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In today's New York Times, I have an editorial on the brain science of why people form false beliefs, co-written with my co-author, Sandra Aamodt. It's timely because of the many rumors that have sprung up around Barack Obama - for instance, the false idea that he is a Muslim.

Unfortunately, the Times editorial format doesn't allow links. I know many readers of Daily Kos are like me and want to see the supporting literature. So we thought we'd provide the text here, complete with embedded links to key papers. You can read more on the website for our book, Welcome To Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life.

Your brain lies to you

By Sam Wang and Sandra Aamodt

False beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found. Thus it seems slightly less egregious that, according to another poll, 10 percent of us think that Senator Barack Obama, a Christian, is instead a Muslim. The Obama campaign has created a Web site to dispel misinformation. But this effort may be more difficult than it seems, thanks to the quirky way in which our brains store memories — and mislead us along the way.

The brain does not simply gather and stockpile information as a computer’s hard drive does. Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned. For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it.

This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.

With time, this misremembering only gets worse. A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength. This could explain why, during the 2004 presidential campaign, it took some weeks for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth campaign against Senator John Kerry to have an effect on his standings in the polls. [Note: see my meta-analysis of polls from 2004.]

Even if they do not understand the neuroscience behind source amnesia, campaign strategists can exploit it to spread misinformation. They know that if their message is initially memorable, its impression will persist long after it is debunked. In repeating a falsehood, someone may back it up with an opening line like "I think I read somewhere" or even with a reference to a specific source.

In one study, a group of Stanford students was exposed repeatedly to an unsubstantiated claim taken from a Web site that Coca-Cola is an effective paint thinner. Students who read the statement five times were nearly one-third more likely than those who read it only twice to attribute it to Consumer Reports (rather than The National Enquirer, their other choice), giving it a gloss of credibility.

Adding to this innate tendency to mold information we recall is the way our brains fit facts into established mental frameworks. We tend to remember news that accords with our worldview, and discount statements that contradict it.

In another Stanford study, 48 students, half of whom said they favored capital punishment and half of whom said they opposed it, were presented with two pieces of evidence, one supporting and one contradicting the claim that capital punishment deters crime. Both groups were more convinced by the evidence that supported their initial position.

Psychologists have suggested that legends propagate by striking an emotional chord. In the same way, ideas can spread by emotional selection, rather than by their factual merits, encouraging the persistence of falsehoods about Coke — or about a presidential candidate.

Journalists and campaign workers may think they are acting to counter misinformation by pointing out that it is false. But by repeating a false rumor, they may inadvertently make it stronger. In its concerted effort to "stop the smears," the Obama campaign may want to keep this in mind. Rather than emphasize that he is not a Muslim, for instance, it may be more effective to stress his discovery of Christianity in his twenties.  

Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold. In a follow-up to the study of students’ impressions of evidence about the death penalty, researchers found that even when subjects were given a specific instruction to be objective, they were still inclined to reject evidence that disagreed with their beliefs.

In the same study, however, when subjects were asked to imagine their reaction if the evidence had pointed to the opposite conclusion, they were more open-minded to information that contradicted their beliefs. Apparently, it pays for consumers of controversial news to take a moment and consider that the opposite interpretation may be true.

In 1919, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes of the Supreme Court wrote that "the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market." Holmes erroneously assumed that ideas are more likely to spread if they are honest. Our brains do not naturally obey this admirable dictum, but by better understanding the mechanisms of memory perhaps we can move closer to Holmes’s ideal.

Originally posted to mindgeek on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:02 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I read the NYT article. (165+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Louise, Superskepticalman, Ed in Montana, DeminNewJ, Mogolori, Chi, Powered Grace, BigOkie, Sherri in TX, billlaurelMD, cotterperson, x, frisco, sobermom, zic, RepubAnon, Heart of the Rockies, Gustogirl, joynow, Shadan7, megs, kosblt, Morague, buckhorn okie, taonow, Ignacio Magaloni, juslikagrzly, Glinda, OldYellerDog, jillles, nancelot, fightorleave, Chicago Lulu, Bulldawg, joliberal, snakelass, Chun Yang, walkshills, Vicky, rapala, nailbender, Bluesee, el dorado gal, Elise, SherwoodB, Jersey Girl, ChemBob, ratzo, cfk, lotlizard, Ice Blue, QuickSilver, blue jersey mom, techno, sundancekid11, roubs, psyched, CCSDem, Mother Mags, BalanceSeeker, Keone Michaels, Fasaha, 417els, Gorette, Samwoman, urbannie, TalkieToaster, global citizen, nonnie9999, agnostic, Eupraxsophist, imabluemerkin, real world chick, MBNYC, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Stripe, Nulwee, Pandoras Box, Aaa T Tudeattack, NonnyO, DBunn, One Pissed Off Liberal, pgm 01, YoyogiBear, lightfoot, BeninSC, Cronesense, Tailspinterry, suburi, yoduuuh do or do not, LillithMc, Mary Mike, kath25, flumptytail, Jimdotz, LamontCranston, DWG, Seneca Doane, Killer of Sacred Cows, jnhobbs, blueisland, Moderation, uciguy30, Chico David RN, wuod kwatch, Neon Mama, trivium, sand805, Light Emitting Pickle, kafkananda, Dem in the heart of Texas, pollwatch, wayoutinthestix, indyada, Rick Winrod, lineatus, Randgrithr, dewley notid, smartdemmg, MsWings, Quicksilver2723, Jeff Y, temptxan, kyril, xango715, JedReport, luckylizard, BYw, Zulia, Scubaval, gsenski, Purple Priestess, jedley, ryangoesboom, wv voice of reason, smellybeast, bushondrugs, WSComn, no expert, juca, holger smed, banjolele, velvet blasphemy, SciVo, mrchumchum, Ohiobama, scotths, soms, allep10, JulieUnplugged, FundaMental Transformation, MizKit, myelinate, Livvy5, Emalene, joehoevah, LookingUp, Julia C, mamamorgaine, rb137, dorkenergy, UTvoter, filibusted, pixxer, SoCalHobbit

    I had no idea you were "here" Mindgeek.  I haven't finished following all the links yet, but was excited by the direction your research is taking.  Good Stuff!

    Subtlety is the art of saying what you think and getting out of the way before it is understood.

    by Granny Doc on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:07:18 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for putting this up... (13+ / 0-)

    This is a little off topic, but I took a look at your diary history where you were predicting 90-95% probability of Kerry winning.  That scares the crap out of me considering the recent analyses re Obama chances.  Hope it's different this time.

    -8.25, -6.25 "War: a massacre of people who don't know each other for the profit of people who know each other but don't massacre each other." -Paul Valéry

    by smellybeast on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:13:45 AM PDT

  •  Mindgeek, please post a tip jar. (26+ / 0-)

    This is some fascinating stuff.

    Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

    by lineatus on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:13:45 AM PDT

  •  I think this has been understood intuitively (55+ / 0-)

    for long time -- i.e., underlying Mark Twain's observation that "a lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."  It's very interesting to gain some understanding of the neuroscience, though.

    My question is how this information can be employed for political advantage by people who prefer to win by telling the truth.  It's not enough merely to understand the cognitive errors to which people are prone, because the people we need to reach aren't likely to care about, comprehend, and act on that understanding.  So what to do?

    "...we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them."

    by beagledad on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:15:19 AM PDT

  •  hiccups as an example (9+ / 0-)
    I have never once seen anyone cure hiccups by drinking a glass of water. Yet we keep on trying it, don't we?
    In the article, it isn't completely clear what you mean by "considering the opposite" as a way to get people to take in data that contradicts one's initial opinion. Could you give some examples?

    In a democracy, everyone is a politician. ~ Ehren Watada

    by Lefty Mama on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:40:52 AM PDT

  •  You forgot one thing... (5+ / 0-)

    someone's beliefs and belief system is informed by their take on REALITY.  And believe it or not reality is RELATIVE!

    now, scientifically verified fact is, for these purposes not relative, agreed.

    A Wattle Breakfast - 1/4 chilled orange juice, poured over 3/4 light champagne

    by WattleBreakfast on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:45:28 AM PDT

  •  Write more! (21+ / 0-)

    I'm a psych major and social psych has been my favorite so far. Applying the concepts to politics really helps make sense of the senseless.

    "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

    by MsWings on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 12:06:53 PM PDT

    •  Neuroscience/psychology and politics (19+ / 0-)

      I agree. The brain is notably quirky at making decisions and evaluating evidence. Politics is a fascinating case study. We hope to write more, drawing upon our book as well as current events. If you have particular suggestions for topics, I would be interested in hearing about them.

      •  Just a few thoughts on my mind: (16+ / 0-)

        I'm very fond of the Jung's distiction between Thinkers and Feelers. There are clearly people who base their decisions more on their feelings, and others who rely more on logic. To be a persuasive politician, and I think even to be an effective TV anchor, in general to command attention you need to convey both your ideas and your passion.

        If the Republicans were to run honestly on the issues, they'd lose every election, because the Democratic party stands much closer to the will of the people. So instead the Republicans run on emotional issues ("God, gays and guns"). They want voters to feel instead of think, because then they become more malleable. Unfortunately, the media feed into this, because people will pay more attention to Rev. Wright or the "horse race" coverage (emotional soap opera) than to the history and factions in Iraq or health care (details and analysis).

        Obama wants to avoid negative campaigning and raise the level of debate. How can he manage this and still get news coverage and keep people's attention?

        "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

        by Brecht on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:37:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  important point re logic and rationality (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          x, Brecht, G2geek, kyril, Jacob Bartle

          anything can follow a false statement and be logical, even two mutually exclusive assertions, as long as they are based on an initial accepted statement which is false. Logic is weird.

          •  Logic is fine. People and reality are weird. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            McJulie, G2geek, kyril

            I'm convinced my dad went into abstract math because it was a place where the answer would come out the same each time, whereas emotions just confused and frustrated him.

            "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

            by Brecht on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:28:41 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Logic isn't weird (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ice Blue

            people are weird

            and English is weird. So:

            No car is better than my car
            My car is better than any car.
            Any car is better than no car.

            No car is better than no car!


            •  false premise! (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              "My car is better than any car. "

              not a logical statement. "Any car" would include "my car" along with any other possible cars. Therefore the statement could be restated as "my car is better than my car" which negates the semantic sense of "better than" so you never even get to the "therefore" part.

              It's an American elliptical construction. They leave out certain (implied) words. What they mean is "My car is better than any OTHER car."  Like with phrases of the form "Everybody can't be a rocket scientist" which would seem to imply that not even rocket scientists can be rocket scientists, since  the class of "everybody" would include rocket scientists, along with everybody else. What they mean is "NOT everybody can be a rocket scientist" but to some Americans, especially southerners, the logical phrasing sounds "not right" so they adopt an illogical sounding phrasing because to their ears it sounds better.

              I think that was the most boring thing I've ever written. Sorry.

        •  This is exactly the power of the press: (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dlcox1958, opinionated, el dorado gal


          Unfortunately, the media feed into this, because people will pay more attention to Rev. Wright or the "horse race" coverage (emotional soap opera) than to the history and factions in Iraq or health care (details and analysis).

          It isn't only that these stories are more emotional - the press is partisan and deliberately non-objective.

          For example, the sunni/shiite repeated gaffes by McCain reveal shocking ignorance in a presidential candidate.  Try running those statements with the same frequency and commentary as the Wright loop,  and Obama's lead would be even stronger.

          I believe that press bias had a major impact on the past two presidential elections.  In the old days of principled journalism, the swiftboat story never could have gotten legs because it can be proved to be false.  Yet, the corporate media looped it repeatedly.

          To combat the blatant bias of the press, Obama needs a ton of money so he can purchase the air time he would have been accorded before the Fairness Doctine was trashed by Reagan.  

          Once we get some Democratic power, the FCC has to be cleaned up and modernized to bring something akin to the Fairness Doctrine back.  The press needs to be more accountable than it is today.

        •  a step further into meyers-briggs: (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          some innately step into another's shoes, others can't for the life of them!  
          obama innately wants harmony, and that innate wish may be his undoing.

          •  "obama innately wants harmony, and that... (0+ / 0-)

            innate wish may be his undoing."

            That is both insightful and scary. I like to think that nixing negative campaigning and rolling up 527s shows real vision. He clearly outplayed Hillary and Bill in the primaries (small state margins, caucuses, long-term plan), so we can't dismiss him as naive. But will he fight tooth and nail? Because the Rethugs sure will.

            "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

            by Brecht on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:41:55 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  "Impossible to reason someone out of something (15+ / 0-)

        that they were not reasoned into in the first place."

        Can't remember who said the above, but it seems to fit with what you're research is showing.

        "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

        by 417els on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:48:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  neurosci of politics tied to game theory (4+ / 0-)

        and the unconscious strategies people employ in the decisions they make, with an eye to efficiency. e.g. we can't possibly read everything about every major issue, so we have no choice but to develop or adopt reliable political heuristics to replace "informed decisions." My guess (hey, I'm doin' it right now!) is that these approaches are surprisingly efficient and effective, given what we are up against.

      •  Pot and neurogenerative disease (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:


        Whatever happened to Victoria Iseman? Seems like she just dropped off the face of the earth.

        by overlander on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 03:42:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I get a high % of my news through lefty sources (0+ / 0-)

        blogs, air america, countdown etc.  Even when I read from a more neutral source such as NYT or WaPo, it's often by clicking a link to a story that reinforces my views.

        I occasionally read from conservative viewpoint, like the corner at NRO. Wouldn't blog readers be better informed by sites which exposed people to more diversity in viewpoints.  The atlantic comes to mind, except I almost always select the more progressive voices over there. Suggestions welcome for other good sources of the conservative viewpoint.

        •  conservative viewpoint is dead (0+ / 0-)

          I think of Wm F. Buckley, recently deceased, as the last remnant of what used to be 'respectable' conservative opinion. (I didn't say that I respected him, just that he plays that historical role.) In my opinion, there are no more honest practitioners of conservative thought. They have been thoroughly poisoned and corrupted from within, gone over to the dark side.

          They will have to re-invent themselves, and it is necessary that they do--perhaps if the progressive Dems are very successful in the next 10 years, a respectable conservative movement will arise from within the Dem party. That would make sense to me.

          [-5.50, -8.05] and in good company. FreeRice level: 50 (good guesser)

          by sillia on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:38:06 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  The Economist (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Is British, and smartly written, with a notable conservative bias -- in fact, they seem to be laboring under the sad illusion that over here Republicans are still the party of "fiscal conservatism."

          US News and World Report has a conservative bias, but lacks the shrill hysteria and sensationalism of Fox News, and unlike The National Review it doesn't have an explicit partisan bias.

          (At least, this was true a few years ago when I knew somebody who subscribed.)

          And I can disagree with George Will without wanting to throw up.

          That's about it for me. Other conservative news and opinion sources just make me feel sick and angry. I can't even get to the point of disagreeing on policy or opinion, because I'm too nauseated by the Coulteresque spew of visceral unhinged hatred.  

  •  Understanding critical thinking/memory mistakes (21+ / 0-)

    as well as developing related skills is something that would greatly benefit all individuals and our nation as a whole. Schools should be teaching children these skills in some form from an early age.
    I just recently read Thomas Kida's book on this topic -- it's written for laypersons and really shocks you when you realize how easy it is for your brain to be fooled.
    Thanks for the article links and a very good post.

    "I'm a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will" (-6.15, -6.75)

    by ewmorr on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 12:23:46 PM PDT

  •  I can certainly think of instances (8+ / 0-)

    in which the National Enquirer proved more accurate than Consumer Reports.

    Interestingly, because the Enquirer it is not archived by major libraries and is archived online only in the short term, it has long served as a vehicle to "dump" unpleasant truths about our public figures. The truth, such as it is, disappears down the collective memory hole.

    I know it's not the point of your diary, but we've been told so long that the Enquirer is "just gossip" that many have come to believe it's only that... Frankly, when it comes to this particular tabloid, we need to be skeptical even about our skepticism.

  •  an old german proverb..... (16+ / 0-)

    An old error is more popular than a new truth.

    i guess lies works just as well as error in that statement.
    very interesting post, mindgeek. glad the diary was rescued.

    I didn't get Jack from Abramoff...I'm not a Republican!

    by nonnie9999 on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 08:48:01 PM PDT

  •  18% believe the sun moves around the earth??? (10+ / 0-)

    Wow, that's like 1 in 5.

    Do I need to tell you what the fuck you can do with an aluminum tube? ALUMINUM!

    by tojojo on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 08:52:27 PM PDT

    •  actually, it's 18 out of 100 ;) (6+ / 0-)

      Barack Obama -- The President we were promised as kids!

      by Jimdotz on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 09:43:30 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  One of them probably was in my brother's class (11+ / 0-)

      My brother is a public school science teacher.  He had a student who believed that the sun and the moon were the same object.  Said it has to be true because that's what his parents said.

      My brother finally persuaded the student otherwise on a day when both the sun and the moon were in the sky at the same time.  True story.  You'd think the student would have observed that phenomenon before but observing is not first nature for many people.

      We're in a culture that increasingly holds that science is just another belief. - Alan Alda

      by sawgrass727 on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:45:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  That's because most children don't have time (0+ / 0-)

        to observe or aren't encouraged to do so.  Unless that activity is important to the parents, it won't be important to the child.

