Forum Archive - Week 13
"Gaps", drugs/alcohol, control/freedom, and free will ....
Subject: lateral inhibition network
Date: 2003-04-22 20:54:23
Message Id: 5499
So in today's class we learned about a very interesting concept of how the brain interpret the external world: lateral inhibition network. The idea is that although the eyes leave out alot of substantial inputs, the brain can still produce a very clear and defined world. Thus, the implication here is a very significant one: the eyes partially registered the inputs in the world while leaving much work for the brain's interpretation to fill in the missing gap. As a result, everything looks different the eyes of each person. This raise a very interesting thoughts: since this is a variant caused within the nervous system, how different are our visual perspectives? And was this variant an intentional property in development or was it more a mistake within the networks of the nervous system? However, in order for us to communicate with one another, our visual perpspective of the world must be very similar. And whether or not its intentional, I'm not really sure but it seems that it play an important aspect to our survival as it is dictated by evolution.
Date: 2003-04-23 19:42:32
Message Id: 5506
When Grobstein put up the side by side pictures—one of a white background with a grey/black box in the middle and the other with a black background and a grey/black box of the same hue in the middle—and asked us which grey/black box was darker, we all answered that they were the same even though the one on top of the white background looked so much darker because we KNEW that he was only showing them to us to demonstrate that they were the same. Still, as much as we knew that the "correct" answer was that they were the same color boxes, by just looking they appeared very different. Like Stephanie said, "Even when our I-functions know that there is a trick involved the results are still the same." In this case, possessing the afore-knowledge that the boxes were identical wasn't sufficient to counteract the results of lateral inhibition and its resulting signals to the brain. It is pretty interesting to finally begin to understand how these optical illusions work. This also makes one question how accurate input other than optical illusion tests is and how much of what we see is actually the correct intensity/color/shape etc.
Name: cordelia stearns
Date: 2003-04-23 21:51:42
Message Id: 5508
Something I find interesting about the idea that giving up control is so hard for us is the fact that drug use is so rampant in our culture. The use of drugs is of course accompanied by a loss of control, and drug users frequently acknowledge that this loss of control is exactly what they are seeking. Alcchol, for example, is often used as a way of reducing inhibitions. Our generation is soooooo dependent on alcohol as a way of easing the tension of, um, "hooking up". Not to mention, a way to forget about the papers and tests and things we haven't done and just relax. So, sometimes, at least, we really like to be out of control. And certainly some people like it more than others.
Which makes me think about the placebo effect. Ever seen someone who thinks they've had more to drink than they actually have act way more drunk than they possibly could be? So are drugs just an excuse to ACT like you're out of control even when you are not?? At least some of the time?? I think so.
But why is this so acceptable in some circumstances and not in others? The societal rules of drug use seem so strange.....it would seem like society would want to restrict anything where people would lose control over themselves, but high people seem a lot more in control than drunk people. I also know a lot of people who would argue that drugs like speed enhance self control (also production, another thing our society values) so why are these not acceptable?
I'm confusing myself here really, because in my last posting I talked about how tragic it would be not to trust one's nervous system, but now I'm talking about situations in which we don't want to trust our nervous systems. Any ideas?
Name: Laurel Jackson
Date: 2003-04-23 23:37:55
Message Id: 5510
Cordelia's question "are drugs just an excuse to ACT like you're out of control even when you are not??" made me think of 2 people who I know who have substance abuse problems--one drinks too much, one smokes pot everyday. Both of these people have very stressful lives and --even without drug influence--they seem out of control. Instead of stepping up to bat and taking responsibility for their lives, they use their substance abuse as an explanation for being out of control. I wonder what genetic factors are present that predispose some to run from a problem, and some to confront the problem (fight or flight). Substance abuse offers a tempting way out. Don't have to worry about the real problem, and can completely ignore the messages from the nervous system--dulling the conscience (I-function?).
Date: 2003-04-24 17:51:16
Message Id: 5518
Why are men most likely to be color blind? Why is there a ratio of men to women of 3:1 or 4:1 in the diagnosis of autism? Why do men have difficulty multi-tasking? To me, there seems to be a common factor between these traits and it is the ability to inegrate information that is presented to the nervous system and make a logical story. If there is a genetic difference that makes a part of the brain different, then the integration of information will be different. This may be a fundamental difference between man and women. As mentioned in class today, color is the filling in of the space. A child who is autistic is unable to integrate all of the incoming information and therefore can not make a picture that will dull the senses. In order to control the onslaught of information an autistic child needs to focus on one thing in particular. For some people it is a math problem or the wheel of a car. Could this explain why certain people tend to be better at math (often men)? Have they developed the ability to focus on one particular thing in order to prevent a sensory overload due to the fact that they can not integrate the information. Multi-tasking is trying to coordinate a collection of activities into one game plan. If a person has difficulty integrating, then they can only handle each activity individually. They will focus on that one project, do it very well because they will make sure nothing distracts them (can't handle it) and then move on. The minds ability to integrate and control inputs can result in different qualities considering it produces a different perspective on reality.
Date: 2003-04-25 02:39:08
Message Id: 5519
Cordelia's comment has raised alot interesting issues about societal influences on our behavior. It is strange that society seems to allow alcohol abuse as more acceptable than drugs. But again it just depends on the society to set up and govern its social rules. For instance, in many countries in Europe, drugs abuse is just as accetable as alcohol abuse. To Europeans in those countries, this concept is not so strange. Another example is prostitution, while some countries fine it unacceptable and immoral, other view it as not so bad. So I think society has alot of influence on how we behave and how we view ourselves and others.
In terms of control, Cordelia made a good point about alcohol abuse as a way for alot of people in America to be out of control and relax. I think that it is true that our western society and cultures put alot of emphasis on control, much more than the east. I remember when I first came to the US, I have alot of problem dealing with time. In Vietnam and most of Asia, people are pretty flexible with time and being five or ten minutes late is understanable. In the US on the other hand, when you are a minute late for an interview or meeting, even with friends, you get branded and judged right away before you even open your mouth. So in terms control, it is interesting to realize that people often use alcohol abuse as a way to be in less control of themselves. I have a friend who is like that numerous time. One time we even give her just plain juice and told her that it has alcohol in it. She turned out to behave as if she was completely drunk and acted wrecklessly. Her life is very controlled and organized. She is a perfectionist and so is her dad.
I think that we desire control because our society has place so much emphasis on it. But we have to agree that with control and organization we have achieved much in the progress of our civilization as a species. Without the control of our knowledge and such we would have not accomplished some of the breakthrough in science and in other fields that are so important to our progress. But sometime, our human nature of being wild and free just have to break through our sense of controlling it. Thus, we use alcohol as an excuse to relieve the tension that has built up.
Also, I've noticed that in countries where alcohol is restricted and controlled, alcohol abuse is more prevalence than those countries that are less strict. This further support the ideas just presented
Date: 2003-04-27 12:58:24
Message Id: 5523
I agree with Tung that drugs have a much more negative stigma in our society that alcohol. This is understandable because alcohol, unlike illegal drugs, is legal at a certain point. However, I don't understand why alcohol has more of a negative stigma because in many cases, alcohol can be just as detrimental and addicting. To me, alcohol is acceptable only because it has such a historical role in society. People have been drinking alcohol and using it as a social drink for hundreds of years. In addition, one thing that I have noticed about drugs/alcohol and behavior is that in addition to people drinking/doing drugs to lose control, many people do it because it is such a bonding experience. I've noticed that it's hard to become friends with a group that either drinks a lot or smokes a lot because if you aren't engaging in these activities with them then you miss out on these bonding experiences where people can reveal a lot about themselves. Moreover, even when they aren't under the influence they are talking about different kinds of drugs or alcohol, or things that happened when they were under the influence. Therefore, I think a part of the attractiveness in losing control is also that you can reveal yourself more easily to others and, thereby, form a friendship bond with them.
Also, I was really interested in the activities we did on Thursday that involved how our nervous system uses the different signals it gets to "paint" the best picture it can by including all of these signals. It was strange to think that what our nervous system tells us we see is not actually what either of our eyes our seeing. In fact, it is a combination of the two, somewhere in between. Moreover, the idea that color itself is not necessarily a distinct thing makes me feel somewhat lost in a world that does not seem as physical and concrete as I had once thought. To me, sight is my most trusted and revealing sense. To know that even my own sight deceives me makes me realize just how controlled we are by our nervous system.
Date: 2003-04-27 14:04:43
Message Id: 5524
Clare said, "To know that even my own sight deceives me makes me realize just how controlled we are by our nervous system."
This concept, no matter how many times I think about it, always strikes me as being super creepy. How interesting that not only does our brain have this blind spot, but the brain is smart enough to fill in the space with a sort of camouflage, not just a white space. As some one who likes to be very much in control, it makes me feel strange to know that there are so many tricks up the brain's sleeve. It makes me reassess the nature of control, free-will, and just about everything that I was so sure about before.
Date: 2003-04-27 14:11:57
Message Id: 5525
ooh, I also want to talk about Tung's comment, "In terms of control, Cordelia made a good point about alcohol abuse as a way for alot of people in America to be out of control and relax."
After living in London for a year, I couldn't believe how lax their rules regarding alcohol consumption are. When I would take the tube home from school, there would be 11 year old boys in school uniforms drinking cans of beer. The age for legal alcohol consumption is 16, but it seems rarely enforced. Also, drinking in public is totally legal and a-ok. What's going on in American where these concepts would be considered completely shocking and just wrong? There's an air of forbidden fruit wavering around alcohol consumption in the States, therefore people feel the need to go completely nuts when it's finally available. Our insanely high drinking age coupled with conservative attitudes is doing more harm than good.
Date: 2003-04-28 13:26:22
Message Id: 5532
I accidently pressed the reset button when I went to post, so let's see if I can remember exactly what I wrote about. I was thinking about the photoreceptors and the ganglian cells in our eyes and how the photoreceptors report the light that they take in more faithfully than the ganglian cells do, but it is the ganglian cells that pass on what we see to the brain. I began to think about this in relation to collorary discharge, where our I-function (for lack of a better term at the moment) is not aware of all of the input that our body is sending to the brain. I was thinking that is is quite possible that the brain has evolved the "see the outlines and fill in" way of seeing so that it doesn't have to deal with the great deal of information that the photoreceptors are taking in. Kind of like sifting through a ten page paper and cutting out of the unnecessary information to make it a two page paper.
Date: 2003-04-28 13:56:54
Message Id: 5533
Expectation plays a very important role in the functioning of the nervous system. A few weeks ago, we were introduced to this unique notion of the brain: a particular respond is produced out of what the brain expected the sensory inputs should be. To elucidate this thought, pain was used as an example. When a sensory input from the toe is triggered and sent to the brain to report a certain disruption of "normalcy", the brain then responded by telling us that the pain is in the toe and so the the appropriate reaction is engendered. Thus, pain does not originate from the toe, rather it is from the brain perceiving and expecting what the sensory input is. In this view, the nervous system is exactly similar to a computer, where everything is already pre-programmed. In our current discussion, the idea that the nervous system fills in the gap that is resulted from the eyes' blind spots further support this view of expectation. When our blind spot produces a gap or a hole within our visual perception of an image, our nervous system automatically make an "informed guess" of what the gap should be by cues from the whole picture. Thus, the resulting perceived image is complete without any holes or distortions. In other words, from environmental cues, the brain filled in the gap what it expects the "missing" visual inputs should be.
Expectation of the nervous system, thus, plays a major role in our perception of reality. As a result, many of us, including myself, find it very uncomfortable to know that our perception may be "deceiving" as Clare has mentioned. I don't know about others in the class but prior to this course, my impression of the nervous system is that it helps us to interpret reality and the external world. Now, I feel as if our brain is our only reality. In this context, what is the difference between us who are considered "normal" and those who are perceived as mentally ill? Here, I don't see much of a difference, rather, the issue in term of acceptance is more prevalence. Take for example, homosexuality. Just a few years ago, homosexuality was listed as a mental disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Now, homosexuality is no longer listed in the manual because it is accepted by our society as a normal sexual orientation. This make me think alot on what our society means by "normalcy."
Subject: thoughts on control
Date: 2003-04-28 16:04:28
Message Id: 5534
I would like to contribute some thoughts to the great conversation that Cordelia has begun regarding the concept of control in relation to society and the individual. I agree with my fellow classmates that there exists a social and individual realm surrounding the area of addiction to any drug that presents the opportunity to lose control. I would like to highlight two concerns in a social learning theory that can aid in understanding behavioral characteristics that I see at play in this scenario: control and self-control. Control can simply refer to an individual's ability to do what she wants to do, unobstructed by external forces or obstacles. Whereas, self-control refers to her ability to overcome internal forces or obstacles and refrain from doing something that she wants to do. With regards to addiction, I agree with Cordelia and Tung, respectively, that alcohol abuse is a way for a lot of people to be out of control and that "we desire control because our society has placed so much emphasis on it". Because our society is built on the notion of an individual maintaining self-control and constantly being 'in control' of our actions, I think that we must displace the blame of our 'actions' onto a substance. This concept of displacing or shifting blame reminds me of when I played the clarinet in middle school. I remember that it was the normal response to blame the instrument for playing the wrong note, when in fact it was me who made the mistake. I would displace my failure on the instrument thereby, not admitting a loss in control or an inability to perform to my classes standard. I think that our society requires us to be very posed with extreme self-restraint and the admittance of a loss of control without an 'escape' (use of addictive substance) would result in condemnation by our society. I think that we use the 'addiction' as our instrument to displace our need to be a rebel with our blatant disregard for what is deemed acceptable in our society.
Subject: self control, alcohol and nitrous oxide
Date: 2003-04-28 19:30:30
Message Id: 5538
I agree with everyone with regards to alcohol seeming to be a means to have a legitimate 'excuse' for uncontrolled behavior. If we know that someone is under the influence, we tend to excuse them for actions which would be inexcusable in our society if the person was sober. Often when people we know act in ways that display a lack of self-control (for example, gesticulating and screaming at the top of their lungs on Merion Green), we would probably laugh it off if they were drunk. If they were sober, however, we would most likely look down upon their behavior.
