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How Language Works. The cognitive science of linguistics | Indiana University

How Language Works. The cognitive science of linguistics | Indiana University | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"One way to define linguistics is as the study of language itself, which can be contrasted with language behavior. Language behavior is studied by people in the fields of psycholinguistics, language development, natural language processing, and computational linguistics, and there is often an attempt to keep these fields distinct from linguistics "proper". I believe that it is more productive to see all of these fields as making up "the language sciences" or "language science", and it is really this meta-field that is the topic of this book."

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Cognitive science
The interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. Mind, brain, consciousness, neuroscience...
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Douglas Hofstadter: The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think

Douglas Hofstadter: The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Douglas Hofstadter: The Man Who Would Teach Machines to Think
“ "All the limitative theorems of metamathematics and the theory of computation suggest that once the ability to represent your own...
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"In 1931, the Austrian-born logician Kurt Gödel had famously shown how a mathematical system could make statements not just about numbers but about the system itself. Consciousness, Hofstadter wanted to say, emerged via just the same kind of “level-crossing feedback loop.” (…)

“Cognition is recognition,” (...) That’s what it means to understand. (...)

“Look at your conversations,” he says. “You’ll see over and over again, to your surprise, that this is the process of analogy-making.” Someone says something, which reminds you of something else; you say something, which reminds the other person of something else—that’s a conversation. It couldn’t be more straightforward. But at each step, Hofstadter argues, there’s an analogy, a mental leap so stunningly complex that it’s a computational miracle: somehow your brain is able to strip any remark of the irrelevant surface details and extract its gist, its “skeletal essence,” and retrieve, from your own repertoire of ideas and experiences, the story or remark that best relates.

“Beware,” he writes, “of innocent phrases like ‘Oh, yeah, that’s exactly what happened to me!’ … behind whose nonchalance is hidden the entire mystery of the human mind.” (…)

“Nobody is a very reliable guide concerning activities in their mind that are, by definition, subconscious,” he once wrote. “This is what makes vast collections of errors so important. In an isolated error, the mechanisms involved yield only slight traces of themselves; however, in a large collection, vast numbers of such slight traces exist, collectively adding up to strong evidence for (and against) particular mechanisms.” Correct speech isn’t very interesting; it’s like a well-executed magic trick—effective because it obscures how it works. What Hofstadter is looking for is “a tip of the rabbit’s ear … a hint of a trap door.” (...)

“I have always felt that the only hope of humans ever coming to fully understand the complexity of their minds,” Hofstadter has written, “is by modeling mental processes on computers and learning from the models’ inevitable failures.”

 

#consciousness #AI #cognition #MachineLearning #Escher

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Brain processes 'big' words faster than 'small' words

Brain processes 'big' words faster than 'small' words | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
(Medical Xpress)—Bigger may not always be better, but when it comes to brain processing speed, it appears that size does matter.
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"Bigger may not always be better, but when it comes to brain processing speed, it appears that size does matter.


A new study has revealed that words which refer to big things are processed more quickly by the brain than words for small things.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow had previously found that big concrete words – 'ocean', 'dinosaur', 'cathedral' – were read more quickly than small ones such as 'apple', 'parasite' and 'cigarette'.

 

Now they have discovered that abstract words which are thought of as big – 'greed', 'genius', 'paradise' – are also processed faster than concepts considered to be small such as 'haste', 'polite' and 'intimate'.

Dr Sara Sereno, a Reader in the Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology who led the study said: "It seems that size matters, even when it's abstract and you can't see it."

 

The study, published in the online journal PLoS ONE, also involved researchers from Kent, Manchester and Oregon. Participants were presented with a series of real words referring to objects and concepts both big and small, as well as nonsense, made-up words, totalling nearly 500 items. The different word types were matched for length and frequency of use.

 

The 60 participants were asked to press one of two buttons to indicate whether each item was a real word or not. This decision took just over 500 milliseconds or around a half second per item. Results showed that words referring to larger objects or concepts were processed around 20 milliseconds faster than words referring to smaller objects or concepts. (...)

 

Lead author Dr Bo Yao said: "It turned out that our big concrete and abstract words, like 'shark' and 'panic', tended to be more emotionally arousing than our small concrete and abstract words, like 'acorn' and 'tight'. Our analysis showed that these emotional links played a greater role in the identification of abstract compared to concrete words."

 

"Even though abstract words don't refer to physical objects in the real world, we found that it's actually quite easy to think of certain concepts in terms of their size," said co-author Prof Paddy O'Donnell. "Everyone thinks that 'devotion' is something big and that 'mischief' is something small."