        It's a societal problem and it is getting much worse instead of better.

    •  Scary, ain't it? n/t (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BigOkie, pgm 01, Quicksilver2723, kyril

      Some see the glass as half-empty, some see the glass as half-full. I see the glass as too big ~ George Carlin

      by Purple Priestess on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:17:16 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  When I consider a fact like this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        opinionated, lurks a lot

        [That 18% of people believe the sun revolves around the Earth] I get really, really depressed.  And deeply disappointed that we can't seem to make that next evolutionary step in thinking.  My opinion is that all pressure to evolve has been removed.  You do not have to be intelligent to survive any longer.  Anyone can breed with impunity and be assured that their offspring can prosper--even become President--without necessarily being intelligent.  Meanwhile, the more intelligent among us restrict breeding and passing along the genes for better brains.

        "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

        by BigOkie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:33:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Good news: natural selection is very slow! (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          BigOkie, Ice Blue

          Well, the good news here is that natural selection takes many generations to have a large effect on intelligence. So any dumbing-down you perceive would be likely to be environmentally induced. Therefore it can be reversed.

          The bad news is that cultural evolution is fast.

          These topics are in our book, in chapters on brain evolution and intelligence. Sorry, can't help the self-promotion!

          •  Not a problem (0+ / 0-)

            The promotion, that is.  The book looks very good.  A friend of mine loaned me a book to read about a year ago.  The title is locked in my hippocampus at the moment, but it was about the neurological basis for belief in God and other spiritual practices.  Excellent reading.

            Since it is my turn to buy for our informal book club. . .

            "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

            by BigOkie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:33:19 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  consider: harvard seniors got winter/moon phases (6+ / 0-)

      wrong- from this link and a movie ``A Private Universe'' I saw years ago--

      When asked what causes seasons, graduating Harvard seniors (one of whom had taken several physics classes) informed the filmmakers confidently that eccentricity in Earth's orbit made Earth warmer when it was closest to the sun. They also thought that the phases of the moon were caused by Earth's shadow. The same misconceptions were common among ninth graders in a nearby school. When given an opportunity to test these ideas and see them proven wrong, the students would often let go of them and accept the new ideas they were being taught, but would occasionally try to blend the old and new ideas or revert to the old ideas entirely.

      One of the big problems with intelligent design is that merely telling people the facts about evolution does not change their opinions.  I am willing to bet that the lay of the land in this regard is not so different from the day of the Monkey trial as revealed in a study sponsored by over 40 science societies:

      The study, which included focus groups and an in-depth poll of likely voters, found that 53 percent of Americans favor teaching evolution in science class, 27 percent favor teaching intelligent design, and 36 percent favor teaching creationism.

      To make progress requires a real strategy about reinforcing why evolution matters without being perceived as intellectual bullies:

      Most people do want to hear from the scientific community about evolution.  Seventy-seven percent of Americans reported being "very or somewhat interested" in hearing about evolution from members of the scientific community, and 76 percent are interested in hearing from science teachers.

      The study also looked at which messages are most likely to influenced people’s opinions. It found that messages that remind people about the contribution that evolution makes to medical and scientific research work best.  After hearing that evolution is essential to understanding medicine and the human body, 61 percent of survey respondents were more likely to support teaching evolution in public schools.

      So as our professor of neuroscience suggests, it matters how you approach the problem of falsehoods.

      ``...Stand still. The forest knows
      Where you are. You must let it find you.''
      from `Lost' by David Wagoner

      by dlcox1958 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:22:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ok (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dlcox1958, Gustogirl

        They also thought that the phases of the moon were caused by Earth's shadow

        I guess I have something in common with Harvard Grads because I thought this too.  So can someone explain to me why we see phases of the moon so I will know for the future.

        * 4113 *

        by BDA in VA on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:04:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The part of the moon that's visible (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dlcox1958, Gustogirl

          is the part that's facing the sun. The other side is dark. When the Earth is more-or-less between the moon and the sun, you have a full moon; when the moon's more or less between the sun and the Earth, you have a new moon (or a solar eclipse, if the three line up perfectly). The full orbit takes about 28 days.

          Earth's shadow gets involved with the moon's visibility occasionally (lunar eclipses) but has nothing to do with lunar phases.

          During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

          by kyril on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:28:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Here's an experiment (4+ / 0-)

          one that we did in fourth grade science (I was lucky).

          Get a lamp, remove the shade.  This is your sun.

          Get a tennis ball and an orange, or any other two spherical objects.

          With the lamp on, position the tennis ball and the orange on one side of the lamp in alignment with one another, the orange nearest the lamp's bulb.  The orange is your "Earth".  Imagine that you are on the surface of that orange and looking at the "moon".  Notice that it is fully lit.

          Move the tennis ball in "orbit" around the orange, each time imagining the same view from "Earth".  The phases of the "moon" are caused by the angle at which the Sun's light is striking it relative the view from Earth.

          Thank you, Mrs. Colby, for being a thoughtful, dedicated teacher and obviously making a good impression on this young man's mind oh so many years ago.

          "It's been headed this way since the World began, when a vicious creature made the jump from Monkey to Man."--Elvis Costello

          by BigOkie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:47:00 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  people are lazy (5+ / 0-)

    so are their minds.

    Its no mystery to me that most beliefs are only reinforcement for prejudicial thought and a fearful mind seeking security.

    "Do not go where the path may lead, but go instead where there is no path - and leave a trail " -Epicitetus

    by JadeZ on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 09:02:28 PM PDT

    •  Regarding these studies... (4+ / 0-)

      I don't have source amnesia--I remember the source of every fact I have ever learned.

      Regarding "For example, you know that the capital of California is Sacramento, but you probably don’t remember how you learned it."

      I learned the capital of California when I was 6 years of age--parents bought be a puzzle of all the American states (which was also where I got the false impression that New Mexico was all desert--that impression lasted till I was about 21).  This puzzle had all the capital names.

      I have looked at various examples and realize that I can trace back every fact that I know.  

      Perhaps I am different--or perhaps the article is exaggerating.  

      •  Source amnesia (15+ / 0-)

        You are either very different from other people, or you are mistaken in your recollections. It is quite common to come up with a completely false source for a learned fact. Source amnesia is a universal phenomenon.

        If you are interested in this topic I recommend Searching For Memory by Daniel Schacter.

        •  interesting stuff.... (5+ / 0-)

          I discovered that particular phenomenon on my own and called it "attribution error."  

          Ten points to you for doing neuroscience on dKos.  We need more of this here.  The better people understand how human brains work, the more effective they can be in the political arena.  

        •  and a question for you about theory... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          opinionated, Lesser Dane, kyril

          What's your preference as to theories of memory in general: localized or distributed?

          Some years ago, I ran across a "holographic model" that included data showing that specific types of memories are distributed rather than localized, such that destruction of brain tissue reduced the degree of fidelity or resolution of a given memory but did not erase it.  By analogy to the model, an optical hologram behaves similarly: each of a number of pieces of it will be sufficient to reproduce the image but with a loss of fidelity compared to the image produced by the use of the whole.  

          This is also consistent with data about ageing, in that individuals retain memories but the degree of detail can decline over time.

          And now that I think of it, it may be consistent with another observation I first had when I was a kid (yeah I've been playing with my brain for that long):

          Take a given experience X, for example hiking in the woods.  While the experience is occurring, it includes a mix of sensory, cognitive, and emotional impressions.  For example, the pleasure of seeing different shades of green in the leaves of trees, the emotionally neutral response to the sound of others hiking nearby, the displeasure of having to stop repeatedly to shake little bits of gravel or twigs out of one's boots.  

          Now go forward some amount of time, for example a week or two.  The memory of the experience tends to be influenced by emotional states and/or traits:  An individual who is basically happy, or when in a happy mood, will tend to edit the memory such as to preserve the pleasant moments (e.g. the colors of the leaves) and drop out the unpleasant ones (e.g. the stones in their boots).  An individual who is basically unhappy, or when in an unhappy mood, will tend to edit the memory such as to preserve the unpleasant moments and drop out the pleasant ones.  

          This seems to be related to the evaluation/decisionmaking function: desire for a simplified "conclusion" about the experience: "it was a good day" or "it was a crappy day," that kind of thing.  

          I would say that the emotional "tags" that accompany elements of experience can be used as an automatic search function, whereby a trait or a mood pulls up details that match.  This seems to imply an interesting two-way relationship with the neuropeptides that are the basis of emotional states: the compounds can trigger associated memories, and the memories can trigger associated compounds.  In a healthy brain there would also have to be a negative feedback system in there to prevent runaway positive feedback in a two-way or reciprocal signal flow.  

          Anyway, interested in your thoughts about all this....

          •  Those "emotional tags" (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            opinionated, barbwires, G2geek

            are called "state-dependent effects."  When our brains are in a particular state (drunk, angry, sad, dreaming) we tend to have better access for memories that are laid down when are brains are in that same state.

            Some think that alcohol blackouts are because your brain was so booze-soaked it makes it hard to find those memories -- unless you booze-soak your brain again.  Same with dreams.  But also true with many much more common situations.

            Part of the "vicious cycle" of depression is due to the fact that when you're really sad pretty much all you can think about are really sad things.

            Je suis inondé de déesses

            by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:05:54 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  state-specific memory.... (0+ / 0-)

              I discovered this independently also, at about age 12, as follows:

              Memory of events, setting, characters, etc., in dreams appeared to be continuous between dreams, in the same manner as it is continuous in waking life.  I hypothesized that for any given state, waking, dreaming, non-dream sleep, etc., there would be a similar effect such that each state had its own apparent continuity of memory irrespective of other states.  

              Then I ran across C.Tart's stuff about state-specific memory and state-specific science in highschool and it made immediate sense: there was convergence again.

              What I was trying to get at in my above posting was the potential for a neurophysiological explanation for state-specificity: something to do with a feedback system involving neuropeptides as mediators of emotion.  Admittedly not a wholly thought-out hypothesis, just speculative groping around in the gray zone for now.  

              I tend to think that alcohol blackouts are more insidious: the brain is so impaired that it is just unable to write data to storage.  This would be different (in kind rather than degree) from non-blackout mild drunkenness, where the latter was truly an instance of state-specificity.  (BTW, due to genetic risks my consumption of alcohol has always been very limited and careful such that I've never been drunk or even mildly intoxicated.)

              This does suggest a possibly interesting use of any psychoactive compound and its associated rituals (or for that matter nondrug means of altering consciousness) as means of partitioning states of consciousness for chosen sets of tasks.  People routinely do this with caffeine.  Various types of trance states (defined as deliberate reconfigurations of attention induced by nondrug means typically involving directed use of the senses) might be developed for chosen purposes, for example.

              Know what?  The entire culture would be radically different if kids were raised with education in how to make better use of their wetware and the software that runs on it.

              "OK class, we're going to do math now, so let's all take five minutes to get into math-mind..."

              ...and later, "Honey it sounds like we're about to have an arguement, so let's take five minutes to get into an enhanced empathy state so we can at least work it out in a reasonable way..."

              ...and eventually  "Today's session of the Senate is called to order; now we'll take five minutes to get into objective problem-solving mode..."

              One can dream, anyway.  Yes and that too:-)

        •  Actually.... (0+ / 0-)

          All my sources are vivid--as the sun on a cloudless day.

          Like the first time I learned of Wikipedia -- 1999 while working for a tech support company.

          Context: Our trainer was teaching us how to use web information sources in order to increase our understanding of certain technical concepts.  He also introduced ""

          The first time I learned about programming in Basic - 7 years of age working on a TI-99 computer (released in 1981).

          Context: Reading the manual on how to use the sound() function--syntax of statements and arguments.

          The first time I learned about Quantum Mechanics--reading "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" when I was 13.

          Hometown public library--later got the book at a mall bookstore (Waldenbooks)

          The first time I learned about caterpillars -- walking through a parking lot at the age of 3 -- in the town I grew up in.

          The first time I learned about the Atlantic Ocean - a map on the wall in first grade.

          These examples aren't scientific--but I am not convinced that I even have source amnesia.  In fact, I am quite shocked that it is so ubiquitous.

          First time I realized that people might come from other worlds--aliens (just randomly throwing these things out):  Close Encounters of a Third Kind--1980 re-release. Was 5 years old.

          The only source amnesia I can detect is in my learning of simple words--I can't pinpoint the source of every word I use these days.  Some key words I do remember

          "Astronaut" - second grade, writing essay
          "DNA" - 11 years of age, watching 3-2-1 Contact
          "Pattern" - 5 years of age - asking my mother what those packages where from a fabric store (i.e. called "patterns.")

          It is possible that the the polysemia of certain words obscures their origin.

    •  I prefer (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue

      "cognitive misers."  When I first started studying cognitive biases, I thought, "People are just stupid."  But once you get down to into it, you realize that there are very good "reasons" for people to think the way they think.

      As an educator, it's my job to help them get beyond many of those habits of thought.  But it's damned hard...

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:17:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Isn't this the whole premise behind Hitler's... (8+ / 0-)

    "Big Lie"? Tell a lie often enough and it becomes truth.

    Barack Obama -- The President we were promised as kids!

    by Jimdotz on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 09:45:08 PM PDT

    •  More or less (13+ / 0-)

      The question of how false ideas take hold is a fascinating subject.

      Here's another observation that we left out of the piece: people tend to believe everything they hear if they don't get an opportunity to evaluate it.

      •  I think we are really susceptible to (8+ / 0-)

        the "argument from authority". Consider how much weight expert witnesses carry with ordinary juries - he's a doctor, so he must be right! There's also otherwise no explanation for all the TV pundits who magically are experts on every possible topic continuing to be so influential, even when they are flat-out wrong over 50% of the time! It's a self-reinforcing circle: if Novak/Kristol/whoever weren't so smart and insightful, then he wouldn't still be on TV, right?

        •  Actually, in a lot of cases (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Marc in KS

          there are expert witnesses on both sides.

          The problem then can be that juries weigh authority instead of argument.  That is "that expert went to Harvard, while that expert went to Podunk State, so the first one must be right"

          •  I'd add (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            plf515, Leap Year

            "or evidence" to "juries weigh authority instead of argument."

            Je suis inondé de déesses

            by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:07:21 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  That is what juries are selected for (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ice Blue, plf515, Leap Year

            they pick jurors who will tend to believe an authority. If you are a skeptic, or think for yourself, you will likely be disqualified, depending on the type of case. This happened to my husband, a scientist who was interviewed for a jury trial--he was asked, if an expert testified such-and-such, would you believe that testimony? His answer was "not necessarily" and he was not selected. The lawyers, both prosecution and defense, are looking for jurors who will believe their experts.

            I point this out just to say that this is not necessarily the way all people respond to authority--juries as an example are selected for this.

            [-5.50, -8.05] and in good company. FreeRice level: 50 (good guesser)

            by sillia on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:51:44 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Jury selection is something I know something (0+ / 0-)

              about, and you are only partly right.

              Different lawyers have different ideas of who should be on juries.  There's darn little evidence about any of it.  And the people who get selected or not vary, and not in the ways you might think.

              SOME lawyers act just the way you say.  But not all.  They are all looking for people who will view their case favorably.  But beyond that.... it varies.

              In big trials with deep pocketed clients, some lawyers will even do focus groups.

      •  I was reminded of the Good Samaritan experiment (8+ / 0-)

        ... the one Malcolm Gladwell described, the one that showed that being in a hurry was the factor that most significantly reduced the likelihood that someone would help another in an emergency.

        I scanned that study looking for something related to "hurry" that would corroborate that, and I found (emphases mine):

        Finally, a
        person must have the desire and capacity to perform work, that is, the motivation and
        ability to use the rules of logical analysis to compare new and old beliefs. If people are
        unable or unwilling to analyze an assertion (because, e.g., they are rushed or are currently
        attending to some other task), then the possession of logical skills and true beliefs may
        not matter.

        Another change that's been going on in the last 30 years is how rushed we've become, and how utterly bombarded with information.

        We're overwhelmed... in other words, ripe for the picking for anybody who wants to spread false narratives. We're simply out of attentional and emotional werewithal.

        •  I have great fun with this in my classes. (6+ / 0-)

          People overwhelmingly believe that "personality" is what makes us do what we do.  It's not, almost all the time.  It's the situation we're in.

          Situations are far more powerful than almost everyone thinks.

          This is so prevalent and so strong it's called "the fundamental attribution error" by psych types (er, like me).  We consistently underweight the influence of the situation and overweight the influence of internal dispositions.  And we are almost always wrong in doing that.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:09:37 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  That said, (0+ / 0-)

          there are some people who are more "attributionally complex" than others, and less likely to make the error -- they're more likely to consider other influences on behavior.  But most of us are pretty attributionally simple.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:11:09 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  just want to (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        really thank you, mindgeek, for this fascinating discussion!

  •  I read a fascinating piece (12+ / 0-)

    last night in The New Yorker about the power of itch with regard to the mind (and vice versa).  I meant to write earlier about how much I enjoyed this diary and the Times piece you wrote, and I am just delighted that this fabulous diary was Rescued and is now (very deservedly) on the Rec List.  Kudos!

    1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora

    by noweasels on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 09:54:17 PM PDT

  •  Really enjoyed reading this (8+ / 0-)

    Please lurk less and write more!

