Friday, September 12, 2014

Mental resonance is analogue to the corresponding phenomena in material systems

File:Korea-Andong-Dano Festival-Swinging-02.jpg
Korea Andong Dano Festival By Robert at Picasa

Systems can oscillate at varying frequencies. Resonance occurs when a system can store, transform, and transmit energy enhances amplitude at specific frequencies. For example, swings have a natural frequency of oscillation, on which they produce greater amplitude. The phenomenon is not limited to physical systems. Resonance has been observed in biological systems and even emotional animals. In animals and people, resonance entails an enhanced emotional response to specific situations. 

A beautiful example of temporal interference of the mind is described on Wikipedia. The setup is a game with an equal chance of winning $200 or losing $100. After the first game, participants are given a choice to play the second round. Unexpectedly, the response is dependent not on the result of the first game but on knowing the outcome. Whether people are told they won the first play or lost the first play, most people choose to play the second round. The common expectation is that the two rounds should be independent of each other. 

Nevertheless, when people are in the dark about the results, they choose not to play the second time. The outcome should be the average of the two outcomes but instead, the results reflect a quantum interference, like the results of double-slit experiments in physics. (In this experiment, the photon travels through two slits to a screen producing an interference pattern there.) Awareness of the score creates interaction, which eliminates interference. Without the results, the situation remains open. 

In everyday life, the phenomenon can take many forms, such as a scientific search for an elusive particle, hunting for a wild game, or waiting for a lost love. Without the certainty of ‘knowing,’ the mind is in quantum limbo and retains the ability for interference.

The reason for the above phenomena is the self-regulating nature of the emotional animal brain. Mental interference is an energy redistribution process whereby personal emotional tendencies are exaggerated or extinguished over time. In other words, interference exaggerates curiosity. The momentary energy peak can spur quick, arbitrary decisions and purchases. Advertisements take advantage of the narrow focus of excitement and try to spur action (buying) in a short time window. For example, you might admire your friend's new phone. An interference via an advertisement can prompt a purchase without remembering the original inspiration. Such interference produces social phenomena by way of temporal waves and bursts. Positive interference often leads to exaggerated interest, such as an investment bubble. However, over time, negative interference extinguishes enthusiasm and produce avoidance.  

Mental interference also occurs in our everyday lives. Degraded surroundings induce delinquent behavior, and the smelling of household cleaners promotes cleanliness; playing violent video games increases aggressivity, but prosocial games encourage friendliness. Understanding the above phenomenon better can help you make more thoughtful decisions.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Emotional hysteresis regulates the behavior of intelligent animals

Hysteresis is a memory-dependent behavior typical of elastic and ferromagnetic materials. Stretched elastic materials will return to their previous state when released. However, greater stretching will deform and warm up the material, which will only return to its initial state after a cooling period. Hysteresis like behavior has been reported in wide-ranging fields, such as neurology, histology, cell biology, genetics, respiratory psychology, economics, game theory, and unemployment. Surprisingly, emotion forming animals can produce the above behavior as well. 

The stimulation threshold of emotional animals depends on their emotional history. Thus, the degree of irritation, or 'emotional temperature' determines the response. In emotion forming animals, irritation enhances brain frequencies, i.e., emotional temperature. For example, at moderate stress, a dog will exhibit a smooth transition of responses, requiring a much larger irritation, cowed to angry. On higher stress levels, irritation causes the dog to reach a ‘fold’ point, when it will suddenly, discontinuously snap through to angry mode. Once in ‘angry’ mode, it will remain angry, even if the direct irritation parameter is considerably reduced (just like the heated up elastic material). Once reaching a sizable emotional temperature, it will take time until the dog calms down. Changes in emotional temperature (the degree of irritation) could result in experienced sudden behavioral changes. 

Similarly, catching attitude from others can lead to social ferromagnetism. Social groups exist as emotional ferromagnets. A common emotional orientation, in most situations, regulates thinking and behavior. This is why social groups tend to shop in the same stores, take similar vacations, vote for the same candidate, and hold the same view on many issues. The field directs an individual attitude in almost every problem. The collective opinion changes constantly and gradually over time by the experiences and emotional pushes of its members. 

For example, individual responses to challenges can be better predicted from peers' behavior than personal intention. Because social groups have such a powerful influence on behavior, behavioral modification spreads like an infectious disease within the social group. This is true even among people who personally do not know each other at all! The finding was revealed by a social study for happiness, quitting smoking, and discontent, but in all likelihood, it could be found for many other behaviors and habits as well (Hill, 2010). A recent study found that social media groups form a social bubble, limiting the available information to like-minded people and leading to a collective social bias. Indeed, recent surprising social changes in many countries (the Brexit, the Arab Spring, Brexit, or the election of Donald Trump) might result from such a collective attitude. 

Picture credit: Dogs By Peter Wadsworth

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