How the Mind Works

How-the-Mind-Works

Found this free pdf-version of Steven Pinkers bestseller “How the Mind Works and are planning to read through it the next weeks. What I’ve got from the reviews is that he tries to explain what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. Pinker rehabilitates some unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection, and challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, and that nature is good and modern society corrupting.

Can’t wait to get started!

Steven Pinker – How The Mind-Works

Posted in Consciousness, Evolution, Neuroscience, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Psychology Humor

ID

Posted in Humor | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Elegant Universe

The universe

. . for more than half a century–even in the midst of some of the greatest scientific achievements in history–physicists have been quietly aware of a dark cloud looming on a distant horizon. The problem is this: There are two foundational pillars upon which modern physics rests. One is Albert Einstein’s general relativity, which provides a theoretical framework for understanding the universe on the largest of scales: stars, galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and beyond to the immense expanse of the universe itself. The other is quantum mechanics, which provides a theoretical framework for understanding the universe on the smallest of scales: molecules, atoms, and all the way down to subatomic particles like electrons and quarks. Through years of research, physicists have experimentally confirmed to almost unimaginable accuracy virtually all predictions made by each of these theories. But these same theoretical tools inexorably lead to another disturbing conclusion: As they are currently formulated, general relativity and quantum mechanics cannot both be right. The two theories underlying the tremendous progress of physics during the last hundred years–progress that has explained the expansion of the heavens and the fundamental structure of matter–are mutually incompatible.

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Minimalism

I looked at a picture painted white with a dot
White, with that black dot and I thought
Why bother painting that black dot in the middle
With the white all around it, makes it so little
Just a little black dot all surrounded by white
And I look at this painting and think that I might
Punch a hole through that painting with the fist of my hand
And show that white painting that I was a man
And it looked like it was made by a child
Who was given a paintbrush and told to go wild
But the child was retarded, only managed to poke
The canvass with the brush with the black with a stroke.

And I was going to do it when the artist walked by
Looked at my fist, the painting, asked why
I would want to destroy the black dot made of paint
Saying, “It’s so essential, an essentially quaint
Expression of essential potential in all
Of the people who have a potentially small
Dot of their own painted on their soul;
You see, in the white, there was a small hole
So I covered the hole with paint that was black.”
And then he turned away while I turned back.

I stared, stared, stared til the janitor came ‘long
He saw me, stopped mopping, stopped whistling a song
Stopped to ask me, “Hey sonny, been here long, you okay?”
“This is rubbish, this painting, just rubbish, I say!
I talked to the artist. Didn’t help in the least.
So I stared for a while but my anger increased.
This isn’t art, this white paint and black dot
Oh, it’s a picture of a dot, but art, it is not.”
The janitor nodded his head up and down
And cleared his throat and uttered a sound
That was like an agreement, but more like a laugh
And said, “Sonny, you’ve looked at this more than I have
But whenever I look, I don’t see the white
And with that he leaned over and turned off the light.

And with the light off, the dot grew and grew
Til it covered the canvass and he said, “Who knew
That in the dark every painting looks exactly the same,
Same portrait, same landscape, same romance, same shame,
Could be reddish or yellowed or purpley or blue
Or anything, ’cause, sonny, that’s what the dot turns into.”
He went off and he mopped and he whistled his tune
And I left and walked out and looked up at the moon
Which looked vaguely and oddly familiar that night,
So familiar—a black canvass with a dot that is white.

By jonny7404

Posted in Optical illusions | Tagged | 2 Comments

Educate Thyself

Voltaire on why one should educate oneself: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” This seems to be relevant in our days as we see presumably good people turning bad as they believe the absurdities preached by violent teachers all over the world. First to come to mind is the ideological war going on in the muslim world today, with all the suffering that leads to, but on every arena there are people having an agenda. An educated mind will, hopefully, be able to see through the words of so called authority, reveal stupid ignorance, and unmask hateful prejudice.

Educate yourself

Posted in Authority, Cartoons, Humor, Ideological war, Ignorance, Prejudice, Religion | Tagged | 3 Comments

Risk Aversion vs Uncertain Outcomes

cycles-of-market-emotions1

Risk aversion is a concept in economics of how people behave when they are exposed to uncertain outcomes. The concept of being risk averse is defined as the propensity to prefer an offer with an expected lower but more certain outcome, compared to an offer with a higher expected outcome with more risk. A more risk averse person is thus less inclined to make an investment with a fairly rewarding outcome if the outcome is uncertain, than a person who is less risk averse. In a stone age society with everyday real and present threats and dangers (and many deadly ones too), such a mental setting would seem adaptive and evolutionary wise.

For a poor person in todays world, this might imply little or no investment in modern production technologies that could lead that person out of poverty. Knowledge of risk behavior might therefore be of importance for someone who wants to make informed, but at times, risky choices that could better his or her life. Because, as Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman demonstrated in their theory about decision theoryloss aversion is people’s tendency to strongly prefer avoiding losses than acquiring gains. Several studies suggest that losses are twice as powerful, psychologically, as gains, which leads to risk aversion; since people prefer avoiding losses to making gains.

Risk aversion might explain why people in the stock market hold on to stocks that are at their peak (but will probably go down), but are notorious reluctant to sell stocks that lose value before it reaches rock bottom, but will sell at its lowest point (where it most probably will start to go up again). In statistics we know about regression toward the mean, which is the phenomenon that if a variable is extreme on its first measurement, it will tend to be closer to the average on its second measurement. If people knew more about these three things; loss aversion based on feelings (and not cognition), calculated risk behavior based on cognition (and not feelings) and regression toward the mean, wealth might be more evenly distributed in society?

Posted in Judgement and Decision making | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brain Power

I once wondered if one could lose weight by thinking harder, but it seems like the energy consumption in the brain is not a simple matter of greater mental effort sapping more of the body’s available energy.

Even though a more difficult mental task requires more energy because of more neural activity, you won’t see a large increase of glucose consumption. Claude Messier of the University of Ottawa explains that the reason for this is that the brain at base level already is consuming quite a lot of energy, even in slow-wave sleep with very little activity there is a high baseline consumption of glucose. Most organs do not require so much energy for basic housekeeping, while the brain must keep the all of the cells in its billions of neurons charged  even when those cells are not firing. Because of this continuous maintenance, the brain usually has all the energy it needs, and you won’t lose weight by thinking harder.

Read more here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/thinking-hard-calories/

Brain_04

Posted in Neuroscience, Science | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments