The Mind

Contents —
Preamble
• The Mind — Learning
• Modes of Thinking
• Needs— Motivations
• Consciousness
• Mindfulness
• Emotions
• Memory(s)
• Traits
• Behaviour
• Peak Experiences
• Age and Gender Issues

Pre-amble

In a profound way each of us is on our own.
In a profound way we are each part of humanity.
We each compete and commune as we experience life.  Our Human Body /Mind is the result of how humans evolved to deal with these opposing demands.
This is a selection of generally readable sites about the Mind — the works of established, reliable people.

Ways of pursuing our understanding of the Mind have changed with the technology available, but the statement below asserts the value of insights — generated by the Mind through intuition.

From ref374  — The Shame of Psychology —

Thomas Scheff would like psychologists to talk about emotion — not simply to share feelings, but to advance science. According to the Emeritus professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, intuition could be the catalyst that enables psychology to progress in areas in which it has stagnated.

Scheff argues that research into aggression catharsis, stigma and self-esteem have become bogged down because scientific method in psychology is blind to the insights that intuition — that which doesn’t require rational thought — can provide.

Scientific and other methods, no matter how scrupulously applied, are helpless in the face of misleading tropes —  Scheff defines tropes as false assumptions — ideas taken for granted that may be untrue or only partially true.

The Therapist, David A Yeats, states —
Without an awareness of how humans unfold developmentally, we are more inclined to live passively, not consciously, not deliberately, and to feel a greater sense of being a Victim of Life, rather than a Creator of what we believe in, value, or desire for our lives.

By the 1920’s Psychologists were advised to focus exclusively on measurable, observable behaviour.

By the late 20th Century psychologists were once again grappling with the issue of Consciousness.  New tools, notably brain scanning techniques and theories of Cognition, offered new approaches to studying Conscious and Unconscious mental activity.

From  ref1084 — The tree knowledge system

Fig 267

To top
The Mind — The Consciousness and Non-Consciousness

The Mind is generally perceived as a combination of the Conscious and the Non-conscious (variants — Near, Sub/Pre and Un-conscious)

As our life develops we garner resources and general memories relating to every aspect of our being —

Fig 284   —  ref1110

These resources are under constant review by the non-conscious and adjustment as fresh experience is taken into account — ref 662

Our Non-conscious Mind is the essence of our being, as it develops, as it adapts, as it promotes our —

  • Motivations
    • Satisfactions
    • Response to risk
    • Companionship
    • Intuitions — including emotional and social intelligence
    • Good habits and competences
    • Aspirations

It forms our personality — distinctive but alterable

So, the Mind has to deal with the Needs of the individual.

In order to meet our developing Needs we have to Learn — competences and other habits.

The need for our sort of Learning arises from the facts of reproduction and evolution.

We are each a combination of Genetic Instructions and the influences of our overall environment. How these are used depends much on our individual inherent Capabilities and the influences of our Social Environment.

We differ from each other — a combination of heredity and upbringing. — Child Nurture varies considerably and, so far, very little help or guidance is applied.

From ref999 —  George Mandler, a cognitive psychologist, identified three goal-directed tasks for Conscious thought —

  1. Learning. People typically concentrate their awareness when trying to learn something new. Not until a skill is well practiced does it become automatic — unconscious.
    2. Making judgments. People think consciously about alternatives and choices.
    3. Troubleshooting.    People use conscious mental processes to deal with unexpected situations that cannot be handled with automatic, well-learned routines.

The practice of each of these thought processes builds up a fund of intuitions — emotional intelligence, etc.

The genetic aspect of early learning means that there is an enhanced ability to acquire basic competences as shown here —

Fig 112  Infant development


Fig. 6

At later stages greater effort is required to effect changes in response to experience (comment — this may be because there is an accumulation of commitments to understandings and personality traits)

Fig 111  Brain adaptability changes

Learning is often an on-going task, with the following characteristics —

Fig 166

See also ref855 — Importance-of-education

Fig 135

Learning is an essential aspect and is enabled by processes known as Neuroplasticity — ref 023 

Brain plasticity, also known as neuroplasticity.  Neuro refers to neurons, the nerve cells that are the building blocks of the brain and nervous system, and plasticity refers to the brain’s malleability.

There are different types of neuroplasticity, including —

  • Structural plasticity:The brain’s ability to actually change its physical structure as a result of learning.
  • Functional plasticity: The brain’s ability to move functions from a damaged area of the brain to undamaged areas.

The various aspects of our being are normally held in specific locations within the brain (if it is damaged then they may re-establish them elsewhere) —  ref 675 — trauma-brain-limbic-system xxx

Fig 268  ref1010  brain info locations

Also —

Fig 216 ref 740c —  basic structure and function of human brain

There is another aspect as follows —

Fig 287  ref1108 — left-brain-vs-right-brain

The following is easier to read —

Fig 129 whole brain development left brain vs right brain

The understanding of the functions of these two hemispheres originated in the 1960’s by a psychologist Roger W.   Sperry.

Sperry decided that the left side of the brain controlled the right side of the body and vice versa.

People seem to have personality traits that more closely resemble one side or another.

For the curious — there are many tests you can take online to tell which side represents you better.   The most popular one is at ref1109 .

The brain of course is a processor of information, dealing first with the large volume of information, largely visual, before being transferred to the appropriate parts of the brain for —

  • Processing into memory
  • Responding to bodily requirements
  • Providing information as sought by Consciousness

FIG 219   ref 516 — Anatomical basis for cognitive-emotional interactions

All perceived and striking sensations travel to the brain’s thalamus where all these sensations are combined into one single experience — then to the amygdala.     xxx main function

From   ref1124 — The thalamus is a small structure within the brain located just above the brain stem between the cerebral cortex and the midbrain and has extensive nerve connections to both.    The main function of the thalamus is to relay motor and sensory signals to the cerebral cortex — It also regulates sleep, alertness and wakefulness.

From   ref1125 — The Midbrain is one of the most important components of the central nervous system (CNS), as all neuronal transmissions that pass through the body, throughout the peripheral nervous system (PNS) to the central nervous system (CNS) are relayed must at some point – to and/or from the brain – pass through the midbrain.

The amygdala is a complex structure that has an important role in visual encoding.   It accepts visual input in addition to input from other systems and encodes the positive or negative values of conditioned stimuli.    Also see ref1138 –Your Positive and Negative Values

The hippocampus is responsible for analyzing these inputs and ultimately deciding if they will be committed to long-term memory — these various threads of information are stored in various parts of the brain.    However, the exact way in which these pieces are identified and recalled later remains unknown.

Memory Processes —   ref1096

Types of Memory

Fig 292 Types of memory — ref1096  plus related sites

From ref1106  —  How Competences and other Habits Form

Learning is thus an essential aspect of our nature.    Learning is enabled by processes known as Neural Plasticity.     A major part of learning is the generation of  an extensive range of habits/competences that we need to function – they are enhanced and added to as we extend our capabilities.

Mode 1 is the non-conscious way in which our established habits take over.

If you’re like most people, you start out new experiences being unconscious that you are unskilled.   This is part of a normal 4 stage process everyone must go through in order to not only learn a new skill, but to make it a habit that happens unconsciously.

A good example is the process of running or walking.   It is an automatic process that does not require our brains to intentionally work.    A competence is improved as we practice it, and weakened if in disuse.

William James, the American philosopher and Psychologist described the overwhelming importance of habits as follows:

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, mass of habits practical, emotional, and intellectual, — systematically organized for our weal or woe and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever that may be”

Developing a complex of general competences/habits is essential for day to day living,

Other competences can be developed to support individual aspirations and social roles.

Each habit is re-enforced through use and may be lost if neglected.   This has been described as “Use It or Lose It”.

See From ref 251 — best-practices/habits-of-mind

From  ref1114 —  The 4 stages of this exercise, known as the “unconscious conscious sandwich” are —

  1. Unconsciously unskilled
  2. Conscious of our unskilled
  3. Consciously working on a skill
  4. Unconsciously skilled

We need motivation to utilise the thinking capabilities .     The bad habit of Depression has been explained as “Thinking without Motivation” — also called Rumination — it also suppresses basic Needs!.

 Mode 2 habit forming requires our conscious and intentional effort.

From  ref1113 — How to focus better is a way of thinking that is controlled intentionally by us before action can occur.

For you achieve success and sustain focus will require energy and effort.

Both modes work hand in hand.

When you are faced with a problem that needs a solution, your brain first uses mode 1 — it is less energy consuming and does not need too much processing on your part.

If after using mode 1 and there is no solution to the problem, the brain then moves over to mode 2  — this shift in processes is the way your brain learns how to handle problems in the future.

