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Wednesday, 26 August 2015 13:36



NHA Tutorial 14


Intellect, formal language and declarative memory

updated August 2015



It is important in this Tutorial to understand that Intellect and Intelligence are no longer seen as synonymous terms—even though their symbiotic relationship in consciousness must be recognized; there is no longer scientific doubt that intellect is one factor of intelligence among many.

In Tutorial 13 we looked at some of the factors required for judgment & decision-making. In this tutorial we look at more contributory factors to these executive abilities; our intellectual capacity for reason and its tools of formal language and declarative memory. Rational thinking includes analysis and calculation; which we use in order to ascertain more accurate information. The results of successful rational thinking in intellectual investigation is the body of knowledge we call facts.

We already know that Network 5 uses it's own format for intellectual processing: formulae, constructed of the words and symbols which we know as formal language, mathematics, chemistry notation and so on. Formularization requires the digitization of data; information is now quantitative rather than qualitative, and we deal with it accordingly; N5 also has its own methods and procedures, the most well-known of which is 'the scientific method', which we shall be exploring here. A fact is either true, or not true, and we use a methodology to produce facts which can ascertain veracity by examination of proof. Both format and methodology rely ultimately on declarative memory for their accuracy and it, unsurprisingly, also relies on them. (You should be getting used to this reciprocal relationship stuff by now).

To recap on the big picture:

N1 / N2 / N3 / N4 / N5

Perceptualization /Conceptualization /Analogization/ Metaphorization/ Digitization

(or in fact, Redigitization, because input data is digital in the first place).

T13 & T14 give us the background (the supporting processes) for judgment & decision making, which will be covered in T15.


As with the previous tutorial, expect more practical exercises and 'do it now's, as well as methods, exercises and hacks for improving or augmenting intellect. By the end of this tutorial you should be able to: 

  • understand how reason and our intellectual skills assist in judgment, decision-making and problem solving


  • know the difference between facts and opinions, between theory and hypothesis, between good and bad evidence, and between a row and an argument

  • understand why Sherlock Holmes' skills are required for truth-hunting

  • Recognize what is useful about a rational approach to various issues

  • Identify and use the basic tools of argument analysis

  • Analyze information critically to reveal the truth, and present your own ideas logically

follow the right habit



Our intellect is our capacity for thinking and acquiring conscious knowledge, especially of a high or complex order. Most of us understand intellect as 'our capacity for reason'. Rationality or reason refers to the ability of the mind to calculate and come to correct conscious conclusions about what is true or real, and how to solve problems.[1] Intellect enables us to think through things incisively, honestly, critically, analytically, thoroughly and systematically; to use deductive logic to examine premises and conclusions, and to use scientific methods to test hypotheses through experiment. We call these procedures reasoning and we use reason in order to inquire and to learn.

The word 'reason' comes from the latin 'ratio' ('reckoning'), from 'reri' (to think); the root of the term 'rationality'; and the original greek term for reason was 'logos'; the root of the modern English word, 'logic'. The field of logic studies ways in which human beings reason through argument.[2]

At this stage of our development we are designed to be consolidating unconscious knowledge with conscious confirmation, using creativity and intellect. Since it is apparent to us from observation of amoebae, ants, etc., that many living creatures can survive adequately using just unconscious knowledge, we may wonder exactly why complex conscious analysis ever emerged; after all, if an organism can fill all its needs and thrive without conscious awareness, why bother using enormous amounts of energy to fuel conscious deliberation?



The fact that a cognitive task could in principle be performed without conscious awareness is irrelevant to the adaptive argument. Even if the task could be performed more simply and efficiently by other methods, the only thing that matters is what, as a matter of historical fact, actually was the solution arrived at by natural selection. It was conscious thought. Live with it.

Evolutionary biologists find it useful to distinguish two basic kinds of questions about conscious thought: proximate and ultimate, which essentially equate to ‘how’ we think consciously and ‘why’ we think consciously.

One obvious 'why' is evolutionary benefit. Conscious thought gave its possessors the capacity of control. If we are consciously thinking about something, that awareness opens the doors to interacting with it, augmenting it, directing it, adapting it, reloading it and refining it. Anything which increases the possibility of interaction increases our capacity for evolutionary adaptation.

Most obviously, conscious thought greatly increases our ability to interact, and anything which achieves this is also an evolutionary advantage. Conscious awareness is a conduit; a mechanism of integration; a way of converging and combining and coordinating information, and it is a functional ability that is found in complex animals living in complex environments.

Conscious awareness relates to the need to cope with complexity of perception and behavior, and it is found not only in animals which live in groups, but also in solitary animals. However, while conscious awareness is found in animals right across the continuum of the animal kingdom; conscious thought is of much more limited distribution.

Conscious thought includes our efforts to interpret and understand what other individuals are doing, feeling and thinking, as well as how those others are likely to perceive us in return. Success in rational communication and co-operation depends on our evolved ability to empathize – to imagine others' situation no less than our own. This isn't so much out of intrinsic benevolence (although this, too, could be helpful in making allies) but because such leaps of the imagination allow us to maximize our own interests in the complex dynamic landscape of possible interactions. 

Conscious thought and conscious interaction also allow us to anticipate how we might improve things. The more conscious thought our ancestors indulged in, the more able they were to modify — to their own benefit — themselves, their environment, and ultimately their evolutionary success. Obviously with this as a goal, genes and behaviors augmenting conscious rationality would have enjoyed an advantage over alternative genes.

However, the most obvious benefit of reason is the ability to discern what is real and what is not, by reliable methods of intellectual investigation. And conscious thought enables us to solve problems much more efficiently than unconscious knowledge alone. An extra dimension of information becomes available to us; the complementary faculty to intuition; reason.

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, explaining and adapting, and changing or justifying thoughts, behaviors and beliefs; based on new or existing information.[3]Our capacity for reason is strongly associated with our capacity for freedom and autonomy.[4]

Reason and imagination rely on similar processes.[5] Both lead to decisions about reality; the former in conscious abstract understanding and the latter in unconscious concrete perception. Perception is attempting to portray what is really there, and reason is attempting to portray what is really true.

Abstract perception ideally culminates (in Network 6) in 'comprehension' or 'understanding'. The rational mental processes that constitute ‘knowing’ (the ability to identify and analyze, memorize, and categorize) are known as cognition, which takes place in Network 5, and creativity, which processes use Network 4. In effect, though, N4 & N5 rely on each other to complete their own tasks. Their complementary skills of synthesis and analysis provide all we need for creative, innovative, yet measurably accurate cognition, needing only coordination by N6 to facilitate understanding.


Formal operational thinking

In previous tutorials we learned about concrete operational thinking and the abilities it brings. With N5 coming online we are able to develop the next stage of intelligence; formal operational thinking or 'formal operations'.

When N5 goes online, we gain the ability to think in an abstract manner, the ability to combine and classify items in a more sophisticated way, and the capacity for higher-order reasoning. We begin to be able to manipulate ideas entirely 'in our head', without any dependence on concrete manipulation. This is the formal operational stage of development. We can do mathematical calculations, think creatively, use abstract reasoning, and imagine the outcome of particular interactions.

An example of the distinction between concrete and formal operational stages is the answer to the question “If Alice is taller than Bob and Bob is taller than Carl, who is tallest?” This is an example of inferential reasoning, which is the ability to think about things which we have not actually experienced and to draw conclusions from our thinking. Those who need to draw a picture or use objects to work this out are still in the concrete operational stage, whereas people who can work out the answer in their heads are using formal operational thinking to do so.

Researchers have devised several tests like this for formal operational thought.[6] Another of the simplest was the 'third eye problem'. People were asked where they would put an extra eye, if they were able to have a third one, and why. When asked this question, concrete operational thinkers all suggested that the third eye should be on the forehead. However, formal operational thinkers were more inventive, for example suggesting that a third eye placed on the hand would be useful for seeing round corners.[7]

Formal operational thinking has also been tested experimentally using the 'pendulum task'.[8] The method involves a length of string and a set of weights. Participants have to consider three factors (variables) the length of the string, the heaviness of the weight and the strength of push.

The task is to work out which factor is most important in determining the speed of swing of the pendulum. Participants can vary the length of the pendulum string, and vary the weight. They can measure the pendulum speed by counting the number of swings per minute. To find the correct answer the participant has to grasp the idea of 'the experimental method' -that is, to change one variable at a time (e.g. trying different lengths with the same weight). A participant who tries different lengths with different weights is likely to end up with the wrong answer.

Those in the formal operational stage approach the task systematically, testing one variable (such as varying the length of the string) at a time to see its effect. However, those still in the concrete operational stage typically try out these variations randomly or change two things at the same time.

The systematic approach of formal operations indicates we are thinking logically, in the abstract, and can see the relationships between things. These are the characteristics of the formal operational stage.[9] Grasping formal operations means that for the first time in our life we have the mental capacity to think maturely and the ability to solve all classes of problems.

While formal operational thinking requires time for N5 to develop; time alone is not sufficient to guarantee that it will develop at all, and one should NOT assume that all adults fully develop formal operations; in fact a majority of adults never advance beyond concrete operational reasoning. The amount of experience a person has in engaging formal operations also makes a significant difference to their ability and efficiency in solving problems. Additionally, some people may have the ability to use formal operational thinking in one or more particular areas but still not be able to generalize or transfer their formal operational knowledge to other areas, and rely on concrete operational thinking in those areas.

There is no higher level of reasoning that we know of beyond formal operational thinking, although there are further stages of intelligence development. Later, we incorporate intellect and formal operations into our processes for judgment and decision-making as well as problem-solving, conflict resolution, and other executive tasks requiring N6.

Differences in reasoning ability among formal operational thinkers is based on their construction of accurate logical procedures, the ability to mentally manipulate information from one form to another using an appropriate process, and the creativity, flexibility of logic, and experience required to recognize which procedure fits best with each particular situation.

Abstract thought and concrete thought both use logical operations. However, there is a clear difference in the greater range of reasoning with the type of logical operations used by formal operational thinking. Concrete thinking lacks the range of comprehensiveness, power to interact, imagination, flexibility, and depth of reasoning that formal operations can bring. In addition a formal operational thinker is consciously aware that the programs permitting logically derived conclusions (the processes) have a validity independent of factual input (the data).

For example, formal operational thinking can deal with complex verbal propositional reasoning that is not tied to a personal past or present experience. In linguistics this is called 'displacement', and is the feature of formal language which enables us to explain to another person what happened in the past and what might happen in the future.

As soon as a mind can share information with gestures, pictures and mime, intelligence pushes us forward into speech; which develops firstly through sound recognition and translation from imagery into metaphoric association, and later on into formal linguistic representation of concepts. This is the only way we can relate to events unfolding in a congruous way through time, and the only way we can interact in abstract ways which refer to other times. Formal language is also essential for defining concepts accurately enough to be manipulated in formal operations.

Formal operational thinking also includes reasoning about hypothetical problems - reasoning that is not tied to a personal past or present experience; as well as reasoning about the future in general without tying it to a personal past or present experience. We can now use theories, models and hypotheses to create solutions to problems.

Hypothetical reasoning goes beyond the confines of everyday experience to things for which we have no experience; things beyond perception and memory; about which we have no direct knowledge. People with formal operational ability can reason about hypothetical problems entirely symbolically in their minds and can deduce logical conclusions.

With N5 online, we are able to think about our own thoughts and feelings as if they were objects (metacognition). Reasoning can be independent of content; so we can argue on the logic of any argument, solution or problem independent of its content. Complex problems can be dealt with simultaneously and systematically by coordinating multiple thinking and reasoning strategies and/or variables to derive solutions.

With formal operations we can use inductive reasoning by combining similar solutions to create generalizations, principles, models, and testable theories. We form a highly developed understanding of causation. We can also use deductive reasoning; the use of a premise to create conclusions or the use of general ideas to create specific ideas. Inferences or conclusions created with deductive reasoning are true only if the premises used to create them are true. However, reasoning can use false premises and create logical but false conclusions. (We'll talk about all this later).

We can use hypothetical deductive reasoning, or reasoning with the use of a hypothetical premises (rather than facts) to create conclusions. Combinatorial reasoning, for example, is thinking which systematically considers all possible relations of experimental or theoretical conditions, even though some may not be realistic.

Other goodies that come packaged with this software:

Proportional reasoning (Alice is left of Bob and Bob is left of Carl; where is Alice in relationship to Carl?)

Probabilistic reasoning (Alice will probably be in the bar)

Correlational reasoning (to recognize a comparison between the number of confirming and disconfirming cases of a hypothesized relationship to the total number of cases.)

Identification and control of variables (when attempting to validate a relationship or inference, we can design a test that controls all variables except for the one being investigated.)

These ways of using formal operations combine to enable us to accept an hypothesized statement or assumption as a starting point for reasoning about a situation. We will explore types of reasoning in more depth later on in this tutorial.


Formal language

Reason uses the tools of intellect, including imagination, formal language and declarative memory. As reason is symbolic thinking, humans have a special ability to maintain a clear consciousness of the distinctness of "icons", words or symbols and the real concepts they represent. N4's metaphoric associations and N5's formulaic associations are of a different order, and both are required in order to get a complex picture of a concept. Metaphoric language explains metaphoric associations very well, but N5 needs a symbolic language which is purely abstract -where the symbols used to represent concepts are abstracted into formulae; codes for intellect's specific use. One of these symbol-sets is what we call formal language.

In formal language, we define terms tightly to their in-context meanings. In context of arithmetic, for example, the word 'one' 'means' (represents) the numeral 1; all other possible meanings are disregarded. In physics, Schrodinger's Cat is an hypothetical cat in a thought experiment; it is not a real live cat or Schrodinger would be arrested for cruelty to animals, nor is it 'a cool dude' or any of the other informal possibilities for the term 'cat'. Using formal language, or mathematical or chemical notation, rational thought can define terms down to the specific rather than the general; something which N5 excels at.

It seems that only humans have evolved such complex, abstract symbolic languages.[10]


We will be looking into how formal language is processed later in this tutorial.


declarative memory

Declarative words and formulae define and explain specific facts. They are databased in declarative memory, which is a storehouse for all of the facts we ever remember, throughout our lives.

People with declarative memory impairment (anterograde amnesia) due to injury have good memories of what happened before the injury occurred, but they can’t form new declarative memories; even for facts and events such as what they did yesterday or the name of a person they just met. (They can still form new non-declarative memories, like learning how to ride a bike, type, or play the piano). This suggests that declarative memory is required for keeping track of what’s going on in the here and now, as well as working memory.[11]

DO IT NOW - declarative memory

Where do you live? What is your birthday? What is 2+3? Will a litre of H2O fill a pint glass? What's your name? Do you like anchovies? What did you have for breakfast today?


...This is declarative memory at work. It hands you required facts. If you ask it, 'What is a Yarfren?' it will factually tell you that you don't know (and send a message to N2 to find out, if the word sounds interesting to you, which, if you follow it through, will get you to the fact that we just made it up).

Declarative memory works best with an already-known referent; and we can speed up learning by simply viewing pictures or experiencing an item before learning more facts about it. If we do things the other way round, however (ie, receiving information about items before seeing or experiencing them), this often deleteriously affects how well they are remembered.[12] This tells us a lot about why natural learning always includes an initial experiential referent; we move from the known into the unknown; we master the basics before the details, and throwing the details at us without the basics makes learning harder. Obviously we cannot always get experience before facts, but that is what imagination is for. If we cannot grasp the relevance of a concept with imagination, we can never apply the facts about that concept; we can only recite them 'parrot-fashion' (for example, most people know Einstein's most famous equation parrot-fashion, but few could explain it or use it.)

We'll also be exploring declarative memory further in this tutorial.


Intellect, of course, cannot provide subjective experience, but it can take into account the effects of subjectivity. This means factoring in the way we personally think and feel, and the strength (weighting) or 'importance' of emotion, and it is the ability to know ourselves well enough to include these factors which determines how we ultimately experience and evaluate the events of life, how we learn and remember, and how we are driven to respond through interaction.[13]

reason to believe

The ability to distinguish or work out what is true and real despite conflicting opinions is a valuable survival tool. The ability to think things like: 'No, really, despite what all these dudes, cool though they may be, think or say, there IS reason to believe there's still a bear in that cave', has obvious evolutionary advantages. The ability to reason well can, like most other mental habits, be learned, augmented, practiced and improved.

Ideally, the relationship between reason and belief is that the former should inform the latter. In mainstream society this is far from true.

We might imagine that not a great deal could get in the way of clear, straightforward, logical reason. Well, dream on... most human beliefs are both erroneous and unreasonable; often they are conditioned opinions learned parrot-fashion which almost everyone uses in order to 'pretend to be normal' (ie, society's ideal self), which logic and reason not only fail to back up but often blatantly contradict.

But the greatest difficulty in persuading anyone to see the extent of the problem is its ubiquitous nature -if everybody believes they already know the truth, if everyone genuinely thinks that common sense, logic and reason support their current beliefs, where do we go from there?

Uncovering the extent of our personal delusion; separating the signal from the noise, and making a habit of reasoning instead of 'parroting' can be both exhilarating and traumatic, so we hope you will be understanding of the nature of reprogramming and patient in navigating around snapbacks when dealing with your own. The permanent value of reason in determining truth from falsehood, reality from fiction, is well worth the temporary disillusion and mild alarm at discovering the extent of our past conditioning and delusions.


For you: the signal (accurate, clear input of facts, data and information).

...and anything which is able to improve the signal clarity (eg., attention, real life experience, reliable formal operations & reasoning skills, reliable allies, enriched environments which provide cheer and comfort and clarity of thought, access to useful and accurate information sources).

Emergence can't proceed without accurate information exchange, because without it, we are in a delusional reality and interaction can't easily happen. The quality of our input depends, as we know, on many factors; some are in ourselves (attention, distraction) some are in our context (reliability of available data & info) and some are in the interaction 'conduit' between the two (misunderstanding, miscommunication, misdirection). Reason is a great tool for guiding us in truth hunting, because it can still be effective with minimal data (although in such circumstances it prompts us to seek out more) and it can help us produce new data from known facts. It can simplify complexity by observing a process rather than the details, or it can infer complexity from a few simple rules.

Formal reasoning is not a tool any neurohacker would want to be without. Rational thinking skills are similar to sensorimotor learning in that it is difficult to learn about them without doing them; indeed we cannot truly understand reasoning without doing it, much like sex, swimming or playing a computer game cannot be learned or understood very effectively just from tutorials. The whole point of knowledge is that it should give us abilities; abilities to DO something new and different; in this case to think in a different way.

The new and different ability that rational thinking brings with it is the ability to perceive truth from falsehood, which is a very useful skill all over the galaxy and one of the reasons why rational thinking before decision-making can be such a rewarding skill for survival in general.

Reason is applicable to all subjects and issues; not just scientific subjects. We can focus on abstract and/or practical questions such as “What do the concepts of ‘god’, ‘art’, ‘self’ or ‘mind’ mean?”; “Is reality really as it appears in our minds?”; “Why do some relationships fail?”; “Is the information on this website genuine?”, “How does love affect health”; and so on. If applied properly rationality should enhance every subject for us, and should augment our awareness, perception, knowledge and wisdom regarding that subject.

Reason can also be used in reparative programming and overwriting conditioned responses in systems such as self-programming and reasoning training, which we'll discuss in the NHA guide section below.

To blow a few myths away: Rational intelligence is NOT the opposite of emotional intelligence; reason is NOT the opposite of emotion; they are complementary (eg., they are designed to work together to give us more information). Nor is reason a stranger to spirituality, for the clear light of reason and deeper understanding makes the beauty of things like stars, sunsets and poetry much more, not less, awesome. There is in fact a deep spiritual aspect to formal reasoning for those who pursue it with rectitude, and applying rationality in systems such as Nonviolent Communication (NVC) has been called a 'spiritual' practice as well as an adept form of conflict resolution (see NHA Guide section).

Adopting good habits of research saves a lot of time in truth-hunting, and access to accurate knowledge is the best protection for our health, physical and mental. However, knowing we have sources of information that are trustworthy does not protect us from exposure to counterfeit information; only the skills of reasoning can do that.


Against you: the noise (eg., counterfeit games, conditioning, myth, superstition, bias, prejudice, assumption, deception, distraction, delusion, anxiety, misunderstanding, misinterpretation, rumor, gossip, opinions, bullshit and outright lies.)

...That's a lot of noise, from which we have to detect and isolate the relevant signal, even though the majority of things on this list are secondary symptoms of anxiety and all fall into the categories of 'wrong input' or 'no input'. The 'garbage in = garbage out' concept seems obvious, but what humans lack is an agreed definition of 'garbage'. In formal reasoning, however, garbage is eliminated by logic.

It is ultimately a great deal faster to learn to automatically recognize garbage (ie, useless, harmful or inaccurate input), than needing to consciously go through a formal argument to prove it (which, in any case, a website you are viewing cannot take an interactive part in). However, understanding how to prove that what you believe is true does wonders for self esteem, confidence, serotonin and norepinephrine levels (which latter also improves the quality of memory), so it's worthwhile taking the time to practice.