    Thanks so much.

    "That's what I'm opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics"...Barack Obama, 2002

    by Ekaterin on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 09:59:27 PM PDT

  •  I seem to recall reading in Consumer Reports (9+ / 0-)

    that paint is a good thinner for Coca Cola.

    Now where the heck are my car keys?

    I'm not a neuroscientist, but I play one occasionally at work. So I thought this was a good op-ed piece. I think I read it this morning while my tea was steeping, right after memorizing all the state capitals.


    -7.88 -8,77 Just a wine sipping, brie eating, $6 coffee drinking, Prius driving, over educated, liberal, white, activist, male New Englander for Barack Obama.

    by EquationDoc on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:02:54 PM PDT

  •  "Sounds true' (11+ / 0-)

    There's stuff that is factually true, and then there's stuff that sounds true even if it isn't.

    For example, Giuliani's actual legal transgession in the "Sex on the City" scandal (he supposedly fudged expenses for travel, lodging, security etc re his girlfriend) turned out to be close to nothing. But that's a mere fact. His candidacy was sunk after that, even though the truth eventually came out. My interpretation: the story "sounded true" even though it wasn't. It unlocked a widely perceived intuition about his character. In the end, it was that unlocked intuition, not the key that unlocked it, that made the difference.

    •  Variation on the theme. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      McJulie, Marc in KS, DBunn, lurks a lot, kyril

      Rudy had, by his own doing (he is a prick, he was having an affair, etc.) set the table for most any bad rumor about him to "ring true" to many people's minds.

      Think about people you know, personally, that if you heard something dastardly about them you'd say, "Well, I can't believe that.  Not about him.  Wow." and, then, other people where, if you heard the same thing, you'd think, "Yep.  Typical.  Doesn't surprise me in the least."

      That's not to say that one should be "convicted" by rumor and innuendo in the "Court of Society" (family, friends, colleagues, co-workers, neighborhood, town...) where the accusation is false.  Just saying that the reality of the situation is that oft times a person's self-cultivated reputation will influence whether or not their social circle (of 3 people or 300 million people) will buy-into a rumor about them (whether it's a good or a bad one).



      "We in the gloam, old buddy," he said, "We definitely right in the middle of it." -Larry Brown

      by BenGoshi on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:38:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mindgeek, thank you (21+ / 0-)

    I feel honored that you are a companion Kossack. I read your NYT op-ed earlier today and was  both exhilarated and depressed.It seems nearly impossible that any of us can pause long enough to examine our certain convictions and the conventional wisdom. It is exhilarating to see that neuroscience can discuss the causes of these ill-founded certainties.

    What is most depressing is not that this is a common human response, but that so little of our contemporary media is willing to examine the ideologies and popular beliefs that trick us into pursuing actions based on erroneous assumptions. Such pursuits can be deadly, as the Iraq War shows us.

    Apparently, it pays for consumers of controversial news to take a moment and consider that the opposite interpretation may be true.

    I firmly believe that it would pay for the news reporters themselves to introduce the potential opposite interpretations. There is certainly a large enough niche audience to tune in to, and make profitable, a news analysis show with a distinctly contrarian view.

    It would also be a great piece of public television to teach viewers how   to imagine and weigh opposite views. From my days as a college teacher of argumentation, I know that this is a learned skill that almost none of our young people leave high school with. They believe that pre-received certainty is the final word on any topic.

    This latter belief, in my opinion, is why religious invocations have become the end-word in many political discussions among a certain subset of voters.

    "My job is a decision-making job. I make a lot of decisions." GWBush, 10/3/07

    by Louise on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:13:56 PM PDT

    •  Good point (8+ / 0-)

      It would also be a great piece of public television to teach viewers how   to imagine and weigh opposite views. From my days as a college teacher of argumentation, I know that this is a learned skill that almost none of our young people leave high school with. They believe that pre-received certainty is the final word on any topic.

      I try to teach this to my psych students, but politics is the very best example, and, of course that is a verboten topic.

      Think I'll contact our local PBS.

      •  Yes, an excellent idea! (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Louise, x, walkshills, kyril

        I remember learning in High School psychology/sociology class about weighing ideas and self-argumentation. Hubby works for Seattle PBS. I'll pass this along...

        Some see the glass as half-empty, some see the glass as half-full. I see the glass as too big ~ George Carlin

        by Purple Priestess on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:15:21 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Politics a verboten topic? I have an idea (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Louise, barbwires, kyril

        Find a way to talk about politics without talking about politics.

        How? By simply invoking organizational behavior... using both corporations and families as examples. They BOTH are miniature "governments" and "political systems". Use what is political about "office politics", which is really universal in organizations.

        Hell, even in families, what we think of as the most caring organizations... we all know that there's as much pressure to affect/accept a level of certainty in a family as in any other organization. Ask any thirtysomething single woman who's regularly heard from her parents, "When are you getting married/settling down/having kids?" Loyalty within any group comes down to how closely you hew to one certainty or another... which side you take.

        That's what was brilliant about M*A*S*H... It commented on the Vietnam War without commenting on the Vietnam War. (direct skewering of the war would've been a huge and obvious turnoff for audiences) It cleverly was set during the Korean war even though the characters acted more like direct contemporaries and the humor felt targeted at a more immediate horror of war.

    •  I've said for several years that CNN... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louise, Gustogirl, McJulie, kyril

      (recent comment from November '07, e.g.) over and over again demonstrates its executives' collective idiocy by trying to be Fox Lite (or, say, with Glen Beck or Lou Dobbs, trying to be more Fox than Fox).  First of all, Fox lovers ain't going to switch from their beloved Fox.  Secondly, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the country is begging to hear non-Foxagated news.  But instead of marketing to a huge  swath (the majority, I'd like to believe) of the country, CNN just pumps out shallow and vacuous "news".  Gad.


      "We in the gloam, old buddy," he said, "We definitely right in the middle of it." -Larry Brown

      by BenGoshi on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:45:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I teach classes for that, (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louise, McJulie, Unknown Quantity

      and it's damned hard -- but I've seen it work.

      The confirmation bias runs deep in the human psyche...

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:16:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thank you! re media problems... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louise, Unknown Quantity

      Louise, thank you. You are very kind. I read this site often. I am happy to make a contribution that is received so well.

      In regard to news media and considering-the-opposite, it seems that one problem is that although reporters do like to set up the conflict, they do it by setting up a pie fight. They do like to get opposing views, but there's not enough moderation or critical evaluation. The television format is not well suited for calm consideration of points. I believe Marshall McLuhan had a lot to say about this.

      •  help. I'm trying to consider the opposite but I (0+ / 0-)

        don't think I have had enough coffee yet. I followed my own advice and read the corner this morning where I found this post ridiculing this column about the obama muslim viral email.  I think it is at least somewhat related to this kos topic, but it is really just making my mind swim at the moment, maybe I need to practice considering the opposite more often.

    •  I'm not sure I agree that the media needs to be (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      more contrarian:
      "I firmly believe that it would pay for the news reporters themselves to introduce the potential opposite interpretations."

      IMO, this is the exact reason we are contending with "Creation science" in the first place. With each scientific advance and any discussion that involved a mention of evolution or selection or adaptation, the media has dutifully turned the mic over to someone to provide the "opposing" view. To the extent that now it is not uncommon for evolution and creationism to be presented within the same context. This undoubtedly has elevated creationism far beyond its merits. Sometimes, there IS no equal, contrarian view.

  •  Wow, that was you? Awesome. I love reading books (8+ / 0-)

    by neurologists. I think it is fascinating.

    "I count on the American people to refuse to be shamed any more". Helen Thomas, May 2, 2008 on the subject of torture

    by flumptytail on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:17:41 PM PDT

  •  Holy cow!! (9+ / 0-)

    I totally bought your book for my dad!! Now I'll have to get one for myself :-)

    I do hope the Obama campaign takes this into consideration.

  •  My most memorable memory trick. (26+ / 0-)

    Thanks so much for this diary.  Looking forward to reading more from you.  

    Ten years ago I was involved in a fatal accident.  A girl in the other car died.  No one accused me of causing it.  It was in fact later determined to be an unavoidable accident so despite the fatality it wasn't a top burner issue with the police.  

    They finally got around to taking a complete statement from me a month later and we did a reenactment at the scene which was based on my memory of what happended.  We went through it three times and all three were consistent with each other but even I realized that it didn't happen the way I remember it. I knew where we ended up but if the events leading up to it had happened the way I thought then we would have come to rest in a completely diffrent place.  

    Ten years later I still have a very clear imprint of the night, of what happended and when.  It's totally wrong but it's still there as clear as a tape recording.  

    My experience just reinforces my preexisting anti-death penalty beliefs. Many have been convicted on eye-witness testimony and we now know how unreliable that is.  Under diffrent circumstances, such as having witnessed a murder for instance, my memories of that night could have gotten someone excuted because even though I "know" for a fact my memory is wrong it is still "real" in my head.


    "Vote Your Hopes Not Your Fears."

    by YellerDog on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:20:29 PM PDT

    •  Did you happen to suffer any physical (7+ / 0-)

      head trauma in your accident?  Perhaps this could account for the disagreement between memory and event.  Can't have been easy to deal with psychologically, for that matter, and I'm sorry to hear the story.

      (I ask because of recent interviews I've heard with neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, who's recent autobiographical account of recovering from a stroke have just fascinated me this week.  Among the people who regularly contact her for advice are brain injury victims, who share similar experiences building back cognitive functions and memory to pre-event status.  Here's her interview with Terry Gross this week on Fresh Air...).

      Don't mean to be intrusive... appreciate your comment.

      •  I'm just reading her book now (0+ / 0-)


        About 8 years ago I had to relearn a lot of things as a sequelae to surgery that went awry.  No one is sure whether a stroke was involved or just a major loss of O2 and deranged electrolytes.

        The most interesting thing to me is that 1)the
        bad memories were retained the most clearly;

        and 2) the things I was good at before were recovered most easily (writing, music)over time, like my brain found alternative pathways to the things it really liked,
        while the things I wasn't good at before are now an almost incomprehensible black box (math, spatial directions).

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:05:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Eye-witness testimony is dubious (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson, McJulie, Marc in KS, kyril

      See these links re:  the dubiousness of "eyewitness" testimony:


      Here, and


      "The dangerous inaccuracy of eyewitnesses and the inordinate credence given to them by jurors have been well studied in both legal and psychological literature. In the last five years, there have been more than 400 articles in the psychological literature and 500 articles in the legal literature regarding eyewitness credibility and accuracy. (5) This tremendous amount of attention is due not only to the common belief that eyewitness misidentification is the leading cause of wrongful convictions, (6) but also to the concomitant awareness that an eyewitness mistake often immunizes a guilty perpetrator."



      "We in the gloam, old buddy," he said, "We definitely right in the middle of it." -Larry Brown

      by BenGoshi on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:28:56 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All very true... (15+ / 0-)

    But some people choose to believe the false beliefs and lies because it serves as a convenient excuse for their own ulterior motives. Obama's a Muslim? That's just secret talk for "I don't like Black people" or "Anyone who isn't white is a foreigner." Their prejudice was already preexisting; they just needed a good reason to express it.

    •  Definitely so. Also important to remember (6+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      x, walkshills, G2geek, kyril, indres, Roberlin

      that people are made of many overlapping parts. For every solid, unthinking racist there will be several people who are both partly racist and partly rational or even idealist.

      So someone can be quite stirred by Obama's talk of change and hope; but then once Rev. Wright and Obama's bitter comments dominate a month of news, they are living much more from the suspicious part of themselves, and no longer trust Obama's rhetoric.

      "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

      by Brecht on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:08:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely. (0+ / 0-)

      They call that "aversive racism."  It's still there, we just need a reason to bring it out because racism is not socially acceptable anymore.

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:20:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  the role of cognitive dissonance (14+ / 0-)

    A very insightful and important article.  Thank you.  Two points.  First, any further thoughts on how we can use the implications of "brain deception" to develop more persuasive campaign messages?  

    Second, what do you think is the role of cognitive dissonance in perpetuating false beliefs?  I am reading a fascinating book by Elliot Aronson and Carol Tavris (Mistakes Were Made) examining the role cognitive dissonance plays in the justification and rationalization of false beliefs and bad decisions.  Seems to me that people may be more likely to believe in false beliefs if doing so would reduce or eliminate any cognitive dissonance they are experiencing over a particular issue.  

    For example, a person may believe that he is not racist towards blacks, yet subconsciously opposes Obama because he is African American.  That person may be more likely to believe that Obama is Muslim, because that allows him to oppose Obama for being linked to terrorism through his Muslim religion, and therefore be able to oppose Obama while preserving his belief in his non-racism.  Thoughts?

    •  There have been a couple of ugly examples of this (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, walkshills, G2geek, kyril, Roberlin

      columns in the Washington Post and some other top journal where the writer basically claimed that Obama was not really American enough. They said he was born in Hawaii and grew up abroad, while John McCain has deep American roots, was in the navy, fought in Vietnam - that we could really trust McCain, but were unsure of Obama. And the blatant subtext was that Obama isn't really one of us, he's not quite white enough for the White House. Yech.

      "Problems can't be solved by the same level of thinking that created them" Einstein

      by Brecht on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:15:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Which is even more funny because John McCain was (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        born in Panama while Obama was born in America.  Both were born off the mainland.  But John McCain doesn't have to define his Americanism because in our psyche American=White.  Anything else = other.
        Which is one of the reasons why Asian American can be third century Americans and still get asked when they arrived in country when they were born here.  It's a subtle racism that is so underneath the surface that most Americans are unaware of it when they say it.

        Prejudice is inherent in the society.  That is a lot to fight against.  

    •  I'm not sure whether to call your example (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      McJulie, Roberlin

      an instance of cognitive dissonance or aversive racism.

      Aversive racism is when we use something as an excuse for disproportionately punishing someone; so a closet racist can't come out and say "I'm not voting for him because he's black," but can say (even in polite society) "I'm not voting for him because he's a muslim."  (The latter is, by the way, pretty fucking racist, but since 9/11 has become a little more acceptable.)

      Dissonance would be an after-the-fact adjustment of attitude to conform to behavior.  

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:58:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  We... KNOW that people are basically (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kyril, Anak

    idiotic.  As a species.

    Nice diary, nonetheless.


    (Sorry, I'm sometimes curt.  But this comment of mine will not dissuade the "psychologically-minded" who are truly interested in the "wherefores", and THANK GOODNESS!...)

    •  I'm not sure if it's laziness or idiocy, (9+ / 0-)

      but surely a large portion of what our brains do is filtering out millions of bits of data deemed irrelevant to the particular task at hand, and focusing in on the most important or salient bits. That function is automatic. Metacognition seems to be a learned skill. Our brains are wired to interprest stimuli and form beliefs. We have to consciously make an effort to think about which bits of data we are using; which we may have discarded; why we assign more weight to some pieces than others; where our logic might have gone astray; whether we are holding conflicting beliefs at the same time; and so on.

      •  Too much information... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... not enough time or energy to process it all.

        Critical thinking requires an element of bucking human nature-- because what's required is to use something that's not there, create this motivation to process and question right out of thin air.

  •  Fascinating post (9+ / 0-)

    Thank you for bringing to light an important and fascinating aspect of politics...I was going to say "modern politics" originally, but what little I've read about politics from hundreds of years ago makes me think it was just as bad.

    The whole notion of what we take to be "truth" on an individual and group level has fascinated me for a while -- in fact I wrote a diary about deniers of global warming a while ago.  In that diary I proposed that the reason why people deny global warming is that the sources they trust deny it.  People are more likely to believe the "facts" their allies bring to bear because they consider their allies to be more trustworthy.

    This fits in with some degree to your statement that "[w]e tend to remember news that accords with our worldview" -- I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

    And by the way -- hello from LTL  :)

    •  I know two horticulture (8+ / 0-)

      a brilliant chemist... who laugh off global warming as a left wing hoax.  They are both life-long conservative Republicans.  Here's what defies logic, in my opinion:

      Both of these people are aware, and fully understand, that the life-or-death of tiny, newly rooted plants depends on a very small and nuanced factor...irrigation water Ph levels.  Looking at scientific (especially chemical) situations...with the multiple interaction basics and massive scale that's causing climate can these otherwise learned brains insist that it is hogwash, part and parcel?

      Questioning, even arguing against, some aspects involved is rational to me.  But to doggedly maintain that it is 100% political fabrication?  I cannot comprehend this at all. They are literally denying what they academically know to be fact on a smaller scale.  

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 12:03:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bookmarked (8+ / 0-)

    and ready to send to limbic in-laws. Mindgeek, I'm in love with you and everything you said.  And I'm  speaking from my pre-frontal cortex, here!

  •  What an amazing diary! (4+ / 0-)

    For me, belief comes from sinking into meditation and allowing That which is Within to reveal Itself. But this...well, it's staggering. I honestly don't know what to say as I need to absorb it more deeply and get past the point of astonishment about the depths of ignorance of humanity. I try not to pass judgment but, well, damn! Thanks for this diary, I think :-)

    "The Republican Party is a dead rotting carcass with a few decrepit leaders stumbling around like zombies handcuffed to a corpse." Larry Hunter

    by TheWesternSun on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:51:04 PM PDT

  •  Many thanks for this article (7+ / 0-)

    The physiology aspect was eye-opening because it somewhat answers a puzzle that has bothered me.  I have vividly recalled certain scenes (e.g., from movies) from many years ago. But when I view those same scenes again years later, I am astonished that I remembered the scenes backwards than they actually existed--as though a scene was flipped on a vertical axis.  Now I understand better that memory is not just a "photographic snapshot."

