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Unread May 24th, 2006, 12:43 PM
ToddStark ToddStark is offline
Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 174
Post The multiple layers of human neurology that make sense to me


I just returned from a business trip in Seattle. Beautiful weather there, I happened to get 5 straight of the 60 rainless days they get per year. Anyway, when I got back and checked into the forum it took me aback a bit to see how interesting the discussion had gotten and then how rapidly it had degenerated from my perspective. I'd like to try to continue with the part I was finding interesting, and I'm not intending to slight anyone by doing that.

I think my own exposure to the cognitive neuroscience perspective has led roughly to a model that is domain-modular at a relatively low level of brain organization from perception/object recognition through social reasoning and domains of prepared learning (linguist Ray Jackendoff, "Patterns of the Mind" has one of the best developed arguments for this I think), then above that, a layer of something like conceptual blending (Mark Turner) that enabled us to construct images that crossed evolutionary adaptive domains, and rule-based heuristics such as the representativeness and availability heuristics that are so central to social psychoology and the various statistical heuristics that we apply under more limited conditions.

All of these layers happen effortlessly and automatically, meaning they represent our responses to things that we neither experience any effort in doing or any control over. Our first impressions, our intuitions, all of our "Blink" responses fall into this core, which I think is our default mode of responding to everything. I think hot cognitition is central to a lot of what happens, but I agree with JB that the limbic system is not at the core. I think it is engaged along with the heuristics as part of the massively parallel part of neurocognition that happens after feature analysis and perhaps some primitive object recognition (I say primitive because we seem to respond to typical "phobic" objects prior to noticing them and without a clear recognition of what we are responding to, and because some subliminal priming effects seem to require some degree of object recognition).

The dual process models in social cognitive theory (such as central and peripheral) seem to reflect one of the most recent changes in human cognition in our evolution, the point where we became able to learn to interrupt the application of heuristics under some conditions, and reassess our own thinking based on goals. For example, given the goal of accuracy, we often shift away from our default heuristics for the current situation to others borrowed from other domains. Pressed for an evolutionary rationale for this, I think my best guess would be that Bill Calvin has the right idea, that the accuracy goal became important for things like throwing weapons, and this helped shaped our subsequent brain evolution toward the more elaborately planned types of learned sequences that underlie uniquely human and primate behavior, as well as building on the mer fine grained sequencing of behavior that possibly underlies the capacity for syntax in the nervous system.

kind regards,

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