Obviously if our inner model of reality is inaccurate, it is more difficult to achieve congruity in understanding, so it is important to address this when developing (or redeveloping) network 5. Yet the sheer babble of the noise can be very distracting and very trying on the patience when we are trying to ascertain the truth. The trouble is, we are naturally trusting; because biology expects intelligence and beneficial interaction to emerge, rather than the dysfunctional communication habits of anxiety, paranoia and OCD currently rife in mainstream society.

Healthy humans have a natural propensity to speak the truth, which is why, without the tools of reason, we tend to gullibly believe everything we hear or read. Biology expects veracity. Yet the mental lives many of us now lead are more than just un-natural; they are anti-natural. We are unconsciously designed to be truthful with each other, and it is the incongruity caused by constant deceit which makes us feel generally uncomfortable: we know something is wrong, but we don't know what. We know the way people behave is unfair, but we don't know why. It doesn't make sense.

Insecurity and lack of autonomy also cause us to trust the word of others, especially artificially 'esteemed' others such as celebrities, newsreaders, doctors, politicians, priests, parents and teachers. Although none of these categories conveys wisdom, many of us are conditioned to 'believe what we're told, and do what we're told'. It is this lack of cognitive autonomy (the ability to think, judge and decide for ourselves) coupled with a lack of analytical ability and the skills of reason; which keep the majority of people blindly believing everything they hear.

It's bullshit and it's bad for ya [14]

Some years ago a student announced online that he had circulated a petition demanding strict control of a chemical known as dihydrogen monoxide. [15] This chemical substance, he wrote, truthfully, caused sweating and vomiting, is often lethal if accidentally inhaled, contributes seriously to erosion, and has been found in the tumors of cancer patients. The student asked 50 people whether they supported a ban. Forty-three said yes, six were undecided, and only one knew that 'dihydrogen monoxide' was... water.

This anecdote shows how quickly people embrace ideas without subjecting them to critical rational scrutiny. This human propensity to accept information at face value - no matter how illogical - is the context in which pseudoscience, myth and bullshit grows. Beliefs in astrology, fortune telling, ESP, mind reading, quantum woo woo or guardian angels do not meet scientific criteria for rational plausibility, BUT neither do the postulations of priests, newsreaders, teachers, or politicians; though they may use scientific-sounding terms or rationales; all such concepts can be accurately described as pseudoscience, counterfeit information, or, plainly, bullshit.

Counterfeit belief systems like astrology, money-worship, politics or religion pacify anxiety in those without autonomy, makes them feel 'looked after', and provide the illusion of security, predictability, control, and pattern in otherwise chaotic, incongruous minds. The allure of bullshit on this level is easily understandable; it takes courage to accept responsibility for your own life when formerly everything was god's will. But counterfeit information poses concrete threats by weakening critical thinking and minimizing a person's autonomy, control and responsibility. For many individuals, it can also translate into not only time (life) wasted on following bullshit advice, but also a clear and present danger; real harm comes to many of us throughout life due to believing bullshit and adhering to counterfeit game claims. Some of the results are death, obesity, dementia, senility, and of course anxiety.

We need to be able to sift through the information overload of bullshit we're presented with each day in real time and make sound judgments on everything from soft advertising to hard science. Fortunately there are ways to retrain ourselves to use rationality and logic to overcome these difficulties. We include methods, exercises & hacks to enable the habits of good reasoning and avoid the BS, in various sections below.

DO IT NOW – learn the good habit of avoiding 'confirmation bias'

Think of something you already believe to be true or don't know whether it's true – here are some possible choices:


saturated fats are bad for you

vaccination is beneficial for all

we should drink 8 glasses of water per day to prevent brain dehydration

when exercising, no pain = no gain

school is compulsory

people can't survive without money

fluoride in your water and toothpaste is beneficial

the sleep patterns of wild and captive animals are the same

stone age humans had an average 25 year lifespan

cereals are good for you

antibacterial soaps are better for your health


Now go look up some information about the belief. Can you find any information to confirm it? We bet you can! Make a note of the url's or other sources.

Then, go and deliberately try to find information against the belief. For example, if you believe that saturated fats are bad for you, search for: 'saturated fats are good for you'. If you believe school is compulsory, look up 'School is not compulsory'. (We expect this search to be harder than the first one, so don't worry if you find it so. If you cannot find any evidence at all against a belief, we will be surprised, but in this case, there is a list of 'proof against' resources for the claims listed above, in the 'Answers' section at the end of this tutorial.) Make a note of the url's or other sources.

Next, list the discrepancies between any conflicting information. Chances are you will find that for anything we believe, there is some information out there contradicting the idea somewhere. This is the signal-to-noise problem you're experiencing right now.


A big problem with 'noise' when learning reasoning skills is one of confirmation bias: finding an answer we already believe, and looking no further. If someone has a question about a belief or opinion—say, that saturated fats are dangerous—then when they look it up online they'll tend to be biased toward sites that only have information they already agree with!

Confirmation bias is a well-known and powerful effect, and is one reason some things, like false saturated fat beliefs, are strong even in well-educated communities. The people are smart enough to look up and understand what they read, but perhaps not experienced enough in critical thinking to evaluate what they're reading without confirmation bias.



So firstly, be aware that confirmation bias causes a lot of mistakes, secondly, observe yourself for any tendency to draw a conclusion before you've fully researched a topic, and thirdly, form a habit of being open to viewing information that falls on either side of a statement, as you did in the exercise above. Don't just demand someone else should present studies that support or disprove their assertion—go looking for them yourself. Fourthly, keep an open mind; seek evidence to the contrary for every opinion (especially ones you currently believe), and don't treat your search for answers like a confirmation crusade; deliberately look for evidence against as well as for.


Neuroscience of reasoning

structure & function

Researchers have studied how people reason; which cognitive and neural processes are engaged, and how environmental factors affect the inferences that people draw. Here we take a look at the physiology involved in reasoning.

Although N5 does a great deal of computational processing and intellectual analysis, the brain does not develop a dedicated single network for all processes of reasoning. In reasoning, neural activity is driven by internal dynamics; networks are called upon as relevant to individual reasoning tasks; processing times, stages, and often functional brain geometry in rationality are largely unconstrained.[16]

However, research shows that coordinated subtle shifts in both frontal and parietal lobes of the brain are linked to superior cognition. Among other things, the frontoparietal network plays a key role in analysis, declarative and procedural memory retrieval, abstract thinking and problem-solving, and has the fluidity and creativity to adapt according to the task at hand by recruiting whichever networks are needed.

It is posited that connections between these frontal and parietal regions (see diagram below) have provided the necessary support for humans' unique ability to reason using abstract relations.



Frontal and parietal regions engaged in reasoning. Arrows denote direction of main information flow.


Humans excel at "relational reasoning," the skill with which we discern patterns and relationships in order to make sense of seemingly unrelated information, such as solving problems in unfamiliar circumstances; not just because of the reciprocal relationship between N4 and N5, but also because of the reciprocal relationship between unconscious and conscious networks.[17]

Relational reasoning is a high-level cognitive reasoning process in which we make comparisons and find equivalences, as one does in algebra, for example. First-order comparisons identify the relationship between two items or activities in various ways; for examples; semantic (eg, hammer is used to hit a nail); numeric (eg, four is greater than two); temporal (eg, we get out of bed before we go out); or visuospatial (eg, the bird is on top of the house).

Second-order or higher-order comparisons take this a step further by equating two or more sets of first-order relations by analogization (eg; a chain is to a link as a bouquet is to a flower).

Three parts of the brain play key roles in relational reasoning, the rostrolateral prefrontal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the inferior parietal lobule, with the rostrolateral region more actively engaged in second-order relational reasoning and the inferior parietal lobule more active during linguistic tasks.



Dark blue: rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (rlPFC), Light blue:dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), Green: inferior parietal lobule (IPL).

The left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (rlPFC) assists with relational integration and plays an active role in processing verbal or semantic relations. Data provide strong evidence that the left RLPFC processes higher-order relations between relations, rather than low-level relations between individual representations.[18]

The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC), has long been implicated in reasoning.[19] It is known to be active during object-location conjunctions, learned associations and rule formation; [20] attention shifting and control, selection; [21] modulation of self-control; [22] and cognitive flexibility.[23]

The inferior parietal lobule (IPL) is involved in the validation of deductive reasoning, and may mediate the integration of information with a working premise.[24]

Reasoning ability is related to functional connectivity between the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex (rlPFC) and inferior parietal lobule (IPL).[25]


Theory & research

There are several alternative theories of the cognitive processes that human reasoning is based on. One view is that people rely on a mental logic consisting of formal (abstract or syntactic) inference rules similar to those developed by logicians.[26] Another view is that people rely on domain-specific or content-sensitive rules of inference.[27] A third view is that people compute probabilities.[28] However, current evidence suggests these all may be short of the mark, and favors the theory that people rely on 'framed' mental models; mental representations that correspond to imagined possibilities within a certain ontological framework.[29]

Mental models are representations in the mind of real or imaginary situations. They can be constructed from perception, imagination, or the comprehension of discourse. They underlie visual images, but they can also be abstract, representing situations that cannot be visualized. Each framed mental model represents a possibility only within the framework of its context.

Cognitive scientists have carried out an extensive programme of study on how framed models engender thoughts and inferences, have studied how children develop such models, how a model of one domain may serve as an analogy for another domain, how mental models engender emotions, and how to design computer systems for which it is easy to acquire a model. Their work presents a corpus of experimental evidence which corroborates the predictions of the model theory of deduction.[30]

Thus far, research has determined the following:

  • A 'framed' mental model represents one possibility, capturing what is common to all the different ways in which the possibility may occur. Such models represent explicitly what we believe is true, but not what we believe is false. These characteristics lead naive thinkers into systematic errors.


The greater the number of framed models that a task elicits, and the greater the complexity of individual models, the poorer cognitive performance becomes. People focus on a subset of the possible models in multiple-model problems – often just a single model – or cognitive dissonance arises due to incongruity; and we are thus led to erroneous conclusions and irrational decisions.



Procedures for reasoning successfully with mental models rely on removing the 'frame' and using counterexamples to refute invalid inferences; these establish validity by ensuring that a conclusion holds over all the models of the premises. These procedures can be implemented in a formal system; however current psychological theories based on formal rules (and most artificial intelligence programs) do not use them.


Framed mental models provide a unified account of deductive, probabilistic, and modal reasoning. People deduce that a conclusion must be true if it holds in all of their models of the premises; they infer that it is 'probable' (likely to be true) if it holds in most of their models of the premises, and they infer that it is 'possible' (may be true) if it holds in at least one of their models of the premises. Of course, if the framing ontology is wrong, the model and all conclusions drawn from it will be inaccurate (and sometimes horribly wrong). Models of reality need to be open, unframed systems in order to achieve factual accuracy.

Behavioral experiments on intellect & reasoning

Experimental cognitive psychologists carry out research on reasoning behavior. This may focus, for example, on how people perform in tests of intellect such as IQ tests, or on how well people's reasoning processes match ideals set by logic.[31] Experiments have examined how people make inferences from conditionals (e.g., If A then B) and how they make inferences about alternatives, (e.g., A or else B.)[32] They have tested whether people can make valid deductions about spatial and temporal relations, (e.g., A is to the left of B, or A happens after B), and about quantified assertions, (e.g., All the A are B).[33] Other experiments have investigated how people make inferences about factual situations, hypothetical possibilities, probabilities, and counterfactual situations.[34]

Developmental studies of reasoning

Developmental psychologists investigate the development of reasoning from birth to adulthood. Piaget's theory of cognitive development [35] was the first complete theory of reasoning development in stages. Subsequently, several alternative theories were proposed, including Information Processing Theory [36]; Neo-Piagentian Theories [37]; Herman Epstein's Brain Stages [38]; Common's model of Hierarchical Complexity (MHC) [39]; Vygotsky's Cultural-Historical theory of cognitive development [40]; Chilton-Pearce & Mendizza's heart-mind matrix theory[41]; Liedloff's Continuum Concept [42] and Ramonsky's matrix theory. [43]


The needs of reason

Reason uses the tools of intellect, which needs the support of imagination, formal language skills and declarative memory.


Reason relies heavily on our ability to imagine possibilities as well as compute probabilities. In most mammals, intellect is related to the primary perceptive ability of animals, which gathers the perceptions of different senses and defines the order of the things that are perceived without distinguishing universals, and without deliberation or logos. But this is not yet reason, because human imagination is different. To a rat, 'It smells like food, therefore I will eat it', IS a reasonable decision, but this sort of common-sense pre-logic also leads to a great many poisoned rats. We have to be able to imagine ideas which reach beyond the obvious data from our senses.

Formal language

The dynamics of a brain make it challenging to investigate speech production with traditional neuroimaging techniques. Thus, previous work mostly focused on isolated aspects of speech in the brain. On the conceptual level, research found that network 5 interprets both informal (colloquial) and formal (academic) language, but it does not interpret metaphoric or allegorical language; those being the domains of networks 4 and 3 respectively. However, now that we have fMRI, we find that complementary hemispheric specialization also takes place during pre-conceptual language processing.


Sites of functional activation during lexical (A) and semantic (B) processing. The left angular gyrus is significantly activated during lexical processing. The activation patterns during semantic processing are bilaterally distributed in the inferior frontal and temporal lobes (left middle and right inferior temporal activation).


Far from providing mere supportive tasks, as was once believed, the right hemisphere appears to be functionally dominant for some aspects of language processing (e.g., pictographic reading, metaphorization, and other semantic functions). This dichotomy in hemispheric processing of language accounts for the complexity and flexibility of our language skills, from writing song lyrics to programming computers. Hemispheric participation in language processing is dynamic, regulated by interhemispheric inhibition.[44]


Brain areas involved in grammatical structure (blue), formal-language words (red), and word meaning (yellow). While the areas involved in producing grammatically structured words are clearly left-lateralized (left hemisphere scans are on the right hand side of the picture), coding the intended meaning involves the same areas in both hemispheres.[45]



Research shows formal word comprehension is actually located in the left anterior temporal lobe (labeled 'Mesulam's area' here after the dude who discovered it [46]), a more forward location than Wernicke's area. And sentence comprehension turns out to be distributed widely throughout the language network, not in a single area as previously thought. This language loop is found in the left hemisphere in about 90% of right-handed persons and 70% of left-handed persons, brain hemisphere wiring being one of the anatomical features which, like handedness or internal organ placement, may be on alternate sides. This is another good reason why 'know yourself' pays off -there's little use in working on the wrong side of the brain. Surprisingly, this loop is also found at the same location in deaf persons who use sign language. The loop would therefore not appear to be specific to heard or spoken language, but rather to be more broadly associated with whatever the individual’s primary language modality happens to be.[46]

Much of the output of reason; academic writing, formal argument and debate; uses formal language; avoiding the use of slang and colloquial language. While formal language can take a while to get used to, it imparts greater accuracy to verbal and written information and reduces the possibility of misunderstanding.

The ability to understand a concept in terms of formal language is as important as our ability to understand a concept in terms of metaphorization or analogy, and we will explore the basics of formal linguistics in the NHA Guide later in this tutorial.

Both formal and informal language are abstract formulae; we have to 'learn the code' of symbols with which we construct formal language. We do not all learn the same code, as there are many languages, and we can learn more than one; but all healthy minds are equipped to learn whatever code culture has established as its language and some formulae (like mathematical, astronomical metronomy and chemistry notation,) have now become universal.

The mind processes language in the way it processes most things; by recruiting networks which formerly processed only concrete reality and using the same algorithms to process abstract phenomena. Consciously we hear or see all words as a stream of input, yet we process nouns, verbs and adjectives in different ways.[47]

Only recently have we been able to view the process of words being encoded by the brain. It used to be thought that finding out how this happens would require measuring brain activity in response to every word in the dictionary, but in 2008 researchers designed a computational model that can predict the brain activity patterns that are associated with thinking about individual words. As a result of this it was discovered that the brain areas linked to processing verbs include the networks that would be needed to carry out the action the verb signifies. The model produces remarkably accurate neural signatures.[48]

We have noticed before that the mind's natural categorizations are not the same as those of academia, and the same is true in language processing. Most words produce a multi-network firing pattern where there is always one core network ‘more involved’, and every word has a dominantly associated network. Sometimes the main association is the sound of the word, sometimes it is meaning, sometimes metaphorical. Synesthetically, rarely used sounds associate with rarely-seen (in nature) colors, and commonly used sounds associate with commonly seen colors like black, white, brown and gray. The letters i and o, and the digits 1 and 0, are associated with black and white (overt synesthetes will often say they have ‘no colors’.)

The mind makes different distinctions for emotional words and even processes different types of emotional words in different ways; for example pleasant adjectives produce a more robust activation pattern in the left amygdala and the left extrastriate visual cortex than do unpleasant or neutral adjectives.[49]

Since we already know that the Amy assists in emotional weighting, and that the right side appears to process threats and aversive responses while the right side processes pleasant stimuli, [50] we should not be too surprised to discover that emotional words are processed in similar complementary fashion.

Non-emotional nouns and verbs are also processed differently.[51] In conceptualization, the typical function of nouns is as terms which either refer to objects in the concrete world or denote abstract concepts. The typical function of verbs, on the other hand, is to create propositions, in which nouns and noun phrases play roles that are mediated by a verb. Nouns are 'naming words'; much more interesting to networks 1 and 5, and verbs are 'doing words'; much more interesting to networks 2 and 5. Adjectives are 'describing words' and thus carry more emotional weighting; much more interesting to networks 3 and 4, and hence their route through the Amy.

If listening, the sound of words and tone of voice will also affect this weighting. Our own state of mind and mood will affect the weighting of words too, of course, as will the state of mind of any speaker or writer whose words we attend to; and individual differences in motivational state, attitude and personality can modulate the magnitude of amygdala activation in response to emotionally pleasant and unpleasant stimuli.

For instance, during viewing words or pictures about food items, amygdala activation is higher when we are hungry than after food intake, [52] and it is higher in responses to happy faces than to angry faces in happy, communicative, optimistic subjects.[53] Most revealingly, the Amy's response is higher in response to fear-relevant stimuli in anxious subjects than in low-anxiety subjects.[54]

This is a key to memory repair –we only remember things and store them long-term when we consider them important enough to be emotionally relevant. And we make things “important” according to how they make us feel and how they compare with past experiences and events.

The unconscious associations of words affect behavior as well as memory. For example, any loud sound encourages us to increase our appetites for fluids, hence we drink more in noisy nightclubs, but that’s not all. A dude called Jack is more likely to move to Jacksonville and go out with Jackie than is Philip—who is likelier to move to Philadelphia and go out with Phyllis. Researchers call this the “name-letter effect,” and it really happens.[55] The intuition of those who change their names in a bid to ‘reinvent themselves’ and increase their self-esteem serves them well. This is very useful information for input control, self-knowledge, self-hypnosis and self-programming.

Assisted by all networks 'doing their bit', it is N5's job to translate the coded abstract symbols of language into their literal conceptual meaning in context. The more formal the language, the more accurate the translation. Recent studies of this process have begun to take advantage of the high spatial resolution, high temporal resolution and high signal-to-noise ratio of signals recorded directly from the brain (electrocorticography (ECoG)).

Brain waves associated with speech processes can now be directly recorded with electrodes located on the surface of the cortex. Research has shown that it is possible to reconstruct basic units, words, and complete sentences of continuous speech from these electrical signals and to generate the corresponding text. This research creates the real possibility of achieving human-computer 'brain-to-text' communication using imagined speech. It also reveals that the brain encodes a repertoire of phonetic representations that are decoded continuously during speech production.



Brain activity recorded by electrocorticography (electrodes placed according to blue circles). From the activity patterns (blue/yellow blotches), spoken words can be recognized.[56]


declarative memory

Declarative memory (sometimes called 'semantic memory') is a form of long-term memory.[57] Declarative memories are those memories that store general factual knowledge; world knowledge, object knowledge, language knowledge, and conceptual priming. Some examples of semantic memory include types of food, capital cities of a geographic region, or the lexicon of a common language, such as a person's vocabulary.[58]

In mainstream studies, declarative memory is sometimes referred to as 'explicit' memory; but this is inaccurate. Declarative memory is memory that can be recalled and 'declared' or stated in words or other formulae, such as facts, figures and verbal knowledge; whether from an unconscious or conscious source; while explicit memory is the deliberate conscious recall of information that we recognize as a memory.[59]

Occasionally a factual memory will just pop into one's head consciously from unconscious sources, uninvited. Although we have all had such involuntary declarative memories, they are not explicit memories because their source is unconscious. Declarative memory usually reflects a goal-directed act; that is to say, we know what it is that we wish to remember. In these situations, remembering relies upon control processes that guide search, evaluate recovered content, and potentially reformulate search strategies.[60]

Declarative memory is also confused in the mainstream with episodic memory. While episodic memory is assembled by N3, declarative memory will assist in providing 'facts from personal experience'; chunks of observational information attached to specific events. Some examples of this include: the details of entering a specific place for the first time, the memory of seeing a nun hitchhiking while driving a car headed to a specific place on a specific day and time, the recollection of first meetings, or the memory of details when giving someone bad news. The retrieval of these 'instants' during episodic recall is facilitated by network 5. Episodic memories themselves are the experience of mentally reliving in detail the past events that they concern.[58] Episodic memory is believed to be the system that provides the basic support for declarative (semantic) memory.