    I tip my hat to your endeavors, especially matching your research to real-life applications.

    We're in a culture that increasingly holds that science is just another belief. - Alan Alda

    by sawgrass727 on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 10:57:45 PM PDT

    •  time is scalar not vector (5+ / 0-)

      What's going on in your brain is a reflection of a process that is well understood in physics: time is a scalar (quantity without direction) rather than a vector (quantity with direction).  Certain fundamental equations in quantum physics work equally well with time running backward as they do with time running forward.  

      Now in fact I think a simpler process is the primary one in the experience you describe:  LIFO/FIFO:  Last-In, First-Out, compared to First-In, First-Out.

      The original experience proceeded in a certain order:  events A, B, C, D, and these events were written to memory in that order.  When you pulled them up in memory, you started wth item D, and this in turn triggered a recall process that went from D to C and then B and then A, as you retrieved each piece that came before the piece you started with.  

      You would expect your memory recall process to work according to FIFO, but in this case it worked according to LIFO.  Had you started the recall with item A, your brain may instead have gone to FIFO ordering of recall: from A to B, then to C, then to D.  

      Now back to the physics for a moment:  in neurons there are mitochondria (tiny organelles that normally serve to process energy for the cell), and within these are microtubules (even tinier structures whose function is not fully understood).  Conventionally we think of the microtubules as fulfilling a purely structural role, by which is meant, maintaining a consistent shape and size for the mitochondria, much as a wood frame performs a structural role in a building.  

      However, according to Hameroff and Penrose, these microtubules may also have a role in information processing.  And they are of a size that is borderline-quantum scale, so they are susceptible to quantum randomicity and other quantum-level effects.  Hameroff's hypotheses have been validated before, notably his prediction that the glial cells in the brain are not merely structural but also have a role in information processing.  Here he's making a similar prediction for the mircotubules, so I would call that a fairly safe prediction.  

      Why this is relevant: quantum processes could be propagating up to the classical level where they have some degree of effect on the information processing that occurs in the neurons.  That effect may include introducing a degree of uncertainty into the time-flow of memory.  This would make it easier for the brain to search through memories in LIFO order as well as FIFO order.  The increased degree of flexibility of recall methods may help improve recall performance by providing a greater number of ways to access memories.  Thus it would have a darwinian advantage, and would be retained by the species.  

      Is this useful?

      •  Thanks very much for your thorough explanation (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I often comment that I learn at least one new thing daily on dkos.   Today provides a rich lode of information.  I may not understand it all (especially the biology!) but I have some good info to ruminate upon.

        We're in a culture that increasingly holds that science is just another belief. - Alan Alda

        by sawgrass727 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10:16:25 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Re: backwards (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sawgrass727, lurks a lot

      There is a recent finding from Neuroscience that, in one region of the brain, when a memory is replayed (as in when neurons that fired during the initial event fire again) the replay is backwards. In other areas the replay is forward. Sorry I dont have the reference handy, but one of the authors is Matt wilson.

      On the other hand, I've never heard of memories being recalled backwards. Very interesting observation. Makes me think of the movie "momento". Is this backwards memory system you have specific to movies?

      (I'm a neuroscientist; my grounding in psychology is weaker)

      •  reverse word retrieval (0+ / 0-)

        In an effort to keep my brain sharp, I've taken up working puzzles, some of which are word-find/search where words may appear forwards, backwards, or diagonally.  Last year I was trying to remember someone's name, and came up with "eel."  Very puzzled until I figured out his name is "Lee."  I called it dyslexia of the brain.  (Please see my other comment here, asking for help diagnosing a brain problem I have.)

      •  Thanks for your reply (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barbwires movie. One of my all-time favorites.  

        Per your question, it's simpler than that.  e.g., If I recall a scene from a movie, say, at the end of "Planet of the Apes" where the Statue of Liberty is revealed, I remember Heston approaching the statue from the opposite direction than shown in the movie.

        Not a big deal but it happens not infrequently so I've wondered why it happens.

        Part of what intrigues me about this is the miracle of visual memory in general. I'm an avid postcard collector in a couple of topics with a couple of thousand items. Yet when I search for new acquisitions in my topics, I know immediately whether I've seen a postcard before.  It amazes me that the brain can store and later recall so efficiently. (My memory whether I've purchased a copy already is not as reliable as the many duplicates in my collection would reveal!)

        We're in a culture that increasingly holds that science is just another belief. - Alan Alda

        by sawgrass727 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10:13:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  magical memory (0+ / 0-)

          I'm impressed, too.
          Other impressive memory feats (that most of us share):

          1. the ability to recall old tunes, sometimes from hearing just a few notes.
          1. the ability to recognize faces, even after great change (aging).

          One theory of mammalian evolution (which I attribute to E. O. Wilson in Sociobiology, but I might be wrong) is that the mammalian brain evolved to operate in complex social structures. Part of behaving appropriately in a complex society is remembering individual; the bigger the society, the more complex the memory task. One component of this idea is that non-mammals do not have the capacity of individual recognition. According to this theory, we should be particularly good at remembering different individuals and our social interactions with them.

          Its clear that storage capacity, while hard to measure, is massive. In the case of postcards, you are making the distinction "familiar" "not familiar". This seems to be an important tag we put on perceptions/memories; an unfamiliar thing will induce one set of behaviors (novelty/exploration) while a "familiar" tag will induce anther. The familiar/unfamilar distinction is particularly important in environments. We behave much differently in a familiar environment, where we think we know all of the rules, compared to an unfamiliar environment.

          Our memory capacities are very impressive. Mostly, its a mystery.

  •  Those interested in this subject (6+ / 0-)

    should google George Lakof.  A linguist that studied under Chomsky and a professor at Berkley who has spent 20 year in neuroscience.

    He has written a number of books on mind and politics.

    •  I knew he was a linguist, but didn't know he is (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      also involved in neuroscience.  Well, at least I don't remember - even if I ever at one time did know it.

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 12:08:48 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fascinating stuff here. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Leap Year, kyril

    I became interested in urban legends many years ago when I saw Jan Haarald Brunvand on a talk show. Since that time, I have read many books on legends, falsities and other phenomenon like this and why we believe them.  

    Of course, being the subject of false beliefs, I can understand that it is more of a problem than people might think. Just ask people about Witches and see what you get ;)

    I have put your book on my shopping list. Thanks for it and this diary. Keep up the good work!

    Some see the glass as half-empty, some see the glass as half-full. I see the glass as too big ~ George Carlin

    by Purple Priestess on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:08:12 PM PDT

  •  let me very very highly recommend.. (5+ / 0-)

    this excellent book that is somewhat related..

    breaking the spell

    seriously, awesome read.  i am not dissing religion or questioning it's validity, because i believe the answers are fundamentally unknowable, but this book does examine how the human brain is wired to receive religion and other beliefs that lack rational justification and i highly recommend this stimulating read.

  •  So, this is how propaganda works, then? (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    tmo, barbwires, walkshills, kyril, dRefractor

    Fascinating stuff mindgeek, It seems that our brains are not quit prepared for modern electoral politics then- but I guess the last eight years sort of proved that point, didn't it?

  •  Yes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    McJulie, Lesser Dane, kyril

    And I think it's completely wrong for a credible and upstanding website like DailyKos to promote baseless, foolish rumors, such as JOHN MCCAIN EATS BABIES

    Recovering Intellectual. 12 days stupid.

    by scionkirk on Fri Jun 27, 2008 at 11:14:01 PM PDT

  •  fabulous diary, thank you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, kyril

    my brain feels stronger now.

    •  The Times' editorial format doesn't allow links? (0+ / 0-)

      WTF? Here is the link.

      Now, did you mean to say "the Times' editorial format doesn't allow you to post the link?"

      Or did they say it, and you just processed it as true? Please report on that.    };->

      Thanks for a great diary.

      "Lash those traitors and conservatives with the pen of gall and wormwood. Let them feel -- no temporising!" - Andrew Jackson to Francis Preston Blair, 1835

      by Ivan on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:29:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Well, obviously... (0+ / 0-)

    What you democrats need to do is take advantage of all of this. You can start including little snippets of the Real Truth where people will find them repeatedly, until they remember them.

    Because it's ok to propagandize as long as you're telling the Real Truth. Heck, for bonus points, you can even write up diaries that talk about the phenomenon... oh, wait.

  •  Dr. Wang, I had a couple of questions (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    G2geek, lurks a lot, kyril

    Ok my qestions are unrelated to the gist of the article and probably won't interest much any in here. :-)
    They're more about brain processing, on just a paragraph of your article.

    But first off, great article. Congrats and thank you!

    I kept thinking about this during the primaries, wishing someone in the field would write about things like that.

    I wish you or someone else would also write some other article/s about similar related things, even in a broader context, such as the media.

    For instance, how does it work within us that we are very much influenced by emotions, memory and otherwise. Hence the media plays "brain tricks" on us with emotional context commercials and news, or "news", because emotionally primed events are engraved more saliently in our memory, and we also pay more attention to them.

    Or how the media feed our craving about subjects/content related to our primal needs, like sex and food, and how the media exploits these brain structures and processes, and what exactly happens to our brains as we watch these things in the media (a car commercial with a hot babe talking about it), and why we like it (neurotransmitters actions, etc).  

    Or how the media - and politicians - exploits our primal fears, like fear of death, and also how they exploit the association effects and priming effects, such as with the ads of Bin Laden appearing on tv while a certain politician talks on the background promises to keep us safe, or a 3 am ad and a child appearing in the screen simultaneously.

    I think it would be very beneficial to the public at large to understand these processes, as much as they can, and how these processes and effects do play tricks on us.
    They can then better "protect" themselves from the tv and politician bombardments of messages with little truth or journalistic value and the rest of bullcrap that we are constantly bombarded with in this consumer-based society that treats people like cows.

    Oh boy, this is turning into a very long message. Sorry.

    Here's the nerdy questions finally.

    Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger. But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed. In time, the fact is gradually transferred to the cerebral cortex and is separated from the context in which it was originally learned.

    Can you reference any links with literature, if anything comes to mind (don't mean to have you do research for me) or mention any names or such, that reflects on these processes you describe?

    I was under the impression that we really don't know  all that much with such certainty, "as a matter of fact" kind of thing when it comes to how and in what parts of the brains are certain things stored.
    For once the process of "storing" or "writing" information in the brain as I understand is nothing like that of a computer in a hard drive, right?

    I mean, isn't it true that in our brains the "hard drive", the "mother board with CPU, memory cards" and all that stuff aren't actually separate physical structures, but more of a meshed-up all-in-one device/physical structure?

    I know that we know from fMRI's and such that when certain activities take place, certain parts of our brains "light up", but can we say from that with certainty that there is where the information is being "stored" and/or "written"?

    Do we even know in details the technicalities of how  the information is being processed and written in our brains?

    All I know is the generic stuff/paradigm, that our brains are made of neurons, and those are the structures that process and store information. But aren't they fairly simplistic in their nature and process (segments in which electricity is transmitted throughout them, and then chemicals among them) to do all that a human brain does?

    How do the ones and zeros (equivalents of computer writing and reading information units) actually happen in our brain? How does the content of this comment for instance and the information it contains translate to what actual "ones" and "zeros" in our brain and where, since there is no equivalent of a fundamental unit, like 8 bytes (physical computer units) for one letter/character written in the computer hard drive?

    I am sorry again for this rather long comment :( I didn't even have coffee late.

    If you have the patience to read it and then any  time to respond with whatever you can, I'd greatly appreciate  it. :)

    •  A hippocampus comment... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      smartdemmg, kyril

      I have been told that the hippocampus is much smaller than normal in many individuals who have experienced abuse as children...physical, emotional, sexual - one or all types of abuse...and as a result of cognitive therapy (I think that's the method)the hippocampus often enlarges to normal size.  This can occur in older as well as younger brains.

      What say you who understand this?  Is it accurate?  If so, what does it imply?

      "Evil is a lack of empathy, a total incapacity to feel with their fellow man." - Capt. Gilbert,Psychiatrist, at the end of Nuremberg trials.

      by 417els on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 12:26:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The short answer is yes. (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barbwires, 417els, speck tater, kyril, xhibi
        1. Chronic or severe stress does have the effect of reduction in hippocampal volume but this effect is not limited to the hippocamppus. This is just the first brain region in which the finding was initially identified.

        The mechanism is applicable to other brain regions and structures as well.

        The longer as is:

        Stressors (in particular, early adverse events such as child abuse--sexual, physical and severe emotional neglect) are associated with subsequent damage.

        Both antidepressants and effective psychotherapy appear to be able to revers these effects. Antidepressants are thought to effect neurogenesis (creation of new neurons).

        The problem for those affected is that the volumetric decrease oftent occurs in brain regions and structures necessary for important cognitive functions such as attention (PFC), memory consolidation (hippocampus) and emotionial learning and interpretation of salience (amygdala).

        Fortunately, the process can be halted and in some cases reversed. Research is underway in clinical populations investigating both processes.

        •  Exercise has also been associated with (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barbwires, 417els, smartdemmg, xhibi

          promoting neurogenesis, as has estrogen. However, I believe this work is based solely on animal models.

          Hi Sam! Great diary/editorial, congratulations. We're organizing in Princeton for Obama - we've got a great infrastructure established during the NJ primary. If you're too busy to join us on the ground, we hope to see your excellent poll tracking website again this year.

          "What Washington needs is adult supervision." Barack Obama

          by speck tater on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:03:44 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  fundamental units of cognitive organization (5+ / 0-)

      One thing you're asking about is the fundamental units of thought.  This is quite a topic and even to this day there are no universally agreed answers.

      However you can do a bit of self-experimentation to see for yourself how thoughts can be parsed down to their smallest elements.  

      Mindfulness meditation is a really simple exercise to describe, but rather difficult to practice. (And it's not just useful as a religious or spiritual practice, it's useful in the same manner as doing pushups and situps is useful in physical exercise.  The latter is the application I'm describing here.)  

      Just sit still with eyes closed and notice the contents of your thoughts and impressions and feelings as they occur.  As you notice something, note the type of information it is: for example a thought, a feeling, a memory, a sensory impression, a reflex, etc. etc.  Do this for ten or fifteen minutes at a sitting, which is about all that most people can do before it becomes difficult (you'll find you can do it longer as you practice at it).  

      What tends to happen with this exercise as a person gets more practice with it, is that they become more capable of detecting content earlier.  

      For example, at the beginning, you may find yourself experiencing a memory and going with the flow of that memory for, say, 15 seconds or so before you remind yourself that you're supposed to be in an "observer mode," and then you say "that was a memory."  

      A few weeks later, with continued practice, it may be the case that you only end up going with the flow of the memory for five seconds before you remind yourself that you're in "observer mode" and then you say "that wasa a memory."  

      A few weeks later, you may catch it in one or two seconds.  

      What's happening here is that you're slowly training yourself to detect content earlier, which means, detect content based on smaller and smaller samples.  By analogy, a person studying music will over time learn to identify a given song or composition more quickly, from fewer and fewer notes.  At first they may have to hear the first first line in a song in order to identify it.  Later they will be able to identify it with maybe half of the first line.  With sufficient training, they will be able to recognize the song based on the subtleties in the sound of the first one or two notes.  

      Why this is useful:  Over time you'll start to notice how little information is actually needed to convey a thought, feeling, memory, (etc.) in a recognizable manner.  This is useful in being able to consider the question of how little information it takes to identify a thought, and from there, the minmum size of units of information used by your brain.   And the preceding sentence (in italics) is the point of the exercise in this case.  

      Doing the exercise probably won't give you anything like "the answer" to the question that is still bugging cognitive scientists.  However it can give you a sense of why that question is so interesting to scientists, and give you a chance to guess (hypothesize) about some functional explanations and check them out as you do the exercise.    

      IMHO this kind of stuff should be taught in highschool, along with lab courses in the physical sciences and other life sciences.  Give kids some hands-on experience with some of the questions that are of interest in modern cognitive science, and teach them ways of using their brains that will improve the range of their own cognitive capabilities.  Some day....

      •  On the little info needed to identify a thought (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        G2geek, kyril

        Assuming I get your point completely and correctly G2geek.
        I think you're missing or leaving out the fact that our brains work different than computers, and that in brain work, you need little info to identify something with practice, and it is precisely so because of that practice.
        So, unlike a computer that doesn't "know" or "remember" thinks unless they are in its hard drive or ram, (a comp will calculate with same speed, even for the millionth time) a brain, i.e. we the people, with practice we do "automatize"  things processes and need less and less effort and attention and resources to do the same thing.

        Think of when you learned how to drive. That was very attention-intensive and engaging operation while you where learning. Once you learn though, you do most of the driving tasks in auto-pilot and dedicate much less attention and resources then when you were learning it. I used to eat and fix my tie at the same time while driving, as I was late for work routinely :-)

        But then again, there is the possibility that I didn't get your point entirely and that you didn't leave this part out of your reasoning and meant something else:-)

        Regardless of that though, my questions to Dr. Wang was in essence about the  very basic processes.

        Like, we know how for instance a sentence with a total of 10 words and 60 characters gets written and recorded in a computer, and how it is recalled later. We know this basis process in details and precisely how it is done.

        Now if you give that same sentence to a human and tell him/her to memorize it, she/he will do that fairly quickly, and with some rehearsals can "put" that information in  long-term memory, and recall it later when asked (like a poem, or riddle).

        I wish we know what we know about how the computer does the recording and the recalling of that info, in how the person does it, how the human brain does it. I wish we know the fundamental technical  details of that, of how the information is transformed into what in the brain, and how that "what" whatever "brain unit" is, is then recalled/transformed exactly into that same the ones and zeros of the computer to words for instance.

        That to me would be fascinating to know, or even know of theories/paradigms that are entertained about this.

        Because as much/little as I know about neurons "working", the electrical and chemical activities in synapses and neuron's body, I have no clue how such simple processes can record/write something like informations and emotions permanently,  in themselves mind you, since they don't have "hard drives" in the brain.

        To me that is like having, say  a bunch of inter-tangled wires and have electric current pass through them, and and among a billion other activities that those wires do, is to store permanent information, in huge amounts, as much or larger than contemporary hard drives can contain info, as the brain does.

        That to me seems in first consideration as both impossible as a process and mind-boggling as capacity and complication of processes. Yet there is no doubt that it does happen.

        Especially when you consider that some people have entire brain parts damaged and have other brain parts overtake the "work" that the damaged part used to do and do it (with time and practice, of course).

        Like having a part of your computer mother board or hard drive torn out, and still everything is pretty much there as far as info and the computer pretty much does what it used to do.

        I will definitely practice the exercise though, and thank you for mentioning it. I assume it will help me concentrate more easily if I practice what you said. :-)

        •  theories and models (0+ / 0-)

          I try to avoid the mistake of making too much of analogies between the brain and computers.  

          For one thing, computers are wholly algorithmic and deterministic (incapable of free will); by comparison, human brains have built-in mechanisms for introducing quantum-level randomicity (which is where I think free will gets into the system).  

          For another, human brains are not just electrical but also chemical (e.g. emotions), and the latter element introduces a high order of nonlinearity into brain processes.  

          And, to stick my neck all the way out, I think it's likely that mind as-experienced is an interaction between brain and "information as-such", that produces an outcome roughly analogous to what religion refers to as the soul (which would also be persistent after the death of the brain).  


          You've got an interesting point there about practice and rehearsal.  That would be consistent with the holographic model of memory, where the information needs to be distributed throughout the brain in order to be useful. The more practice, the more densely-written is the information, thus the more easily accessed.  Driving is a useful example, but also consider the motions needed to eat food with utensils:-)

          BTW, a "model" is not a "theory."  A theory is an explanation of what actually happens, whereas a model is more of an analogy.  For example an engineer has a body of theory about how an aircraft will perform at high speed, but might also build a scale model of the aircraft and run it in a wind tunnel to make some useful observations.  The model aircraft is not an explanation for the real aircraft (and doesn't duplicate all of the real aircraft's features, any more than does a hobbyist's model aircraft), it's an analogy to it that is useful for specific purposes.  

          In this way, holograms are an analogy to one aspect of how memory works, but the analogy doesn't tell us what's actually going on in the brain to write and read the information.  


          The "fundamental technical details of that" are exactly what we don't really know yet, and that's what makes this fascinating to do as a self-experiment.  You'll notice certain things, and they'll tend to be convergent with what science figures out is going on.  This is so darn cool about any field: observations about nature are convergent, nature is consistent, so you can engage that process in any area where you can observe, from bird-watching to brain-watching and beyond.  


          To get back to the computer analogy again, good point about how the system continues working despite localized damage.  This is, in computer terms, what we'd call "distributed processing."  Because, by analogy, the brain isn't just a single computer, it's more like the internet, composed of scores of millions of computers all connected together.  It only takes a small handful of neurons to perform certain tasks, and they are all networked together.  The brain, like the internet "routes around damage."  

          An old friend of mine who is a psychopharmacologist (studies the effect of medications on the brain) once said, "the brain is the most complex object in the known universe, and each of us has one."  Cool, eh?

        •  oh, and about concentration... (0+ / 0-)

          The mindfulness exercise is good for concentration, as you said.  And there's another exercise called (oddly enough) concentrative meditation, that is especially good for this purpose.  It goes like this:

          Sit still with eyes closed, and pay attention to your breathing.  This is even simpler to remember: "Count your breaths from one to ten; when you get there, count again."   Just count each breath, and then go back to one, and keep doing it.  If you find yourself distracting or digressing into some other thought, gently nudge yourself back to paying attention to your breathing.

          Do this one for ten or fifteen minutes at a time.  Actually for most people, start with five minutes and work up to ten and then to fifteen.  Many people find this is surprisingly difficult at first (almost amusingly so!), but with practice, they get the hang of it.  When you get to the point where you can do this fairly consistently without distractions, you'll also notice that your ability to concentrate in other areas improves.  

          As I said, push-ups and sit-ups for the brain.  "The brain is like any other muscle, if you don't exercise it, it gets flabby" :-)  And of course if you do exercise it, it gets stronger.  

    •  I think it might not be true to say that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, xhibi

      "facts are stored in the hippocampus."  The hippocampus and amygdala are structures that are required for the establishment of memories, but those memories are probably stored in temporal cortex.  If you remove hippocampi (HM, e.g.), you still have the old memories, but you can't get new ones -- at least, you can't get new declarative memory.  Procedural memory seems to be less reliant on hippocampus.

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:10:49 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  where are facts stored? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, dorkenergy, xhibi


      I'm not sam, but I'll give my 2 cents. (I am a Neuroscientist and my work focuses on memory).

      Is short, I'd say your questions are right on the mark.

      1. "facts are stored on the hippocampus" is a statement that has elements of truth, but many would argue with this or qualify it greatly. the notion that memories have temporary storage in the hippocampus and are transferred to neocortex with time was, I believe, originally suggested by the early amnesia findings from the 1950s, but is inconsistent with a lot of current thinking. I don't think there are any current, strong theories of where facts or episodic memories, are stored. (One real error sam makes is semantic. He says that "memories are transferred to cortex". Hippocampus is cortex. Its a cortical type called allocortex. He should have said "neocortex" not "cortex". Hippocampologists are a sensitive bunch).
      1. the general model for memory storage might be called the 'cell assembly' model. In this model, a memory (or a perception, which is almost the same thing) is isomorphic with activation of a dispersed set of neurons, the cell assembly. Memory, in information sense, is the set of strengthened or weakened synapses that correspond to activation of a particular cell assembly. A memory would be strong if activation if the cell assembly is easy and, when activated the same set of neurons reliably respond. A memory would be weak when activation is difficult and set of activated neurons is unreliable. In terms of the article, memories would become unstable and would change with time if the activated cell assembly gradually changed. This is a likely result of weak activation and the tendency of the brain to fill in the details. But this is a model. I like it and I think many others do. But it is not deeply supported by research. Although it explains known aspects of memory, it does not make remarkable predictions.
      1. You are correct that the computer analogy is weak. Neurons are both the storage mechanism (hard drive) and the computational mechanism (cpu) of the brain. Moreover, it is a great oversimplification to think of neurons like the transistors in a computer, which are simple switches. Each neuron is its own complicated computer. There are many variations of these computers, and we don't really understand a single one of them in great depth. Moreover, neurons are neither analog or digital processing devices. They have elements of each.
      1. You are also right on the mark in your criticism of functional MRI work. Knowing a part of a brain that is activated during a particular task doesn't explain much. It may not explain anything. Localizing a function is not understanding it. I'm not criticizing MRI deeply. The studies are very important. I'm criticizing trying to read too much into MRI work.   Your criticism is correct in a second way. You say that seeing an increase in the metabolism of an area of the brain does not show that only that area is functioning. right on. If you record from neurons in virtually anywhere in the brain at any time, most will be firing and processing some sort of function. It seems unlikely that they are idling. Although functional MRI can give great insights, it shouldn't be over-interpreted.  
      •  What a pleasure... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        dorkenergy have a fellow neuroscientist turn up here! These are excellent points.

      •  About the bare-bones info processing in our brain (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Dr. Kubie, thank you very much for the elaborated response.
        It is a pleasant surprise to realize there are Neuroscientists and people with related interests and knowledge in here  :-)

        Thank you Dr. Wang as well for the book reference and to the others replying.

        the general model for memory storage might be called the 'cell assembly' model. In this model, a memory (or a perception, which is almost the same thing) is isomorphic with activation of a dispersed set of neurons, the cell assembly. Memory, in information sense, is the set of strengthened or weakened synapses that correspond to activation of a particular cell assembly. A memory would be strong if activation if the cell assembly is easy and, when activated the same set of neurons reliably respond. A memory would be weak when activation is difficult and set of activated neurons is unreliable.

        This is helpful to me in having a bit more specific idea in mind as to how it might happen.

        I am still in the dark though when it comes to the theory (theories) that might be about  the basic processes, as to how it happens.

        So in my example of the task to memorize the 10 words/60 character sentence, do we have any idea of what exactly happens to our neurons and synapses as I memorize the sentence in short term and then in long term memory, other then some group of neurons somewhere in the brain are 'working'? And what exactly (if any) physical thing in my brain represents the long-term memory of that sentence?

        I mean, is there any theory of, say a 'conversion' between words (or letters, or digits) to "something biological in the brain" or something similar?
        If I memorize for instance a telephone number, say 201-617-9523, and I know that this is John's number. Ok, we may speculate perhaps as to where in my brain the 'John notion' might 'be' as a memory, because of the prior associations in my brain for John, etc.

        What about that phone number, those digits? Where are those in my brain, if anywhere, and what does a "2" digit in my brain looks like, and then what does a "201-617-9523" looks like? Does a "2" digit 'convert' into a synaptic activity? And if so, what exactly, in concrete terms (what chemicals, what activity within that synaptic activity) does the "2" digit 'convert' into?
        And if there's nothing specific and concrete representing the "2" digit in my brain that is different from what represents the digit "9" or the word "apple", how is it that I always recall John's number correctly starting with 201 and not with 901 or apple-01?

        Is there any theory out there about the concrete details processes like this, as to how the basis units of information are stored and recalled in our brain? (Dare I even ask about how emotions might be stored and recalled.)
        Or we only know in general terms thus far (which is not much at all it seems to me)?

        In the computer-analogy for instance would that general-term knowledge we have about the brain be similar to, say, if an alien from  a primitive civilization asked us how the information storing and information processing happens in the computer, and we told that alien something like "we know that information is stored in the computer due to electric currents through its parts, like the CPU, and also due to physical rotation of the hard drive, which is this thing"?
        And if so, I guess we pretty much have no clue about the very basics of how our brains work, right? :-)

        I hope to have been able to have made clear what exactly I am trying to ask.

        P.S. Also, do we have any idea as to how we might be similar or different than animals in storing and recalling information (memories) in our brains?

        Thanks in advance to anyone that might respond.
        And don't be intimidated by the fact that we are fortuned to have some Neuroscientists in here. You don't have to be one to respond. Likewise you word might not cary as much weight though as that of a PhD braniac :-)

        •  wow, a tough problem (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          dorkenergy, xhibi

          Let me give a try.

          1. restate the model: The cell assembly model is, roughly, that a concept -- a memory or a perception -- occurs whenever a set of neurons is activated. A cell assembly is created or learned in some poorly understood manner by changing the strengths of synapses scattered around the brain: either scattered with a region like the hippocampus or scattered more broadly.
          1. An important observation that supports the existence of the cell assembly. In the mid-20th century a Canadian neurosurgeon named Penfield did a remarkable series of surgeries. His surgeries were carried out in conscious individuals. Typically, he was exploring the brain for pathological regions, and the technique of exploration was to use gentle electrical stimuli, usually on the exposed brain surface. The surgeries were carried out under local anesthesia and the patients were able to immediately report what they experienced after gentle brain stimulation. When stimulation was in motor cortex there were slight movements of the hand or foot on the opposite side. When stimulation was on the somatic-sensory cortex the patients reports fairly normal sensations, such as a stroking of the skin, again on the opposite side; when the stimulation was near auditory cortex patients reported hearing realistic sounds. In one clear example the patient reports hearing a familiar song, which she hums and then sings. She asks the nurse whether the nurse also hears the song. What's happening? I don't really know, but what I imagine is happening is that the electrical stimulation is stimulating a few neurons in a cell assembly. Because the neurons in the assembly are linked, stimulating some excites most of the other neurons in the assembly. With the assembly active the experience occurs. This is as far as I can get. The experience could be a string of numbers, such as a telephone number, or it could be a song. I haven't a clue about how a string of numbers is coded in a cell assembly, but I doubt that the coding is anything like how a number is stored in a computer. For one thing the storage is graded, and not all-or-none.
          1. (not stated above) One more thing. There is a remarkably simple learning rule that, in its rough form, does remarkable things. The rule, called we can call the "Hebb rule for synaptic modification" is this:

          Given a single synapse, when the firing of the presynaptic neuron is followed within a few milliseconds by the firing of the postsynapatic neuron, the synapse will be strengthened.

          (note: this is classical conditioning on a cellular level; it also has strong parallels with principles of evolution).

          1. The Hebb learning rule, or rules close to it, can be used to set up robust cell assemblies.
          1. Note that the Hebb learning rule says nothing about the mechanism of synaptic strengthening. Over the past 20 years neuroscience has learned a lot about cell biological mechanisms that could support a Hebb leaning rule. The most highly studied is called Long-term potentiation or LTP. There now is a pretty good understanding of how LTP works.

          This is highly condensed. Perhaps its helpful. Although I haven't read all of  mindgeek (Sam Wong)'s book Welcome to Your Brain: Why You Lose Your Car Keys but Never Forget How to Drive and Other Puzzles of Everyday Life, the parts I read were great. I suspect that the book is  a great place to go for a better, longer description.

      •  Further there is functional redundancy (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        and adpatability of new pathways to take over new functions (thus the incredible value of physical and "occupational" therapy after brain injury.

        Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

        by barbwires on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:20:06 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Memory (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, dorkenergy

      So much to say here...for a general introduction to the brain there is our book, Welcome To Your Brain. If you have a specific interest in memory at the cognitive level I recommend Searching for Memory by Daniel Schacter. There are other brain books that cover special topics, too many to list here!

  •  are (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    you talking about cognitive dissonance?

    Iraq is the biggest disaster in American foreign policy ever in terms of unintended consequences. It is worse than Vietnam. Former Sec. State Madeleine Albright

    by pollwatch on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:10:41 AM PDT

    •  This is different from cognitive dissonance. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ms badger, pollwatch

      Dissonance is about how we change our attitudes to things based on how we behave.  E.g., most kids think that having sex before marriage is not good, but then many of them wind up having sex, and most of those that do begin to change that attitudes to conform to their behavior.

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:32:29 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I thought (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Marc in KS

        CD was that uncomfortable feeling you get when reality doesn't jibe with belief. Like the feelings of the kid who has sex and discovers he likes it after years of having been taught he shouldn't.


        •  Festinger's theory of cognitive dissonance (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, pollwatch

          is designed (in part) to show that as much as behavior follows belief (attitudes), attitudes follow behavior.

          The attitude change in response to behavior has to have a few parts:

          1.  Attitude-discrepant behavior (having sex even though you believe it to be wrong)
          1.  The behavior has to be perceived as freely chosen (no coercion)
          1.  The behavior has to have negative consequences (the fear and guilt could work as a consequence in this example).

          This all together causes dissonance, which is, as you say, an uncomfortable state.

          Those are the main parts.  Festigner said that "people will work to reduce dissonance."  Because you cannot change the behavior (you already did it and can't take it back), you have to change the attitude.

          So sex becomes less bad.

          I was using "dissonance" to refer to the whole thing.  That was unclearness on my part.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:06:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  There are, to be sure, (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, pollwatch

          modifications and additions to this idea in the 50 years or so since he proposed it.  One I particularly like is Bem's decisional dissonance.  When presented with a particularly tough decision, after you make it your attitude toward the other options (the other things you could have chosen) goes down, so the decision won't seem so iffy.

          This I think works against buyers' remorse.  A lot of times we buy something and then wonder if we made the right decision; decisional dissonance helps us get rid of that feeling that we might have done the wrong thing.

          Je suis inondé de déesses

          by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:08:49 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  that is (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Marc in KS

            often what seems in play realm of politics; politics is perception/media driven.... we have to catch up to the reality later - - hard to push aside decisions made before... in reflection-state of mind want to avoid buyer's remorse so give more weight/ re-confirm the stored memories of impressions that lead to decisions rather than adapting to new information;

            Iraq is the biggest disaster in American foreign policy ever in terms of unintended consequences. It is worse than Vietnam. Former Sec. State Madeleine Albright

            by pollwatch on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 12:06:25 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Those rescue rangers are smart folk (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marc in KS, lurks a lot, kyril

    Great work, mindgeek.

