First Thoughts: Good book that combines science and ethic leaving many questions!
Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain
1. Opening Thoughts
2. Table of Contents
3. Further Reviews and Summaries
4. Quotes from the Book
There is no lack in the number of books being published about the brain, neuroscience, advances in psychology and learning. But each writer has to come up with their own particular spin of what is happening. Gazzaniga is no different. His particular look is from the vantage point of determinism versus free choice. Unlike some authors, Gazzaniga has a long history and corresponding record as a researcher and writer. This is personal for him. His concern is that we take neuroscience beyond its legitimate boundaries to begin setting social agendas. If you have no interest in reading scientific discussions about the brain this may not be the book for you. But if you are interested in where science is headed and some issues that need to be addresses get this book.
Table of Contents
1. The Evolution of the Human Brain
2. An Overview of Modern Neuroscience
3. The Neuroscience of Behavior
4. The Neuroscience of Consciousness
5. The Neuroscience of Our Inner Voice
6. The Neuroscience of Free Will
7. The Principle of Emergence
8. Social Interaction and the Emergence of Freedom and Responsibility
9. Determinism Strikes Back
10. Rescuing Accountability from the Determinist Trap
Further Reviews and Summaries
Short Review in the New Yorker
Quotes from the Book
Other People’s Highlights
From Amazon Book Site
We are personally responsible agents and are to be held accountable for our actions, even though we live in a determined universe.
Highlighted by 87 Kindle users
I will maintain that the mind, which is somehow generated by the physical processes of the brain, constrains the brain. Just as political norms of governance emerge from the individuals who give rise to them and ultimately control them, the emergent mind constrains our brains.
Highlighted by 74 Kindle users
Something like the big bang happened when mind emerged from the brain. Just as traffic emerges from cars, traffic does ultimately constrain cars, so doesn’t the mind constrain the brain that generated it?
Highlighted by 60 Kindle users
Does the mind constrain the brain, or does the brain do everything from the bottom up? It’s tricky, because in nothing that follows here am I suggesting the mind is completely independent from the brain. It is not.
Highlighted by 50 Kindle users
In 1948, at my alma mater, Dartmouth College, two of Canada’s and America’s great psychologists, Karl Lashley and Donald Hebb, came together to discuss the following question: Is the brain a blank slate and largely what we call today “plastic,” or does the brain come with constraints and is it somewhat determined by its structure? At the time, the blank slate theory had reigned for the previous twenty years or so, and Lashley had been one of its early proponents.Read more at location 187
In his model for neuron growth, neurons grow out to find their connection in the brain by sending out little filopodia (slender cytoplasmic projections from the cell) to see which way to go—testing the waters so to speak—and because of a chemical gradient, they would find their way to a specific place.Read more at location 268
The current view of the brain is that its large-scale plan is genetic, but specific connections at the local level are activity-dependent and a function of epigenetic factors and experience: Both nature and nurture are important, as any observant parent or pet owner can report.
Highlighted by 82 Kindle users
Invention and imitation are ubiquitous in the human world, but are shockingly rare among our animal friends.
Highlighted by 54 Kindle users
Modern neuroanatomists are quick to point out that as you climb the primate scale to humans, it is not that additional skills are simply being added on as once was hypothesized,** but the whole brain is getting rearranged throughout.
The human brain has on average 86 billion neurons, but 69 billion of them are located in the cerebellum, that small structure at the back of the brain that helps refine motor control. The entire cortex, the area that we think is responsible for human thought and culture, has only 17 billion, and the rest of the brain has a little less than one billion. The frontal lobes and prefrontal cortex—the part of the human brain that is involved with memory and planning, cognitive flexibility, abstract thinking, initiating appropriate behavior and inhibiting inappropriate behavior, learning rules, and picking out relevant information perceived through the senses—have vastly fewer neurons than the number in the visual areas, the other sensory areas, and the motor areas of the cortex. What is larger in the frontal lobes than the rest of the brain, however, is the arborization of the neurons, that branching of the dendritic tips of the neurons with the resulting possibility of increased connections. Read more at location 520
Small local circuits, made of an interconnected group of neurons, are created to perform specific processing jobs and become automatic. The result of their processing is passed on to another part of the brain, but all the computations that were used to arrive at the result are not. So as we discussed with the visualRead more at location 540
as brain size has increased, the size of the evolutionarily youngest part of the brain, the neocortex, has increased disproportionately. The six-layered neocortex is made up of neuronal cells, Monsieur Poirot’s “little gray cells,” and sits like a large, wrinkled napkin on top of the cerebral cortex. The neocortex is responsible for sensory perception, generation of motor commands, spatial reasoning, conscious and abstract thought, language, and imagination. This increase in size is regulated by the timing of neurogenesis, which of course is under control of DNA.Read more at location 554
• Delete this highlight
But now, there is a heretical view that has been coming on in the last ten years: All neurons are not alike, and some types of neurons may be found only in specific species. Moreover, a given type of neuron may exhibit unique properties in a given species.Read more at location 612
