Interpretive & Perceptual Logic of the Brain


    When we play with our pets or watch talking cars in a Pixar film, a priori hypothesis are being applied to our perceptions. This describes the application of previously learned information that make it possible to interpret complex visual scenes and have left over processing capacity within the brain to inform how we respond to the environment on the basis of our own goals. Perhaps the most important a priori hypothesis in visual perceptions is the one we use to predict the movement of objects/organisms in the environment. We do this by inferring the intention, and thus logic behind the movement, allowing for less cognitively demanding predictions of the movement to be incorporated into how we make critical decisions. Being able to accurately predict the environment with more relative ease is done by experience informed a priori hypothesis regarding human mental states[1]. However, this knowledge on human mental states is also for animated characters that are clearly not human. That is why we have no problem being engrossed in film with talking cars going falling love. The term for this is anthropomorphizing and it is nearly ubiquitous to interpretations of the environment[2]. Before meteorology, you might have interpreted a replenishing rain storm as God demonstrating that he answered your prayers and use that in making behavioral adjustments that incorporate more faith. Now we use computer programs that emerged from our understanding atmospheric dynamics remove that particular applications human mental states to interpret the environment. Who is to say if God still play a role somehow,  but our desire to predict weather remains because it is still important to how we decide to dress or conserve water in our reservoirs. It it certainly makes for a more enjoyable movie watching experience when we are focusing on the animated characters and not how a racial bias against a group of people is affecting how he makes the cars behave.

    It does not matter if don’t know everything about everything. We still given the impression that we know enough to extract discernible meaning from the environment with anthropomorphizing intentions of all kinds movement.  Imagine the robot character in the movie Wall-E.  If one did not anthropomorphize the robot, the film would hold no interest or meaning for the viewer. There would be no relationship with the character the robot.  (who is alone on Earth, a robot that does not look particularly advanced technologically, you would be left with the fact that it is not feeling or thinking anything while it goes about its business cleaning up the piles of waste)... One might then conclude, “What a dumb movie! I don't get it!”  The stance and perspective could make you a true outsider of humanity. Pixar is in business because we can attribute human thoughts and emotions to anything. What about animals? Are they not insufferable if you don’t attribute human emotions to them?  Not necessarily!  The argument being made is that understanding the brains overgeneralizing during perceptual experience is necessary for making changes to perceptions that are of benefit to you and others. You probably know that redefining interpretations is important, but knowing that nature if it more accurately can be applied helpful ways. There are times when overgeneralizations are fine and times when you should reflect and reassess. Most advice on personal growth has a low success because it does not come from a place that has foundation the consciously applies this fundamental knowledge.

Consider the way in which you make sense of animals. Without a thorough study on the mindset behind a particular animal’s behavior that incorporates its own evolutionary biology, what you might imagine is going on in their heads is far different than what actually is occurring[2]. You can only go with with what you have learned or experienced, and thus generalize what you know to contexts that do not precisely map onto that knowledge.  Two of most influential people in our current understanding of behavior of organisms including humans, Charles Darwin and Donald Hebb, describe these as necessary adaptations[3]. As Hebb states:


Whatever the anthropomorphic terminology may seem to imply about conscious states of the chimpanzee, it provides intelligible and practical guide to behavior[4]


    Because it works well enough in informing our behavior, evolutionary pressure has not forced us to not anthropomorphize. Not even for house cat. A chimp's brain and corresponding motives for behaviors are much more human-like than cats, but we still apply whatever knowledge we have available. But as the resemblance decreases, so does the probability of  assumptions about behavior behavior increases. This is okay for cats most of the time. Doing this excessively does not do more damage to your life than whatever would occur with “Crazy cat lady!!” style jokes. Cats are great pets so who cares if you replace your people friends with a few cats?  Perhaps the cat. For example, imagine you bought a toy for your new cat, Bud. He plays with it a couple times and stops. You think “Bud must not like cat toys very much” and never buy one again. In reality, it is normal for cats to get “habituated” to toys after only playing with them three times[5]. Their “play” is a healthy outlet of hunting instincts[6]. It is difficult, even for a cat, to pretend the same toy mouse is alive after inflicting three fatal puncture wounds. You may have heard of an aggressive cat that attacks humans. It probably is not so much that the cat is crazy, than the owner having had anthropomorphized the cat’s behaviors. It is helpful to remember that your pets minds are not the same because the same thing is true for other people from different cultures or even neighborhoods. Who is to say who is right in how the behave? One thing for sure is that the person who does not carefully considering how people from different cultures have different motives and behaviors is not behaving correctly because they are acting incorrect beliefs while thinking they are true.


