Neuroscience

Discussion in 'Human Potential, Self Discovery' started by Udarnik, Oct 24, 2017.

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  1. Udarnik

    Udarnik Gold Meritorious Patron

    Most of y'all have figured out that I work in specific areas within Pharma, since I get really detailed about some subjects and am a lot more careful about pontificating on others. One of my areas of specialization is neuroscience, specifically cognition, movement disorders and pain perception.

    As far as I'm concerned, there's far too much woo and irreproducible results (or results that no one has bothered to replicate, which amounts to the same thing) in mainstream neuroscience and psychiatry. HOWEVER. Those disciplines also contain the tools to clean up their own mess, and the fields are beginning to do so. Rejecting those fields because they have sometimes fallen prey to sloppy technique and "eminence-based medicine" is a mistake - especially if the alternative turned to is not based on the scientific method.

    This is to say that, as a strict materialist, I think we should be looking to cognitive science if we want to reach and expand human potential, not un- and anti-scientific speculation.

    One of the recurring themes in my own personal quest to make sense of the world around me is: how can I tell shit from Shinola? (For those of you not from the US, that saying came about because Shinola was a popular brand of black shoe polish. The saying has outlived the company.). I've fallen for my own share of horse shit from sources I trusted, and while you can't protect yourself from *every* con and still function in the world, it behooves every thinking person to get better at this.

    It has long been known that the human brain will make patterns where there are none, because of our innate desire to make sense of the world. Actually, even birds engage in this behavior:

    Even pigeons seem subject to illusory pattern perception. In a classic study by Skinner (1948), hungry pigeons received food at regular time intervals, and as a result, the pigeons increasingly started doing whatever they were doing the last time that they received food. As noted by Skinner,"The experiment might be said to demonstrate a sort of superstition. The bird behaves as if there were a causal relation between its behavior and the presentation of food, although such a relation is lacking."

    Certain types of humans tend to deal with randomness and uncertainty less well than others, but all humans tend to engage in false attributions more when under stress:

    The desire to make sense of the world is of particular importance to people when they lack control (Park,2010) or when they are uncertain (Van den Bos,2009). Consistently, empirical findings reveal that people are particularly likely to believe conspiracy theories when they lack control or are uncertain (Newheiser, Farias, & Tausch, 2011; Marchlewska, Cichocka, & Kossowska, in press; Sullivan, Landau, & Rothschild,2010; Van Prooijen, 2016; Van Prooijen & Acker,2015; Van Prooijen & Jostmann, 2013; for a review,see Kossowska & Bukowski, 2015). Likewise, lacking control or experiencing feelings of uncertainty have been found to increase supernatural beliefs, in the form of superstition (Whitson & Galinsky, 2008), belief in horoscopes (Wang, Whitson, & Menon, 2012), and increased religiosity (Hogg, Adelman, & Blagg, 2010; Kay, Gaucher, McGregor, & Nash, 2010). These findings are consistent with the idea that irrational beliefs are rooted in pattern perception, as establishing relevant patterns makes an unpredictable, uncertain, and potentially threatening environment more predictable. Indeed, control threats have been found to increase the extent to which people misperceive patterns in randomness, and these findings closely mirrored the effects of control threats on irrational beliefs in consecutive experiments (Van Harreveld, Rutjens, Schneider, Nohlen,& Keskinis, 2014; Whitson & Galinsky, 2008).

    The scientific article I linked to is pretty dense, but there is also a pretty decent lay overview, here.

    The question that jumps out in my mind, though, is what can I do about this tendency in my own thinking? There is one finding from this paper that stands out in that regard:

    Following a manipulation of belief in one conspiracy theory, people saw events in the world as more strongly causally connected, which in turn predicted unrelated irrational beliefs.

    In other words, when the researchers asked the participants to read about a conspiracy theory, they started seeing patterns in coin toss and other experiments that they had previously (correctly) attributed to random chance. The practical upshot of this is that if a few hours of reading had this kind of impact, imagine the impact of marinating yourself in this kind of stuff for years.