Bigger things it seems, whether real or imagined, grab our attention more easily and our brains process them faster – even when they are represented by written words."

 

-- Size matters: Brain processes 'big' words faster than 'small' words, Medical Xpress, 26, Sept, 2013

 

See also: Semantic Size of Abstract Concepts: It Gets Emotional When You Can’t See It, PLoS ONE

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Brain overload explains missing childhood memories

Brain overload explains missing childhood memories | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Scientists believe they've learned why toddlers don't retain early memories.
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"Scientists -- and parents -- have long wondered why we don’t remember anything that happened before age 3. As all parents know, no matter how momentous an event is in a toddler’s life, the memory soon drifts away and within months there isn’t even a wisp of it left.

Now a new study shows that “infantile amnesia” may be due to the rapid growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for filing new experiences into long-term memory.  (...)

Frankland suspected that memories actually got filed away into long-term storage, but that the hippocampus lost track of where they’d been stacked during the rapid growth phase that takes place in the first few years of life.

As the hippocampus matures, huge numbers of new neurons come on line and need to be hooked into existing circuits, he says. The most likely scenario is that in all that restructuring, the brain “forgets” where it stored the memories.

As the expansion slows down, the brain can better keep track of where everything is filed away – so long-term memory gets better as youngsters get older. (...)

It seems like a case of overload, she says. The hippocampus has two jobs: to make a sort of tape recording of each event and then to file that tape recording away in long-term storage, with flags that allow the person to retrieve it. With all the energy spent making new neurons, the filing never gets done."

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False Memories of Fabricated Political Events by S. Frenda, E. Knowles, W. Saletan, E. Loftus (pdf)

False Memories of Fabricated Political Events by S. Frenda, E. Knowles, W. Saletan, E. Loftus (pdf) | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
In the largest false memory study to date, 5,269 participants were asked about their memories for three true and one of five fabricated political events. Each f
Amira's insight:

"Study asks 5,269 people about fabricated political event. 50% remember the false event, 27% saw it on the news".

 

Abstract:     
"In the largest false memory study to date, 5,269 participants were asked about their memories for three true and one of five fabricated political events. Each fabricated event was accompanied by a photographic image purportedly depicting that event. Approximately half the participants falsely remembered that the false event happened, with 27% remembering that they saw the events happen on the news. Political orientation appeared to influence the formation of false memories, with conservatives more likely to falsely remember seeing Barack Obama shaking hands with the president of Iran, and liberals more likely to remember George W. Bush vacationing with a baseball celebrity during the Hurricane Katrina disaster. A follow-up study supported the explanation that events are more easily implanted in memory when they are congruent with a person's preexisting attitudes and evaluations, in part because attitude-congruent false events promote feelings of recognition and familiarity, which in turn interfere with source attributions."

 

See also: Creating False Memories by Elizabeth F. Loftus http://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/sciam.htm

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The Centrifuge Brain Project: Scientists Solve Mankind’s Great Problems by Spinning People

The Centrifuge Brain Project: Scientists Solve Mankind’s Great Problems by Spinning People | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
What if the very thing that made you feel crazy happy also made you smarter?
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"What if the very thing that made you feel crazy happy also made you smarter? That’s the question underlying the work of the Institute for Centrifugal Research, where scientists believe that spinning people around at a sufficiently high G-force will solve “even the trickiest challenges confronting mankind.” (...) The culminating experiment features a ride that resembles a giant tropical plant. Riders enter a round car that rises slowly up, up, up and then takes off suddenly at incredibly high speed along one of the “branches.”

“Unpredictability is a key part of our work,” says Laslowicz. After the ride, he says, people described experiencing a “readjustment of key goals and life aspirations.” Though he later adds that he wouldn’t put his own children on one of his rides. “These machines provide total freedom,” Laslowicz says, “cutting all connection to the world we live in: communication responsibility, weight. Everything is on hold when you’re being centrifuged.”

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Daniel C. Dennett on an attempt to understand the mind; autonomic neurons, culture and computational architecture

Daniel C. Dennett on an attempt to understand the mind; autonomic neurons, culture and computational architecture | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Daniel C. Dennett on an attempt to understand the mind; autonomic neurons, culture and computational architecture
“ “What Darwin and Turing had both discovered, in their different ways, was the...
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"We’re beginning to come to grips with the idea that your brain is not this well-organized hierarchical control system where everything is in order, a very dramatic vision of bureaucracy. In fact, it’s much more like anarchy with some elements of democracy. Sometimes you can achieve stability and mutual aid and a sort of calm united front, and then everything is hunky-dory, but then it’s always possible for things to get out of whack and for one alliance or another to gain control, and then you get obsessions and delusions and so forth.