As we proceed though life we generally use a mixture of the modes, as appropriate.

Habits Forming Process

When you first start out as newbie, your brain have not formed a problem-solving map for the new activity.

Everything is new and strange so to handle the issue, the brain makes use of mode 2.   You would have to consciously think through every step as you learn the new instrument.

The more you practice and start getting used to playing the instrument, your brain starts to create a map that helps you make connections much more easily — ref1140 — brain corrections

With time this simple map-ways become very sophisticated at finding solutions to the problem .

After several months, playing the instrument would become automatic and without effort.   At this stage, you have migrated from using Mode 2 to making use of Mode 1.

This is the same process through which habits have formed.

Now that you have a good idea of how habits are formed, you can then start to learn how to control your habits.   But before we go into that, let us understand the types of habits:

Types of Habits

There are two types of habits.   We have the conscious habits and the hidden habits.

Hidden Habits — such as —

Physical habits — How frequently do you use the toilet?

Social habits — What are the kind of phrases that are most likely to come out of your mouth?

Energy habits — How much time do you spend exercising?

Mental habits — How do you react when you hear a negative news?

Productivity habits — Do you start your tasks randomly or do you prioritize some first?

Unfortunately, human nature allows us to develop bad habits

The good news is that bad habits can be discarded, using corrective actions — and dedication.

The bad news is that “injury” may result in loss of one or more normal functions — resulting in depression, anxiety, etc —  as for example the link between the limbic cortex and the neocortex and diminishing of learned emotional intelligences.

We depend on “Habits”, and this in turn relies on our Conscious ability to realise the way in which to learn these habits, including very much on the good fortune to obtain a mentor.

Unfortunately, we are likely to learn Bad Habits, such as Addictions – our nature leaves us vulnerable! Bad habits can take a hefty toll on your health and happiness.

People can be trained to accept strict disciplines and follow orders.

Longer term emotions/Moods are habit like and they can dominate our characters, in the extreme as Depression, GAD, etc.

Habits come directly from the Non-conscious, and we are generally not Conscious of them.

For example the habit of Lying —
From ref866 — Small lies to big fibs
From ref867 –The brain adapts to dishonesty
From ref870 — What is honesty?

Many children think honesty means you “don’t tell a lie”– and that is definitely part of being honest.

But honesty means more than not lying. A more complete definition of honesty shows that an honest person doesn’t do things that are morally wrong. If something you do is breaking the law or if you have to hide what you are doing because you’ll get in trouble, you are probably not being honest.

So honesty is about speaking and acting truthfully.

See ref1105 — How to stop bad habits

See also  ref1107 — How To Change Habits By Using Your Subconscious Mind  credentials?

Final Thought

Your non-conscious mind is capable of directing your experiences in life.   It influences your everyday decisions and habits including the clothes you wear, the food you eat and your reactions under pressure without you even noticing it.

Fig 278   ref957  — Decision Making

Our consciousness is that we can be aware of.

Our Doing mode analyses the world.   It thinks, plans, remembers, compares and judges.

The Doing mode works by holding on (focussing on) to your goals — but also by bearing in mind ‘anti-goals’ – the things that you want to avoid.   This is an extremely powerful way of dealing with problems.   If navigating across a city, for example, it’s useful to know which areas to avoid.

From  ref1105 — The doing mode of mind

  1. It often comes on line automatically.
    2. It uses thoughts and ideas, holding them in mind as you work.
    3.   It dwells in the past and future to help get where you want to be.
    4.   It keeps in mind what to avoid – where you don’t want to end up.
    5.   It needs things to be different, forever focusing on the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
    6.   It takes thoughts, ideas as real.
    7.   Left to itself, it continues to focus on the goal until the task is complete, or until you are too tired and depleted to continue.

To work effectively, at each point the doing mode has to hold in mind — and then compare, three ideas —

Where you are at each moment (the current state)

  • Where you want to be (your destination, goal or desired outcome)
  • Where you don’t want to be (the outcome you want to avoid)

From  ref 2006 Mindfulness for Health by V Burch & D Penman

Main Characteristics of the Doing and Being Modes

Automatic pilot versus conscious choice —  the Doing mode can automate your life by creating habits.   Such habits are extremely useful for carrying out repetitive tasks because they free the Mind for other tasks.   The trouble is that your whole life can become one long series of interlinked habits with very little conscious input — even  suffering can become a habit  The Being mode brings you back to full conscious awareness.   It puts you back in contact with all of your senses.   You directly sense the world around you, instead of simply thinking about it This awareness tends to dis­solve habits, so that you can begin to consciously live life to the full again.

Analysing versus sensing —  the Doing mode analyses the world.   It thinks, plans, remembers, compares and judges.   These are all vital skills, but they can backfire if taken to extremes.   You can begin to live inside your own thoughts and lose contact with the world.   Such ‘over-thinking’ can go tragically wrong and enhance mental and physical suffering.   It’s one of the root causes of anxiety, stress, depression and exhaustion.

 Avoidance versus approaching — the Doing mode works by holding on to your goals, but also by bearing in mind ‘anti-goals’ – the things that you want to avoid.   This is an extremely powerful way of solving problems.   If navigating across a city, for example, it’s useful to know which areas to avoid.   When it comes to chronic pain, suffering and stress, however it can make matters worse — This is the heart of Secondary Suffering.

Being mode dissolves fears and worries by giving you the courage and space to approach them.   It invites you to bring a compassionate curiosity to your most difficult states of mind and body.

 Striving versus accepting — the Doing mode compares the world with a version that exists only in your hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares.   It focuses on the gap between the two and tries to bridge it.   The Being mode accepts the world as it is.   This is not a form of resignation, but a simple acceptance -or assessment – of the situation as it is right now.   It leads to a calmer and healthier state of mind and body.

Mindfulness teaches us that thoughts are just thoughts.   They are just passing mental events.   They might accurately reflect the world and your suffering – but they might not.

Thinking is often important and thoughts are valuable, but not always.   Thoughts are not ‘you’ or ’reality’.   Thoughts are not necessarily true — even the ones that claim to be.   Another way of describing this is learning to look ‘at’ your thoughts, rather than ‘from’ them.

Restoring balance
Doing and Being modes of mind are equally important but have different roles to play.   In the West we have traditionally focused on using the Doing mode so much that it has become over-developed.   It’s a bit like a bodybuilder who has focused all of his efforts in building up the strength of one leg and neglected the other Very soon all he can do is run around in circles – very quickly.

Mindfulness helps to restore balance.

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Modes of Thinking

Several ways of Conscious thought without having a clear goal have emerged —

When people are thinking about day-to-day events without focusing on any goal-directed task, a circuit of densely-connected brain areas is active — This is called the Default Mode Network (DMN) — The DMN is quietened when people have their attention drawn to a specific goal-directed task. DMN was discovered in the late 1990s

DMN is a large scale brain network of interacting brain regions known to have activity highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks in the brain —

When people are daydreaming, thinking of past experiences, or trying to under¬stand other people, the DMN is active.

The DMN might best be regarded as “the seat of ordinary thinking.” That type of thinking can be defined by what it is not. It is active when —
• When people are daydreaming
• Thinking of past experiences, or
• Trying to understand other people

• It is not concentrating on an external task, and
• It is not taking in the present moment without judgment

There is a variant for success in thinking- called positive-constructive-daydreaming — ref1034 — again DMN is quietened

In the 1980s, Psychology started its own meditation movement —

The term “Mindfulness” is one of several translations of the Buddhist concept of Sati. In Buddhism this meant monitoring memories and experience to prevent worldly concerns such as desire and craving.

Fromref985

Mindfulness is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

The limbic system is closely connected to the Limbic cortex, and it is this
prefrontallimbic connection that is strengthened (how) when practising mindfulness  — ref 671

Mindfulness has been defined by Kabat-Zinn as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and open-heartedly as possible.

Mindfulness Meditation has reduced activity in the DMN.

This is because the Meditation process does not require us to apply the goal-directed tasks for Conscious thought — Learning. making judgments, troubleshooting.

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Needs  — Motivations

Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) was an American psychologist who studied Human Motivations/Needs — ref926

Maslow first developed his famous theory of individual development and motivation in the 1940’s. He suggested that human beings have a hierarchy of needs. That is, that all humans act in a way which will address basic needs, before moving on to satisfy other, so-called higher level needs. His ideas are now seen as inadequate, but for the layman they remain insightful and easy to comprehend.

Maslow represented this theory as a hierarchical triangle. This shows how basic needs must be met before one can “climb” the hierarchy, to address more complex needs.


