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  #1  
Unread June 28th, 2006, 03:54 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

From http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?art...162&sc=I100322:
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During the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, while undergoing an fMRI bran scan, 30 men--half self-described as "strong" Republicans and half as "strong" Democrats--were tasked with assessing statements by both George W. Bush and John Kerry in which the candidates clearly contradicted themselves. Not surprisingly, in their assessments Republican subjects were as critical of Kerry as Democratic subjects were of Bush, yet both let their own candidate off the hook.
The neuroimaging results, however, revealed that the part of the brain most associated with reasoning--the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex--was quiescent. Most active were the orbital frontal cortex, which is involved in the processing of emotions; the anterior cingulate, which is associated with conflict resolution; the posterior cingulate, which is concerned with making judgments about moral accountability; and--once subjects had arrived at a conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable--the ventral striatum, which is related to reward and pleasure.
More evidence that this evolved brain has more control over our psychology than is obvious. There can be no 'free will' if our brains are subconsciously affecting our thoughts and decisions.
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  #2  
Unread June 29th, 2006, 11:59 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Hi Tom, I'm pleased you picked up on this. I read it last week when my SciAm issue arrived in the mail. The sub-head for the article is:
Quote:
A recent brain-imaging study shows that our political predilections are a product of unconscious confirmation bias
Of course, I see this confirmation bias and the results of this study as a subset of my larger assertion - that Behavior choice (decision-making) in humans is the result of a subconscious summation of somatic effects.

It is becoming increasingly evident that emotions provide the only real force that causes direction and choice of activities in all living things. In humans, emotions also cause us to conceptualize and think about things - and come to conclusions (behavior decisions). They are part of a closed loop, the purpose of which is to make us feel good.

Emotions cause thinking - and emotions are the result of thinking. Thinking (conceptualizing) is a peculiar adaptation - an external subroutine that sometimes produces more useful results than behavior decisions based on more pure emotion - sans intellect.

But, the only reality that living things can truly experience is through our emotions. Our most profound thoughts only have value according to the emotions they foster in terms of their percieved survival value. What we think about the world is just a crude caricature of that emotional reality. And yet, we are so certain that our thoughts and intellectual conclusions are the only reality worth knowing - that we go to war and kill each other in the name of those conclusions (Gods).

Thinking may be useful - we have evolved to depend on it and can not now exist without doing a lot of it. But, the very objectivity that makes it useful, separates us from what is real on the emotional level - and that allows us to make bad decisions and reach unrealistic, self-destructive concusions.

Margaret
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  #3  
Unread June 29th, 2006, 12:47 PM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret McGhee
I see this confirmation bias and the results of this study as a subset of my larger assertion
Yes, I started adding a paragraph on how much this supports your hypothesis, but decided that I'd leave it up to you.

It's good to hear from you and I'm glad you're still monitoring...
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  #4  
Unread June 29th, 2006, 10:34 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

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TomJ: More evidence that this evolved brain has more control over our psychology than is obvious.
Old news. The neuroscience showing us that the primitive, subconscious, subcortical emotional/motivational mechanisms have much influence over human cognitive consciousness has been “obvious” for some time now, certainly since I’ve been posting to this forum, circa 2000.

The question is whether we humans are ever able to truly discern and evaluate reality and/or objective truth and make rational decisions and choices, that may be contrary to our emotions and/or preconceived beliefs/perceptions and behave accordingly—whether we can cognitively change/modify emotions/beliefs/perceptions through downward causation.

If indeed the primitive, subconscious, subcortical “emotions provide the only real force that causes direction and choice of activities” in us, as MM and Tom seem to be claiming, then the bottom line is that we all, ultimately, are merely automatons. In which case whatever any of us happen to think or believe, or whatever our POV, it’s all, at best, an illusion having no more meaning or reality than whatever any random chimp, or any other animal, might happen to “think” or “believe.” In which case none of us are right or wrong about anything—we simply experience our illusions and the blind physical forces of natural selection will select for the illusions that happen to result in survival and the most offspring . . . in an indifferent universe of electrons, selfish genes, blind physical forces, and genetic replication.
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  #5  
Unread June 29th, 2006, 10:54 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Hi Tom, I don't want to overstate my case. It's just that we live in a society where left brain science is considered the only valid path to enlightenment. I see that view as a serious impediment. It's not that I don't appreciate the objective layers of reality that can become available through scientific pursuit. It's just that we don't understand how seriously un-objective that path actually is.

