April 16, 2008

MetaLinking 2008/03/16


The Profound Impact of Our Unconscious - "Whether you are a habitual list maker, or you prefer to keep your tasks in your head, everyone pursues their goals in this ever changing, chaotic environment. We are often aware of our conscious decisions that bring us closer to reaching our goals, however to what extent can we count on our unconscious processes to pilot us toward our destined future? People can learn rather complex structures of the environment and do so implicitly, or without intention. Could this unconscious learning be better if we really wanted it to?” - There are several new studies on subconscious processes and how they influence our behavior. This particular article makes a strong argument for both the existence of deeply implicit learning and the possibility of working with subconscious processes to develop more congruent life-goal modes of consciousness.

Decision-making May Be Surprisingly Unconscious Activity – “Contrary to what most of us would like to believe, decision-making may be a process handled to a large extent by unconscious mental activity. A team of scientists has unraveled how the brain actually unconsciously prepares our decisions. ‘Many processes in the brain occur automatically and without involvement of our consciousness. This prevents our mind from being overloaded by simple routine tasks. But when it comes to decisions we tend to assume they are made by our conscious mind. This is questioned by our current findings.’” - It should be no surprise to people who study human psychology that many of our behaviors and decisions are influenced greatly by subconscious and/or unconscious processes; but what remains of equal importance is investigating how we might develop and increase whatever capacity for higher order consciousness we do have. No doubt further research into embodied subjectivity and integrated personal cognition will provide us with some resources to begin aligning deep biological potentials with our more psychological and existential imperatives and potential. The more we come to know what we are, the more fully we can begin asking who we want to be.

In the News - Therapy, Psychology, and Neuroscience – “It's been an interesting week for mind and psychology articles in the news. From the effectiveness of psychology and psychiatry to moral psychology to neuroscience and literature and beyond, here are a few of the best articles I found this week (in no particular order), with some relevant quotes and a little commentary.”

How The Brain Copes In Language Impaired Kids - "Researchers at UCL (University College London) have discovered that a system in the brain for processing grammar is impaired in some children with specific language impairment (SLI), but that these children compensate with a different brain area... The UCL suggest that educational methods that enhance these compensatory mechanisms may help such children overcome their difficulties..." – This article provides some new information about brain plasticity and neuro-adaptation.

Rationalization of our choices - statistics rather than psychology? – “Tierny has done it again - a really really kewl article on what appears to be an error in some classical psychological experiments on cognitive dissonance and rationalization. He provides online exercises you can do. Those early experiments suggested choice rationalization: Once we reject something, we tell ourselves we never liked it anyway (and thereby spare ourselves the painfully dissonant thought that we made the wrong choice). It turns out that in the free-choice paradigm used to test our tendency to rationalize decisions, any bias or slight preference for one of the initial choices can lead to results on subsequent choices that are explained by simple statistics rather than a psychological explanation. The article is worth a careful read...”

Brains: Are They Really Like Anything? – “It's increasingly accepted that the brain uses a sparse, distributed code for representing information. Computational models based on these principles are able to account for an increasingly wide variety of interactions between cognition, pharmacology, and deep brain stimulation. Work on the sparse distributed nature of these representations, and the learning processes which generate them, has driven the development and partial success of pattern classifiers for deciphering fMRI data - providing converging evidence that we do have an increasingly good idea of how brains represent information. Peter is probably uncomfortable with equating "sparse distributed representation" with "analog," as I may have in my original post.”

Setting Personal Boundaries – “In the previous post, we spoke of the importance of developing personal boundaries. The question remains, then – how? The first step is recognition; it always is. This step might seem silly, absurd – but for many, an important step. Recognise first and foremost that you have a right to boundaries. Do everything you can – affirmations, meditations, or social support – to drive that point in: you have a right to be respected, to be safe, and to be treated as an equal. We have to take care of ourselves, no one else can do it for us.”

The Examined Life: Is Mind Distinct From Body? – “In honor of the Toward a Science of Consciousness, of which this is the last day, here is another episode from The Examined Life -- Is Mind Distinct From Body?” - This is a great article with several informative links.