    There are no stupid questions, but stupid people are everywhere

    by SecondComing on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:29:21 AM PDT

  •  I think the Obama campaign should make (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    snazzzybird, kyril

    a new meme out of these personal attacks. My reference is to the following quote:

    In its concerted effort to "stop the smears," the Obama campaign may want to keep this in mind. Rather than emphasize that he is not a Muslim, for instance, it may be more effective to stress his discovery of Christianity in his twenties.  

    The best response to all these quotes is to say: "The Republicans can't defend their candidate. They can't make a convincing case for the policies they've persued for the last eight years. So they make up a bunch of stuff about me and Michelle to get people's minds off of that. But we think the American people are smart enough to see through that."

    I was a Republican until they lost their minds, The word 'conservative' means 'discriminatory,' ... It's a form of political discrimination. --- Charles Barkley

    by Kimball Cross on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:38:33 AM PDT

  •  Interesting Q&A with Dr. Wang & Dr. Aamodt (4+ / 0-)

    This is 56 min video, but it was interesting to watch, for me at least. You might need a bit of background or knowledge of Psychology to better understand some of the things...or perhaps not.

    You learn things like this trick that Dr. Wang talks about in the video.

    Myth 5: In a noisy place, you can hear better on your cell phone by covering your other ear.

    Truth: You can get a far better result by covering the mouthpiece while you are listening. This is because
    your phone feeds back all the room noise into the earpiece. Your brain is very good at separating left-ear
    sounds from right-ear sounds. By covering the mouthpiece, you create a situation that makes it easy for
    your brain to hear what's coming over the phone.

    I didn't know this, so thanks Dr. Wang.

  •  Love the book title! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, barbwires, kyril

    I will be looking at the links for awhile yet, but had to tell you the title is a grabber.  I know so many people who think they have early onset Altzheimer's (sp?) or something because they keep forgetting the simplest things.  I'll steer them toward your article and this post.  Thanks!

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 03:37:18 AM PDT

    •  Memory loss doesn't necessarily predict AD (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ivan, cotterperson, barbwires

      Some memory loss, starting at the age of 30, is normal in everyone. It's not correlated with late Alzheimer's disease. However, severe deficits are a cause for concern.

      •  OT and with slim hope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I have the symptoms of fronto-temporal dementia (memory problems, perseveration, problems with focus), but with periodic aphasia (trouble retrieving words, halting speech - which seems almost cyclic, about 2 months of problems, then a week or so of normal) and no loss of intelligence.  I've been tested and told "unknown causes."  On the off chance you might have any ideas, I thought I'd ask if you know of any diagnosis that could explain what is happening to me.  An eeg showed some slowing of brain activity, but that was dismissed as not relevant.  Any suggestions would be deeply appreciated.

        •  Please forgive me, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Unknown Quantity

          a non-professional, for interjecting. When my mother started having similar problems, I took her to a psychiatrist, who prescribed medications to slow her memory loss. If you haven't seen a specialist, it would surely be worth a try.

          Also, brain imaging techniques have shown that the brain is much more physically adaptable than previously known. PBS had a show about "brain fitness" that explains it more fully. Perhaps it will be repeated. You can read more about it here:

          All the best to you.

          "This chamber reeks of blood." -- Sen George McGovern, 1970

          by cotterperson on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10:32:36 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  No forgiveness necessary! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            I am losing count of the specialists I've seen, but apparently there isn't any medication or therapy that will help whatever it is I've got, at least that any of them are aware of (since it isn't actually dementia).  I'm just so grateful this at least isn't physically painful, and my students have been very generous in working with me.

            I'm so glad you were able to get your Mom some help.  I appreciate the info and link you provide, and you taking the time to comment!

            •  Please get some simple basic testing done first (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              cotterperson, Unknown Quantity

              such as blood sugar levels, and responses to fasting and to high fat/high carb foods,

              electrolyte levels;

              whether you are taking drugs that can affect memory (beta blockers, marijuana);

              and look at your sleep schedule-is it really 7-8 regular hrs without symptims of apnea (severe snoring or waking gasping for breath);

              before you make conclusions on cognition deficits.

              The reason is most of the avilable treatments for cognition deficits are themselves toxic.

              Democrats give you the Bill of Rights; Republicans sell you a bill of goods!

              by barbwires on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:29:20 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Thanks, barbwires (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                This has been going on for several years now - I've seen a neurologist and been tested by neuropsychologists (3, including at Barnes in St Louis); I've asked about environmental causes, diet, etc., but no one seems to have a clue.  I'm diabetic (type 2), so have a record from that (I'm no angel, but my A1C is in the 7's range), and I'm already on a CPAP machine for the apnea.  My speech therapist ate lunch with me once a week throughout the school year to see if we could pinpoint a problem, but nothing seemed to correlate - lack of sleep, blood sugars, stress, etc.

                One of the strangest things is that it comes and goes, and I can usually "feel" the change happening over a few days time.  It has been so frustrating.  Thanks for taking the time to give such good, sound advice.  If you have any other suggestions, I'd like to know!

  •  How come I don't have this problem? (10+ / 0-)

    I'm being serious.  When I hear or see a claim, I always consider the source and look for loopholes, pitfalls, and agendas of all sorts.  I don't believe patently ridiculous things, even if they are said over and over, even months later.

    Am I just a very contrarian person?

    It turns out that Bush IS a uniter... he united the good half of the country virulently against him.

    by fizziks on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 03:54:17 AM PDT

    •  It's temperament (4+ / 0-)

      and a part of who you are.

      I remember picking out the propaganda in my second grade social studies textbook and the teacher just ignoring my questioning of it.

      Some people are simply more critical thinkers. The schools certainly don't teach it or encourage it. It's all about puking back crammed in factoids for standardized tests.

      I see the brain as a reflection of thought processes, not the generator of them. It's a pathway. If it were totally identical in each of us, we'd think identically and we don't.

    •  You are (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, Ice Blue, envwq

      "attributionally complex."

      Good for you.  :)

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:24:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Critical thinking can be taught, (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barbwires, Marc in KS, Ice Blue, Livvy5, Anak

      as a habit.  I hope so anyway, or my entire vocational life has been a waste of time.

      So I see only tatters of clearness through a pervading obscurity - Annie Dillard -6.88, -5.33

      by illinifan17 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:05:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yeah (0+ / 0-)

      Why can't we just call this intellectual dishonesty?  For instance, I just read over at, that Dan Quayle actually didn't not say that he wished he had studied Latin better before a trip to Latin America. I don't think I will ever say now that he did indeed say it. But the quote below seems to say: "Tough. Since your worldview is against Republicans like Quayle, you will still believe what you first heard.  That's  just the way the brain works."  

      I dunno.  Not sure I buy all this.

      Adding to this innate tendency to mold information we recall is the way our brains fit facts into established mental frameworks. We tend to remember news that accords with our worldview, and discount statements that contradict it.

      THAT'S not change we can believe in, he he he ... creepy forced smile.

      by Anak on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:01:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  If I remember correctly from my intro psych class (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, Naniboujou, Lucy Montrose

    another interesting point with respect to memory is that negatives can get lost. That is, if you hear repeatedly that A is not B, the "not" part can eventually disappear from your mind, leaving only a memory of a connection of some sort between A and B.

    In other words, rather than "Barack Obama is not a Muslim" it would be best to say "Barack Obama is a Christian."

    During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act. - George Orwell

    by kyril on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:09:45 AM PDT

  •  so glad this was rescued..... (4+ / 0-)

    or I would have missed it!  Thanks.

    You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

    by murrayewv on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:12:53 AM PDT

  •  A significant problem with misinformation occurs (5+ / 0-)

    earlier than during memory consolidation and that is through selective attention bias. As a function of limited capacity for attention and short term memory, our brains must select which information to attend to from a vast array of possible stimuli.

    Thus at the outset, information which is emotionally salient but false will have an advantage over that which is neutral but possibly true.

    In the competition of inputs, having attended to the emotionally salient but false information and ignored the true but neutral information, the emotionally salient lie has the advantage of moving into memory consolidation status.

    The GOP tends to master this technique through emotionally driven arguments on god, gays and guns, so to speak. Democrats often make counter arguments which are factually correct but neutral in emotional content. Thus losing the argument before it starts because their argument cannot compete in the competition in the mind for attention.

  •  I added the 'teaching' tag (5+ / 0-)

    and will include this diary in Daily Kos University, which goes up every Saturday morning at 9AM Eastern, but stays open all week.

    No fees, no tests, no grades.... just learning!

    Stop on by

  •  Great diary (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Marc in KS, Bodean, kyril

    I need to bookmark this for so many reasons.

    of course whole industries (marketing, advertising and public relations especially are built on this.

    What I would like to know is, how is this forgetting the truth of something at all evolutionarily positive? It's lodged deep in our brains, so it's something that's been selected for, presumably...?

    This phenomenon, known as source amnesia, can also lead people to forget whether a statement is true. Even when a lie is presented with a disclaimer, people often later remember it as true.

    With time, this misremembering only gets worse. A false statement from a noncredible source that is at first not believed can gain credibility during the months it takes to reprocess memories from short-term hippocampal storage to longer-term cortical storage. As the source is forgotten, the message and its implications gain strength

    For some reason, through luck or training, I seem to have a lot more skepticism than many (the result of this is that I get a lot of angry stares or "you're so negative" reactions when I challenge assumptions. But that doesn't mean I'm not susceptible to messaging.

    What do we do to train young minds (and I suspect you have to train young minds) in techniques to overcome and defend against the negative effects of repetition and messaging?

    "Get informed, and let it change you."--wonderingmind42's chemistry professor

    by DemocracyLover in NYC on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:25:50 AM PDT

    •  Who knows? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DemocracyLover in NYC, Bodean

      But it's interesting.  Negative statements are more complex, and that might explain why they're harder to recall (we remember affirmatives much better than negatives).  I can understand why we don't store source memories: economy.  If you had to store not only the information but also the source of the information, your brain would get full.  

      So we lose source information; if that source information is "this source sucks," that gets lost and we're just left with the information.  When pressed, we're likely to confabulate a source for it, and we're not going to pick a shitty source, so (e.g.) the students attribute to a source like Consumer Reports.

      We teach "healthy evaluation of alternative positions."  We have a senior-level capstone class in which the students have to propose a policy issue and examine the evidence and arguments for it -- but as important is that they examine the evidence and arguments against it.  If they cannot do that, they cannot pass the course.

      Je suis inondé de déesses

      by Marc in KS on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:05:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  thanks for doing and providing us with links (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, Naniboujou, kyril, mrchumchum

    yet another example of several things

    1. the wide range of expertise available here
    1. the superiority of an online presentation in providing the reader with the ability to EASILY access the supporting data through hyperlinks


    Those who can, do. Those who can do more, TEACH! If impeachment is off the table, so is democracy

    by teacherken on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:32:33 AM PDT

  •  I Didn't Read Your Column - - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    envwq, kyril

    Because I don't agree with it.

    ;-)  ;-)  ;-)

  •  On a related point (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, Naniboujou

    ...the Washington Post today has an interesting exploration of how email/internet political falsehoods originate, spread and become "true."

    Security fidelity to freedom's first principles.

    by Diane95 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:48:35 AM PDT

  •  Couple thoughts (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, sillia, Naniboujou, lurks a lot

    (or one two-part thought)...

    A large part of the reason, then, why in this community we are unlikely to forget that Barack Obama is definitely not a Muslim is that we have a tremendous interest in sources.  As political junkies, we collect information about sources, not only from sources: hence the zillions of diaries about which pundit said what.  The source is part of the crucial information, not just the "context" of a fact, and may therefore make its way to the cerebral cortex-- would you say that's the right way to think about it?  Our interest in "meta," so often derided, serves us well here.  (The downside is that, while we may know exactly who made which smear against Barack Obama, many of us remain shaky on the candidate's actual positions... me too.)

    So, anyway, perhaps an overt "Fight the Smears" program is intended to have a similar effect on the public at large: make them conscious of context-as-relevant-information, make them smarter consumers of meta, and get them to pay attention to and remember where they "think they heard" such-and-so.  Something like the process of teaching undergraduates to read critically.  I would think, from what you've said above, that source amnesia would occur mainly if the source itself were regarded as unfamiliar or neutral enough to not be "rewritten" as part of the remembered information.  If a larger segment of the public were to start learning that the source is part of the story, we'd have a savvier electorate.

    •  I love this (0+ / 0-)

      I have always thought that a President should be 'Educator in Chief' of the nation and part of the reason I like Obama is that he seems to want to show people alternative ways of seeing things.

      This gives me some hope!

      [-5.50, -8.05] and in good company. FreeRice level: 50 (good guesser)

      by sillia on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:13:00 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Reading critically (0+ / 0-)

      Something like the process of teaching undergraduates to read critically.


      Something that should start with learning to read. Or when the kids see that first TV commercial. Etc.


  •  Critical thinking - America's other deficit. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, snazzzybird

    People really are cerebral sheep.  

    I was raised in a household that insisted that one should always question what they hear, read, and even see.  I always thought that others were taught the same, but obviously not.

    Very interesting article, but I found it somewhat depressing as to the just how my life is influenced by others who cannot, or will not take the time to give hard thought to the total picture of the issues, and their actions:  Hence, my "bumper sticker" comment for the day that bemoans the fact that we so seriously lack critical thinking skills.

    Thank you for your insightful post, and follow-up links.

    "..The paper holds their folded faces to the floor, and every day the paper boy brings more...." - Pink Floyd

    by LamontCranston on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:19:39 AM PDT

  •  Funny enough this is something that I use with my (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, snazzzybird

    children on a regular basis.  My principal told us to give children directions in the affirmative and not the negative because of how they process information.

    For instance, instead of telling them to "Stop running!"  we tell them "You need to walk in the hallway."  When they hear running, even in the negative we found that they continued to run anyway because their brain get it as not running=running!

    So I'm not surprised that with Obama when you say not muslim=muslim in most people's mind just because you said muslim.  In order to stop it you have to establish who he is and say, Barack Obama is a Christian who went to a Catholic School when he was in Indonesia as a child.  And then repeat it a mad number of times.  lol

  •  We're only slowly coming to map.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Bodean

    We are only slowly coming to map the "inner" dimensions of what I call thought/space/time.

    It's important to note that our experience of the universe is almost entirely constructed.  We take bits and pieces of sensory data, match them to preexisting cognitive frames, including memories and biases, and "build" the experience we think of as "seeing the real world."

    There's a wonderful example in Leshan & Margeneau's Einstein's Space and Van Gogh's Sky, about "seeing" your desk.  The raw data that the eye perceives is actually very limited: straight lines and colors.  The full picture of the "desk" that you see is largely your brain's interpolation and extrapolation of that raw data.  You then add to that the touch sensation of pressure on your hand, when your brain tells you that your hand and the desk should be in contact.  From that touch sensation, your brain adds concepts like "solid" or "hard."  Because "the desk" remains there when you look away and then back, you add the concept of "object permanence," that it's not "in here" (an imagined object) but "out there" (a real object).  Finally, you layer all of that with all of the other information you've come to associate with the concept of "desk" - workspace, the place where I keep my pens and coffee cup, any emotional attachments or limits, etc.

    In short, almost all of that "desk" you're "seeing" is constructed, with only the flimsiest of sensory data providing the foundation for it.

    The same applies to the whole of experience: of ourselves, of each other, of and our universe.  Our experience is constructed of thought far more than of matter/energy in space/time.  That's why I've adopted the phrase thought/space/time to describe that experiential space ... and cognitive science is only slowly beginning to understand and map the geometry of thought/space/time.

    Phrases like "believing is seeing" - what cognitive science calls confirmation bias - describe an key characteristic of that thought/space/time geometry.  George Lakoff's Thinking Points and this diarist offer us some important insignts into how the geometry of thought/space/time is modeled in the biology of the brain, in the nested neural networks commonly called "frames."  Malcolm Gladwell's Blink also offers insights into whether, when, and how we make good and bad decisions.  And Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight offers a compelling argument that our notion of an independent-existence "self" is, itself, purely a mental construct.

    I believe that our better understanding and mapping of the geometry of thought/space/time will provide the most significant scientific advances since Sir Issac Newton.  They will enable us to understand more clearly how much of "out there" is "in here" - and vice-versa! - and may indeed ultimately help validate and harmonize ideas like Ed Witten's M-Theory.

    I applaud you, Sam, on your professional efforts and on this diary.  You're doing important work.  Thank you.

  •  Are you talking about reconsolidation? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, Ice Blue, Anak

    Mindgeek (Sam),

    You say in your article

    But the information does not rest there. Every time we recall it, our brain writes it down again, and during this re-storage, it is also reprocessed

    I'm guessing that this is a reference to "reconsolidation".

    I don't think reconsolidation occurs in the hippocampus, at least not at the cellular level. The evidence for reconsolidation is that if basic brain function is disrupted during the recall of a memory, the original memory is disrupted. This is a remarkable finding, but there are two lines of evidence that it doesn't apply to the hippocampus.

    1. there is a series of behavioral experiments with hippocampal tasks where reconsolidation doesn't work (Jerry Rudy).
    1. When the consolidation paradigm is applied to hippocampal place cells (the cells thought to hold hippocampal memories) the cells don't remap. (stuff out of Kandel's lab; Kentross is one author).

    I'm not saying that this is proof.   But I'd put my money on no reconsolidation in the hippocampus.