    The understanding of the environment that you have now is the result many years of brain development and learning. That also makes it difficult to discern where any non beneficial beliefs may have developed and what caused them to. It is part of why we accept assumptions without being aware the fact they are not always true. Consider a baby who does not that humans have human minds. That is before anthropomorphizing is even possible and still developing. Peek-a-boo. More like peek-a-dumb! That just are not going to be able figure out hardly anything when can’t get why anything moves. Reluctantly, I give them props for the continual recreation of the arts and culture via the play and humor associated with teasing behaviors[7]. Things like teasing are in reality are how we develop our a priori based prediction abilities later in life. Little things properly taking care of babies are more important than you could realize when considering the foundation they are provided for adult life. It is truly amazing how it all work. Certain interactions and experiences babies have need to happen for functional societies. (Don’t show the babies what I wrote good things about them because it will inflate their ego. Oh wait..they are can’t read.). Teasing, play, and jokes are critical to acquiring predictive knowledge social environments and anthropomorphizing of movements. This includes learning how other people respond to your own behavior, critical for cultural norms (play with the babies!!)

     The stage in brain development where a child fully grasps consciously that other people have their own minds typically occurs around five years of age[7,8]. Prior to that, the idea that beliefs can even be false is not understood. You couldn’t get in arguments about facts because you the idea they believe something different would not be understood. The fact that the actual properties of the world could be anything other than you personally perceive does not make sense before the age of five[8,9]. We are talking about a kindergartener. They can talk, follow directions, count up to 20 or so, and write, all while not knowing that what they think could be different than what exists. And this a crude knowledge of false beliefs. They are still “considering appearance as a reality in a given moment” at this point [10]. If you can think back to kindergarten, did the world seem less real? It does not while it is being experienced. Despite difficulty with understanding that what you perceive to be true, might not actually be true or that other people could think something else. The primary goal of perception, whether perceiving biological or nonbiological objects, is to predict what the environment is doing well enough to facilitate your own goal directed behavior. It is hard to grasp the significance of this. It is almost everything and other readings will go into what it means for your life. The main point is that the subjective experience is not as real and true as it seems. Behavior is the primary concern of evolution and it does not require thoughts about it. You simply can simple “be,” without articulating a why. And then on top of that, the why could be, and often is or incomplete at the least, wrong. If you can think one thing about your brother/sister when you are child and think something completely different as an adult, what is more true? They both felt just as true when they occurred. Maybe you are more accurate in some ways and less others. However, figuring out where you are less accurate than in the past seems practically impossible. What can know is that things you think now will most definitely turn out to be false in the future. And they should be because that is how you make positive changes. Understanding this very nonlinear correlations between thoughts and behavior is very important to know existence of. Focusing on changing thoughts alone is not a winning strategy for positive change.

    Goal-directed behavior does not require conscious awareness. Despite seeming central to your survival, you can continue to function in the world with an infinite amount of thoughts that seem subjectively true[11]. You need to keep in mind that the real evolutionary purpose of conscious perception is modification of behavior. Facilitation of goal directed behavior by perception often involves understanding what is seen less accurately, not more. By this it is meant that understanding more about something makes you more effective at changing it. Habitual patterns of goal directed behavior can be reinforced by being guided to not see the truth.  Perceiving things in a different or more true way can make executing learned behaviors more difficult. That information isn’t needed because it is reflexive. Getting at the true details is how is your gateway to modifying behavior/your life to something better. Fear precludes learning the truth and thus prevents change.

    A study demonstrated that children who believe that a red tinted jar turns the whole milk inside the glass red and cannot understand how it is still white without telling them. Before a certain, putting milk inside a tinted jar means that that milk is tinted regardless of the jar[10]. These inaccurate beliefs are within just about everything you could think of. You don’t fall for the milk in the jar, but when you are talking about complex societal issues and your life circumstance that can be traced back to occurance from before you ability to remember, it is just a mess of false a priori hypothesis. Relying on only thoughts with considering behavior is not an effective means to improving your life. It is better to use conscious perception for the reason you have it mind. That is, improving goal directed behavior. Silly obvious beliefs are mostly corrected by grade school, but false beliefs continue to color everything just like the tinted glass. What is on the other side is different because what you have learned to believe. A good rule of thumb is to think that no matter how certain you feel about something, it could be false. That also increases the power behind things you do choose to believe. For example, believing in Love or central purpose becomes much more powerful when carefully consider the validity of other things more ambiguous. False assumption are fine insofar they do not interfere with achieving positive outcomes and progress in life. Your beliefs should hold a desire to find truth above the importance of the beliefs, with the exceptions of ones that other things must fit. Helping your family should not be a belief that is open to interpretations like with how you interpret the cycle of poverty and its causes, for example. If outcomes are not what you want, you need reconsider how beliefs are informing behavior and think about  better way to act.