When encoding declarative memories, the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (dlPFC; see earlier diagrams) is activated.[61]

Neuroimaging is another path through which a more complete understanding of declarative memory has emerged. Specifically, neuroimaging allows us to determine if differences between memory states emerge from quantitatively or qualitatively distinct underlying encoding operations. Further, it has allowed for greater specification of the putative control operations adopted when we make decisions about our memories.[62]

Many and varied processes support the encoding and retrieval of declarative memory. As we will recall from previous tutorials, encoding refers to one stage of the cognitive and neural processes by which an event is transformed into a neural representation that can later be used to adaptively guide behavior.[63] Activation in the hippocampus during encoding correlates with subjects' later ability to recollect episodic details surrounding prior events, whereas activation in an adjacent region, the perirhinal cortex, during the same events, correlates with later item recognition irrespective of the recovery of episodic details. Similar distinctions between the hippocampus and the perirhinal cortex have also been seen during the act of recalling.64] Thus, there is a "mirror" pattern emerging, such that the hippocampus is important both for relational encoding and for retrieval that includes the recovery of relational information. On the other hand, the perirhinal cortex appears important for item encoding and for item recognition independent of contextual recovery.

Functional imaging research has played a major role in our understanding of retrieval control processes in at least two ways. First, along with early neuropsychological research, it has served to highlight the prominent role of the PFC during declarative memory retrieval and, in so doing, has established this as a form of higher-order decision making. Second, imaging has provided an important source of convergent evidence for theorizing about the numbers and types of control processes that guide retrieval.[62]

Two interrelated control processes, termed semantic elaboration and retrieval description,[65] are thought to render memory retrieval intelligent and contextually appropriate.

Semantic elaboration allows the observer to transform the initial memory probe or query into a representation that more closely highlights the characteristics of the actual event stored in memory. This modified representation then becomes the retrieval description that both guides memory search and is used to evaluate whether recovered information is sufficient for a particular retrieval situation. Importantly, these two processes may interact repeatedly throughout the course of a retrieval attempt.

In order to elaborate upon the most relevant characteristics of memory probes, subjects must have at least a rough initial understanding of what it is they are attempting to recover and its behavioral significance. It is this initial template that guides elaboration and responding that is termed a retrieval description.

Overall, ventrolateral PFC regions appear to play a key role in different forms of probe elaboration, and research is just beginning to more specifically implicate sub-regions of the PFC in semantic-elaboration and retrieval-description processes.

Summary of results so far [2015]:


This shows two proximal left ventrolateral regions (indicated by arrows in the central brain image), only one of which seems involved in semantic elaboration; the left anterior ventrolateral PFC; which appears specifically tied to semantic elaboration of retrieval probes.

Both regions were inactive when subjects had to detect novel items (green lines), suggesting no role for the left ventrolateral PFC for retrieval based upon simple feelings of item familiarity or novelty. However, the regions showed a qualitative difference across context-memory judgments depending on what the subjects were trying to remember.

When trying to remember experiences tied to specific semantic, but not physical, features of the probes, the anterior ventrolateral region was active (left graph). In contrast, the more posterior region was generally active whenever retrieval was contextually specific, irrespective of what contextual details needed to be recovered. This region showed elevated activity for trials in which subjects tried to remember experiences linked to either semantic or physical features of the probes (right graph). Finally, a right ventrolateral region (not shown) was preferentially active for trials in which the physical features of the items were likely most critical (concrete operational processing required).[66]

Research has also looked into the effects of sleep on declarative memory. Sleep facilitates consolidation of declarative memory[67] such that recall of previously acquired materials is better after sleep than after wakefulness. These effects are observed for post-learning sleep at night [68] and naps during the daytime.[69]

Nocturnal sleep was found to have greater facilitative effects on memory consolidation for related word pairs than daytime napping, but they benefited recollection of unrelated word pairs equally. These results confirm that both nocturnal sleep and daytime napping do not merely passively protect memory from interference; [70] instead, during sleep, recently encoded declarative memory is reactivated [71] and is transferred from its temporary hippocampal store to the neocortex for more permanent storage.[72]


The most important bits to remember:


When we begin to be able to manipulate ideas entirely 'in our head', without any dependence on concrete manipulation; this is the formal operational stage of development.

Many adults never develop this far, but reasoning skills can be learned or augmented at any age, as long as the supporting networks are first developed.

The permanent value of reason in determining truth from falsehood, reality from fiction, is well worth the temporary disillusion and mild alarm at discovering the extent of our conditioning and delusions.

Rational intelligence is NOT the opposite of emotional intelligence; reason is NOT the opposite of emotion; they are complementary.

It is the lack of cognitive autonomy (the ability to think, judge and decide for ourselves) coupled with lack of analytical ability and the skills of reason; which keep the majority of people blindly believing everything they read.

Learn the good habit of avoiding 'confirmation bias'!

Reason uses the tools of intellect and needs the support of imagination, formal language skills and declarative memory.

Reason relies heavily on our ability to imagine possibilities as well as compute probabilities.

Network 5 interprets informal (colloquial) and formal (academic) language.

A strong intellect relies on the accuracy and congruity of our declarative memory and speedy recall.

Episodic memory is believed to be the system that provides the basic support for declarative (semantic) memory.


DO IT NOW– rational thinking practice


Mary's mum has four children.
The first child is called April.
The second is called May.
The third is called June.
What is the name of the fourth child?


In the middle of a round pond lies a beautiful water-lily. The water-lily doubles in size every day. After exactly 20 days the complete surface of the pond will be covered by the lily. How long did it take for exactly half of the surface of the pond to be covered?


Answers at end of tutorial

The psychology of reason

Scientific research into reasoning is carried out within the fields of psychology as well as cognitive science. Psychologists attempt to determine whether or not people are capable of rational thought in a number of different circumstances. Assessing how well someone engages in reasoning is the project of determining the extent to which the person is rational or interacts rationally.

Reasoning involves thinking through the options, making a conclusion and judgments. For most people, reaching conclusions and judgments involves heuristics, or simple, efficient rules that usually lead to correct answers in simple problems, but which have their limitations. The most common heuristics used are attribute substitution, the availability heuristic, the representativeness heuristic and the anchoring heuristic – we will examine them in depth in the 'What happens if things go wrong' section of this tutorial. Heuristics allow for errors, a price paid to gain speed, and should not be employed for complex or accurate reasoning on important issues.[73]

There are more sophisticated judgment strategies that result in fewer errors. People often reason based on information availability but sometimes they look for other, more accurate, information to make judgments.[74] Research suggests there are two ways of thinking which coordinate together for judgment & decisions; this theory is known as the Dual-Process Model.[75]

Dual process theories are found in social, personality, cognitive, and clinical psychology. They provide an account of how a phenomenon can occur in two different ways, or as a result of two different processes. In this case the two processes consist of our implicit (unconscious), processing and the explicit (conscious) processing.

In neurohacking, development is usually accelerated and declarative, verbalized explicit processes, along with the attitudes & behaviors based on them, may change quickly with practice or learning; however implicit processes and their accompanying attitudes may take a longer amount of time to change during the forming and practice of new habits. This is normal; we see the same short-term incongruity issue in changes such as deciding to keep familiar objects in a new location. The conscious mind knows clearly that the change has taken place and (for example) we could tell someone that we now keep our keys in a new drawer, but unconscious awareness may lag behind and send us to the old location through habit, until it gets the hang of things, then our behavior becomes congruous with the change. So don't worry if there is temporary incongruity between thoughts and behavior for a short time when learning reasoning skills. The more we practice, the faster processes will get back into sync.

There has been confusion in the study of the dual process model for reasoning; as some researchers have used an assumed meaning (a) of 'implicit & explicit' thinking working in congruity; whereas others have interpreted the 'dual process' as (b) an either/or choice of 'intuition versus reason' or even (c) 'sloppy emotional thinking versus logic'. We have stayed with interpretation (a) as it most closely fits other known facts about brain processes.[76] It is one thing to state that something 'feels wrong' but quite another to have the reasoning skills to figure out why. Reason is meant to explain feeling and make conscious sense out of it; not oppose it.

It could be argued that since network 6 coordinates processing from all other networks and is responsible for output control, reasoning is not truly a 'dual' process; but the dual process model is a good way of conceptualizing reason and how it relies on congruity between unconscious knowledge and conscious awareness as well as agreement between feeling and reason. It is important to recognize that there are conscious and unconscious parts in every network. In the past, some have erroneously believed that rear networks were unconscious and front networks conscious; or that one side of the brain was conscious and the other wasn't. We now know that all networks carry out both unconscious and conscious processing, and that is the basis of the dual process model.


Cultural factors & reason

We already know a little about how cultural factors affect the inferences that people draw. Some examples of cultural tools we have developed for reasoning are formal language, mathematics and logic. But culture is involved more deeply in reasoning than the provision of new reasoning techniques and tools. At the root of much reasoned argument (and most rows) lie assumptions which are so familiar they are taken for granted yet which shape our reason.

We automatically assume, for example, that humans are important; that their survival matters; that our culture is important; that our progress and development as a species matters, and that human life on this planet should continue. If you consider these cultural assumptions with an open mind, you may detect proof for and against, but they are biological imperatives and as such form a logical foundation for a great many of our behaviors in an intellectual context. We are human, and we cannot currently step outside of the human pov because the body and the brain are our biological platform.

There is often a clash between culture and society in assumptions, which can create serious incongruity. For example, biological and unconscious knowledge assumes we are 'part of' nature; whereas some societies teach that we should care for it, and others teach that we should dominate it, but most teach that we are outside of it. This is of course blatantly untrue, and the resulting incongruity can place limitations on intellectual ability.[77]

We will explore societal factors and reasoning further in the 'What happens if things go wrong' section of this tutorial. Natural morality also exerts a cultural as well as individual effect on reasoning, which we will be looking into in future tutorials.


Reasoning as a process

The process of reasoning is the generation and/or evaluation of claims in relation to their supporting arguments and evidence.

The ability to reason has a fundamental impact on our ability to learn from new information and experiences; because reasoning skills determine how people comprehend, evaluate, and accept claims and arguments. Reasoning skills are also crucial for being able to generate, explain and maintain viewpoints or beliefs that are coherent with, and justified by, relevant knowledge. There are two general kinds of reasoning that involve assessment of claims and evidence: formal and informal.

Informal and formal reasoning both involve attempts to determine whether a claim has been sufficiently justified by the supporting assertions, but these types of reasoning differ in many respects. The vast majority of arguments are invalid according to formal logic, but informal reasoning must be employed to determine what degree of justification the supporting assertions provide. Also, the supporting assertions themselves must be evaluated as to their validity and accuracy. Formal reasoning involves making a binary decision based only on the given information. Informal reasoning involves making an uncertain judgment about the degree of justification for a claim relative to comparative claims–and often basing this evaluation on an ill-defined set of assertions whose truth values are uncertain. This is fine for deciding what to have for dinner, but it will not suffice for the logical verification of facts.


Informal reasoning

Informal reasoning refers to our everyday attempts to determine what information is relevant to a question, what conclusions are plausible, and what degree of support the relevant information provides for our various conclusions. In most real life circumstances, people must evaluate the justification for claims in a context where the information is ambiguous and incomplete and the criteria for evaluation are complex and poorly specified.

For example: in a bar with all their friends, Alice says to Bob, “Let's go see a movie tomorrow.”

Bob concludes that Alice and he will be going to the movies alone together, and says yes. Alice concludes that the entire group of friends is going to the movies tomorrow and proceeds to invite everyone. Bob's evaluation was inaccurate.

Most of what is commonly referred to as "thinking" involves informal reasoning, including making predictions of future events or trying to explain past events. Informal reasoning has a pervasive influence on both the everyday and the monumental decisions that people make, and on the ideas that people come to accept or reject. It's fine when outcomes don't really matter, and we all know we get misunderstood, and misunderstand others sometimes. But informal reasoning cannot be relied upon for success in truth-hunting, myth-busting, problem-solving, decisions that really matter, or science.


Formal reasoning

“Logic is the beginning of wisdom”

(Spock, ‘The Undiscovered Country’)

Formal reasoning is used to evaluate the 'form' of an argument, and to examine the logical relationships between conclusions and their supporting assertions.

In the past, it was common for formal reasoning to be described as a set of abstract and prescriptive rules of logic that people must learn and apply in order to determine the validity of an argument. However, this is the oldest perspective on formal reasoning and now some consider it to be misguided. Describing formal reasoning as 'the evaluation of argument forms' conveys a clearer, more inclusive and accurate account of the various perspectives in this field.

Logic has been variously defined as "the tool for distinguishing between the true and the false”, "the science, as well as the art, of reasoning"; and "the science of the most general laws of truth".

Logic has also been defined as “the study of the rules of correct thinking”. It concentrates on the principles that guide rational thought and discussion. Logic plays a key role in critical thinking, invention, discovery, creativity, strategy, planning, judgment and decision making. If there is going to be any rational discussion of different ideas, concepts or positions, the discussion must use the rules of logic. While logic will not specify what the contents (the details) of statements are, it will tell you how to arrange the statements themselves in a logical formula (the basics); to best apprehend the truth.

Reasoning skills are applicable in any area where arguments exist and are also useful when we are being creative or planning, since it’s helpful to see the reasons for what we are planning to do or intend to create. They can also give us insight about the intent or intentions of others and (very importantly) protect us from coercion or being deceived or lied to. For this reason a basic understanding of critical thinking is extremely valuable whatever subject we apply it to, from playing baseball to building a space station.

What is an argument?

The analysis of reasons and arguments is an important part of rational thinking. The first thing we need to learn about arguments is that arguments are very different from rows, and that most people say “we had an argument” when in fact they had a row.

A row is a competition for who can appear to be right, and is framed in terms of a game where one person (or side) wins and the other loses. It is an action/reaction response to anxiety in the face of confusion.

An argument is a cooperative attempt to uncover the truth together, and is framed in terms of a game where everybody wins if the truth is apprehended. It is an interactive response in the face of confusion.

Anxiety promotes rows rather than arguments, and rows involve mostly unconscious networks. Rows are what counterfeit games like to replace logical argument with, because they make it very difficult to discover the truth. In a row, the exchange of information is framed as a fight, where players work against each other in action/reaction to provoke disabling sentiments with threatening or coercive behavior. Each participant’s aim is to appear to prove each other wrong and/or coerce the other to yield in order to assert dominance (and thus reduce personal anxiety). Anyone raised or living in an environment where rows are considered 'normal' behavior, or stuck in chronic anxiety, may genuinely consciously believe this is the only way to get people to change their minds.

When the row is over, most usually everybody loses (because the anxiety it raises damages all parties). However, if a person with the ability to interact is caught up in a row, they can either resolve potential conflict by changing the row into an argument, which reduces anxiety, so everybody benefits or, by controlling their own anxiety they can learn from the experience, in which case only they benefit. We shall explore conflict resolution later.

In an argument, each participant’s aim is to do their part in assisting discovery of the truth; helping each other to work out conflicting information. When the truth is found the argument is over, and everybody wins.


“The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it's scientific truth or historical truth or personal truth!”

(Captain Picard, Star Trek TNG, 'The First Duty')


Think of argument as a formula for discovering truth.

The most fundamental concept in logic is that of argument. The logical concept of an argument is: there is a set of statements, one of which is the conclusion, the others are premises, and the premises support the conclusion. In other words, it is a statement or assertion, along with the evidence that supports it. An argument must have at least one premise and one conclusion.

Argumentation is the interdisciplinary study of how humans should, can, and do seek conclusions through reasoning; that is, making logical claims based, soundly or not, on premises.

An argument must provide reasons, information or evidence in support of its assertion or conclusion. It’s probably easiest to demonstrate this with some examples:

Here is an assertion: “Free will doesn’t exist”

This is the sort of statement you might see in a magazine headline, but why should anyone believe it? At face value it is simply a statement of one person’s belief; it is possibly a prejudiced conclusion (definition: ‘pre-judgement’; or premature judgment = 'a view the writer has arrived at without bothering to consider reasons or evidence for or against it'. Put simply, a premature judgment taken before all the facts were in.)

The obvious action/reaction to this statement in a row, though, is for those with opposing beliefs to say “Bullshit,” at which point the row claims its first anxiety casualty.

One obvious interactive response is: “Why do they believe that free will doesn’t exist?” As soon as the writer provides some reasons in support of the view, it ceases to be a mere assertion and becomes part of an argument (although not necessarily a good or a sound one). By asking questions as we read or listen we are trying to get closer to exactly what the writer or speaker means when they say these words; we are trying to get closer to the truth.

Our prime responsibility in all rational thought is to seek the truth.

Our speaker might back up their assertion in this way: “Because if free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do.”

This statement alone does not lead to the conclusion “Free will doesn’t exist”. But if you are intelligent it is fairly obvious that the speaker has assumed you realize that most people actually DO have to do things they don’t want to do. This assumption is unconscious and unstated; it is ‘implicit’ in the speaker’s association of thought and they assume that it is obvious; that ‘everybody knows that’.

If we make their whole ‘train of thought’ explicit, we get:

  1. (Spoken conscious premise) If free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do

  2. (Unspoken unconscious premise) Some people do have to do things they don’t want to do

  3. (Spoken conscious conclusion) So free will doesn’t exist

1 and 2 above are the premises from which the conclusion (3) is supposed to logically follow. Premises are the building blocks of arguments.

Just as we have done in this example, logical argument, much like polarities on the Repertory Grid we studied in the last tutorial, can bring unconscious implicit assumptions into conscious awareness, and this is how incongruity is often revealed in argument.


IF/THEN thinking syllogisms

Formal reasoning is often studied in the context of categorical syllogisms or "if-then" conditional proofs. Syllogisms contain two assertions and a conclusion.

An example of a logically valid syllogism is: IF All felines are animals; AND all cats are felines; THEN cats are animals.

A slight change to one of the premises, though, will create an invalid syllogism: IF All felines are animals; AND some felines are cats; THEN all cats are animals. This argument form is invalid because it cannot be determined with certainty that the conclusion is true, even if the premises are true.

Think about it. The second premise does not require that all cats are felines. Thus, there may be some cats who are not felines and, by extension, some cats who are not animals. This argument is invalid despite the fact that an accurate knowledge of felines, cats, and animals confirms that both the premises and the conclusion are true statements. This validity-truth difference highlights the important point that neither the conceptual content of an argument, nor the real-world truth of the premises and conclusion are relevant to the logic of the argument form.

A computer solves a problem by assuming all the input data is true and accurate and proceeding from there. So let us return to our example and assume ‘for the sake of argument’ that it is true that if free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do, AND that some people do in fact have to do such things.

Does it then follow that free will doesn’t exist?

Logically it does follow: IF these two premises are true, THEN the conclusion (that free will doesn’t exist) MUST be true.

Of course, reading this as an intelligent person, you realize that I personally am not saying ‘free will doesn’t exist’. I am merely saying that IF the two premises are true, THEN the conclusion that there is no free will must be true.

We may well believe that the first premise (“If free will did exist, then nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do”) is probably false. There may be an explanation of why free will exists despite the fact that people sometimes have to do things they don’t want to do. But what we are doing here is trying to point out to you how to separate the content of the argument from its structure or form, because we need to understand the underlying structure of ALL arguments regardless of subject details. It is the process we are learning; the basics of all rational thought.

So, when analyzing the structure of an argument we first put aside (temporarily) the question of whether or not the assumptions or premises are true; we think like a computer and concentrate on the question of whether or not the conclusion could really follow from the data (premises) given IF this data were factual.

Notice that in the written article or spoken conversation, the conclusion “free will doesn’t exist” was the first rather than the last thing said! In logic we expect a ‘conclusion’ to come at the end, but in ordinary interaction conclusions are often given before (or without) the reasons behind them, which remain unspoken premises or assumptions. Assuming mutual understanding of these ‘hidden agendas’ is the cause behind much human misunderstanding, but the skills of rational thinking can unearth them.



DO IT NOW - Tactical strategy (IF/ THEN thinking in real life)

Imagine you are the tactical officer on the bridge of a starship. There are three ships nearby detected on your screen and you have the following information: The Minbari starship is aiming at the Centauri starship, but the Centauri starship is aiming at the Narn starship. The Minbari starship has armed her weapons but the Narn starship has not.

Your Captain turns to you and says, “Is an armed ship aiming at an unarmed ship?”

Do you answer: ‘Yes’? ‘No’? Or ‘Cannot be determined’?

Answer is at end of tutorial.


The difference between content and form

To recap, when analyzing an argument, it is best to first rearrange the data so that the relationship between premises and conclusion can be seen clearly. We need to focus on the structure; the formula or 'form'; and this is the basis of all argument.

In analyzing the structure or form of an argument, its content (the details) are irrelevant. It will be easier to understand the difference between the content and form of arguments if we consider another example with the same underlying form as the one above:

Assertion: “A spaceship landed near my farm”.

Argument: “I know it did because there’s a crop circle in my corn field.”

Analysis: (the speaker is assuming the premises (1) and (2) below to be true, and drawing the conclusion (3)):

(1) (Unspoken premise) Crop circles are made by spaceships landing.

(2) (Spoken premise) There’s a crop circle in my corn field.

(3) (Spoken conclusion) A spaceship landed near my farm.

Like the previous argument, IF the premises are true, THEN the conclusion must be true. You can question whether or not the premises are true (for instance, you might think that a spaceship landing is not the only reason for a crop circle). But IF the premises are true, THEN the FORM of the argument is such that it follows that it’s true that a spaceship landed near the farm.

Conclusions are often stated in ordinary informal conversations as though they were facts, thus contributing to general confusion between those who do not share the same unspoken premises, especially when this disparity of underlying assumptions is not known. Figuring out whether the conscious and unconscious premises have sufficient confirmatory evidence is part of the argument process.

In most informal conversational contexts one or all of the underlying premises remains unspoken. For instance, if I said:

“Androids are humanoid”

“So they have four limbs”

it is fairly obvious that I assumed you would realize I believe the unstated premise:

“All humanoids have four limbs”

even though I hadn’t spelt that out for you. With scientific arguments, it is usual to try to make explicit any such unstated premises so that the underlying structure of the argument becomes clear as an hypothesis. Unstated premises are unconscious, ‘implicit’ premises.

To make sure you’ve grasped the idea of implicit premises, do the following exercise:



DO IT NOW - Implicit premises

What is the unstated, implicit premise in each of 1-5 statements below? For each one, write down your answers in the following form:

  1. unstated premise

  2. stated premise

  3. conclusion


  1. Alice is creative, so of course she likes problems to solve.

  2. Your landing gear is damaged, so your craft will never get off the ground.

  3. Bob is a man, so he is mortal.

  4. Laughing helps to improve your thinking skills, so you should laugh frequently.

  5. I am the Internet. I think, therefore I exist.

Answers at end of tutorial


The difference between truth and validity

What makes something true?

The fact that something is on the internet, on TV or in a book does not make it true.

The fact that an 'expert' wrote something does not make it true.

The fact that thousands of people all believe the same fiction does not make it true.

The fact that people have believed the same fiction for thousands of years does not make it true.

The fact that something was included in the formal news media does not make it true.

The fact that you personally believe something does not make it true.

The fact that someone you love and respect told you something does not make it true.

The fact that a fiction is spoken by someone with huge financial or celebrity status does not make it true.

The fact that a piece of fiction is great, realistic, inspiring or appealing does not make it true.


If you already knew all this, did you also know that the fact that an argument is valid does not make it true?

Arguments are determined to be either valid or invalid based solely on whether their conclusions necessarily follow from their explicitly stated premises or assertions. That is: if the supporting assertions are true, must the conclusion also be true? If so, then the argument is considered valid and the truth of the conclusion can be directly determined by establishing the truth of the supporting assertions. If not, then the argument is considered invalid, and the truth of the assertions is insufficient (or even irrelevant) for establishing the truth of the conclusion.

We looked earlier at the following argument:

  • “If free will did exist, nobody would ever have to do anything they didn’t want to do.”

  • “Some people do have to do things they don’t want to do”

  • “So free will doesn’t exist.”


This is a VALID argument. IF the premises are true, THEN the conclusion must be true. We use the words ‘valid’ and ‘invalid’ only to refer to the structure of arguments. AN ARGUMENT CAN NEVER BE TRUE OR FALSE; IT CAN ONLY BE VALID OR INVALID.

Things that can be true or false are things like statements, conclusions, assertions, assumptions, hypotheses, beliefs or premises. But NOT arguments. You may have to work at remembering this.

You will understand that the way we use language to describe reality in rational analysis is not the same as it is commonly used in colloquial or everyday ways –we are using specific words here to define specific ideas, and these ideas are what it is intended you should grasp. In ordinary conversation the terms ‘true’ and ‘valid’ are interchanged largely through ignorance of their meaning, so do not let this confuse you. People often say “That’s a valid point” when in reality they mean “I think what you said is true”.

There is a great deal of difference between validity and truth.

A valid argument has a structure that works like a calculator program: it guarantees a true conclusion provided you feed in true data. It is ‘truth-preserving’. However, if you feed in false premises, you may or may not get a true conclusion, and you certainly couldn’t be sure of getting one.

For instance, in the argument we’ve been examining, if the premises are true, then the conclusion that free will doesn’t exist must be true. This is a valid argument. However, IF one or both of the premises are false, THEN there is no guarantee that the conclusion is true, despite the argument’s validity. The question of validity or invalidity must be addressed separately from the question of truth or falsehood. Validity is about the form of the argument; truth of premises & conclusion is about its content.

A valid argument presented with true premises is the best way of guaranteeing true conclusions. Such an argument is called a “sound” argument.

DO IT NOW - Key ideas

At this point it is worth practicing some of the key ideas introduced so far. Use the answers at the end of the tutorial to help consolidate your understanding.

Underline or highlight the conclusion in each of the following arguments:

  • Robots don’t eat animals. Chickens are animals. I eat chickens. So I’m not a robot.

  • You can’t have any pudding. The only way to get any pudding is to eat your meat. You won’t eat your meat.

Underline or highlight those of the following that are valid arguments:

  • Robots don’t contain animals. Nuts and bolts are animals. So robots don’t contain nuts and bolts.

  • All humans are mortal. Robots are machines. So robots are mortal.

  • Anyone who walks on a cliff has a small chance of falling off. Alice walks on cliffs. So she has a small chance of falling off.

  • All forms of killing are morally wrong. Criminal execution and war are forms of killing. Therefore war and execution are morally wrong.

Match the following terms with the appropriate definitions, (a)-(h):

  • Argument

  • Assertion

  • Prejudice

  • Conclusion

  • Implicit assumption

  • Sound argument

  • Premise

  • Valid argument


  • (a) an unstated premise

  • (b) a structure that guarantees a true conclusion if the premises are true

  • (c) a statement from which an argument’s conclusion is derived

  • (d) a statement given without providing any reasons or supporting evidence

  • (e) a belief that is formed without considering evidence for or against it

  • (f) a statement derived from premises, from which it follows

  • (g) reasons leading to a conclusion

  • (h) a valid argument with true premises


Answers at end of tutorial


types of reasoning

The newcomer to intellectual studies will find a wealth of terms employed to categorize reasoning into 'types'. For example from a 'basics' perspective, rationality is often divided into its respective practical and theoretical counterparts. 'practical reasoning' means the self-legislating or self-governing formulation of universal behavioral norms, and 'theoretical reasoning' means the way we posit universal laws of nature.[78]

From a 'details' perspective, the traditional main division made in categorization of different types of reasoning is between deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Formal logic is aptly described as the science of deduction.[79] Inductive reasoning is generally carried out within the field known as informal logic or 'critical thinking'. Both can be of immense help in solving problems, making decisions and understanding situations clearly.


Deduction and Induction

The examples of arguments we have considered so far have all been ‘deductive’ arguments; that is to say that they have all been constructed in a form such that if the premises are true then the conclusion must be true (ie, can be deduced). However, there is another type of valid argument, and this second type DOESN’T guarantee the truth of the conclusion even if the premises are true.

A deductive argument is one in which the conclusion is certain based on the premises. In a deductive argument the conclusion is contained in the premises, much as how in classical physics conclusive results are based on physical mechanics. Deduction is generally an inference by reasoning from the general to the specific. A deduction is also the conclusion reached by a deductive reasoning process. Deduction helps people understand why their predictions are wrong and indicates that their prior knowledge or beliefs are off track.

We can use inductive reasoning to create theories and hypotheses.[80] An inductive argument is one in which the conclusion is a probability based on the premises and often the conclusion goes beyond the premises. Induction is a form of inference producing propositions about unobserved objects or types, either specifically or generally, based on previous observations or experiences, or to formulate general statements or natural laws based on limited observations of recurring phenomenal patterns.

Induction makes broad generalizations from specific cases or observations. In this process of reasoning, general assertions are made based on past specific pieces of evidence. Inductive arguments are usually based on evidence which by its nature is not easily conclusive: conclusions can only be probabilities; never certainties. For instance, the following is an inductive argument:

All the scientists Bob has ever seen had brown hair.

Therefore all scientists probably have brown hair.

The fact that Bob has met quite a few scientists, and that they all had brown hair, seems to support the conclusion that all scientists have brown hair. However, it only takes one non-brunette scientist to undermine this generalization. Bob cannot be absolutely sure that there is not a blonde or redhead scientist on the planet somewhere. For all he knows, brown-haired scientists worldwide may even be in a minority.

If other people from other places also report in that they have never met a scientist whose hair wasn’t brown, this lends further support to Bob’s conclusion. Yet even then the possibility would remain that a non-brunette scientist would show up.

This inductive argument is very different from a deductive one because even if the premises are true, you cannot be certain that the conclusion is true. It just gives us a probability; a likelihood, of truth. The more information we have, the higher our probability of truth, but we can never say with 100% certainty that we are correct.

Inductive reasoning draws general conclusions from specific examples, deductive reasoning draws logical conclusions from definitions and axioms. A similar pair of complementary processes are analysis and synthesis (Analysis takes apart an object of study and examines its component parts, and mainly uses the processes of network 5; and synthesis considers how parts can be put together or combined to form a whole, and mainly uses network 4.)

A common form of inductive argument is argument by analogy. This is an argument in which a conclusion is drawn about a situation based on analogies (similarities of this situation to previous, other or imaginary situations). For example, if we predict that since we have some heavy lifting to do in the cargo bay today a certain colleague will be suddenly absent, because in the past when there was similar hard work to do this person was always suddenly absent, we are making a probabilistic inductive argument based on an analogy with the past similar occurrences.


DO IT NOW - Deduction & Induction

Which of the following use deductive reasoning and which use inductive?

  1. All mythical supreme beings are immortal. Zeus is a mythical supreme being. Therefore Zeus is immortal.

  2. The sun has always risen in the past, so it will rise tomorrow.

  3. All the people I have ever met enjoyed drinking beer. So all people must enjoy drinking beer.

  4. If you make porridge on a full moon, it will always go lumpy. You made the porridge on a full moon, so it went lumpy.

  5. All animals have a sense of smell. Humans are animals. Therefore humans have a sense of smell.


Answers are at end of tutorial


Abductive reasoning

Abductive reasoning is based on creating and testing hypotheses using the best information available. It produces the kind of daily decision-making that works best with the information present, which often is incomplete and could involve making educated guesses from observed unexplainable phenomena. This type of reasoning can be seen in the world when doctors make decisions about diagnoses from a set of results, or when jurors use the relevant evidence to make decisions about a case.[80]

Abductive reasoning, or 'argument to the best explanation', is a form of inductive reasoning, since the conclusion in an abductive argument does not follow with certainty from its premises and concerns something unobserved. What distinguishes abduction from the other forms of reasoning is an attempt to prove one conclusion above others, by attempting to prove falsehood of alternative explanations, or by demonstrating the likelihood of the favored conclusion, given a set of more or less disputable assumptions. For example, when a patient displays certain symptoms, there might be various possible causes, but one of these is preferred above others as being more probable.

Lateral thinking

Lateral thinking is defined as the ability to change perception and keep on changing perception.[81] In lateral or divergent thinking, a logical pathway is often ignored in favor of taking side trips down other roads where the destination may initially be unclear. Starting in, or making jumps to random places where there may be no clear pathways, can help avoid otherwise assumed restrictions, limitations and constraints that do not actually exist. When problems do exist, lateral thinking can help question the assumptions being made about limits and boundaries and this helps to generate new ideas and solutions. Lateral thinking uses creative as well as intellectual processes and is thus aptly named.

counterfactual (CF) reasoning

The ability to maintain information about, and make hypotheses based on, absent events, which involves reflecting on 'what might have been'. This process is not so aptly named, as it refers only to the past, whereas in real life the same process is used for also imagining 'what might be' in the future. Creating alternative versions of reality in imagination has parallels with recollecting the past and imagining the future; in requiring the simulation of internally generated models of complex events. Given that episodic memory and generating models are N3-driven functions, we would expect to find the hippo recruited by N5 for this type of reasoning; and that is exactly what we do find; specifically in CF simulations that require the construction of an internal spatial representation. We need the hippo for construction of a coherent spatial scene on the 'inner screen' within which to play out scenarios.[82]

What Happens if Things go Wrong

Weak intellectual skills

Despite growing up in a society that values intellect highly, with schooling systems that push intellectual ability at the expense of virtually everything else, two thirds of adults tested cannot use formal reasoning, and never learn to.[83]

Since this ability serves such tasks as rational & critical thinking, decision making, assessment, planning, analysis, judgment etc., this means that two-thirds of the general public cannot think abstractly, reason logically, analyze effectively, devise plans to solve problems, systematically test solutions or draw conclusions from the information available; nor can they apply any of these processes to hypothetical situations or understand the more complex issues in life that all of us from around age 15 should be able to understand.

Research also consistently shows poor performance on a wide array of tasks that require informal reasoning. These tasks span all of the core curriculum areas of reading, writing, mathematics, science, and history.

This is an astonishing situation; that most people fail to develop their potential in this most fundamental way; the ability to reason. If we fail to develop the very faculty of our minds by which we should be able to deduce inferences from facts or from propositions; without reason allied to an accurate view of reality; we cannot clearly distinguish truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, and ultimately, beneficial from harmful. Many people who do use reason are often glad to discover this, as it explains a great deal about others' formerly incomprehensible behavior.

Some studies have attempted to paint a more detailed picture of what people are doing, or failing to do, when asked to reason. Many people demonstrate some use of informal reasoning skills, but these skills are underdeveloped and applied inconsistently. Most adults have a poor understanding of evidence and its relationship to beliefs, theories or claims, and only a small minority of people attempt to justify their claims by providing supporting evidence. When explicitly asked for supporting evidence, most people simply restate the claim itself or describe in more detail what the claim means. It is especially rare for people to generate possible counter-evidence or to even consider possible alternative claims.


Societal factors and reasoning

The failure of two-thirds of adults to ever achieve the abilities of formal reasoning is due to our usual culprits: (a) non-use, especially of supporting networks and (b) wrong use of the relevant brain networks, skewing healthy development; most especially in network 5. Standard parenting and schooling, coercing the brain into doing the wrong things at the wrong ages, are only partly responsible for non-use retardation ('retarded' = ‘held back’) of this part of intelligence (they are certainly not the only thing responsible); but they are mainly responsible for wrong-use retardation.[84]

It could be argued that, on reaching the 'age of reason', WE become responsible for our own development, but the very issue here is that there is no such thing as an age of reason for many people who never develop the ability TO reason.

To develop effective reasoning skills we have to develop brain networks in the right order using the right input; we have to develop them through natural learning and play. Schooling does not allow us to continue asking the right questions for intelligence to fully develop: what, where, which, when, how and why; one network at a time. When we learn things in the right order for the brain’s development to keep apace, that last question ‘why?’ comes to a mind that is sufficiently developed and equipped to search for its own answers, and our use of logic in doing so provides the practice for intellectual skills to slip smoothly and fully into gear.

Throughout development, when we do things in the right order we continue to see the associated relationships forming between everything known and everything new. New networks depend upon reliable established networks. Unconscious knowledge is ever-more confirmed and consolidated by conscious learning. Cogito Ergo Sum. "I am thinking, therefore I exist". Life makes Sense.

For many of us life stopped making sense when we had our train of questions derailed by the ongoing distraction of training frantically to pass IQ tests, in other words answering the ‘why’ questions ‘parrot-fashion’ from the top-down source of whatever we are told, instead of being enabled to explore and understand them for ourselves bottom-up via association, letting our natural curiosity prompt the next relevant questions.

Discussions of informal reasoning, argumentation, and critical thinking commonly acknowledge that a prerequisite for effective reasoning is a belief in the usefulness of reasoning. An ontology that promotes the use of reasoning skills is the view that valid and useful claims are the product of contemplating possible alternative claims and weighing the evidence and counterevidence. Put simply, people use reasoning skills consistently when they acknowledge the possibility that a claim may be incorrect and also believe that standards of good reasoning produce more accurate ideas about the world.

The awareness of reasoning skills will confer very little intellectual benefit in the absence of an ontological commitment to employ those skills consistently and develop them, and a not incidental effect of schooling is that people lack a principled belief in the usefulness of reasoning that would foster the habits of consistent application and practice of reasoning.

On the whole, people have extreme levels of certainty in their ideas, and they take this certainty for granted. Regardless of whether or not they have the capacity for sound reasoning, if they have no experience of how to do so, what is to be practiced? People's lack of explicit knowledge about what good reasoning entails due to lack of experience may also prevent them from exercising conscious control over their implicit skills.

In addition, people's existing knowledge about the concepts contained in the problem can affect cognitive performance. Some people have great difficulty evaluating the logical validity of an argument independent of their personal real-world knowledge. They insert their own knowledge as additional unconscious premises, which leads them to make more inferences than is warranted. Prior knowledge can also lead people to misinterpret the meaning of premises.

Successful reasoning requires the understanding that evidence must provide information that is independent of the claim or theory, and that evidence must do more than simply rephrase and highlight the assumptions of the theory.

For example, the assertion "Some people have seen aliens" does not provide any evidence about the claim "Aliens are real." These are simply ways of restating the same information. Evidence must be an assertion that is independent of the claim, but that still provides information about the probable truth of the claim.

Without an understanding of evidence and counterevidence and how they relate to theories, people are ineffective at identifying information that could be used to determine whether a claim is justified. Also, lack of a clear distinction between evidence and theory will lead to the assimilation of evidence and the distortion of its meaning and logical implications. This eliminates the potential to consider alternative claims that could better account for the evidence. People will also fail to use counterevidence to make appropriate decreases in the degree of justification for a claim.



Being conditioned to develop strong intellectual skills prematurely at the expense of everything else leads to burnout. Burnout means what it says: overfiring of any group of neurons will result in cell death, chronic anxiety is a major cause of overfiring, and failure to develop always causes anxiety, as does sensory overload (which this 'hothousing' of network 5 most certainly is).[85]

The context wrong input invokes is always one of sensory overload or premature development; and it always results in overproduction of cortisol. There is now ample proof that anxiety is associated with cortical thinning as well as with selective changes of subcortical volumes, with behavioral correlates.[86]

Western societies are facing increasing reports of anxiety-related sickness among otherwise high-performing intellectuals, including students.[87] All describe the same symptoms; including memory and concentration problems, sleeplessness, diffuse aches, profound fatigue, irritability, conscious anxiety, and a feeling of being emotionally drained, which they often attribute to 'occupational stress'. The condition is often designated as 'burnout'; which is a good literal descriptive term; since the imaging of subjects reveals both cell loss in the mPFC, hippocampal & caudate; and a functional disconnection between the amygdala (which enlarges, especially on the right side) and the medial prefrontal cortex; effectively cutting off unconscious knowledge from conscious awareness.

The amygdala is the first relay station in the processing of psychosocial stressors,[88] and the mPFC is a key site for the modulation of stress stimuli.[89] Experiments show that severe and/or prolonged stress (anxiety) is associated with a glutamate-induced elevation of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), an increased arborization, and dendritic hypertrophy in the basolateral amygdala.[90]

neurochemistry of burnout

The neurochemical underpinnings of burnout involves two mediators which deserve particular attention—the glucocorticoids, and glutamate. Their effects have been studied in detail [91] and involve dendritic retraction, neurotoxicity, and apoptosis [92] Both glutamate and glucocorticoids have neuronal influences on their own, but are also reported to interact.[93] Circulating glucocorticoids also interact with various neurotransmitters [94] and chronic stress is known to reduce the number of dopamine transporter binding sites in the caudate nucleus and the putamen.[95] An excess of glucocorticoids decreases the proliferation of hippocampal and prefrontal neurons.[96]

High cortisol causes an enhanced release of glutamate, and anxiety-related elevation of extracellular glutamate levels induces retraction in the spines in stress-targeted regions. An excess of glutamate causes reduced BDNF and shrinkage of dendrites, [97] particularly in the mPFC, (which, when healthy, exerts a strong negative control over stress pathways).

