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Brain Behavior Institute - Session 15


Generalized Control Mechanisms:

Mood, Emotion, Creativity, Self


Review and extension

Sensory experience is constructed, observations are themselves stories, best guesses based on ambiguous input which may have conflicting elements, require continual testing and revision

The discussion this morning gives me an impression that I will be a different teacher when I get back to school in September. The way I am looking at it, I will not approach my students' behaviors the way I used to because now I know better that they may not see what I think they are seeing ... Tola


could it be said that students see the same problem and explore different ways of solving that same problem? ... Bernadine


Reality is an issue. I understand the story but ... my cognitive unconscious has constructed a story that my reality is not the same as yours but mine is probably more right. This is real to me. This is what I think my students bring to the classroom, that their reality of what they perceive, feel, see, and taste is the only true reality ... Judith


The conflict arises when two realities (our students and ours) are in conflict. If there is going to be any meaningful and productive outcome from all our efforts for the school year, both realities according to Judith must gravitate towards a consensus. Anything contrary to this will be disastrous ... Tunde


reality is an hallucination ... Wil, Paul


As long as the cognitive unconscious makes an informed guess about what's out there then the I-Function doesn't have to come into play. If the cognitive unconscious makes an unwise decision then the I-function has to step up to the plate to help balance it. I have 33 students who realities I must take into account and make allowances for and adapt my teaching accordingly ... Seta


We were shown this morning that some behavior exhibited by students may not be under their conscious control. This leads us to not say to a student, "How can you not know what you did?!" It very well might be that the action was done by the cognitive unconscious without the knowledge or control by the student's "I-function." It forces me as the teacher to approach control and discipline from a totally different angle. It remains to be seen how well I will be able to develop and employ new techniques to address this new understanding. I guess this will be one of the areas I'll be reporting on during the year ... Alan


Connecting to student learning, we know that students shuffle into our classrooms with only their cognitive unconscious in operation. Like Tunde they will immediately respond to a set of operational behaviors.

Get out notebook…copy anything on the whiteboard…raise hand…say usual responses…etc.

Knowing the behavior of the cognitive unconscious how can teachers both wake up students’ I-Function and initiate student learning? ... Joyce

The need for self reflection as one teaches is an vital component of making meaning out of what we perrcieve in our students behavior. Finding time for this is important. So too is making time for sharing perspectives with other teachers. The notion that we can always get it less wrong is freeing ... Grace


One thing is that it will be difficult for teachers who have not been part of this institute to make sense of what we have done here. It will take time and evidence {seeing it work in my class} for them to believe ... Together we will be getting it less wrong. ... Tola

Can we teach kids to be better story tellers, to come up with better stories? I know the answer must be yes ... Carol

Blind sight - further evidence that the I-function/story teller is associated with neocortex (one can take in/use input without being aware of it)

The "crack" in the bipartite brain as a source of creativity, ability to conceive what hasn't been experienced


Generalized control mechanisms


Key points:
  • General states - pharmacology, semi-autonomy from environment/I-function
  • Mood as additional observations/perspectives, a good thing (see "medical vs neurobiological model" of mental health; relevance to education?)
  • Dreams as additional observations/perspectives
  • Creativity as bipartite: unconscious and thoughtful
  • Story telling as way of making sense of cacaophonous unconscious
  • Feeling/emotion/intuition as important part of thinking
  • Science as dependent on thinking/feeling/creating
  • Impact of thinking/story telling on the unconscious
  • Self as story
Your thoughts/reactions/extensions in forum area?


Paul Grobstein's picture

scientific story telling, reflective learning

From yesterday's session, a few notes for myself and anyone else interested ...

How does one adjudicate among "scientific" stories?

  • Number of observations summarized
  • Shareability of the story
  • Generativity of the story

An important point about "science" is that the first thing one asks about a story is not how it relates to other stories one knows but rather what are the observations on which the story is based. THEN one asks how it relates to other stories, what it implies. Call this, perhaps, radical empiricism? Note that this doesn't make observations foundational; they too are "stories". But it does make it possible at any given time to dissect more clearly what people agree or disagree about: the observations or the interpretation of them.

There is a need to distinguish between "learning" and "reflective learning." One goes on all the time, without any particular need to encourage it or have schools for it. And it should be given more attention in schools. It is reflective learning that, perhaps?, needs schools. Make the difference clearer? Further consider its implications?

cisrael's picture

feelings? emotions?

I want to know how to think about feelings and emotions, in the framework we have been developing this week and last. What is it when I feel sad, happy, frightened, etc.? And where is it?  I know I should be able to use my understanding of the cognitive unconscious, the I function and the storyteller to understand 'feelings', but I am having some trouble  'telling' this story.

Someone sent me a link to a talk by Jeff Hawkins on YouTube about his 'theory' of how the brain works.  It's pretty interesting, though this talk is a few years old. I was trying to read his book, On Intelligence, but I think this is probably a quick summary of his ideas. He talks about intelligence as defined by prediction, based on the brain's observing patterns, storing memories and making predictions. Sounds similar to what we've been talking about here.

 On another note, I've searching to try to remember the name and author of a novel I read about a nun who experiences intense mystical visions, which she then eloquently writes about, who learns that the visions are likely caused by temporal lobe epilepsy. She then needs to decide whether to treat the epilepsy and lose her visions and her writing.  It's called Lying Awake by Mark Saltzman, and , as a review says, it " probes the nature of spiritual illumination and the meaning and purpose of prayer in everyday life; and, at bottom, there lurks a profound meditation on the mystery of artistic inspiration."  A very powerful read.

bronstein's picture

Teaching to both . . .

. . . or teaching the whole child. This institute has really been giving me food for thought. In order to reach my charges, it is becoming more evident that I have to find a way to involve the "cognitive unconscious" as well as the "I-function." We have to break through to the "CU." Now I'm beginning to wonder if we really need the "I-f" at all. If we can instill the material in the CU, isn't that enough? Will the child even know (s)he has the info when questionned? Or will it only come out when the application of the knowledge is needed? Ideally, we should be able to retrieve it under both circumstances.

All of us here are striving to learn more effective ways to "engage" our students in their own learning -- to get them to want to learn. This can go back to the idea that "First, we have to get their attention." We science people can do this (sometimes) with "whiz-bang" demos (like: or any book by Shakashiri). What I am always looking for are other ways to do the same thing . . . or to reach the same goal by coming at them from a totally different angle.

So, we have to activate prior knowledge or get them involved in some goal-oriented activity (like Joyce's "periodic table game building") in order to cause them to need the knowledge we want them to acquire. To reach their goal they will need to use our material, thereby reaching our goal.

joycetheriot's picture

Project-Based Models

Yes, Alan I am in agreement with your thinking process! I actually have focused on this most important connection to be my work for this summer. Although I know from experience that Project based models are fantastic to initiate students’ development of deep understanding I am newly charged with aligning the pieces within the project that correspond to individual student success. I know that students will produce a product that is very different from the original science content that was offered within my class. I can examine their perception of the content based on the product as well. The really excellent part is that I can now continue to “web out” the project’s ancillary components.  I will align them with brain constructive processes in an extremely thoughtful manner that targets necessary features for teen brains.


I am very excited about this approach and will happily work on it during the summer. In addition this gives me new information that explains the methodology to administrators and parents. In particular, it justifies what I thought was a downfall but now see as constructive rather than subjective assessment.

 I am matching what I currently have in my projects to necessary brain engagement as well as sparking meaningful constructions. I will attach my Periodic Table Game Project (about 14 pages) in my blog as well as the connections within the project to my constructions gathered in The B&B Institute.


Ayotola Oronti's picture

Identity and Self

Is it true that one is in 3 parts: Me, Myself and I? Considering the fact that the I-Function and the Cognitive-Unconscious are both operating individually but cooperatively, one can get to resolve any conflict in their relationship to create a different experience.

I was almost confused until we got to discuss that the conflicts between the I-Function and Cognitive-Unconscious can be resolved.

Relating this to my students, it means their cognitive unconscious can be tamed by resolving such conflicts. They come in everyday doing things from the cognitive unconscious whereas in their I-Function is something very much different. Since it is possible to combine both the I-Function and Cognitive-Unconscious, then as an educator I need to be able to find ways of resolving this conflict. 

Seta Palmer's picture

Reflection - Sleeping

The body has a sleep cycle that needs to be adhered to in order for the cognitive unconscious to function properly.  Usually if I have a student who doesn’t get enough sleep, I find them to be cranky, unable to think, they have a hard time following directions, and work that is normally easy becomes difficult for them.  In order for the brain to resort stories and solve problems it must be able to sleep. 

jrlewis's picture

I have often been a

I have often been a sleep-deprived student.  However, sometimes I purposely avoid sleep.  If something is seriously bothering me and I can't figure out what to do about it, I try to avoid thinking about it.  The best way to avoid thinking about something unintentionally is to decrease the function of my cognitive unconscious.  I purposely deprive myself of sleep in order to acheive some sort of piece of mind. 
bronstein's picture

