Morning Ed: Mindspace {2018.03.09.Th}

[Ms1] You make terrible life choices. Here’s why.

[Ms2] A look at the recent history of lying. {via Rufus and Oxford U Press}

[Ms3] I often say that Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder should be called Attention Control Deficit Disorder, or something of the like, because it’s not about how much attention you can give something but how much you control where your attention is going. But maybe that’s a more universal problem than I supposed.

[Ms4] A look at what we can learn about the psychology of scarcity by looking at the psychology of abundance.

[Ms5] Julie Beck looks at the limits of memory, and how it forces our system to purge memories of books and movies.

[Ms6] This will end badly. As the saying from Strange Days goes, “Memories are meant to fade.”

[Ms7] Or maybe memories are a virus.

[Ms8] The subtextual communication of depression.

[Ms9] People at risk of depression may be the only people who are better off sleeping less.


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Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

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21 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Mindspace {2018.03.09.Th}

  1. [Ms1] There’s something ironic about this article, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

    [Ms2] Is there a link to the rest of the article? I mean the part after the anecdotally cute intro?

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  2. Ms1 – The article identifies confirmation bias as an “evolutionary trait”. As such it must have more advantages than “it’s easier”. How and why this is true is worthy of as much attention as how and why it is not.

    My cognitive deficits make processing an average amount of info impossible. But this is a difference of degree not kind. It does highlight the need for humans to use a strongly heuristic approach to cognitive processing and decision making.

    A better article would have compared the advantages and disadvantages of confirmation bias. As such, it showed its confirmation bias against confirmation bias.

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  3. MS4 – Decision fatigue. It’s interesting, having gone from being very poor to quite comfortable, how different things are given that in most cases, I don’t have to think too much about money. I’m don’t piss my cash away, but at the same time, when a bill arrives, I don’t have to choose between paying it and putting gas in the car or food on the table.

    And I can still get hit with decision fatigue, but it isn’t chronic. It’ll spike every once in a while, if a whole bunch of things happen to converge in the same narrow window of time, but it’s not a daily thing.

    Decision fatigue is one of those things that, once I thought about it within my own experiences, changed a lot about how I feel about poverty & ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps’. I still think people are best served by lifting themselves out of poverty, but there is no reason they have to do it alone.

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  4. As the saying from Strange Days goes, “Memories are meant to fade.”

    Hey, that was a really good movie.

    And it was such a flop when it came out that I’m always really happy when I find someone else has seen it.

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    • Jaybird made me watch it when we were first married and it was the only one of those movies that he made me watch that I fell in love with. (I mostly fell asleep during the rest of them, although the parts of Twelve Monkeys that I was awake for were pretty interesting and I rewatched it eventually – the change in altitude did a number on me for months, so the sleepy wasn’t ONLY the movies’ fault.)

      I also fell in love with Skunk Anansie, relatedly.

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  5. [Ms3] — The thing about ADHD is there is no symptom of the condition that is not present in people without ADHD. That said, ADHD is a real thing. It is a significant impairment. Telling an ADHD person that, “Hey, my mind wanders also,” is much like telling a person with severe clinical depression that, “Hey, sometimes I get sad.”

    Yeah maybe, but the scale matters a lot.

    (I haven’t read the article yet. I’m responding to the blurb.)

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    • This is true, but it also (relatedly) seems true that many of the folks I know who have been diagnosed as ADHD as adults were told as children, “Yes, but everyone’s mind wanders, that’s all that’s happening to you, those other folks have A REAL IMPAIRMENT, and you do not.”

      (Also haven’t read article, not really arguing with V so much as expanding on the whole “hey sometimes I get sad,” phenomenon, which seems to render disservice to high-functioning individuals with certain impairments who are discouraged from seeking help, as well as the part that gets discussed more often, how it is an asshole thing to say to people with real impairments.)

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    • Well, ADHD is relatively easy to test for unofficially. (Official diagnosis requires either a trained psychiatrist and a full diagnostic, or someone old enough to do mental tasks in an fMRI).

      Unofficially, you just give them a stimulant and see what happens. People with ADHD calm down, people without…well, they perk up. Absolutely opposite reactions.

      A lot of people with mild ADHD self-medicate with caffeine. (Sugar also works).

      Mostly though the extreme ADHD cases are pretty easy to spot, it’s the mild to moderate ones that are the problem — especially in children intelligent enough to work around it. They’re still operating under a handicap, you just might not notice.

      I know one who — diagnosed as an adult — was more in awe about how much easier social cues were to read. Things they’d apparently always had to focus on (how to spot mild irritation, for instance) were considerably more…natural to notice.

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      • That seems to be the modern consensus. The problem is, by definition, it’s impossible to overprescribe Ritalin. If you give a kid uppers, and he bounces off the walls – no harm, no foul. Brain chemistry is pretty straightforward, right?

        ADHD is real, and I want to see people who need treatment get it. But I wish the argument for medicating suspected sufferers wasn’t the same as the argument for dunking suspected witches.

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      • — Not everyone with ADHD responds to stimulants. Most do. Some do not. The actual diagnostic process is way more complicated. It needs to be. Even if you do respond to stimulants, there is still other stuff that needs to be addressed. If you do not, there are other non-stimulant medications that can sometimes help.

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        • Let me add, ADHD is both controversial and widely misunderstood. This is a sore point for me, given some really awful life experiences I’ve had with people who stubbornly refuse to understand my condition. In any case, please don’t spread myths about ADHD.

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  6. Ms6 – My understanding of this is that, like most neurological functions, the ability to retrieve stored memories (as opposed to working memory, which is something different) depends on the myelination of white matter tracts. To break that down a bit, you can think of your brain as a forest, tracts as paths, and myelinated tracts as paved roads. Myelination is a gradual process that continues up until adulthood, and there is a body of work that explains child development in terms of myelination. If the traffic that goes back and forth from particular memories is on myelinated tracts – i.e. these memories are or were useful for some other thought or action function – then these memories are readily accessible. If there are no myelinated tracts, or even tracts at all, your stored memories exist but it is like they are lost in the forest somewhere.

    That is to say, your childhood memories likely exist in the way that a particular tree exists in a forest; likewise, anything that ever occurred in the past “exists” if it could be retraced or reconstructed. (This is kind of what I was writing about with my scifi series that I started publishing here a couple years ago, which, alas, I haven’t finished.)

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  7. [Ms7] I don’t remember anything about memory being a virus, but I remember that Burroughs had a theory in the 70s that language was a virus – he’s using “the Word” to mean language here:

    My general theory since 1971 has been that the Word is literally a virus, and that it has not been recognized as such because it has achieved a state of relatively stable symbiosis with its human host; that is to say, the Word Virus (the Other Half) has established itself so firmly as an accepted part of the human organism that it can now sneer at gangster viruses like smallpox and turn them in to the Pasteur Institute. But the Word clearly bears the single identifying feature of virus: it is an organism with no internal function other than to replicate itself.

    Philip K. Dick thought Burroughs got the problem right but not the solution:

    Where Burroughs and I sharply disagree is that my supposition is that if–if–an information life form exists (and this is indeed a bizarre and wild supposition), it is benign; it does not occlude us; on the contrary: it informs us or perhaps it has no interest in doing either, but simply rides our own information traffic, using our media as a carrier; that is entirely possible.

    Then PKD went off the rails and into the weeds, got in close contact with God, became clairvoyant, etc.

    The result was VALIS.

    I miss all those crackpots who grew up in between the wars, they were great.

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