Goal Based Updating of Beliefs


    In understanding animal behavior,  falsely assuming human motivations is good enough unless you want to be a veterinarian, be a zookeeper, or if your cat keeps jumping at your neck. It is even extremely adaptive to not notice that perceptions are not reality for much what we try to accomplish in life. The world is infinitely complex and you could not function while also perceiving the reality of everything. Could you imagine misplacing your phone if you all you saw was the vast empty space between the elements of your couch here and the vast empty space between the elements of your coffee table there? I’m just trying to see how many likes I got on my profile picture...It was with my new freakin’ puppy and is probably my new record! Utter nightmare.

    While the evolutionary reason applying knowledge that other things have their own subjective experience is to predict the behavior of other humans in order to inform your our behavior, we can use it for everything[12]. The same brain regions used to make sense of the creepy guy over across the room is used to understand the reason for weather events, why your car broke down, Donald Trump’s Tweets, and the God of your personal religion [13–15] It is all about informing your behavior by being able to predict the environment. You would not get emotionally connected with a mannequin that looks real because it has no independent action and doing so what not help understand it. You feel emotional attachment with other things and people because they are a factor in decided how to interact.  Good luck in dating scene if you cannot factor in emotions to your interactions. However, even if you feel normal empathy, there are always certain areas of your life where you could benefit from being better. It is not only feeling the emotion, but also integrating that emotional information into your behaviors and decisions. There is room to work towards greater optimization of behavior and decisions. Using emotions better is just one example many. Psychopaths for instance are excellent at using empathy in goal-directed behavior. The problem is that they lack factoring in specific emotions such as guilt, fear, and anxiety[16,17]. Where in your life could could you better utilize emotional information? Maybe talking in emotions in robotic way sounds weird, but that just the approach that is most effective. You will not becomes emotionally callous!! It is quite the opposite in practice. ... More on this in future readings.

    As they say, if it ain’t broke don’t waste your extremely limited amount of attentional awareness on re-conceptualizing meaning you have already extracted from the infinite chaos of the universe. A relatively few things are used to comprehend vast and complex environmental phenomena. Where are these generalizations okay? Where is it limiting your growth? Learning how to answer those questions and then learning more beneficial knowledge and behaviors is your best chance at living out your dreams. You must do it on your own, because it is personal and varies between individuals. Advice in the form of “Blanket Statements” is one several reasons that typical self-improvement material fails at a high rate.  It also needs to be done voluntarily. You have to want to do it. That also means you can not force anyone in your life to also do it. As I am doing here, it is about getting people to be metacognitive, to reflect voluntarily on their own life.  It could conceivably be involuntary in some situations. However, the downside is that it is also often accompanied with personal suffering and then is only voluntary because it was the only option left. Avoiding that is a good thing.

  Main point: it is important to understand that your perceptions are often inaccurate or gross overgeneralizations.. Perception evolved to understand the behavior of the environment at a functional level. Our conscious awareness evolved to modify behavior to ways that are more beneficial to you.  Going back to the animal example, for a zoologist, a more in-depth understanding of the behavior that results from the animal mind may be critical to their own goals. It allows them to respond to animals more effectively.  For you, learning that would be a big waste of time.

    Much of our perception is based on applying a previously learned knowledge to understand a much wider range of things. While this is necessary due to the limited processing capabilities of the brain, it can be very problematic when we do not recognize how little about the world we really know. The effectiveness of learned knowledge can only go so far before it becomes restrictive or even dangerous. Individual or societal problems are a signal that what we got us to the problem cannot get you out of it. Situations arise that require new and more accurate understandings in order to inform more effective behavior. Like when a human becomes a zoologist, the normal way of thinking about animals is not good enough. When conservatives and liberals  must find a way to work together and overcome strife, what they each think societal issues is not good enough . When you must overcome new obstacles in the path to your desires, it is time to learn and do things you have never done before. You have come along way since not understanding their was a difference between what think is possible and what actual is possible as a five year old.  What new things would you have to learn more about and what would you have to do in order to achieve your goals?


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