes, and ponder: If each fingertip forms a distinct tactile "image" of the pencil, why do you perceive a single pencil instead of five unconnected pencil fragments? The answer is that your brain has special circuits that help you build complete pictures from fragmented sensory information. In effect, these gap-filling circuits induce your brain to perceive what it expects to see, instead of what it actually sees. When these expectations accurately reflect the objective world around you, your perceptions will be on target. Sometimes, however, what your brain expects to see is far from an accurate representation of reality."
It then has some practical exercises for demonstrating this, which you've probably done as a kid and forgotten. Like, demonstrating to you that you actually have two noses.
The way that expectations shape perceptions has important implications for education. The developing brain processes complex perceptions, such as how difficult an academic subject is, in much the same way it handles simpler sensory information. If a student is led to expect that mathematics is difficult, even simple numerical problems may be perceived as unsolvable. Plain as the nose on your face, what you believe determines what you achieve.
I seem to remember experiments done with prisoners on death row that convinced them that they were dying, when they really weren't. They were promised money for their favorite charity or something. And then, you know, they were blindfolded and their arm anesthesized so they couldn't feel it, and then told that their veins were cut, so the blood would run out, and the point was to see how long they would stay conscious. And sound effects were produced that made it sound like blood was rushing out, even though it wasn't. And the guy died, because he was sure he would. I think they stopped the experiment after the second prisoner died the same way. Anybody has a reference on that? Sorry about the bloody story.

Anyway, the constructive point is of course that we can just as well get ourselves and others into expecting wonderful, magical and positive things to happen. And, again, the point is to do it sufficiently thoroughly that we actually succeed.


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6 comments

1 Nov 2003 @ 11:02 by Edward Dawson @68.136.84.133 : The dying prisoners
Hi Flemming. :)

This ties into the way an individual's "reality" is created:

Perception is created (postulated); in order to perceive something one must first put it there.

There are two sorts of "reality" created this way, which some people confuse with each other.

1. The reality of the physical universe is agreed upon, and consists of multiple considerations (held at multiple locations) which are agreements. This reality only changes when enough people agree that it is different.

2. An individual's reality is different. It consists of considerations held at one location only (as distinguished from considerations held at all locations as in #1). This reality changes practically at whim because only a single mind needs to change.

An individual's life is held at a single location, placed there solely by the willingness of that one individual. It is therefore subject to the rules of #2 instead of #1. Ergo the prisoner, convinced of his own demise, drops dead.

cheers
Ed  



1 Nov 2003 @ 14:18 by ming : Reality
Yeah, it is a lot easier to affect one's personal reality of course. Easier to fail or be successful or be healthy or sick or to die based on one's own beliefs. Much harder to influence the consensus reality.  


4 Nov 2003 @ 04:44 by Jay @209.164.234.53 : Preception
I once heard, the Mind is a place.  


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