Fig 210  ref 058a — Hierarchy of needs

To understand Maslow’s thinking it’s worth noting some of his main assertions —

• Broadly, as one set of needs is met, the next level of needs become more of a motivator to an individual.
• Only unsatisfied needs motivate an individual.
• We have an innate desire to work our way up the hierarchy, pursuing satisfaction in higher order needs.
• Self-actualization stimulates a desire for more due to what Maslow explained as “peak experiences”.

An alternative way of looking at Needs/Motivations —

From ref650Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson

Humans have 3 Core Needs or Operating Systems —
• Safety ————Avoiding Harm
• Connection —– Attaching/relating to others
• Satisfaction —– Using our Rewards system.

Fromref1051

A typical Need is to deal with satisfying the appetite — our desire to eat.  It’s controlled by a complicated interaction of hormonal signals that originate from fat cells, cells of the pancreas and cells in the gut. These signals are also processed through cognitive and emotional filters.

Fig 186  Dealing with appetite   ref1049 — Endocrine system

These Operating Systems are defined by their function and not the evolved anatomy — Each operating system has its own set of capabilities, and they can be running at the same time.
They are complex, and each individual has a different version of the range of Needs.

Each has two modes of responding to circumstances:
 The Responsive Mode — Controlled, Mindful
 The Reactive Mode —Stressed. Emotional — Insecure people, and those affected by trauma are more prone to this mode.

Consciousness is arguably one of the best things about being human — ref739d

The most obvious example of Consciousness is Emotions. These emerge as feelings, often to do with Needs, directly and otherwise — see later.

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Consciousness

Consciousness is what we become aware of, both in terms of ourselves and the external world.

The Senses provide us with vision, hearing, touch, etc. — a very large data flow containing data that is essential to our safety.

The Attention Schema Theory (AST) proposes that Consciousness arises as a solution to this most fundamental problem facing the nervous system — too much information constantly flows in for it to be fully processed, and action to be taken — AST seeks to explain how consciousness evolved

Also — how the Non-conscious responds and communicates with the Conscious  xxx

From ref280 — How Consciousness Evolved  (also ref885)

The brain evolved increasingly sophisticated mechanisms for deeply processing a few select signals at the expense of others. Consciousness is the ultimate result of that evolutionary sequence.

The Cortex has developed something called covert attention. You don’t need to look directly at something to covertly attend to it. Even if you’ve turned your back on an object, your Cortex can still focus its processing resources on it. Your Cortex can shift covert attention from, say, the text in front of you — to a nearby person, to the sounds in your backyard, to a thought or a memory ….

Covert attention is the virtual movement of deep processing from one item to another.

Unlike earlier developments that model concrete objects like the eyes and the head, the Cortex has to model something much more abstract.

According to the AST, it does so by constructing an Attention Schema — a constantly updated set of information that describes what covert attention is doing moment-by-moment and what its consequences are.

It is implied that the covert attention is the what the Non-conscious is seeking to draw attention to from its complex store and on-going monitoring of Needs, Habits, Competences, etc.

Consciousness requires us to learn new competences and other habits — truly essential for day to day living — walking, talking, etc. These habits are flexible in their use — such as for walking in different terrains.

Each habit improves with practice and may be lost if neglected. This has been described as “Use It or Lose It”.

So, learning is an essential aspect of our nature. Learning is enabled by processes known as Neuroplasticity —  ref 023

The habits are stored in the Non-conscious and need to be shared with the Conscious as required.

The Non-conscious has by far the larger role in our lives, as can be seen from the various capabilities indicated by the following selection —

Fig 284  From  ref1095 — Conscious unconscious mind

“We must realize that the subconscious mind is the law of action and always expresses what the conscious mind has impressed on it. What we regularly entertain in our mind creates a conception of self. What we conceive ourselves to be, we become.’”- Grace Speare

See  ref1043 — How phones ruin concentration xxx

From ref 397 — Our conscious thinking, perceiving, and learning accounts for only a small fraction of our total mental activity, with the rest being entirely Non-conscious.

Fig 252 A Freuds model — still worthy

The Non-conscious Mind is thought to be composed only of what it has absorbed from the external environment, and to be responsible for the following processes —
1. Non-conscious learning and the development of personality traits
2. The Non-conscious influence that our Non-conscious learning has on our judgments, decisions, and emotions (both feelings and reactions); and
3. The various organizations and reorganizations that occur spontaneously in Non-conscious knowledge systems.

As point three above suggests, our Non-conscious knowledge systems are far from rigid; they constantly change, and we change with them, leading to what we interpret as the growth and alteration of the personality.
Generally, these changes can be seen as a computer re-ordering itself to become more and more efficient in its processing of the external environment,

But in some circumstances, the same processes may lead to the state of mal-adaptation that we refer to as mental illness.

From ref867 — There are indications that our Non-conscious will adapt to our use of dishonesty

From ref868 However, there may be instances for second thoughts — with a trade-off between honesty and self-interest.

Referring back to human Needs, it was noted that —
They are complex, each individual has a different version of a range of Needs, and each could have one of two responses —

  • The Responsive Mode — Controlled, Mindful — goal or intent directed
  •  The Reactive Mode —Stressed. Emotional — Insecure people, and those affected by trauma are more prone to this mode.

However, when people are thinking about day-to-day events without focusing on any goal-directed task, a circuit of densely-connected brain areas is active — This is called the Default Mode Network (DMN) — DMN was discovered in the late 1990s

The DMN is less active when people have their attention drawn to a specific goal-directed task. This may be because competence habits are widely used in goal-oriented activities.

This is described below as the “Doing Mode”.

From ref1033DMN is a large scale brain network of interacting brain regions known to have activities that are highly correlated with each other and distinct from other networks in the brain.

However, when people are daydreaming, thinking of past experiences, or trying to under¬stand other people, the DMN is active.

The DMN might best be regarded as “the seat of ordinary thinking” . That type of thinking can be defined by what it is not. It is active when —
1. When people are daydreaming
2. Thinking of past experiences, or
3. Trying to under¬stand other people
4. It is not concentrating on an external task, and
5. It is not taking in the present moment without judgment

From  ref1039

Qualities of “Doing” Mode
Awareness of how things “are” and how they “should” be —

• Goal-oriented efforts to “fix” things
• Increasingly harder efforts towards reaching goals
• Most actions tend to happen automatically
• Lack of conscious awareness in the present moment

The Doing-mode is marvellous at automating your life by creating Habits — such habits are essentialfor carrying out repetitive tasks such as driving a car. This enables you be able to deal with other tasks as required.

The trouble is that they can over-automate your life — so it can become a series of learned habits.

The stages in learning for the Doing-Mode can follow this sort of pattern —

The stages in learning for the Doing-Mode can follow this sort of pattern —

  • Unconscious incompetence: I don’t really know what I want – Will this do what I want – Will I ever understand?
  • Conscious incompetence: I’m getting a vague understanding.
  • Conscious competence: Why didn’t I see this before.
  • Unconscious competence: I hardly notice how easy it is – I’m actually getting better at other things!

Once an activity such as driving is well learned, we can do it automatically. However, when first performing a learned activity, we must pay attention or devote Conscious awareness to the task. Even after the activity is automatic we must continue to pay attention.

From ref1034  However, there is a variant for success in thinking- called positive-constructive-daydreaming

Individuals can choose to disengage from external tasks, decoupling attention, in order to pursue an internal stream of thought that they expect to pay off in some way. The pay off may be immediate, coming in the form of pleasing reverie, insight, or new synthesis of material, or it may be more distant as in rehearsing upcoming scenarios or projecting oneself forward in time to a desired outcome.

Projection backward in time to reinterpret past experiences in light of new information is also a possibility.

All of these activities, which take place internally, sheltered from the demands of external tasks and perception, offer the possibility of enormous personal reward. These mental activities are, in fact, central to the task of meaning making, of developing and maintaining an understanding of oneself in the world.

Certainly a large share of mind wandering occurs without permission or awareness. But some mind wandering occurs because we actively choose to decouple from external tasks and perceptions and focus instead on an internal stream of thought with full awareness both of the choice being made and the contents of consciousness.

From ref1033   Along with Intelligent cognitive rest

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Mindfulness 

In the 1980s, Psychology started its own meditation movement — Mindfulness

The term “Mindfulness” is one of several translations of the Buddhist concept of Sati. In Buddhism this meant monitoring memories and experience to prevent worldly concerns such as desire and craving.

Fromref985
Mindfulness is achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

Mindfulness has been defined by Kabat-Zinn as moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as non-judgmentally, and open-heartedly as possible.