You begin to think about the normal well-tempered mind, in effect, the well-organized mind, as an achievement, not as the base state. (...) You’re going to have a parallel architecture because, after all, the brain is obviously massively parallel. It’s going to be a connectionist network. (...)

[Y]ou begin to realize that control in brains is very different from control in computers. (...) Each neuron is imprisoned in your brain. I now think of these as cells within cells, as cells within prison cells. Realize that every neuron in your brain, every human cell in your body (leaving aside all the symbionts), is a direct descendent of eukaryotic cells that lived and fended for themselves for about a billion years as free-swimming, free-living little agents. They fended for themselves, and they survived.

They had to develop an awful lot of know-how, a lot of talent, a lot of self-protective talent to do that. When they joined forces into multi-cellular creatures, they gave up a lot of that. They became, in effect, domesticated. They became part of larger, more monolithic organizations.  (...)

Maybe a lot of the neurons in our brains are not just capable but, if you like, motivated to be more adventurous, more exploratory or risky in the way they comport themselves, in the way they live their lives. They’re struggling amongst themselves with each other for influence, just for staying alive, and there’s competition going on between individual neurons. As soon as that happens, you have room for cooperation to create alliances, and I suspect that a more free-wheeling, anarchic organization is the secret of our greater capacities of creativity, imagination, thinking outside the box and all that, and the price we pay for it is our susceptibility to obsessions, mental illnesses, delusions and smaller problems.

We got risky brains that are much riskier than the brains of other mammals even, even more risky than the brains of chimpanzees, and that this could be partly a matter of a few simple mutations in control genes that release some of the innate competitive talent that is still there in the genomes of the individual neurons. But I don’t think that genetics is the level to explain this. You need culture to explain it."

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Human Brain Is Wired for Harmony | Wired

Human Brain Is Wired for Harmony | Wired | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
"Since the days of the ancient Greeks, scientists have wondered why the ear prefers harmony. Now, scientists suggest that the reason may go deeper than an aversion to the way clashing notes abrade auditory nerves; instead, it may lie in the very structure of the ear and brain, which are designed to respond to the elegantly spaced structure of a harmonious sound. (...) If the chord is harmonic, or “consonant,” the notes are spaced neatly enough so that the individual fibers of the auditory nerve carry specific frequencies to the brain. By perceiving both the parts and the harmonious whole, the brain responds to what scientists call harmonicity. (...)

 

“Beating is the textbook explanation for why people don’t like dissonance, so our study is the first real evidence that goes against this assumption” (...)“It suggests that consonance rests on the perception of harmonicity, and that, when questioning the innate nature of these preferences, one should study harmonicity and not beating.” (...)

 

“Sensitivity to harmonicity is important in everyday life, not just in music,” he notes. For example, the ability to detect harmonic components of sound allows people to identify different vowel sounds, and to concentrate on one conversation in a noisy crowd."

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Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks | California Academy of Sciences

"Brain Power: From Neurons to Networks is a 10-minute film and an accompanying TED Book. Based on new research on how to best nurture children’s brains from Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child and University of Washington’s I-LABS, the film explores the parallels between a child’s brain development and the development of the global brain of Internet, offering insights into the best ways to shape both. The film and TEDBook launched at the California Academy of Sciences on November 8, 2012." http://bit.ly/QCcAnn

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Consciousness as Integrated Information: a Provisional Manifesto by Giulio Tononi | University of Wisconsin

"The integrated information theory (IIT) starts from phenomenology and makes use of thought experiments to claim that consciousness is integrated information. Specifically: (i) the quantity of consciousness corresponds to the amount of integrated information generated by a complex of elements; (ii) the quality of experience is specified by the set of informational relationships generated within that complex. Integrated information (Φ) is defined as the amount of information generated by a complex of elements, above and beyond the information generated by its parts. Qualia space (Q) is a space where each axis represents a possible state of the complex, each point is a probability distribution of its states, and arrows between points represent the informational relationships among its elements generated by causal mechanisms (connections). Together, the set of informational relationships within a complex constitute a shape in Q that completely and univocally specifies a particular experience. Several observations concerning the neural substrate of consciousness fall naturally into place within the IIT framework. Among them are the association of consciousness with certain neural systems rather than with others; the fact that neural processes underlying consciousness can influence or be influenced by neural processes that remain unconscious; the reduction of consciousness during dreamless sleep and generalized seizures; and the distinct role of different cortical architectures in affecting the quality of experience. Equating consciousness with integrated information carries several implications for our view of nature."

