Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate – WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

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Your Brain

is Crazier

Than You Think

The human brain is, so far as we know, the most complicated thing in the universe. It exists in the lonely darkness of the skull, but by interpreting electrical signals from the senses it’s able to build up a detailed picture of the world around it.

Quite how accurate this picture is, and how closely one person’s version of reality matches with that of another, is not known for sure. It is nonetheless an impressive trick.

There’s still a great deal we don’t understand about the human brain, and it may well be that we’re never going to be smart enough to figure it out completely.

We do know that a lot of strange and extraordinary things are going on inside our heads. These are ten reasons why your brain might be crazier than you think.

10. Your Brain’s too Complex for a Supercomputer

Japan’s K computer is one of the fastest and most powerful supercomputers in the world. Its 88,000 processors are capable of an astonishing 10.51 quadrillion computations per second, and it chews its way through roughly the same amount of electricity as a medium-sized town.

Since becoming operational in 2011, at which point it was ranked as the fastest computer in the world, the machine’s capabilities have been harnessed for medical research, disaster prevention, and modelling climate change. In 2014 it was used to create the most accurate simulation of a human brain’s activity ever attempted.

Only a mere 1% of the brain’s entire neural network was simulated, anything more would have been too much even for a machine as powerful and sophisticated as the K Computer. Even then it required some heavy lifting, and it took the Japanese machine some 40 minutes to replicate just one second of brain activity.

The K Computer is due for retirement in August 2019, having been surpassed by ever faster and more powerful machines. Even these are not yet capable of replicating the complexity of the human brain.

9. Memory Capacity

In 2007 a Canadian named Dave Farrow broke a world record when he successfully memorized a sequence of 3,068 playing cards.

While this is an extraordinary achievement, particularly for those of us who struggle to remember where we left our keys, it only scratches the surface of the human brain’s memory storage capacity.

Until recently this was believed to come in at somewhere around one and ten terabytes, but recent studies suggest the true total is several orders of magnitude greater.

Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies believe the average human brain can store over a petabyte of data. That’s the equivalent of 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with text, or around 2% of the total number of written words in every language in all recorded history.

Much of this capacity is devoted to such things as ensuring you don’t wake up having forgotten how to read a book or drive. By necessity, only a fraction of the remainder is available to you at any one time. It would be enormously inconvenient if you had to trawl through your memories of everywhere you’d ever been to work out where you lived.

8. Half a Brain can be Enough

Human brains are by no means the largest brains in the world. That particular distinction belongs to the sperm whale, whose brains are around six times as heavy as our own. However, comparing brain size with body mass is a far better indication of intelligence. By this measure the humble tree shrew comes out on top, with humans placing in second.

Surprisingly, it’s possible to remove an entire hemisphere of a human brain with no negative impact on the individual’s intelligence or memory.

In rare cases surgeons have no option other than to perform a hemispherectomy in order to prevent a patient’s seizures. In an adult this would be catastrophic, but the outcomes for children who undergo the procedure at a very young age are surprisingly positive. Their brains are able to adapt in a way that an older brain could not.

A recent study found that not only are most of the children who underwent the procedure seizure free, many were thriving. One had even gone on to become a state chess champion.

7. You Might Not Have Free Will

It seems obvious that humans have free will. We make thousands of decisions every day, and every time we act on these decisions we experience free will first hand. There is, however, a strong case to be made that free will is nothing more than an illusion conjured by our brains.

While it used to be believed that mind and matter were two separate entities, we can now say with a good deal of confidence that mind does not exist independently. The brain seems to be entirely material, which suggests that it must obey the law of causality – that every effect must have a specific cause.

This leaves little or no room for free will. Any decision we make or action we take is an inevitable result of the brain state which immediately preceded it, going back to even before the moment we were born.

This sounds odd, but it’s an established fact that humans are terrible judges of their own behaviour. They can be manipulated into acting in a certain way; when asked why they have done so they will subconsciously post-rationalize the action and insist they had made a decision based on their own free will.

The question of whether free will really is an illusion is far from settled, and a new $7 million study has just been launched in an attempt to come to a definitive answer.

6. Brain Plasticity

In 2014 a Chinese man visited his doctor’s surgery in Great Britain complaining of headaches and strange smells. Scans revealed a parasitic worm burrowing its way through the unfortunate man’s brain, and doctors believed it had most likely been in there for as long as five years.

That he had been able to function for so long with such relatively manageable symptoms is testament to the brain’s remarkable ability to reorganize and rewire itself.

Whenever we learn a new skill, or even form new memories, the brains physical architecture remodels itself. The hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with spatial navigation, is significantly larger in London taxi drivers than in the average person. Differences in brain structure have also been found between musicians and non-musicians.