Mindfulness Meditation has reduced activity in the DMN.
This may be because the Meditation process enables us to learn new habits — crucially those needed to relieve us of having to consciously deal with what we have acquired through the Meditation. Habits greatly reduce the effort required to deal with “tasks” that recur fairly often.

As Mindfulness research entered its fourth decade, attention shifted from demonstrating significant effects to exploring mechanisms — Researchers looked for Neural Mechanisms of attentional control that might be influenced by meditation. Mindfulness Meditation involves a breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of body and mind, and muscle and body relaxation.

Mindfulness is about the Being-Mode, whereas humanity has generally been increasingly obsessed by the Doing-Mode

Qualities of “Being” Mode
• Connection with the present moment
• Acknowledgement of how things are in the moment
• Willingness to allow things to be just as they are… no efforts to alter/change experience
• Openness and acceptance of pleasant, neutral, and negative emotional states
• Calmness, stillness, and a sense of being centered

Returning to Needs, Responsive Mode and Reactive Mode

The Default Mode Network (DMN) was described above as “the seat of ordinary thinking”.

This ordinary thinking was described as —
• When people are daydreaming
• Thinking of past experiences, or
• Trying to understand other people
• It is not concentrating on an external task, and
• It is not taking in the present moment without judgment

These are Responsive Mode activities, whereas many of us can respond in a Reactive emotional way due to stress, anger, etc. or because of moods, or worse.

Review — 

From  ref 2006 Mindfulness for Health by V Burch & D Penman

 Main Characteristics of the Doing and Being Modes

Automatic pilot versus conscious choice —  the Doing mode can automate your life by creating habits. Such habits are extremely useful for carrying out repetitive tasks because they free the Mind for other tasks. The trouble is that your whole life can become one long series of interlinked habits with very little conscious input — even  suffering can become a habit  The Being mode brings you back to full conscious awareness. It puts you back in contact with all of your senses. You directly sense the world around you, instead of simply thinking about it This awareness tends to dis­solve habits, so that you can begin to consciously live life to the full again.

 Analysing versus sensing —  the Doing mode analyses the world. It thinks, plans, remembers, compares and judges. These are all vital skills, but they can backfire if taken to extremes. You can begin to live inside your own thoughts and lose contact with the world. Such ‘over-thinking’ can go tragically wrong and enhance mental and physical suffering. It’s one of the root causes of anxiety, stress, depression and exhaustion.

Avoidance versus approaching — the Doing mode works by holding on to your goals, but also by bearing in mind ‘anti-goals’ – the things that you want to avoid. This is an extremely powerful way of solving problems. If navigating across a city, for example, it’s useful to know which areas to avoid. When it comes to chronic pain, suffering and stress, however it can make matters worse — This is the heart of Secondary Suffering.

Being mode dissolves fears and worries by giving you the courage and space to approach them. It invites you to bring a compassionate curiosity to your most difficult states of mind and body.

 Striving versus accepting — the Doing mode compares the world with a version that exists only in your hopes, dreams, fears and nightmares. It focuses on the gap between the two and tries to bridge it. The Being mode accepts the world as it is. This is not a form of resignation, but a simple acceptance -or assessment – of the situation as it is right now. It leads to a calmer and healthier state of mind and body.

Mindfulness teaches us that thoughts are just thoughts. They are just passing mental events. They might accurately reflect the world and your suffering – but they might not.

Thinking is often important and thoughts are valuable, but not always. Thoughts are not ‘you’ or ’reality’. Thoughts are not necessarily true — even the ones that claim to be. Another way of describing this is learning to look ‘at’ your thoughts, rather than ‘from’ them.

Restoring balance
Doing and Being modes of mind are equally important but have different roles to play. In the West we have traditionally focused on using the Doing mode so much that it has become over-developed. It’s a bit like a bodybuilder who has focused all of his efforts in building up the strength of one leg and neglected the other Very soon all he can do is run around in circles – very quickly. Mindfulness helps to restore balance.

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Emotions

From ref374 —The inability to address emotion is holding back the field of psychology

Thomas Scheff would like psychologists to talk about emotion — not simply to share feelings, but to advance science. According to the emeritus professor of sociology at UC Santa Barbara, intuition could be the catalyst that enables psychology to progress in areas in which it has stagnated.

Scheff argues that research into aggression catharsis, stigma and self-esteem have become bogged down because scientific method in psychology is blind to the insights that intuition — that which doesn’t require “rational” thought — can provide.

Scientific and other methods, no matter how scrupulously applied, are helpless in the face of misleading tropes.  Scheff defines tropes as false assumptions — ideas taken for granted that may be untrue or only partially true.

There are a range of descriptions of emotion, such as —

From ref 813   There is a general consensus that the term “Emotion” used in Neurology means something like

Emotions are chemicals released in response to our interpretation of a specific trigger.  It takes our brains about 1/4 second to identify the trigger, and about another 1/4 second to produce the chemicals.  Emotion chemicals are released throughout our bodies, not just in our brains, and they form a kind of feedback loop between our brains & bodies.

And from —  ref 653  Emotions are more physiological than psychological — Any significant disruption of familiar sensory patterns triggers a biological response, commonly called emotion.

An Emotion is initially dealt with by the Emotional (Limbic) Brain — This enables us to respond immediately to indications of threat.

Whether triggered from out-with the body or within, emotions can produce major changes all through the body. most notably in muscle-tone, energy level, tone of voice, and facial expressions — as the Autonomic system responds.

And from   ref 108 — Emotions are not particularly sophisticated or precise, but their speed and utility make up for what they lack in sophistication and precision.

Emotions, when they are not disordered, provide information about your circumstances in a simple, quick way that does not involve a lot of cognition. They attempt to tell you if a situation is optimal or not aligned with your goal, and how you might approach it.

Just as the Reward System can go wrong, our Emotional Responses can be upset following a traumatic experience.

The responses can then become hypersensitive and react to stimuli that it would usually disregard as not representing a danger to the body.

From ref 2006 Mindfulness for Health by V Burch & D Penman

For example, if the body senses danger then the heart rate increases and the whole body becomes primed for action.

The mind then senses the body’s reaction – a racing heart while crossing a swaying bridge, for example – and triggers an emotional response.

We then consciously recognise the emotion, and often as not, give it a label such as fear, anger, worry, love, etc.

The process is so fast and seamless that these steps seem to be one and the same.

So in practice, it is the emotion that we become aware of, while all of the body’s reactions continue bubbling away in the background.

We tend to notice the fear, love or anger, rather than the underlying rush of hormones and elevated blood pressure. This seems straightforward until you realise that we sometimes misinterpret our body’s sensations.

Virtually all of the time, the mind makes the correct inter­pretation – unless, that is, you’ve spent years suffering with chronic pain, illness or stress.

Take the example of pain. In this case your brain has become fine-tuned to spot the first flickerings of pain. You’re on the lookout for the first hint of pain so that you can take steps to avoid the worst of it.

In practice this means that when your brain spots something that looks like pain, it turns up its sensory amplifiers to the maximum for a closer look and also primes the body for action. This stress reaction then makes the body tense up, aggravating any aches, pains, illnesses and injuries. This, in turn, makes the body even more sensitive to pain. It triggers a vicious cycle.

It’s Secondary Suffering gone wild.

 From  ref1104

Nothing is straightforward– Hunger denotes a physical need for food; appetite is a desire for food.

Consider the following lists —

Fig 189

These are feelings and moods.

Again from ref 813

Feelings happen as we begin to integrate the emotion, to think about it, to “let it soak in.”  In English, we use “feel” for both physical and emotional sensation — we can say we physically feel cold, but we can also emotionally feel cold.  This is a clue to the meaning of “feeling,” it’s something we sense.  Feelings are more “cognitively saturated” as the emotion chemicals are processed in our brains & bodies. Feelings are often fueled by a mix of emotions, and last for longer than emotions. xxx

Moods are more generalized.  They’re not tied to a specific incident, but a collection of inputs.

Mood is heavily influenced by several factors —

  • The environment — weather, lighting, people around us
  • Physiology — what we’ve been eating, how we’ve been exercising, how healthy we are
  • Our mental state — where we’re focusing attention and our current emotions.

Moods can last minutes, hours, probably even days

Fig 199      ref617

Why do we have Emotions?

Emotions continuously regulate every living cell to adapt to emerging threats and opportunities. They provide raw data about the world around us that is essential to our functioning.

What is Feeling?

The physical & mental sensations that arise as we internalize emotions. Feelings are cognitively saturated emotion chemicals.

Why do we have Feelings?

