The Human Mind: An Introduction to Mind, Brain, and Behavior   
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
A fundamental theme of this class is going to be the scientific approach to the study of the mind. Science is essentially an extension of Western philosophy, specifically of the philosophy of epistemology. This is the study of the nature of knowledge, or “how you know what you know.” There are a few important scientific concepts that will be foundational for this class: an empirical approach to knowledge, falsifiability of ideas, and how to have scientific knowledge of something that is not …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
I have added in the first three topics as additional analysis on some difficult issues this class addresses, in an attempt to explain away some misunderstandings before they have a chance to set in. The false dichotomy The long-standing debate over nature vs. nurture has not only been found to be irrelevant (because every single characteristic is both), but is a very poor way of looking at psychological phenomena, or any physical characteristic for that matter, because it sets up a false di …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
This lecture is about the modern study of the human mind, or cognitive science. The general approach integrates findings and approaches from many fields including biology and computer science, especially the field of artificial intelligence. In this approach the brain can be seen as an information-processor, (which is what a computer does) that has been "designed" or "engineered" by evolution (I use these words metaphorically, it is not consciously designed as is explained next lecture). Informa …
Tags: kyle
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
The Astonishing Hypothesis "The Astonishing Hypothesis" is that all our beliefs, desires, feelings, and thinking are a product of the brain. The brain is the engine of reason and the seat of what has traditionally been referred to as the soul. This seems obvious but there is still a very persistent fallacy, namely, the "brain-as- PDA fallacy." This fallacy is that your brain is like your personal digital assistant that stores your memories, does calculations, etc. This misses the point that …
Tags: kyle
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
Neurons Neural computation is important because it is the mechanism that the brain uses to create the mind. This is the neurobiological level of study and corresponds to the hardware of our computational organ. This is the lowest level of abstraction in psychological analysis and inquiry, and is the bridge connecting physical processes and psychological processes. The brain's units are neurons and look like this: Neurons work using electrochemistry. They use sodium-potassium pumps to …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
This lecture deals with how we get 3-d perception from two 2-d images on our retinas, as well as the basis of stereoscopic vision (depth perception). Illusions Illusions are extremely important because they give us a tool with which to study perception, as well as illustrate the predictable fallibility of visual perception. Illusions negate the position of naive realism, which is held by most people, and is the belief that we just open our eyes and experience the objective structure of t …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
The world is full of objects in three-dimensional space, but our retinal images are two dimensional images with all the images smooshed together. One of the major tasks of perception is to recover objects and scenes and make sense of the 2-d images. M.C. Escher's drawings show how fallible this can be. Furthermore, before we get into this subject it should be noted how different vision is than one would perceive it to be. If a person was asked about vision who knew nothing about how perception w …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
The Computational Theory of Mind is powerful not just as an explanatory device, but also because it directs research and describes how questions of the mind should be framed. The research program outlined by the Computational Theory of Mind is one which specifies mental representations, algorithms, inputs, and outputs, just as an analysis of a computer program would be described. This is called the Cognitive Architecture analogously to computer program architecture. Cognitive scientists ask "wha …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
Memory The most fundamental distinction in memory is between short-term and long-term memory, but this can be broken up quite a bit further as well. There is extensive experimental evidence for this distinction. When a list of words is given and people are told to memorize it they exhibit what are known as primacy effects and recency effects. The primacy effect is that people remember the words presented at the beginning of the list better than those in the middle. The recency effect is that …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
"Systematically inaccurate mental models of the world can [often] confer functional benefits to organisms whose aim is not to explain the world but rather to survive and reproduce in it" -from a piece by Peter M. Todd, Ralph Hertwig, & Ulrich Hoffrage This lecture has a theme that has been present throughout the class, but is especially relevant for understanding concepts and reasoning. That is, that our minds are structured in such a way as to maximize survival and reproduction, and are the …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
Language is an immensely important human universal. It has vast expressive power as a result of its rule-based combinatorial structure. Many have in fact argued that language is the primary reason that humans have taken over all of the terrestrial ecosystems on earth. As a social species language is immensely important to help us communicate and coordinate our actions. Language is a human universal, and unlike other things that have become universal (such as coca-cola and math), language is not …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
I am going to start this blog by clarifying two related technical terms, domain general and domain specific, that will be used in this lecture. These terms are related to the history of psychology and an ongoing debate as to how specific aspects of cognition are processed. The traditional view is that we have abilities that we use to solve problems across the board like "learning," or "higher reasoning," or some "statistical mechanism," which we then apply to morality, language, social behavior, …
Tags: kyle
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
I just want to briefly mention that up to this point this class has dealt with the brain's communication processes as local, acting at the level of the neuron, and this lecture is working with endocrine communication, which is much more extended in its action, and can include the whole body. Endocrine communication just means "hormones," which are chemicals released by one cell or organ, which diffuse into the blood stream, and are thus spread all over the body (unlike neurotransmitters, which r …
Tags: kyle
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
This lecture is going to deal with social emotions that do not involve mating and kinship, which will be dealt with in a future lecture. These are social/moral emotions but are a fundamentally different kind of social emotion due to how evolution works, and so will be dealt with next lecture. This lecture will also be using concepts developed in the mathematical world of game theory, specifically the prisoner's dilemma and the game of chicken, so I am going to discuss these right here first. …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
One way in which altruism can evolve without invoking group level selection/adaptation is reciprocity, which was discussed last lecture, this lecture will be about another way in which selfish genes can create altruistic individuals. Reciprocity works when the benefits that individuals receive through reciprocal altruism outweigh the costs invested by each. There is another way though in which selfish genes can engineer unselfish organisms, and that is through kin selection. Kin selection basica …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
Love and sex has been a touchy topic historically because of its immense importance, and strong emotions, which are overlaid on a system that is fraught with conflict, which seems to exist between any logical arrangement of individuals, mate-mate, male-male, female-female, cross-generational, etc. This comes from the remarkable complexity of sexual strategies from an ultimate level perspective. Up to this point we have illustrated a couple of scenarios which breed conflict, such as offspring …
Tags: kyle
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
This is just a continuation of last lecture, and will pick up where the last blog left off. Psychology of Beauty The hypothesis that will be advocated in this lecture is that beauty is an external cue for the biological fitness of other people (especially as mates). Beauty is important for a number of different, apparently unrelated, interpersonal evaluations, where pretty people are seen as smarter, kinder, more honest, stronger, more nurturant and sensitive, and more sociable and o …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
"[Without organized society] there is no place for industry, because the fruit thereof is uncertain: and consequently no culture of the earth; no navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, soli …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
The lecture opens with a video of a classic set of experiments known as the Milgram Experiments that tested obedience to authority. These experiments were a direct product of trying to understand how atrocities such as the holocaust could have been carried out. Here's more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiments Milgram Experiment The bloody 20th centuryDeath statistics from the 20th century are horrifyingly large with many "industrial scale genocides." Dr. Pinker offe …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
There are two extreme views of the self: the romantic theory of the authentic self, and Erving Goffman's theory of the self as an actor from his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. The first view is the common sense view that we have a "true self" and we change a small bit given the social circumstances. The second view says that it is "social masks" all the way down, that is we act so different in different situations that there is no "true self" just a collection of "selfs" that we …
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Saturday, November 9, 2013
Written by [Kyle Thomas](https://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=27495990) I am going to introduce the second law of thermodynamics here just to illustrate the importance of evolution in explaining life. I would recommend reading Cosmides and Tooby's Primer of Evolutionary Psychology to really understand the connection of evolution and psychology: Primer of Evolutionary Psychology The second law of thermodynamics is the first law of psychology In order to understand the r …
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