The brain’s 90-billion or so neurons are linked by trillions of connections. Learning a new skill forms new links, while recalling a memory strengthens existing links. Our brains are constantly changing, adapting, and forming new connections. It’s this brain plasticity that means stroke victims are often able to make a full recovery despite suffering permanent damage to parts of their brain.

5. Your Brain Might be a Secret Genius

For 31 years Jason Padgett’s existence was relatively unremarkable. He worked as a futon salesman, and his free time revolved around drinking and picking up women.

That all changed in 2002 when he became the victim of a vicious, unprovoked assault outside a nightclub. Padgett managed to stagger to a hospital across the street, where he was diagnosed as having suffered a severe concussion.

Padgett’s life would never be the same again. The violent attack had somehow unlocked a previously untapped ability in his brain.

Whereas previously he had shown no particular interest or aptitude for mathematics, the attack had transformed him into a mathematical genius. Even the way he saw the world had been profoundly changed. It looked as though it was pixelated, and everywhere he looked he saw complex mathematical shapes known as fractals.

While Padgett’s experience was extremely unusual, it wasn’t entirely unique. There are other instances of people suffering a brain injury, only to come into possession of extraordinary new abilities.

Acquired savant syndrome is rare, with only a few known cases across the world. But some scientists believe almost any human brain could potentially be rewired to unlock the genius within.

4. You Remember the Past all Wrong

Our memories are fundamental in determining our sense of self. Without them we would be both literally and figuratively lost in the world. Considering their profound importance to us, it’s surprising just how unreliable our memories are, and how little we know about how they are formed.

Conventional wisdom has it that memories are recalled through connected neurons across the brain all firing at the same moment. Other research suggests that memories physically reside within brain cells.

However it’s done, the results aren’t terribly reliable. Memories aren’t recorded perfectly ready to be retrieved with total clarity at some future date.

According to research conducted by neuroscientists such as Daniela Schiller, each time we recall an event our memory of it is brought into an unstable state within the brain. When it is stored back into memory again our recollection of that event is slightly altered.

We use our memories to tell ourselves a story of who we are, but our source material is deeply unreliable.

3. When You Go on a Diet, Your Brain Eats Itself

The human brain is made up of something in the region of 90 billion neurons. Until recently it was believed that all of these are present from birth. We now know that through a process called neurogenesis it is possible for even adult brains to create brand new neurons. This is good news as we’ll lose plenty of neurons as we navigate our way through life.

Obesity, smoking, alcohol, and cocaine have all been linked with killing off brain cells and even physically shrinking the size of the brain, and a recent study suggests that even dieting can cause the brain to cannibalize itself.

Despite only weighing about 3 pounds, the brain consumes about 20% of the body’s energy, and when there’s fewer calories than expected coming in it doesn’t seem to much like it.  The neurons start cannibalizing each other, which sends out an urgent message to the body that it needs to eat something in the very near future. This explains why losing weight can be so difficult.

2. Your Brain Doesn’t Have Pain Receptors

When our bodies suffer physical injury, pain receptors fire warning signals up the spinal column to the thalamus, which serves as the brain’s sorting house for sensory signals. The message is then passed on to the regions of the brain that deal with physical sensation, thinking, and emotion. This results in the deeply unpleasant sensation of pain.

If the brain itself is injured, this doesn’t happen. It doesn’t have any pain receptors of its own. This means it’s quite possible for surgeons or neuroscientists to poke around in somebody’s brain with them fully conscious and in no discomfort. The patient is then able to assist doctors in mapping out the brain, helping to ensure no damage is done during the operation.

One Brazilian man named Anthony Kulkamp Dias even kept himself entertained by playing guitar whilst undergoing brain surgery.

1. Synesthesia can be Learned

Synesthesia is a condition that causes two or more of a person’s senses to become mixed up. One of the most common types is to perceive numbers as having a particular color. However, it comes in a wide variety of flavors, such as tasting words or perceiving the days of the week as having specific personalities or appearances.

The condition is often associated with particularly creative people. The famous physicist Richard Feynman saw equations in colors, and this may have helped him win a Nobel Prize in physics in 1965.

Around 1-in-300 people are born with synesthesia, but it’s possible to train your brain to experience it. A study at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom had subjects read books where certain words appeared in a certain color.

After several weeks of training most of the group reported seeing those colors even when reading standard black text. However, it seems the effects were not permanent, and within a few weeks the synesthesia had worn off.


Contemplate ~ Deliberate ~ Meditate ~ Ruminate –

WIF Reflection on the Human Brain

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #57

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #57

 … Some form of dementia causes John to wander aimlessly about, no sense of whether he is afoot or on horseback…

Here at the stable, in the lamplight, John Ferrell opens the mysterious envelope that had briefly distracted him that morning, nearly forgotten.

