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  1. Mind Constructs - Understanding Our Thoughts
  2. Understanding Our Thoughts
  3. Mysteries of the mind
  4. Not just a suggestion

Fast-forward a few weeks of practice, and they passed the face-mark test with flying colours. That, in turn, raises the possibility that self-awareness is much more widespread than we think. So, what do we know about the evolution of this prized trait? Many psychologists and anthropologists hold that there is a hierarchy of consciousness that corresponds with increasing brain complexity. At its base is the minimal consciousness attributed to animals with simple nervous systems. These minds are thought to be permanently adrift in a sea of raw sensory experiences, tossed around between perceptions such as colour, hunger, warmth and fear, with little awareness of their meaning.

Few minds are sophisticated enough to experience the world differently — through an introspective lens. Even then, they may have a limited sense of self. What is the evidence for this hierarchy? After all, mental complexity is a slippery concept and, besides, none of us has insight into even the mind of another human, let alone a bat or a beetle. This disparity is mainly the result of the differing evolutionary demands that animals must meet to survive.

For example, the nervous system of a sedentary, filter-feeding oyster consists of just two cell clusters. These allow it to do exactly what an oyster needs to do — control its digestion, and transmit signals from light-sensing tentacles to the muscle that snaps it shut when a predator looms. Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, there is one particular demand that seems to have led to the evolution of complex brains and could also have created the conditions for a sense of self to arise.

That challenge is dealing with the minds of others — be they prey, competitors or other members of your social group. To achieve this, brains needed to evolve from being simply things that experience sensations and thoughts to becoming their observer. To do this, they needed to build a model of a mind, according to neuroscientist Michael Graziano at Princeton University. A model — be it for mind reading, weather forecasting or whatever — usually starts with some assumptions about the factors that contribute to the system in question and their relative importance.

It then runs a simulation and, depending on how much the result diverges from physical observations, modifies the assumptions. The model thus acquires an accurate representation of the forces at work, allowing it to make reasonable predictions about the future. If he is correct, then what you consciously experience is the simulation. By extension, self-awareness is the conscious state of running that simulation on your own mind. Graziano believes we have no reason to put it on a pedestal. Moreover, it is hard to establish whether this ability is associated with uniquely complex biological machinery.

After all, we are still struggling to pin down what consciousness looks like in the brain. Most researchers agree that the brain operates at least partly by generating simulations. However, many disagree that consciousness is a functional piece of the modelling machinery. Instead, a widely held view sees it as the unintended by-product of information rushing through the closed loop of connections that is the brain.

Such emergent phenomena are common in nature. They give the mesmerising impression of complexity and intentionality, despite stemming from a system whose components operate with no regard for the phenomenon itself. One notable example is the collective behaviour of flocks of birds, which can be modelled using individuals driven by just two opposing forces — an instinct to follow their nearest few neighbours, and to back off if they get too close.

Apparent complexity emerges even in Petri-dish-bound bacterial colonies, where individual bacteria automatically respond to chemical signals secreted by their neighbours to regulate their proximity. The structure that emerges has no agency or purpose — it is purely an indicator of the forces at work in each individual. Similarly, self awareness may be an apparently complex phenomenon that emerges from the brain. However, unlike with birds or bacteria, a mind cannot observe its individual components.

It can only glean the echo of billions of neurons responding to each other with electrical signals. The flow of signals is dynamic, rushing along a different set of connections every moment. But some paths are more well trodden than others. In humans, the predominant connections seem to be those used to contemplate the minds of others — the same connections used to contemplate ourselves.

What emerges from this is a pattern that seems constant. To you, that is your sense of self, confined inside the Petri dish of your brain. In other animals, the well-trodden paths in the brain will be different. In bats, for example, it might be those transmitting information from the echolocation clicks used to construct a 3D model of the world. There will be a huge diversity of emergent mental patterns that serve the various survival needs of different species.

Looked at this way, there is no clear hierarchy of consciousness corresponding to mental complexity. In mammals, those with bigger social groups generally have bigger brains, implying that a sense of self goes hand in hand with intelligence. But some other animals seem to have evolved to be highly intelligent without having had to understand the minds of others. Take cephalopods — a group of marine animals that includes cuttlefish and octopuses. Having spent years collaborating with marine biologists, philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith at the University of Sydney believes that the particularly large brain of the common octopus is shaped mainly by the unique demands on a soft-bodied animal inhabiting an environment dominated by vertebrates.

