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Pong
Post  Post subject: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 6:31 am
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I'll describe a very subjective quirk of cognition, hope others share this and maybe have some insight.


The oddity appears while weighing choices, and, especially when trying to recall something I'm uncertain of. Let's say I want to remember someone's birthday, and I'm pretty sure it's either February 28th, or March 5th. Say I have no way of checking these empirically. I begin to think about these items, but not as a group - I take each one in turn to explore the validity of it. This is a "feely" exercise. Normally with good memory I'd have a strong feeling of certainty about the item, and continue thinking without questioning it. But no such feeling associated with things uncertain. If it's one thing that feels weak, okay I can attack that full force and make up my mind about it. But something different happens when I'm weighing weak multiple choices, like the example of two possible birthdays.

I feel as though I mustn't think too strongly about a particular possibility, lest the act of thinking about it leaves "weight" behind. I feel that "weight" would later deceive me to feel certainty about the item. For example if I think very hard on Feb 28th, but not about March 5th, then give up: later when I try to recall the birthday February 28th will stand out strong, and I'll feel certain of that date.

So I employ a strategy of lightly touching around such options, careful to apply equal pressure. I've learned the technique from experience. It's similar for dream recall, but with dreams more a sense that if I "put my foot in it" I'll scatter the arrangement.

If my gentle dancey attempts to feel out the correct option fail, I often rather leave the question on hold. Leaving it carefully balanced just as I found it, I tell myself, "Try not to think about it."


Familiar?


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Sat Mar 04, 2017 8:39 am
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This "feeling around" you describe is about associations and filtering down the number of variables / discarding noisy distractions. You're activating connections so the activity in that "area" of your neural web becomes less dormant and maybe the connections to the actual object you're trying to recall will "shake loose."

Then, by walking away from it consciously, you unconsciously keep exploring it until you have that epiphany moment. It's a bit like submitting a query for a large report then waiting for the results to generate in the background. You then shift your attention to something else and if you're lucky...voila!

It happens all of the time and is akin to a persons name you were trying to remember earlier in the day or a song lyric popping into your head in the shower or while walking down the aisle at a grocery store.

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Pong
Post  Post subject: Re: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 12:53 am
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Another example is memories from early childhood. The ones we retain into adulthood, have been retained only because we recalled them even as children and adolescents. Yet each act of recall repaints the memory somewhat, which is why they're often distorted sometimes false.

On a finer scale consider recalling a password. You think it might be "hr5n89" or "hr5m89" but then sense maybe 89 get transposed so it could be "hr5m98"... keep this up and you'll manhandle the frail memory until it becomes scrambled or false, and you'll never recall it. You suggested, iNow, that unconscious reshuffling might restore the memory, but that process must lack the strength to overturn arrangements (and mis-arrangements) set by dwelling hard on something, 'else we'd be forever fighting a losing war against gremlins of unconsciousness. If you think the show starts at 7 your unconscious can't just change it to 3. The problem I'm describing is by thinking "maybe 8" and leaving the memory in that state - when you return to the memory you'll find a stronger association to 8, strong enough perhaps to begin arranging related thoughts presuming 8.



No apologies for my flakey language and hand-waving here. We all do it. When iNow says an "object" of memory "shakes loose" we all get what he means. We know what tip of the tongue means: we can taste it. We share a wealth of metaphor and colloquialism that, for now, describes the elusive nature of cognition better than science. Isn't that remarkable? But I suspect science is about to make a breakthrough that'll realize the principles of cognition damn simple really, and everything will click around that new theory. Kinda like when we discovered mirror neurons, and found empathy (in at least one sense) not the fuzzy concept whispered by palm-readers but as a directly observable ...organ... in the meat. But for now our deepest insights regarding the mind must build on metaphors.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 6:16 am
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I once wrote about a related topic at the time when I was still writing my steel blog

I had noticed that when you're stuck whilst writing a certain piece of software, it often helps to park it, do something else, and chances are that your subconscious sorts out the conundrum - in the end the solution presents itself unbidden, as if your conscious labouring would only deepen the ruts your train of thought was in, whereas your subconscious isn't constrained in the same way

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DrKrettin
Post  Post subject: Re: Try Not to Think About It  |  Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:36 pm
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marnixR wrote:
I had noticed that when you're stuck whilst writing a certain piece of software, it often helps to park it, do something else, and chances are that your subconscious sorts out the conundrum - in the end the solution presents itself unbidden, as if your conscious labouring would only deepen the ruts your train of thought was in, whereas your subconscious isn't constrained in the same way


When I was in the software business (Assembler language) I found exactly the same. I would get bogged down in some complicated logic, and I would leave it and do something else. Very often, I would then wake up in the middle of the next night and realise what the problem was with absolute clarity. I never needed to write it down, but just return to the office the next day and solve the problem instantly.


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