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Christof Koch on The Nature of Consciousness: How the Internet Could Learn to Feel

Christof Koch on The Nature of Consciousness: How the Internet Could Learn to Feel | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"It doesn't matter so much that you're made out of neurons and bones and muscles. Obviously, if we lose neurons in a stroke or in a degenerative disease like Alzheimer's, we lose consciousness. But in principle, what matters for consciousness is the fact that you have these incredibly complicated little machines, these little switching devices called nerve cells and synapses, and they're wired together in amazingly complicated ways. The Internet now already has a couple of billion nodes. Each node is a computer. Each one of these computers contains a couple of billion transistors, so it is in principle possible that the complexity of the Internet is such that it feels like something to be conscious. I mean, that's what it would be if the Internet as a whole has consciousness. Depending on the exact state of the transistors in the Internet, it might feel sad one day and happy another day, or whatever the equivalent is in Internet space. (...)

 

It's more difficult to ascertain what exactly it feels. But there's no question that in principle it could feel something. (...)

 

Q: How do you define consciousness?

 

Typically, it means having subjective states. (...) Consciousness is not easy to define, but don't worry too much about the definition. Otherwise, you get trapped in endless discussions about what exactly you mean. It's much more important to have a working definition, run with it, do experiments, and then modify it as necessary. (...)

 

I see a universe that's conducive to the formation of stable molecules and to life. And I do believe complexity is associated with consciousness. Therefore, we seem to live in a universe that's particularly conducive to the emergence of consciousness. That's why I call myself a "romantic reductionist."

 

 

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First map of the human brain reveals a simple, grid-like structure between neurons

First map of the human brain reveals a simple, grid-like structure between neurons | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"It turns out that the pathways in your brain — the connections between neurons — are almost perfectly grid-like. It’s rather weird: If you’ve ever seen a computer ribbon cable — a flat, 2D ribbon of wires stuck together, such as an IDE hard drive cable — the brain is basically just a huge collection of these ribbons, traveling parallel or perpendicular to each other. There are almost zero diagonals, nor single neurons that stray from the neuronal highways. The human brain is just one big grid of neurons — a lot like the streets of Manhattan, minus Broadway, and then projected into three dimensions. (...)

 

“Before, we had just driving directions. Now, we have a map showing how all the highways and byways are interconnected,” says Van Wedeen, a member of the Human Connectome Project. (...)

 

Brain wiring is not like the wiring in your basement, where it just needs to connect the right endpoints. Rather, the grid is the language of the brain and wiring and re-wiring work by modifying it.” Curiously, it seems like this network of highways and byways is laid out when we’re still an early fetus. At a very early stage, our brains form three “primal pathways” that traverse our brains horizontally, vertically, and transversely. The NIH scientists now think that those early connections act as markers, forcing the continued growth of an orderly, grid-like structure. Apparently such a setup is more amenable to evolutionary adaptation, too."

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Mapping thoughts in the human brain. ‘Neural fingerprints’ of memory associations allow ‘mind reading’

Mapping thoughts in the human brain. ‘Neural fingerprints’ of memory associations allow ‘mind reading’ | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

‎"Researchers have begun to show that it is possible to use brain recordings to reconstruct aspects of an image or movie clip someone is viewing, a sound someone is hearing or even the text someone is reading. A new study by University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University scientists brings this work one step closer to actual mind reading by using brain recordings to infer the way people organize associations between words in their memories. (...) About a second before the participants recalled each word, these same “meaning signals” that were identified during the study phase were spontaneously reactivated in the participants’ brains.

 

Because the participants were not seeing, hearing or speaking any words at the times these patterns were reactivated, the researchers could be sure they were observing the neural signatures of the participants’ self-generated, internal thoughts. (...) Since the participants were instructed to say the words in the order they came to mind, the specific sequence of recalls a participant makes provides insights into how the words were organized in that participant’s memory. (...) “Each person’s brain patterns form a sort of ‘neural fingerprint’ that can be used to read out the ways they organize their memories through associations between words,” Manning said.

 

The techniques the researchers developed in this study could also be adapted to analyze many different ways of mentally organizing studied information.