In some circumstances where we may NEED a lack of self-control, however, our desire to be in constant control of our own actions prevents us from losing control. When I was going to have my wisdom teeth pulled, the maxillofacial surgeon had originally wanted me to be awake during the procedure, and gave me nitrous oxide. He warned me that I would probably feel "totally out of control" once the gas was administered. Sure enough, I really didn't take too well to the laughing gas mask, and asked to have it removed. After he took off the mask, he told me that many people before me had felt the same way, and that they too gained discomfort from their newfound lack of self-control. It seems that we are so used to being in control that a sudden loss of self-control may make us uncomfortable.
Name: Enor wagner
Subject: Freedom and Control
Date: 2003-04-28 21:49:55
Message Id: 5540
Do we all have secret psychological cravings to lose control of ourselves? Tung's comment about his friend who acted drunk without having ingested any alchohol was very interesting. I too, have been witness to such a charade. I saw this girl drinking Odouls, but she thought it contained alchohol. She was fumbling all over the place, slurring her speech and behaving as if she had no inhibitions at all. It was pretty funny actually. But her actions bring up a lot of interesting psychological or maybe even neurobiological questions. First of all, was it an act? Perhaps she felt alchohol excused her from maintaining control of herself. Whether or not she felt chemically intoxicated, is a question we will probobly never know the answer to, unless someone plays this trick on us. However, if she did, then the alchohol would have had a sort of placebo effect on her. Her state of mind beleived she had consumed alchohol, so her body reacted that way. The placebo effect, in terms of evidence, definately supports the notion that brain = behavior. However, another possibility exists. She may not have felt any sort of chemical reaction from the alchohol. She may have had a subconcious or even concious desire to act out and lose control which overpowered her sense of wishing to behave soberly. Cordelia's comment about Americans and their control issues holds a lot of water. Americans are so obsessed with control that some may crave to release pent up energy by any means possible. Ironic, since we're supposedly the land of the free, yet a lot of us feel obliged to bottle up any true sense of freedom.
Subject: control or lack there of
Date: 2003-04-28 22:20:57
Message Id: 5542
I think it very interesting that society considers the loss of control 'o.k.' if an external substance causes it (alcohol, drugs, etc). But is this really true? Rarely is it the case that a person uses alcohol or drugs to the extreme of which they use control, without prior knowledge that it will cause them to loose control. So do we really think 'it is the beer's fault that John Doe was drunks last night,' or do we say it is 'John Doe's fault that he drank to much beer and was drunk last night'?
If we say the latter, then we are no longer blaming the loss of control on an external cause, but we are still condoning the loss of control. This is rather ironic judgment for a society that covets control.Bringing us to the question – is it really control that we want? Or is control a smokescreen covering up an even greater need?
Name: marissa litman
Subject: control and alcohol
Date: 2003-04-28 22:41:02
Message Id: 5543
Of course this discussion in the forum about alcohol and Americans needing to let go or control themselves, struck a note in me like everyone else. I never understood American's obsessions with alcohol and the drinking age. As a younger person my parents never made a big deal about alcohol, never made it appear taboo. I spent a lot of time in Europe, so my "teenage" exposure to alcohol was in Europe sans the taboo. The best excuse I ever heard for the age 21 to drink law came from a small town in New Hampshire. Basically the idea was that when the law was age 18, it was 16 year olds faking IDs and getting in...but with the age at 21, it was 18 year olds and therefore, not minors to prosecute. Otherwise I never understood Americans obsessions with alcohol and control.
In terms of Americans "letting go" through alcohol consumption, I agree with that in some respects, however I beg to differ in the case of many true alcoholics. Alcholism, like eating disorders can be a way for people to "control" or at least think they are controlling their lives. It is an interesting dichotamy that some people use alcohol as a release and others as something to supposedly control in their lives. I wonder what triggers some people to want to just lose themselves ? Regarding Laurels comment on genetics, is this just another example of what shes trying get at?
Date: 2003-04-28 23:22:35
Message Id: 5544
The fact that our brain fills in gaps and creates images that may not actually exist seems surprisingly reassuring to me. If our nervous system was not able to compensate for our ingrained weaknesses, we would be left with actual blind spots, and our ability to function would be correspondingly compromised. We have mechanisms to correct for lapses in our brain's ability to perceive, and this seems like an inherently beneficial trait. Even though it suggests that what we sense may be "imagined" rather than reflections of a definitive "real," I feel that this supposedly false perception is a good thing because it serves as another method of creating subjectivity. Subjective perception should not be considered any less valuable that an objective and universal mode of perception because our very ability to see things differently (and think of them differently) allows us to learn, change and perhaps even progress.
Subject: illegal drugs and self-control
Date: 2003-04-28 23:24:04
Message Id: 5545
I wanted to talk about the perception of drugs vs. that of alcohol in reference to history and control. It is interesting that Clare said "To me, alcohol is acceptable only because it has such a historical role in society. People have been drinking alcohol and using it as a social drink for hundreds of years." While it is true that alcohol has played a large role in western (and other) culture for hundreds of year, other drugs have also played roles.
Although I do not know very much, it does seem like this information has been suppressed from the learning of history. Not only did Coca Cola used to contain cocaine, but it also still contains an extract of the Coca plant which, although not a stimulant, contains its particular flavor. This extract is probably listed under the "natural flavors." The popularity of this drink then and now may indicate a higher social acceptance of cocaine in the past. Thinking about drugs as either "new inventions" or as substances which have always been illegal seems like it would be common among the average American. I used to think this way and felt very surprised to learn about the importance of hallucinogenic frogs, mushrooms, and other drugs in Maya culture (which was the particular society in which I first learned about in connection to drugs). Learning about Maya drug-use made me think about possible drug-use among other societies. Although the non-tropical climate of the U.S. limits the amount of plant species and hence the amount of psychoactive plants, there seems like there must be a more definite history of drug-use (and abuse) that is not presented in normal American history classses.
If more of the history of illegal drugs were known, it would seem like drugs and alcohol, which is in fact a drug, would not be placed in so vastly different categories. An argument for the difference between alcohol and most drugs is that the intensity of alcohol can be monitered whereas the intensity of drugs can often not be. Also the fact that people can talk about the different bouquets of a wine may justify its legality and purpose while no one can talk about the quality in taste of magic mushrooms or, even more absurdly, of ecstasy.
Also as an aside, it seems counter-intuitive and ironic that people may take tryptamines and then talk about the excellence and importance of self-control (at least with lower levels of the drug) since it allows them to control their trip and envision what they want to in a manner similar to a lucid dream.
Subject: An aside...
Date: 2003-04-29 00:13:23
Message Id: 5546
In response to Tung's example of Homosexuality being considered "normal" I disagree. The reason as to why the DSM stopped listing homosexuality as a disorder had absolutely nothing to do with what society deemed normal. It had more to do with what is the actual definition of a psychological disorder.
For a mental condition to be considered a psychiatric disorder, it should either regularly cause emotional distress or regularly be associated with clinically significant impairment of social functioning. These experts found that homosexuality does not meet these criteria.
In addition, according to Dr. Jon Meyer (see Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 4th ed., eds. Kaplan & Sadock), "...this change reflected the point of view that homosexuality was to be considered a mental disorder only if it was subjectively disturbing to the individual. The decision of the APA Board...took place in the context of new sociological data, biological inferences, and de-emphasis of psychoanalytic observations. It also took place in an atmosphere of confrontation. Beginning in 1970, various gay activist groups demonstrated....at APA meetings. At issue was the conceptualization of homosexuality as an illness..."
Moreover, our present DSM-IV (1994) does not include homosexuality per se as a disorder, but still permits the diagnosis of "Sexual Disorder Not Otherwise Specified" for someone with "...persistent and marked distress about sexual orientation."
Otherwise, I feel that Tung has a relevant point. What does separate "normal" from mental disorders and abnormality? I have my thoughts, but it's still weird to think that "normal" one day can be "abnormal" the next.
Date: 2003-04-29 00:23:49
Message Id: 5547
Marissa commented on the "interesting dichotamy that some people use alcohol as a release and others as something to supposedly control in their lives." I think that both cases are control issues. A few people mentioned that they had friends who used drugs and alcohol to relax and forget about the stresses of their lives. I think this often comes from the helplessness that people feel in the midst of their circumstances. For example, the issues that we've talked about in this class almost led us to the point of denying free-will. When one really looks at his or her circumstances, the idea that one has no control can be overwhelming. Using substances that lessen the control that you have over your actions gives you control over your lack of control, if that makes sense. If you are purposely losing control, at least you can make sense of you lack of control. So this dichotomy between release and control is false.
Date: 2003-04-29 00:38:13
Message Id: 5548
Thank you Zunera for the clarification on my comment earlier regarding homosexuality. I didnt do the necessary research and hastily used homosexuality as an example to express my point. Sorry if there was any confusion...
Subject: Male/female differences in integration
Date: 2003-04-29 00:50:22
Message Id: 5549
I found Kelvey's comments about a prevalence of males being affected with certain disorders such as autism and colorblindness very interesting. I have always wondered what caused such differences, and the recent discovery that females may in fact be able to integrate more variables at once does seem a possible solution. I recently read an article that said women are more susceptible to pain and also have more and better mechanisms to deal with it than men. Could this be for the same reason, that they are simply letting more pain in or feeling more stimuli at once? The article can be found at: http://www1.od.nih.gov/painresearch/genderandpain/abstracts/KBerkley.htm
This all leads me to wonder what other disorders may be due the same mechanism, including female disorders. And if we do believe that brain=behavior, this difference in integration must have a very specific physical cause. Where is the difference found in the brain, and is it in one place or many? Although culture and environment may exacerbate these traits, it seems to be that there must be certain genes which contribute.
And the thought returns from my previous post... what are the specific evolutional benefits of these differences between men and women?
Date: 2003-04-29 00:59:39
Message Id: 5550
Earlier in the forum, Cordelia and Tung brought up some good points about alcohol and drug use as an excuse to lose control. I think that many people often get tired of being totaly in control of themselves and their actions, the way we have been taught to do. For example, I know from experience, that being drunk is a very good excuse for hooking up with someone without having to worry about being thought of as an easy girl. The, "Oh, I was really drunk, and I don't even remember exactly what happened last night," excuse works for just about every occassion. Being drunk or high is a great way to do what you want to do, without having to face the reprecussions of those actions. The theory goes that you can't be held responsible if you were intoxicated, even if you did something that you really wanted to do while you were sober, but couldn't because it might be seen as a lack of control. Intoxication can also soften the blow of rejection. For example, if you ask someone out while sober and they reject you, you have to deal with the fact that the person doesn't find you attractive, plus, everyone around you will know that you've been rejected. On the other hand, if the same thing happens while you are drunk or high, you can always say, "I don't even know why i did that, man was i wasted last night!" Then you can play it off like ha ha, wasn't that funny, or i must have been rejected simply because i was too drunk or high. Drugs are just a way of excusably letting go of the self-control that are standard in our way of life.
Subject: seeing thunder and hearing lighting
Date: 2003-04-29 01:03:07
Message Id: 5551
today in my psych of perception class we were told about a demo called the McGurk Effect. I have never seen anything like it. i agree that the blind spot is creepy, but at the same time it is part of our blurried peripheral vision and so is easier to forget about as soon as you are not doing the simulation. this is more troubling as well because it combines the auditory and visual senses. when you visit the site make sure you have some way of hearing sound (speakers or headphones). the web site is:
when you go you will see a video clip of a weird guy saying "da-da," a couple times. if the sound is on and you watch him that will be your experience. if you turn the sound off, you can watch his mouth mimicking the sounds "ga-ga," instead, and if you close your eyes or look away, his voice will say to you "ba-ba."
the effect comes from a visual perception of the guy's mouth saying "ga-ga," and a voice over saying "ba-ba." somehow between the two senses, we get "da-da." and it is clear. for most people, one can sit in front of this guy and the illusion never falters, you can even close your eyes in the middle and what he is saying switches.
i don't know what to do with this, but it reminded me of Professor Grobstein telling us that if we switched our circuits we could hear lightning and see thunder. i wasn't sure what that would be like, but this does not seem that far off. seeing this guys mouth move is enough to actually hear a different sound (that goes away as soon as you are not watching his mouth). talk about creepy, im gonna have nightmares tonight.
Name: Christine Kaminski
Date: 2003-04-29 01:21:37
Message Id: 5552
To add to Kathleen's comment about loss of control associated with alcohol abuse, I wanted to bring up the documentary by Michael Moore "Bowling for Columbine". For those who haven't seen it yet, please go out and do so. It gives an interesting perspective of what is really happening in the United States. Statistics like there being 11,000 gun-related deaths in the States each year compared to the 65 or so in Canada or 150 in England each year really make me wonder what is going on with our society that enables this to happen... I just have no idea. It isn't due to diversity, as M. Moore shows us that Canada is just as diverse, even more so than the States, yet this does not happen there. It also isn't due to music or television/movies since people are influenced by the same types of media that we are in the States yet the number of deaths still is so overwhelming. Is it maybe that as a society we try to find too many loopholes for everything? Is it really necessary to react so quickly to situations by taking someone out with a gun or bombing another nation? In his interview with a few teenagers in response to why there might be so many deaths here, they basically said that maybe it is because we're just too gun-happy and react without a second thought. Maybe they're right. Many people also apparently never lock there doors in Canada either. How interesting. Here, some of us have every means with which we can "protect" ourselves: heavy-duty alarm, guns, knives...whatever it may be. But are all of those means necessary? I guess it depends on the situation. What has happened that there seems to be such an integral thing missing, like trust or reflection in actions that we've come to this point? It's a great question that keeps me wondering. And maybe if we all, as a nation, did a little more reflexion, we could come up with an answer before everything just goes way too far...though for many, it already has.
Name: Andy Greenberg
Subject: Malleable Brains
Date: 2003-04-29 01:23:06
Message Id: 5553
In class last thursday we spent some time discussing how parallax depth perception works. We also discussed briefly the "magic eye" images, which are also called "stereograms." Prof. Grobstein took a survey of the class as to how many of us could see the three dimensionality of the images, and how long it took those people to see the effect. We concluded that only some people are capable of seeing the images, and for those people there is a certain amount of time necessary for their brains to interpret the unusual visual data. My brother, however, as a child, was fascinated by these images, and could see them with very little time lapse. Of course, he had spent lots of time looking at them, evening using computer programs to draw his own. What's interesting here is that his brain had adapted so thoroughly to the stereoscopic images that there was no more difficulty in interpreting them than for you and I to interpret this computer screen. Just a hint at the malleability of the brain's perceptual skills.