    Hell, old-timers on the board don't need to imagine, they can think back to a now-banned, formerly prolific poster who, while he had done some significant things to help defeat the cult, not only had a tinfoil hat, he had the tinfoil body armor, leggings and codpiece to go with it.

    From what I've gathered, being in the Co$, especially the higher levels, is a lot like marinating your brain in conspiracy theories. Once out, getting out of the echo chamber, spending some time in non-related activities and / or in the company (virtual or otherwise) of people with conflicting beliefs to yours may help restore normal and healthy cognitive function.
     
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  2. Lone Star

    Lone Star Crusader

    So Udarnik, are ya gonna get a cookie from your Masters at the Bilderberg Group for this thread? Hmmmmmmmmm?

    :bwahaha:
     
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  3. Student of Trinity

    Student of Trinity Silver Meritorious Patron

    The implication of your last lines would seem to be, "Just don't ever believe in conspiracy theories, because once you start you can't stop." But if seeing connections is such a basic instinct, this may be hard.

    Moreover there's probably a reason why seeing patterns is a basic human instinct: sometimes the patterns are real, and the large payoff from recognizing a real pattern early enough to exploit it tends to outweigh the costs of seeing false patterns. If those costs include sinking years of your life into a cult, then they're not easy to outweigh, but I reckon most falsely recognized patterns don't do so much damage. So a strong bias for recognizing patterns is probably useful even if it often produces false positives. Completely reversing the bias might be unwise.

    Just dialing it back to some safer level may also be hard, though, because sometimes even quite weird patterns turn out to be real. So I'm not sure it's easy to recognize a meta-pattern of what kinds of patterns you should recognize versus what kinds you shouldn't. Belief that a simple meta-pattern exists is probably itself just another example of over-interpreting noisy data.

    One meta-rule for good pattern recognition is carefully controlled testing with large sample sizes, especially when the test takes the form of quantitative predictions recorded before measurement and then measured independently by people who don't know the predictions. That's unfortunately not a good general rule, because lots of potentially important patterns just can't be tested that way, for practical reasons. Doing that kind of testing as often as you can, though, may help to reinforce a high standard for what it takes to be really confident about a pattern. That might not stop you from seeing patterns everywhere, but it might lower your confidence in them.

    I also have an almost opposite suggestion that might help when careful testing is impractical: adopt a benign conspiracy theory which can starve out the dangerous ones while causing little damage itself. There are for example many philosophies and religions which allow one to indulge an instinctively pleasing sense of meaningful pattern behind apparent coincidences big or small, but do not encourage dangerous or evil behavior, or discourage careful testing. Pick a benign theory that you like, and decide to give it tentative belief, at least as a sort of placeholder working theory which is subject to revision as needed. Get used to interpreting apparent patterns in terms of that benign theory, and the risk of succumbing to more dangerous theories may be reduced.

    That may not seem like a scientifically rational approach, but I think it actually is, in the sense of your post, which is to take our hard-wired human instincts seriously. Adopting a benign conspiracy theory might not be rational, but I think it might work better to prevent dangerous delusions than simply trying to be more rational dammit. We are not rational souls, and we never will be.

    My own theory is that most large, old religions have evolved into fairly benign conspiracy theories in this sense. Or at least they include some benign variants within their range of parallel traditions. For me Anglicanism has always seemed to work well; I hope it does actually influence my behavior, but I don't think it's ever made me think or do anything for which I afterwards felt like kicking myself. But I'm not sure how detailed or coherent a benign conspiracy theory really has to be, in order to keep malignant ones at bay. Perhaps even Charlie Chan's doctrine would sound wise enough, if you recited it in a solemn voice: "Strange events permit themselves the luxury of occurring."