Researchers speculate that anxiety-mediated neurotoxic damage to the mPFC, due to high glutamate, cortisol, or the combination of both, [98] leads to impaired prefrontal inhibition of the amygdala.[99] This then provides a context for a vicious circle with a further enhancement of amygdala excitation and subsequent changes along the networks connected to the amygdala (the mPFC, the basal ganglia, the hippocampus, and the insular, anterior cingulate, and orbitofrontal cortices). Eventually cognitive demand outstrips ability and the mind does the equivalent of 'crashing' the system; the symptoms are what we call 'burnout'.

Cortisol levels may drop below normal following burnout, because downregulation of its receptors has occurred on a massive scale. Since these are the very receptors we need to initiate the stretch parts of the learning process, new learning is ineffective after burnout until recovery has been achieved.

Society's maladaptive requirements of prematurely 'forcing' frontal growth or constant wronguse of specialist systems, on top of its 'norms' of disturbed sleep, lack of good input, impoverished environments and a poor diet, leads to drastically reduced recuperation, sleep problems, memory loss and fatigue, and subsequently to cognitive and emotional dysfunction with the impaired ability to modulate emotion or emotional 'numbness'.[100] The same thing can happen to anyone processing constant wrong input; from young children and high school students to middle aged executives. Because many burnout subjects report anxiety, sleeplessness, attention or memory deficits and poor initiative, the problem is frequently misdiagnosed as depression. It takes time to recover what's been lost, and some never do.

Recovery IS possible, but only by rebuilding networks from the bottom up as biology intended. Standard 'relaxation response' anxiety reduction and a lifestyle reappraisal are the first response practical solutions to burnout. It is 'wake up time' for self-awareness and self care; particularly mental health care, and often one must put the brakes on current occupations and concerns in order to recover.


Incongruity problems




There are two standard definitions for 'hypocrite':

1 A person who pretends to have virtues, beliefs, principles, etc., that s/he does not actually possess, especially a person whose behaviors belie their stated beliefs.

2 A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie their public statements.

At our current level of learning, and from our own experience, we are aware that there is a little more to hypocrisy than is defined by dictionaries. Hypocrisy is a measure of incongruity; a hallmark of cognitive dissonance.

Definition #2 is a classic description of someone striving to be society's ideal self. Hypocrisy is the symptom of incongruity that is most obviously noticeable to us, even as small children; because such a person's lifestyle does not make sense. Children pick up these nonsensical situations all the time, and think about them a lot. Bob says he loves Alice, yet Bob treats Alice like a slave he owns, and hurts her if she does not obey. The man in robes in a richly-gilded church tells us to give all our money to the poor, and drives away in his BMW, past those who walk home as they cannot afford the bus. Alice says she wants to lose weight, then buys breakfast cereal, white bread and corn chips. Bob says he loves animals, then buys a cat and has its private parts cut off. Some adult keeps you imprisoned indoors sitting still staring at boring crap, preventing your brain from developing, then tells you it's for your own good and expects you to respect them; your jailers. Your parents say they love you, then bugger off to a party without you because 'they don't allow kids' and leave you alone in the house with a moron for babysitter; excluded from their reality like a leper.

Cognitive congruity is a basic principle of how intelligence functions. We seek to resolve any form of dissonance between conscious and unconscious. Until we do, we feel the tension of hypocrisy.[101]

The inevitable conclusion we come to as children is that grown ups are a bit mad and their words cannot be trusted. Only later do we realize what hypocrisy is, and only a few of us ever learn more than that.

The useful fact for us as NH students is: if hypocrisy equals anything other than zero, an anxiety will exist inside the individual.

The unconscious always notices a hypocritical imbalance; it is incongruity. It wants incongruity to equal zero, and gets immediately uneasy when it doesn't, because things don't make sense. Some get around the ideological dilemmas by changing their beliefs so that they are equal to their behaviors. Others change their behaviors so that they equal their beliefs. But none of this juggling works unless our actual beliefs about reality are true. Beliefs should be arrived at objectively, and should be a relatively independent variable.

For full congruity, what we say and what we do should be based on our beliefs about what is true and what is real, which should be based upon our awareness of reality. If we are not living in reality but in a counterfeit game, incongruity is bound to arise, and often shows up to others as hypocrisy. There are six different profiles for hypocrisy, which sound like job descriptions from politics or marketing; as follows:


1 Words & beliefs congruous, but incongruous with BEHAVIORS

What these people say they believe contradicts their behaviors. However, it is consistent with their actual internal beliefs. They have strong convictions but do not always follow through.


2 Words & behaviors congruous, but incongruous with BELIEFS.

What these people say they believe is consistent with their behaviors, but incongruous with actual internal beliefs. They are often people pleasers with weak convictions.


3 WORDS incongruous with behaviors AND beliefs.

What these people say they believe contradicts their behaviors and their actual beliefs. They often have weak convictions.

Ok that was three kinds, and I know we said six; but the thing is, it is possible for each of these three to occur in two different forms - with either 'eyes closed' (those not consciously aware of their own hypocrisy on an internal level; ie., fooling themselves), or 'eyes open' (those consciously aware of their own hypocrisy.)

Of course, words, behaviors and beliefs all being congruous, although it prevents hypocrisy, is not any guarantee of sanity; people may after all believe bullshit, talk bullshit and behave like an asshole; in terms of personality this is perfectly consistent and not at all hypocritical. (See 'delusion', below). Simply avoiding hypocrisy does not mean we have 'got it right'. Serial killers, fundamentalist religious, or fascist peoples' behaviors, for example, rarely contradict their words or beliefs. They are completely devoted to what they believe. Their beliefs and perceptions of reality are not rationalizations for their own actions; but are the result of either conditioning, blind faith or a combination of the two. Regardless of the source of their beliefs, their beliefs and behaviors do not contradict each other; both have been absorbed into a counterfeit reality.


hypocritical critics

A type of behavior aka 'The pot calling the kettle black'.[102]

We've all been in these situations: someone who is secretly worried about their alcohol consumption starts telling everyone else that THEY drink too much...the ex-smoker craving a cigarette who derides all smokers...The adult who includes 'fucking' in every other fucking sentence tells their kids to stop fucking swearing... The overweight person on a diet who criticizes your lunch's calorie content as though you were on a diet too... This is a type of projection; those trying unconsciously to avoid their own anxiety will 'project' the problem onto others without consciously knowing they are doing it. This stems from poor self-awareness as well as a lack of awareness about what sort of desperate measures brains can get up to if we aren't aware of them.

It's also hypocritical to slag something off and moan about it, yet not do anything to provide a better alternative. If you honestly distrust standard medical care, stop moaning and start training as a medic. If you REALLY hate Windows, stop moaning and use or write a better OS.

It's fine to criticize when criticism is helpful or requested, but it's still better to be able to suggest an alternative along with your feedback.


Benefits of hypocrisy -emergency defense against stupidity

There are even situations when hypocrisy can save our lives, so it's a good job we are able to do it. Examples are:

Saying you're going to fucking kill someone during a moment when you are not yourself, and then not doing it when sanity returns, is, strictly speaking, hypocrisy. In this context, it's a very good idea.

Convincing someone you were not drinking alcohol in saudi arabia, even though you were.

Behaving as though you were not jewish during WW2 in germany, even though you were.

Telling the dribbling nutter with the gun that their idea for a movie sounds great and their boss was indeed totally evil to refuse it, so why not let these hostages go, and start planning some crowdfunding?


Avoiding unnecessary hypocrisy

Risk factors for hypocrisy

1 Uncertainty of beliefs, and/or incongruity between conscious awareness and unconscious knowledge: If we are not certain what we believe, then our behaviors are not likely to be consistent with our beliefs most of the time. If we believe contradictory things, we are never going to be sure what we 'really' believe. Hypocrites sometimes are unsure about their ideas. They spout and preach about their ideas as a way to convince themselves. They may or may not know they aren’t upholding them in their daily lives, but if they are conscious of this they also realize that nobody else knows it. “If I say it, others will treat me like I believe it.” Somehow, they believe that appearance = reality; that if other people associate them with certain ideas, then that makes them, in reality, associated with those ideas. In reality, the only way to be connected to a certain point-of-view is to live, speak and believe it in daily life.

2 Incongruity between beliefs and reality and/or inappropriate behavioral control: If what we believe consciously is not true; whether we are self-deluded or deluded by others, then we are likely to encounter ideological dilemmas. There are inherent unconscious human desires that with lack of control cause one to act on only what is physically desired, without taking into account conscious input before a decision (example, sexually attracted to a stranger when drunk, our conscious awareness should be controlling lusty behavior until we get to know more about them when sober, but it isn't.) This may also happen the other way round (example, sexually attracted to someone we really like, have known for a long time, and who is willing, our conscious awareness shouldn't be controlling lusty behavior and spouting bullshit about sin and marriage, but it is.) A sane belief system takes into account biological desire AND cognitive information, so that we have no hypocrisy. Our priority in forming our beliefs should be the truth.

3 Unrealistic level of standards in the belief system: If our belief standards or verbal descriptions of how to behave are more than what is humanly possible, then our behaviors are obviously not going to be consistent with our beliefs about how we should behave.

4 Coercion: If we have congruity and our beliefs are true, but we are forced or coerced into expressing words or behavior that are incongruous with our actual beliefs; deliberate, eyes-open hypocrisy is inevitable. Remaining conscious of it protects us against delusion.

Habitual hypocrisy can be screened out in two stages. First, take responsibility for 'Walking the path you talk'; that is to say, doing what you say you are going to do, being where you say you are going to be, supporting the things you say are worthwhile, avoiding the things you say are harmful.

This stage develops our self-awareness and contextual awareness, because we find ourselves having to do some things we don't really want to do simply because we said we'd do them, or supporting something we don't really believe is beneficial, and so on. It can be quite a surprise how difficult it is to find time enough to do everything you said you would do! This prepares us for stage 2: reassessing what we truly believe and what is truly important to us, knowing our priorities and 'Knowing the path we walk' -being honest about ourselves, our likes and dislikes, our current abilities and limitations, and our preferences.

At this stage we will begin to say different things; having learned from experience what 'keeping our word' and having personal integrity really means. We will be forewarned against making appointments we know we may not want to keep. We will be pushed towards more honest, thoughtful, aware interactions and will begin to say things like: 'Yeh, I may like to go to X, ...but not sure yet; I'll let you know later', instead of blindly saying 'Yep! I'll be there!' and then regretting it (or not keeping our word) later. We may even learn to say, politely, 'No thanks; I'm not interested' to religious callers at the door.

Integrity is the willingness to be true to ourselves; to put into practice what we believe. Nothing is worth practicing unless it has first been worked out in theory, so it can be put into practice. Find the truth, and you’ll want to practice it.

From here, we work to ascertain which of our beliefs and habits make sense in context of reality; to bring our behavior in line with the attitudes and beliefs to which we honestly subscribe, to align our beliefs with the most accurate picture of reality we are able to perceive. By reclaiming control we achieve true integrity; knowing the path, and walking the path.

We feel a nagging and sometimes profound discomfort, guilt or doubt whenever our behaviors don’t align with our beliefs or our beliefs don't align with reality; and that feeling is how the anxiety manifests, as it leads towards depression or burnout. Being able to be honest about what we believe, having rational evidence to support our beliefs, and doing what we think is right brings a great feeling of relief, inner peace, relaxation and comfort; and that feeling is our development getting back on track. Expect a temporary high as serotonin production comes up to healthy levels.


Defense & denial

People often rationalize or try to justify their behaviors instead of taking responsibility for reclaiming output control. Avoiding hypocrisy requires intellectual honesty. An intellectually honest person, confronted with a gap between what they believe and reality, or what they think/say and their behavior, will immediately hold a meeting with themselves: “What’s wrong here? Is there some mistake in my belief? Or am I simply not walking the talk, even though I can?” Sadly, few are sufficiently free from anxiety to be intellectually honest in this way. The more they sense or recognize a gap between what they say and what they do, the more they resist any challenge or criticism from anyone, including their own unconscious. To give in or allow criticism is to engage in the anxiety-laden unthinkable: 'I may be wrong. I might even be a hypocrite.'

As we prefer to see ourselves in ways that are consistent with our self-image, when dysfunctional we may use defense mechanisms like denial or repression in order to feel less threatened by some of what we consider to be our undesirable inner conflicts. A person whose self-concept is incongruous with their real feelings and experiences will defend because the truth threatens the illusion of the counterfeit game 'ideal self' they have built their personality around.

Defense mechanisms are people's attempts to distance themselves from a full awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviors which cause anxiety.

Psychologists have categorized defense mechanisms based upon how primitive they are. The more primitive a defense mechanism, the less effective it works over the long-term. Those who don’t learn better ways of coping with stress or traumatic events in their lives will often resort to defense mechanisms.

Most defense mechanisms are unconscious – most of us don’t realize we’re using them, so if you recognize a few of these as things you have done yourself, don’t worry – remember, habits can only be changed after they have come to our attention. Here are some of the more popular defense mechanisms:


Primitive defense mechanisms


Denial is the refusal to accept reality or facts, behaving as though a painful event, thought or feeling did not exist. It is considered one of the most primitive of the defense mechanisms because it is characteristic of delayed development. Many people use denial in their everyday lives to avoid dealing with painful feelings or areas of their life they don’t wish to admit. For instance, a person who is an alcoholic or compulsive gambler may deny they have a problem, pointing to how well they function in their job and relationships.


Regression is the reversion to a 'network 1' stage of development in the face of unacceptable thoughts or impulses. For an example a person who is overwhelmed with fear, anger and growing sexual impulses might become clingy and start exhibiting behaviors such as bedwetting. Some people regress when anxious, refusing to leave their bed and engage in normal activities, curling up in a fetal position, or thumbsucking.

Acting Out

Acting Out is performing an extreme behavior in order to express thoughts or feelings the person feels incapable of otherwise expressing. Instead of saying, “I’m angry,” a person who acts out may instead throw a book across the room, or punch a hole through a wall. A temper tantrum is a form of acting out when someone doesn’t get their anxiety pacified. Self-injury may also be a form of acting-out. All are primitive ways of attracting attention and input for dependent persons.


A person who dissociates often loses track of time or their usual thought processes and memories. People who use dissociation often have a disconnected view of themselves in their world. Time and their own self-image may not flow continuously, as it does for most people. In this manner, a person who dissociates can “disconnect” from the real world for a time, and live in a different world that is not cluttered with thoughts, feelings or memories that raise anxiety. People who have a history of any kind of abuse often suffer from some form of dissociation. In extreme cases, dissociation can lead to a person believing they have multiple selves (“multiple personality disorder”).


Compartmentalization is a lesser form of dissociation, wherein conscious parts of a person's mind are separated from unconscious awareness (cognitive dissonance) and consequently they behave as though they had two separate sets of values (hypocrisy). An example might be someone claiming to be a law-abiding person who cheats on their income tax return but keeps their two value systems distinct and non-integrated and remains unaware of the cognitive dissonance.


Projection is the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person (who does not have those thoughts, feelings or impulses). Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. For example, Alice may deride Bob for not listening, or for interrupting, when in fact it is Alice who does not listen or interrupts. Projection is often the result of a lack of insight and acknowledgment of one’s own motivations and feelings.

Reaction Formation

Reaction Formation is the converting of unwanted or dangerous thoughts, feelings or impulses into their opposites. For example, Alice is very offended by Bob and would like to stop seeing him, but she is overtly kind and generous toward Bob and gives the impression she would like to keep seeing him. She is too anxious to express the emotions of offense and unhappiness with the relationship, and instead becomes overly kind to publicly demonstrate her lack of offense and unhappiness.


Less primitive, more mature defense mechanisms

Less primitive defense mechanisms are a step up from the primitive defense mechanisms in developmental terms.


Repression is the unconscious blocking of unacceptable thoughts, feelings and impulses. People do it unconsciously, so they often have very little control over it. “Repressed memories” are memories that have been unconsciously blocked from access or view.


Displacement is the redirecting of thoughts feelings and impulses directed at one person or object, but taken out upon another person or object. People often use displacement when they cannot express their feelings in a safe manner to the person they are directed at. The classic example: Alice gets offended by Bob, but can’t express her offense to Bob for fear of what might happen. She instead yells at the cat or starts an argument with Carl. Alice is displacing her offense with Bob to her cat or friend. Naturally, this is a pretty ineffective defense mechanism, because while the emotion finds a route for expression, it’s misapplication to others will cause additional problems for most people.


Intellectualization is the overemphasis on objective thinking when confronted with an unacceptable impulse, situation or behavior without employing any emotions whatsoever to help mediate and place the thoughts into an emotionally-weighted human context. It is more likely to occur in frontloaders. Rather than deal with the painful associated emotions, a person might employ intellectualization to distance themselves from the impulse, event or behavior. For example, Alice has just been told Bob has died, but instead of expressing her sadness and grief, focuses instead obsessively on the details of undertakers and funeral arrangements.


Rationalization is framing something in a different light retrospectively or offering a different explanation for one’s perceptions or behaviors in the face of a changing reality. For example, Alice starts hanging out with Bob, whom she really, really likes, but when Bob suddenly stops coming round for no given reason, she reframes the situation in her mind with, “I suspected he was a loser all along.”


Undoing is the attempt to take back an unconscious behavior or thought that is unacceptable or hurtful. For example, after realizing she just insulted Bob unintentionally, she spends the next hour praising his coolness, achievements and intellect. By “undoing” the previous action, Alice is attempting to counteract the damage done by the original comment, unconsciously hoping the two will somehow 'balance one another out.'


Mature defense mechanisms

While primitive defense mechanisms are anxiety-based and do little to try and resolve underlying issues or problems, there are such things as 'mature defenses', which are more focused on self control and avoiding genuine hazards. In changing habits, it is best to try to replace less-mature defenses into mature ones.


Sublimation is the channeling of 'socially unacceptable' impulses, thoughts and emotions into more acceptable ones. For example, if Alice has sexual impulses but society prevents her from acting upon them right now; she may instead focus on rigorous exercise. Refocusing such impulses into alternative healthy use helps a person channel energy or desire that otherwise would be lost or used in a manner that might cause problems.

Sublimation can also be done using humor or fantasy. Humor reduces the intensity of a situation, and can help us to relax. Fantasy, when used as a defense, is helpful for maintaining tenacity. For example, fantasizing about one’s ultimate goals can be helpful whenever working towards them seems tedious, or when one experiences temporary setbacks in achievement. Both humor and fantasy can help a person look at a situation in a different way, or focus on aspects of the situation not previously explored.


Compensation is a process of psychologically counterbalancing perceived weaknesses in networks by emphasizing strength in other areas, especially within the same network. By emphasizing and focusing on strengths, a person is recognizing they are not strong in all areas. For instance, when a person says, “I may not know how to cook, but I can sure do the dishes!,” they’re trying to compensate for their lack of cooking skills by emphasizing their cleaning skills instead. When done appropriately, compensation is a defense mechanism that helps reinforce a person’s self-esteem and self-image sufficiently to allow further development in the 'weak' areas. However, it should never be used as an excuse for not learning new skills.


Assertiveness has been sadly misunderstood; largely due to a legion of 'self-help' assertiveness-training courses, books, DVDs and workshops, most of which only manage to teach rudeness and aggression.

Genuine assertiveness is simply anxiety-free communication where information is explained in a manner that is respectful, direct and clear; similar to the way necessary orders and responses are exchanged on the bridge of a ship, or the way a good instructor explains a procedure.

Communication styles exist on a continuum, ranging from emotionally flat to emotionally loaded, and assertiveness should fall directly in the middle. Some people can be good listeners, but rarely speak up for themselves or their own needs in a relationship. People who are often aggressive and communicate in an aggressive manner tend to be offensive, and are unable to listen empathically to others and their ideas and needs. People who are assertive strike a balance where they speak up for themselves and express their ideas or needs in a respectful yet firm manner, and listen attentively when they are being spoken to. Remaining calm but assertive is one of the most desired defenses in both conflict-resolution and first-response emergency contexts; or anywhere it is beneficial to calm down a situation, reduce shock or anxiety, and bring order our of chaos. None of this will be learned in 'assertiveness' courses, unfortunately, which mistake aggressive behavior for genuine assertion.

Defense mechanisms are most often learned behaviors, most of which became habits in the past. These can be changed by learning these more mature behaviors and new defense mechanisms that are more beneficial to us in everyday life. In the meantime, becoming more aware of when we’re using one of the more primitive types of defense mechanisms above can be helpful in identifying the behaviors we’d like to replace.



The term 'delusion' is another example of revealing nomenclature because it means 'to play a false game'[103] and 'deluded' is the closest literal descriptive term for being stuck in a counterfeit game that we have.

Delusional disorders are not the same thing as temporary delusion, which happens to all of us all of the time, and only becomes pathological if unrecognized. Temporary delusion occurs when unexpected facts or changes arise which we did not anticipate. For example I was temporarily deluded this morning when I firmly believed that my milk was still milk; when in fact in reality it had been left in a warm room and had consequently become cheese overnight. As soon as I saw the evidence, though, when pouring it into tea, I was no longer deluded; and this is the important point about permanent delusion: the danger line is only crossed when one refuses to believe the evidence of real life as proof against the original assumption.

