Monday, December 29, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
"Gigerenzer, a leading expert and author on heuristics, won the AAAS Prize for the best article in the behavioral sciences. He is the author of Calculated Risks: How To Know When Numbers Deceive You, the German translation of which won the Scientific Book of the Year Prize in 2002. His books on heuristics include Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox, with Reinhard Selten, a Nobel laureate in economics - UCSD
Acccording to the speaker, human beings tend to think of intelligence as a deliberate, conscious activity guided by the laws of logic. Yet, he argues, much of our mental life is unconscious, based on processes alien to logic: gut feelings, or intuitions. Dr. Gigerenzer argues that intuition is more than impulse and caprice; it has its own rationale. This can be described by fast and frugal heuristics, which exploit evolved abilities in the human brain. Heuristics ignore information and try to focus on the few important reasons. Says Gigerenzer: "More information, more time, even more thinking, are not always better, and less can be more."
Here is his talk on Fora.TV
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Dr. Ornstein has taught at the University of California Medical Center and Stanford University, and he has lectured at more than 200 colleges and universities in the U.S. and overseas. He is the president and founder of the Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge (ISHK), an educational nonprofit dedicated to bringing important discoveries concerning human nature to the general public.
Among his many honors and awards are the UNESCO award for Best Contribution to Psychology and the American Psychological Foundation Media Award "for increasing the public understanding of psychology." Source
He has written many books on topics ranging from meditation to mental health with many different famous authors.
In a radio talk he talks about his book mind real and how mind construct his own reality.
He is best known for his pioneering research on the bilateral specialization of the brain, which has given us the terms "right brain" and "left brain" and firmly established them as important concepts in today's lexicon. But just as significant have been his other contributions, among them:
- The pioneering delineation of the close link between the mind and health;
- The initial integration of key insights about human nature from traditional cultures into the framework of modern psychology;
- The depiction of the mind as composed of multiple processing systems rather than being a unified whole;
- The insight that our brain, evolved to suit the conditions of the Pleistocene era, is obsolete in its "software" to meet the formidable challenges of the 21st century and the call for "conscious evolution" to enable the necessary adaptation. Source
Thursday, December 18, 2008
The work in behavioral Economics/finance shows the irrational side in human decision making.
Why we are attracted to irrational behavior? The question is answered by Ori Brafman and Rom Brafman in this video.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
He concludes his presentation by elevating the role of cerebral cortex which provides us with the flexibility of thinking functions and allows us to override the instinctual programs that are coded into our genes.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
A rare photograph showing an Orangutan hunting using a spear
Another picture showing a young primate learning to stand up to his dad
A video showing a Chimpanzee learning to ride a segway
This shows that learning is an activity practiced by all living creatures. The easiest form of learning is accomplished by "Mimicry" and "Conditioning"
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
The species is best characterized as female-centered and egalitarian and as one that substitutes sex for aggression. Whereas in most other species sexual behavior is a fairly distinct category, in the bonobo it is part and parcel of social relations--and not just between males and females. Bonobos engage in sex in virtually every partner combination (although such contact among close family members may be suppressed). And sexual interactions occur more often among bonobos than among other primates. Despite the frequency of sex, the bonobo's rate of reproduction in the wild is about the same as that of the chimpanzee. A female gives birth to a single infant at intervals of between five and six years. So bonobos share at least one very important characteristic with our own species, namely, a partial separation between sex and reproduction.
Until now bonobos were thought to be very different, living largely peaceful lives and restricting their meat consumption to small forest antelopes, squirrels and rodents.
But the new research has shown that, like the common chimpanzee, bonobos are not above pursuing, killing and eating their primate cousins.
Also, the work of Primatologists Robert Spalosky among Baboons shows a hierarchical social structure among these monkeys. His publication The Influence of Social Hierarchy on Primate Health" studies the effect of Social Hierarchy on health.
Dominance hierarchies occur in numerous social species, and rank within them can greatly influence the quality of life of an animal. In this review, I consider how rank can also influence physiology and health. I first consider whether it is high- or low-ranking animals that are most stressed in a dominance hierarchy; this turns out to vary as a function of the social organization in different species and populations. I then review how the stressful characteristics of social rank have adverse adrenocortical, cardiovascular, reproductive, immunological, and neurobiological consequences. Finally, I consider how these findings apply to the human realm of health, disease, and socioeconomic status.
What is intereseting is that there are lots of similarities between humans and apes. We have similar genetic make up. We have similar hierarchical social system. We also suffer from similar diseases and have a finite life span.The major differences between us and them is the use of language that creates a sophisticated cultural environment and extensive use of tools that allows us to create "Engineered Environment" that sets us apart from the nature our source of origin.
The attempt to run away and hide in an "Engineered Environment" supported by inter personal relations mediated through the rules dictated by the prevailing culture, is causing lot of internal conflicts. Where our natural instincts pull us in one direction while the cultural environment pushes us in totally opposite direction.
We are the only species living with an internal conflict on the earth. We can not wish this internal conflict away. No amount of talk about love,peace and compassion will make this conflict go away unless we develop a deeper understanding of this inner conflict and find some creative solution to overcome this inner conflict.
The famous American author Mark Twain, an astute observer of human nature, wrote an essay "What is Man" . He did not publish the essay while he was alive because he thought that that his essay that contained his original insight about the nature of man may not be accepted too well. The essay was published after his death.
O.M. Yes, the half-dozen others are modifications of the extremes. But the law is the same. Where the temperament is two-thirds happy, or two-thirds unhappy, no political or religious beliefs can change the proportions. The vast majority of temperaments are pretty equally balanced; the intensities are absent, and this enables a nation to learn to accommodate itself to its political and religious circumstances and like them, be satisfied with them, at last prefer them. Nations do not THINK, they only FEEL. They get their feelings at second hand through their temperaments, not their brains. A nation can be brought--by force of circumstances, not argument--to reconcile itself to ANY KIND OF GOVERNMENT OR RELIGION THAT CAN BE DEVISED; in time it will fit itself to the required conditions; later, it will prefer them and will fiercely fight for them. As instances, you have all history: the Greeks, the Romans, the Persians, the Egyptians, the Russians, the Germans, the French, the English, the Spaniards, the Americans, the South Americans, the Japanese, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Turks--a thousand wild and tame religions, every kind of government that can be thought of, from tiger to house-cat, each nation KNOWING it has the only true religion and the only sane system of government, each despising all the others, each an ass and not suspecting it, each proud of its fancied supremacy, each perfectly sure it is the pet of God, each without undoubting confidence summoning Him to take command in time of war, each surprised when He goes over to the enemy, but by habit able to excuse it and resume compliments--in a word, the whole human race content, always content, persistently content, indestructibly content, happy, thankful, proud, NO MATTER WHAT ITS RELIGION IS, NOR WHETHER ITS MASTER BE TIGER OR HOUSE-CAT. Am I stating facts? You know I am. Is the human race cheerful? You know it is. Considering what it can stand, and be happy, you do me too much honor when you think that can place before it a system of plain cold facts that can take the cheerfulness out of it. Nothing can do that. Everything has been tried. Without success. I beg you not to be troubled.The long essay was written by Mark Twain around 1900. That shows that even cultural evolution is a slow process. Human nature has remained unchanged despite the changes in the Engineered tools and Environment around them.
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Another video with more details on how to cope with Stress
Additional Information from Stanford University Web site on Stress
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
Click on the full screen icon at the bottom of the presentation panel to see a full screen view of this presentation.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
A ZDNnet article with a video demonstration showing the capability of man machine communication.
At the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco, the company's Justin Rattner talks to Emotiv Systems President Tan Le about new interface technologies that are making humans more like machines. In a demo for conference attendees, Le shows a headset Emotiv developed that can track electrical signals in the brain and interact with content on a PC.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Dr. Benson is a pioneer in mind/body medicine, one of the first Western physicians to bring spirituality and healing into medicine. In his 35+ year career, he has defined the relaxation response and continues to lead teaching and research into its efficacy in counteracting the harmful effects of stress. The recipient of numerous national and international awards, Dr. Benson lectures widely about mind/body medicine and the BHI's work. His expertise is frequently sought by national and international news media, and he appears in scores of newspapers, magazines, and television programs each year. Dr. Benson's research extends from the laboratory to the clinic to Asian field expeditions. His work serves as a bridge between medicine and religion, East and West, mind and body, and belief and science.