 

“In addition to looking at memories organized by time, as in our previous study, or by meaning, as in our current study, one could use our technique to identify neural signatures of how individuals organize learned information according to appearance, size, texture, sound, taste, location or any other measurable property,” Manning said. (...) Our data show a direct correspondence between patterns of brain activity and the meanings of individual words and show how this neural representation of meaning predicts the way in which one item cues another during spontaneous recall.

 

“Given the critical role of language in human thought and communication, identifying a neural representation that reflects the meanings of words as they are spontaneously recalled brings us one step closer to the elusive goal of mapping thoughts in the human brain.”

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Self as Symbol. The loopy nature of consciousness trips up scientists studying themselves

Self as Symbol. The loopy nature of consciousness trips up scientists studying themselves | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"As the Austrian logician Kurt Gödel proved (...) any system as complicated as arithmetic contains true statements that cannot be proved within the system. (...) You can take the number describing a formula and insert that number into the formula, which then becomes a statement about itself. Such a self-referential capability introduces a certain “loopiness” into mathematics. (...)

 

But consciousness is more than just an ordinary feedback loop. It’s a strange loop, which Hofstadter describes as a loop capable of perceiving patterns in its environment and assigning common symbolic meanings to sufficiently similar patterns. (...) Human brains create vast repertoires of these symbols, conferring the “power to represent phenomena of unlimited complexity and thus to twist back and to engulf themselves via a strange loop.”

 

Consciousness itself occurs when a system with such ability creates a higher-level symbol, a symbol for the ability to create symbols. That symbol is the self. The I. Consciousness. “You and I are mirages that perceive themselves,” (...) This self-generated symbol of the self operates only on the level of symbols. (...)

 

Perceptual systems able to symbolize themselves — self-referential minds — can’t be explained just by understanding the parts that compose them. (...) Gödel’s proof showed that math is “incomplete”; it contains truths that can’t be proven. And consciousness is a truth of a sort that can’t be comprehended within a system of molecules and cells alone. (...)

 

It’s the brain’s information processing powers that allow the mind to symbolize itself. Koch believes that focusing on information could sharpen science’s understanding of consciousness. (...)

 

“We … draw conceptual boundaries around entities that we easily perceive, and in so doing we carve out what seems to us to be reality,” Hofstadter wrote. “The ‘I’ we create for each of us is a quintessential example of such a perceived or invented reality, and it does such a good job of explaining our behavior that it becomes the hub around which the rest of the world seems to rotate.”

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Study: Musical Training Teaches Us to Detect Our Own Mistakes and rapidly make needed adjustments

Study: Musical Training Teaches Us to Detect Our Own Mistakes and rapidly make needed adjustments | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
New research finds musical training appears to sharpen our ability to detect our own mistakes, and rapidly make needed adjustments.
Amira's insight:

"According to this research, people who spend many hours in the practice room not only process information unusually efficiently, but they also do a superior job of not letting occasional errors derail them.

These findings "suggest that playing a musical instrument might improve the ability to monitor our behavior and adjust our responses effectively when needed," (...) In addition, “higher levels of musical practice were also associated with a better engagement of cognitive control processes, as indicated by more efficient error and conflict detection,” the researchers report. Participants who had spent more quality time with their instruments had "a better ability to detect errors and conflicts, and a reduced reactiveness to these detected problems.” (...) In other words, if you hit a wrong note, it’s important to be immediately aware of what you did wrong, but it’s just as important to not hesitate or second-guess yourself. You quickly take stock what happened and move on—a skill the musicians in the study applied to these two tests, and one players can presumably apply to an assortment of everyday challenges."

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Sharrock's curator insight, October 21, 2013 9:13 AM
Amira's insight:

"According to this research, people who spend many hours in the practice room not only process information unusually efficiently, but they also do a superior job of not letting occasional errors derail them.

These findings "suggest that playing a musical instrument might improve the ability to monitor our behavior and adjust our responses effectively when needed," (...) In addition, “higher levels of musical practice were also associated with a better engagement of cognitive control processes, as indicated by more efficient error and conflict detection,” the researchers report. Participants who had spent more quality time with their instruments had "a better ability to detect errors and conflicts, and a reduced reactiveness to these detected problems.” (...) In other words, if you hit a wrong note, it’s important to be immediately aware of what you did wrong, but it’s just as important to not hesitate or second-guess yourself. You quickly take stock what happened and move on—a skill the musicians in the study applied to these two tests, and one players can presumably apply to an assortment of everyday challenges."

