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They'll all fall

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Beliefs and the physical structures of the mind

The following is something I posted to mindlist. It is of interest for those that try to understand the nature of the mind.

I'll try to describe what actually happens here, connecting from the physical particles (atoms/molecules) up to beliefs, using NLP terms as appropriate. I use a bunch of terminology from medical science; I *think* the terms should be understable (enough) from context that this is fully understandable. Please ask if there is something any of you do not understand (after reading through all of it.)

What drives our behaviour is little physical particles moving around. Above that, it is chemical reactions in the body. Above that, it is pattern recognition in the neural network going all through the body (but especially the brain) triggering chemical reactions in the body (which again influence the network.)

These pattern recognizers are, depending a bit on how they are situatated, usually known as either "filters" or "resource states" or "anchors" in NLP (simplifying slightly with regards to resource states). There are a bunch more structures also represented here; I'll ignore them for now.

"Beliefs" is a higher level feedback mechanism towards the filtering system, changing the likelihood of a combination of pattern recognitions being allowed to go to permanent storage as a *new* pattern recognizer.

The set of pattern recognizers in use is *continually* being updated, and can be updated both from internal and external stimulus. So a belief change can, indeed, change behaviour without having "been through more experiences" externally.

Still, the direct driver of behaviour is the connection of pattern recognizers to hormonal and neurotransmitter release points ("anchors", though many of them come with the body from birth), the connection of pattern recognizers to other pattern recognizers throughout the body (and EVERY neuron is a pattern recognizer), the connection of inputs to some of the neurons, and the connection of outputs ("muscles") to some of the neurons.

Endocrine hormones (adrenaline, noradrenaline, corisol, oxytocin, etc, etc, etc) change cell responses in the body including (for some of them) *stimulating every nerve cell in the body by some amount*, thus changing the input filters and output responses (and a bunch of other stuff).

Neurotransmitter levels can do similar things in local areas, and sometimes globally.

Again: These things drive behaviour, ultimately by moving little particles around. The beliefs drive *parts* of how these things are built, *and only parts*.

I'll round off with a few examples that might help understanding some of the above more easily easily:

Let's say you want to gain individual muscle control over your ring finger.

Here, a belief that you haven't got it will likely be correct (most people have mixed up control with other fingers). Using for instance hypnosis to induce the belief that you have control over that finger will NOT give you immediate control over that finger. The problem here is that the pattern recognizers for *output* to the fingers are mixed together, and probably also the *input* from the fingers are somewhat mixed together.

However, a belief that you can move the fingers (or will be able to learn it very very rapidly) will make it easier to rapidly learn, and will give you higher apparent skill very quickly, because the belief part of the brain will be picking out the recognitions that match the prediction that you can control that finger, and give them higher weight.

Let's say you believe that belief drives behaviour. Then your filters will be tuned to notice that behaviour on a high level in many areas match belief. It will disregard the cases where you have to train other things that belief, as these do not "fit".

As an example of a non-belief-driven behaviour: If somebody moves something towards your face rapidly, you will (naturally) flinch. Thi sis not a "belief based" reaction - it is a reaction that is hardwired into us from we're born, by a direction connection that goes outside "beliefs". It is possible to *override* this reaction, either by expecting it and doing a conscious override, or (probably) by re-training the pattern recognizer so it does not operate. However, the behaviour here is initially OUTSIDE beliefs - we react due to the direct connection, and we rationalize "something was about to hit me" as a belief *afterwards*.

Again, feel free to ask about any of this - including other abstractions than "belief". Abstractions add to a base of knowledge, it does not take away - but viewing only the abstractions take away a great deal.


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