A Pathological Delusion is a fixed false belief or set of beliefs that is scarily resistant to reason, proof or confrontation with actual facts. Delusions are associated with a reasoning bias: the jumping to conclusions (JTC) bias involves gathering limited information to reach decisions, which enforces prejudiced judgments. It is proposed that this bias influences appraisals of psychotic experiences leading to the formation and persistence of delusions, because research shows that processes which contribute to biased appraisals are risk factors for the development of delusions. Delusions have been shown with particular consistency to be associated with reduced data-gathering; this has been repeatedly demonstrated.[104] The evidence also shows that this is a data-gathering bias rather than a deficit in probabilistic reasoning. The JTC bias is specifically associated with levels of delusional conviction.

Often pathological delusion is due to conditioning. There is evidence that JTC is exacerbated by anxiety, both when anxiety is experimentally manipulated [105] and under conditions of exposure to an everyday setting that provokes increased anxiety.[106] Insecure persons may fear what others will think if they appear to 'take too long' to make decisions. Anxiety about saying 'I don't know yet', or being seen as dumb, slow or indecisive can interfere with the reasoning process and rush us into premature conclusions without sufficient proof.

Strategies aimed at reducing JTC and improving data-gathering are likely to be beneficial in enhancing belief flexibility and thereby assisting reappraisal of delusional beliefs. We include some examples of strategies in the NHA guide to methods & tech below. Examples of some of the most common types of delusion are given below:

Delusions of persecution or paranoia

Belief that others; often a vague “they”; are out to get you. A paranoid delusion is the fixed, false belief that one is being harmed or persecuted by a particular person or group of people. Paranoid delusions are known technically as a “persecutory delusion.”

It involves the person’s belief that s/he is being conspired against, cheated, spied on, followed, poisoned or drugged, maliciously maligned, harassed, or obstructed in the pursuit of long-term goals. Persecutory delusions often involve bizarre ideas and impossible plots (e.g. “the CIA are trying to poison me with antimatter particles delivered through my tap water”). They are one of the most common types of delusion, centering around a person’s fixed, false belief that others aim to obstruct, harm, or kill them.

Delusions of reference

Belief that a neutral event contains a special and personal meaning intended for you. For example, a person with schizophrenia might have the delusion that a TV show or a celebrity is sending a message given in public but secretly meant specifically for them. A common form of referential delusion is the belief that all conversation or laughter you hear in public is about you.

Delusions of grandeur

Belief that one is a revered figure, or the reincarnation of same; such as Jesus, a monarch, someone famous, or Napoleon. Alternately, people with a delusion of grandeur often have the conviction of having some great but unrecognized talent or insight, they may believe they have made some important discovery that others don’t understand or appreciate, or they may believe that they have supernatural powers that no one else has (e.g. the ability to fly or read minds).

Delusions of control

Belief that one’s thoughts or actions are being controlled by another person, group of people, or external forces. Common delusions of control include thought broadcasting (example: “My private thoughts are being transmitted to others”), thought insertion (example: “The spirits/gods are planting thoughts in my head”/”I am possessed”), and thought withdrawal (example: “The CIA /aliens are robbing me of my thoughts/memories”).

Popular mass delusions

A current problem for humanity is mass delusion, because while the mainstream quite sensibly rejects some beliefs due to lack of evidence (such as, there are alien beings called Grays traversing the heavens in spaceships), it completely falls for others (such as, there are magical beings called Gods and Angels traversing the heavens by magic). While the former belief seems sorta feasible (we know that (a) spaceships are possible to build, (b)we ourselves are 'forms of life traversing the heavens', (c) there are other planets like ours out there, where (d) life is possible, so it's reasonable to consider the possibility); the latter belief has no valid evidence to support the possibility and is highly likely to be a delusion.

Mass delusions take shape in counterfeit games. A similar delusion is that societies, financial systems and governance are necessary to control culture (there is ample evidence from tribal cultures this is not so). Another is the concept of hell, which has no proof going for it whatsoever, and yet another is human monogamy, which is at best cruel and at worst a danger to the species.

There is also an abundance of delusion in a great deal of what most people believe (such as, cereal is good for you, we have god-given rights, voting is important, slavery is fine, we have freedom, blondes are dumb, foreigners are evil, the government cares about you, and it's about time you got married).

Some of these are going out of date, some are still popular. For a fun list of some of the bullshit we are conditioned to believe, see refs [107].

popular self-delusions

The delusion: Our opinions are the result of years of rational, objective analysis.

The truth: Our opinions are the result of years of paying attention to information which confirmed what we already believed while ignoring information which challenged our preconceived notions.

The delusion: Sudden batches of coincidences about an area of interest occurring in numbers against the odds convince us that something uncanny is going on.

The truth: Is out there... (only joking). The truth: Selective memory has paid attentional priority to input related to our interest and we failed to notice the rest. This is sometimes called the Frequency Illusion.

The delusion: Our beliefs about X are based on personal experience.

The truth: Our beliefs about X are based on an incredibly limited amount of personal experience.

The delusion: I do/don't do X because I care about others.

The truth: I do/don't do X because I'm anxious about what others will think if I don't.

Other reasons why intellectual skills may be poor

The inability to use intellectual skills often has multiple confounding causes:

Weak supporting networks

Often weak intellectual skills are not the fault of network 5 at all; but the result of poor N3 skills such as imagination, concentration, or short term memory retrieval; which in their turn are the result of poor N1 & N2 skills, such as attention, orientation or observation.

Here it once again becomes obvious why we must work from the bottom up when reprogramming as well as when learning. A number of cognitive skills, if lacking, underdeveloped or unpracticed would be expected to affect the quality of our reasoning. The first is the ability to fully comprehend the meaning of a claim being made. Understanding the conceptual content is crucial to being able to consider what other information might bear on the truth or falsehood of a claim. Other cognitive processes involved in reasoning supported by rear networks include the retrieval of relevant knowledge from declarative memory, seeking out new relevant information, evaluating the validity and utility of that information, generating alternatives to the claim in question, and evaluating competing claims in light of the relevant information.

N6 problems

Some people may also perform worse on problems that require more cognitive work, due to excessive demands placed on their limited processing capacity or working memory in network 6. We will look at such problems in future tutorials.

Poor self awareness

Factual accuracy is always required when self-assessing (a) our own current intellectual ability and (b) our progress. If there is clear justification for assuming we are currently behaving poorly (such as, we are recovering from accident, illness, or injury), self esteem is unaffected because everything still makes sense; congruity between unconscious and conscious knowledge holds true. But if we misjudge ourselves and consciously assume we are doing great (or badly) without justification, unconscious anxiety runs high and self esteem (dependent on serotonin & norepinephrine) falls as cortisol does it's work of degrading the necessary transmitters or preventing their release, shutting down the very networks which could detect the problem. Our immune system efficiency also plummets and we are vulnerable. Regular, objective self assessment based on facts is the best way to build confidence about our progress and avoid incongruity, and striving for honesty in self assessment is a skill which grows with experience. Wherever possible, get quantitative records of developmental status and progress. Make use of Functional Analysis and other assessment tools.


Good records: 'My IQ measured as X in march 2015 on the 'WJ IV' test and it now measures as Y in june 2015' on the same test.

Bad records: 'My IQ is higher now than it was in march'.

Ugly records: 'I'm certain my IQ has got higher.'


...Which of these are you most likely to find in your Captain's Log?


Problems with memory retrieval:

When we want to remember something, we retrieve the information on an unconscious level, hopefully bringing it into our conscious mind as required. While most people think they have either a "bad" or a "good" memory, in fact, most people are fairly good at remembering some types of things and not so good at remembering others. If we do have trouble remembering facts - assuming there is no physical cause - it's usually not the fault of the entire memory system but an inefficient component of one part of the memory process and very often, it is not paying attention in the first place which holds declarative memory back.

Consider how we remember the fact of where we put something we use all the time, such as keys, shoes, or our coat; when staying somewhere unfamiliar, such as on holiday. First, we must register where we place these things: we must pay attention when we discard them as ‘no longer needed today’. We must be aware of where we are putting them, or we won't be able to remember their location the following morning. Next, this information is retained in RAM, ready to be retrieved in the short term. If the system is working properly, when we wake up in the morning we will remember exactly where we left them all. In a day or so, we will have assigned a 'regular place' for them to be, which is stored in long term memory.

If we've forgotten where they are, one of several things could have happened: We may not have registered clearly where we put them down to begin with; we may not have retained in RAM what we registered; we may not be able to retrieve the memory accurately. If we want to stop forgetting where we left things, we will have to work on finding out which stage of the memory process isn't working properly, and for most of us it turns out to be initial attention which is lacking. Certainly for some the memory may be lost because they didn't encode it very effectively, because they were distracted while encoding should have taken place, or because they're having trouble retrieving it. But in the vast majority of cases, if we've "forgotten" where we put often-used things, we may not have really forgotten at all -- instead, their location may never have gotten into our memory in the first place due to not paying attention. The same is true of 'forgotten' facts; all that stuff from school we can't remember – because it went 'in one ear and out the other' -our attention was elsewhere (often on real life - plans for the evening, the view out of the window, the sexy-looking person three seats away, or whatever we are reading surreptitiously under the desk.)

Distractions that occur while we're trying to remember something can get in the way of encoding memories, especially if the facts we are trying to attend to are something we find boring and emotionless. If we're trying to read a scientific paper in the middle of a busy airport, we may think we're remembering what we read, but we may not have effectively saved it in memory.

Alcohol, junk food and various drugs including some medications, can interfere with memory processes, so we have to be aware of this and concentrate harder if trying to learn when under the influence of anything. We should also be aware of ‘state dependent learning’ –an item remembered when drunk will be recalled more easily when drunk (in the same neurochemical state originally associated with it). Sugary drinks and processed foods are known to interfere with memory.[108]

Finally, we may forget because we're simply having trouble retrieving the memory. If you've ever tried to remember something one time and couldn't, but then later you remember that same item, it could be that there was a mismatch in association between retrieval cues and the encoding of the information you were searching for. In other words there were not quite enough ‘points of similarity’ between the known and the unknown. If this happens to us when studying, it means that we simply don’t have enough bits of basic information yet to form a fully-coherent memory, and must carry on seeking the relevant input until the new information 'fits in' with stuff we already know in a coherent way.


Aging and declarative memory.

As we get older, the brain’s “plasticity” – its ability to adapt, change, and pick up new skills – does not decrease, however memory problems can increase with age due to the cumulative long term effects of either non-use or wrong use, particularly in frontal networks. We saw earlier in these tutorials that as we increase our knowledge and ability, our brain doesn't have to change its overall size or grow millions of new batches of nerve cells; it's the connections between cells which grow denser as we learn. Our synapses are reinforced, and cells make more and stronger connections with each other. But if we fall into habits of non-use or wrong use, these synapses begin to falter, which begins firstly to affect both the performance of working memory and how easily we can retrieve declarative memories.

Obviously the longer nonuse or wronguse goes on, the worse our memory will become, which is why memory loss is associated with aging. It doesn’t have to be! New learning can (and should) continue throughout our lives; the brain's property of plasticity is permanent. The important point to remember is that in many cases, an older person's brain has become less effective not because of any structural or organic problem but simply as a result of lack of use or chronic wronguse. Here are some things to watch out for:

physical health & lifestyle habits

If we’re not physically healthy, lack of exercise can cause increasing deterioration of blood flow to the brain as our body ages. We need to look after our circulatory system and not forget to exercise. Supplementing with omega 3, drinking alcohol in moderation and doing some gentle exercise (for example yoga) helps maintain brain health even if mobility is limited. We can start a low-GI diet at any age and will still notice the benefits.

Of course, some things can happen to the brain to cause this decline which are currently out of our control. We may have inherited some unhealthy genes, we might have been exposed to poisons, had unfortunate accidents, or perhaps we ate a bad diet for many years, sat down all day long, and smoked or drank too much. All these things can cause memory decline. Lifestyle matters much more in the long term than the short, although it’s never too late to improve.

Enriched or impoverished environments

Evidence from research suggests that exposure to enriched environments can stop brain cells from shrinking and can increase brain density. Animal studies show that rats living in enriched environments with lots of toys and challenges have better-connected brains with larger, healthier brain cells, and animals given lots of mental exercise have more dendrites, which also allows cells to communicate with each other. Research has shown that, in our later years just as at any age, a stimulating environment still encourages the growth of connections, while a dull environment impedes them, as it encourages nonuse.

A major recent discovery in neurobiology was that of the molecular “recycling plant” that maintains the coherence of memories over time. With non-use, our cellular density reduces as unused receptors literally drop off the synapse. These are picked up on the dendritic spines of neurons (which contain ‘recycling plants’), and reattached only if they appear to be needed; otherwise they are moved to an area where use is more frequent. Individual memories (and cognition in general) rely on millions of receptors continually being reinstated; the system is simultaneously dynamic and stable. If these receptors don’t get recycled, we see the gradual loss of synaptic function that is associated with reduced cognitive ability.[109]

The major problem in putting theory into practice on this issue is that most people don't know what an enriched environment IS, and consequently how to use one for input control.

An enriched environment for a human being is NOT a room full of toys or a gadget full of brain training games (although these are still much better than nothing). For an intelligent human, an enriched environment is the real world; which means spending a lot of time outdoors in natural surroundings interacting in natural ways is what best nurtures the brain. The perfect enriched environment for humanity is out there; amid hills and valleys, trees and oceans, mountains and lakes.

Any activity which gets us out there is good, some examples are outdoor sports, camping, landscaping, gardening, country walks, photography, picnics, sailing, birdwatching, fishing, foraging, wildlife filming, even lying in a garden or on some grass reading a book or listening to music; all will improve brain function. Playing together with others outdoors, interacting with plants or animals, or working outdoors on mutual projects, provides the optimal exercise for our brains as well as our bodies.

Some of us don't yet have the freedom to be outdoors most of the time, but we can still provide a much more enriched context indoors than many currently do. Here are some tips for doing so:

Indoor plants, a water feature, flowers, paintings of natural scenes, natural colors, no artificial smells, open the window as often as possible (the buildup of CO2 and chemicals from cleaning products indoors contributes measurably to loss of cognitive ability, especially in insulated buildings.) Keep your space clean, but no air-freshener. Invite others round for drinks/smokes/tea/food/movies/conversation/games on a regular basis. Keep your favorite entertainments close to hand, listen to your favorite music while you work, if possible create a nice view outside any windows. Watch nature videos and wildlife documentaries. Have a beautiful natural scene for screen wallpaper. Use your creative ideas to decorate and furnish your space as you like it, and change it if you feel like a change. See how far you can go towards creating a natural environment indoors.

Sitting down all the time is not good for brains or bodies, and is known to increase anxiety.[110] If you are most often indoors, move around as much as possible, and try to get outdoors as much as you can, even if it's just for five minutes it makes a beneficial difference.

Beliefs & confidence

Behave as though it’s happening, and the brain will think it’s happening. The older people get, the more they tend to worry about their memory. If we’re forgetting stuff at age 20, we probably don't think a thing about it, or we blame it on being too stoned, too tired, or too drunk at the time. At 40, we may begin to believe we have "a worse memory than we used to" or notice we are “suddenly forgetting stuff we’ve known for ages.” Perhaps we start thinking about using supplements to boost memory. At 60, many people begin to panic at exactly the same sort of memory gaps they failed to notice in their twenties, and anxiety is squeaking in their ears: "Could this be the first sign of Alzheimer's disease?"

There is some compelling evidence for the importance of older people’s confidence (or lack of it), in maintaining good memory skills.[111] The older we get, the more likely society will be to convince us to worry about memory problems; telling us as it does from the media on every side, that 'all old people go senile!' - but in reality the more we worry about memory slips, the more we'll notice each and every slip-up and the more we’ll slow our memory down with anxiety about losing it!

Odds are we forgot quite a lot of things when we were in our teens or twenties, but we never paid any attention to or worried about those lapses. We'll also be much more likely to notice slips once we’re actively neurohacking, because we’re paying better attention to and getting more sensitive to our own brain’s condition. So do bear in mind: the more we expect to have memory problems, and the more anxious we become about them, the more we are likely to create a self-fulfilling prophecy by causing them.


Mistranslation & semantics

Sometimes we are led astray from the truth by other people’s different translations or interpretations of the information given. This is why it is always preferable to go as far as you can to the source of data that has led to conclusions and assertions. This (often unrealized) disagreement in interpretation leads to confusion of understanding, as we will see.

Consider the following sentences:

The spy shot the cop with the revolver.

There was a man eating fish.

These sentences appear to be simple enough. They are grammatically correct, make sense and can be easily understood. Or can they? - Who had the revolver: the spy or the cop? Was it a man, eating fish; or was it a man-eating fish? 


Like optical illusions, mistranslation can play tricks on the brain.


The most common mistakes in reasoning

Belief bias or confirmation bias:

“Be careful. People like to be told what they already know.
Remember that. They get uncomfortable when you tell them new things.
New things…well, new things aren’t what they expect.
In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds…Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.”
(Lord Vetinari from Terry Pratchett's novel, “The Truth: a novel of Discworld”)


A common source of error is belief bias, where people judge an argument's validity based on whether the conclusion is consistent with their beliefs rather than its logical relationship to the given premises. Confirmation bias creates a filter through which we see a reality that matches our expectations. It causes us to think and remember selectively, but the real trouble begins when confirmation bias distorts our active pursuit of facts.

Inconsistent, selective, and biased application of reasoning skills provides little or no benefits for learning. Greater reasoning skills are assumed to aid in the ability to acquire new knowledge and revise one's existing ideas accordingly. However, if one contemplates evidence and theory only when it can be used to justify one's prior beliefs, then only supportive information will be learned and existing ideas will remain entrenched and unaffected.

Confirmation bias makes us vulnerable to bullshit. Whether or not sources are telling the truth, or vetting their opinions, or thoroughly researching their topics is all beside the point. We pay attention to them not for information, but for confirmation. We rarely seek information which challenges our notions of how things are or should be. We want to avoid anxiety which arises if we think we might be wrong about how we see the world, so we seek out information which confirms our beliefs and avoid contradictory evidence and opinions. Research showed people spend 36 percent more time reading an essay if that essay aligns with their opinions. Even in declarative memory we fall prey to confirmation bias, recalling those things which support our beliefs, forgetting those things which debunk them.

We seek out safe havens for our ideology, friends and coworkers of like mind and attitude, media outlets guaranteed to confirm the ontology. Whenever our opinions or beliefs are so intertwined with our self-image in a counterfeit game that we couldn’t pull them away without damaging our conformity to 'ideal self', we avoid situations which may cause harm to those beliefs.

In science, we move closer to the truth by seeking evidence to the contrary via reason. The same method should inform our opinions as well.


DO IT NOW – experience the insidious nature of confirmation bias

The following numbers: 2, 4, 6; were presented to a group of students, who were directed to guess why the numbers are in that particular order and to guess the underlying rule for selecting them in that way, presenting three numbers of their own which followed the same rule. Below are the example suggestions the students made, and the responses the researcher gave them.

Examples already suggested:

10, 12, 14 (yes, this fits the same rule)

22, 24, 26 (yes, this fits the same rule)

If you think you have the underlying rule figured out yourself, write it down and that's your answer.

See notes at end of tutorial

jumping to conclusions bias (JTC)

Similar to confirmation bias and often manifesting together with it, JTC bias involves reduced data-gathering and making decisions under conditions of uncertainty on the basis of little evidence (prejudiced decisions). A habit exacerbated by anxiety, JTC is strongly connected to delusional states, and it is proposed that JTC limits belief flexibility, thereby maintaining and escalating levels of delusional conviction. (See 'delusion' above).