His work on meditation is further enhanced by Jon Kabat-Zinn who is a practicing mindfulness meditation practitioner and educator along with his background in traditional medicine. His brief bio
Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., is a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher engaged in bringing mindfulness into the mainstream of medicine and society. He gives public talks and workshops throughout the world on mindfulness and its applications for moving toward greater sanity and balance in today's multitasking, high-speed world. He is professor of medicine emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where he was founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society, and founder and former director of its world-renowned Stress Reduction Clinic.The video here shows him leading an hour long session of mindful meditation at Google.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
One of the functions of the brain is to receive outside information through the five senses of vision, sound, smell,taste and touch and create a worldview for us out of this sensory data. The vision is the most dominant sense and plays a larger role in this process. It helps us in identifying objects. It helps us moving through the space and also to avert any potential dangers. In other words it has served us well. We rely on it.
Is it really hundred percent accurate? We would think that that is the case but that worldview is not hundred percent accurate. The magicians have devised elaborate tricks to deceive our visual sense. They use sleigh of hand to create an illusioray reality that defies our common sense but appears to be true. In most of the cases magicians use the quirks of the human vision system to design the magic tricks beside the older tricks based upon hypnotism. That itself is based upon the highly suggestible nature of human mind.
Here is a demonstration of some of these tricks by Magician Keith Barry at TED talk to show that how easy it is to trick the human mind in making it believe in alternate reality.
First, Keith Barry shows us how our brains can fool our bodies -- in a trick that works via podcast too. Then he involves the audience in some jaw-dropping (and even a bit dangerous) feats of brain magic.
Study of Optical Illusion is a well known area of Psychology. The psychologists have designed all kind of visual illusion to study the property of vision. Here is a list of some of the well known visual illusion designed by Psychologists. From these studies one can draw a general conclusion that our sense of vision is essential but it is not perfect as we would like to think. It could provide us with wrong conclusion and it can be manipulated or tricked into believing something that may or may not be true.
Recently neuroscientists collaborated with magicians and reported their findings in Nature Reviews Neuroscience journal. The article is available online here with the following title:
Attention and awareness in stage magic: turning tricks into research
authors: Stephen L. Macknik1, Mac King, James Randi2, Apollo Robbins, Teller, John Thompson & Susana Martinez-Conde
The article abstract:
Just as vision scientists study visual art and illusions to elucidate the workings of the visual system, so too can cognitive scientists study cognitive illusions to elucidate the underpinnings of cognition. Magic shows are a manifestation of accomplished magic performers' deep intuition for and understanding of human attention and awareness. By studying magicians and their techniques, neuroscientists can learn powerful methods to manipulate attention and awareness in the laboratory. Such methods could be exploited to directly study the behavioural and neural basis of consciousness itself, for instance through the use of brain imaging and other neural recording techniques.
The study is very important in the sense that it brings knowledgeable people from two diverse areas of neuroscience and magic together to solve the riddle of the human cognition.
The last sentence of the study's abstract is I think a bit of a stretch because we are really not sure what constitute consciousness. It will be a while till we piece all the information from scientific studies together to establish a one unified theory of consciousness if possible because there is a very strong possibility that we may end up not one but many consciousnesses fulfilling the demands placed upon us to survive in a dynamic world.
These studies does however, show that we do not possess perfect senses. We need to be extra careful when we are trying to base our decisions on the information we receive from ours senses.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
It is convenient to compare the neural processing of information in the brain to the information processing in a computing device. However, the two of these devices process information in a very different manner. The computer is good at crunching numbers and working with the binary representation of the symbols. The computer can hold massive amount of information on storage devices. Human brain is not very good either at storing vast amount of information or doing quick number crunching. Its main strenght lies in being an excellent pattern recognizer. It can recognize things even if the presented with incomplete information. This observation has lead to the development of an area in computing also known as Neural Computing in which approximate model of neural network are simulated on a computer.
This short video shows a beautiful animation of neurons in the brain. How they are connected and how they function.
The adult human brain weighs about 3 pounds (1,300-1,400 g).
The adult human brain is about 2% of the total body weight.
The average human brain is 140 mm wide.
The average human brain is 167 mm long.
The average human brain is 93 mm high.
The human brain has about 100,000,000,000 (100 billion) neurons.
The total surface area of the cerebral cortex is about 2500 sq. cm (~2.5 ft2)
Neurons multiply at a rate 250,000 neurons/minute during early pregnancy.
The weight of an adult human cerebellum is 150 g.There are 12 pairs of cranial nerves.
There are 31 pairs of spinal nerves.