This is what it said:

A sudden fever sweeps through John Ferrell, likely flush with excess cerebral blood flow, driven by a racing pulse. The thought of this happening to him was the last thing on his mind, nor had he been exactly consumed by guilt in the intervening months since that hot and dusty July day; all that has changed, starting right now.

Daze

 Some form of dementia causes John to wander aimlessly about, no sense of whether he is afoot or on horseback, as if in a daze. Sitting, standing, vertical or horizontal, no matter his position, nothing jives with reality. All he knows is that when he heads toward his San Luis Lake mansion, he must turn away.

More than an hour passes before he can right himself. He returns to the stable, straightening the crumpled edges of the paper in his pocket. This time he sees the need to act, grabbing a lantern to light his way to the lake, formulating a plan as he goes. His subconscious has been a step ahead of his consciousness.

Laura Bell, thinking that had he intended on meeting her, thought he would have been there by now. The delay causes doubt. Her world seems to be falling apart. Her future at the only job she’s ever had, is obviously about to end.

  There is no reason to ruin perfectly good footwear, so she undoes the high ankle buttons, places them the bench and descends into the calm waters of San Luis Lake, without capturing the one last deep breath that would sustain her for a couple of minutes. She has no intentions of surviving…


Alpha Omega M.D.

San Luis Lake5-001

Despair

Episode #57


page 52

Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #51

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Episode #51

…Fort Sumter South looks like the countryside of Gettysburg, the day after the battle…

Fort Sumter3-001

The Fall of Fort Sumter South

The road back to Tallahassee runs right past Sumter South, at least close enough to Delivery Truck-001see the Mansion far in the distance. Herbert Love precedes the Ferrell Grocery “Freedom Express” in a Love Dairy & Ice wagon, loaded with supplies. He needs to reach the plantation ahead of the truck, if the smoke screen is to work, that is. Just what kind of reception he will get, when he gets there, is up in the air.

As he approaches the area, a thick black haze hangs thirty feet above the ground. Upon closer view, every structure is flattened. Even the grand three story main house stands amid the smoke. It is a sad scene for foes and friends alike. An evil empire has been reduced to ash and rubble; never in anyone’s wildest dreams.

Oddly, there is no person, white or black, to be seen. Farm animals wander unattended, cattle or horse not knowing what to do in area unfamiliar. It looks like the countryside of Gettysburg, the day after the battle, without the military corpsmen on both sides searching for anyone who may still be alive.

That was the view from the road. Love steers his ice wagon down the lane leading to the main house. Magnolia trees line the way, paired every twenty feet. How fragrant this path must be in spring. The team of horses is reined down to a slow pace, no urgency is indicated. Every appearance points to complete vacancy.

About mid-drive he hears the whimpering of a female cry. Where she is is not as obvious. He applies the wagon’s brake and dismounts to investigate, having seen nothing from his higher perch. After a minute of silence, sobs reemerge but not from the ground, rather from among the large leaves of one of the magnolias he was passing under. Peering up the trunk, he discovers a girl, adolescent he guesses, huddled in the crotch of the tree’s largest limb. She is wearing only a yellow nightie, a sure sign that she fled the mansion in a rush.


Alpha Omega M.D.

Episode #51


page 48

OCD FYI – WIF Uncontrollable Handbook

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Interesting Facts

and

Misconceptions

About OCD

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is known in popular media as that problem that people who are really, really picky and phobic about cleanliness have. Unfortunately, this is not even close to what OCD actually is. Most people have huge misconceptions about OCD, helped by shows like Monk, which have made them think that being perfectionist, anal-retentive, or overly habitual is what being OCD is all about.

 There are multiple types of OCD, and it is certainly much more complicated and difficult to deal with than TV makes it look. For those who suffer from OCD, watching popular media depicting it is basically just one extended cringe fest. Below we will go over some of the lesser known facts about OCD and bust some of the misconceptions.

10. Adrian Monk From The Hit TV Show Is Not A Good Example Of OCD

The hit TV show Monk is famous for its depiction of a detective with severe OCD. However, the truth is that OCD is probably one of the few disorders that the character actually doesn’t have. Monk is depicted as having phobias of almost everything, which isn’t really what OCD is about at all. And he is also depicted as being very cleanly and overly picky about little things, but that isn’t really OCD either. He is a grab bag of so many different symptoms with so little congruity that it is amazing anyone can claim he has any one particular disorder at all.For many who suffer from OCD, this depiction is hurtful because it makes light of the disease without properly explaining how it works at all. It is described as wacky and he is shown to be anal retentive and extremely hard to please and work with, but this is also not representative of OCD either. While Tony Shaloub is a great actor, and does his best to provide a sensitive performance, the show falls totally flat in terms of any kind of realism.