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The 1st human brain-to-brain interface. Researcher Controls Another Person’s Brain Over the Internet

The 1st human brain-to-brain interface. Researcher Controls Another Person’s Brain Over the Internet | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
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"We sought to demonstrate that it is possible to send information extracted from one brain directly to another brain, allowing the first subject to cause a desired response in the second subject through direct brain-to-brain communication. A task was designed such that the two subjects could cooperatively solve the task by transmitting a meaningful signal from one brain to the other." -- Read more: http://homes.cs.washington.edu/~rao/brain2brain/experiment.html

 

"Using electrical brain recordings and a form of magnetic stimulation, Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal to Andrea Stocco on the other side of the UW campus, causing Stocco’s finger to move on a keyboard. (...) “The Internet was a way to connect computers, and now it can be a way to connect brains,” Stocco said. “We want to take the knowledge of a brain and transmit it directly from brain to brain.” (...) “It was both exciting and eerie to watch an imagined action from my brain get translated into actual action by another brain,” Rao said. “This was basically a one-way flow of information from my brain to his. The next step is having a more equitable two-way conversation directly between the two brains.”

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'News is to the mind what sugar is to the body'. Towards a Healthy News Diet by Rolf Dobelli

'News is to the mind what sugar is to the body'. Towards a Healthy News Diet by Rolf Dobelli | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Rolf Fobelli: News is to the mind what sugar is to the body
“ “We humans seem to be natural-born signal hunters, we’re terrible at regulating our intake of information. We’ll consume a ton of noise if...
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"Afraid you will miss “something important”? From my experience, if something really important happens, you will hear about it, even if you live in a cocoon that protects you from the news. Friends and colleagues will tell you about relevant events far more reliably than any news organization. They will fill you in with the added benefit of meta-information, since they know your priorities and you know how they think. You will learn far more about really important events and societal shifts by reading about them in specialized journals, in-depth magazines or good books and by talking to the people who know. (…)

The more “news factoids” you digest, the less of the big picture you will understand. (…)

Thinking requires concentration. Concentration requires uninterrupted time. News items are like free-floating radicals that interfere with clear thinking. News pieces are specifically engineered to interrupt you. They are like viruses that steal attention for their own purposes. (…) [F]ewer than 10% of the news stories are original. Less than 1% are truly investigative. And only once every 50 years do journalists uncover a Watergate.  (...) The copying and the copying of the copies multiply the flaws in the stories and their irrelevance."

“When people struggle to describe the state that the Internet puts them in they arrive at a remarkably familiar picture of disassociation and fragmentation. Life was once whole, continuous, stable; now it is fragmented, multi-part, shimmering around us, unstable and impossible to fix. The world becomes Keats’s “waking dream,” as the writer Kevin Kelly puts it.” — Adam Gopnik

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Study: Hearing Music as Beautiful Is a Learned Trait

Study: Hearing Music as Beautiful Is a Learned Trait | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Appreciating harmonies comes with experience.
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"Why does the music that to some people is lovely, even transcendent, sound to others like a lot of noise?

Researchers at the University of Melbourne attribute to the amount of pleasure we take in music to how much dissonance we hear -- the degree of "perceived roughness, harshness, unpleasantness, or difficulty in listening to the sound."

The team played both "pure tones" and various chords for participants -- a mixed group of trained musicians studying at the school's conservatory and members of the general public -- and had them rate the sounds for perceived dissonance, and for familiarity, on a five-point scale.

Trained musicians, perhaps predictably, were more sensitive to dissonance than lay listeners. But they also found that when listeners hadn't previously encountered a certain chord, they found it nearly impossible to hear the individual notes that comprised it. Where this ability was lacking, the chords sounded dissonant, and thus, unpleasant.

The ability to identify tones and thus enjoy harmonies was positively correlated with musical training. Said study co-author Sarah Wilson, "This showed us that even the ability to hear a musical pitch (or note) is learned." (...)

The more ambitious implication of the findings, according to lead author Neil McLachlan, is that it "overturns centuries of theories that physical properties of the ear determine what we find appealing."

As they explain in their discussion, the basic, 12-tone do re mi scale isn't "naturally" harmonious. Instead, it was first introduced by Pythagoras (yes, he of the theorem), who developed a system of "tuning based on successive 2/3 proportions of string length." It was a logical, mathematical method that in turn gave us "the simple mathematical relationships [that] can be found between the harmonics of common Western chords" that we've since learned to love."

