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Unread April 15th, 2006, 05:15 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 138
Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

The part of behavior that I am most interested in is what happened in Bob's brain that caused him to consider several possible behaviors and then committ emotionally to one of them. I believe that the great mystery of human nature is what goes on in a central nervous system to cause us to choose a particular behavior from our repertoire - not how that behavior gets executed, however interesting that may be.
I'm not so sure there's as big a distinction between behavior choice and behavior execution, and I'm kinda surprised you feel that way, given your disbelief in any kind of free will . . .

As I understand things, your interest is in the earliest part of behavioral execution . . . before signals are sent to muscles, etc. One of the messages from the papers I sent you is that the processing that occurs for even the simplest of behavior, like an escape response, is very complicated. Decision making (ie should I expend energy to try and escape, or is this a false alarm) occurs in these simple systems, and we only just have a grasp of the network interactions that govern them.

I agree with you that understanding basal network interactions is too primitive a level of organization to examine when trying to understand complex social behavior, but I want to make sure that your verbal models don't depart too far from a grounding in the way networks are constructed and operate, because non-quantitative models are limited in scope and can often be bent easily to fit whatever observations are made. The big problem in the context of humans is that we don't really know that much about the networks underlying our complex behaviors. This is not to say that it's not even worth thinking about, but rather than the limitations of our current exploratory tools are considerable and must be kept in mind.
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