Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mental Models

Human perception is a result of interplays between past experiences, including one’s culture, and the interpretation of the perceived.
Two types of consciousness are considerable regarding perception: phenomenal (any occurrence that is observable) and psychological (not related to the external world).
Jay Wright Forrester defined mental model as: "The image of the world around us, which carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagin all over the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts and relationships between them and those used to represent the real system".

Two mythological beings

Condillac conceived a marble statue in the likeness of the human body and inhabited by a soul that had never perceived or thought. He begins by conferring on his statue a single sense, perhaps the least complex of all-that of smell. A whiff of jasmine is the start of the statue's biography; for one moment there is nothing but this odor in the whole universe-or, to be more accurate, this odor is the universe, which a moment later will be the odor of a rose, then of a carnation.
In the statue's consciousness, once there is a single odor we have attention; once an odor lasts after the stimulus has ceased we have memory; once a present and a past impression occupy the statue's attention we have the ability to compare once the statue perceives likeness and unlikeness we have judgment; once the ability to compare and judgment occur a second time we have reflection; once a pleasant memory is more vivid than an unpleasant impression we have imagination. Once the faculty of understanding is born, the faculty of the will will be born: love and hate (attraction and repulsion), hope and fear. The consciousness of having passed through many states of mind will give the statue the abstract notion of numbers; the consciousness of being the odor of carnation and of having been the odor of jasmine, the notion of the I.
The author will then endow his hypothetical man with hearing, taste, sight, and finally, touch. This last sense will reveal to him that space exists and that in space he exists in a body; sounds, smells, and colors had been to him, before this stage, mere variations or modifications of his consciousness.

The other creature raised by the problem of consciousness is the "hypothetical animal" of Lotze. This being has in its skin but one movable sensitive point-at the extremity of an antenna. Its structure denies it, as is obvious, more than one perception at a time. Lotze argues that the ability to retract or extend its sensitive antenna will enable this all but the animal to discover the external world and distinguish a stationary from a moving object.

I wonder what would be the main differences between the 3 mental models: the human one, the Lotze hypotetical animal one and the Candillac statue one?


Anonymous said...

Perhaps one difference would be 'contact' with another of one's own kind. This reminded me of a book I read many years ago, with which I'm certain you are familiar mariana, it's called 'Flatland' by Edwin Abbott. I've never forgotten how it expanded my thinking at a young age. Another thing I noticed, was the absence of thought in each of the models regarding 'beginning' and 'ending'. As it appears to occupy the thought processes of humanity as a whole, thus the creation of religions to explain this apparent disparity in life, it caught my attention. I loved this post mariana, I find this subject matter stimulating on many levels although I doubt I will ever have the capacity to understand much of it in my life. :) You are very clever mariana and I admire your intellectual prowess.

Mariana Soffer said...

Great point the one of relating with one of the same "species".
Never heard about Abbott, I'm going go check it out.
Probably there is no mention of beginning or ending because:
1)the two imaginary beings are kept as simple as possible
in order to make analogies less complicated and easy the inference process.
2) because the mental model does not necessarily include the concepts
of beginning and/or ending.
Thank you very much valbrussell, to tell you the truth I do not think
I will ever be able to understand it either, nevertheless is very interesting to think about it, and try to learn as much as we can. said...

when pinker is asked Why isn't the baby born talking? There are probably two answers. (lets assume that language is the base of our mental model)

One is simply that the structures of the brain are not completely assembled and developed at birth. Another answer is that learning is an essential part of language, because by its very nature language has to be a shared code. If you spoke a language of one, you might as well not speak at all. The learning period synchronizes the language ability of each child to that of everyone else around him. In some wild animals, it's true, the communication system is completely hard-wired.

Some birds, for instance, are born with a song that is genetically determined and impervious to external influence. But our language is infinitely more complex. There's no way that you could encode 60,000 words - the vocabulary of an average high-school graduate - in a genome consisting of 50,000 to 100,000 genes. Vocabulary has to be learned

Mariana Soffer said...

Nice reflection. I would argue first that mental model and languages and/or bird language are not exactly the same.
Other thing this makes me thought about is whether we already came with a predefined mental model or not (which is the question many people argue about).
Hope this helps you think a little more

Uncle Tree said...