Relying on heuristics

Heuristics are simple rules governing judgment or decision-making.[112] Heuristics are described as judgmental shortcuts that generally get us where we need to go quickly, but at the cost of possibly sending us off course."[113] A broad family of biases (systematic errors in judgment and decision) are explainable in terms of a few heuristics (information-processing shortcuts), including availability and representativeness.[114]

the availability heuristic

...is a mental shortcut that relies on immediate examples that come to a given person's mind when evaluating a specific topic, concept, method or decision. The availability heuristic operates on the notion that if something can be recalled, it must be important, or at least more important than alternative solutions which are not as readily recalled.[115] Subsequently, under the availability heuristic people tend to heavily weigh their judgments toward more recent information, making new opinions biased toward that latest news.[116]

The availability of consequences associated with an interaction is positively related to perceptions of the magnitude of the consequences of that interaction. In other words, the easier it is to recall the consequences of something, the greater those consequences are often perceived to be. Most notably, people often rely on the content of their recall if its implications are not called into question by the difficulty that they experience in bringing the relevant material to mind.[117]

the representativeness heuristic

...is used when making judgments about the probability of an event under uncertainty.[118]

Representativeness is defined as "the degree to which [an event] (a) is similar in essential characteristics to its parent population, and (b) reflects the salient features of the process by which it is generated".[118] When people rely on representativeness to make judgments, they are likely to judge wrongly because the fact that something is more representative does not actually make it more likely.[119] The representativeness heuristic is simply described as assessing similarity of objects and organizing them based around the category prototype (e.g., like goes with like, and causes and effects should resemble each other).[120] This heuristic is used because it is an easy computation. The problem is that people overestimate its ability to accurately predict the likelihood of an event.[121] Thus, it can result in neglect of relevant base rates and other cognitive biases.[122]

Attribute Substitution

...is a psychological process thought to underlie a number of cognitive biases and perceptual illusions. It occurs when an individual has to make a judgment (of a target attribute) that is computationally complex, but instead substitutes a more easily calculated heuristic attribute. This substitution is thought of as taking place in the automatic intuitive unconscious system, rather than the more self-aware conscious reflective system. This explains why biases are unconscious and persist even after the subject is made aware of them. Hence, when someone answers a difficult question, they may be answering a related but different question, without realizing that a substitution has taken place.[123]


...can be a source of heuristic attributes. In a face-to-face conversation with a stranger, judging their intelligence is more computationally complex than judging the color of their skin, their sex, or the accent of their voice. So if a person has a stereotype about the relative intelligence of whites, blacks and asians, men and women, or persons who speak in a particular accent; that attribute substitutes for the more intangible attribute of intelligence. The unconscious, intuitive nature of attribute substitution explains how people can be influenced by a stereotype while thinking that they have made an honest, unbiased evaluation of the other person’s intelligence.

Anchoring or focalism

...is a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the "anchor") when making decisions. During decision making, anchoring occurs when individuals use an initial piece of information to make subsequent judgments. Once an anchor is set, other judgments are made by adjusting away from that anchor, and there is a bias toward interpreting other information around the anchor.

Covariation errors

Other errors in judgment, therefore affecting reasoning, include errors in judgment about covariation – a relationship between two variables such that the presence and magnitude of one can predict the presence and magnitude of the other.[73] One cause of covariation is confirmation bias; the tendency to be more responsive to evidence that confirms our beliefs. But assessing covariation can be pulled off track by neglecting base-rate information (how frequently something occurs in general.)[73] People often ignore base rates and tend to use other information presented.


Counterfeit arguments and fallacious reasoning

Flawed reasoning in arguments is known as fallacious reasoning. A set of statements that appears to be an argument but is not is called a fallacy. Consider the following statements:

  • All starfleet officers wear uniforms

  • My granny wears uniforms

  • So my granny must be a starfleet officer


Is this a valid argument? NO. At first glance you might take it to be so. The structure seems similar to examples we’ve seen. However, if it had the exact same form, it would read:

  • All starfleet officers wear uniforms

  • My granny is a starfleet officer

  • So my granny wears uniforms

THIS is a valid argument. IF the premises were true, THEN the conclusion would be true.

The first example is known as a ‘fallacy’, because the conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow from the premises (regardless of whether or not the conclusion happens to be true.) The way the supposed argument is structured allows for the fact that someone could wear uniforms and yet not be a starfleet officer. As an argument, it is invalid; it does not fit the correct formula to produce a valid conclusion from premises.

Here’s another example of a fallacy:

  • All wizards wear pointy hats

  • My neighbor wears a pointy hat

  • So my neighbor must be a wizard

Again you can see that the conclusion would only follow if the first premise read:

ONLY wizards wear pointy hats

So regardless of whether or not it is true that my neighbor is a wizard, the argument is fallacious: it is an invalid structure; one which is not truth-preserving. Even if the two premises were true, there is still the possibility of other people besides wizards wearing pointy hats.

Fallacies are exactly the sort of reasoning that advertising executives, religious leaders and politicians love, because less experienced thinkers can fall for and be conned or coerced by them (as the Monty Python team so aptly lampoons in the witch-trial scene of “Monty Python & the Holy Grail”). In addition to faulty reasoning, such fallacies are often based on possibly false premises such as ‘wizards actually exist’. This can lead to certain characteristics (such as wearing pointy hats) being used as conclusive evidence that this or that person is a wizard.

Bad reasoning within arguments can be because it commits either a 'formal fallacy' or an 'informal fallacy'.

Formal fallacies occur when there is a problem with the form, or structure, of the argument. The word "formal" refers to this link to the form of the argument. An argument that contains a formal fallacy will always be invalid.

An informal fallacy is an error in reasoning that occurs due to a problem with the content, rather than mere structure, of the argument.

Logical fallacies include the use of:


red herrings

(aka: beside the point, misdirection [form of], changing the subject, false emphasis, the Chewbacca defense, irrelevant conclusion, irrelevant thesis, smokescreen, clouding the issue, ignorance of refutation, judgmental language [form of]) are deliberate attempts to change the argument, for example,


Alice: It's morally wrong to slap animals; why did you do that?

Bob: But what is morality exactly?

Alice: It’s an unconscious code of conduct that benefits our species.

Bob: But who creates this code?...(Bob has now successfully derailed this straightforward conversation off the issue of his animal cruelty into a deep, existential discussion on how morality emerged.)


straw man

...where the opposing argument is misrepresented to make it easier to refute; for example,


Alice: “We should relax the laws on smoking weed.”

Bob: “No, any society with unrestricted access to intoxicants loses its work ethic and goes only for immediate gratification.” (The proposal was to relax laws on smoking weed. Bob has exaggerated this to a position that is harder to defend, i.e., 'unrestricted access to intoxicants'. This is a logical fallacy because Alice never made that claim.)


the excluded middle fallacy

(aka polarizing the argument); for example the belief that either alcohol causes a wide range of specified diseases, or it causes none at all, so any doubt about an association with one disease, such as breast cancer, is regarded as sufficient to reject an association with any disease).


False Analogical reasoning

False analogies incorrectly reason from the particular to the particular. Examples follow:

  • Premise 1: Alice is human and mortal.

  • Premise 2: Bob is human.

  • Conclusion: Therefore Bob is mortal.

False analogical reasoning can be viewed as a form of inductive reasoning from a single example, but if it is intended as inductive reasoning it is a bad example, because inductive reasoning typically uses a large number of examples to reason from the particular to the general. False analogical reasoning often leads to wrong conclusions. For example:

  • Premise 1: Alice is human and female.

  • Premise 2: Bob is human.

  • Conclusion: Therefore Bob is female.


Example 2: the argument against evolution that, as the universe and a watch are both extremely complex, the universe must have been created by the equivalent of a watchmaker. (Even in these times, when computerized robots construct digital watches, this false analogy is as popular as ever).

the most important bits to remember

The failure of two-thirds of adults to ever achieve the abilities of formal reasoning is due to our usual culprits: (a) non-use, especially of supporting networks and (b) wrong use of the relevant brain networks, skewing healthy development; most especially in network 5.

Being conditioned to develop strong intellectual skills prematurely at the expense of everything else leads to burnout.

Repeated stress stimuli with no relaxation (anxiety) causes excitotoxic, apoptotic, and/or intermediate forms of neuronal death [124] with atrophy in humans. An excessive release of cortisol and consequently glutamate, perhaps in tandem with a dysregulation of HPA, leads to the cascade of events which ultimately lead to burnout.

There are two standard definitions for 'hypocrite':

1 A person who pretends to have virtues, beliefs, principles, etc., that s/he does not actually possess, especially a person whose behaviors belie their stated beliefs.

2 A person who feigns some desirable or publicly approved attitude, especially one whose private life, opinions, or statements belie their public statements.

People often rationalize or try to justify their behaviors instead of taking responsibility for reclaiming output control.

Defense mechanisms are people's attempts to distance themselves from a full awareness of thoughts, feelings and behaviors which cause anxiety.

The term 'deluded' is the closest literal descriptive term for being stuck in a counterfeit game that we have. A Pathological Delusion is a fixed false belief or set of beliefs that is scarily resistant to reason, proof or confrontation with actual facts.

The inability to use intellectual skills often has multiple confounding causes:

As we get older, the brain’s “plasticity” – its ability to adapt, change, and pick up new skills – does not decrease.

For an intelligent human, an enriched environment is the real world; which means spending a lot of time outdoors in natural surroundings interacting in natural ways is what best nurtures the brain.

Beware of confirmation bias!

A set of statements that appears to be an argument but is not is called a fallacy.

False analogies incorrectly reason from the particular to the particular.

DO IT NOW - Fallacies

Which of the following are fallacies, and which are valid arguments?

  1. All geniuses have been slightly crazy. I’m slightly crazy, so I’m a genius.

  2. All children feel insecure. You’re a former child, so you must have felt insecure.

  3. If you do something wrong, you get questioned by the police. You’ve been questioned by the police, so you must have done something wrong.

  4. Some creative people have bipolar disorder. You’re not very creative, so you can’t have bipolar disorder.

  5. All religions get donations. Sex in spaghetti is a religion. So spaghetti-sex worshipers should get donations.

Answers are at end of tutorial.


All the examples here of fallacies are of ‘formal fallacies’, which break specific rules of logic, but there are also ‘informal fallacies’ which usually are phrased to appear as an argument but the statements purporting to be premises to do not support the conclusion. One example of this is called a "circular argument", in which the conclusion is used as the premise; for example: “Why is taking drugs illegal? I’ll tell you why. It’s because it’s against the law!”

Since "illegal" and "against the law" are the same concept, the speaker in the above informal fallacy is using the fact that taking drugs is against the law to prove that it is illegal. In effect the speaker is just repeating the same statement two times. Nothing has been proven.

Adopting new habits of thought


truth hunting & myth busting

In tutorial 1 there is a section called 'Myth Busting and Updating Your Knowledge'; which we hope you remember. It is not therefore our intention to repeat the common myths popular in neuroscience and their refutations; but rather to examine the underlying processes necessary to avoid being fooled by ANY myths or counterfeit information.

For several decades, despite having access to more information about the brain and mind, and better technology than ever before, myths about the brain have persisted, being used in schools and colleges by teachers and repeatedly portrayed in mainstream media. Much of this nonsense is based on ignorant, biased distortions of scientific fact, and semantic differences in terminology and language have contributed to a 'gap' between actual neuroscience discovery and what is portrayed by our schooling/media systems; which has prevented such myths from resolution and distorted public awareness.

In recent years, thanks to the internet, scientific communication across this gap has increased, but the blindspots of corporate society remain the same and new information from science is often distorted by the same ignorance and biases as those responsible for older neuromyths. Consequently we are currently witnessing a global epidemic of neuro-nonsense and there are worrying statistics on the extent to which 'brain bullshit' has infiltrated the beliefs of teachers and 'experts' around the world.[125] Neuromyths are of course harmful to progress in neuroscience as well as to our health.

Any field in which there is sudden rapid progress and/or still big unsolved mysteries is apparently just asking for the general public to misunderstand and misinterpret it (as quantum physicists discovered last decade with all that woo woo mystical-quantum-entanglement nonsense); and neuroscience currently has its share of both. Unfortunately, because they’ve been around for so long, and are spread by popular media as well as 'experts', neuromyths have taken hold in a broad range of aspects of everyday life, plus there are many similar erroneous beliefs in the fields of general health, nutrition and exercise.

This is problematic in NH only if we remain unaware of it. However, there is more to being aware of it than just knowing what these myths are. Being aware of old myths does not protect us from accidentally believing new myths, which waste just as much time and can be just as harmful.

What we need is a method of checking input as it comes in, in order not to be duped by pseudoscience, covert marketing, or other people's ignorance.

We do have such methods among our reasoning skills, but the important trick is to make using these methods habitual. No method, no matter how useful, will work if it is not actually used. That may sound ridiculously obvious, but the main reason neuromyths are believed and perpetuated in the first place is people's failure to use their reasoning skills when encountering new information.

Many people don't have good reasoning skills, as we mentioned earlier, and it is not our task to prevent misunderstanding in the mainstream; but it is important that we are able to defend ourselves against counterfeit claims and be sure that our own information is good input.

So first, forewarned is forearmed: here are some of the main ways people get fooled:


Correlation does not prove causation

A basic tenet of science is that correlation (more than one thing happening at the same time) does not imply or prove causation (one caused the other) nor does co-incidence imply any actual connection between the events whatsoever. Some things must happen at the same time as other things all the time, and it’s a common mistake to get excited about associations that in reality do not exist.

Example 1: French people drink a lot of red wine. French people don't get much heart disease. Therefore red wine protects you against heart disease.

What's wrong with this argument? Consider: French people also speak a lot of french, but we don't blame that for their longevity. Two factors coinciding means nothing at all -if a connection really exists, a search for evidence is necessary.

Example 2: Alice wonders why cats always rub on your legs when you feed them. Alice's cat wonders why humans always feed you when you rub on their legs.

Who's right? To generalize, if we see that A and B happen together, WE DON'T KNOW whether A caused B, B caused A, some C caused both A and B, or there is no causation at all.


Confirmation bias 'vanishes' research

There was a huge study in Austria some time ago, [126] which showed that the higher your cholesterol level was, the longer you lived. And the lower your cholesterol level was, the shorter you lived. These findings completely contradict mainstream beliefs, and nobody has heard of them. They are published, but ignored. The same is true of Windle's research with monkeys, which revealed the intrinsic mental damage caused by western birth practices; [127] and of any research implying that society's favorite institutions (school, work, and formerly, church) might be a bad idea. Mainstream science funding is looking for (and at) only the research which supports counterfeit game beliefs; ignoring and omitting from the media any evidence which undermines them.

The general public's confirmation bias even makes possible 'double-labeling'; which works as follows: you print the confirming claim on the front of a product in big red letters; for example, 'STEROID-FREE!!' - while on the back of the same product in really small letters you can put: 'contains corticosteroids'. People will be unable to remember – or even register in consciousness - the second bit of information. Another example: 'COCONUT OIL' on the front in big red letters, and on the back in really small print, '100% Rapeseed oil with coconut flavoring'.[128]


People just make shit up

When people are obsessively trying to make more money at the cost of anything else, they often don't care about accurate facts; indeed, some would rather avoid them. Some health recommendations are completely fabricated and are not based on any science at all, yet people believe 'health information' must be based on solid evidence and therefore true.


Deliberate misinterpretation

Sometimes mistranslation or misinterpretation is accidental and due to a writer's own lack of knowledge about the subject they are discussing, but sometimes it is blatantly deliberate; used to invoke the ‘scandal factor’ that journalists love to exploit to provoke anxiety, discord and controversy (doing this is what keeps journalists in their jobs because their employers claim it sells news. In real life, all it sells is misinformation).

Here’s an example. First, read this short extract from an article by Ewen Callaway[129]:

“Increased feelings of transcendence can follow brain damage, a study of people with brain cancer suggests.

As feelings of transcending the physical world can be part of some religious experiences and other forms of spirituality, the finding may help explain why some people seem more prone to such experiences than others.

The brain region in question, the posterior parietal cortex, is involved in maintaining a sense of self, for example by helping you keep track of your body parts. It has also been linked to prayer and meditation.”

...Now imagine that I am a journalist trying to 'cause a stir' with this information. I could create something much more controversial; such as this:

“Religious People May Be Brain Damaged, Scientists Discover

Scientists have discovered that people with brain damage get more religious. The part of the brain affected gives us physical awareness, eg helps ‘keep our feet on the ground’, but people with brain cancer found their ability to do this decreases and religious feelings increase. Praying and meditation uses this part of the brain. Does this mean science has finally reached its goal of disproving God, or that all religious people have brain damage of some sort or other, or that religion itself is some sort of mental illness or mind control? Certainly not, unless you assume the majority of the population (including many scientists) to be seriously mentally disturbed! But despite laughing himself, this author bets the anti-religious lobby will be laughing their ass off at this one.”


...Hopefully you can see various ways how I have misinterpreted and reframed the original information to make it appear to mean something that it doesn’t. I have inserted the term ‘Religion’ to make it appear that the people reported feeling ‘religious’, which we have no proof that they actually did (“transcendent feelings” was the original term used.)

My main conclusion as this unpleasant journalist comes out as “Religious people may be nutters” and my ‘proof’ for this conclusion is basically, “Scientists said so”. I suggest this possibility repeatedly, and then cover my own ass by saying ‘certainly not,’ implying that these scientists are talking rubbish. I then reverse direction again by saying that I’m amused and so will be the anti-religious, but I don’t associate my humor with theirs directly, giving enough leeway for readers to hear what they want to hear. - Religious readers will assume I side with them and am laughing at the scientists, atheists will assume I’m laughing at the religious people. Oh, what an asshole I am.

Now imagine if the nasty journalist’s report were the ONLY place you had seen this information! Now you are seeing the problem: with no access to the original source, this sort of thing is what most people are given as ‘news’. The more it is edited, the less accurate it gets. Scientific data starts with the original research reports, which are edited for mainstream science magazines, edited a second time for popular science magazines, edited again for serious news publications, edited again for popular newspapers, edited again for verbal news broadcasts; and every time it’s edited it could be twisted just as badly as I have twisted the information above.

quality of evidence

Evidence is roughly 'anything presented in support of an assertion'. This support may be strong or weak. The strongest type of evidence is that which provides direct proof of the truth or falsehood of an assertion. At the other extreme is evidence that is merely consistent with an assertion but does not rule out other, contradictory assertions, as in circumstantial evidence.

In science there is broad agreement on the relative strength of the principal types of research. The design of the study and the endpoints measured affect the strength of the evidence.[130]

Experimental evidence, presented in Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) ranks as the best (at the top) while 'expert opinion' and anecdotal experience are ranked at the bottom.

Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) have two key features. First, they manipulate an independent variable (for example, the researchers administer a treatment, like giving a drug to a person). Second, and crucially, they randomly assign subjects to treatment groups (also called intervention groups) and to control groups. Depending on the group to which the subject is randomly assigned, they will/will not get the treatment.

The two key features of experimental studies increase the chances that any effect recorded after the administration of the treatment is a direct result of that treatment (and not as a result of pre ‐ existing differences between the subjects who did/did not receive it). Experimental research designs use quantitative analysis. The combination of random assignment and quantitative analysis enables the construction of a robust ‘counter-factual’ argument. Such designs are useful for demonstrating the presence, and size of causal linkages (e.g. “ a causes b ”) with a high degree of confidence.

For this reason, they are often regarded as the ‘gold standard’ for research which aims to isolate cause and effect. However, research is not just about identifying cause and effect: it is also about understanding why some events unfold as they do, and learning more about why people have particular perspectives and interpretations of the events that affect them. This is often where the rich variety of observational (especially qualitative) research designs and methods add substantial value. Different designs are more or less appropriate for different research questions.


Weight of evidence

The relative 'weight' carried by the different types of primary study form the “hierarchy of evidence”, as seen below.

PRIMARY EVIDENCE: science papers

1a: Systematic reviews (with homogeneity) of Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs)

1b: Individual RCTs (with narrow confidence interval)

1c: All or none RCTs


SECONDARY EVIDENCE: science papers

2a: Systematic reviews (with homogeneity) of cohort studies

2b: Individual cohort study or low quality RCTs (e.g. <80% follow-up)

2c: 'Outcomes Research' / ecological studies

3a: Systematic review (with homogeneity) of case-control studies

3b: Individual case-control study



4: Case reports (and poor quality cohort and case-control studies)

5: Expert opinion without explicit critical appraisal, or based on physiology, bench research or "first principles" / personal experience.



6: Journalists' articles, mainstream science magazines/websites, anything without sources, anything with dubious sources, mainstream news, TV, religious or political sites, stuff authored by anybody trying to sell anything or clock up more visits to their website, surveys, newspapers, websites with adverts, popular magazines, what your mate thinks, what some celebrity said, what some stranger told you in a bar.


Bear in mind the quality of your information when presenting evidence for or against arguments. Here are some questions which will help you to assess the quality of evidence:


Conceptual framing

Does the study acknowledge existing research?

Does the study construct a coherent conceptual framework?

Does the study pose a research question or outline a hypothesis?



Are the authors of the study named?

Do we know the authors' level of expertise?

Does the study present or link to any raw data it analyses?

What is the geography/context/location in which the study was conducted?

Does the study declare sources of support/funding?



Does the study identify a research design?

Does the study identify a research method?

Does the study demonstrate why the chosen design and method are well suited to the research question?


Cultural context

Does the study explicitly consider any context-specific cultural factors that may bias the analysis/findings?



To what extent does the study demonstrate measurement validity?



To what extent are the measures used in the study stable?

To what extent are the findings likely to be sensitive/changeable depending on the analytical technique, type of subject, or location used?


Congruity & coordination

Does the author ‘signpost’ the reader throughout?

To what extent does the author consider the studys limitations and/or alternative interpretations of the analysis?

Are the conclusions clearly based on the studys results?


Using language formally

Most people only know individual, not universal, meanings for words.