So here we are, born with this wildly developing brain under tremendous genetic control, with refinements being made by epigenetic factors (nongenetic factors that cause the organism’s genes to behave differently) and activity-dependent learning. It is a brain with structured, not random, complexity, with automatic processing, with a particular skill set with constraints, and with a generalized capacity that has all evolved through natural selection.Read more at location 671
From this brain comes our personal narrative, not from some outside mental forces compelling the brain.Read more at location 676
They determined that the adult male human brain contains on average 86 billion neurons and 85 billion nonneuronal cells and while the cerebral cortex is 82 percent of the brain’s mass, it possesses only 19 percent of the brain’s neurons. The majority of the neurons, 72 percent, were found in the cerebellum, which makes up 10 percent of the mass of the brain.Read more at location 699
Chapter Two The Parallel and Distributed BrainRead more at location 705
Bottom of Form
You are certainly not the boss of the brain. Have you ever succeeded in telling your brain to shut up already and go to sleep? Read more at location 722
Galton was the first to use the term nature versus nurture and to do studies on twins to tease out the varying influences.†Read more at location 785
proprioceptive information fromRead more at location 882
we have moved toward the idea of a plethora of systems, some within a hemisphere and some distributed across hemispheres. We no longer think of the brain as being organized into two conscious systems at all but into multiple dynamic mental systems.Read more at location 1002
Our decentralization was the outcome of having a large brain and the neuroeconomies which allowed it to function: less dense connections forced the brain to specialize, create local circuits, and automate. The end result is thousands of modules, each doing their own thing. Our conscious awareness is the mere tip of the iceberg of nonconscious processing. Below our level of awareness is the very busy nonconscious brain hard at work. Not hard for us to imagine are the housekeeping jobs the brain constantly juggles to keep homeostatic mechanisms up and running, such as our heart beating, our lungs breathing, and our temperature just right. Less easy to imagine, but being discovered left and right over the past fifty years, are the myriads of nonconscious processes smoothly putt-putting along. Think about it. To begin with there are all the automatic visual and other sensory processing we have talked about. In addition, our minds are always being unconsciously biased by positive and negative priming processes, and influenced by category identification processes. In our social world, coalitionary bonding processes, cheater detection processes, and even moral judgment processes (to name only a few) are cranking away below our conscious mechanisms. With increasingly sophisticated testing methods, the number and diversity of identified processes is only going to multiply.Read more at location 1112
the brain is not an all-purpose computing device, but a device made up of an enormous number of serially wired specialty circuits, all running in parallel and distributed across the brain to make those better decisions.27 This network allows all sorts of simultaneous nonconscious processing to go on28 and is what enables Read more at location 1125
All these modules are not reporting to a department head, it is a free-for-all, self-organizing system.Read more at location 1133
• Delete this highlight
A complex system is composed of many different systems that interact and produce emergent properties that are greater than the sum of their parts and cannot be reduced to the properties of the constituent parts. Read more at location 1148
Ironically for psychology in its quest to fully understand behavior, the signature phenomenon of a complex system “is the multiplicity of possible outcomes, endowing it with the capacity to choose, to explore and to adapt.”29 Read more at location 1159
“The common characteristic of all complex systems is that they display organization without any external organizing principle being applied.”30 That means no head honcho, no homunculus.
Highlighted by 65 Kindle users
“The common characteristic of all complex systems is that they display organization without any external organizing principle being applied.”30Read more at location 1164
We have discovered something in the left brain, another module that takes all the input into the brain and builds the narrative. We call this the interpreter module,Read more at location 1180
As a person is walking, the sensory inputs from the visual and auditory systems go to the thalamus, a type of relay station. Then the impulses are sent to the processing areas in the cortex and then relayed to the frontal cortex.Read more at location 1213
The brain takes a nonconscious shortcut through the amygdala, which sits under the thalamus and keeps track of everything streaming through. If a pattern associated with danger in the past is recognized by the amygdala, it sends an impulse along a direct connection to the brain stem, which then activates the flight-or-fight response and rings the alarm.Read more at location 1221
The reason I would have confabulated is that our human brains are driven to infer causality. They are driven to explain events that make sense out of the scattered facts.Read more at location 1232
When we set out to explain our actions, they are all post hoc explanations using post hoc observations with no access to nonconscious processing. Not only that, our left brain fudges things a bit to fit into a makes-sense story. It is only when the stories stray too far from the facts that the right brain pulls the reins in. These explanations are all based on what makes it into our consciousness, but the reality is the actions and the feelings happen before we are consciously aware of them—and most of them are the results of nonconscious processes, which will never make it into the explanations. TheRead more at location 1235
The reality is, listening to people’s explanations of their actions is interesting—and in the case of politicians, entertaining—but often a waste of time.