This one, Mariana, this subject is best left to post-graduates (not me). I've read a bit about all this, sure, so I'll go ahead and throw something out here.

Biological character and temperament should be taken into consideration where regards the individual's inborn traits. Instincts have yet to be located in the brain. Same goes for Mind. We don't know everything yet. At least, I don't.

Conscious beings also happen to be born with a conscience. Or do you think we learn to have one of those? Some people grow old and never seem to acquire one at all. Hence the deadly, violent behavior we witness today. Temperament and morality are tied together somehow, as it comes easier for some, but not for others.

Mother's intuition: is it provable? or only observable? What about the ability to read people, or know when someone is lying. Do we learn that, too? I suck in that department.

Gotta go to work. I'll come back later to catch up here? Hugz!

Don físico said...

Thank you for commenting in my blog. I was surprised that your blogs are in english while you are an argentinian like me. Perhaps willing to be known internationally? Nice trick then...

Don físico said...

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Mariana Soffer said...

My pleasure Don, the reason I write in English include to motives
1)because I used to live in the states
2)because argentinian people I know do not like the subjects I do and therefore do not exchange opinions here

Mariana Soffer said...

Uncle: You are completely right about post-graduates, maybe I woudn't call it like that I would call it some kind of too crazy-post, or too hard to understand, indeed I was about not to post it.
Honestly I do not know yet if we come with a consciousness, or not. I think there is something innate in us, but I do not konw if I would call it consciousness exactely.
You could probably rad people's thoughts, just look in to their eyes deep enough. AS somebody said, the eyes are not only for percieving, they are also for letting percieve.
Take care uncle

Anonymous said...

Good post. I'm going to erm...try and offer something of hopefully, relative value here. If not, please forgive.

Uncle got me thinking.

Semantically speaking: character, temperament, trait, personality. It's an ugly world out there! People mix them up, intermingle...gah!

Temperament is believed to have the genetic component. However, that's a pretty broad term. Do we want anything specific? Well, then you could move on to Traits. However, although the word Trait may seem to let you "drill down," not so much. Just off the top of your head, think of how many "words."

So, check out a couple of "Masters" of Trait Theory. In the beginning, Allport. Different "degrees" of Traits if you will and also one category dealing with culture/s.

Eysenck. He really tried to "simplify" things via stats. and taxonomies.

Okay, enough about the genes although I did see some vague reference about even that not being such a sure thing due to questions about how the brain works, its possible capacities and flexibilities etc... Also, some positive things and negative things about Trait Theory but's a "Theory."

Character. These aspects are learned and the sum of all is your Personality.

Moving on...

I would say that conscious beings are not born with a conscience. I believe that stems from learned behaviour and would be a result of aspects of Character.

Overall consciousness? I go with Sentience. So I think that could be a main difference between the three models (i.e. Candillac representing Sentience.)

Mariana Soffer said...

Txs for the compliment
Uncle is right we've better watch out You are right in part about Eysenck, it is a simplification, but it is also another
model to represent, delimitate and explain things.
I would say that this more than a post is a delirious theoretical experiment.
I agree with what you said:"I would say that conscious beings are not born with a conscience. I believe that stems from learned behavior and would be a result of aspects of Character."
But sometimes I think they are born with a part of it, or prepare to developed it,
the nature/nurture famous dilemma. I do not have a answer for that either.
Thank you very much for your comets, they are pretty cleaver, they make me keep thinking about

paul said...

That in my opinion is one of the best books from Borges, where are compiled a series of mythological creatures, from very old ones like the Golem to, I think the most modern one, is Poe's. It also includes myths from very diverse cultures, and classic and not so beliefs from them. I consider this book to have a great choice of
representatives of human mythologies.

Mariana Soffer said...

Paul: I love that book to Paul, must have read it tenths of times. I am just going to add to your comment that the best story for me is "the monkey from the ink" and also that
there are not simple description of beings, they also depicts philosophical and cultural

Uncle Tree said...

Hey, Mariana!

Could you please show me the Argentinian version (spelling) of these two words, and maybe give a short definition of each one? I wonder, from the answer you gave me, if we're talking about the same thing.

