“A class at the University of Minnesota is reported to have conditioned their psychology professor a week after he told them about learning without awareness. Every time he moved toward the right side of the room, they paid more attention and laughed more uproariously at his jokes, until apparently they were able to condition him right out the door.”—W. Lambert Gardiner, Psychology: A Story of a Search, 1970
“A great deal of study has been devoted to the freedom-of-choice issue in the case of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that has important features in common with addiction. We can learn a lot about psychic freedom from this research. Dr. Jeffrey Schwartz, Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, has devoted decades to studying OCD and has described his findings in two fascinating books. In OCD, certain circuits of the brain do not work normally. Several parts seem 'locked' together -- just as if a car's transmission was stuck so that turning on the engine automatically set the wheels into motion. In OCD, the neurological gears that would uncouple the engine of thought from the wheels of action are stuck. Completely irrational thoughts or beliefs trigger repeated behaviours that are useless and even harmful. The obsessive-compulsive person is intellectually aware that his impulse to, say, wash his hands for the hundredth time lacks reason, but he cannot stop himself. Owing his stuck neurological clutch, the idea of having to cleanse himself yet again leads automatically to hand washing. Dr. Schwartz and his colleagues at UCLA have demonstrated the mechanisms of his 'brain lock,' as he has called it, on brain scans. OCD may be an extreme example of how the brain can dictate behaviour even against our will, but OCD sufferers are different from other people only in degree. Much of what we do arises from automatic programming that bypasses conscious awareness and may even run contrary to our intentions, as Dr. Schwartz points out: The passive side of mental life, which is generated solely and completely by brain mechanisms, dominates the tone and tenor of our day-to-day, even second-to-second experience. During the quotidian business of daily life, the brain does indeed operate very much as a machine does. Decisions that we may believe to be freely made can arise from unconscious emotional drives or subliminal beliefs. They can be dictated by brain mechanisms programmed early in childhood and determined by events of which we have no recollection. The stronger a person's automatic brain mechanisms and the weaker the parts of the brain that can impose conscious control, the less true freedom that person will be able to exercise in her life. In OCD, and in many other conditions, no matter how intelligent and well-meaning the individual, the malfunctioning brain circuitry may override rational judgment and intention. Almost any human being, when overwhelmed by stress or powerful emotions, will act or react not from intention but from mechanisms that are set off deep in the brain, rather than being generated in the conscious and volitional segments of the cortex. When acting from a driven or triggered state, we are not free.”—Gabor Mate, In The Realm Of Hungry Ghosts
So my Atheist lecturer just spent the last 20 minutes on a [logical and well thought-out] rant about that horrible phrase of “happy holidays”.
To paraphrase her:
If we are going to be a truly multicultural country, we must not deny religion & other cultures, but acknowledge them all. Say “Merry Christmas”, say “Happy Hanukkah”, say whatever is appropriate to your culture. Do not tip-toe around sensitive ground and deny who you are.
Multiculturalism isn’t denying cultures and religions. Multiculturalism is embracing all cultures.
She’s brilliant. She is Atheist, and she acknowledges that we cannot deny Christianity. We cannot deny people’s beliefs and thoughts. Censorship is going to be the downfall of the Western world as we know it.
Neuroscience Field Course - Part 0
We (Yas & Amy) are currently doing a neuroscience field course as part of our program. We spent the last week at the university attending lectures and becoming familiar with the lab techniques, because this week we get to go to Kananaskis for 10 days to work on our very own original research projects!
We use snails (Lymnaea stagnalis) as our model system. In the past week, we’ve tested their rasping response, used video-tracking to assess their locomotion, performed electrophysiology on them and performed a backfill stain on the neurons. Here are some pictures - hope you enjoy!
This is the setup used for extracellular recordings; the CNS is pinned down on the plate, electrodes are attached and the whole setup is places in a (grounded) Faraday cage. We’re recording from one of the lip nerves emerging from the buccal ganglia. The purpose was to assess the response to sucrose. Essentially, would there be a greater degree of electrical activity once sugar was added to the medium?