There are about 13,500,00 neurons in the human spinal cord.The total number of human olfactory receptor cells is about 40 million.There are 1,000 to 10,000 synapses for a "typical" neuron.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
A talk like this forces us to rethink our priorities. We can go to the moon. We can create all kinds of the technological marvels but we still have not gained much control over life and death. None of us really know why we were born or how or when or why we will die. We can create all kind of explanation to answer these questions but the truth of the matter is that answer to these questions is unknowable.
There was an old Indian Movie titled "Anand" in which the lead character played by Rajesh Khanna, was dying of cancer. He also showed a playful side facing his death while everybody around him was sad and upset. However, he was just a fictional movie character. In Randy Paush we have a real human being who faced his death with courage and he will inspire us all to do the same
Friday, July 11, 2008
is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Behavioral Economics at MIT, where he holds a joint appointment between MIT's Media Laboratory and the Sloan School of Management. He is also a researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and a visiting professor at Duke University. Ariely wrote this book while he was a fellow at the Institute for Advance Study at Princeton.presented a talk at Google about his book "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions." His main thesis refutes the original assumption that humans are "Homo Economus" i.e. rational human beings who always act in their best interest and who always try to maximize their profits. A youtube description of his talk:
In a series of illuminating, often surprising experiments, MIT behavioral economist Dan Ariely refutes the common assumption that we behave in fundamentally rational ways. Blending everyday experience with groundbreaking research, Ariely explains how expectations, emotions, social norms, and other invisible, seemingly illogical forces skew our reasoning abilities. Not only do we make astonishingly simple mistakes every day, but we make the same types of mistakes, Ariely discovers. We consistently overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. We fail to understand the profound effects of our emotions on what we want, and we overvalue what we already own. Yet these misguided behaviors are neither random nor senseless. They're systematic and predictable—making us predictably irrational.and the video
His work in the area of behavioral finance continues the work started by Amos Nathan Tversky, who was a cognitive and mathmatical psychologists. He worked very closely with Daniel Kahnemann a Noble Prize winning researcher to show conclusively about the hidden biases in the human decision making process. Their findings in the area of behavioral finance question the assumption of human beings acting totally in a rational manner.
The picture that emerges out of these findings portrays us more like "rationalizing beings" rather then "rational beings" or we could say that we use reason and logic as tools to create new knowledge but the process that leads to rational self consistent knowledge is not rational itself.
These findings of human behavior as non-rational are also being supported by the work in the area of Cognitive, Affective and behavioral Neuroscience.
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
The strong evidence to support this came from the studies of split brain patients. These patients were suffering from acute seizures and to stop the seizure from spreading to the entire brain the best course was to split the two halves of the brain through brain surgery.
The surgery was successful as anticipated in reducing the brain seizures but had some side effects. These patients were subjected to many scientific studies to see the effect of the surgery on their brain functioning by pioneering neuroscientist Dr. Michael Gazzaniga. Here is a video where Dr. Gazzaniga is interviewing a split brain patient:
The video clearly shows that the patient despite appearing completely normal has lost some of his ability to relate and interpret external items. Also, it shows how the left side brain acts as a interpreter and creates a story even if the story does not support the facts.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Dr. Medina uses his expertise and experience he has acquired over the years from his research work in molecular biology dealing with brain's functioning to formulate 12 cardinal rules to succeed in work, school and at home . The rules are:
EXERCISE | Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.These rules reinforce the existing common sense rules of good living like exercising, sleeping well and reducing the stress. Some of these rules can act as guidelines for developing successful elearning modules like rule#10.
Evolution SURVIVAL | Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
WIRING | Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
ATTENTION | Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
SHORT-TERM MEMORY | Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
LONG-TERM MEMORY | Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
SLEEP | Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
STRESS | Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
SENSORY INTEGRATION | Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
VISION | Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
GENDER | Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
EXPLORATION | Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.
Here is a beautiful slide presentation emphasizing these rules.
His talk at Google
Sunday, June 08, 2008
The author of the article took a trip to Peru and participated in a ceremony that involved ingestion of Ayahausca in a ceremonial setting that lasted several days under the guidance of an experienced Shaman from Peru. Here are some of the quotes from the article describing the experience of the author during the trance state induced by the ingestion of ayahausa
For centuries, Amazonian shamans have used ayahuasca as a window into the soul. The sacrament, they claim, can cure any illness. The author joins in this ancient ritual and finds the worlds within more terrifying—and enlightening—than ever imagined.
