Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Unexpected "Back Door" Into the Brain?

The modal view in the cognitive and neural sciences holds that consciousness is necessary for abstract, symbolic, and rule-following computations. Hence, semantic processing of multiple-word expressions, and performing of abstract mathematical computations, are widely believed to require consciousness. We report a series of experiments in which we show that multiple-word verbal expressions can be processed outside conscious awareness and that multistep, effortful arithmetic equations can be solved unconsciously. _PNAS Abstract
Researchers at Hebrew University in Israel have discovered that the human brain is capable of unconsciously solving arithmetic equations, and unconsciously understanding multi-word expressions. This "extra-conscious" processing of both words and arithmetic equations caught many researchers by surprise.
To come to these conclusions, the team used a technique known as Continues Flash Suppression (CFS) to present target information to volunteer subjects subconsciously. The technique involves displaying target information to one eye while simultaneously displaying colorful images to the other. The colorful images demand so much attention that the target information is not noticed, at least in the conscious mind.

In the first exercise, volunteers were shown short word phrases during a CFS session; some of which made sense some of which were nonsensical. Afterwards, they were asked to recall the phrase. The researchers found that the volunteers were able to recall the nonsensical phrases faster than those that made sense, indicating they had been understood while still in a subconscious state.

In the second exercise, the researchers used CFS to flash a simple plus/minus type mathematical equation, minus the answer, to one eye, while the other received the colorful images. Afterwards, each volunteer was asked to say out loud a number that was presented to them. The researchers found that response times were shorter when the number shown matched the answer to the math equation they had been shown.

Thus far, CFS is only able to distract the mind from perceiving information for just a couple of seconds, thus, the types of data that can be tested is limited by the amount of information (or its mathematical complexity) that could reasonably be expected to be absorbed in such a short time period. But the results suggest that people might be processing a lot of information in their daily lives that they aren't aware of because their mind is elsewhere, a finding that the researchers suggest, means that views on subconscious awareness and thought processing, perhaps needs updating. _MXP
What the researchers discovered is one of the possible mechanisms for subliminal suggestion, hypnosis, and unconscious solving of problems -- when a solution suddenly "pops into the mind."

This sophisticated "unconscious" processing is certain to leave lingering effects -- particularly if the subject matter of this processing is emotionally relevant to the person.

This approach to unconscious learning and processing has long been utilised by scientists and clinicians who are now working on the Dangerous Child Method project. Because it is so important to lay the groundwork for future learning in a Dangerous Child's mind at as early a stage as possible, much of the earliest training takes place on a pre-verbal and quasi-unconscious level.

While it is never too late to have a dangerous childhood, it is similarly never too early to get started.

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