9. Many Sufferers Of OCD Suffer In Complete Silence

Many people like to think of OCD as a very public disease. Those with OCD will constantly perform little rituals that show how “crazy” and “wacky” they are to everyone around them. These rituals, like touching a doorknob many times, are often played for laughs in popular media – while the person with actual OCD feels great shame at what they are doing. While some who suffer from OCD do things like this, many of them actually don’t. It is often depicted like that because it is easy to show that on TV, but many who suffer from OCD suffer almost entirely in their own heads.

Much of OCD actually stems from persistent bad thoughts that keep occurring, often of a sexual or violent nature and involving friends or loved ones. Normal people would simply feel disgusted by the thought and move on, but those with OCD obsess over it and feel great shame. That means many with OCD will create mental rituals they go over to push the bad thoughts away. For this reason, many who have OCD are completely invisible in their suffering, totally dealing with it within their own heads.

8. Making Light Of OCD Makes It Harder For Sufferers To Get The Help They Need

The constant jokes about OCD may be funny to those who make them, but to those with OCD, it makes it harder to get the help they need, and it can also be very hurtful. People saying “I am so OCD” because they don’t like their vegetables to touch their mashed potatoes – those people are anal-retentive – and others who make light of it by making jokes about touching doorknobs or what have you, are making things much harder for those who truly suffer.

When you are an object of ridicule, especially if you are one who mostly suffers in your own head, then you are unlikely to come out to others as needing help – this is on top of the fact that there is already a stigma behind going to see mental health professionals. Those who joke about OCD should think twice about what they are doing. OCD is a disease marked almost entirely by great feelings of shame, and the mockery only makes those with it feel even more ashamed about what they do. At the very least, if someone is going to joke about OCD, they should get a better understanding first of what it actually is.

7. OCD Is Characterized By Persistent Unwanted Thoughts That Won’t Go Away

Like we mentioned earlier, OCD isn’t really about not wanting your peas to touch your chicken, or being really obsessed with making sure your shirt is tucked in perfectly and not a lock of hair is out of place. There is a disorder for this when it is taken to an extreme, but that is not Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is characterized by extremely disturbing thoughts that pop into people’s heads involving usually things of a sexual or violent nature and often involving friends and family.

While even normal people have weird thoughts like this pop into their heads now and again, the difference is that a normal person just moves on, knowing that they don’t associate with such things. However, someone with OCD feels guilty that they had the thought at all, and starts obsessing that there is something wrong with them because they had the thought. Trying not to think about something makes you think it all the harder, which makes the sufferer feel even more guilt on top of that previous guilt. Those with OCD will then do physical or mental rituals to distract themselves when the thought or thoughts try to intrude again, so they can avoid the guilty and horrible feelings. Some people will get caught up in their physical ticks to the point they hardly think about the thing they are trying to avoid thinking about anymore. Instead, they just feel a vague sense that something horrible will happen if they don’t keep the rituals up – that horrible thing generally being that the thoughts pop back up again. The best way for an OCD person to deal with this is to reassure themselves that they shouldn’t feel guilty, and not try so hard to forcibly push the thoughts away.

6. Being Incredibly Cleanly, Germaphobic Or Picky About Food Touching Is Not OCD

As we talked about earlier, being OCD is not the same thing as being really picky and cleanly. Those people are often called “anal-retentive”, but there is also a clinical term for people who take being super cleanly and neat and on the ball to the complete extreme. This disorder is called obsessive compulsive personality disorder, and is quite distinct from OCD. This disease, which is closer to one of the diseases that the character on Monk actually has, is characterized by someone who has to not have their food touching, always has to have perfectly pressed clothes, and combed hair, etc.

Oftentimes this person had a stricter upbringing, or had some event happen that shook their feeling of security. Those who have OCPD (obsessive compulsive personality disorder) are doing what they do to make the world continue to feel right, but their reasons tend to be much different. They aren’t really dealing with bad thoughts or specific feelings of doom if they don’t keep everything just so. Instead, they just have a really strict regime of keeping everything they way they wish, because in general, it gives them a feeling of safety and security. While both fall under anxiety disorders and both have obsession involved, that is as close as they actually get to each other. When many people say OCD, they really mean OCPD.

5. For Many People, OCD Takes On Religious Connotations

There is also a special form of OCD known as scrupulosity, which may or may not involve the trademark intrusive thoughts. Those with this issue deal with a special religious version of OCD. Essentially, they become so obsessed with following the rules of religion to the letter that it makes it very hard for them to properly live their daily lives. One sufferer spoke of how, when studying for her Bat Mitzvah, she was so worried about pork fumes that she was scrubbing her hands constantly red raw. She would say her prayers over if she had to and ignore people to make sure she said them just right.