    Apropos of that, I haven't been around here in a long time, and probably won't be coming back much. Scientology seems to be winding down; I follow Mike Rinder's blog, but it's a quick read. My interest in alternative world views shifted for a while toward Mormonism, which is similar to Scientology in a few ways but different in others. I feel I may have learned most of what I can learn about Mormonism, too, now, though. I'm still somehow fascinated by the suddenly-the-whole-big-picture-changes nature of religious conversion and deconversion, but for the next while at least I think I'll focus on examples of sudden big change that are closer to my work in physics. Right now I'm trying to learn all I can about ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters, which are protein structures that work as portholes in cell membranes. Their sudden big change is to open and close the porthole, to push bad molecules out of the cell, or pull good ones inside.

    I hope everyone here is well!
     
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  4. Lone Star

    Lone Star Crusader

    I was just out back and I just saw a black helicopter flying overhead! I shit you not!

    Talk about timing. Lol...

    It looked just like this one.


    ETA: Oh so "they" aren't allowing me to copy and past an image of it. How conveeeeenient! I tried multiple times.



    There have been reports on InfoWars that "they" are transporting the Man Bear Pig around in a black helicopter. They're experimenting new anti-anxiety drugs on him. Then they're gonna try to turn him gay with tap water. It's admitted!!! Alex has the documents!!

    :lol:

    Okay, no more fooling around here I promise. Great posts Udarnik and S.O.T.
     
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2017
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  5. lotus

    lotus autonomous rebellous

    Great post!
    Very interesting!
    Thks!
     
  6. Udarnik

    Udarnik Gold Meritorious Patron

    SOT, good to hear from you. I hope the new biophysics is going well and is well-funded.

    I can't completely agree with you on several points, the first of which comes from my general observation that even "benign" conspiracy theories such as moderate religions can lead many people to be more credulous than they otherwise would be. OTOH, those relatively benign beliefs aren't going anywhere, either. I think the best solution is to create public spaces and fora where skepticism is taught and urban legends are debunked, as places people might land as a respite from the noise that surrounds us.

    But really, I was thinking more of people who are already aware of this tendency in themselves, and want to combat it after having been sucked down a false rabbit hole. I'd bet that includes a lot of people, here.

    Specifically, I was thinking how many leftists, who see themselves as well above the Infowars-watching credulous Right, have been sucked in by Louise Mench's brand of leftwing conspiracy. Marshal of the SCOTUS, my ass. Stepping away from FB or Twitter, or whatever else is serving heaping helpings of anxiety and conspiracy, and spending time on things that require logic and discernment is sort of like a flu shot for conspiracies. It won't inoculate you completely every time, but even if you catch the bug, it will be milder and easier to recover from.
     
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  7. programmer_guy

    programmer_guy True Ex-Scientologist

    I think that further development in computer artificial intelligence (super-speed parallel processing combined with Big Data) is going to revolutionize neuroscience. (Recently, IBM announced a new CPU chip to advance this.)
     
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  8. Emma

    Emma Mother of Dragons Administrator

    @Udarnik So good to see you! I've missed your smarts.
     
  9. Terril park

    Terril park Sponsor

    Nice to see posts of yours again Udarnik. :)

    That approach has worked for me. I think Scn auditing can be beneficial and worthwhile. Its been so for me and many people
    I know and some I've audited. Not that it always is. Almost
    all other criticisms of Scn and especially the COS I agree with.
    I think it is generally the case that Scientologists do not have
    good critical skills regarding the subject. I've always felt one
    must come to terms with criticism of Scn. I've spent prolonged
    periods on just about all critical forums including here almost
    since its conception. I know personally many ex's and critics
    and get on with them fine, protested for around 7 years on a
    very regular basis with Anons. I'm very well schooled in Scn
    admin being FEBC and to a lesser extent Scn tech. I've had the pleasure of interacting with those highly tech trained
    including class XIIs and old timers who studied with LRH,
    and an auditor who got a degree in Philosophy before
    coming across scn and whose only profession has been
    auditing.

    I think CO$ is well past its sell by date and I hope Leah
    and Mikes efforts to end abuse come to fruition. The subject
    itself will remain here I believe despite all of CO$'s efforts
    which in the end are acting to destroy the subject and
    credibility of Scn.

    CO$ has become a laughing stock.
     