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David Eagleman: 10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The Brain | Discover Magazine

David Eagleman: 10 Unsolved Mysteries Of The Brain | Discover Magazine | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Amira's insight:

"Of all the objects in the universe, the human brain is the most complex: There are as many neurons in the brain as there are stars in the Milky Way galaxy. So it is no surprise that, ­despite the glow from recent advances in the science of the brain and mind, we still find ourselves squinting in the dark somewhat. But we are at least beginning to grasp the crucial mysteries of neuroscience and starting to make headway in addressing them. Even partial answers to these 10 questions could restructure our understanding of the roughly three-pound mass of gray and white matter that defines who we are."

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Researchers discover surprising complexities in the way the brain makes mental maps

Researchers discover surprising complexities in the way the brain makes mental maps | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
Researchers discover surprising complexities in the way the brain makes mental maps
Spatial location is closely connected to the formation of new memories. Until now, grid cells were thought to be...
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"Spatial location is closely connected to the formation of new memories. Until now, grid cells were thought to be part of a single unified map system. New findings from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology demonstrate that the grid system is in fact composed of a number of independent grid maps, each with unique properties. Each map displays a particular resolution (mesh size), and responds independently to changes in the environment. A system of several distinct grid maps can support a large number of unique combinatorial codes used to associate new memories formed with specific spatial information. (...)

Your brain has at least four different senses of location – and perhaps as many as 10. And each is different. (...) This independence can be used by the brain to create new combinations - many combinations - which is a very useful tool for memory formation. (...)

What makes the discovery of the grid modules so special is that it completely changes our understanding of how the brain physically organizes abstract functions. Previously, researchers have shown that brain cells in sensory systems that are directly adjacent to each other tend to have the same response pattern. This is how they have been able to create detailed maps of which parts of the sensory brain do what.

The new research shows that a modular organization is also found in the highest parts of the cortex, far away from areas devoted to senses or motor outputs. But these maps are different in the sense that they overlap or infiltrate other. It is thus not possible to locate the different modules with a microscope, because the cells that work together are intermingled with other modules in the same area.

“The various components of the grid map are not organized side by side,”  “The various components overlap. This is the first time a brain function has been shown to be organized in this way at separate scales. We have uncovered a new way for neural network function to be distributed.” (...) The researchers were surprised, however, when they started calculating the difference between the scales. They may have discovered an ingenious mathematical coding system, along with a number, a constant. (Anyone who has read or seen “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” may enjoy this.) The scale for each sense of location is actually 42% larger than the previous one. “

We may not be able to say with certainty that we have found a mathematical constant for the way the brain calculates the scales for each sense of location, but it’s very funny that we have to multiply each measurement by 1.42 to get the next one. That is approximately equal to the square root of the number two.”

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Dan Siegel: The Emerging Mind - How relationships and the embodied brain shape who we are

Renowned academic, author, and director of the Mindsight Institute Dan Siegel, visits the RSA to reveal an extremely rare thing -- a working definition of the mind.

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Steven Pinker: Linguistics as a Window to Understanding the Brain

"How did humans acquire language? In this lecture, best-selling author Steven Pinker introduces you to linguistics, the evolution of spoken language, and the debate over the existence of an innate universal grammar. He also explores why language is such a fundamental part of social relationships, human biology, and human evolution. Finally, Pinker touches on the wide variety of applications for linguistics, from improving how we teach reading and writing to how we interpret law, politics, and literature."

 

Steven Pinker - Psychologist, Cognitive Scientist, and Linguist at Harvard University.

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Tuning the brain: how piano tuning may cause changes to brain structure

Tuning the brain: how piano tuning may cause changes to brain structure | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Wellcome Trust-funded scientists at UCL have shown that working as a piano tuner may lead to changes in the structure of the memory and navigation areas of the brain. The study, published today in the Journal of Neuroscience, shows that these structural differences correlate with the number of years of experience a piano tuner has accumulated.

 

Piano tuning involves listening to the sound of two notes played simultaneously (a two-note chord) and 'navigating' between sequences of chords in which one note is already tuned and the other has to be adjusted. Interaction between the sounds produced by the two notes produces a wobbling sound (known as a 'beat'). Tuners detect the frequency of this fluctuation (the 'beat rate') and adjust it so that the two notes are in tune. Since different combinations of notes in a chord produce different frequencies, tuners use these beat rates as a form of acoustic 'signpost' in the virtual 'pitch space' of a piano to help them tune subsequent notes in a systematic manner. (...)

 

"Piano tuning is a unique profession and this motivated us to investigate physical changes in the brain of tuners that may develop over several years of repeated acoustic practice. We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialised form of listening."

