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  #11  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 10:59 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Congratulations Fred. It's taken you several weeks but you have finally offered a plausible example of where a (sane) person does not choose to do that which will optimize his emotional outcome - my previous free-will challenge.

However, I would suggest that in this example, a strong emotion has been induced in this person - the goal to test his free-will by refusing to quench his thirst.

As long as that emotion is present (and stronger than the opposing emotion produced by his thirst) he will be able to resist drink and optimize his emotional outcome by not drinking. As soon as that goal becomes emotionally devalued in his mind (or the instinctive emotions from his thirst finally become stronger) he will drink - which supports my hypothesis.

You admitted that
Quote:
Until you reach the breaking point where your thirst will ultimately compel you to drink, you should be able to exercise your free will, your self-restraint, to consciously decide, at least for short (perhaps three second?) intervals and as long as you remain focused, to not drink.
You have agreed that at all times he will be making that choice that optimizes his emotional outcome. Call it free-will if you like but it's still just another emotional source to be summed. When it diminishes or other emotions become stronger - the decision changes accordingly - as you describe.

Are you willing to die of thirst to prove me wrong?

If you are, don't bother, I'd just suggest at your memorial service that you exhibited a mental illness that violated the scope of the challenge. Or, that your desire to accomplish your goal (prove me wrong in this case) was greater than your desire to live. That's what happens with suicide bombers, for example - and that still proves my point

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 28th, 2006 at 12:46 PM.
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  #12  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 01:34 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Quote:
MM: However, I would suggest that in this example, a strong emotion has been induced in this person - the goal to test his free-will by refusing to quench his thirst.

As long as that emotion is present (and stronger than the opposing emotion produced by his thirst) he will be able to resist drink and optimize his emotional outcome by not drinking.
I suppose the will to power could be seen as emotionally driven, but that’s not what this is about—I stipulated that you abstain with nobody looking, and with no potential physiological/emotional benefits from your abstinence. IOW, your decision to abstain will only cause you pain and no gain, no benefit. It’s only to prove to yourself (and not to anyone else) that you at least have some amount of (purely conscious cognitive) choice, some amount of self-restraint, at least for a while, until you reach the breaking point, and instincts trump cognition/freewill/reason. (And of course there have been examples where humans will abstain from drink/food to the point of death for some moral cause.)

Perhaps we humans don’t necessarily have a tremendous amount of freewill, but we certainly have some, and that’s why we’re expected to exercise self-restraint—it’s what separates us morally responsible creatures from the other animals that don’t/can’t believe in freewill, having only their social instincts to guide them.
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  #13  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 03:48 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

But Fred, you keep proving my premise. You say,
Quote:
I stipulated that you abstain with nobody looking, and with no potential physiological/emotional benefits from your abstinence. IOW, your decision to abstain will only cause you pain and no gain, no benefit.
But in the next sentence you say,
Quote:
It’s only to prove to yourself (and not to anyone else) that you at least have some amount of (purely conscious cognitive) choice, some amount of self-restraint, at least for a while, until you reach the breaking point, and instincts trump cognition/freewill/reason.
That is the benefit - proving something to yourself. That's the opposing emotion in the decision that you denied existed in the previous sentence. If that did not provide a sufficient opposing emotional payoff then you would not do it.

However, in all your arguments on this topic, you seem to be proposing a ghost in the machine that provides us with this free-will thing. I have laid out a detailed plausible explanation for how I think human decisions are made using existing mechanisms in the CNS - and without the benefit of any ghost in the machine.

Why not take this opportunity to describe just where your ghost lives and how it affects our decisions in ways different from optimizing our emotional payoff. Then we can compare the objective reality of the two - something that you have claimed lies on your side of the argument.

Margaret
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  #14  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 04:09 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Margaret,

Is it not the case that you can justify any behavior at all with your emotional optimization idea? In Fred's thirst example, you mention that the person's desire to prove something to himself motivates his resistance to temptation. You could explain any behavior that way, post-hoc.

What predictions does your hypothesis make that distinguishes it from others? How would you test them?

-Carey
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  #15  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 06:33 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Carey, These are good questions.You ask,
Quote:
Is it not the case that you can justify any behavior at all with your emotional optimization idea? In Fred's thirst example, you mention that the person's desire to prove something to himself motivates his resistance to temptation. You could explain any behavior that way, post-hoc.
In this case I did not have to propose that motivation. Fred provided it. One way to illustrate this concept is to ask if in that example the person had no desire to prove anything to himself, would he deny himself water anyway. It would seem nonsensical to propose that he would do so - unless some alternate motivation was proposed. The pain of the denial of water obviously needs justification or anyone would call the example not realistic. The fact that no-one could imagine doing so to themselves without an adequate payoff, a sense of some net benefit to their well-being, seems to establish my hypothesis in a general way.