Feelings are how we begin to make meaning of emotion; they cause us to pay attention and react to the perceived threats or opportunities. We’re acting on emotional data.

What is Mood?

Mood is a mix of feelings and emotions as we go through our days; a mood is a semi-persistent mental + physical + emotional state.

Why do we have Moods?

Often the threats & opportunities that emotions and feelings signal are not just one-off; by having a lasting mood, we stay attuned to handle what’s next.

Why Does It Matter?

Discerning between emotions and feelings and moods is one part of a process called enhancing emotional literacy — which means honing your ability to accurately identify and understand what you are feeling, in real time.

Again, from ref 653 — The function of Emotions

There are stages of Emotion

  • Arousal (energy)
    • Motivation
    • Feelings

An Emotion is initially dealt with by the Emotional (Limbic) Brain — This enables us to respond immediately to indications of threat.

Whether triggered from out-with the body or within, emotions can produce major changes all through the body. most notably in muscle-tone, energy level, tone of voice, and facial expressions — as the Autonomic system responds.

Arousal is the energy that powers emotion. Even without emotional stimulation, arousal ebbs and flows in roughly 90-minute cycles throughout the day, including while we sleep. At peak arousal times we are more susceptible to intense emotional response.
Excitability and abundant energy mark periods of high arousal.

Abnormally high levels produce over-stimulation, obsessions, compulsions, insomnia, or mania.

Motivation sends action signals to the muscles and organs of the body to prepare us for to do something.

Each emotion carries general motivation for behaviour selected from the broad categories of approach, avoid, or attack.

Motivation is the most important component of emotions.

Types of Motivation. Below are examples of the primary motivations that foster growth and empowerment:
• Interest – find out more, get beneath the surface
• Passion – indulge, plunge
• Conviction – work to keep the status quo or change it
• Compassion – sympathize with the pain and hardship of self and other
• Enjoyment – appreciate, relax with
• Anxiety – learn more, increase ability to cope
• Shame – hide, cover-up.
• Distress – get back what was lost or compensate for its loss; consolidate gains
• Guilt – reconnect, compensate.

Motivations that have survival importance but are scarcely helpful in negotiating the complexities of most modern problems:
• Fear – freeze, run
• Disgust – recoil, get away from
• Anger – control, neutralize, devalue, punish, warn, threaten, intimidate, avenge
• Contempt/hatred – annihilate.

Feelings are the subjective experience of emotions.  What they feel like dominates our conceptions about them.

However, this slowest component of emotion processing is only part of the emotional terrain.

Trying to understand or change emotions through focus on how they feel is like trying to understand and change intestinal gas through focus on discomfort. Pop-psychologists make that error when they insist on “exploring and expressing” feelings.

The fact is, we cannot explore and express feelings without changing them.

Read Moreref 653 & ref365
Emotions rule our daily lives. We make decisions based on whether we are happy, angry, sad, bored, or frustrated. We choose activities and hobbies based on the emotions they incite.

From ref375 — Enjoying your emotions

Many Societies are dominated by the Doing Mode of Thinking. This can be stressful, and may result in Anxiety, Depression, etc.

Emotions can play a major role in our lives. They emerge as the Motivations in our activities to realise our Needs, and in doing so express our Feelings.

Emotions seemed to communicate with our Conscious Mind by affecting our Body.

Emotions seem to arise to indicate that The Need, but also to flag-up the failure to realise a Need

Fig 220 — ref 788

From ref373 — Psychology Today –- Emotions and depression — Scheff again

Finding and facing emotions

Abstract. This note proposes a non-drug treatment for depression in terms of hidden emotions. It appears that most depression involves the numbing of emotions, especially grief, fear, anger and shame.

Depression occurs when these emotions loop back on themselves, having feelings about feelings, sometimes without limit.

Feedback loops can produce emotions that are experienced as either unbearably painful or out of control, or at least anticipated to be.

However, there is a zone between these two extremes that allows one to feel emotions and to also observe oneself feeling. This zone is possible because of the human capacity for role-taking; seeing one’s self from the imagined point of view of another person. Some implications of these ideas for the treatment of depression are outlined.

Emotional & Social Intelligence

From  ref 340 — How to have a healthy limbic system

The limbic system represents the part of your brain devoted to the most basic survival structures that protect and regulate emotions and reactive states —

Your emotional wellness is contingent upon a healthy limbic system and deterioration in this area of your brain can lead to out-of-control emotions like violence or rage, depression and neurological decline.

The limbic cortex that interconnects with the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for reasoning and judgment — providing potential for Emotional and Social Intelligence. However, this link can be damaged by stress, etc.

This can cause Depression, Anxiety etc.  (Comment — This may be due to the limbic cortex interconnection with the prefrontal cortex losing either much its plasticity — due to lack of use, or a neurotransmitter problem).

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MEMORY — The Non-conscious

Holds your current —
Habits
Competences
Personality traits
Reactions
etc.

Source of realisations, emotions, ….

It is constantly under review and altering

Contents:
 Normal processing and storage
Types of Memory
Memory processes
Tips

MEMORY — normal processing and storage

Fig 268  ref1010  brain featuring limbicstrong>

TYPES OF MEMORY

From  ref 286   and  ref1096

Sensory memory is the earliest stage of memory. During this stage, sensory information from the environment is stored for a very brief period of time, generally for no longer than a half-second for visual information and 3 or 4 seconds for auditory information. We attend to only certain aspects of this sensory memory, allowing some of this information to pass into the next stage – short-term memory.

Paying attention to sensory memories generates the information in short-term memory.

Short-term memory

Also known as active memory, is the information we are currently aware of or thinking about.

In Freudian psychology, this memory would be referred to as the conscious mind. Most of the information stored in active memory will be kept for approximately 20 to 30 seconds.

It is the capacity for holding, but not manipulating, a small amount of information in mind in an active, readily available state for a short period of time. The duration of short-term memory (when rehearsal or active maintenance is prevented) is believed to be in the order of seconds.

Working memory, a core executive function, is a cognitive system with a limited capacity that is responsible for the transient holding, processing, and manipulation of information.

Working memory is important for reasoning and the guidance of decision making and behaviour.

Working memory stores information for immediate use or manipulation which is aided through hooking onto previously archived items already present in the long-term memory of an individual..

Long-Term Memory refers to the continuing storage of information.

In Freudian psychology, long-term memory would be called the preconscious and unconscious.

This information is largely outside of our awareness, but can be called into working memory to be used when needed. Some of this information is fairly easy to recall, while other memories are much more difficult to access.

From  ref 599

The specific way information is organized in long-term memory is not well understood, but researchers do know that these memories are arranged in groups.

The 4 main theories are —

  1. Hierarchies  — arrangements of concepts
  2. Semantic networks — of interconnected concepts
  3. Schemas — organised mental representations of the world
  4. Connectionist network — parallel distributed processing

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MEMORY PROCESSES

Memory is our ability to encodestoreretain and subsequently recall information and past experiences in the human brain. It can be thought of in general terms as the use of past experience to affect or influence current behaviour.

Memory Processes

From —   ref1096  plus related pages

All perceived and striking sensations travel to the brain’s thalamus where all these sensations are combined into one single experience.

The amygdala is a complex structure that has an important role in visual encoding. It accepts visual input in addition to input from other systems and encodes the positive or negative values of conditioned stimuli.

The hippocampus is responsible for analyzing these inputs and ultimately deciding if they will be committed to long-term memory; these various threads of information are stored in various parts of the brain.  However, the exact way in which these pieces are identified and recalled later remains unknown.

Acoustic encoding, for example, is the encoding of auditory impulses.  When we hear any word, we do so by hearing to individual sounds, one at a time. Hence the memory of the beginning of a new word is stored in our echoic memory until the whole sound has been perceived and recognized as a word.

Encoding is achieved using a combination of chemicals and electricity. Neurotransmitters are released when an electrical pulse crosses the synapse which serves as a connection from nerve cells to other cells. The dendrites receive these impulses with their feathery extensions.

The brain organizes and reorganizes itself in response to one’s experiences, creating new memories prompted by experience, education, or training.

This ability to re-organize is especially important if ever a part of the brain becomes damaged.

Scientists are unsure of whether the stimuli of what we do not recall are filtered out at the sensory phase or if they are filtered out after the brain examines their significance.

Thus it may be concluded that as we grow old, failing memories may be the consequence of a failure to adequately encode stimuli as demonstrated in the lack of cortical and hippocampal activation during the encoding process.

1)                     Encoding

From  ref 532

Encoding allows the perceived item of use or interest to be converted into a construct that can be stored within the brain and recalled later from short term or long term memory.