The Collective Mind – “Durkheim was obviously not the first to advance a notion of mind which transcended the individual. But while it may have been common for many nineteenth century figures to write about group minds with distinctive emergent or transcendent properties (think for example of all that interest in the spirit of history, or more concretely in crowds, or 'primitive' minds), which required minds to be viewed collectively rather than as separate entities bounded by the skulls or skins of individualized human beings, from the early 20th century such notions were gradually abandoned or discredited, such that even Durkheim himself was compelled to drop his term in favor of the far more innocuous-sounding 'collective representation'.”


6 Difficult Types of People and How to Deal With Them - “We all have difficult people we need to deal with in our lives on a daily basis. While such characteristics may be exaggerations, you may find traits of them in a few of the people in your workplace, amongst your friends, or even a loved one. Psychological research has suggested several ways of coping with difficult people in your life, e.g. hostile co-workers or bosses, complainers, super-agreeables, know-it-all experts, pessimists, and stallers”.

The Women’s Liberation Movement and Public Schools – “The comments on Sean’s post below brought to mind a conversation I had long ago. I had been a postdoc at the Carnegie Observatories, which was a research foundation funded by donors. We were having a meet-n-greet with the folks who had given money to the institute — showing them the machine shop, the offices, etc. I was sitting down with one of the more elderly donors, who announced, “Women’s lib killed the public school system.”

Can We Solve It Like This? Why the ‘We Campaign’ Needs Change – ‘We Can Solve It is barely out of the chute, and already there's widespread clamor in the green media that its approach is, well, flawed. One of the biggest questions is why what's known about the project's $300 million three-year budget sounds like a dream campaign plan from 1989: heavy on expensive TV ads, media consultants, and the like, and extremely short on funding for items that could push much broader grass roots outreach... that as a campaign it is, as someone said to me this weekend, "way more Hillary than Obama."’

Where angels no longer fear to tread - "The Economist has an article which serves as an interesting summary of some of the recent work on the psychology and neuroscience of religious belief. It's a little bit clumsy in places. For example, it summarises some of the work on the role of the temporal lobes as saying that "religious visions are the result of epileptic seizures that affect this part of the brain"."

Giant Statue of Ancient Egypt Queen Found – “A 12-foot-tall (3.6-meter-tall) colossus of Queen Tiye—the influential main wife of noted pharaoh Amenhotep III—has been unearthed at a sprawling temple complex in Luxor.”

Ancient Temple Discovered Among Inca Ruins - “A temple thought to have once housed idols and mummies has been unearthed near an ancient Inca site in Cusco, Peru, scientists say.”

Millennium Foundation Recognizes Inventors and Technologies That Changed the World – “Trailblazing technologies that improved high-speed long-distance communication, provided the blueprint for mobile phone networks, introduced DNA fingerprinting, and created new drug delivery systems were announced Tuesday as finalists for Finland's 2008 Millennium Technology Prize.”

Can We Please Retire the “ID Isn't Science” Meme? – “Not because it's false, mind you. There is no reasonable definition of science that includes Intelligent Design and Creationism, and it is perfectly legitimate to point that out. In certain contexts, like when you are arguing that it is unconstitutional to teach ID in public high school science classes, it is even an important and relevant point. But it is not the main reason serious scientists want nothing to do with the notion and it should not be the first thing you say when debating the subject.”

Evolution In The Classroom – “Evolution has taken another step away from being dismissed as "a theory" in the classroom. A new article documents the automation of evolution: researchers have produced a computer-controlled system that can drive the evolution of improved RNA enzymes -- biological catalysts -- without human input. In the future, this "evolution-machine" could feature in the classroom as well as the lab, allowing students to watch evolution happen in their biology lessons.”


VIDEO: Antarctica Ice Collapses – “A section of Antarctic ice seven times the size of Manhattan has broken away from a large ice shelf. Scientists say it is a sign of continued global warming.”

Largest Ice Shelf In Northern Hemisphere Has Fractured Into Three Pieces – “The largest ice shelf in the Northern Hemisphere has fractured into three main pieces. During a recent patrol across the northernmost parts of Canada, researchers found a new 18 kilometer-long network of cracks running from the southern edge of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf to the Arctic Ocean. This accompanies a large central fracture that was first detected in 2002, and raises the concern that the remaining ice shelf will disintegrate within the next few years.”