    On more general level, I'm leery of trying to apply Neuroscience to the rules of human behavior. While neuroscience is beginning to give explanation for behavior, it is not in the business of predicting behavior (yet). Most of the experiments you cite are pure psychological/behavioral experiments. While its great to ponder the Neuroscience underpinnings, this does not, in my mind,  greatly strengthen the behavioral evidence. I worry that people think we've learned a lot more than we've learned about the biological basis of behavior. Politicians would be wasting money if they  hired neuroscientists.

    I read part of you book at Barnes and Noble the other day, and ordered a copy yesterday. From my 20 minute view, it seems great. I'm looking forward to reading it more thoroughly.

    John Kubie

    •  Episodic vs semantic memory etc. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue

      Thank you for this information. I don't think you and I would have much to disagree about. I am traveling and don't have access to all the PDFs, but some quick reactions.

      First, I agree that reconsolidation itself does not have to happen in the hippocampus. It is known that episodic memory ("today, Mrs. Frisby taught me that Sacramento is the capital of California") is associated with hippocampus and associated structures, and that semantic memory (knowing as general knowledge that Sacramento is the capital of California) is associated with cortical structures.

      Exactly how that transfer happens is a good question. There's evidence for some kind of replay or reprocessing somewhere. The studies you cite may be the ones we were thinking of. I'll look into it.

      A similar process seems to happen for other kinds of learning. For instance, when a rabbit learns to blink its eye when it hears a tone (after the tone and airpuff are paired many times), the memory appears to be stored in the cerebellum at first, then gradually transferred out.

      I agree that these questions are more complex, probably along the lines of your objections. Those are pretty hard to get across in popular writing. This particular question is a bit of a moving target, but in my view one of the most exciting questions in current neuroscience research.

  •  Oh yeah. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Next you're going to tell me that evolution is real. ;-)

    "America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way around. Human rights invented America." -Jimmy Carter

    by Bulldawg on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 05:49:57 AM PDT

  •  Why Obama is a Muslim (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, dorkenergy, Anak

    Ok, calm down. I simply want to present a counter to the facile assumption that this should be categorized as "a false belief." How convenient for all of us highly educated omniscient godly beings to assume that the beliefs running counter to our own are "false" and deserve to be subjected to a psychology of false belief. How positively Inquisitional!

    Living in southern Ohio, MOST of my neighbors believe that Barack Obama is a Muslim -- that is, my neighborhood accounts for a disproportionate share of that 10% of the nation. Thus I have had a good opportunity to inquire as to why people hold this belief.

    Right off, to accept the psychological paradigm, we would have to also accept that Appalachians and evangelical Christians are psychologically different from other Americans, or that they suffer psychological impairment to some greater degree.

    This has to be rejected. On the whole, in regard to most subjects, my neighbors have a more accurate, realistic, and "true" view of the world than people of any non-Appalachian neighborhood where I've lived.

    A visitor from the coast, traveling down the highway here, remarked "There are no horses here. I thought there were horses." She also said, "Look at that flooding; they should do something to get rid of all that water." My neighbors understand that you don't keep horses near the highway, and that "getting rid" of flood water in one area means dumping the water on someone else's farm.

    My neighbors believe that Obama is a Muslim because that is what the evidence suggests to their logical brain. The vast majority have no Internet access, and they have an aversion to watching TV news. They have more important things on their mind, like horses and flooding.

    Their reasoning about Obama goes something like this: 1. All politicians lie (a dictum that surely has more verification than the Darwinian theory of evolution); 2. My minister says that Obama is a Muslim and my Minister has never lied to me; 3. My brother's minister says that Obama is a Muslim, and that minister has never lied to him; 4. The tapes I've seen of Trinity Church in Chicago bear no resemblance to any Christian church I've ever seen; 5. Obama says he is not a Muslim, and Obama is a politician.

    Hence, Obama is a Muslim, to their way of thinking, to the best of their reasoning ability, to the extent that have the time or inclination to think about it.

    Convincing them otherwise is not a matter of telling them otherwise. Yes, they've heard all that, they are not deaf. It is a matter of respecting their native intelligence, coming to understand the way that they reason, and the world of facts about which they are entirely correct -- and you are wrong.

    And then, when a basis of mutual respect and understanding is achieved, without one side psychologizing the other, maybe then there can be a fruitful discussion from which both sides can come to learn something new.

    Thank the lord, Barack Obama himself understands this.

    •  Thanks for that (0+ / 0-)

      I agree.

      THAT'S not change we can believe in, he he he ... creepy forced smile.

      by Anak on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:13:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Well (0+ / 0-)

      Number 2 and 3 are the problem, aren't they?

      Your neighbors are trusting a source that they have traditionally regarded as trustworthy. Okay.

      The question becomes, why is that source lying to them? Why do the ministers -- the educated people, the people whose job it is to lead, with a committed belief in a religion the condemns falsehood -- why do those people  propagate lies?

      •  Because (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        those people received the information from sources that they, in turn, trusted. Did you not see any of the letters on the subject distributed to evangelical pastors?

        That's how we all get information, we trust our sources. How much of what you "know" about the world was acquired first hand? You seem to miss the point that people with different experience worlds, to borrow a psychological term, engage in different reasoning processes, and no one experience world enjoys a place of privilege.

        How do you know that you haven't been lied to on this question? Because your view is in the majority? If majority rules, then I suppose we'll have to conclude that Karl Marx was a Russian, that and that Columbus discovered America.

        Now if you think these folks might benefit by hearing first-hand from Barack Obama that he isn't a Muslim, in a forum where they can look him in the eye, then I suppose he'd have to come here wouldn't he? And perhaps that's what they are waiting for. The fact that he didn't appear in the vast expense of territory between Columbus OH and Charleston WV certainly did not help his credibility.

    •  The belief that Obama is a Muslim... (0+ / 0-) no more false than the belief that he must be a Christian because he attends a Christian church.

  •  Fascinating diary mindgeek. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, flumptytail, Randgrithr

    Very well done.  Congratulations on your success.  I can't wait to read your book.  Great title BTW.

    "The truth shall set you free - but first it'll piss you off." Gloria Steinem

    Iraq Moratorium

    by One Pissed Off Liberal on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:25:01 AM PDT

  •  Have you read Thom Hartmann's (0+ / 0-)

    "Cracking the Code"? If so, what are your thoughts on that? There's a certain amount of overlap with where you're going, especially with some of the Reagan-era examples of spin he cites.

    Anyone who fails to see the historical parallels between Blackwater & the Nazi SS, or the DHS & the Gestapo, needs a serious reality check.

    by Randgrithr on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:25:12 AM PDT

  •  This should be the matter of congressional (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, Bodean

    hearings aimed at media reform. Restricting what they say, including lies, is a touchy subject. However, most of them like talk radio, cable, etc. use public media to get their lies to the brains of Americans, which is a big difference from somebody printing and handing out pamphlets.

    In any case, it is essential at the absolute minimum to make sure that the sources of information are completely independent of other interests. The best situation is when the only source of revenue is the audience itself, and the news company is independently owned. Of course, this would mean that there wouldn't be as many sources viable economically, but it would be better to get our news from 2 truly independent sources than from 10 sources which are in turn accountable all to the same people.

  •  The math of oil depletion (0+ / 0-)

    This is one belief system that I have battled with for a long while. I am trying to get traction with this line of reasoning, but it is difficult:

  •  Nice article... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, Ice Blue, 4Freedom

    I am a Judgment and Decision Making Scholar, and a lot of what you talk about is the neuroscience of the availability bias.

    Also - the confirmation bias, and the way people tend to discount evidence or methods that disagree with pre-formed hypotheses.

    I assume you know the work by Chip Heath on urban legends and "the marketplace for information".

    Good stuff.  I love teaching it, but for me it is more from a cognitive or social psych perspective.

    -6.5, -7.59. Dump Harry Reid. Put in someone who can rid us of Holy Joe Lieberman.

    by DrWolfy on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:43:10 AM PDT

  •  The average American brain (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ice Blue, 4Freedom, FishBiscuit


    Having credibility when making an argument is the straightest path to persuasion.

    by SpamNunn on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:45:18 AM PDT

  •  on the other side of the political fence, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, 4Freedom, stanjz

    perhaps this explains why some people still think of GWB as a tough cowboy, despite all evidence that he's an idiotic, malice-ridden, trust-fund baby.

    Thanks for bringing this here.  It's nice to be able to read something from the editorial pages of the NYT without signing in... and not getting into copyright problems in the meantime!

    Nice work.

    Join us in the Grieving Room on Monday evenings to discuss mourning and loss.

    by Dem in the heart of Texas on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 06:45:21 AM PDT

  •  Sam (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bodean, 4Freedom

    thank you so much for cross-posting here with links.  Your editorial was timely and so relevant to what's going on.  

    I worked a lot with fighting the smears against Kerry.  The repetition of the smears by the media was overwhelming and though Kerry did respond, the common wisdom is that he did not ... again established by repetition.

    Your editorial is definitely something to be remembered when responding to the slurs and smears perpetuated in the blogosphere and the media.

    •  Lack of rapid response? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If I recall correctly, after the election his campaign manager said that they were hampered by the fact that the attacks started at a time when they did not have access to general election funds. They could not legally coordinate with the 527s in order to respond effectively.

      •  That's correct. (0+ / 0-)

        I've also seen it said that they did not anticipate that mainstream news organizations would knowingly give such wide play to false information that had been demonstrated to be false.

        But there I think we get into the question of what is news and what is news-based entertainment such as the 24 hr cable channels.

        AllDemsOnBoard had a good comment summarizing of what happened.

        John Kerry Did stand up to the Swiftboat Lies during ELECTION

        The media armed with the facts paid no attention to the liars for nearly four months the campaign countered the lies, that is until the MSM launched its onslaught in August:

        By the time the Swift Boat story had played out, CNN, chasing after ratings leader Fox News, found time to mention the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth–hereafter, Swifties–in nearly 300 separate news segments, while more than one hundred New York Times articles and columns made mention of the Swifties. And during one overheated 12-day span in late August, the Washington Post mentioned the Swifties in page-one stories on Aug. 19, 20, 21 (two separate articles), 22, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, and 31. It was a media monsoon that washed away Kerry’s momentum coming out of the Democratic convention.

        Why would the media, with the facts in hand, devote so much time to airing information they knew was false? This was free advertising for the Bush campaign.

        More here.

        The last link above is to a time-line on the SBVT attack and the Kerry response which in the end, highlights the effectiveness of repetition of false info provided by the media.

  •  On religious rumors... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rather than emphasize that he is not a Muslim, for instance, it may be more effective to stress his discovery of Christianity in his twenties.

    It will be difficult (if not impossible) for Obama to overcome questions of his religion.  Even if he manages to dispel the Muslim legend, those with certain religious proclivities will move to attack his Christianty.

    Cal Thomas

    Obama has declared himself a committed Christian. He can call himself anything he likes, but there are certain markers among the evangelicals he is courting that one must meet in order to qualify for that label.

    I have already heard this meme emerge recently among several of my wingnut colleagues at work.  Just today I read
    this letter in my local paper.

    Great diary - very interesting material.  Keep posting so I can be reminded that there are rational people in this world!

    •  I decided to read that letter... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I found most of the comments after it pretty interesting...who knew there were that many progressives in Tulsa?

      By the way, Cal Thomas is ...... (whisper) Catholic!(/whisper)

      Can anyone tell me what's "centrist" about using the Constitution to wipe your ass? - ActivistGuy

      by billlaurelMD on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:22:40 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The brain is a tricky thing. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, Bodean, snazzzybird

    When my children were small, I had a dream one night that I was pregnant again.  It was normal, happy, we were excited, and there was none of the strangeness to the dream that suggests it's not reality. The dream was so subtle, so lifelike, that it seemed real.

    Spent till 'noon the next day happy rubbing my tummy, thinking I was pregnant. While I was fixing lunch, a friend called. I was going to tell her about how I was feeling, when I realized it wasn't true, it had all been a dream.

    Ever since, I've wondered how much of our perceptions of reality are really events that we dream, and never realize are dreams.

    "In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." George Orwell

    by zic on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 07:02:29 AM PDT

  •  this is the editorial I mentioned in several (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    comments. I was very impressed with the findings and the clear way the authors laid out the information. I think it is a very important subject to consider especially in the blogsophere where ideas swarm like bees in a hive. Thanks to the authors for writing it and to the editors for re-claiming it.  Seems a much more profitable way of spending time in the brain than whining that poor poor pitiful KO is being dissed by those nasty bloggers.

  •  Great stuff. thanks. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  we would all be better off (4+ / 0-)

    if we could accept the possibility that whatever we hold as truth could be wrong.

    This does not mean we can't embrace our truths or advocate for them but there is always a great discomfort in me when someone has the "blow everyone out of the water" approach to any difficult issue because the mind has great capacity to come to the wrong conclusions and some part of you should recognize that even as you believe.

    My most personal example of this is my faith.  I embraced Christianity.  I believe in Christ and his teachings as the primary force of my personal decision making HOWEVER that said I have examined the possibility that if God does not exist what does that mean?  (My answer has been that it makes me a happy functioning kinder person so I have it covered).  

    I guess what I dislike is absolutism... and yet sometimes it is people who are absolute and off-balance that help change the world for the better.  The complications of humans and their interaction with others are just not neat and tidy but the whole subject (and how the brain works) fascinates me and I love the discussion.

  •  This diary (0+ / 0-)

    makes me recall a meeting of the local single-payer lobby I attended years ago. We were talking about how best to "sell" the message that any truly cost-effective universal healthcare was going to be government-funded. A man raised his hand and commented:

    "The people in this room are here because they respond to logic. Not everybody on the street responds to logic; a lot of people respond more to emotional appeals."

    He nailed the core difference between progressives and conservatives. Not that there aren't very knowledgeable, intelligent, thoughtful conservative positions, as well as stupid progressive dogmas. But, on balance, it's weighted one way. The distinction is acknowledged in the conservative truism about "liberal elites." We think more, and better.

    Thanks for the diary.

  •  maybe we should have a kossacks meetup (0+ / 0-)

    at SFN!

  •  Don't forget BS (Bigotry Substitution)... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, karmsy

    Thanks in part to the Big Lie behind Bush's war, some people are very comfortable saying that they don't want Obama 'because he's a Muslim', when their true thoughts (that even make them uncomfortable) are that they don't want Obama 'because he's black'...

  •  Same as neuroscience of true beliefs? (0+ / 0-)

    Interesting study but isn't the biological memory machine catholic as far as memories go?  It just remembers stuff, some true, some false.

  •  Ironic (0+ / 0-)

    False beliefs are everywhere. Eighteen percent of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth, one poll has found.

    Yeah, false beliefs are everywhere. Like the false belief that, just because it's in a poll, it must be true.


  •  My view (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I would say it a little differently: people tend to accumulate facts that support the argument they want to make.

    For example if you want to oppose Obama, then you will assert that he is a Muslim.

    This approach seems simple and logical and no neuroscience required.

  •  I'm game: "Bush is a Nazi !" (0+ / 0-)

    I think I read that from David Swanson this morning.

    "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." -Thomas Jefferson

    by ezdidit on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:07:51 AM PDT

    Recommended by:
    fhcec, mattinjersey, flumptytail

    This is psychology. The fact that the studies you link to were conducted by psychologists and published in psychology journals, instead of having been conducted by neuroscientist and published in a journal of neuroscience, should have been your first clue.

    THIS is neuroscience:

    Using MRI to See Politics on the Brain

    Neuroscience is a field devoted to the scientific study of the nervous system, including the brain. Psychology is a study of human behavior, sometimes with an eye to understanding the human mind (not the brain), sometimes not.

    •  The interpretability of functional brain imaging (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Free Spirit, we used both neuroscience and psychology literature in the preparation of that article.

      In my view the distinction between these two fields is partly historical. Psychology has its roots in a time when the technical tools now available to study the brain did not yet exist. Neuroscientific tools are now coming on line to start bridging the gap between the two fields. I agree that it's exciting.

      However, in regard to the use of functional brain imaging to "understand" political questions, great care must be taken to avoid overinterpretation. See this reply to another example of the genre, which was fun but not peer-reviewed, to say the least.

      •  That was above my head, but I rec'd you for (0+ / 0-)

        explaining whatever you just said. :-).

        "I count on the American people to refuse to be shamed any more". Helen Thomas, May 2, 2008 on the subject of torture

        by flumptytail on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:35:35 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I understand that. (0+ / 0-)

        We used to say we were "what to do until the neuroscientists got here." But psych is a very soft science; I take it all with a shaker of salt, and I say this as someone who has published some in this area myself. I don't like it being presented as neuroscience.

        I don't know how much the two fields will be bridged. The mind and brain are different. Studying a car can tell you a little about a driver, but not very much.

      •  Great care (0+ / 0-)

        I agree that great care must be taken to avoid overinterpretation of functional brain imaging, but that's true of any field. As is the need to avoid overgeneralizing. Take, for example, a peer-reviewed paper which reports results obtained from three studies, each of which involved a few dozen subjects, all of whom were not only students, but Stanford students, and opens with "Three studies demonstrate that individuals often..."