To be specific, I am proposing that for someone to deny themselves water, they must sense an emotional payoff in the future greater than the emotional pain they would experience getting to that payoff - including the discount on future value that is a well established part of human nature. Simply put, they are making a choice based on a somatic prediction of some profit to the present value of their well-being.

In fact, Adam Smith I think, has already established my hypothesis. He uses dollars, I use units of emotional pleasure or pain, which in economic decisions are pretty much the same thing - allowing for differences in each person's conversion rate. Additionally, the fact that persons often make economic decisions where monetary loss is very likely - like purchasing lottery tickets - proves that other motives are at work, emotional ones to be sure - and that reason in human decision-making is not all it's cracked up to be.

This is getting a little philosophical. Too bad Alexandra, our drive-by philospher, isn't here to shed some additional light on this. I think a real research psychologist could devise scientific tests for this hypothesis. I am trying to imagine how that might work but I'm not a psychologist. I was kind of hoping someone here could offer some suggestions. Actually, many psychological tests based on game theory can be interpreted in interesting ways through this window. I'll look some up for you.

Aside from the circumstantial evidence of the effects on decision-making of damaged brain regions as described by Damasio and others I think my best argument is an evolutionary argument - which I'm writing up now.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 28th, 2006 at 08:12 PM.
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  #16  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 09:02 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Quote:
MM: In this case I did not have to propose that motivation [justifying any behavior with your emotional optimization idea]. Fred provided it.
Nonsense. For the third time, I stipulated that you abstain from drinking with nobody looking, and with no potential physiological/emotional benefits from your abstinence—what is it that you don’t understand about “no potential physiological/emotional benefits?”

Now if you have a horse in the race and perform this exercise desiring or expecting some sort of emotional payoff, like “proving” or “not proving” to yourself that you have self-control or free will, then that’s a horse of a different color. But again, that’s not what this is.

So again, you’re alone and very thirsty and your motivational and emotional systems are telling you to drink. There are no physiological/emotional benefits from abstaining—nobody is watching and forget about any “desire to prove” anything, to yourself or anybody—you’re simply attempting to determine, one way or the other, whether or not you might have at least some sort of conscious cognitive free will . . . at least b/f reaching the inevitable breaking point when indeed your thirst will trump any conscious cognitive will. Anyway, you’ll almost certainly give in to your thirst long b/f you reach that breaking point—but you’ll nevertheless see that you do have at least some conscious cognitive freewill.

I’ve read Damasio and LeDoux extensively, and they’ve convinced me that emotion plays a huge role in our conscious thought and behavior—far more than most people begin to comprehend—but I doubt that they’d ever argue that sane adults lack any sort of free will/moral responsibility.
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  #17  
Unread April 28th, 2006, 10:08 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Fred, In the first example you said, "It’s only to prove to yourself (and not to anyone else) that you at least have some amount of (purely conscious cognitive) choice, some amount of self-restraint, . . .".

In this one you said, "Now if you have a horse in the race and perform this exercise desiring or expecting some sort of emotional payoff, like “proving” or “not proving” to yourself that you have self-control or free will, then that’s a horse of a different color. But again, that’s not what this is."

I see a contradiction. You are now denying the emotional payoff that you admitted to in the first instance.

Now you are saying that you just want to see if you can do it. That is just another way of saying that you want to see if you have the will-power to overcome your desire. For exactly as much as you'd like to know that you did have that will power - then that is the amount of the emotional payoff at stake.

I will predict that your ability to overcome the desire will be proportional to how much you value the idea that you do have that will power. i.e. if you are not really concerned then you won't last as long.

Humans do many things like that every day that illustrates this concept.

We resist the urge to steal, to eat too much when we are overweight, to drink alcohol or take drugs. Many persons don't have the will power to overcome those desires and that can be a big problem for them and for society.

The reason is that the desire for the drugs or alcohol or food is so strong, the immediate emotional payoff is so large, and the immediate emotional pain from resisting is so large - that almost no amount of percieved emotional benefit in the future, that must be heavily discounted for its present value anyway, will be sufficient to cause a good decision.

I think the drug example is a perfect one. Almost everyone understands intellectually that meth is a dangerous drug that can destroy your life and would not touch it with a ten foot pole.

Almost all meth addicts also understand that meth is destroying their lives. Yet, they continue to consume it. Why? Because the positive emotional payoff for consumption is so much stronger than the possible emotional payoff from abstaining - even one that comes from an intellectual consclusion that they have no doubt is valid.