We are first of all, compelled to pursue scientific truth for emotional reasons - usually to do with identity. And that's good when the identity image we choose is actually to be an objective pursuer of truth - wherever it may lead. For many young scientists I'm sure that's the ideal.

The problem is that eventually scientists become even more strongly attached to some idea or concept that they then champion. Their fame and fortune becomes a product of the success of that idea - and they can no longer be the objective scientist they claimed to be - or imagined themselves to be.

Just like the political partisans in that study, they seek the emotional rewards of charting new territory by using their intellect to confirm (justify) their position. It becomes the window through which they see the world.

For JimB it seems to be the emergent network stuff - which seems a useful window - though I don't fully understand it. For me, it is seeing behavior as the result of the emotion-mediated process that I have described. (Although, I certainly don't consider myself a scientist, as JimB is.)

But, scientist or not, I believe that this is simply a result of being human. We are driven by emotion to do what we do. And we are driven to seek an emotional payoff for it. Our brains and our grasp of objective reality are tools for that purpose - nothing more. Our ability to uncover reality depends on how much our identity remains attached to that thankless ideal - a pursuit that must produce its own self-contained rewards.

Because it is so difficult for humans to achive that idealistic state, we fortunately have a peer review system that serves to correct the inherent errors our emotionally driven intellects are certain to produce. That and the nature of funding for research means that science is largely a competitive ego-saturated pursuit. Perhaps it's the best system that can be realized, based on human emotion, as it is.

But, just knowing that one's biases are sure to be quickly and ignobly exposed is a force for the better. If anything, scientific progress is much more the result of the design and healthy operation of that system, it seems, than to any particular scientist's intellect.

Just some thoughts.

Margaret
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  #6  
Unread June 30th, 2006, 12:13 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Fred, you say that,
Quote:
The question is whether we humans are ever able to truly discern and evaluate reality and/or objective truth and make rational decisions and choices, that may be contrary to our emotions and/or preconceived beliefs/perceptions and behave accordingly—whether we can cognitively change/modify emotions/beliefs/perceptions through downward causation.
The question you pose is not possible if, as I suggest, emotions are how our bodies interpret the world, including our own contemplated actions, as either good or bad for us.

However we interpret those estimates, is how we are compelled to act, in my view. There is only one causation, that being in our own percieved interest. And our emotions are the barometer of that index. We could not have evolved any other way. i.e. we could not have evolved to produce emotions that lead us to actions that are, on aggregate, against our own interest, against our survival - on any objective scale.

The downward causation you speak of is really only a more refined method of generating more nuanced emotions - a way of elevating our emotional pleasure at contemplating those actions that you would consider more refined and less base. That's a perfectly human way to devolp. Our pre-frontal cortex seems to be the location where those emotional evaluations are made - and that is subject to learning as we grow.

Our behavior can not be a way of acting in opposition to our net emotional estimate of the results of our actions. Your downward causation is a way of considering what you would call more refined inputs. But, the result will always be to act in regard to the summation of those inputs we do consider.

You may call that downward causation. I would more accurately call it a summing of and greater appreciation for more refined inputs from possibly the social conscience but certainly the belief area of our brain into our decision mechanism.

Your belief in God seems to compell you to find a soul-like mechanism that some of us are supposedly endowed with that can act in opposition to our nature. As I don't labor under that restriction I am free to see our behavior as the result entirely of what is in us already - of both our inherited nature that we are born with and the social nature we develop as we mature.

I have no objection to you calling that the force of God as I believe I understand why you and others need to do that. But, you should not be offended when I and others see it simply as another facet of human nature. The mechanism operates the same for both of us. It will produce the same results given the same inputs. We do favor different inputs, however.

Margaret
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  #7  
Unread June 30th, 2006, 08:13 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
Fred: The question is whether we humans are ever able to truly discern and evaluate reality and/or objective truth and make rational decisions and choices, that may be contrary to our emotions and/or preconceived beliefs/perceptions and behave accordingly—whether we can cognitively change/modify emotions/beliefs/perceptions through downward causation.

MM: The question you pose is not possible if, as I suggest, emotions are how our bodies [and minds] interpret the world, including our own contemplated actions, as either good or bad for us.
Bingo—and that’s why nonhuman, non-sentient creatures, that actually are automatons of a sort, don’t truly consider such questions.
Quote:
MM: Your belief in God seems to compell you to find a soul-like mechanism that some of us are supposedly endowed with that can act in opposition to our nature.
Nonsense. However, I’d guess that it’s your own belief in chance/randomness that compels you to see and interpret things as you do—that we humans are merely creatures “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it.” And that’s why one can never attach any meaning or significance to whatever you, MM, happen to believe or say here, since, as you declare and believe, you’re merely a creature “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it.” Hello?