Thanks to the exponentially advancing technologies, tremendous amounts of information about the human brain, its structure, its components, how they are connected, what they do, etc. Great article! First, I think that I should qualify my opinion on the subject. I'm sixty six years old, and I was raised a Catholic Christian. I love science and I love to read.

My love of science has led me "in the direction" of Pantheism. Still, I am not areligious.

Mind Constructs - Understanding Our Thoughts

I believe in unifed theories. Recently, while doing some independent research on solar energy, I became fascinated with particle science. Specifically, with the transmission of particles such as photons. A photon is what might be referred to as an exchange particle. Photons have no mass and yet when they strike an atom, energy is generated. Call it heat. At the same time, while photons can be reflected and refracted, they also pass through the earth at the speed of light.

An inverter, using electro magnetic force, converts direct current to alternating current and, of course, all of this is expressed or manifest as waves at various frequencies. Why would it not be possible for a brain wave, generated by an electro chemical impulse in the brain, not exist on a frequency apart from the brain and body? Then, if we consider ourselves each with a individual frequency, could it not be possible to exist, as a collection of thought or intelligence, apart from the brain and body?

Why could not a god be energy, eternal, omnipresent and almighty? Why could not the laws of nature be the divine intellect? Obviously, I do not have all of the answers - - so I will keep reading. I am encouraged by what Hawking said last month. He said that it is alright to "imagine" that photons can escape from a black hole.

All the levels of heaven and hell might be degrees of satisfaction or regret with no ability to change your state of mind. Thank you so much for your interesting read. Hi Tom, Many thanks for your comment. My basic position is one of openness and skepticism. I certainly don't claim to "know" there is no god. I would say that all conceptions of "God" that claim to know God has certain attributes is suspect, and I am an unbeliever when it comes to those accounts.

At the same time, I look at the universe with awe and wonder and am fond of saying, "God only knows what is out there! Dear Mr. Henriques, I don't know if the discussion in this blog is still alive, but I am posting my comment anyway! First of all my congratulations to you for bringing out an interesting article. I have worked upon these problems for a long time and finally worked up a molecular model for thought generation in neurons The first of its kind!!

Understanding Our Thoughts

And I have compiled my hypothesis in he form of a book called "The Biology of Thought" published by Elsevier - and to be released into the US market on 10th of September' You can please go through my blog first - I will make further comments if you are interested. About the issue of the mind surviving the human consciousness, do we think and reason in our sleep? Mr Gregg. Does thoughts come from the mind or brain? Does the mind supporting thinking, Because, I think the mind also does more, as I explained in the latest post I have here.

Hi Marrian, From my vantage point, all processes of mentation, including sensation, perception, motivation, emotion, attention, memory, imagery, overt action and linguistic justification emerge from the flow of neuronal information. So, I certainly would agree that the mind does more than "support thinking". Thinking would be a category that falls under the mind, as does much else.

The awful little question of how trains of neuronal activity eventuate in memory experience or any subjective experience is Completely unexplained and Completely unknown. There is NO conceptual bridge to cross the conceptual gap. If you know of one, then share it -- it likely will put you in serious position for a Nobel prize.

Mysteries of the mind

As typical of psychological science, a lot of assertion but discovery and coherent explanation is nowhere in the picture afforded by the assumed vantage point. It is way past time that our conceptual vacuity be addressed with serious concern -- lest we continue to foster conditions quite similar to those that enabled behaviorism to gain a foothold years past.

  1. The Nature of Thoughts (Pt 1 & 2).
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  4. Philosophy of Behavioral Biology: 282 (Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science).

PPS: How does emergence create the magical transition? Again, think carefully prior to answering. There are conceptual gaps everywhere you look in science. How do organic chemicals become cells? Know one knows. How does quantum mechanical processes really work and how do they relate to general relativity, know one knows. The list is endless, and each dimension of complexity has its own kind of problems and fundamental debates. Feel free to look at these issue and retire from science. Or take a look at conceptual frameworks like the ToK System and be in awe at how much we do know and how the outlines of a cumulative consilient view of nature and science are possible.

PS Mentation is defined by the ToK as the third dimension of complexity PPS There is no magical transition, property emergence occurs at the level of levels of systems and dimensions of information processing. Yes there are many things we do not know about the workings of nature. But, there are things we do know i. Is this the abundance of knowledge of which you speak?! So dragging out simplistic bromides is not evidencing much more than your ability to engage in false equivalence.