What else aside from strong emotional forces could possibly be at work here?

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 28th, 2006 at 10:57 PM.
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  #18  
Unread April 29th, 2006, 10:17 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Quote:
MM: We resist the urge to steal, to eat too much when we are overweight….
If you have a weight problem b/c you love food and eat too much, then I’m inclined to agree that to sustain a diet for any length of time will require more than just a conscious cognitive decision that you are going to eat less—it will almost certainly require other emotions/motivations to counter your love of food. But, for the fourth time, that’s not what this is.

Say you love food and don’t really care if you’re fat as a house, and you’re convinced that humans lack free will and moral responsibility; but then some skinny fellow comes along and insists that you do have at least some free will. Here’s a simple test to see if there’s any validity to what the thin bastard is telling you: Whenever you’re hungry for your favorite pie, but not too terribly hungry, put a piece of it in front of you and then see if you can consciously decide to not eat it, and see if you can refrain from eating for say a second or two—if you can, then you’ll see that you have at least some conscious cognitive free will. It’s that simple and obvious.
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  #19  
Unread April 29th, 2006, 11:15 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Fred, I don't see any different mechanism in your description from the one I proposed. You used the phrase, seeing if you have any conscious cognitive free will, to decribe the source of the motivation. I see that as simply the source of the emotions generated by your intellect, a perfectly valid source of emotions to counteract one's desire to eat, and well within my definition.

In real life though, I doubt that the emotions generated by one's intellect would be very effective in overcoming such strong habitual desires, at least for more than a few minutes. Instead, I imagine that the emotions of disgust and self-loathing that are part of the negative image that others may have of you would be more effective. Even then, for most over-eaters that's not enough. That's because changing one's emotional relationship to food in life is a high level identity belief change - and those only happen under extraordinary circumstances - a highly emotional life-changing event like a heart attack, for example.

Having read many of your posts here, I doubt that you would agree with anything that I propose that does not affirm your notion of free-will. I think we've both stated our positions on this and we should just agree to disagree.

Besides, I started this thread with,
Quote:
This is not a proof of something. It is is a way of interpreting things that have been proven by others or that have not been disproven.
In that spirit I'd like to stop trying to convince anyone that this is the right way to understand the mechanism of human behavior decision-making. Instead, I'd like to move on to the really interesting implications of provisionally seeing human behavior choice through this window. That's a way of saying, if this hypothesis were true, then these are the predictions one could make about human nature. Testing those predictions is then another way to test the hypothesis.

One implication that appears to me is the relative weakness of the emotions produced by intellect in this process. The other is the great strength of the emotions produced by our higher level beliefs about the world and our place in it (identity beliefs). I suspect that together, these two emotion sources, both products of a uniquely human evolutionary capacity, account for most of the strange, perplexing, destructive and wonderfully creative behavior choices in humanity - and are largely responsible for what we call human nature.

Wow, that reads pretty good. Maybe this is worth writing about.

Margaret

Last edited by Margaret McGhee; April 29th, 2006 at 11:33 AM.
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  #20  
Unread April 29th, 2006, 01:07 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Somatic Behavior Choice Hypothesis

Quote:
MM: I see that as simply the source of the emotions generated by your intellect, a perfectly valid source of emotions to counteract one's desire to eat, and well within my definition.
As I think Carey has intimated, your hypothesis seems to be rather circular.

“Emotions” aren’t “generated by your intellect,” although we may be able, with our cognitive consciousness, to trigger some emotions; and through the “hard work” of LeDoux’s downward causation we may be able to somewhat manipulate and/or modify our emotions/motivations. E.g., utilizing cognitive and behavior therapy, one may be able to at least somewhat overcome certain fears. And using science and our intellect, we humans consciously/cognitively can begin to understand the biology/biochemistry of emotion and can even develop drugs to manipulate our emotions/motivations—and then we can consciously decide whether to utilize such drugs to modify hunger, fear, sadness, mania, whatever.

And consider that we humans are the only evolved creatures that can do such things. Of course humans may consciously decide to use some sort of behavior therapy and/or drugs to modify the emotions/motivations of other creatures, but nonhuman creatures don’t ever consciously consider or decide to impose such things upon themselves; or even have much, if any, sense of self to begin with.

Anywho, for the last time, while perhaps we humans don’t necessarily have a tremendous amount of freewill, we certainly have some, and that’s what separates us morally responsible creatures from the other creatures that don’t/can’t believe in freewill or moral responsibility, and that have only their instincts to guide them.
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