Archive for May, 2011

QUEST Discussion Topics, May 27

QUEST Discussion Topics
27 May, 2011
1.) Series of articles out of a recent New Scientist Magazine
a. Blind to bias – matt and I over the years had many discussions on this topic – he being an left wing radical and me being a normal person J. ‘pretty much everything you think and do is coloured by biases that you are typically totally unaware of. Rather than seeing the world as it is, you see it through a veil of prejudice and self-serving hypocrisies’… illusion of naive realism – the conviction that you, and perhaps you alone, perceive the world as it really is, and that anybody who sees it differently is biased. … biases are not consciously available for inspection, so they leap to the conclusion that their beliefs are correct and based on rational reasoning.
b. Ego – if you ask people to rate themselves on almost any positive trait – competence, intelligence, honesty, originality, friendliness, reliability and many others – most put themselves in the better-than-average category … similar questions about negative traits and they will rate themselves as less likely than average to possess them… “better-than-average effect”. It is incredibly pervasive, yet goes largely unnoticed. In an ironic twist, most people believe themselves to be more resistant than average to having an inflated opinion of themselves… one of a number of positive illusions – ways we kid ourselves that we are special. Another is optimism bias, a well-established effect characterised by unrealistic expectations about the future…we are surprisingly poor at intuiting how we are coming across. This is largely down to something called the “spotlight effect” – the deluded belief that everything you do and say is being closely observed and scrutinised. “Because we’re so aware of ourselves it can be easy to think that others are noticing us when they’re not… People are actually better at knowing how well they’re communicating with a stranger. You believe you know your partner very well as you spend more time together, but this can actually create more of an illusion of insight than actual insight,…
c. Free will – Around 30 years ago psychologist Benjamin Libet discovered that if you ask people to make voluntary movements, their brains initiate the movement before they become consciously aware of any intention to move. Other experiments have since been performed along similar lines, leading many neuroscientists to conclude that free will is an illusion… feels so real. We all have a sense of agency – the conviction that even though we did one thing, we could have done another, and that at any given moment we have free choice of any number of actions. Yet it seems that this is an elaborate illusion created by your brain. The conclusion is inescapable. We really are deluded…
d. Memory and reality – Where does the mismatch between my memory and reality come from? “We’ve known since the 1960s that memory isn’t like a video recording – it’s reconstructive… The collection of snapshots known as “autobiographical memory” is not a true and accurate record of your past – it is more like a jumble of old diary entries, photographs and newspaper clippings. “Your memory is often based on what you’ve seen in a photograph or stories from parents or siblings rather than what you can actually recall,… one of the most important components of your self-identity – your autobiographical memory – is little more than an illusion…Most of the evidence comes from false-memory research, where psychologists deliberately plant fake memories into people’s heads. In one famous experiment, Wade and colleagues used doctored photographs and fake parental testimony to convince people they had been taken on a fictitious hot air balloon ride as a child. In another, pioneering researcher Elizabeth Loftus, now at the University of California, Irvine, planted memories of meeting Bugs Bunny at Disneyland – impossible, as Bugs is a Warner Bros character…You cannot remember everything so your mind summarises and remembers the gist of experiences. You form associations and draw inferences. That gives memory great power, but it comes at a co…the illusory quality of memory is now seen as a strength rather than a weakness. Memory is no longer conceived as being exclusively about the past, but as part of a generalised “mental time travel” module that allows us to construct and test future scenarios based on past experience…
e. Sensory perception / imagination – Sensory perception – especially vision – is a figment of your imagination. “What you’re experiencing is largely the product of what’s inside your head,” says psychologist Ron Rensink at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. “It’s informed by what comes in through your eyes, but it’s not directly reflecting it… These jerky eye movements are called saccades and they happen about 3 times a second and last up to 200 milliseconds. With each fixation your visual system grabs a bite of high-resolution detail which it somehow weaves together to create an illusion of completeness….you perform approximately 150,000 saccades every day, that means your visual system is “offline” for a total of about 4 hours during each waking day even without blinking (Trends in Cognitive Sciences, vol 12, p 466). Yet you don’t notice anything amiss…One leading idea is that it makes a prediction and then uses the foveal “spotlight” to verify it. “We create something internally and then we check, check, check,” says Rensink. “Essentially we experience the brain’s best guess about what is happening now…The most famous demonstration of this “inattention blindness” is the invisible gorilla, a video-based experiment created by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Viewers are asked to pay close attention to a specific aspect of a basketball game, and around half completely fail to see a person in a gorilla suit walk slowly across the screen, beat their chest and walk off again…
2.) Color-Changing Dots Earn Best Illusion of the Year
3.) A Test for Consciousness – Article by Koch and Tononi – scientific American – Junel 2011, pg 44, – ‘how will we know when we’ve built a sentient computer?’ – proposes several image based test for challenges to current approaches to machine intelligence, focus on integrated information theory (we’ve reviewed before the work of Tononi).
4.) Damasio article on sys1 / sys2 formulation and gaming. – Deciding advantageously in a complex situation is thought to require overt reasoning on declarative knowledge, namely, on facts pertaining to premises, options for action, and outcomes of actions that embody the pertinent previous experience. An alternative possibility was investigated: that overt reasoning is preceded by a nonconscious biasing step that uses neural systems other than those that support declarative knowledge… suggest that, in normal individuals, nonconscious biases guide behavior before conscious knowledge does. Without the help of such biases, overt knowledge may be insufficient to ensure advantage

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QUEST Discussion Topics, May 20 2011

QUEST Discussion Topics
May 20, 2011
This week we look forward to continuing the discussion on Dr. Young’s work. See a short description below.
Theory Building and Testing in Cognitive Science: When cognitive scientists get together and discuss research they frequently seem to talk at cross purposes. Common reasons for misunderstandings include using different metaphors of the mind, conceptualizing the mind at different levels of description, and employing dissimilar philosophical perspectives. Mike will discuss these issues in conjunction with describing his own research creating an associational model of information processing that operates at a symbolic level and its application to modeling cognitive and cultural behavior.
News Articles
We can’t provide the material here as it’s only available to subscribers, but there is a great series from New Scientist on ‘The Grand Delusion’, why things are not as they seem. You can find the stories at this link if interested.

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