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Cognitive science
The interdisciplinary scientific study of mind and its processes. Mind, brain, consciousness, neuroscience...
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The Self Illusion: How the Brain Creates Identity

The Self Illusion: How the Brain Creates Identity | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"John Locke, the philosopher, who also argued that personal identity was really dependent on the autobiographical or episodic memories, and you are the sum of your memories, which, of course, is something that fractionates and fragments in various forms of dementia. (...)

 

As we all know, memory is notoriously fallible. It’s not cast in stone. It’s not something that is stable. It’s constantly reshaping itself. So the fact that we have a multitude of unconscious processes which are generating this coherence of consciousness, which is the I experience, and the truth that our memories are very selective and ultimately corruptible, we tend to remember things which fit with our general characterization of what our self is. We tend to ignore all the information that is inconsistent. We have all these attribution biases. We have cognitive dissonance. The very thing psychology keeps telling us, that we have all these unconscious mechanisms that reframe information, to fit with a coherent story, then both the “I” and the “me”, to all intents and purposes, are generated narratives.

The illusions I talk about often are this sense that there is an integrated individual, with a veridical notion of past. And there’s nothing at the center. We’re the product of the emergent property, I would argue, of the multitude of these processes that generate us. (...)

 

The irrational superstitious behaviors: what I think religions do is they capitalize on a lot of inclinations that children have. Then I entered into a series of work, and my particular interest was this idea of essentialism and sacred objects and moral contamination. (...) If you put people through stressful situations or you overload it, you can see the reemergence of these kinds of ways of thinking. The empirical evidence seems to be supporting that. They’ve got wrinkles in their brains. They’re never going to go away. You can try and override them, but they’re always there and they will reappear under the right circumstances, which is why you see the reemergence under stress of a lot of irrational thinking. (...)

 

The hierarchy of representations in the brain: "Representations are literally re-presentations. That’s the language of the brain, that’s the mode of thinking in the brain, it’s representation. It’s more than likely, in fact, it’s most likely that there is already representation wired into the brain. If you think about the sensory systems, the array of the eye, for example, is already laid out in a topographical representation of the external world, to which it has not yet been exposed. What happens is that this is general layout, arrangements that become fine-tuned. We know of a lot of work to show that the arrangements of the sensory mechanisms do have a spatial arrangement, so that’s not learned in any sense. But these can become changed through experiences, and that’s why the early work of Hubel and Weisel, about the effects of abnormal environments showed that the general pattern could be distorted, but the pattern was already in place in the first place."

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Towards a Cognitive Science of Literary Style: Perspective-Taking in Processing Omniscient versus Objective Voice (pdf)

"What are the consequences of narrative style for the cognitive operations that comprehenders perform? Third person narratives can adopt different voices. Omniscient voice has access to the mental states of characters, while objective voice only describes how characters would appear to an observer. It’s currently unknown what cognitive consequences different voices have for people processing third person language. We hypothesize that in building representations of described scenes, omniscient voice may make comprehenders more likely to adopt the internal perspectives of characters than objective voice. We tested this prediction in a narrative-image matching study.

 

Participants read short passages describing a third person character in either omniscient or objective voice. They then saw an image that either depicted the described scene or not, and which depicted the event from the perspective of the character or not. Their task was to decide as quickly as possible whether the image matched the narrative. In cases where the narrative and image matched, participants were significantly faster to indicate the correct decision when the narrative voice and the image perspective matched—that is, an image from the character’s perspective after an omniscient narration or an image from a different perspective after an objective narration. This finding provides the first evidence that narrative voice affects the perspective from which comprehenders represent described scenes."

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The time machine in our mind. The imagistic mental machinery that allows us to travel through time

The time machine in our mind. The imagistic mental machinery that allows us to travel through time | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

“This article provides the first comprehensive conceptual account for the imagistic mental machinery that allows us to travel through time—for the time machine in our mind. It is argued that language reveals this imagistic machine and how we use it. Findings from a range of cognitive fields are theoretically unified and a recent proposal about spatialized mental time travel is elaborated on. The following novel distinctions are offered: external vs. internal viewing of time; “watching” time vs. projective “travel” through time; optional vs. obligatory mental time travel; mental time travel into anteriority or posteriority vs. mental time travel into the past or future; single mental time travel vs. nested dual mental time travel; mental time travel in episodic memory vs. mental time travel in semantic memory; and “seeing” vs. “sensing” mental imagery. Theoretical, empirical, and applied implications are discussed. (...) Many conceptualizations observed in language have also been found to exist in mental representations that are more basic than language itself. (…)

 

The evolution of the capacity to simulate possible future events, based on episodic memory, enhanced fitness by enabling action in preparation of different possible scenarios that increased present or future survival and reproduction chances. Human language may have evolved in the first instance for the sharing of past and planned future events, and, indeed, fictional ones, further enhancing fitness in social settings.”

