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Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison) 
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 Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)

Please use this thread to discuss the above chapter.



Mon Sep 21, 2015 11:28 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
i hope to read chapter 7 once i've recovered from my piano addiction :-D



Fri Dec 04, 2015 3:18 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
I just finished Ch. 7. This chapter is about our tendency (Harrison says compulsion) to find meaningful patterns in the background noise, which sometimes contributes to cognitive errors. He uses an excellent example of coin-tossing. If you flip a coin and get heads five times in a row, you may expect that you're due to get tails on the sixth toss. But every toss is fifty-fifty, no matter what came before. There's a reason why you can't beat the house.

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Michael Shermer, science historian and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, calls it “patternicity,” which he defines as follows: The tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data. 19 My minor quibble with that is that the word tendency makes this seem way too passive and infrequent. After many years of listening to people on six continents tell me about their miracles, visions, magical healings, and paranormal encounters, I would describe pareidolia as nothing less than a full-blown universal compulsion. It's as natural as breathing, I suspect.


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Fri Dec 04, 2015 10:29 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
a great quote geo and a fantastic point.

so often these seemingly simple points when meditated upon show incredible and far reaching implications.



Fri Dec 04, 2015 7:29 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
geo wrote:
This chapter is about our tendency (Harrison says compulsion) to find meaningful patterns in the background noise, which sometimes contributes to cognitive errors.
"Michael Shermer, science historian and founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, calls it “patternicity,” which he defines as follows: The tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless data."
I would describe pareidolia as nothing less than a full-blown universal compulsion. It's as natural as breathing, I suspect.

I just finished admonishing Interbane for imposing the "pattern" of knowledge assessment on the process of religion. I think what Interbane sees is an inaccurate picture of the matter, created more by his "compulsion" to examine facticity issues in detail and to ignore social process issues than by the actual reality of religion.

So yeah, I think pareidolia is pervasive, Harrison himself is subject to it, as he himself insists, and the best we can do is be on the lookout for confirmation bias induced by it.

Let a hundred flowers bloom, I say. You see one thing, I see another, and by discussing the matter, we assist the truth in emerging.



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Sat Dec 05, 2015 4:30 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Obviously our species would have been doomed without the endowment of being able to detect patterns in events and phenomena, so patterns are bound to crop up all over the place, even when we're creating dots that aren't really there to connect. It could be another instance of evolution favoring profligacy as the safest route to take.



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Sat Dec 05, 2015 9:15 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
Harry Marks wrote:
Let a hundred flowers bloom, I say. You see one thing, I see another, and by discussing the matter, we assist the truth in emerging.

Beautifully said.

I'm reminded of the two Gorgon sisters who shared one eye and one tooth. We need each other's viewpoints because every one of us is afflicted with the Dunning–Kruger effect to some degree.


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Sat Dec 05, 2015 10:31 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
DWill wrote:
Obviously our species would have been doomed without the endowment of being able to detect patterns in events and phenomena, so patterns are bound to crop up all over the place, even when we're creating dots that aren't really there to connect. It could be another instance of evolution favoring profligacy as the safest route to take.


Now that I have finished the chapter, I have some doubts about this presentation. Sure, seeing things that are not there is mostly pareidolia, but that is supposed to be created by the shadow brain, the "Fast Thinking" in "Thinking, Fast and Slow." But then Shermer and Harrison sneak it into use in declaring that less instantaneous perception of patterns (such as, "I was desperate, I prayed, and God opened up a parking spot") are the same phenomenon as seeing a tiger in the shadows of the forest when none is there.

Some work remains to be done. Specifically, there must be some requirements which distinguish the kinds of patterns which we continue to see because we perceived them once, as opposed to the ones we see fleetingly because we have a hair-trigger need to recognize a threat.

The difference is surely going to involve both the difficulty of "looking more closely" as we would for a tiger, and some process which makes us **want** to continue seeing Jesus in the grilled cheese sandwich, or whatever it is.



Mon Dec 14, 2015 4:28 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
In his Buddhism and Modern Psychology class, Robert Wright talks about a study by Jesse Prinz and Angelika Seidel that shows how the shadow brain is wired to look for danger and be able to react with a hair-trigger, but also highly influenced by emotions and expectations. Participants were shown a series of ambiguous pictures that looked like this:

Image

Before seeing the pictures, the participants were exposed to one of three different stimuli 1) no music 2) happy music or 3) scary music. Depending on what they heard, the participants saw different things. Here are the results as seen in the study.

Image

The happy music didn't have a very pronounced effect, but the scary music did. So, for example, with the last image, about 30 percent saw a snake when they were exposed to no music, but about 70 percent saw the snake after hearing the scary music.

The take away from this, according to Wright, is that it shows how our emotions clearly influence our perceptions. Our feelings aren't necessarily an accurate guide to reality, but most of the time they serve us well. Let's say we recently heard that someone was bitten by a poisonous snake. And so next time we go for a walk in the woods, we're going to be in a heightened state of awareness. We will be more likely to perceive anything remotely snake-like to be a snake. The cost of a false positive is very low. We jump when we see a stick on the ground and laugh it off. But if we don't jump and it turns out to be a snake, we might have just removed our genes from the gene pool.

I think this kind of pareidolia or pattern recognition is different from our face recognition tendencies. Our brains are finely tuned to recognize faces and look for vital clues that pertain to both social sphere and environment. Seeing fear or joy or disappointment in someone's face, for example, gives us a good clue as to how we should act. Run, hide, attack, look for food, have sex, etc. Seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich may be just a different kind of false positive akin to seeing a snake in coil of rope. But also is obviously very much influenced by our prevailing cultural beliefs and expectations.


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Mon Dec 14, 2015 10:17 pm
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
geo wrote:
In his Buddhism and Modern Psychology class, Robert Wright talks about a study by Jesse Prinz and Angelika Seidel that shows how the shadow brain is wired to look for danger and be able to react with a hair-trigger, but also highly influenced by emotions and expectations.


Very cool illustrations.

geo wrote:
Seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich may be just a different kind of false positive akin to seeing a snake in coil of rope. But also is obviously very much influenced by our prevailing cultural beliefs and expectations.


Yes, I think that is what I had in mind. Pattern recognition is a general ability of our nervous system, and a product of the shadow brain, but the "instantaneous" aspect of it is only relevant to the fact that the shadow brain can, in case of an emergency, act on its own without "vetting" its perceptions with "the boss."
If we thought we saw something that our conscious mind can verify to be probably impossible, then we do a double-take and realize that the perception was an illusion. So why do some perceptions resist such double-checking? Obviously culture plays a strong role.



Tue Dec 15, 2015 6:31 am
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Post Re: Ch. 7: The Shadow Brain ("Good Thinking" - by Guy P. Harrison)
I think you nailed it in your previous post. It's called motivated reasoning, which Harrison addresses at length.

Harry Marks wrote:
The difference is surely going to involve both the difficulty of "looking more closely" as we would for a tiger, and some process which makes us **want** to continue seeing Jesus in the grilled cheese sandwich, or whatever it is.


So when we think a stick on the ground is a snake and jump back, we immediately see our error and laugh it off. I've done this numerous times.

But seeing Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich is motivated from the start. It's pretty obvious I think why people want to believe in Jesus and look for him in the real world. The face on Mars is a similar situation. We see a pattern—a face—and should immediately realize it's just a random geographical feature. But a few people love the idea of intelligent life in the cosmos and see the face as evidence of a long-lost civilization or whatever.

Image


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