Subject: power in contradiction
Date: 2003-04-29 02:00:45
Message Id: 5554
The idea of control is a very interesting one to say the least, and it resonates in many areas of experience. To follow from the ongoing discussion, it seems to me that it is really the CONTRAST between control and lack thereof whish really sparks our interest. It seems that we are living in a world of duality, where we want BOTH (control and non-control) or neither. A similar issue arose in class a few weeks ago when most of us claimed to want free will, but then proceeded to keep our hands lowered when asked if we desired to be in control all of the time.
The idea of contrast in our vision of control surfaces in numerous activities. I might point to the example in both art and athletics. Any type of discipline that requires practice, from training for a sport to playing a musical instrument, necessarily requires a distinct structure, self-control, and scheduled drill in order to gain the necessary skills and technique for successful performance. And yet the performance of athletics and art are distinctly two types of activities which bring with them a great amount of freedom for the creator. Ironically, the amount of freedom perceived by the performer/creator is often in proportion to the amount of training and work that has been put into the final product. Thus, greater control and structure has ultimately produced greater freedom. The Cause and the Cure are one in the same.
I was reminded of a similar idea when having a discussion recently about ambiguities and their importance. I was pointed to a painting by Paul Klee, who, I recently learned, would sometimes cut up his paintings, then glue them back together to create the final product. I think that this idea of breaking something in order to create it is a very interesting and important one, and its seeming paradox relates to the similar delicate co-dependence between control and its lack.
The idea of contrast is also important because I think it can tie into the "gap" idea. Contrast can be thought of as the "intermediate," as the space between the gap which allows for motion...and perhaps for free will. In this way, dualities and uncertainties are good. Neela made a valuable point when talking about the need to "create subjectivity," suggesting that differences of opinion can create a potential for learning and progress.
Indeed, there is much potential in contradiction.
Date: 2003-04-29 02:17:08
Message Id: 5555
Although the conversation on the forum has come full force back to control, many of the comments have been concerned with drug usage as a way to lose control. I think that perhaps our societal obsession with control has become so great that the need to at least believe we are in control is automatic, and we are perhaps not even consious of our need to have that illusion. Is this not what the I- fuction is? As we have been exploring in class, what the senses report and what the brain records are two very different things. I am beginning to form a concept of the I-function as our natural adaptation to the need to keep an illusion of control.
I am reminded of the class a few weeks ago when PG asked us all to raise a hand immeadiately, and most of us were unwilling to admit that we did not think about which hand to raise. The fact that people are so unwilling to admit that we are not in control at every moment should be enough evidence to at least consider that the obession with control is not just a societal value, it is imgrained in human nateure.
Subject: Alcoholism and Control
Date: 2003-04-29 02:59:28
Message Id: 5557
I definitely agree with the Anonymous post in that some of these control issues are not just societal pressures but inborn. Having written a paper related to the nature versus nurture debate, I feel the topic of alcoholism and loss of control is quite mind-boggling because we've all been in the college social scene, and clearly noticed how some people only feel comfortable if they've had something to drink. This definitely has a lot to do with Adina's statement that being drunk or high is a way to do what you want, without having to face the repercussions of those actions. The actual desire to lose control though may be more innate than it appears. After all, there are genetic disorders about control and such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), so why can't there be varying levels for us wishing to lose control? We typically feel obligated to live under society's expectations, but when given the opportunity to act uninhibited, some individuals jump on the idea more quickly than others.
Although the issue of control can be discussed on various topics, I'd like to focus on the topic which has been going on for quite some time in the forum, alcohol. Alcoholism is actually defined as a primary, chronic disease with genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influencing its development and manifestations. Genetic factors... hmm. Although the environment you were born in surely plays a role of whether you find drinking acceptable, it seems that alcoholism also relates to a mental obsession that is built on a need for some of us to have more control than others, and vice versa, the ability to lose control – a physical compulsion to drink to reduce our inhibitions.
Name: Erin Fulchiero
Subject: Choosing to see?