This is something a lot of OCD sufferers who are religious deal with, and the sad thing is they are more likely to suffer alone because they are so afraid of how people will judge them if they tell them what they are dealing with. These people tend to be very afraid of making any religious mistake and being punished or being in disfavor with their God of choice. Unfortunately this can be a very tricky form of OCD to deal with, because the sufferer can even think that intrusive thoughts are actually being influenced by demons, making the whole thing even more complicated.

4. Those With OCD Are Often Suffering From A Lot Of Guilt About Their Unwanted Thoughts

The truth is that at its heart, OCD is almost entirely about guilt. Whether it is guilt at what you did that you fear a deity will punish you for, guilt about the thoughts you had, or guilt about something you did wrong, or any kind of guilt. Those with OCD have a short circuit in the brain wherein when they feel guilty about something, they will start obsessing over it constantly in order to make themselves feel better and try to reassure themselves. Unfortunately, because their reason they are seeking assurance is because of guilt, and the feeling is strong, they will invariably make themselves feel even guiltier.

Those with OCD will then go to their go to rituals when it all becomes too much, and the obsessing has started to make things worse. Now they will try to push away all thoughts about the thing that is bothering them, in an attempt to improve how they feel. Those with OCD will often also feel guilt at how poorly they manage their own symptoms, which only decreases their sense of self-worth even more. This is why it is so important that people understand what the disease is and don’t make light of it as much. It is already something that tends to wear down and batter those who suffer from it, so mocking them and making light of their suffering only makes it harder for them to cope.

3. People With OCD Are Hyper Aware Of Their Problems And Very Embarrassed By Them

Let’s be clear: while people with OCD are often a laughingstock, especially on TV, it is not funny to them at all. Those who suffer (like this author) are hyper aware of the things that they do. If it is currently a physical ritual, they try to hide the fact that they do it from others, because it is insanely embarrassing when others find out. If it is a mental ritual, it is much easier to hide, but they are still very, very aware that they are doing it, and feel shame even as they are performing their rituals in order to avoid more guilt.

So while it may be often depicted as someone who doesn’t really understand just how “crazy” they are, the truth is that many people who are mentally unhealthy, except for those with delusional disorders, are well aware of their mental problems and how crippling they are. In fact, they are probably much more aware of the issue and how it is affecting them than you, the casual observer, could ever be. The best way to deal with it is sensitivity, like any disorder, and if comedy is to be done, the comedian should at least take the time to properly understand what they are joking about so they can give it a proper treatment. If you want to help someone who you think has OCD, the best thing you can do is be someone they can talk to about anything – be their guilt free zone where you can get them talking and assure them that they don’t need to feel guilty all the time.

2. Persistent OCD Symptoms Can Lead To Depression And Other Mood Disorders

As you might imagine, having OCD can be very, very frustrating. Sufferers will go through bouts where they are doing better than other times, and sometimes worse. However, overall, it is a chronic problem that can be difficult to manage on an ongoing basis. You can be going well, and then something happens that triggers a thought from a horrible episode and you are doing terrible again. A life event happens that is extremely awful and you can find yourself relapsing when you had made a lot of progress. Constantly feeling guilty about horrible thoughts and trying to repress them is incredibly difficult to deal with on an ongoing basis and so many people who suffer from OCD end up with other mood disorders.

Roughly three out of four people with OCD end up with depression as well, because of how depressing it is to deal with the chronic issue of OCD. It is hard to feel good on an ongoing basis and feel good about yourself when you are constantly either feeling guilty or obsessing about thoughts or actions in an attempt to avoid feeling guilty, or guiltier. The worst part is, the rational part of the OCD sufferers brain knows that their feelings of guilt are completely irrational, but try as they might, they can’t just turn those thoughts off. In a way, the constant feelings of guilt are just as much an obsession as the rituals themselves.

1. People With OCD Can Get Better At Controlling The Problem But There Is No Cure

There are many ways to treat OCD, and to help those who suffer with it, but the truth is that there is no known cure. No one is sure if it has a genetic component or not, but there is some belief that it runs in families. Regardless of how it comes, once it is there, it is there to stay. Those with OCD will never completely cure their dilemma, and will have to deal with the issue to some degree or another for the rest of their lives.

However, this doesn’t mean everything is grim. While it may always be a problem lurking in the background, those with OCD, if they do the right things or seek the right treatment, can ameliorate the symptoms to some extent. Images may still pop into your head, but accepting and acknowledging that they are they, but there is no reason to feel guilty about them, and then practicing taking a breath and moving on, can help the sufferer deal better with their issue. Forcing yourself to break a ritual now and then, and then reminding yourself afterwards that nothing bad happened is another way you can help break yourself of the more debilitating symptoms.