Working memory stores information for immediate use or manipulation which is aided through hooking onto previously archived items already present in the long-term memory of an individual

Visual, acoustic, and semantic (feel) encodings are the most intensively used.

Tactile encoding is the processing and encoding of how something feels, normally through touch.   Odours and tastes may also lead to encode.

2)                     Engram

An engram is a unit of cognitive information inside the brain, theorized to be the means by which memories are stored as biophysical or biochemical changes in the brain in response to external stimuli.

The exact mechanism and location of neurologically defined engrams has been a focus of persistent research for many decade — Wikipedia

3)                     Consolidation

Is usually considered to consist of two specific processes,

  • Synaptic consolidation (which occurs within the first few hours after learning or encoding) and
  • System consolidation (where hippocampus-dependent memories become independent of the hippocampus over a period of weeks to years).

4)                     Long-term Potentiation (LTP)

From-ref 595

Long-term potentiation occurs when the same group of neurons fire together so often that they become permanently sensitized to each other. As new experiences accumulate, the brain creates more and more connections and pathways, and may “re-wire” itself by re-routing connections and re-arranging its organization.

Fig 285 LTP

From ref 16 — Synapses and memory storage

The synapse is the functional unit of the brain. During the last several decades we have acquired a great deal of information on its structure, molecular components, and physiological function. It is clear that synapses are morphologically and molecularly diverse and that this diversity is recruited to different functions.

In this review we will focus on studies that attempt to uncover the role of synaptic plasticity in the regulation of whole-animal behavior by learning and memory.

From  ref1097 — Time-Dependent Processes in Memory Storage  (1966)

A complex picture of memory storage is emerging. There may be three memory trace systems —

  • one for immediate memory (and not studied in our laboratory);
  • one for short-term memory which develops within a few seconds or minutes and lasts for several hours; and
  • one which consolidates slowly and is relatively permanent.

Acquisition can occur, as we have seen, without permanent consolidation, and both short-term and long-term memory increase with time.

All this evidence suggests (but obviously does not prove) that

  • Each experience triggers activity in each memory system.
  • Each repeated training trial may, according to this view, potentiate short-term processes underlying acquisition
  • While simultaneously enhancing independent underlying long-term consolidation.

From  ref 597  Whole Brain  Neural Plasticity

In order to have coherent circuits functioning at large distances across multiple regions of the brain, the timing of individual neuronal electrical currents have to be very accurately in sync. The regulation of the timing and the strength and speed of currents in specific neuronal loops are vital factors in neuro-plasticity mechanisms.

Previously, myelin was considered a simple process, but now research shows that it is a very complex and vital for this coordination and timing. Myelin, and with it the speed and timing of circuits, is altered during normal learning and neuro-plasticity.

Like other aspects of neuroplasticity, such as regulating synapses, there is a vast array of mechanisms involved in myelin production. Studies of the ways white matter changes during neuroplasticity are just beginning.

Many different kinds of learning produce complex alterations in myelin amount, shape, size, pattern and distribution. These changes are part of neuroplasticity for many kinds of learning, not just the habit motor type.

It is surprising how rapidly these changes can occur. It was previously thought that the only changes in myelin in the adult were damaging or responding to damage. Now, it has been shown that there is dynamic active modeling and re-modeling of myelin in white matter in children and adults with learning.

This includes re consolidation of memory. The alterations in myelin occur through oligodendrocyte stem cells that wander throughout the brain along blood vessels and then stop to differentiate into particular types of oligodendrotyes to make specific types of myelin.

The junction of a neuron and oligodendrocyte that forms myelin is vastly complex—much more complex even that synapses and neuro muscular junctions. There are many stages that have to precisely timed and executed. It is necessary to coordinate huge amounts of material and then build precise shapes. It has to be spaced exactly with all the correct placement of ion channels. The enormous structure has to be maintained sometimes for a lifetime.

Once again, we must ask where the direction lies for stem cells wandering all over the brain constantly building and updating myelin of particular types to keep speeds in sync for neuroplasticity.  No one can consider this a random process. This is another example of intelligent communication between a vast number of cells simultaneously all over the brain.

5}                    Storage

Storage is the more or less passive process of retaining information in the brain, whether in the sensory memory, the short term memory or the more permanent long-term memory. Each of these different stages of human memory function has a sort of filter that helps to protect us from the flood of information that confronts us on a daily basis, avoiding an overload of information and helping to keep us sane.

The more the information is repeated or used, the more likely it is to be retained in long-term memory (which is why, for example, studying helps people to perform better on tests). This process of consolidation, the stabilizing of a memory trace after its initial acquisition, is treated in more detail in a separate section.

From ref 16 — Synapses and memory storage

The synapse is the functional unit of the brain. During the last several decades we have acquired a great deal of information on its structure, molecular components, and physiological function. It is clear that synapses are morphologically and molecularly diverse and that this diversity is recruited to different functions.

One of the most intriguing findings is that the size of the synaptic response in not invariant, but can be altered by a variety of homo- and hetero-synaptic factors such as past patterns of use or modulatory neurotransmitters.

Perhaps the most difficult challenge in neuroscience is to design experiments that reveal how these basic building blocks of the brain are put together and how they are regulated to mediate the information flow through neural circuits that is necessary to produce complex behaviors and store memories.

6)                     Recall or retrieval of memory

This refers to the subsequent re-accessing of events or information from the past, which has been previously encoded and stored in the brain.

In common parlance, it is known as remembering. During recall, the brain “replays” a pattern of neural activity that was originally generated in response to a particular event, echoing the brain’s perception of the real event.

In fact, there is no real solid distinction between the act of remembering and the act of thinking.

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TIPS  From ref896 — what is memory

Cognitive  psychologists have discovered a number of techniques that can help improve memory:

  • Jot it down. The act of writing with a pen and paper helps implant the memory into your brain—and can also serve as a reminder or reference later on.1
  • Attach meaning to it. You can remember something more easily if you attach meaning to it. For instance, if you associate a person you just meet with someone you already know, you may be able to remember their name easier.
  • Repeat it. Repetition helps the memory become encoded beyond your short-term memory.
  • Group it. Information that is categorized becomes easier to remember and recall. For example, consider the following group of words: Desk, apple, bookshelf, red, plum, table, green, pineapple, purple, chair, peach, yellow. Spend a few seconds reading them, then look away and try to recall and list these words. How did you group the words when you listed them? Most people will list using three different categories: color, furniture, and fruit.

In addition to these techniques, keeping your brain healthy by exercising regularly, maintaining social connections, managing stress, and performing challenging activities (like doing crossword puzzles or playing an instrument) have been proven to help boost memory.

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Human Traits

Your Personality may be presented in an open way or cautiously — to one or more persons — in different contexts — and in the mood you are in.

You do so through facial expressions, by gestures and body language, by listening attentively, by verbal or other sounds — in order to inform, to convince, to entertain, possibly to empathise, to negotiate, etc.

From ref1145 — Genetics
A perspective — Human memory, including the process of encoding, is known to be a heritable trait that is controlled by more than one gene. In fact, twin studies suggest that genetic differences are responsible for as much as 50% of the variance seen in memory tasks.

Personality

From ref 485 — What is Personality
While there are many different definitions of personality, most focus on the pattern of behaviors and characteristics that can help predict and explain a person’s behavior.

Characteristics of Personality
Traits and patterns of thought and emotion play important roles as well as the following fundamental characteristics of personality:

• Consistency — There is generally a recognizable order and regularity to behaviors. Essentially, people act in the same ways or similar ways in a variety of situations.
• Psychological and physiological — Personality is a psychological construct, but research suggests that it is also influenced by biological processes and needs.
• Behaviors and actions — Personality not only influences how we move and respond in our environment, but it also causes us to act in certain ways.
• Multiple expressions — Personality is displayed in more than just behavior. It can also be seen in our thoughts, feelings, close relationships, and other social interactions.

The Five core personality traits

Fig 301 ref1147 — Big five personality dimensions

Examples, from Hi to Lo —
1. Openness — Creative — dislikes change
2. Conscientiousness — Finishes important tasks right away — Fails to complete
3. Extraversion — Enjoys being the center of attention — prefers solitude
4. Agreeableness — Cares about others — doesn’t
5. Neuroticism — Gets upset easily — Doesn’t worry much

Also, from ref 606 — What Extrovert & Introvert means
• Extroversion (of which introversion is the opposite),
• Agreeableness (altruism and concern for others),
• Conscientiousness (how organized and responsible someone is),
• Neuroticism (how much someone experiences negative emotions), and
• Openness to experience (which includes traits such as imagination and curiosity

Personality traits range along a spectrum — for example, an imposing extravert through to a withdrawn extravert.