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Can we have free will, if the brain's actions are automatic? A scholar makes the case

Can we have free will, if the brain's actions are automatic? A scholar makes the case | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

“Probably 99.999 percent of what goes on in the brain is automatic and unconscious. I have no idea what my next sentence will be, and sometimes I sound like it. (…) We think the other stuff, the ‘me,’ the ‘self,’ — we think that’s really important. We think there is somebody in charge —somebody pulling the levers. (…)

 

“The brain is automatic but people are free. You are responsible. Get over it.”

 

Free will is not a useful concept at the level of brain biology, to summarize Gazzaniga, because the biology is fixed. We cannot control our brains. It is at the level of interactions between people where concepts like responsibility and justice can be addressed. Gazzaniga compared the problem to an analysis of traffic, which cannot be achieved by studying individual cars. “Traffic only exists in the interaction,” he said.”

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New Finding Offers Neurological Support for Adam Smith’s Theories of Morality

New Finding Offers Neurological Support for Adam Smith’s Theories of Morality | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"The part of the brain we use when engaging in egalitarian behavior may also be linked to a larger sense of morality, researchers have found. Their conclusions, which offer scientific support for Adam Smith’s theories of morality, (...) The researchers found that these two measures of egalitarian preferences were significantly associated with activations in the insular cortex, but not with the vmPFC.

This particular result is a potentially profound one as the insular cortex is also the part of the brain that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to her or his environment. In other words, egalitarian behavior may not exist in isolation, neurologically speaking, but, rather, be part of a larger process that stems from altruism and a sense of the larger social good. (...)

“Adam Smith contended that moral sentiments like egalitarianism derived from a ‘fellow-feeling’ that would increase with our level of sympathy for others, predicting not merely aversion to inequity, but also our propensity to engage in egalitarian behaviors,” the researchers wrote. “The evidence here supports such an interpretation—our results suggest that it is the brain mechanisms involved in experiencing the emotional and social states of self and others that appear to be driving egalitarian behaviors. This conclusion is consistent with a broader view of the insular cortex as a neural substrate that processes the relationship of the individual with respect to his or her environment.”

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The Forgetting Pill. How and why memories change. "Even though every memory feels like an honest representation, that sense of authenticity is the biggest lie of all" -

The Forgetting Pill. How and why memories change. "Even though every memory feels like an honest representation, that sense of authenticity is the biggest lie of all" - | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"The brain isn’t interested in having a perfect set of memories about the past,” “Instead, memory comes with a natural updating mechanism, which is how we make sure that the information taking up valuable space inside our head is still useful. That might make our memories less accurate, but it probably also makes them more relevant to the future.” (…) The memory is less like a movie, a permanent emulsion of chemicals on celluloid, and more like a play—subtly different each time it’s performed. In my brain, a network of cells is constantly being reconsolidated, rewritten, remade. (…)

 

Reconsolidation provides a mechanistic explanation for these errors. (...) Why every memoir should be classified as fiction, and why it’s so disturbingly easy to implant false recollections. (...)"

 

"The larger lesson is that because our memories are formed by the act of remembering them, controlling the conditions under which they are recalled can actually change their content. (…) Being able to control memory doesn’t simply give us admin access to our brains. It gives us the power to shape nearly every aspect of our lives. (...) It appears that we’ll soon gain the ability to alter our sense of the past. (…)

 

The fact is we already tweak our memories—we just do it badly. Reconsolidation constantly alters our recollections, as we rehearse nostalgias and suppress pain. We repeat stories until they’re stale, rewrite history in favor of the winners, and tamp down our sorrows with whiskey. “Once people realize how memory actually works, a lot of these beliefs that memory shouldn’t be changed will seem a little ridiculous,”.... “Anything can change memory. This technology isn’t new. It’s just a better version of an existing biological process.”

