Posted: Apr 22, 2015 8:17 pm
by epepke
igorfrankensteen wrote:I don't have the background you do, so I don't understand a lot of what you said. I looked up various things,

Since I'm doing original research, that is, new stuff, it's perfectly normal not to understand. I'm swimming in the terminology and approaches of Cognitive Science; it's pretty understandable if what I say doesn't map on easily to another brain. I freely admit that the terminology sucks, but that's unavoidable, because the language we use evolved to talk about things outside the brain, and so we're making up terminology as we go along. Cognitive Science, as a field, has only been around for 30 years to be generous, so the basic ideas aren't taught in school, unlike medicine or biology, which also have a lot of weird words.

I'd be happy to explain terms upon request, though. Since I've been following the field for its entire existence, I tend to forget which ones are unfamiliar to other people.

and if I understood what I read, you are depressed at the idea that a physiological reason may be behind why people are jerks, essentially.

No, I'm not particularly depressed about it. I love figuring out this stuff, and it makes me happy.

I do have to say that psychology is at a pretty coarse level of abstraction. Cognitive Science is an attempt to bridge the gap between psychology and neurochemical processes in the brain. It's actually doing a pretty good job, though I want to push it much further.

I suggest something else entirely, from my own "softer" field of History. That is, that humans ALWAYS tend to seek the easiest answers first, and the logical ones second, if at all.

I don't disagree with that at all. In fact, you've just inspired me to write a couple more paragraphs in my paper.

Again, though, this is a coarse level of abstraction. You take "easy" versus "difficult" for granted, as you have the "easy" or the "difficult" experience in your own brain, and then you present it to another brain, and it says, "yeah, I agree." All that you have shown is that brains agree, more or less, on what is easy or difficult (though you might get different results with a savant).

Interpreted in those terms, what I'm trying to do is figure out what is in a brain that makes some things easy or difficult.

Note that we don't have that problem with computers, as the basic elements in computer hardware are engineered to have a complete, Boolean logic built in. Brains do not. The basic mechanism, again with some abstraction but not too much, is what is called Hebbian, after the guy who wrote about it way back in 1949. This is a kind of weighted average mechanism, and it could be seen as combining AND and OR, metaphorically.

To provide a NOT function that you need for a complete logic, however, requires in the brain an extremely elaborate system of inhibitory synapses that are regulated by neurotransmitters that get controlled not only in the brain overall but in small regions by glia, and there are even small structures named (badly) "topographic maps" that are allocated for use in reasoning.

In your terms, associative categories are "easier" than dissociative categories. I'm trying to introduce the concept and, vaguely, show why they are "easier."

Note as well, how many prejudices develop: they don't spring into the minds of the anti-person all at once, they are built up a bit at a time. Catch an anti-person early enough, and their only explanation for why they are anti- someone else, will be "I feel oogy when I look at them." It's only later that they add in specifics.

Again, that would vaguely map onto the transition of a dissociative category to an associative one. A purely dissociative category would have no prejudices, just a recognition of differences. You'll see this in children; they first become aware of differences but don't obviously care very much. Then, progressively, the category becomes associated with specific ideas. These can be taught, of course, but they can also come about through reasoning. Once reasoned, they "stick" to the associative category and become automatic.

Let's say, for instance, there is a dissociative category. You're a freeny, and the beeny's look different.

Let's say you have a good experience with a beeny. That doesn't cause cognitive dissonance, so it isn't a learning experience.

Now let's say you have a bad experience with a beeny. This causes cognitive dissonance. So your brain thinks about it more; that's what cognitive dissonance makes happen. A part of your brain encoding "bad" is activated at the same time that a part of your brain with the memory is activated at the same time that a part of your brain encoding "beeny" is activated. By the Hebbian mechanism, axons are strengthened between all these parts of your brain. Also, other paths between them tend to shorten. (I could explain this algorithmically by graph theory, but I won't, because it would be quite long.)

Thereafter, when any of the parts of your brain encoding either "beeny," the event, or "bad" will have a higher probability of being activated. This is a purely automatic process; no conscious thought required. After a while, your "beeny" category will become more and more associative. This is a stereotype.

Note, of course, that this will not happen if you have a bad experience with another freeny. Your brain will "look for" or create another category. (I put the hand-waving in quotes. It's really not so bad, as this can be explained by other fairly simple mechanisms. But this is a bit like teaching how to write recursive programs. Until you understand it all, a bit of handwaving is required.)

The associations of neurons you refer to might indeed be the mechanism, but the reason that the mechanisms are engaged may be entirely different than you've listed, owing to being more complex, and to beginning much earlier in the individuals' development.

Maybe. Who knows? But this mechanism seems to have sufficient explanatory power to me, at least now. And I do have to note that it may also simply be that explanations unlike Cognitive Science seem easier to you because they are unfamiliar. And they might seem easier to me because they are familiar. But this is why we have discussions and write and publish papers and do simulations.