From ref1146 — Personality perspectives
This is a description of different patterns in personality, including how these patterns form and how people differ on an individual level
1. Psychoanalytic Perspective — emphasizes the importance of early childhood experiences and the non-conscious mind — Freud +
2. Humanistic Perspective — focuses on psychological growth, free will, and personal awareness — Maslow +
3. Trait Perspective — centered on identifying, describing, and measuring the specific traits that make up personality — Eysenck +
4. Social Cognitive Perspective — emphasizes the importance of observational learning, self-efficacy, situational influences, and cognitive processes. — Bandura

From ref 621 — Personality in context: an interpersonal systems perspective

However, the awareness of Personality should take account of the context

Because a significant part of individuals’ lives involve close relationships, an important and substantial part of the situations they encounter consists of other people’s behaviors. It seems that individuals’ characteristic ways of behaving, which are typically attributed to “personality,” arise from two processes —
1. One lies primarily within the individual, conceptualized as individual differences in one’s cognitive and affective processing system
2. The other proces lies outside the person in the individual differences in the situations that people encounter in their everyday lives.

Clearly, the interplay between these two processes can be particularly relevant for understanding close relationships.

From ref 622 — How does personality develop —

There are a number of researchers’ versions of how a Personality develops —
• Freud’s Stages of Psychosexual Development
• Freud’s Structural Model of Personality
• Erikson’s Stages of Psychosocial Development
• Piaget’s Stages of Cognitive Development
• Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development

Although no single definition is acceptable to all personality theorists, we can say that personality is a pattern of relatively permanent traits and unique characteristics that give both consistency and individuality to a person’s behaviour —

From ref 416 — Personality research and Attachment theory

Bowlby and Ainsworth both believed that this primary caregiver is the one that will most shape the child’s personality and character.

It has been said that parent-child bonds are the most important in forming the child’s personality. Babies are programmed at birth to be interested in the social world around them. It is assumed that they learn much about the world through their caregivers and therefore their caregivers must have much influence on their personality and their sense of others.

Harris (1998) believes that parents do not shape their child’s personality or character. A child’s peers have more influence on them than their parents.

People also need to realize that a lot of personality traits come from their genes, not their parents nurturing, as this can be seen in the separated twin studies.
Field (1996) came up with her own attachment model as described here —
A parsimonious model of attachment would need to accommodate multiple attachments to a variety of figures at different stages of life. We have used a more psycho-biological approach in formulating a model that focuses on the relationship between two individuals and what they share and what might then be missing when they are separated.

In this model, attachment is viewed as a relationship that develops between two or more people as they become attuned to each other, each providing the other meaningful arousal modulation, which occurs in separation, invariably results in behavioral and physiological disorganization.

Conclusions
I have reviewed the basic ideas of attachment theory and criticisms of attachment theory. It seems that parents should not be totally held responsible for the way their child develops. They should be held responsible to a point, because after all, they did give them their genes and they do have some influence. But children rely more on their social group in the shaping of their personality and this must be remembered.

Field (1996) has brought out some good points when discussing the limitations of attachment theory. The mother is not always the primary attachment figure, so it cannot be assumed that she always will be.

Attachment theory is one of the most studied aspects of psychology today.

Bowlby and Ainsworth’s attachment models are common references in attachment theory research. The attachment model explains infant behavior towards their attachment figure, during separation and reunion times.

It is believed that attachment behaviors formed in infancy will help shape the attachment relationships people have as adults. Some psychologists, such as Harris and Field, disagree with this idea. Harris believes that too much emphasis on how a child “turns out” should not be placed on the parents. Harris disagrees with the nurture assumption as well. Peers have a lot of influence on a child’s personality, just as the child’s environment does. Field also criticizes the attachment model because believes there are many limitations to it.

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Human Behaviours

Human behaviours generally takes place in a social environment.  Social environments are complex but homes tend to be in more or less uniform social groupings — and display conformity to Social norms.

Behaviour is much influenced by our needs and aspirations, but it is particularly affected by our relationships with others, both intimate and circumstantial.

Human Society can be threatening to the individual  — at work — at leisure — shopping — at home.

From  ref1141Destructive human behaviors

Compared with most animals, we humans engage in a host of behaviors that are destructive to our own kind and to ourselves. We lie, cheat and steal, carve ornamentations into our own bodies, stress out and kill ourselves, and of course kill others.   Science has provided much insight into why an intelligent species seems so nasty, spiteful, self-destructive and hurtful. Inside you’ll learn what researchers know about some of our most destructive behaviours —

We Lie — Nobody knows for sure why humans lie so much, but studies find that it’s common, and that it’s often tied to deep psychological factors.

We Crave Violence — A study in 2008 concluded that humans seem to crave violence just like they do sex, food, or drugs.

We Steal — Theft can be motivated by need.   But for kleptomaniacs, stealing can be motivated by the sheer thrill of it.

We Cheat — While most people would say honesty is a virtue, nearly one in five Americans think cheating on taxes is morally acceptable or is not a moral issue, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.  About 10 percent are equally ambivalent about cheating on a spouse. People who espouse high moral standards are among the worst cheats.

We cling to bad habits — Reasons are —  innate human defiance, need for social acceptance, inability to truly understand the nature of risk, individualistic views of the world and the ability to rationalize unhealthy habits, and a genetic predisposition to addiction.

We Bully —  Bullying in childhood can leave worse mental scars  than child abuse, and being bullied as a teen doubles the risk of depression as an adult,

We stress out — But exactly why we stress is difficult to pin down.   These truths will resonate with many, however — The modern workplace is a source of significant stress for many people, as are children.

We Gamble — Gambling, too, seems to be in our genes and hard-wired into our brains, which might explain why such a potentially ruinous behavior is so common.   Even when people plan in advance how much to gamble, they’re coldly rational, a study last year found. But if they lose, rationality goes out the window.

We Gossip — Gossip establishes group boundaries and boosts self-esteem, studies have found.    In many instances, the goal of gossip is not truth or accuracy.   What matters is the bond that gossiping can forge, often at the expense of a third party.

You can learn to deal with these threats and distractions by developing your Social and Emotional Intelligences.  This is stored in the Non-conscious — to be deployed when needed.

Social intelligence is the capacity to know oneself and to know others. Social Intelligence develops from experience with people and learning from success and failures in social settings. It is more commonly referred to as tact — common sense — street smart.

Emotional intelligence is a person’s ability to recognise one’s own feelings and other’s feelings.

Fig 299  Emotional intelligence  — ref1142

See   ref1143 — On difference between social and emotional intelligence

From  ref1144 — How to develop Social Intelligence —

  • Work on increasing your emotional intelligence. Although similar to social intelligence, emotional intelligence is more about how you control your own emotions and how you empathize with others. It requires recognizing when you’re experiencing an emotion — which will help you recognize that emotion in others—and regulating them appropriately.
  • An emotionally intelligent person can recognize and control negative feelings, such as frustration or anger, when in a social setting.
  • Pay close attention to what (and who) is around you. Socially intelligent people are observant and pay attention to subtle social cues from those around them.
  • If you think that someone in your life has strong people skills, watch how they interact with others.
  • Respect cultural differences. More than that, seek out cultural differences so you can understand them. Although most people learn people skills from their family, friends and the community surrounding them, a socially intelligent person understands that others might have different responses and customs based on their upbringing.
  • Practice active listening. Develop your social intelligence by working on your communication skills — which requires active listening.
  • Don’t interrupt. Take time to think about what someone else is saying before you respond.   Listen to the inflections in what others say, which can give you clues to what they really mean.
  • Appreciate the important people in your life. Socially intelligent people have deep relationships with people who are meaningful to them.   Pay attention to the emotions of your spouse and children, friends, co-workers, and other peers.   If you ignore the closest people in your life, you’re missing the cues on how to connect with them.

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Peak Experiences

From ref938

Maslow eventually felt sure that the more emotionally healthy we are, the greater the likelihood of a peak-experience and also the more frequent such episodes become in the course of day-to-day living.   Maslow also suggested that as we age physically, the intensity of peak moments gives way to a gentler, more sustained state of serenity that he called plateau-experiences.

Unlike peak-experiences, he advised, such plateaus can be cultivated through conscious, diligent effort.

So, let’s at this stage keep with the notion of good experiences.
Maslow was as focussed on Motivation which is an early stage in meeting a Need.

The emphasis here is on the process rather than the outcome, as implied above in his “Main Assertions”.   This is where the notion of “Flow” becomes important.