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The brain is wired in a 3D grid structure. Our brain pathways are organized like woven sheets and not as tangled as once thought

The brain is wired in a 3D grid structure. Our brain pathways are organized like woven sheets and not as tangled as once thought | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"The brain appears to be wired in a rectangular 3D grid structure, suggests a new brain imaging study. (...) “Far from being just a tangle of wires, the brain’s connections turn out to be more like ribbon cables — folding 2D sheets of parallel neuronal fibers that cross paths at right angles, like the warp and weft of a fabric,” (...)

 

“The wiring of the mature brain appears to mirror three primal pathways established in embryonic development.” (...) “Before, we had just driving directions. Now, we have a map showing how all the highways and byways are interconnected,” said Wedeen. “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.”

//

 

"By looking at how the pathways fit in the brain, we anticipated the connectivity to resemble that of a bowl of spaghetti, a very narrow and discreet object," (...) "We discovered that the pathways in the top of the brain are all organized like woven sheets with the fibers running in two directions in the sheets and in a third direction perpendicular to the sheets. These sheets all stack together so that the entire connectivity of the brain follows three precisely defined directions." (...)
"This is the first time it has ever been determined that the geometry of the brain is described by a three-dimensional grid," (...)

 

"The research took MRI scanners and new mathematical algorithms to determine a geometry to the relationship of nearby pathways in the brain so that each pathway was part of a two-dimensional sheet of pathways that together looked exactly like a woven sheet of fabric," Each pathway was part of a parallel series next to it crossed by a perpendicular series at a right angle, together which formed a woven grid.

 

The structure was part of a three-dimensional scaffold connections of the brain conformed to the extremely simple three-dimensional structure, a single woven grid with fibers in only three axes. By using diffusion MRI and mapping the three-dimension motion of the water molecules in the brain, the scientists ran the maps through mathematical algorithms that inferred from the water motion pattern the fiber architecture of the tissue of the brain." -- http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=123711&org=NSF&from=news

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The 100 most influential works in cognitive science | The Cognitive Science Millennium Project

The 100 most influential works in cognitive science | The Cognitive Science Millennium Project | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
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Do thoughts have a language of their own? The language of thought hypothesis

Do thoughts have a language of their own? The language of thought hypothesis | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

“In philosophy of mind, the language of thought hypothesis (LOTH) (...) our thoughts have a language-like structure that is independent of natural language. (...) There is a language of thought, and that it has a more logical form than ordinary natural language. This view has an added bonus: it tells us that, if you want to express yourself more clearly and more effectively in natural language, then you should express yourself in a form that is closer to computational logic - and therefore closer to the language of thought. (...)

 

Thoughts as represented in a “language” (sometimes known as mentalese) that allows complex thoughts to be built up by combining simpler thoughts in various ways. In its most basic form the theory states that thought follows the same rules as language: thought has syntax. (...) LOTH implies that the mind has some tacit knowledge of the logical rules of inference and the linguistic rules of syntax (sentence structure) and semantics (concept or word meaning). (...)

 

"Whether sensory or perceptual processes are to be treated within the framework of full-blown LOTH is again an open empirical question. It might be that the answer to this question is affirmative. If so, there may be more than one LOT realized in different subsystems or mechanisms in the mind/brain. (...) Propositional thought and thinking cannot be successfully accounted for in its entirety in purely imagistic terms. It claims that a combinatorial sentential syntax is necessary for propositional attitudes and a purely imagistic medium is not adequate for capturing that."


Via Andrea Graziano
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The Mystery of Consciousness by Sam Harris

The Mystery of Consciousness by Sam Harris | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"You are not aware of the electrochemical events occurring at each of the trillion synapses in your brain at this moment. But you are aware, however dimly, of sights, sounds, sensations, thoughts, and moods. At the level of your experience, you are not a body of cells, organelles, and atoms; you are consciousness and its ever-changing contents, passing through various stages of wakefulness and sleep, and from cradle to grave.

 

The term “consciousness” is notoriously difficult to define. Consequently, many a debate about its character has been waged without the participants’ finding even a common topic as common ground. By “consciousness,” I mean simply “sentience,” in the most unadorned sense. To use the philosopher Thomas Nagel’s construction: A creature is conscious if there is “something that it is like” to be this creature; an event is consciously perceived if there is “something that it is like” to perceive it. ⁠Whatever else consciousness may or may not be in physical terms, the difference between it and unconsciousness is first and foremost a matter of subjective experience. Either the lights are on, or they are not."

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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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Human brain shaped by duplicate genes - copies of gene may have boosted computational power of our ancestors' brains

Human brain shaped by duplicate genes - copies of gene may have boosted computational power of our ancestors' brains | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Two studies published online today in Cell1, 2 suggest that DNA duplication errors that happened millions of years ago might have had a pivotal role in the evolution of the complexity of the human brain. The duplications — which created new versions of a gene active in the brains of other mammals — may have endowed humans with brains that could create more neuronal connections, perhaps leading to greater computational power.

The enzymes that copy DNA sometimes slip extra copies of a gene into a chromosome, and scientists estimate that such genetic replicas make up about 5% of the human genome. (...)

 

“Ten years after the human genome was sequenced and declared done, we’re still finding new genes in new places that are really important to human brain function and evolution,” Eichler’s team calculates that SRGAP2C appeared roughly 2.4 million years ago, around the time that big-brained species of Homo evolved in Africa from smaller-skulled Australopithecines, and around the time that stone tools appeared in the fossil record. These ancient hominins eventually gave rise to Homo erectus, which were the first human ancestors to wander beyond Africa, roughly 1.8 million years ago. (...)

 

“If you’re increasing the total number of connections, you’re probably increasing the ability of this network to handle information,” Polleux says. "It’s like increasing the number of processors in a computer."

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BPS Research Digest: Psychologists create non-believed memories in the laboratory

BPS Research Digest: Psychologists create non-believed memories in the laboratory | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Most of the time our autobiographical memories and beliefs match up - we remember last week's journey to a conference and believe that journey really took place. Other times, we believe an event happened - we know we travelled to that conference - but our memory for the event eludes us, perhaps because the trip was so boring or because we drank too much wine.

 

Recently, psychologists have begun to examine the rarer reverse scenario, in which we have what feels like a memory for an event, but we know (or believe) that the event never happened - we recall the conference journey but know we couldn't have made it. A recent survey (pdf) of over 1,500 undergrads found that nearly a quarter reported having a non-believed memory of this kind. Now Andrew Clark and his colleagues have gone further - for the first time actually provoking non-believed memories in the lab. (...)

 

A question for future research on non-believed memories is whether belief is needed for the initial formation of the memories, even if that belief later falls away. "Or, alternatively," the researchers said, "can memories form completely in the absence of belief?"."

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The Cognitive Basis of Material Engagement: Where Brain, Body and Culture Conflate by Lambros Malafouris (pdf)

The Cognitive Basis of Material Engagement: Where Brain, Body and Culture Conflate by Lambros Malafouris (pdf) | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"In this paper I attempt to sketch a preliminary framework for understanding the cognitive basis of the engagement of the mind with the material world. I advance the hypothesis that contrary to some of our most deeply-entrenched assumptions the relationship between the world and human cognition is not one of abstract representation or some other form of action at a distance but one of ontological inseparability. That is, what we have traditionally construed as an active or passive but always clearly separated external stimulus for setting an internal cognitive mechanism into motion, may be after all a continuous part of the machinery itself; at least, ex hypothesi."

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Clothes and Self-Perception - The effects of clothing on cognitive processes

Clothes and Self-Perception - The effects of clothing on cognitive processes | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"If you wear a white coat that you believe belongs to a doctor, your ability to pay attention increases sharply. But if you wear the same white coat believing it belongs to a painter, you will show no such improvement. (...) The effect occurs only if you actually wear the coat and know its symbolic meaning — that physicians tend to be careful, rigorous and good at paying attention. (...)

 

We think not just with our brains but with our bodies, Dr. Galinsky said, and our thought processes are based on physical experiences that set off associated abstract concepts. Now it appears that those experiences include the clothes we wear. (...) The experience of washing your hands is associated with moral purity and ethical judgments. People are rated personally warmer if they hold a hot drink in their hand, and colder if they hold an iced drink. If you carry a heavy clipboard, you will feel more important. (...)