Date: 2003-04-29 03:42:10
Message Id: 5558
Last Tuesday, Professor Grobstein read a portion of my post in which I suggested that "the dependence of visual perception upon directed attention to an object or environment leaves plenty of room for the members of our class to insert the concept of free will." When asked where that room was, I found myself unable to answer. Further investigation into visual perception, both in class and as a part of my next paper, has lead me to the same conclusion: within the study of vision, we can find space and even necessity for free will in the nervous system. Regardless of the brain's seemingly dominant control over the way in which we perceive the world, there is an element of vision which necessitates active decision and directed effort and focus so that the process of looking can become one of seeing. And yet, again, even this apparent reality is deceptive. Even when we believe that we are controlling our vision, intentionally shifting our focus towards something specific, consciously making a voluntary effort to attend an object in our visual field, our brain may deny us that opportunity. Just as our brains allow us to see something that is not there by filling in gaps, they also allow objects which are present to go unseen. Change blindness is experienced by human beings because the brain does not care whether or not we are actively searching for an alteration in a particular object. If another object is encoded as more interesting or even temporarily distracting, a change in an object on which an observer is focusing intently can go unnoticed.
And yet, just when I began thinking that we might not have any control, that we might actually be without free will, I took a peak at the "disconcerting...but liberating" link on the class discussion page and saw the ambiguous figures, which we spent time in class observing. After the brain sees these images and processes and fills in and neglects and alters, isn't there still a point at which we choose whether or not to see a woman at a vanity or a skull, a hill or a valley, Voltaire or a Slave Market? I still do not know if this is free will's opportunity for entrance, but I cannot help but believe that within the study of vision, free will can be found, even if it is only for a brief moment to make a very inconsequential choice.
Date: 2003-04-29 08:45:59
Message Id: 5560
in reference to the subjects of conscious choice and free will, what about the times we fall asleep without realizing it until we wake up again?
Date: 2003-04-29 09:20:27
Message Id: 5561
Katherine touched on an interesting aspect of the control idea: it is only through control that we have freedom. For example, by controlling traffic with laws, we become free to travel effectively. If there weren't that control, there would be chaos and no one would be able to travel anywhere.
Some control is vital.
I recently came to terms with a paralyzing tendecy to plan things. I scheduled myself into oblivion, and ended up being unable to carry out even a quarter of the plans I had made because I kept every detail of every plan for the next month in my head at all times. I gripped myself and my life with so much control, I ended up unable to do anything. I was not "free" at all. So apparently, some lacking of control is vital as well.
Balance is the key. Those of us who feel like we have no control raise our hands to say we wish we did, while those of us who feel like we have too much control raise our hands to say we wish we didn't. Could it be that we're really just after balance?
Date: 2003-04-30 16:26:26
Message Id: 5583
I really liked Katherine's idea that the contrast between control and lack of control can be thought of as the space between the gaps. What I find intriguing is that the idea of free will, which we have built up to, is demonstrated in the decision to use a drug. As has been previously discussed, I am aware of societal pressures and influences when making this claim. However, I think that it all boils down to a decision made by an individual. In most cases of a deliberating and acting, there is, a 'gap', or a series of gaps between the causes of each step in the processes of deliberating, deciding and acting and the subsequent stages. If I analyze this 'gap' I find that it is composed of many different segments. In our scenario, there is a gap between the reasons for the decision to consume drugs and making the decision to use them. There is a gap between the decision and the onset of the action, between the onset of the action and its continuation to completion. The gap is a feature of our conscious, voluntary activities. It allows us to believe that we have control over our actions. This would fit in with the notion that it is in our human nature to assume control over our lives and actions. However, this idea is exploited which the use of drug addiction because you lose control. I am wondering how many cycles in our voluntary actions does it take us to reach the point where we would be dependent on a substance. I think that it might be that our body might get used to firing signals in a certain way which makes the decision or gap seems not as prevalent in our decision making. Does anyone have any idea or knowledge about the neurotransmitter patterns in people with drug problems?
Subject: filling in visual input
Date: 2003-04-30 18:45:34
Message Id: 5588
I've been thinking about a comment someone made in Tuesday's class about how they were disheartened by the knowledge that our brain fills in missing visual input, thus making us uncertain about what we are "seeing" is what is actually physically infront of us. She expressed concern about not being able to trust one of our most important senses for this reason. Then I was thinking about how we all are filling in that missing input when we look at the same object and so can be reassured that we are accurate in our perception by comparing our observation to that of the general consensus. I was thinking about how our brain is capable of learning to coordinate motor activity with visual input. For example, when one learns to coordinate movement of a bat to make contact with a baseball at the precise second and angle necessary for a good hit, the brain must be calibrating how much it can trust its visual input. Since some of the visual input must be filled in by the brain, the brain must learn how successfully it does this so as to send accurate signals to motor neurons to coordinate movement. What I'm trying to get at is that perhaps this shows how we adapt to/overcome our weakness of incomplete visual input and learn to gage how much we can trust our attempts to make up for it. Some people are probably more successful at this than others as some have better depth perception and coordination. How much does repeated practice contribute to this coordination and how much is genetically predisposed? Perhaps we shouldn't view our incomplete visual input as a weakness but rather a highly organized system that almost always successfully compensates for itself and is worthy of our trust.
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