“what are you missing from what is really there?” is confusing. It seems that I must be missing a lot at any given moment. At the same time, what is being constructed instantaneously in my cortex, via a “visual intelligence” with its highly efficient and mysterious processes, seems to be complete and complex. Since I don’t know how much it differs from reality, I could also ask “what is reality missing from what I am seeing?” I can imagine that a lot is happening that I can not see or sense, and I wonder if what I am perceiving is based on filling in the gaps of perception (reconstructing), or based on some other constructive principle.
Eric Rosenthal said that frogs’ tongues are directly controlled by their senses, a connection that bypasses the brain, allowing the frog to more quickly tongue-slap a fly. Parts of Jaynes’ explanation suggest that our reactions and decisions, while they happen in the brain, similarly bypasses our conscious thought. We process visual input in the cortex quickly and effectively. According to him, we can learn, see, process what we see, talk, and so also think, without the use of the conscious mind. The conscious seems to behave more as a narrator, cheerleader, analyzer, and observer, than an actor.
Exposing the other-than-conscious part of the thought process is useful, because we can mess with it better if we understand it. We can also understand it better if we mess with it. Design decisions that appeal to or help guide the irrational processes, can have significant effects, as in the organ donor example in Ariely‘s talk.
I loved reading Jaynes’ explanation for the presence of auditory hallucinations and advisory gods throughout the ages. The concept of the bicameral mind was completely new to me. He says it likely that our concept of conscious thought, and I think our identifying with it as the “self”, developed after an older model of thought disolved, one where the would-be consciousness is a voice of a god or other being, an actual auditory hallucination. In this bicamera model, the decisions and ideas still come from the non-conscious mind, but are actuated through the voice of an other. In the current model, we are just a slightly schizophrenic version of this model, acknowledging the voice as our own; identifying with both parts of the mind. Therefore the idea that it exists in the head and the brain, where we process information, is new, as is the idea that we have conscious thought based on the processing of perceptions. Since he suggests that there are dormant remnants of this style of thinking still in us, it makes me see schizophrenia, imaginary friends, and some art in an exciting new light, and opens up interesting avenues for investigation. I would like to know more about this idea, especially how, without self-consciousness, identity is ascribed, both to the self and the other, weather it is a god or a person.
If decisions are made outside of the consciousness, as was also suggested by other books like Nudge, Freakanomics, Blink, then it is important to understand how this part of our minds work. Apparently engaging the irrational mind in a rational and correct way could lead to rational decisions, but trying to do this seems cyclical and dangerous.
In a way it seems obvious, and I thought a lot, especially while reading Nudge, that their suggestions for “nudges”, appeals to the irrational sides of people, as in the DMV example of Ariely’s lecture, are common sense design questions. So while there seems to be a need to express these things in social, scientific, and economics-terms and there is a lot left to figure out on the physical level, designers have always had to design for these irrationalities, so they should continue to lead the way. I am really interested in how the two minds, conscious and other, influence each other. For example, once the conscious mind becomes aware of the influence of the irrational side of the brain, do the same influences continue to be important? Can the two sides mix up their respective processes? Or is the decision made instantaneously, as in Blink, with the speed of workings in the cortex described in Visual Intelligence, and the conscious mind is more of an observer / retrospective analyzer?
What is not obvious at all is that my consciousness, and maybe sense of self and free will, could be an illusion as well, one that developed in the void of the disappearance of the bicameral model of projecting decisions and narration onto another imaginary being, or god. (Which hurts my feelings, as I like to consider my post god model as more evolved, not equally illusory). The conscious model of the self is more individualistic, more useful in the post agrarian world, whereas the other provided a good control mechanism for group labor. It is less susceptible to direct influence from others. Whereas the group oriented projection of decisions and instructions onto a divine object, being, or person with divine powers, this model gives the individual control. Nobody can directly tell you what you are thinking. This conscious model can only be influenced by influencing the sensual perceptions that direct your thoughts. According to Jaynes, this conscious model thought paradigm shift happened only one hundred generations ago. As our conscious model continues to evolve, the way that we use these perceptions for communication and group influence also develop new models. . . . (probably.)