Most of all, it is about practicing letting go instead of obsessing over things and allowing yourself to feel guilt if necessary, but then move on and force yourself to stop worrying about it. Nothing will cure someone with OCD, there is no magic bullet. But with many mental health disorders, with the right treatment, those with OCD can still at least live a relatively happy and normal life.


OCD FYI

– WIF Handbook

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 166

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 166

… I have to tell you Caraway, you sure know how to get a party started…

Agent Daniels has picked up the trail of L. Dick Cannon and has made him his newest person-of-interest, so he knows all about 5046 Greenwood and the plans surrounding the Chicago Stadium meeting of the Spiritual Engineering cultists. Separate from the FBI’s obsession about communists, his interest continues to focus on what nefarious nonsense Pentateuch has his spindly fingers in.

“I can see how a massive show of force may make Penty think twice about his above-ground based operations. At the very least it will make him aware that he can’t fly under the radar anymore.”

Daniels knows that there needs to be a changeup in his own personal approach. His superiors are getting itchy about where things are headed, after hearing descriptive 2 word phrases from him that they’re not used to hearing like: spiritual warfare, hyper-cold sanctuaries and soul stealing.

He does do his due diligence.

L Dick Cannon-001dianetics

“This Cannon guy is a real piece of work. He has managed to come up with system that is like Sigmund Freud on amphetamines. I’ve been reading about mental engrams freudand his brain auditing to make a person ‘clear’. It’s all horse-hockey. The CIA has torture techniques that is similar, puts that stuff to shame.” Torture is a science. “I think we can kill two birds with one stone.”

There are movie stars lining up to line Cannon’s pockets with their money and most of the same people will be lined up at Hell’s entrance..

Constance is getting antsy. “Are you ready to roll? The CPD is picking us up in an armored personnel carrier.”

“Hey, that means the National Guard has been called in on the operation, municipal police do not have those. I have to tell you Caraway, you sure know how to get a party started.”

Truer words have seldom been spoken.


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


page 141

 

WIF Mind Games – Psychological Phenomena

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Psychological Phenomena

The human brain is a fascinating and complex organ. Beyond its ability to help us reason, function and think, it plays some crazy tricks on us. All throughout history, humans have experienced things called psychological phenomena – mind tricks that sometimes defy explanation but are experienced by most people. Here are 10 of them, with a description of the phenomenon itself (when it has one!) and an example of it in action with a real, live human being.

10. Cryptomnesia

Why did Brian Williams, noted NBC news anchor, say he was in a helicopter that was attacked in Iraq? Was he lying? Or, was there something deeper at work. For that matter, why did George Harrison write “My Sweet Lord” to sound just like the Chiffon’s hit 1962 song, “He’s So Fine?” Did he plagiarize, or did he not notice the similarity between his song and the other? An argument can be made for the latter in both instances, all because of something called cryptomnesia. The term was invented by doctors Alan Brown and Dana Murphy, after conducting three experiments at Southern Methodist University in 1989. They discovered that people will unknowingly “borrow” the ideas of others, rather than thinking of new ideas. Rather than consciously stealing a song, or making up a story out of thin air, the human brain is capable of taking a story, song or idea and transforming it. In the person’s mind, it becomes new. Original. When really, it’s just a memory.

Studies have shown this phenomenon is pretty common, but it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between it and a lie. So, it’s possible that Brian Williams simply thought he was on that helicopter, or he might have been lying. In the case of George Harrison, however, a judge decided that cryptomnesia really was the culprit, and Harrison was charged with “subconscious plagiarism.” It’s scary when you think about it. How many of our ideas are actually our own, and how many are really memories?

9. Deja Vu

Have you ever visited a new place, only to get the feeling that you’d been there before? That’s called a deja vu, and it happens to almost everybody. Art Markman, Ph.D., explains deja vu as a device our brains use to create a sense of familiarity in a particular situation using source memories as context clues. He says that humans are good at remembering objects, so if we see a person wearing the same t-shirt that we saw our friend wear last week, we don’t get confused that the stranger in the same shirt is our friend. However, we are not great at recalling memories based solely on how objects are arranged. So, if you see a stack of those t-shirts in one store, and then years later go to a completely different store in a completely different city, you might not remember that you saw an identical stack of shirts, but instead feel a sense of familiarity, of knowing, and not know why.

In one extreme case, French psychiatrist Francois-Leon Arnaud wrote about a guy named Louis who lived in the 19th century. Louis was a soldier who suffered from amnesia, then headaches, irritability and insomnia. And, he suffered from almost constant deja vu. Everything he experienced felt like something he’d experienced before. At the time, his doctors diagnosed him with “illusion deja vu,” but today it’s suggested that Louis may have had a memory disorder like recollective confabulation, where people routinely think that all new information is familiar. For us, the occasional deja vu is a creepy and otherworldly feeling, so much that some people think it’s really a memory from a past life.