 

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Why We Keep Getting the Same Old Ideas

Why We Keep Getting the Same Old Ideas | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabridge Uinvervtisy, it deosnt mttaer in waht oredr the litteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a ttoal mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is besauae ocne we laren how to raed we bgien to aargnre the lteerts in our mnid to see waht we epxcet tp see. The huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. We do tihs ucnsolniuscoy. (....)


"When information enters the mind, it self-organizes into patterns and ruts much like the hot water on butter. New information automatically flows into the preformed grooves. After a while, the channels become so deep it takes only a bit of information to activate an entire channel. This is the pattern recognition and pattern completion process of the brain. Even if much of the information is out of the channel, the pattern will be activated. The mind automatically corrects and completes the information to select and activate a pattern.This is why you can read the jumbled letters above as words.

 

This is also why when we sit down and try to will new ideas or solutions; we tend to keep coming up with the same-old, same-old ideas. Information is flowing down the same ruts and grooves making the same-old connections producing the same old ideas over and over again. Even tiny bits of information are enough to activate the same patterns over and over again. (...)

 

How then can we change our thinking patterns? Think again about the dish of butter with all the preformed channels. Creativity occurs when we tilt the dish in a different direction and force the water (information) to create new channels and make new connections with other channels. These new connections give you different ways to focus your attention and different ways to interpret whatever you are focusing on. Nature gets variation with genetic mutations. Creative thinkers get variation by conceptually combining dissimilar subjects which changes our thinking patterns and provides us with a variety of alternatives and conjectures. (...)"

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dephunked's comment, September 26, 2012 6:47 AM
Wlidcat,

...I´ve thought about how creative thinkers have been discriminated throughout modern civilization...

...as novelty naturally falls outside the norm, and modern civilization has been inherently, systematically norm-biased, I have this feeling that non-successful creatives have been subjected to significant social and systematic discrimination...

...top down bureaucratic organization shaped the social norm to disclude creativity, novelty thinking, and social evolution, the majority of those innately prone to innovation could count on little help and reward from the norm-biased surroundings... their life was a life of struggle...

...It´s unnatural for a creative neurotype to conform to the norm, the evolutionary origin and purpose of creativity is cultural evolution. Creativity evolves the norm, it cannot fit into it, and within the creative thinkers, the creative drive is stronger then the drive to conform...

...during my brief medical practice amongst those at the bottom of civilization, the homeless, I saw so much misunderstood potential, so much creativity and ingenuity and empathy, and so little recognition from their "society". Systematically discouraged and misunderstood, forced into poverty and stigma-generated alienation...

...in every one of them, I saw myself...


These social patterns are typical for many shortcomings of top-down bureaucracy, but I have a feeling that creative thinkers in particular have suffered from the hegemonic-ish norm. I haven´t found much literature about it, and I believe it´s important for society to acknowledge this, just as important as the pride movement to end and avow the discrimination of homosexuality. Important at least, as a reminder of the darker angels of our past.

...what do you think?
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10 Limits to Human Perception ... and How They Shape Your World

10 Limits to Human Perception ... and How They Shape Your World | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Every human has limits. You can only run so fast, jump so high, and go for so long without water. But what about restrictions upon our five senses, those tools that we use to perceive and understand our surroundings? Here are ten limitations on human perception that have a direct impact on how we understand the world. (...)"

 

VISION: Field of View, Angular Resolution, The "Visible" Spectrum; HEARING: Hearing Range, Absolute Threshold of Hearing; TASTE & SMELL: Limitations in Wine Tasting, Supertasters, Odor Detection Threshold; TOUCH: Two-point Discrimination

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The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains

The crayola-fication of the world: How we gave colors names, and it messed with our brains | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"All observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar” [Benjamin Whorf] (...) The crucial point is that everything that we see in the right half of our vision is processed in the left hemisphere of our brain, and everything we see in the left half is processed by the right hemisphere. And for most of us, the left brain is stronger at processing language. So perhaps the language savvy half of our brain is helping us out. (...)

 

Among those who were the fastest at identifying the odd color, English speakers showed no left brain / right brain distinction, whereas Korean speakers did. It’s plausible that their left brain was attuned to the distinction between yeondu and chorok. (...)

Language is somehow enhancing your left brain’s ability to discern different colors with different names. Cultural forces alter our perception in ever so subtle a way, by gently tugging our visual leanings in different directions. (...)

 

As infant brains are rewiring themselves to absorb our visual language, the seat of categorical processing jumps hemispheres from the right brain to the left. And it stays here throughout adulthood. Their brains are furiously re-categorizing the world, until mysteriously, something finally clicks into place."

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