Thursday, May 26, 2011

Brain Hammerings 05/26/2011

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

photo: malware

photo by Pete Mandik

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Useful Obviously False Beliefs

"You've got to believe!" That's the advice professional magician Mark Mitton gave at his recent talk in the CUNY Cognitive Science Symposium. Here's the idea: in order for an illusion to be believable to the audience, the magician has to believe it too. This is, of course, puzzling for all of the sorts of reasons familiar to philosophers debating doxastic voluntarism and self-deception. How do you make yourself believe something that you know you don't?

I've been thinking about something similar to self-deception since Mark's remark. There's a kind of advice given in all sorts of areas of human performance, music and sports to name two, that involves believing (or pretending?) something obviously absurd but is efficacious nonetheless. Here's a quick list:

  • Vocal coaches tell their singers stuff like "breath out of your back" or "quit singing out of the top of your head." Or so I hear.
  • In martial arts, if you are going to punch someone really hard in the solar plexus, it helps to aim for their back, as if your fist can just bore right through.
  • In ball sports (you know, sports with balls?) there's this stuff about "following through" which I guess is something like throwing the ball after it's already been thrown. I dunno, I hate sports.
  • Acting? Maybe this is like the magic thing? I dunno, I'm not an actor (but I've played one on TV).

Anyway, hammer-heads are hereby invited to multiply examples and submit pointers to work done in the relevant areas. That would be awesome. You'd better believe it!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Re Portugal

I'm back in NYC from a week of sun, beer, neuroscience, qualia, and zen in lovely Lisboa at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown.

Zach Mainen, director of the Champalimaud Neuroscience Programme, ran a week-long course on consciousness and first-person methodology for the 2010 class of students in the International Neuroscience Doctoral Programme (with assistance from 2008 student Scott Rennie). Brian Keeley (who knows Zach from like a million years ago when they were together at University of California, San Diego) and I were brought on board to hang out in general as well as provide neurophilosophical overviews of consciousness, free will, and personal identity.


Each morning, the class kicked off with a half-hour of meditation led by monks from a local zen dojo. Then we set off to do things like coach opposing teams of students in constructing arguments about whether the self was something that could survive teleportation.

Thursday afternoon I presented "Does the neuroscience of consciousness need to care about qualia?" in the Neuroscience Seminar Series (abstract and answer here). It was fun to see so many neuroscientists get passionate about qualia!


Saturday afternoon, Brian and I took a teleporter to Cascais, where someone accidentally hit the "receive" button too many times.

Multi Me


(Photos from my flickr set, Lisbon 2011: Neuroscience Programme at the Champalimaud Center for the Unknown)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Pete to Portugal

This looks pretty cool.
Next week, my good buddy Brian Keeley and I are heading to Lisbon to help run a week-long course on consciousness for the Neuroscience Programme at the Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown. While there, I'll also be giving a talk, "Does the neuroscience of consciousness need to care about qualia?" More news, plus the answer to that titular question, when I get back to NYC later in May.