8. Bystander Effect

The Bystander Effect is a psychological phenomenon that is social in nature. It’s characterized by the unlikeliness of a group of people (the bigger the group, the more likely the phenomenon) to help during an emergency. The most famous example of this is the 1964 murder of young Kitty Genovese, when allegedly she was murdered on the streets of New York and the 38 bystanders who witnessed the murder did nothing to help. A great example of the phenomenon, if true. However, Kitty’s brother, Bill, decided to get to the bottom of what really happened to his sister and it turns out that only a few people actually saw the attack, and one actually shouted for the murderer to stop. Two people claimed to have called the police, though there are no phone records. Bill says that regardless of whether or not people tried to help, his sister’s story is an important lesson to those who might do nothing when they see someone in trouble.

Another disturbing example of Bystander Effect is that of Topsy the Elephant. Topsy killed one man, but was accused of being a “serial man killer,” and was therefore sentenced to death. Originally believed to be one in a long streak of electrocutions in that “War of the Currents,” it’s likely that electrocution was chosen for Topsy because it was more humane than the original form execution, which was hanging. The electrocution of Topsy occurred on Coney Island, in front of Luna Park employees, Edison’s employees, and many other witnesses. Nobody lifted a finger. A gruesome account of the atrocity can be found in in Michael Daly’s book, Topsy.  An Edmund Burke quote comes to mind: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

7. Placebo Effect

If you’ve ever participated in a clinical study (or studied science, for that matter), you know what a placebo is. It’s a pill or other treatment that has no physical effect, but can produce a psychological benefit called the Placebo Effect. In essence, if someone takes a placebo and experiences some sort of benefit, there you have this particular psychological phenomenon. One example of this is the case of MK-869, an experimental antidepressant developed by Merck in 2002. The drug tested exceedingly well at first, and Merck had high hopes for domination in the marketplace. Imagine how disappointed shareholders and analysts were, however, when data showed that while those who took MK-869 did feel better, so did the same amount of people who took the placebo.

This is a pretty common occurrence in the world of pharmaceuticals. In fact, about 50% of developing drugs fail in the trial stage because it’s found that the placebo is just as effective. Some medical professionals even claim that some people react well even when they know they are receiving a placebo. That the ritual of taking medicine or doing something healthy can make the brain think that the body is healing. Maybe there is something to the old adage, “Heal thyself.”

6. McGurk Effect

The McGurk Effect, a crazy psychological phenomenon that has to do with your eyes and your ears (and how they get confused) when perceiving speech. It happens when your brain associates the hearing part of one sound and pairs it with the visual appearance of another sound being spoken, which leads to the brain perceiving a nonexistent third sound. Whoa, right?

It happens especially when you can’t hear the sound that well (like in a crowded room, or when a person is speaking very softly) but you can see the lips move, making you think you “hear” something else. Think about that kid in class who mouthed “elephant shoe” at you. The phenomenon was first explained in 1976 by, not surprisingly, a guy named McGurk who studied how infants perceive language as they develop. It’s best described in video format, and there are a lot of examples out there. Like this one or, obviously, the one embedded above.

 5. Baader-Meinhof

You just heard about a new director from your film nerd friend. Later that day, you look up a movie with your favorite actor in it on IMDd and BAM, it’s that director. Then, you pick up the newspaper and there’s a profile on the same director – the one you had never heard of before. All of a sudden, this guy is everywhere. Is he the next Scorsese, or did your film buff friend plant all these references for you? Neither! You’re experiencing the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

Arnold Swicky, a linguistics professor at Stanford, named this phenomenon Frequency Illusion in 2006, because it was easier than calling it the “When you hear something one time and all of the sudden it’s everywhere syndrome.” He explained that it is caused by two psychological processes. In one, you learn a thing and then, without knowing it, you look for it other places. In the other, confirmation bias tells you that the thing is everywhere overnight, simply because you never noticed it before. The term Baader-Meinhof came about earlier than 2006, on a St. Paul Pioneer Press online forum, where a participant heard the name of the notorious terrorist group two times in the same day. The phrase got meme-ified and later Swicky gave it a medical name.

4. Cognitive Dissonance

You know that getting sunburned can cause skin cancer, but you skip the sunscreen anyway. Or you smoke, even when you know that smoking causes cancer. You’ve got yourself a great example of cognitive dissonance, a phenomenon that occurs when you experience a conflict of attitude, behavior, or belief. Your behavior (skipping the sunscreen) belies your cognition (the fact that you know that you could get skin cancer), creating a state of cognitive dissonance.