(Although I find your incessant allusions to “God,” while mostly irrelevant and mildly annoying, somewhat amusing, and perhaps a bit revealing.)
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  #8  
Unread June 30th, 2006, 08:58 AM
TomJrzk TomJrzk is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred H.
In which case whatever any of us happen to think or believe, or whatever our POV, it’s all, at best, an illusion having no more meaning or reality than whatever any random chimp, or any other animal, might happen to “think” or “believe.”
Ah, but it means much, much, much more than that. We, alone, have the power to control the ultimate fate of our world and our own species. Through these studies, we CAN realize that most of our beliefs ARE pure emotion!!!

Then, we CAN realize that our faith in one pretend 'god' is no more real than the faith put into other pretend 'god's. Then, we CAN stop the killing that all this mislaid faith causes. Then, we can add REAL meaning to our lives.

Heaven, on Earth.
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  #9  
Unread June 30th, 2006, 10:58 AM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

Since I'm not spending so much time here anyway - I'll offer you one extra chance to engage in this discussion politely. You say,
Quote:
Bingo—and that’s why nonhuman, non-sentient creatures, that actually are automatons of a sort, don’t truly consider such questions.
Nonhuman, non-sentient creatures don't consider such questions because their minds are not designed with an adaptive ability to conceptualize. Our ability to do that does not relieve us from emotional motives for our behavior, it only adds another input to the emotional weighing mechanism. However, conceptualizing and human reason has its faults as well. The emotional forces it produces are not always based on good logic or adequate data - and, we use it as often as not to logically justify the particular non-intellectual emotional signals that we'd prefer to follow. Much like proponents of ID do these days in their far-fetched arguments to insert a soul into the human mind.

When you say, "Nonsense", you are expressing an emotional response to my post. It is a borderline insult. It ususally signals stronger insults to follow in your posts. It is one example of what makes a discussion with you so useless, from my perspective.

When you say,
Quote:
I’d guess that it’s your own belief in chance/randomness that compels you to see and interpret things as you do—that we humans are merely creatures “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it.
I don't have a belief in randomness - except perhaps as a way to characterize the mutations that allow evolution to try many different designs and problem solutions as a species evolves. If that's what you mean, you are conflating proximate and non-proximate causation when you say that I believe that animal behavior is random - a high-school level debating tactic. (Note that this last phrase is emotionally driven. My emotions are aroused whenever someone tries to insert religious dogma into a scientific discussion.)

Animal behavior is not random. It is the result of seeking specific emotional payoffs - the ones each species is designed to seek by its nature. If it were random then there would be no canine or feline or human nature, different from the others.

When you say
Quote:
And that’s why one can never attach any meaning or significance to whatever you, MM, happen to believe or say here, since, as you declare and believe, you’re merely a creature “driven by emotion to do what we do . . . driven to seek an emotional payoff for it.” Hello?
. . . we find the expected emotionally driven escalation in insults. Here, there is no attempt whatsoever to engage the substance of my post with that objective reasonableness that you claim is the higher human condition. Instead, you respond on a purely emotional level. This is obviously caused by the fact that your strong beliefs about a place for God in the human soul have been questioned by my premise.

You confirm this completely when you say,
Quote:
(Although I find your incessant allusions to “God,” while mostly irrelevant and mildly annoying, somewhat amusing, and perhaps a bit revealing.)
. . . you provide a revealing description not of the scientific reasonableness (or not) of my premise but a description of how my premise makes you feel, emotionally.

I suspect that pointing this out and questioning the sincerety of your motives will make you even more angry and therefore this thread is probably at an end as far as you and I are concerned. Que lastima.

Margaret
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  #10  
Unread June 30th, 2006, 11:33 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: The Political Brain - More Evidence of Evolved Psychology

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Tom: Through these studies, we CAN realize that most of our beliefs ARE pure emotion!!!
Congratulations Tom. Looks like you’ve finally more or less acknowledged that we humans “CAN” indeed cognitively/consciously discern reality/truth and behave accordingly . . . but a little caution might be judicious here—I don’t think the tentative inferences from these studies makes utopia a slam-dunk quite yet.

I am encouraged that while on the one hand you seem to appreciate the influence of emotion on our conscious reasoning and behavior, it seems that you now also are beginning to grasp that we humans also “CAN” discern reality and truth and also “CAN” choose to behave accordingly . . . and hopefully this will soon lead you to more fully comprehending and acknowledging the reality of human moral responsibility. Oh happy day.
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