  10. Teanntás

    Teanntás Silver Meritorious Patron

    George Carlin."The limits of debate in this country are established before the debate even begins, and everyone else is marginalized or made to seem either to be communist or some sort of disloyal person. A kook, there's a word. And now it's conspiracy see, they've made that something that should not be even entertained for a minute, that powerful people might get together and have a plan. Doesn't happen! You're a kook! You're a conspiracy buff!"
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
  11. Demented Hubbatd

    Demented Hubbatd Patron with Honors

    I would classify myself as a somewhat religious person -- for me the Creator is a logical necessity, but not something or someone I should worship in terms of the church services and prayers. I do not think this has something to do with a "perception of hostile environment" and lack of control. As a matter of fact, all my friends say that they have never meet someone whose self-esteem is as high as mine (not-so-nice opponents call it "arrogance")

    I do not believe in conspiracy theories, horoscopes and similar shit. However, in my view, scientists who believe that " lacking control or experiencing feelings of uncertainty have been found to increase supernatural beliefs" use unscientific methods to prove their theories -- they haven't done proper statistical analysis of empirical data.

    As a stock market analyst, I use the methods of mathematical statistics on daily basis; similar methods are used in control systems, clinical drug trials and wide variety of fields. However, these methods are not widely accepted in psychology, which makes almost all psychologically theories hypotheses at most. In other words, they do not meet scientific criteria to be called a theory, they are the conjectures that often contradict one another.
     
  12. afaceinthecrowd

    afaceinthecrowd Gold Meritorious Patron

    U-man! SOT! Holy smokes! Great to see Y'all again!

    It's been some weeks since I checked in on ESMB (this is actually my first Post "New Improved"--much improved--Board).

    As usual, you two stimulate, percolate and elevate the Dialogue of the Board.

    "From what I've gathered, being in the Co$, especially the higher levels, is a lot like marinating your brain in conspiracy theories. Once out, getting out of the echo chamber, spending some time in non-related activities and / or in the company (virtual or otherwise) of people with conflicting beliefs to yours may help restore normal and healthy cognitive function."

    U-man, I could not agree with you more wholeheartedly!

    "Marinating" is a most apt description, based upon my years spent on the Apollo in personal servitude to Hisself. I finally walked away from the "echo chamber" but my leaving Scn began before my physical act and continued long after it. I thought I was finally out some years later but, in actuality, I didn't get completely "out" until I found and participated in the ESMB Community and had Dialogue with the many fine, intelligent and decent Folks here.

    I was young, inexperienced and naive--literally, "just off the farm"--when I got into Scn. However, that's an "easy out", "lazy brain" excuse for why I bought into the BS to the point of one day finding myself in the Wizard's personal warren.

    You see, even though I was apprehensive about Scn--even a bit frightened--I wanted "IT" to be true. Although the apprehension--and fear--never left, they were repressed, rationalized and ignored and the consequences of my weakness...no...cowardice...are a permanent part of my life until the day I draw last breath.

    IMHO, Scn by intent and design is a parasitical Ego predator construct that massages, titillates, corrupts, debases, usurps, uses, abuses and sometimes even destroys Egoic function.

    Throughout civilization's history there has always been BS and "noise"; progress and improvement has been a 2 steps forward, 1 step back, 2 steps forward, 4 steps back, 3 steps forward, 1 step back, 2 steps forward, 1 step back, etc kicking and screaming all the way.

    Science--hard science--has brought us to the point that we know so much than before than historically not so long ago and light has been cast on just how little and so how much more there is to be known, and the technology--real technology--that comes out of science is accelerating our historically bum--sometimes Mad Hatter--ride.

    Scn's ultimate value may well be as a Postmortem Case Study of the biggest and most elaborate Pseudo Science and Pseudo Religion Con of the Pre Information Age 20th Century.

    Best Wishes to All Y'all,:yes:

    Face:)

    PS: Emma, you have done OUTSTANDING with this new Board. :clap::clap::clap:There will never be the words to express depth of my gratitude for all that you have done for me and so, so many others. :kiss: :heartbeat::rose:
     
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2017
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