Daniel Dennett on Tools To Transform Our Thinking (2013)

Daniel Dennett on Tools To Transform Our Thinking
22nd May 2013

<43 glia computes

45:15 I'm sure there will always be things we will never understand

1:06:45 Behavioral Brain Sciences
Hugo Mercier & Dan Sperber
flaws on our reasoning
We're better at detecting the flaws at an opponent than at our own case
opponent process

1:16:25 Will our thinking be different, compared to the Greeks?
Yes, it's very clear that our thinking today is different than the ancient Greeks. …


Neuroscience, Free Will, and Responsibility (2014)

Neuroscience, Free Will, and Responsibility: The Current State of Play
Handbook of Neuroethics 2014,   pp 203-209
29 Sep 2014
Neil Levy

A number of psychologists and neuroscientists have argued that experimental findings about the psychological basis of human behavior demonstrate that we lack free will, or that it is limited in ways we do not realize.
… I examine Benjamin Libet’s work on the timing of awareness of action initiation, Daniel Wegner’s claim that acting and thinking that one is acting dissociate, and related experimental work, and suggest that the threat to free will is smaller than has often been thought. I then turn to the question whether the brain is deterministic, and situate that question within philosophical debates.
From global threats to free will, I move to local threats: the claim that the situationist literature in psychology shows that we lack free will under some circumstances.

Who’s In Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
New York, NY

the way in which the brain unifies the experience of these multiple modules into one stream of consciousness. It does this … through a form of post hoc interpretation which often distorts the truth. Thus while we may think that we jumped back because we saw a snake, in actual fact our jumping was an automatic evolutionary fight-or-flight response made before we were conscious of the snake’s presence.
Through Gazzaniga’s own research into split-brain patients it has even become possible to isolate the part of the left hemisphere which is responsible for explaining our actions and he calls this the interpreter module. It is this interpreter module which explains all the behaviors, thoughts and emotions arising from the rest of the brain. However, what this research also revealed was that the interpreter’s account is only as good as the information it receives, a fact which can be used to explain many otherwise puzzling neurological disorders. What is most striking, however, is the implications of the interpreter theory for questions of consciousness and free will. As Gazzaniga outlines, the role of the interpreter is to make sense of all things which we become aware of, but since consciousness is a slow process whatever has made it into our consciousness has in fact already happened. This inevitably leads to the question of whether we have any conscious control over our actions or whether in fact we are neurologically determined constructing our self-consciousness post hoc.

new theory of consciousness as simply the post hoc interpretation of events. The current consensus is that free will is an illusion created by the interpreter module.

studies of emergent phenomena have suggested that higher-order properties are irreducible to their constituent parts and may operate under very different rules.


The dark side of free will
Gregg Caruso | TEDxChemungRiver
TEDx Talks. Dec 9, 2014

Human volition: neuroscience of will

Human volition: towards a neuroscience of will
Nature Reviews Neuroscience 9, 934-946 (December 2008)
Patrick Haggard

The capacity for voluntary action is seen as essential to human nature.
Yet neuroscience and behaviourist psychology have traditionally dismissed the topic as unscientific, perhaps because the mechanisms that cause actions have long been unclear.

However, new research has identified networks of brain areas, including the pre-supplementary motor area, the anterior prefrontal cortex and the parietal cortex, that underlie voluntary action.
These areas generate information for forthcoming actions, and also cause the distinctive conscious experience of intending to act and then controlling one’s own actions.
Volition consists of a series of decisions regarding whether to act, what action to perform and when to perform it.
Neuroscientific accounts of voluntary action may inform debates about the nature of individual responsibility.

Neural signals that contribute to the experience of voluntary action include advanced preparation of action, reafferent somatosensory feedback, and sensory information about the effects of actions (bottom level).


Unconscious determinants of free decisions (2008)

Unconscious determinants of free decisions in the human brain
Nature Neuroscience 11, 543 – 545 (2008)
Chun Siong Soon, … John-Dylan Haynes

There has been a long controversy as to whether subjectively ‘free’ decisions are determined by brain activity ahead of time.
We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness.
This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.

cited by:
Introduction to Neuroeconomics: how the brain makes decisions
Coursera. July 2014

Wilheml Wundt
{Understanding Psychology © 2014. p. 8}


Conscious of the Unconscious
Work with your unconscious, rather than trying to browbeat it into submission.
Jul 30, 2013

Molding reality so that it’s palatable

You & Your Brain – Julian Keenan


It turns out that even the most basic things we believe about ourselves are often wrong.
Neuroscientist Julian Keenan says it has to do with how the brain works.
He’s the author of the “Face in the Mirror: How We Know Who We Are.”

Cartesian Theater,”the idea that there’s someone inside my head looking at someone inside my head who’s looking at someone inside my head and you keep going in that circle.

one of the key components of the self is molding reality not so that it’s real but so that it’s palatable.

theory of mind
you can think about what I’m thinking about what you’re thinking about my thinking.
We can go back and forth with this like cognitive gymnastics where we get into each other’s minds.

more on depression and reality:

more on memory and time travel:



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Taking aim at free will (2011)

Neuroscience vs philosophy: Taking aim at free will
Scientists think they can prove that free will is an illusion. Philosophers are urging them to think again.
Nature 477, 23-25 (31 August 2011)
Kerri Smith

The experiment helped to change John-Dylan Haynes’s outlook on life. In 2007, Haynes, a neuroscientist at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, put people into a brain scanner in which a display screen flashed a succession of random letters. He told them to press a button with either their right or left index fingers whenever they felt the urge, and to remember the letter that was showing on the screen when they made the decision. The experiment used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to reveal brain activity in real time as the volunteers chose to use their right or left hands. The results were quite a surprise.

“The first thought we had was ‘we have to check if this is real’,” says Haynes. “We came up with more sanity checks than I’ve ever seen in any other study before.”

The conscious decision to push the button was made about a second before the actual act, but the team discovered that a pattern of brain activity seemed to predict that decision by as many as seven seconds.
Long before the subjects were even aware of making a choice, it seems, their brains had already decided.

Telling more than we can know (1977)

Telling more than we can know: Verbal reports on mental processes.
Psychological Review, 1977, 84, 231-259.
Nisbett, R. E., & Wilson, T. D.

Reviews evidence which suggests that there may be little or no direct introspective access to higher order cognitive processes.
Subjects are sometimes (a) unaware of the existence of a stimulus that importantly influenced a response,
(b) unaware of the existence of the response, and
(c) unaware that the stimulus has affected the response.

It is proposed that when people attempt to report on their cognitive processes, that is, on the processes mediating the effects of a stimulus on a response, they do not do so on the basis of any true introspection.
Instead, their reports are based on a priori, implicit causal theories, or judgments about the extent to which a particular stimulus is a plausible cause of a given response.
This suggests that though people may not be able to observe directly their cognitive processes, they will sometimes be able to report accurately about them.
Accurate reports will occur when influential stimuli are salient and are plausible causes of the responses they produce, and will not occur when stimuli are not salient or are not plausible causes.

cited by: