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Notes Towards Day 14: Interpreting Our Data

Notes Towards Day 14 of Food for Thought:
Interpreting our Data

Concluding the naming gaming? (Isa, Emily?)

I. Processing What's Been Happening....
(Wil:) Do Caterpillars Make Choices? Do We?
(Paul:) Is incoming information always ambiguous/subject to multiple interpretations?
In a world in constant flux, do our brains locate and give meaning to randomness,
by relying on the presumption that things don't change a lot over time?

II. What sense can you make of these last two presentations?
What ambiguous figures/optical illusions/magic tricks/blindspots can you use,
and what survey can you design to test out and extend your reactions to this story?

Post both the data you've gathered and your interpretation of it on-line by 5 p.m. on Friday.

III. Readings for Tuesday continue to explore this matter of interpretation,
focusing on the literary:

30 pps. from Lewis Hyde's 1998 Trickster Makes This World: Mischief, Myth, and Art
20 pps. Paula Gunn Allen's 1986 The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminie in American Indian Traditions

Next Thursday we'll begin discussing Prodigal Summer: READ IT ALL BY THEN!

IV. Overview of  Tuesday's and today's reading assignments:
Paul's essay:
brain is an information processing system that continually/
unpredictably generates/updates probablistic descriptions
our uncertainty reflects imperfect information about actual states: all we ever know is likelihood
several different interpretations are "equally good"
primary function of consciousness is to withhold judgment long enough to come up w/ alternative guesses
replace "fixed reality" with sense of selves as active participants in shaping our world:
continuing capacity to create in new ways...

[cf. Schwartz/Thaler re need to narrow our choices/
reduce our options, to make the best decision?!]

Angier on Change Blindness: our inability to detect alteration
visual attentiveness born of limited resources; combat data overload
bottom-up attentiveness originates w/ stimulus, is impossible to ignore
vs. top-down attentiveness: volitional decision
brain master @ filing gaps in "grand illusion" that is our visual experience

Benedict Carey, NYTimes:
magic tricks take advantage of glitches in how brain constructs model of world/
neural approximating: focus on one thing @ a time, @ expense of others,
so magician frames relevant manuevers as trivial
distraction via direct engagement!

Nature Reviews Neuroscience: magic as a source of cognitive illusions
magicians use visual, optical & cognitive ilusions, special effects, secret devices and mechanical artifacts
combine multiple principles: attention, awareness, trust, perception to misdirect audience
of interest to neuroscientists pursuing cognition, memory, sensation,
social attachment, causal inference, awareness

misdirection to generate cognitive illusions
(inattentional blindness, change blindness, memory illusions, illusory correlations)
crucial principles: every motion should seem to have a purpose;
magician should not perform same exact trick twice;
use apparent repetition to close doors on all possible explanations except magic

dissociate perceived contents of awareness from actual physical events:
segregate what you want observers to be aware of from what you don't...

magical techniques that manipulate attention can be
used to study behavioral/neural basis of consciousness

V. All context for interpreting your data:
what did you want to learn? what did you learn?
what don't you know? what's your next question?

Michelle, Leigh, Steph, Lydia, Courtney on exercising

Sarah, Holly on depression

Malli on stress

Isa, Anna on sleep habits

Emily on procrastination

Aybala on eating habits

Illana on freshman 15

Sara on independence