March 17, 2011

BBC4′s “In Our Time”: Discussion on Free Will

In a BBC broadcastMelvyn Bragg and his guests Simon Blackburn, Helen Beebee, and Galen Strawson discuss the philosophical idea of free will.

From the broadcast description:

“Free will – the extent to which we are free to choose our own actions – is one of the most absorbing philosophical problems, debated by almost every great thinker of the last two thousand years. In a universe apparently governed by physical laws, is it possible for individuals to be responsible for their own actions? Or are our lives simply proceeding along preordained paths? Determinism – the doctrine that every event is the inevitable consequence of what goes before – seems to suggest so.

Many intellectuals have concluded that free will is logically impossible. The philosopher Baruch Spinoza regarded it as a delusion. Albert Einstein wrote: “Human beings, in their thinking, feeling and acting are not free agents but are as causally bound as the stars in their motion.” But in the Enlightenment, philosophers including David Hume found ways in which free will and determinism could be reconciled. Recent scientific developments mean that this debate remains as lively today as it was in the ancient world.”

Click here to listen to the broadcast.

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January 25, 2009

‘Introspectionism’ and the Mythical Origins of Scientific Psychology

Alan Costall
Article in Consciousness and Cognition

Abstract
According to the majority of the textbooks, the history of modern, scientific psychology can be tidily encapsulated in the following three stages. Scientific psychology began with a commitment to the study of mind, but based on the method of introspection. Watson rejected introspectionism as both unreliable and effete, and redefined psychology, instead, as the science of behaviour. The cognitive revolution, in turn, replaced the mind as the subject of study, and rejected both behaviourism and a reliance on introspection. This paper argues that all three stages of this history are largely mythical. Introspectionism was never a dominant movement within modern psychology, and the method of introspection never went away. Furthermore, this version of psychology’s history obscures some deep conceptual problems, not least surrounding the modern conception of “behaviour,” that continues to make the scientific study of consciousness seem so weird.

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October 31, 2007

Psychic studies may be influenced by suggestion:

altered states,introspection,perception — thomasr @ 4:26 am

From Mind hacks: The BPS Research Digest has discussed a recent study that analysed recordings of parapsychology experiments and has found that some of the positive findings may be due to experimenters unconsciously prompting the participants as they gave their answers.The experiments used the Ganzfeld technique where one participant has diffuse white light and auditory noise played to them, effectively blocking the key senses, while another tries to ‘send’ images to them through mental projection.

Afterwards, the ‘receiver’ tells the experimenter what images came to mind and the research team see if it matches what the ‘sender’ was trying to transmit.

Taken as a whole, these sorts of experiments show a weak but positive evidence for extra-sensory perception (ESP), but it’s not clear whether this isn’t just due to a tendency for some negative trials not being reported.

In this new study, psychologist Robin Woofit analysed the tapes of Ganzfeld experiments from the mid-1990s and found that experimenters were more likely to respond decisively to correct responses but give subtle cues (such as saying ‘mm hm’) to give more information when the response wasn’t initially accurate.

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August 15, 2007

Toddlers are capable of introspection

toddlermirror1.jpgPreschoolers are more introspective than we give them credit for, according to new research by Simona Ghetti, assistant professor of psychology at UC Davis.

Ghetti and her co-investigator, Kristen Lyons, a graduate student in psychology at UC Davis, will present their findings Friday morning, Aug. 17, at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in San Francisco.

Scientists have demonstrated that dolphins, monkeys and even rats can engage in some form of “metacognition,” or an awareness of their own thought processes. But developmental psychologists have assumed that human children do not develop this capability before about age 5.

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August 2, 2007

Language and self-awareness

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May 24, 2007

Visual hallucinations? Draw it!

epilepsy_brain.jpgVisual (and other non-visual) hallucinations sometimes occur during epileptic seizures. A relatively straightforward but little used method to describe these experiences is to ask the sufferer to draw the hallucinations — even as they occur.

According to G.D. Schott, in an article in the latest issue of Brain, such descriptions not only not only serve as tools to understand the sufferer and symptoms; they can also be used for differential diagnosis. 

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March 25, 2007

Studying the wandering mind

absent_minded.jpgDo your thoughts stray from your work or studies? Do you catch yourself making to-do lists when your attention should be elsewhere? Welcome to the club.

College students reported mind-wandering almost one-third of the time in their daily lives, according to a new study led by faculty and graduate students at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. The study will be published in the July issue of Psychological Science.

The study followed 124 undergraduates, who carried personal digital assistants for a week. The PDAs signaled the students eight times a day between noon and midnight to report whether their thoughts were wandering away from what they were doing and to answer multiple-choice questions about their current activity, surroundings and state of mind.

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January 16, 2007

Perception and misperception of bias in human judgment

decision making,introspection — thomasr @ 5:56 am

Abstract of Perception and misperception of bias in human judgment, in Trends in Cognitive Science:

chess.jpgHuman judgment and decision making is distorted by an array of cognitive, perceptual and motivational biases. Recent evidence suggests that people tend to recognize (and even overestimate) the operation of bias in human judgment – except when that bias is their own. Aside from the general motive to self-enhance, two primary sources of this ‘bias blind spot’ have been identified. One involves people’s heavy weighting of introspective evidence when assessing their own bias, despite the tendency for bias to occur nonconsciously. The other involves people’s conviction that their perceptions directly reflect reality, and that those who see things differently are therefore biased. People’s tendency to deny their own bias, even while recognizing bias in others, reveals a profound shortcoming in self-awareness, with important consequences for interpersonal and intergroup conflict.

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