What is it, how does it happen? Absent a way to even approach these questions, we have no way of even something as basic as a way t individuate psychological levels of explanation from biological -- and in a climate where physicalism is ascendant, there is no clear reason why we should not fully subsume psychological under the biological.

You managed to avoid all serious conceptual engagement with my questions by asserting there is much we do not know -- yet from your vantage point you claim to have such knowledge i. Do you have any clear idea what you are talking about?

  • Understanding mind and consciousness via the unified theory.
  • Cancións tradicionais para nenos (Galician Edition);
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  • I think not. This is a text-book example of tautology: Mentation is mental behavior! Hint: the fact that "emergence" transpires whatever that actually means in some non superficial universe is not an explanation or even an inference to a weak explanation of what emergence IS! Some Unified theory ya got there bro. I get the picture of the vantage point ion display. As a relevant aside -- psychology certainly has suffered considerably due it parting wasy years ago from our philosophical sibling. Freed of conceptual rigor, we now can now bloviate with impunity.

    We do have reasonably good ideas of how organic material morphs into cellular structures see genetic theory and attendant organic mechanisms and chemical reactions. The author replaces this notion by the EDWs perspective, i. Thus it becomes possible to find a more appropriate approach to different branches of science, such as cognitive neuroscience, physics, biology and the philosophy of mind.

    You said: "From my vantage point, all processes of mentation, including sensation, perception, motivation, emotion, attention, memory, imagery, overt action and linguistic justification emerge from the flow of neuronal information.

    Not just a suggestion

    Am I correct in understanding that this means we are nothing more than the physical.. My view is very different. I see the mind as a non-physical realm that is the realm of information, which we may perceive as ideas. However it takes a conscious spiritual being to use this information and animate the body.

    Only then would it explain sensation, perception, motivation, emotion, attention, memory, imagery, overt action and much more. The term "unified" shall always go beyond the means of any endeavor intended to bring an answer. We are a unified universe, unified to infinite universes and to all that exists. In terms of realistic-ness and practicality we shall continue to suffer every ill by delving into any science of life that attempts seperation of any and all entities of creation from the whole. With this said our greater being is to look at the Unified as it relates to light and electro-magnetics.

    We most likely resonant as a variable in the flux of holograhics; where there are no things, just events.. Time to move forward in psychology and the medical sciences Of course, there would be no reason, no purpose for identifying and prescribing treatment of what is perceived as ill or different. The big picture consists of all that is, when-ever and from where-ever it shows up. Let us return to wisdom-seeking and it's teachings to become When I hold a cup in my hand the muscles in my fingers contract. The muscles contract because of an electrical signal that was sent to my fingers through my nervous system.

    Reeling in rising distracted driving deaths

    But what causes the electrical signal to be sent from my brain? Herein lies the problem. If the mind is defined as the flow of information in our nervous system then it is not the mind that initiates the signal. So this brings us to the concept of the soul. The soul is the non-physical entity that somehow interacts with the body to make our bodies move. If you dismiss the idea of the soul then you have the problem of not having a meaningful explanation not only to say where this signal arises from but also to say who experiences all the mental attributes we have such as pain, happiness, memory etc that have been discussed in these posts.

    Gregg Henriques, Ph. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist. Back Get Help. Back Magazine. Subscribe Issue Archive. Back Today. Gender Segregation at Work. Changing Paradigms in International Adoption. Gregg Henriques Ph. Friend me on Faceook. What Is the Mind? Best, Gregg. Thanks for sharing your Submitted by Gregg Henriques Ph. Quantum brain? Submitted by Mitch on December 30, - am. What is mind?

    Find out here Submitted by Parag Jasani on October 14, - pm.

    1. Grumpy Groundhog.
    2. Body Heat (Mills & Boon M&B)?
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    Mind and the unified theory Submitted by Tom Sherman on April 11, - pm. Mind Submitted by Gregg Henriques Ph. Thank you for your patience, KG. Just wow!

    Taking Control of Our Thoughts– Dr. Charles Stanley

    The saddest part is that this really is an example of Psychology today. The mind. Submitted by marrian on February 2, - pm. The mind Submitted by Gregg Henriques Ph.