Highlighted by 66 Kindle users
Once you put consciousness in the loop, your conscious self-monitoring of the speed takes longer, because consciousness works at a slower base speed. ThisRead more at location 1246
• Delete this highlight
“Choking” happens when consciousness steps into the play and throws the timing off.Read more at location 1252
“turning tables illusion” produced by Roger Shepard,Read more at location 1257
Thus, the systems built into our brains carry out their jobs automatically when presented with stimuli within their domain, often without our conscious knowledge.Read more at location 1286
We have concluded that the neural processes responsible for searching for patterns in events are housed in the left hemisphere. It is the left hemisphere that engages in the human tendency to find order in chaos, that tries to fit everything into a story and put it into a context. It seems thatRead more at location 1346
Once we understand that the left-brain interpreter process is driven to seek explanations or causes for events, we can see it at work in all sorts of situations. In fact, it can explain the observations of many past experiments.Read more at location 1354
• Delete this highlight
This is what our brain does all day long. It takes input from other areas of our brain and from the environment and synthesizes it into a story. ItRead more at location 1400
• Delete this highlight
to prove that emotional states are determined by a combination of physiological arousal and cognitive factors.Read more at location 1407
Once again this finding illustrates the human tendency to generate explanations for events. When aroused, we are driven to explain why.Read more at location 1415
So this left-brain interpretive process that we have takes all the input, puts it together in a makes-sense story, and out it comes. As we have seen, however, the left hemisphere’s explanations are only as good as the information it receives. And in many of the above examples we have seen that the information it received was faulty.Read more at location 1418
So while we, as neuroscientists, knew that Wolff’s right-brain pattern perception mechanism is all coded, ran automatically, and was the source of this capacity, he did not. When he was asked about it, his left-brain interpreter struggled for an explanation.Read more at location 1496
This concept that the interpreter is only as good as the data it receives is crucial in explaining many seemingly inexplicable behaviors of both normal brains and neurological patients. Indeed, if you feed the interpreter incorrect data you can hijack it.Read more at location 1507
• Delete this highlight
The emergent conscious state arises out of separate mental systems, and if they are disconnected or damaged there is no underlying circuitry from which the emergent property arises.Read more at location 1655
Our subjective awareness arises out of our dominant left hemisphere’s unrelenting quest to explain these bits and pieces that have popped into consciousness. Notice that popped is in the past tense.Read more at location 1656
Chapter Four Abandoning the Concept of Free WillRead more at location 1669
That YOU that you are so proud of is a story woven together by your interpreter module to account for as much of your behavior as it can incorporate, and it denies or rationalizes the rest.
Highlighted by 81 Kindle users
And for the semantic problem, Pattee adds, “[T]he concepts of causation have completely different meanings in statistical or deterministic models,” and gives the following example: If you were toRead more at location 1961
Emergence is when micro-level complex systems that are far from equilibrium (thus allowing for the amplification of random events) self-organize (creative, self-generated, adaptability-seeking behavior) into new structures, with new properties that previously did not exist, to form a new level of organization on the macro level.16Read more at location 1980
Whereas, in strong emergence, the new property is irreducible, is more than the sum of its parts, and because of the amplification of random events, the laws cannot be predicted by an underlying fundamental theory or from an understanding of the laws of another level of organization.Read more at location 1985
the Baldwin effect is a mechanism that explains the evolution of phenotypic (observable trait) plasticity, the ability which allows an organism to be flexible in adapting its behavior to changing environments.Read more at location 2436
In essence, the Baldwin effect is the evolution of the ability to respond optimally to a particular environment. Thus, genes for plasticity evolve, rather than genes for a particular phenotypic characteristic, although selection acts upon the phenotype.26Read more at location 2439
The big idea behind the Baldwin effect is that sometimes both the direction and the rate of evolutionary change by natural selection can be affected by learned behaviors.Read more at location 2459
which results in your visceromotor system giving you a shot of adrenaline, thus simulating the emotion), which can either make it to your attention and be recognized or not. If it does come to your attention, then your interpreter comes up with a cause for the emotional feeling. YouRead more at location 2569
Was it okay for them to make love? Haidt did a good job designing this story to stir up all of one’s gut instincts and moral intuitions. He defines moral intuitions as “the sudden appearance in consciousness, or at the fringe of consciousness, of an evaluative feeling (like-dislike, good-bad) about the character or actions of a person, without any conscious awareness of having gone through steps of search, weighing evidence, or inferring a conclusion.” Read more at location 2657
Virtues are what a specific society or culture values as morally good behavior that can be learned. Different cultures place different values on various aspects of Haidt’s five modules.Read more at location 2773