Here is a snapshot of what we were recording. This is a “burst” in electrical activity. Later, we analyzed this data to find patterns in particular types of activity representing the acting of certain neurons:
Here is another picture of the overall setup:
We used a nickel-lysine dye to perform a backfill staining. The dye is carried back up to the ganglion. If we were doing an experiment on nerve regeneration, we would use this technique to assess the integrity of the damaged neuron; the less dye in the ganglion, the more damaged the neuron is. In this image you’re looking at the two buccal ganglia. What’s really cool and impressive about this photo is the connection between the ganglia. If you look closely, you can see that the dye has carried over to a tract connection the ganglia, and as a result of backfill staining on the left, we now have some traces of blue in the right ganglion!
More to come when we travel to the field station!
#new in pb: Identity Economics by Nobel Laureate George Akerlof - How our identities shape our work, wages and well-being
Identity Economics provides an important and compelling new way to understand human behavior, revealing how our identities—and not just economic incentives—influence our decisions. In 1995, economist Rachel Kranton wrote future Nobel Prize-winner George Akerlof a letter insisting that his most recent paper was wrong. Identity, she argued, was the missing element that would help to explain why people—facing the same economic circumstances—would make different choices. This was the beginning of a fourteen-year collaboration—and of Identity Economics.
The authors explain how our conception of who we are and who we want to be may shape our economic lives more than any other factor, affecting how hard we work, and how we learn, spend, and save. Identity economics is a new way to understand people’s decisions—at work, at school, and at home. With it, we can better appreciate why incentives like stock options work or don’t; why some schools succeed and others don’t; why some cities and towns don’t invest in their futures—and much, much more.
Identity Economics bridges a critical gap in the social sciences. It brings identity and norms to economics. People’s notions of what is proper, and what is forbidden, and for whom, are fundamental to how hard they work, and how they learn, spend, and save. Thus people’s identity—their conception of who they are, and of who they choose to be—may be the most important factor affecting their economic lives. And the limits placed by society on people’s identity can also be crucial determinants of their economic well-being.
Named one of the 2010 Top Thirty Business Books of the Year, Bloomberg News (bloomberg.com/news)
Honorable Mention for the 2010 PROSE Award for Excellence in Economics, American Publishers Awards for Professional and Scholarly Excellence
George A. Akerlof, winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics, is the Koshland Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the coauthor, with Robert Shiller, of Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why It Matters for Global Capitalism (Princeton). Rachel E. Kranton is professor of economics at Duke University.
George Akerlof - Identity Economics
€ 17.80 | paperback | 192 pages
#new by Alex Bentley, @herdmeister & Michael O'Brien: I'll have what she's having, mapping social behaviour
Humans are, first and foremost, social creatures. And this, according to the authors of I’ll Have What She’s Having, shapes—and explains—most of our choices. We’re not just blindly driven by hard-wired instincts to hunt or gather or reproduce; our decisions are based on more than “nudges” exploiting individual cognitive quirks. I’ll Have What She’s Having shows us how we use the brains of others to think for us and as storage space for knowledge about the world. The story zooms out from the individual to small groups to the complexities of populations. It describes, among other things, how buzzwords propagate and how ideas spread; how the swine flu scare became an epidemic; and how focused social learning by a few gets amplified as copying by the masses.It describes how ideas, behavior, and culture spread through the simple means of doing what others do. It is notoriously difficult to change behavior. For every “Yes We Can” political slogan, there are thousands of “Just Say No” buttons. I’ll Have What She’s Having offers a practical map to help us navigate the complex world of social behavior, an essential guide for anyone who wants to understand how people behave and how to begin to change things
“I’ll Have What She’s Having has profound implications for marketing. People are much less individual than we thought and much more influenced by other people than we realized.”
—John Kearon, Founder, CEO, and Chief Juicer, BrainJuicer Group PLC
Michael J. O’Brien is Dean of the College of Arts and Science, Professor of Anthropology, and Director of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of Missouri.
R. Alexander Bentley is Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Bristol, UK. Mark Earls is a London-based author and consultant on marketing, communication, and behavior change.
Alex Betley, Mark Earls & Michael O’Brien - I’ll have what she’s having
€ 23.00 | Hardcover | 136 pages