Here the author describes her experience using the metaphor of time travel
Now I'm traveling to a realm where I meet my various incarnations from past lives. We are connected to a large wheel; whenever fear energy leaves the top of my head in puffs of dark smoke, it leaves their heads at the same time. Our lives, it seems, are interconnected and dependent. Outside of linear time, all our lifetimes, all our many incarnations, occur simultaneously. "Past life" is really a misnomer; "other life" seems a more accurate way of describing it.
More on the author experience while in trance
All at once, I willed myself to rise. I sailed up through the tunnel of fire, higher and higher until I broke through to a white light. All darkness immediately vanished. My body felt light, at peace. I floated among a beautiful spread of colors and patterns. Slowly my ayahuasca vision faded. I returned to my body, to where I lay in the hut, insects calling from the jungle.
and her recovery from severe depression that she suffered since her childhood
The next morning, I discovered the impossible: The severe depression that had ruled my life since childhood had miraculously vanished.Here the author goes into the differences between the world views of the western analytic thought processes and the ancient mystical symbolic understanding of the Universe:
And this notion of a spiritual experience marks the very juncture where Western science and analytic thought depart on the subject of ayahuasca and where indigenous culture and mysticism come in. Most ayahuasca researchers agree that, curiously, the compound appears to affect people on three different levels—the physical, psychological, and spiritual—complicating efforts to definitively catalog its effects, let alone explain specific therapeutic benefits. Says Ralph Metzner, psychologist, ayahuasca researcher, and editor of the book Sacred Vine of Spirits, "[Healing with ayahuasca] presumes a completely different understanding of illness and medicine than what we are accustomed to in the West. But even from the point of view of Western medicine and psychotherapy it is clear that remarkable physical healings and resolutions of psychological difficulties can occur with this medicine."Here is her final thoughts
Me, I'm ready to go home. I sit up with difficulty, as if waking from decades of sleep. It would be easier for me to call it all a dream, a grand hallucination. Then I could have my old world back, in which I thought I knew what was real and unreal, true and untrue. Now the problem is, I don't know anything.The Shaman practices for inner mental development are designed to show that we can construct a different reality from the same sensory inputs by making our neurons to process the same sensory data differently by influencing the processing abilities of neurons through the use of psychoactive drugs.
These experiments and the scientific experiments with visual illusions where scientists have created pictures that our brain can not process coherently raises a serious issue. That is how much we should actually rely on our senses to find the truth or how much we should really trust the world view constructed based upon our sensory perceptions and experiences.
The physical senses helps us orient ourselves in the world. They helps us navigate through the spatial-temporal space without running into other objects. Also, to identify and avoid dangerous objects. They are definitely an aid without which we can not survive but they also create a phantasm through over active imagination caused by incessant firing of neurons within the brain that do not have any existence in the reality.
This experimentation with Ayahusaca proves that the brain created reality that is also referred to as imagination of minds is a constructed reality and there are several possible constructions of the same reality depending upon how the neurons are conditions or modified to process this sensory input.
In the final analysis it is up to us on how much weight we should assign to this our own brain constructed reality that can very easily be changed by ingesting some psychoactive drug or through other means such as intense religious practices of fasting or meditation involving breathing practices.
Also, no theory of consciousness and mind will be complete unless it provides a satisfactory explanation for the experiences of brain in the altered states.
The article has a small video of the ceremony and the complete article is here
Disclaimer: This article in no way and form is endorsing the use of drugs to achieve altered state of minds. The information provided in this post is for informational purposes only.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
Mindfulness meditation, one type of meditation technique, has been shown to enhance emotional awareness and psychological flexibility as well as induce well
Friday, May 16, 2008
An overview of how designing for emotion relates to UX and flow, how the appearance and interaction of products communicate a personality to the user, and how emotions can be "chained" to enhance persuasion and influence behaviour.
This slide show lays down the ground work for designing user interfaces that provide an emotional user experience. It has been known for a while that learning process requires learner to be in an aroused state but very little attention has been paid on how to design digital user interfaces that are emotionally arousing and gratifying. The role of flow as suggested by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi in learning process need more consideration. There is a complete article in Psychology Today describing "Flow" experience.
At this point there are very few guidelines on how to design virtual learning spaces those provide a learning experience that is emotionally gratifying and creates optimal learning conditions by creating a state of flow within the learner.