Friday, October 23, 2009

99% of Perception is Decision

Confession here--when I first saw the actual title of this video, a prejudice kicked in. Over the years, I have become very cynical about claims that computer programmers can build virtual versions of the human brain--supercomputer or otherwise. So, I almost didn't watch this video because of a pre-decided condition, one that is actually hypocritical considering my interest in cognition. I don't feel all too horrible about it. First off, it is a very common occurance in humans, even those who should know better. Second, and more importantly, my conscience pointed out my hypocrisy and nagged me until I made a commitment to watch this--thus maintaining my intellectual integrity on the matter.

I am so glad I watched this video. Because instead of seeing a theory built on narrowly conceived philosophies, I saw something that included perception as well as neuron activity. With no disrespect to Jeff Hawkins*, Henry Markham and his colleagues have a fuller theory of the brain, one that consists of holistic elements, as well as detailed ones. Their theory isn't stuck into a left brain world, but embraces both hemispheres of the brain--and the graphics used to show their points are not only extremely artistic, fascinating, beautiful and informative, but also examples of right brain/left brain cooperation. Their calculations are not only the mathematical, molecular side. These scientists actually have stepped backed and analyzed the big picture patterns of their results, realizing that they need to understand the "forest" in their work, as well as the "leaves".

I am tempted to say everyone should see this video; however, realistically, this video will be of more interest to you if you also have a fascination with cognition and perception. I will still maintain that those in the field of psychology and counseling, or consider themselves "scientific" should watch this video. You cannot understand a person or data, without understanding how your mind and others perceive it. You will be doing yourself a major diservice if you don't watch the following video:

Highlights for the less excited about brain science:

  • 2 billion people are affected by mental illness in the world today.
  • The theory they are using specifically - "The brain builds a version of the universe and projects this version of the universe, like a bubble, all around us."
  • Finally gives a decent explanation for an optical illusion that was considered unexplained - why the moon looks so big at the horizon. It's not because of light bending. It's because we make it fit our other visual references.
  • Explains how anesthetics work. They doen't put the brain to sleep, they create a static noise in the brain that keeps the neurons from talking to each other. I think this may explain why hypnosis can be used instead.
  • "99% of what you see does not come in through the eyes. It is what you infer about that room." This is why people can look at the same thing and come to vastly differing conclusions. In counseling, it is why it is important to understand how the client perceives things and why they are the ones who actually have to be part of the creation of a healthier mentality. You can't just overlay your perceptions on other people.
  • Shows that for the next hundred years, we can set aside the philosophical side of the above point and ask concrete questions about the brain's ability to do this, which can be tested scientifically.
  • Mammals need a more complex brain because they had to deal with parenting, social interactions, and complex cognitive functions.
  • Excellently done video clips that help explain brain development and structure.
  • Shows how details and general overviews can work together, allowing a better understanding of our world.
  • "The most important design secret of the brain is diversity."
  • Shows in mathematical graphic how we can be different on the "leaf" level and still be alike on the "forest" level.
  • Looking at the raw electical energy and the forms created by it, within the neocortical column.

*I still that Jeff Hawkins is correct with his theory of intelligence. He just doesn't expand it to perception.

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