Find Earth Day Events in Your Area – “On April 22, people and communities around the world celebrate one of the coolest holidays on the books — Earth Day! Find out what's going on in your town or state, search for specific Earth Day events, and find tools for organizing your own celebration using these online resources.” – As Earth day approaches prepare yourself by becoming more aware of events and activities going on locally. Be the change you want to see...

Green Buildings and Smart Grids – “a new energy ecosystem is emerging that connects smart, green buildings with a smart, green grid to optimize energy flows. Since commercial and industrial buildings represent around 40 percent of U.S. energy use, and homes another 30 percent, this represents the most significant opportunity for energy efficiency and mass-scale renewable generation.”

Climate Change Will Erode Foundations Of Health, World Health Organization Warns – “Scientists tell us that the evidence the Earth is warming is "unequivocal." Increases in global average air and sea temperature, ice melting and rising global sea levels all help us understand and prepare for the coming challenges. In addition to these observed changes, climate-sensitive impacts on human health are occurring today. They are attacking the pillars of public health. And they are providing a glimpse of the challenges public health will have to confront on a large scale.”

Future Of Solar-powered Houses Is Clear – “People could live in glass houses and look at the world through rose-tinted windows while reducing their carbon emissions by 50 percent, thanks to new Australian research.”


AUDIO: Oil and the 'New International Energy Order' – “With both the cost of and demand for oil rising, nations with large energy reserves are redrawing political and military alliances, and oil-rich countries like Russia and Venezuela are enjoying greater influence. Michael Klare, author of Rising Power, Shrinking Planet, calls it the "new international energy order." – A fascinating discussion of the politics of oil, including insights from those at the center of power.

Haiti's government falls after food riots – “Haiti's government fell on Saturday when senators fired the prime minister after more than a week of riots over food prices, ignoring a plan presented by the president to slash the cost of rice.”

Modern slaves – “Hardly a thing of the past, slavery thrives in our world. Investigative reporter Benjamin Skinner tells Salon the shocking truth about human trafficking.”

VIDEO: Rogue Economics: Capitalism's New Reality – “Italian economist, journalist and author Loretta Napoleoni argues that recent events on Wall Street indicate a much larger upheaval and could “signal the end of the ‘Roaring Nineties,’ nearly two decades of easy money, cheap credit, and soaring global debt.” It’s an argument Napoleoni develops in her latest book called Rogue Economics: Capitalism’s New Reality.”

'Surge' Threatens to Unravel in Iraq – “Fighting between Shiite militias and Iraqi troops continues in Basra and Baghdad, raising concerns that security gains made during the U.S. "surge" might unravel”.

Strike Fails to Shake Mugabe – “An opposition protest action fizzles, as fear of violence and poverty discourages people from staying away from work.”

Neuroweapons, war crimes and the preconscious brain – “ A new generation of military technology interfaces directly with the brain to target and trigger weapons before our conscious mind is fully engaged. In a new article in the Cornell International Law Journal, lawyer Stephen White asks whether the concept of a 'war crime' becomes irrelevant if the unconscious mind is pulling the trigger.”

Bomb kills at least 9 in Iran mosque – “A bomb exploded in a mosque in the southern Iranian city Shiraz on Saturday, killing at least nine people and wounding more than 100, Iranian media reported.”

Brown calls for G8 action on food crisis – “Prime Minister Gordon Brown on Wednesday called for a coordinated response led by the United Nations, World Bank and International Monetary Fund to address soaring food prices.”

VIDEO: Maoist Rebels Win Majority in Nepalese Assembly – “Maoist rebels in Nepal say an end to monarchy is near following their surprise victory in last week’s national elections. The Communist Party of Nepal is expected to come out with more than half the seats in the Constituent Assembly when final results are released. Maoist officials say one of their first orders of business will be to abolish the monarchy and declare a republic. We speak with New York-based journalist, Kashish Das Shrestha and we go to Nepal to speak with anthropologist, Mary Des Chenes.”

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