 

A test for selective attention based on their ability to notice incongruities, as when the word “red” appears in the color green. Those who wore the white lab coats made about half as many errors on incongruent trials as those who wore regular clothes. (...) The group that wore the doctor’s coat showed the greatest improvement in attention. You have to wear the coat, see it on your body and feel it on your skin for it to influence your psychological processes. (...) Clothes invade the body and brain, putting the wearer into a different psychological state."

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Research explores common visual error of 'boundary extension'

Research explores common visual error of 'boundary extension' | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"Subjects were presented with a photograph and then had to draw the photograph from memory. Boundary extension is illustrated in these examples, because the participants’ memory of the scene is a more expanded view than what was shown in the actual photograph. (...) They found that boundary extension is an error people make after viewing a photograph. Instead of remembering the view in the photograph correctly, they report having seen more of the world than was actually shown in the picture. (...)

 

Now, Intraub has found that boundary extension is not restricted solely to vision. People make this same error through their sense of touch after manually exploring a scene. (...)"

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Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart by P. M. Todd & G. Gigerenzer | Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart by P. M. Todd & G. Gigerenzer | Max Planck Institute for Human Development | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"How can anyone be rational in a world where knowledge is limited, time is pressing, and deep thought is often an unattainable luxury? Traditional models of unbounded rationality and optimization in cognitive science, economics, and animal behavior have tended to view decision-makers as possessing supernatural powers of reason, limitless knowledge, and endless time. But understanding decisions in the real world requires a more psychologically plausible notion of bounded rationality.

In Simple heuristics that make us smart, we explore fast and frugal heuristics—simple rules in the mind’s adaptive toolbox for making decisions with realistic mental resources. These heuristics can enable both living organisms and artificial systems to make smart choices quickly and with a minimum of information by exploiting the way that information is structured in particular environments. In this precis, we show how simple building blocks that control information search, stop search, and make decisions can be put together to form classes of heuristics, including: ignorance-based and one-reason decision making for choice, elimination models for categorization, and satisficing heuristics for sequential search.

These simple heuristics perform comparably to more complex algorithms, particularly when generalizing to new data—that is, simplicity leads to robustness. We present evidence regarding when people use simple heuristics and describe the challenges to be addressed by this research program."

 

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Why Bilinguals Are Smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language

Why Bilinguals Are Smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

"The advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. (...)

 

It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles. Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. (...)

 

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving. (...)

 

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment."

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 ‘To understand is to perceive patterns’ | Lapidarium notes

 ‘To understand is to perceive patterns’ | Lapidarium notes | Cognitive science | Scoop.it

R. Buckminster Fuller: “Understanding order begins with understanding patterns,” (...) Poet is a very general term for a person who puts things together in an era of great specialization when most people are differentiating or taking things apart. (...) This is why he can describe Einstein and Henry Ford as the greatest poets of the 20th century.” (...)

 

Barry Ptolemy: “First of all we are all patterns of information. Second, the universe has been revealing itself as patterns of information of increasing order since the big bang. From atoms, to molecules, to DNA, to brains, to technology, to us now merging with that technology. (...)

 

Albert-László Barabás: ‘For decades, we assumed that the components of such complex systems as the cell, the society, or the Internet are randomly wired together. In the past decade, an avalanche of research has shown that many real networks, independent of their age, function, and scope, converge to similar architectures, a universality that allowed researchers from different disciplines to embrace network theory as a common paradigm.” (...)

 

Steven Johnson: “Coral reefs are sometimes called “the cities of the sea”, and part of the argument is that we need to take the metaphor seriously: the reef ecosystem is so innovative because it shares some defining characteristics with actual cities. These patterns of innovation and creativity are fractal: they reappear in recognizable form as you zoom in and out, from molecule to neuron to pixel to sidewalk. Whether you’re looking at original innovations of carbon-based life, or the explosion of news tools on the web, the same shapes keep turning up. (…) When life gets creative, it has a tendency to gravitate toward certain recurring patterns, whether those patterns are self-organizing, or whether they are deliberately crafted by human agents.” (...) Chance favors the connected mind”.


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A brief history of the brain - life - 26 September 2011 - New Scientist

A brief history of the brain - life - 26 September 2011 - New Scientist | Cognitive science | Scoop.it
David Robson tracks the evolution of our brain from its origin in ancient seas to its dramatic expansion in one ape – and asks why it is now shrinking...
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