(1) consciousness
(2) conscience

If we are not born into consciousness, then I'm afraid we're born brain dead. Someone once asked Buddha just what he was: a master? a king? a saint? or a sage?

His reply was, "I am awake."

On another note, and an innate one at that, have your ever heard of, or knew of someone who seemed to be born with a natural piety?

Hello, Patient A!

Mariana Soffer said...

consciousness=conciencia=being consciouss/estar consciente (despierto)
conscience=conciencia=the awareness of something related to ethics.
There is the problem here in spanish it means two things, besides of the meaning I stated in english it means "being aware of oneself and what one does".This meaning is the one that is used the most.
Great quote the Budha one, but I do not think it works in spanish cause it is kind of a word game.

I was thinking abut your last question. But I think I know at least one person, but I don't knew many person's now that I knew since the day they where born. Maybe if I had kids, but I don't.
Hope I did not confused you more than you already where, I am more confused now.

Uncle Tree said...

No, Mariana, I am no more confused than usual. I see the spelling problem clearly. A sense of ethics, or morality, or other things, people and events that can weigh upon your conscience...the feeling of guilt resides in this faculty. That's what I meant by it.

Fish swim in water without ever knowing it. It surrounds them constantly, so they have no awareness that things could be different, like in the thin air above the surface. Unless they're caught and dragged to shore, of course. The water is taken for granted.

People come into consciousness in much the same way. The difference between the fish and us is this: when we go 'under', we have no awareness to 'see' what it's like on 'the other side'.

Where did everybody go? There is nowhere else. This is it. Glad you're here. That answers the why part of why I am here. That's the union between us and everybody else who finds themselves awake.

Hello! Goodbye! Are you ready to come to America?

Mariana Soffer said...

I get you much better now; it is hard for me the appropriate use of those word dough (you made me realize of it).

I was thinking that we are also like fish but instead of swimming in the water we do it on air, and we only notice it when there is a tornado.

I read your sentence about people and fish being different, but I can not seem to understand it. Why do fish have awareness and we don't?
Sorry maybe my head is kind of burned up today, to many math equations and programming (you do not need to explain yourself
if it is a burden I will figure it out eventually), dough it worked, I can evaluate now how good an adjective is or how bad. For example excellent will have a high positive number and horrible a high negative number, we 'll have fun with this in the future, we can measure poems, and more.

I knew not many people would comment if I posted this text, cause is kind of complex, and also they might not interest them, but I wanted to so I did it anyway. The fact that you are writing these interesting things to me made writing this post more than worthwhile.

I am getting ready, but to many papers to fill and queues to do before, cause my passport is not going to be valid by then and the visa neither. Anyway I am pretty exited about going.

Hope you life is doing good, I would like to know, if you feel like dropping a couple of lines about it you are more than welcome.


Anonymous said...


thank you again
for your kind comments
on my blog -- have added a link
to here at mo'po and trust this is ok by you

i see by your avatar image that you are a woman of two minds... art & science, perhaps :)


Mariana Soffer said...

T:You kind of got me, now I am trying to write a post since yesterday but I do not seem to make it say what I want to say. Bup, I want to change subjects that's why!
I am happy to have met you too.

RDC said...

Nice topic...

Well, I was thinking... doesn't it look absurd what Jay Wright says: the world around us is a model builded up by ourselves? So, if everything exists must be a model, then, how do you know everything is really builded up by ourselves. In fact, I ignore completly that! I can not get even myself building up nothing! 'Me' is just a feeling, a percepcion, actually it's also a model builded up by... God? a trascendental stuff? Our pure soul?

This psico theory doesn't work... it never has done! We should propose anothers points of view.
Well, this is my opinion on that.

Mariana Soffer said...

I really liked your comment, it could have been my own stream of thought (hilo de mi pensamiento) on a saturday afternoon.

I think you are right about our need of making other theories or proposing other viewpoints. There is this new idea of the universe, that includes us, based on quantum physics and the string theory, I find it very interesting, but it is too difficult for me to understand.

Anonymous said...

I always see to come at the end of a good discussion, don't I?

Wonderful post, but I would like to add something- food for thought, if I may: the range and scope of human perception can go beyond interpreting experiences and culture. I think perception is like a spectrum and that we have only tapped into a small part of it in our daily consciousness. I don't mean extra sensory perception (ESP) but it could mean that too.