Sleep deprived students

At some point it would be nice if the "powers that be" would realize that children at different ages have different attention spans and different biological clock cycles. The teens that I teach normally go to sleep late. First, they're over-subscribed activity-wise. So, when they finally get home, it's already a bit late to start their homework. They go to sleep at midnight and have to get up between 5 and 6 to get to school. They arrive still asleep. Studies show that teens don't become fully functional until almost 10 AM! So why are we starting their school day at 7:30? (My guess: to fit the sports schedule). I'm all for switching things around and starting the school day at 10:00 and having the sports competitions start at 7:00 AM.
Cynthia Henderson's picture

Generalized control mechanisms

Adrenalin changes the entire nervous system.Sleep-wake is a genetic pattern.It is also cyclical and autonomous in humans.Does music therapy ,lie detection,sleeping on the knees,and sleep in fish contribute to the cognitive unconcious and I function?
Judith Lucas-Odom's picture

Morning Session Generalized Control Mechanisms

This mornings session on generalized control mechanisms was very self stimulating for me because I always believed that the I function and the cognitive unconscious played an equal role in everything we do in life. This is a happy median and the melding of the two is critical for people to experience life to its fullest. In my classroom, I think this could be a happy median for my students to be creative and comply at the same time. I also have a question about how fluid changes can be affected by outside stimulus when you are asleep. In other words, do smells, or changes in air temperature affect how we get to or maintain REM sleep. Some of my students have internal clocks that trigger at the wrong time for learning; how can we address this in a society that still believes that children learn at the same times during the day?
Ayotola Oronti's picture

Talking about the internal

Talking about the internal clock as Paul illustrated with the human in a cage without any idea of what time would be and without a clock or watch, every body is different but we all run a daily shift that is as close to 24-hours as possible.

In other words, I will like to believe that our students also have their own individual internal clocks as you mentioned. The only thing is that their clocks tick at different times. Those individual ticks may not be wrong or right. Each is just uniquely timed.

What we can do to address this in our society is to educate the community on the concept of individuality and children's readiness for various activities.

ptong's picture


Many times when I am dreaming about being chased by something, or falling from a cliff, I always manage to wake up the moment before I get caught, or before I go *SPLAT*. Alternatively, when I have a great dream, I wake up during the "best" parts because someone is knocking on my door. Why is this happening? And what/who is causing this? Is this the cognitive unconsciousness? because I know I am not telling myself to wake up.
adiflesher's picture

We are a story

As Paul said, “our conscious identity is a story. “ The story that the conscious identity is a story is actually and old story.  Here it is told through a Buddhist lens:

When the Buddha confronted the question of identity on the night of his enlightenment, he came to the radical discovery that we do not exist as separate beings. He saw into the human tendency to identify with a limited sense of existence and discovered that this belief in an individual small self is a root illusion that causes suffering and removes us from the freedom and mystery of life. He described this as interdependent arising, the cyclical process of consciousness creating identity by entering form, responding to contact of the senses, then attaching to certain forms, feelings, desires, images, and actions to create a sense of self. In teaching, the Buddha never spoke of humans as persons existing in some fixed or static way. Instead, he described us as a collection of five changing processes: the processes of the physical body, of feelings, of perceptions, of responses, and of the flow of consciousness that experiences them all. Our sense of self arises whenever we grasp at or identify with these patterns. The process of identification, of selecting patterns to call "I," "me," "myself," is subtle and usually hidden from our awareness.

-Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart

jrlewis's picture

I think it is interesting to

I think it is interesting to consider students changing and developing conception of identity.  Specifically, how course content or practices can affect children.  Teachers may have a chance to affect a student's conception of themselves and the world around them.  However, it is important to avoid abusing this potential power.
bronstein's picture

Abuse of Power

This is one of the "altruistic" traits we hope for among teachers . . ., whereas power seems to be something that many people strive to amass. I believe most politicians and CEOs have a lust for power. I think that all of us have experience with teachers who also seem to relish the power they have in the classroom . . . and they behave like banana republic despots. I hold, however, that real power comes when a person (teacher) is willing to relinquish the power and let someone else exercise it. Hence "power to the people" is an expression that will actually invest in the leader(s) -- or the deserving teacher -- a truer control, b/c acceptance of that control will have been instilled in the populace (or class of students) willingly.

There is also the whole question of the special status of teacher, just like there is that of the boss, when considering the question of sexual abuse. But that may lead to an entirely different discussion . . . .
Cynthia Henderson's picture

Generalized control mechanisms

Adrenalin changes the entire nervous system.Sleep-wake is a genetic pattern.It is also cyclical and autonomous in humans.Does music therapy ,lie detection,sleeping on the knees,and sleep in fish contribute to the cognitive unconcious and I function?

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