From   ref934 — Motivation and Well-being: Flow and Finding Success
Motivation is one of the Emotions/Moods in the Buddhist Stream of Consciousness — they called it hunger or craving — our craving can be either a trait (reoccurring pattern of desire — like thirst) or a state (a desire dependant on a particular situation).

Research has placed value on understanding the drivers of motivation and learning about their consequences; how motivation influences our life satisfaction — and that the will to attain mastery is more beneficial for performance than an actual performance goal.

See ref 189 — Forget-about-setting-goals

Flow not only lifts the spirit momentarily, but it has also been found to build psychological capital over time.

From  ref935 — The Puzzle of motivation (2009)

This study found a positive correlation between the need for competence, autonomy and relatedness and an employee’s intrinsic work motivation. Hence, staff need to feel they have what it takes to be successful in the job, they need to be able to work independently and they need to have a bond with some of their co-workers to experience job satisfaction.

The author, Daniel Pink, points out that extrinsic incentives are bad drivers of motivation as they narrow focus and block creativity.   They may work in situations where jobs require mechanical skills and are based on a simple set of rules, but with jobs requiring cognitive skills, it is intrinsic motivation which drives action.

Extrinsic motivation refers to behavior that is driven by external rewards such as money, fame, grades, and praise.

Intrinsic motivation involves engaging in a behavior because it is personally rewarding — essentially, performing an activity for its own sake.

Instead of offering financial rewards, organisations should strive to improve what really matters to employees in order to increase their intrinsic motivation. This research, which found — autonomy — mastery — and purpose — to be positively correlated with performance and job satisfaction.

Some advice on how to convert a dull job into one which facilitates “Flow”

How you can change what you do into something which satisfies any need for novelty and achievement?
• Pay close attention to each step in your work.
• Ask — is the step necessary?
• Can it be done better, faster, more efficiently?
• What additional steps could make my contribution more valuable?
Don’t cut corners in what you do – decide to perform at your best — Because —
• Evidence suggests that we enjoy work more when we do things well.
• It should not be true that people go to work to do a mediocre job — We cannot accept this too often of ourselves and of our colleagues?

See also ref933 — stay-motivated and  ref920 — Theories of motivation

From  ref1073 — Maslow — Peak experiences
From  ref1074 — What are peak experiences

According to Maslow, peak experiences play an important role in self-actualization.

Achieving an important goal, either a personal or collective one, could lead to a peak experience. Other moments when such experiences might occur include when an individual helps another person in need or after overcoming some type of adversity.

Peak experiences bear numerous similarities to the concept known as flow — Flow is a state of mind during which people become so involved in an activity that the world seems to fade away and nothing else seems to matter.   When in a state of flow, times seems to fly by, focus becomes sharp and people experience a loss of self-consciousness.

Many reactions mode actions are due to misunderstandings, and these can be dealt with by “Emotional Intelligence”.

See ref915 — emotional intelligence 5 aspects

And also ref359— emotional intelligence toolkit

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Brain Imaging

From ref1040 — Evolution of psychology

Psychology has moved steadily from speculation about behaviour toward a more objective and scientific approach as the technology available to study human behaviour has improved .

By the 1920’s Psychologists were advised to focus exclusively on measurable, observable behaviour.

By the late 20th Century psychologists were once again grappling with the issue of Consciousness. New tools, notably brain scanning techniques and theories of Cognition, offered new approaches to studying Conscious and Unconscious mental activity.

From ref999 — Brain imaging techniques can be used to show brain structures or functions. An old technique, Electroencephalography (the EEG) yields more information now with computer enhancements. PET scans show fluctuations of brain activity in real time as a person thinks or acts.

Another technique, — MRI — was originally used to visualize tumours and soft tissue structures of the brain. A variation called functional MRI (fMRI) became the most commonly used brain scanning technique in Cognitive Neuroscience — It can spot small, brief areas of activity.

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Adolescent and Gender Issues

From ref 409 — Inter-linking hormones to limbic system

Adolescence Researchers are also providing new insights into the relationship between gender, hormones, brain development, and behavior.

In terms of the onset of puberty, boys generally follow girls by two years. For example, boys typically reach their maximum height velocity two years later than girls. In the realm of neuroscience, there is new evidence of divergent patterns of male and female brain development; these patterns have been observed between the ages of 5 and 7. Case in point: during this period, the amygdala (a part of the limbic system concerned with the expression and regulation of emotion and motivation) increases robustly in males, but not in females; the hippocampus (a part of the limbic system that plays an important role in organizing memories) increases robustly in females, but not in males.

The basal ganglia are larger in females; this appears to be significant, since boys are more likely to have disorders, such as ADHD, that are associated with smaller basal ganglia. Girls may have extra protection against this type of disorder. Although there are clear differences in the path of brain development for girls and boys, it is not yet possible to look at a brain scan and determine whether the subject is male or female.

From ref 441 — Teen Brain — Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
Images of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments.

From ref 389– Adolescent Brain
Why do teenagers seem so much more impulsive, so much less self-aware than grown-ups?
Cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore compares the prefrontal cortex in adolescents to that of adults, to show us how typically “teenage” behavior is caused by the growing and developing adolescent brain

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Legal Aspects

From ref 433 — Should the Science of Adolescent Brain Development Inform Public Policy?
There is now incontrovertible evidence that adolescence is a period of significant changes in brain structure and function. Although most of this work has appeared just in the past 15 years, there is already strong consensus among developmental neuroscientists about the nature of this change. And the most important conclusion to emerge from recent research is that important changes.

Society needs to distinguish between people who are ready for the rights and responsibilities of adulthood and those who are not.

Emotions, temperament and Moods

From ref 005 — Motivations
In other words, you have certain needs or wants (these terms will be used interchangeably), and this causes you to do certain things (behavior), which satisfy those needs (satisfaction), and this can then change which needs/wants are primary (either intensifying certain ones, or allowing you to move on to other ones).

In a study conducted by Dr. Deborah Yurelun-Todd of Harvard University, brain activity was scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging (5). Both adults and adolescents from ages 11 to 17, who had no diagnosed psychological disorders or brain injuries, were asked to identify the emotion on pictures of faces on a computer screen (5).

From ref 427 — Adolescent brain and Nervous system
The expression of the picture shown to the participants was one of fear. The teens typically activated the amygdala while the adults activated the frontal lobes to perform the same task of identifying the expression

Because teens and adults are activating different portions of their brains to perform the same task, studying the function of the amygdala may provide an explanation for observed behavioral differences in adolescents and adults.

The structure of the adolescent brain provides an explanation for the perceived teenage behavior of irrationality and impulsiveness.

This behavior can be attributed to activation of the amygdala the region of the brain responsible for emotional behavior. Mature frontal lobes may regulate the actions of the amygdala and allows individuals to reason through situations instead of acting on instinct.

Poor connections between neurons formed during adolescence may lead to less emotional regulation as an adult.

Since differences in the adult and adolescent brains can be correlated to different types of behaviors, the variations in the brains of adolescents and adults provides evidence for behaviors being produced by the activity of the nervous system. Future studies to further correlate adolescent behavior to functional brain differences would include functional magnetic resonance imaging study of the use of the amygdala over the frontal lobes and further evidence that the frontal lobes do regulate the activity of the amygdala.

From  ref643 —  Your Brain Is a Mosaic of Male and Female
“Our study demonstrates that although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females, nor are they aligned along a ‘male brain–female brain’ continuum.

From  ref955 —  Sex beyond the genitalia — The human brain mosaic (The National Academy of the USA)

Our results demonstrate that regardless of the cause of observed sex/gender differences in brain and behavior (nature or nurture), human brains cannot be categorized into two distinct classes: male brain/female brain.
Sexual dimorphism is in the hypothalamus

As is well known (?), sexual differentiation is strongly influenced by the presence or absence of gonadal steriod hormones during certain critical periods of prenatal development in many species including humans.

Not only are the external genitalia and other physical features sexually differentiated but certain regions of the brain have also been found to be sexually dimorphic and differentially senstitive to steriods, particularly the preoptic area and ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus, as well as the amygdala     (Dimorphic — Existing or occurring in two distinct forms)

Although the etiology of homosexuality remains in question, it has been shown that the ventromedial and anterior nuclei of the hypothalamus of male homosexuals demonstrate the female pattern of development.

When coupled with the evidence of male vs female and homosexual differences in the anterior commissure which links the temporal lobe and sexually dimorphic amygdala (see below) as well as the similarity between male homosexuals and women in regard to certain cognitive attributes including spatial-perceptual capability (see below), this raises the possibility that male homosexuals are in possession of limbic system that is more “female” than “male” in functional as well as structural orientation.

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