        The main weakness I have seen in the MRI studies I've read so far is that they didn't follow up. Had the study you cited tracked the same group of voters through the primary season, the results (and interpretation) would have been far more compelling, IMO. Or thrown out the window, when it became clear that changes in the voters' attitudes towards the candidates did not track to changes in the MRIs.

  •  I was just reading this article on the NYT site! (0+ / 0-)

    Now I see one of the authors is a Kossack.

    Great article. It helps to explain why labels that are oft repeated tend to stick and the importance of framing.

    Edwards Supporters for Obama!

    by NCDem Amy on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:10:13 AM PDT

  •  Great article... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Very interesting tie in of politics with neuroscience!

    -6.0/-6.21 John McCain: he's not change you can believe in!

    by doctorgirl on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:10:23 AM PDT

  •  More and Better NYT Editorials (0+ / 0-)

    I'm very interested in the subject of this diary. But I'm actually just as interested in its "meta-subject": republishing major publications' editorials or stories on DKos with more complete editorial.

    More links to citations. Less "cutting room floor" deletions by the corporate mass media publisher's editor. And of course the ensuing discussion that makes communication interactive, and therefore an actual learning experience, not just propaganda or advertisement.

    Congratulations, and many happy returns!

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:12:54 AM PDT

  •  This is how Fox News and Limbaugh do it... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The more audacious, and crazy the statement, and when it is repeated on blogs, its like that jury trial in which the defense makes an outrageous claim  or accusation against a witness for the prosecution, the jury are told to 'disregard'  but the bell has been rung anyway, so to speak.  This is how Fox News operates, and to a lesser degree CNN and a stable of right wing talkers on AM radio.  And we hear it again sometimes, repeated by MSNBC, NPR, talk shows on the progressive side, etc.   We may intellectually think 'its bs,' but the bell has been rung.

    We are being manipulated by a very powerful corporate media, right wing religion and GOP/right wing political leaders and operatives.

    Great article.

    Here's my audacious claim-- that Dubai will be where those who are taking America down will reside once the job is done, with the exception of Bush, who will retire to his acreage in Paraguay, on top of a huge water aquifer, a country that has no extradition.  

    Good luck to all as our country continues to go down.  

  •  Truth is More Powerful Than Lies (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chi, billlaurelMD, fhcec

    Holmes erroneously assumed that ideas are more likely to spread if they are honest.

    Holmes was wrong because there's so many factors stacked against the truth. The strongest argument detailing the arsenal of lies that daily murders truth is possibly Noam Chomsky's famous book, Manufacturing Consent. It's because the lies are so valuable that there's such a huge apparatus erected to defeat truth. That apparatus focuses on strategic lies (including the strategically valuable ambient atmosphere of tiny lies that cover everything, and make truthseeking appear an overwhelming and unpopular burden), and scores continuous victories.

    But truth has the advantage. Reality is highly interconnected and entirely consistent. Any time the truth gets out at all, and people have any chance to actually compare the truth they hear to reality itself, the truth wins. It's only the weight of the lie machine that ever wins. But since the lie machine is so weighty compared to people (though infinitesimal compared to reality), people are overwhelmed and can't make the necessary comparison.

    That's why telling the truth as often as possible, as publicly as possible, is always valuable. It keeps people used to hearing the truth, instead of just so used to lies that there's no resistance. And of course the most important parts of life are questioning what you hear by comparing it to reality, so you keep sharp at telling the difference between truth and lies when they cross your path.

    Holmes lived in a time when the propaganda machine wasn't as close a simulation of reality. And his job gave him the power to insist on both more facts (putting a bigger burden on the lie machine that the truthful reality turns out without breaking a sweat), and the power to compare what he got to actual reality. It's not so easy anymore. But the truth is still more powerful.

    That's the underlying mechanism to the truth (attributed to James Burke) that

    All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.

    The truth is powerful, but only when people use it. Otherwise, all the liars get their way instead.

    "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." - HST

    by DocGonzo on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:22:39 AM PDT

  •  Just added your book (0+ / 0-)

    to my Amazon Wish List.  Fantastic stuff!

  •  Thanks for posting a diary about the brain... (0+ / 0-)

    ...which, to paraphrase Woody Allen, is our second-favorite organ.


  •  Was it the Roman poet, Horace, (0+ / 0-)

    who said that rumor has wings but the truth must walk?

  •  o/t: a show of hands (0+ / 0-)

    Facts are stored first in the hippocampus, a structure deep in the brain about the size and shape of a fat man’s curled pinkie finger.

    how many of you curled your pinky finger and looked at it?

    (sheepishly and w/ a giggle raises hand)

    "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough." - Mae West

    by urbannie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:33:32 AM PDT

  •  Born To Believe (0+ / 0-)

    Dr. Vilayanur S. Ramachandran has been famous for years for his demonstration of the "God Spot" in the human brain.

    While his and other neuroscientists' research has been the exploration of the brain having an area associated with intense religious experience, probably this area may be linked to all intense "belief" tendencies among fans of any ilk.  

    What folks find hard to grasp is that so many brain functions (like this one) happen unbidden.

    Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind leans toward the personal and subjective but is an easy and still informative read on brain organization and cognitive function.

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:45:11 AM PDT

    •  I agree (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I think you are right and Ramachandran is wrong. Ramachandran writes about ecstatic religious experiences as if they are unique to religion. After I read Phantoms in the Brain I went to a few scientist friends and asked if they felt they had had experiences of ecstasy. All said "yes" and none related them to religious experience.

      The common denominator seemed to be experiencing an new insight or organizational framework. This is consistent with my personal experience as well. One can argue that our brains (minds) are organized to continually try to configure and reconfigure a world view until we have a best fit. Whenever a new best fit is achieved, an aha moment occurs. Or that's what I think.

      I also agree that, religion spot aside, Phantoms in the Brain is a very good book.

    •  Spiritual mountain-climbers! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      A very interesting take on spiritual experiences can be found in Explorers Of The Infinite by Maria Coffey. It's a fascinatng read. She talks about spiritual experiences that occur in extreme athletes. We discuss this in our book as well. Interestingly, both books get into the neuroscience, though our tone is somewhat different.

  •  How are beliefs formed? (0+ / 0-)

    Consumers of news, for their part, are prone to selectively accept and remember statements that reinforce beliefs they already hold.

    For the most part, it seems to me that political beliefs are formed under the influence of parents. Sometimes you go with their beliefs, sometimes you rebel against their beliefs.

    In other arenas, beliefs can be formed due to other constraints. Time needed to discover all facets of an issue might be the overwhelming one. Lack of it often necessitates simple beliefs to be formed. One example recently discovered at Caltech is the price proxy for wine. Several test subjects were asked to blind taste 4 wines of differing prices. Two of them were identical - but large difference in prices. It turned out that people more consistently said the higher priced bottle tasted better than the lower priced one.

    Why do we have a natural fear of wine "snobbery"? I remember before I started to educate myself on wines, how daunting it would be to go to a high end restaurant and look at their collection of wines and feel all at sea. Unlike other systems where we need to make choices (cars, computers, etc.) the range of offerings is enormous, and price often becomes the proxy for quality.

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts - Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    by Suvro on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 08:49:32 AM PDT

  •  Very interesting, but don't people have to (0+ / 0-)

    have a predisposition to believing the lie in order for it to have a significant impact on source amnesia? No one here believed swift boat lies no matter how often it was repeated. We retained the memory of who propagated the lies. In fact, my family members who believed the lie initially still believed the lie after they were told the source of the lie, because they were predisposed to believe negatives about him. Why? They are conservative republicans who are looking to find fault with liberal democrats.

    One other point. Soda used to damage paint on older cars which were not multicoated and protected with advanced polymers. Coke contains trace amounts of phosphoric acid (used to be citric acid). Not as acidic as orange juice, but it would dull the surface coat. My science teacher told me so, so I had to try it on my fathers car. ;-) We're told soda is bad for us and have been told stories like Coke dissolves teeth. I would have made the story one in which students were told Coke is good for you, supplies critical nutrients, etc.

    I have an irrational faith in reason.

    by the fan man on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 09:00:54 AM PDT

  •  Aren't "beliefs" by their very nature (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    not subject to (or at the most less subject to) thecritical thinking areas of our brain?  

    I recall an article in July 2006 Scientific American that referenced a study on this, wherein beliefs (politics & religion particularly) tended to be dealt with by a different area of the brain than more factual or computational things.

    I would suspect that some individuals are more prone to developing "beliefs" as opposed to others or form working hypotheses. ?

  •  the point I want to keep repeating (0+ / 0-)

    when contradicting smears, frame things positively in terms of what is true rather than complaining about what is not true.

    meaning:  Obama IS a Christian is much more effectie than Obama is NOT a Muslim.

    speak the truth.  it is harder to persuade people about what something is NOT.

    Politics is like driving. To go backward, put it in R. To go forward, put it in D.
    Give to Populista's Obamathon 2.0!

    by TrueBlueMajority on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 09:40:26 AM PDT

  •  Interesting. Interesting. (0+ / 0-)

    We will have to reframe our speech.

    The devolution will be reality show televised, commercialized and trivialized.

    by niteskolar on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 09:48:54 AM PDT

  •  Very, very informative! (0+ / 0-)

    Thank you very much for this.

    Lawrence, KS - From ashes to immortality

    by MisterOpus1 on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10:08:31 AM PDT

  •  This should be taught in schools early on (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I cannot imagine more useful information.  

    This can help everyone through life.  Being able to understand why we hold certain beliefs has universal applicability.; an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action -1.75 -7.23

    by Shockwave on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 10:47:55 AM PDT

  •  It is too late for me to rec this diary (0+ / 0-)

    But if you read the comments, I would like to say "well done!"

    For the first time I have someone to vote for instead of vote against for President; although I still have that, too.

    by math monkey on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 11:10:19 AM PDT

  •  Very nicely written... thanks, mindgeek. (0+ / 0-)

    The best way to counter the use of politically motivated lie propagation is simply to do what you have done, that is, describe the nuts and bolts of how it works. People need to be constantly reminded about the process of "learning", so that they can make better decisions. The idea of trying to regulate speech, to stop the dissemination of false information, is quixotic and wrong. Better to recognize it when you see it than to try to stop it before it happens... like many things in life.

  •  Got me thinking (0+ / 0-)

    Conservative talking points:
    o Tax 'cuts' actually cut taxes
    o Global warming is a liberal scheme to 'increase' taxes
    o Going to war increases our 'security'
    o If you are 'accused' there must be something to it
    o The rich 'created' and 'deserve' their wealth
    o The US health care system is the 'best' in the world
    o Social security is 'going broke'
    o Education 'costs' rather than pays
    o Immigrants are 'enemies'
    o If you can't eat it... fuck it

    General misconceptions (my opinion):
    o Others 'see' what you see
    o Your 'upbringing' makes you 'who you are'
    o 'God' creates random events
    o The government is responsible for  'bad' events
    o Conspiracies control 'dissonant' events
    o 'Flip flopping' is a bad thing

  •  Can we please (0+ / 0-)

    find the 18% who believe the sun revolves around the earth and kick them out of the country, along with the 28% or so who say Bush is doing a good job.  I would imagine there is substantial overlap.

    •  I'm assuming that of this 18% (0+ / 0-)

      Many if not most are simply misinformed and ignorant, rather than people who actively and adamantly believe such nonsense. I think we're talking about the sorts of airheads whom Jay Leno makes a fool of in his man on the street fact quiz skits, as opposed to flat earthers and Area 51/911 truthers. At least, I hope so!

      And we'll be right back...

      by kovie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:37:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  How About "Republicans Are STUPID" (0+ / 0-)

    Say it over and over, until people are embarassed to admit ever having Republicans.

    •  I say that almost every minute of every day. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I also say the Republican party is dead. It was hijacked by the Texas mafia and killed from the inside. Say that ten times every day.
      "Republicans" don't know that, which is another sign that they are stupid.

      "Remember, these are a primitive and paranoid people" - Captain Kirk (Star Trek IV, upon visiting 1960's America)

      by howardfromUSA on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:46:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Interesting diary--two questions I have (0+ / 0-)

    One, do you differentiate between people who casually hold false beliefs but who are open to being corrected on them, i.e. "Oh, I always assumed that X was true, thanks for letting me know that it's not", and people who are firm in their false beliefs, i.e. "Of COURSE X is true!"?

    And two, it seems to me that the thing that might help prevent the permanent solidifying of a false belief in one's brain is having an active critical assessment process that stands between the initial intake of such a belief and its transformation into a permanent one. I.e. when you first hear about some new "fact", instead of just lazily and credulously accepting it at face value, under the erroneous assumption that people generally don't lie or spread lies (hah), you first stop and assess what you've been told or have read to see if it's true, and if you can't determine that it's true, either reject it, or put it in the "Hmm, I'll have to get back to that" file.

    So my second question is, why don't more people do that? Why are so many people unwilling and/or unable to test "facts" before accepting them as true? Is it the way that most peoples' brains are wired, a function of our educational system or culture, or our modern-day fast-paced and high-pressure society, in which there's no time to do this assessment, or where people are conditioned to make snap decisions? Is it selective, based on the kind of fact we're dealing with, and how it relates to that person's subculture, background and existing beliefs? Are people more critical about certain facts than others?

    So I guess a third question would be, how do we get people to think and assess "facts" more critically, which I believe would be one of the single most effective ways to not only prepare the country for the 21st century (which it's obviously not ready for right now), but transform it ideologically into a progressive one (which I believe is vital if we're to thrive again).

    And we'll be right back...

    by kovie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 01:33:38 PM PDT

    •  The problem is TV (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Read Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death":  one of his major topics in that book is that people who get information from TV have no control over the rate at which it arrives (it was written long before Tivo),  and become conditioned to accepting what they're watching uncritically,  while readers have the option of pausing to consider whether the new information fits or contradicts their worldview,  and whether that worldview needs adjusting.

      We now have multiple generations with large majorities who were conditioned from childhood to TV-induced passivity,  and a lack of deep interest in science and technology.  The post-WWII GI Bill produced a large wave of scientists and engineers,  many of whom raised kids like me whose idea of "fun" was dismantling mechanical toys to figure out how they worked and/or building original designs out of Lego or Erector sets.

      Now kids can grow up with entertainments like MP3 players and video games whose workings most of them can't possibly understand,  even after they've grown up (unless they're among the few who become EEs).  They're surrounded by technology that's indistinguishable from magic and gives them instant gratification,  and by cheap toys and consumer goods that remove much of the incentive to make their own stuff from kits or plans.

      We've spent decades encouraging Americans to be passive,  incurious consumers,  and it may literally be too late to breed the generations of skeptics we need to save the country from terminal decadence.

      •  It's not the technology (0+ / 0-)

        but the way in which we're taught and conditioned to view and use it. I grew up in the TV age and bought my first computer 30 years ago in my early teens, when the personal computer age was just starting, and can remember when calculators and digital watches first came out. I was also old enough to see and begin to understand the technology behind the first moon missions and the Skylab era. I also didn't see my first "cell" phone until my last year of high school, in the early 80's, when my had to have it all rich boss used it while giving me a ride home once. So I sort of straddle the dividing line between "old", mostly analog, and "new", mostly digital, technology, and it's hard for me to know what it's like to have grown up in the modern digital age.

        But I don't think that it's just that. I think it's also how people are taught and conditioned to use and view such devices, and the world in general. Our educational system has seriously deteriorated since the 60's, parents are themselves less informed and critical-minded these days, and have less time and energy to teach their children to think more critically, and there are vastly more choices in mindless diversionary intertainment these days that keep children from learning how to think critically.

        Clearly, we can't put the genie back in the bottle, nor should we want or try to. But we do need to find ways of adapting to it, and combating this sad tendency to be mindless about the world that it inspires and allows. Better education. Pressure on parents to be, um, better parents. Alternative "diversions" that are better for the brain. Incentives and pressures on businesses to hire (and thus train) more domestic employees. Etc. There are solutions. We're just not implementing them, because until now we haven't had to. Now we have to, if we don't want to turn into a third world country.

        And we'll be right back...

        by kovie on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:13:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent. (0+ / 0-)

    You could have titled it: "Your mind on Rush."

    "Remember, these are a primitive and paranoid people" - Captain Kirk (Star Trek IV, upon visiting 1960's America)

    by howardfromUSA on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 02:40:59 PM PDT

  •  If the farces of darkness end up prevailing.... (0+ / 0-)

    ....the it will be due to the fact that our brains are hardwired for "Teh Stoopid."

    McCain mortgage policy shaped by banking lobbyist.

    by xynz on Sat Jun 28, 2008 at 04:16:43 PM PDT

  •  GOP knows this very well (0+ / 0-)

    Very nice article. GOP (and Hillary, don't bash me) and almost every political consultant know the psychological effect of repetition very well. The content doesn't matter. If the content is good, it is learning (which is what we do in school). If the content is bad, it is propaganda. But the mechanism is similar.

    What the article did is to conduct a research on the topic, but the wisdom is out there for long.

    If one say a lie frequent enough, other will believe it. Isn't that what GOP did daily for the last 20 years?

    How to fight back? Use the same method but with fact and truth.

  •  I've been doing this (0+ / 0-)

    all my life:

    Apparently, it pays for consumers of controversial news to take a moment and consider that the opposite interpretation may be true.

    I have strong contrarian tendencies so it takes a lot for me to be convinced of anything.

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