I think what I am trying to say is that we all have consciousness, but it is awareness not consciousness that defines what we perceive just as much as experiences and interpretations of the external world....have you ever read anything by Carlos Castanedas? The academics and scientists dismissed him back in the 60's but his Shamanistic writings are filled with ideas similar to quantum physics in many ways. He says that awareness is the "rate and speed of perception" and that the more awareness we have the more we are able to perceive, including dimensions beyond what we normally access. A good analogy would be like how a dog's range of hearing is on a different scale than the human range of hearing (expect we cant train our ears but we can develop our perception).

I think theories on cognition and perception cross-section what some of the spiritualists believe. In many ways what I am saying is not different from what Uncle Tree says about Buddha.

I hope I don't sound too crazy for your scientific sensibility!


Mariana Soffer said...

Very interesting way of thinking about perception.
I always thought that we should enlarge our range of awareness,
I guess our perception has to be in our awareness spectrum for us to realize what is it that we are perceiving.

I am embarrassed to tell you this but I did not read castaneda, many of my friends talk to me about a couple of his books, and I am sure it is exactly what you say about the similitude it has with quantum physics. What I have read instead that reminds me a lot of entanglement and string theory is about Buddhism, I read suzuki, the Dalai Lama, Wallace, and there are a couple that are about his meetings with scientist.
(guess what, I just read your paragraph about Buddha, I see we are in sync).

I am not sure that we can train our perception, I think that we can train the awareness of our perception among other reasons because we can not change our auditory range. If you read a little about Buddhism, their training in meditating is suppose to increase their awareness.
You are not crazy at all, its great.
Take care

Anonymous said...

Thank you for visiting my blog and introducing me to this interesting philosophical article. I think still that everyone's perception depends not so much on the previous models experienced by the others but on our own individuality and happened experiences.

Mariana Soffer said...

You just caught me at a moment where I am changing my idea about how the mind works; so forgive me for being quite incoherent, but the idea as you say, is that perception depends on your past experiences. Nevertheless experiences, how you live them, are shaped by our culture, they are framed in that system with values, rules, and other cultural features. Even if you do not want it to, culture is influencing the way your brain works all the time (from what language are you using, which restricts and shapes our reality, to the concept of how time advances).
Thank you very much Edna, please feel free to tell if you think I am wrong and why, it will be more than welcome

Shubhajit said...

Dear Sister,

The topic is not so simple, yet it is very simple. I believe there is nothing called instincts, I may call it past experience. what is instinct? Isn't it a queer word?

We can't understand the smallest part of our mind. How this whole perception comes, how this consciousness comes, how the human become more evolved than any other creatures? Scientists may call it brain capabilities through evolution but there are several loopholes in different evolutionary theories.

Through metaphysics we can say that human birth is the highest or say finest birth not because of luxury etc because those things are only make us more put into the graveyard of misery but we are here to realise the truth. That's the constant struggle for truth in the state of extreme pleasure and in the state of extreme gloom make us unique. for some it is always in conscious mind and for most it is in unconscious mind. We can get everything, we reach the highest of everything, but still in this heart there is a vast peace..what is the truth?

Our mind is also a part of body. Just like gravitation is a gross and love is a subtle force of same attraction. similarly, body is the gross and mind is subtle part of same thing. But, there must be some great thing going beyond this function. We don't believe because we can understand little bit of mind but beyond mind it is incomprehensible for normal man.

And this is the law. And that is why everything is so perfectly calculated. This earth will destroy, universe will and again life comes. This illusion is under time, space and causation. If there is a cause, there must be an effect just like water cycle. each and every object in the universe is under this tremendous force of time, space and cause. and what is beyond that? Truth I guess?


Mariana Soffer said...

Shubhajit: excuse me for taking such a long time to reply to your wonderful explanation, I just did not notice it was pending and forgot about checking my posts.
I think it is pretty clear what you say here, I just wanted to thank you for expressing what is in your mind. But what you talk about is harmony of the universe, humans and all the things as they are. But you also open lots of questions in my mind, that I do not have the proper time to answer right now, but I will try to come back and think with you about the existing theories and how coherent they are with what we know about out conscious minds.

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