This was first studied by Leon Festinger in 1957, when a doomsday cult that believed a flood was going to end the world… well, they didn’t get destroyed by a flood (and neither did the world). He found that people who were on the fence about the flood felt pretty dumb for giving up their houses and jobs and chalked it up to a learning experience, while the devout cult members decided that it was their great faith and sacrifice that saved the world. There are also fun ways to explore this phenomenon, like this Prezi about the cognitive dissonance in Mean Girls.

3. Online Disinhibition Effect

Unless you avoid the internet altogether (and judging by the fact you’re reading this, that’s pretty definitively not the case), you’ve seen the Online Disinhibition Effect in action. It’s your sweet former teacher that turns into a hate-filled rage ball on a Facebook thread. It’s Roseanne tweeting herself into unemployment. It’s the internet user’s tendency to say (or type) things they wouldn’t usually say in real life. This is caused by a number of personality variables that cause a person to deviate from their “normal” behavior. Just like people who feel less shy when online, some people lose a lot more than shyness when they feel a sense of anonymity.

Even on social media, where your name and photo are attached to your profile, it’s possible to minimize authority, loosen your self-boundaries and pretend it’s all a game when nobody is responding to you in person. If only people could just do what we do and pretend their mother can see everything they post online. Hey, if it works, it works!

2. Reverse Psychology

If you’re a parent, you’ve likely used reverse psychology to get your kids to do what you want. For instance, if they don’t want to eat their dinner, and then you tell them they’re not allowed to eat dinner, odds are they will. Reverse psychology relies on reactance, where a person responds negatively to persuasion, and instead responds to the thing that they’re persuaded not to do. Even if you’re not a parent, you’ve likely used it on family members, partners, or coworkers.

Reverse psychology dates back as far as human behavior, with a notable example in the 1700s. Apparently, Antoine-Augustin Parmentier, while imprisoned during the Seven Years’ War, ate a whole lot of potatoes. In France, potatoes were frowned on, and only fed to animals. French Parliament even outlawed potatoes in 1748, because they thought that they caused leprosy. When Antoine-Augustin got back to France in 1763 he started thinking about overcoming the bias against potatoes, because he knew they were very nutritious. One story says that he planted a potato patch and hired a guard to protect it, spreading the rumor that he was growing something special in there. Of course, people snuck in to steal the potatoes, and they decided they were a-ok.

1. Overview Effect

The last entry on our list is a psychological phenomenon most of us won’t experience. It’s the Overview Effect – the sensation that astronauts feel when they see the Earth as a whole. Six astronauts were interviewed by Inverse, and the experience of seeing Earth from space made them change how they saw their planet, and their relationship to it. The term Overview Effect was created by Frank White to describe the experience of seeing the Earth as part of something bigger. Makes sense, since when we live on the Earth the Earth is plenty big for us to consider. What would the world be like if everyone could look at the universe in a different way? Read those testimonials from the six astronauts interviewed and you’ll get an idea.

Our brains are strange and wonderful places, capable of greatness and atrocity. An understanding of how the brain works might help us avoid the latter, but it will surely help us strive to the former.


WIF Mind Games –

Psychological Phenomena

Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 75

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 75

…you are supposed to be dead, that is what Mastadon and most of Chicago is lead to believe…

“He wanted to come, seemed to recognize his surroundings, he pointed the way,” Fanny explains her actions.

Once inside the door, Libby just about leapt from his seat screaming and pointing at the wall of books, “Bell, bell!”

“That is what Doctor Steinberg told me he was saying…. Bell, do you mean one of these?”

“Bell!”

Constance goes to the wall, while Martin tries to cajole his friend. Alexander Graham Bell is there, as is the Liberty Bell, no bell peppers, but she makes her way to the Hemingway collection, pulling out For Whom the Bell Tolls, thereby exposing a legal sized manila folder to the light of day. Farewell to Arms and The Sun Also Rises must also come away in order to get the bulky unlabeled envelope out.

Martin sees what she is doing and gallops to her side. Fanny tries to calm the frantic Libby, but cannot, as he leaves the wheelchair on his own, though his atrophied leg muscles fail to hold his weight. Bedlam has broken out with no notice.

“My paper…!” Willard Libby beckons like a shepherd finding that one stray sheep.

“Willard, are you… do you… I mean is that really you, back with us?” Martin is beside himself.

All he can do is cry tears of joy from the kneeling position, holding his face in his hands.

“It must be like coming back from the dead,” Constance is thrilled.

“How about being buried alive?” captive Libby adds to the subject himself. “I was screaming out to you at Steinberg’s House of Pain.”

“I don’t know how much you’ve understood about our conversations, but you are supposed to be dead, that is what Mastadon and most of Chicago is lead to believe, the rest of the world that cares thinks you are still missing. Either way we must keep you under wraps until we can know how to proceed from this point forward.”


Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon


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