We speak colloquial language with local mannerisms, apply it to scientific concepts, and assume everyone understands what we mean. Aside from deliberate misinterpretation in order to cause a stir, the vast majority of poor understanding comes from an assumed commonality of semantics. Put simply, we believe that when other people use the same words we use, they mean the same things we mean. Most of the time, we are completely mistaken.

This assumption that 'we all speak the same language' is the cause of a great deal of relationship problems, international diplomacy disasters and unsuccessful team work.

For some reason, people find this concept particularly hard to grasp when it comes to matters of the mind; most notably emotionally weighted words. There may be as many different interpretations of the meaning of the word ‘love’ as there are humans saying it; half of whom have not even experienced it yet despite claiming with certainty to be ‘in it’.

Not being given clear definitions of what somebody means (or not understanding/ remembering them when they are given) will impede your understanding of anything you read or hear. Always try to define clearly what the author means by a term, not what you think it means but evidence for what they think it means.

To narrow the problem down to our field, there are five classic bloopers that can trip us up in NH; so we always work with the formal meaning of words and if possible give definitions; because this leads to most accurate understanding and results. If you forget these classics, you are likely to misunderstand these tutorials and much that you read on the subjects elsewhere.

‘the classics’ are:

1 Shock. Formal meaning: A physiological state inducing a collapse of circulatory function; can be caused by sensory overload, electrocution, poisoning, allergic reaction, blood loss, or disease, and characterized by pallor, sweating, weak pulse, and very low blood pressure.

Colloquial use: People use the word ‘shock’ to mean alarm, fear, trauma, panic, surprise, stress, offense, disgust, scandal and the occurrence of anything sudden or unexpected.

2 Stress. Formal meaning: A specific (beneficial) response by the body to a challenging physical, emotional or mental stimulus, including the release of hormones & neurotransmitters according to the nature of the stimulus. Essential for plasticity in musculature, phenotype, growth, learning and memory. Stress must be followed by relaxation for plasticity to result. In PTSD, the response repeats chronically without the stimulus and without relaxation.

Colloquial use: People use the word ‘stress’ to mean strain, anxiety, hassle, pressure, panic, trauma, inability to cope, and coercion.

3 Emotion. Formal meaning: A specific beneficial mental, physiological and physical response; subjectively experienced as feeling and physiologically involving changes that prepare the mind and body for relevant behavioral interaction.

Colloquial use: People use the word ‘emotion’ for sentiment, reaction, dependent attachment, melodrama and histrionics.

4 Intellect. Formal meaning: A conscious function of intelligence focusing on calculation, abstract representation, and analysis; measurable by IQ tests, enabled mainly by one of six brain networks (N5) which maintains its cell-body nexus in the left and left frontal hemisphere.

Colloquial use: People use the word ‘intellect’ to mean intelligence, common sense, working memory, eidetic memory, declarative memory, emotional stability, cleverness, awareness, academic skill, intuition and cognitive thinking.

5 Normal. Formal meaning: Conforming to the standard or (in biology) the common biological type; functional; not abnormal or dysfunctional; regular; natural.

Colloquial use: People use the word 'normal' to mean, 'like most people'. This causes problems in research, as we shall see.


DO IT NOW -Semantic Problem Spotting

Suggest some contrary things different authors might mean by the following words and phrases:

  • Affect

  • I bought a house/ car/ supercomputer

  • Complementary

  • Confidence

  • Controls

  • Education

  • Fear response

  • Hallucinating

  • Hysteria

  • Hypothesis

  • I couldn’t live without...

  • It’s the truth, honest...

  • Pride

  • Psycho

  • Scared

  • Schizo

  • Starving

  • Theory

Suggestions are at end of tutorial


Lies, Damned Surveys, and Statistics


“It is not a lie to keep the truth to oneself.”

(Spock; ‘The Undiscovered Country’)

Perhaps the biggest con trick that fools most of the people most of the time is that of information being pulled out of context so that in the literal sense it seems true, but the deception lies in what is hidden.

Rarely does anyone take a critical look at statistics; where they come from, and whether they're worth listening to.

Surveys are a typical example. Anyone who makes it their mission to debunk bad science needs to be wary of surveys, because from this source, statistics mean absolutely nothing. This is true for seven reasons:

1 People lie in surveys all the time, putting down what they want others to believe about themselves instead of the real truth. It's no secret that people say stuff on surveys that they don't really believe. Social scientists even have a word for what you end up with: a 'non-attitude'.

2 Any statistics from surveys refer only to people who do surveys, and most people don't. Science needs statistical data that says something about everyone, not just the tiny cluster of people who answered a survey.

3 Many of those who conduct surveys tweak the figures through confirmation bias, and many journalists (as well as advertisers) deliberately fake statistics to influence public opinion (psychologically, if we believe 'a majority of people really want X', we tend to join in and say we want X too.)

4 Many of those doing surveys are coerced into it and get through it as fast as possible without thinking.

Like most people, you probably have more fun and important things to do than answer a long survey on food labeling policy. Confronted with a long list of agree/disagree questions, you might start skim-reading. Maybe you'll tick 'yes' to everything (people are more likely to unthinkingly agree than unthinkingly disagree on surveys – it's known as acquiescence bias). Maybe you'll just agree with all the policies about food labeling, since it's something you support on the whole. The chances that you'll spend more than a few seconds weighing up what the question means and what you really think about it is fairly low.

5 Most surveys don't give the 'none of the above' option. For examples:

“When doing laundry, do you prefer washing powder, or liquid detergent?”

“Would you rather vote for X or Y?”

“Do you go out to a restaurant to eat most nights, or cook at home?”

(note there is no box to tick for 'neither'.)

A surprising amount of surveys also force people to choose between 'agree' or 'disagree'. And that means those who actually don't know (or don't give a shit) have to misrepresent their opinions. Obviously, 'Majority of People Don't Give a Shit about X' doesn't make such a controversial headline, does it?

6 Semantics strike again: how wide is the gap between what the researchers think the survey question means and what respondents think it means? For examples:


A “Are the children able to maintain attention?”

The researchers think this means: 'Can the children direct their attention to something they are interested in, and stick with it?”

The respondents think it means: “Do the children pay attention TO YOU?”

B “How much of your diet is made up of carbohydrates?

The researchers think this means: “What percentage of your diet is vegetables and fruits?”

The respondents think it means: “How much bread, cereal, chips, fries and pasta do you eat?”


C “Do you experience spiritual feelings?”

The researchers think this means: “Do you experience transcendent feelings?”

The respondents think it means: “Are you religious?”

In these cases, nobody is answering the questions which were asked. Since most people don't know formal language, they don't actually know what the question means, and won't know how to answer it accurately.


7 Ordinary people are assumed to be 'normal healthy' (see semantics section above). Most 'ordinary people' are far from healthy and way off 'normal' biological mental development. For example the greater percentage of people doing surveys will have anxiety problems, cognitive dissonance, and incongruity. Most of them will be incapable of higher reasoning. One quarter of 'the general public' will have reported mental problems at some point in their life. Many more will not report problems because they're considered 'normal' in their society at their age. Surveys do not give the opinions of 'normal healthy' people.


Absolute versus Relative

Absolute difference versus relative difference, (or absolute risk versus relative risk) can be used to make something sound far worse than it really is, or conversely, make something appear better than it is. Most people struggle to understand what these two terms actually mean.

Here's an example: You get 100 people with high blood pressure and you put them on a blood pressure-lowering drug, and you get 100 people and put them on a placebo. After a year, two people have died in the placebo group; one person has died in the real drug group. That’s an absolute difference of one percent (one out of 100), and a relative difference of one death versus two; that’s 50 percent (one out of two).

Now, take 1,000 people with high blood pressure and do the same. In the thousand-people group, one person dies in the real drug group and two people die in the placebo group. The absolute difference is 0.1 percent (1 out of 1,000). The relative difference is one versus two—it’s 50 percent (1 out of 2).

When it comes to things like drugs, which are claimed to “reduce the risk of heart disease by 40 percent, we are not told what was the underlying risk. Was it one in 10,000, one in two, one in a million? Unless we know that, the statistic is meaningless.

In the mainstream, relative risk is the standard, rendering most percentage claims highly misleading. There is a big difference between 0.1% and 50%, so you see how misleading this statistical trick can be when used to deliberately deceive.

We must stress here that it is not the numbers which are misleading or at fault. Numbers by themselves never lie, in the same way that weapons never get up by themselves and kill people.


Other common tactics of misdirection

Deliberately misleading tactics include the non-disclosure of negative studies (researchers or funders only publish their positive studies, and the negative ones aren’t published.) This is deliberate confirmation bias.

Be suspicious of the terms 'new', 'new research', 'first ever', and 'for the first time'. They are almost always wrong.

Q: For example, when were the first neuroprosthetic devices implanted in humans? What was the first brain-computer interface device and when was it made?

A: The first neuroprosthetic devices were implanted in humans in the mid-nineties. The first brain-computer interface device was EEG; in 1924.

Yet we see journalists claiming: (4 Mar 2013) “Researchers have succeeded in creating the first brain-computer interface.”[131]


Misdirection also includes conflicts of interest. The old dilemma of church and state being unified has been replaced by corporate interest and state being unified. In effect it is the same thing; people now worship money, and allow the priests of this new multinational religion to control their bodies of government. All this taking place within the confines of counterfeit games, in real life we end up with a bunch of insecure people who think they are rightfully in control of another bunch of insecure people who believe they are rightfully in control of everybody else (or would like to be). Almost none are interested in being in control of themselves, but many strive to control others and use them as disposable resources. Sounds more than a bit mad, from our 'big picture' perspective, right?

Again though, we must remind ourselves this is not money's fault, nor is it caused by money, any more than it is the fault of numbers if statistics are abused. We know the causes, unless we have been asleep throughout these tutorials.

Conflicts of interest abound in scientific research, and we should remember that they are not always stated in the paper; a conflict of interest can be caused very easily by a private bribe (or threat) which has no apparent connection with the research funders and the general public never hear of, lest it be withdrawn.

Non-disclosure of negative information happens all the time in advertising. The best way of grasping this is by comparing the ‘ideal’ to the ‘real’. Instead of the truth, which is rarely one-sided, people are given an ‘ideal’ concept that gives a false impression out of context; like one piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

Here are some examples (the upper case declarative statements are the ‘ideals’ we are given instead of truths, the lower case, bracketed statements put them back into context by revealing the hidden undeclared reality):


  • CONTAINS EXTRA VITAMINS (none of which you can actually digest).

  • CONTAINS AGENT ‘X’ THAT WHITENS TEETH (and causes bone disease).

  • AS AN AIR HOSTESS, PONGO DEODORANT KEEPS ME DRY ALL DAY (as an actor dressed up as an air hostess, I’ve never heard of Pongo but I’m getting $50 an hour.)

  • 90% OF THE POPULATION VOTED FOR GENERAL FULLASHITE (once they understood that their families would be shot otherwise).

  • 8 OUT OF 10 PEOPLE BELIEVE... (8 out of 10 people who did this survey claimed to believe).

  • LOW IN FAT (and extremely high in stuff that turns into fat right after you’ve eaten it).

  • NINE OUT OF TEN PEOPLE WHO TRIED BOTH DRINKS SAID THEY LIKED ‘X’ BEST (even though all testers agreed that both drinks were pretty awful).

  • FANTASTIC ROBOT TOY ONLY $10 (plus $20 worth of batteries every twenty minutes).


DO IT NOW - hidden truth spotting

It's likely that most of us have been fooled by one of the above. Try some hidden truth spotting yourself. What information could be missing in the claims below?








Suggestions at end of tutorial


Finally, 'experts', independent reviewers without conflicts of interest, volunteers, popular online professors and even myth-busting sites are not always correct (eg peer review, Snopes, The Cochrane Collaboration.) We can never assume anyone is infallible, and should not believe we can.


Science Denialism

This is not to suggest that we should fall prey to denialism and conspiracy theory. Almost always, wherever a subject has an overwhelming consensus on the evidence among scientists, there are also vocal commentators who reject this consensus, confusing many of the public and often the media too, by convincing them that the consensus is not based on ‘sound science’ or denying that there is a consensus by exhibiting individual dissenting voices as the ultimate authorities on the topic in question.

Denialism is the employment of rhetorical arguments to give the appearance of legitimate debate where there is none, [132] an approach that has the ultimate goal of rejecting a proposition on which a scientific consensus exists.[133] We should be aware of the features of denialism and be able to recognize and confront it.[134]

Denialism employs some or all of the following five characteristic elements in a concerted way.

1 The first is the identification of conspiracies. When the overwhelming body of scientific opinion believes that something is true, it is argued that this is not because those scientists have independently studied the evidence and reached the same conclusion. It is because they have engaged in a complex and secretive conspiracy. The peer review process is seen as a tool by which the conspirators suppress dissent.

2 The second is the use of fake 'experts'. These are individuals who purport to be experts in a particular area but whose views are entirely inconsistent with established knowledge in that area and sometimes of the entire field they are supposed to be 'experts' in. Certainly mere qualifications in a particular field do not make someone 'expert' to the extent of 40 years' experience in the field, but 40 years' experience of selling self help books or lecturing on one's own pet theory does not make one an expert on neuroscience.

3 The third is selectivity; the habit of drawing only on isolated papers that challenge the dominant consensus or highlighting the flaws in the weakest papers among those that support it as a means of discrediting the entire field.

4 The fourth is the creation of impossible expectations of what research can deliver. For example, some people denying the reality of climate change point to the absence of accurate temperature records from before the invention of the thermometer as 'lack of data'.

5 The fifth is the use of misrepresentation and logical fallacies.


Whatever the motivation, it is important to recognize denialism when confronted with it. The normal rational response to an opposing argument is to engage with it, testing the strengths and weaknesses of the differing views, in the expectations that the truth will emerge through a process of debate. However, this requires that both parties obey certain ground rules, such as a willingness to look at the evidence as a whole, to reject deliberate or accidental distortions and to accept principles of logic. A meaningful discourse is impossible when one party rejects these rules. Yet it would be wrong to prevent denialists having a voice. Instead, we argue, it is necessary to shift the debate from irrationality to public scrutiny of the facts. An understanding of the five tactics listed above provides a useful framework for doing so.


Finally, several million people can be wrong. Mainstream science can also be guilty of denialism, especially in areas which effect economics; a good example being public nutritional information on sugar and cereal products. Ask yourself: how much would average insecure people need to be paid in order to lie? Sadly, having an official occupation, sound science published in the past, or qualifications doesn't change this tendency. What's more, sometimes where there is conflict in science, both sides are wrong; a good example being the former 'nature or nurture' argument.

Now that we are a little more aware of some of the pitfalls awaiting the incautious or naive, it becomes easier to see why we must sometimes think like the famous sleuth Sherlock Holmes, or search the evidence like the tenacious Agent Scully, in order to get to the truth.



Classic research bloopers


Correlation is often used as 'proof' in research; often in league with dodgy statistics; for example a study might claim that a particular drug reduces the risk of dying from heart disease, but the people in the control study who died may have died in greater numbers from other health problems instead. It’s the overall mortality we have to look at—ALL causes of possible death. What is the overall impact? If you look at specific causes of death which correlate with, say, alcohol consumption, statistics show an increased risk of mouth cancer, esophageal cancer, and stomach cancer. But when you look at the overall figures, statistics show alcohol reduces the overall mortality risk!


Self-delusion and false attribution

Can cause writers to associate sensible facts with wild ideas; for example let us consider a dude who firmly believes that the 'Great Goddess Boom' is responsible for climate change. Our writer informs us that climate change IS happening, and gives evidence, but then attributes the events to the goddess. Those checking the evidence find no fault with it, and therefore assume if one point in the theory can be logically proven, the rest must be true as well.

Blaming a single cause in cases of multiple causation is another form of this, and a frequent bad habit of journalists. We find this sort of thing in a lot of medical papers (example: obesity figures are rising (true and provable) only because people are eating too much butter (not true; no single cause is valid as many different dietary, lifestyle and epigenetic factors combine to cause increased obesity).)

Most issues are found to have multiple causes in biology, and we should get used to circumnavigating simplistic questions such as: does eating fat cause obesity, or is it sugar? The only sensible answer to this is 'partly both, plus other factors', which isn't very informative.

Using a non-biologically-relevant resource (for example, money) for testing a biological response (for example, generosity, or altruism).

The unconscious doesn't know about money. It will never understand money, which is an abstract concept. It consequently doesn't respond in any meaningful way to money offered as a 'reward' in experiments. The conscious mind responds, but it's not responsible for neurochemical responses; it merely modulates them.


Using actors for testing responses to facial expressions or to screams.

The unconscious does know about real expressions versus acting, and genuine neurochemical responses occur only when subjects experience genuine expressions and sounds.


Using students as a representation of the general public.

It's well known that psychology research relies too heavily on student volunteers. So many findings are assumed to apply to people in general, when they could be a quirk unique to undergrads. Although this is often criticized as a shortcoming of much research, it still goes on a lot of the time. However, nor are volunteers absolutely safe as representatives of the public – research recently found that people who volunteer for psychology experiments are more stable and outgoing than those who don't - a finding that has wide-ranging implications for the integrity of most psychological research. Sadly, this research itself used the old-style concept of 'personality traits' in its measure, and the mind boggles as regards to whom this experiment used as a control group (non-volunteers?)[135]


Assuming that subjects are honest.

For example, some psychology (and other) websites feature 'cognitive tests' designed to accumulate data on users, and researchers recently used this as 'evidence' that face recognition declines in people as young as 30; however, what percentage of 'the general public' is honest about their age etc. online is completely unknown, and without proof of veracity the data is meaningless.[136]


keeping a perspective on marketing

The goal of 'most people' is to become the 'ideal self' in a counterfeit game. The 'ideal self' is the one controlling the greatest number of game-counters (which, because everyone is obsessively looking for game counters, allows players to manipulate each other).

Consciously, the rules they are following to achieve this make every other person their enemy, whom they must outwit, use or coerce by any means in order to get more game-counters. Unconsciously, they are conditioned to desperately seek safety by means of control over others, even though in real life safety is achieved by having greater numbers of close allies. Meanwhile, no biological development is taking place, the incongruity and constant conflict between biology's real life needs and in-game counterfeit lifestyles leaves players feeling desperately anxious and constantly looking for pacifiers, while physiologically they are racing towards dementia. This is the type of dysfunction we meet when we look 'most people' in the face.

A main strategy in most counterfeit games is advertising, which calls for high sentiment weighting in order to get attention, and the number 1 predictor of any article reaching millions of people is how sentimental it makes the reader.

Basically any extreme sentiment will do, as long as the item makes people feel really angry, really anxious, really outraged, really disgusted, really offended, really shocked, really afraid. As long as it provokes a reaction that will spread the story, because this is what insecure people give up their game counters for; to find out what awful things threatened their security today, and what new awful things are supposedly threatening their security tomorrow; to pacify themselves that they are more 'ideal' than other people; to impress others by their 'knowledge of what's going on' (except, most of it isn't really what's going on). Conveniently, their input keeps reinforcing the belief that they need more game counters to stay safe. Prostitution, imprisonment or slavery (use of our body, mind or time by another in exchange for game counters) is the natural result for most players.

This is not any fault of the media, btw. The media as a structure is NOT the source of misinformation or propaganda. These are the sources of misinformation: anxiety, ignorance, stupidity, fear, coercion, superstition, prejudice, conditioning, obsession, deceit, sentiment, dysfunction.

But this is why we need to try so hard to get to the truth anywhere a counterfeit game is going on; and since they are going on in most places, truth-hunting isn't easy these days.

Our best hope for success is a powerful intellect and creative, flexible logic. We discuss more techniques for ferreting out the truth in the Methods & Tech section below.

NHA Guide to Methods & Tech

The systematic errors that have been observed and measured in intellectual ability provide some insights about what skills a person might develop to improve performance. Here are some factors we can all use to improve intellectual skills:


Being explicitly, consciously aware of conditioning tactics can facilitate our ability to block or correct such intrusions.

Truth & validity

Students will also benefit from knowing what logical validity refers to, how it differs from real-world truth or personal agreement, and how easy it is to confuse the two.

Rules of reasoning

Regardless of whether or not people commonly employ formal rules of logic, an understanding and explicit knowledge of the rules of good reasoning will also facilitate our efforts to search for truth.


Practice on formal reasoning tasks will increase our proficiency and reduce the amount of cognitive effort required. Also, working memory load can be reduced by external representation techniques, such as mind-mapping.

The scientific method

The scientific method is the best way yet discovered for winnowing the truth from lies and delusion. The simple version looks something like this:

1 Observe some aspect of the universe.

2 Invent a tentative description, called a hypothesis, that is consistent with what you have observed.

3 Use the hypothesis to make predictions.

4 Test those predictions by experiments or further observations and modify the hypothesis in the light of your results.

5 Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there are no discrepancies between theory and experiment and/or observation.

When consistency is obtained the hypothesis becomes a theory and provides a coherent set of propositions which explain a class of phenomena. A theory is then a framework within which observations are explained and predictions are made.

Although it's normally associated with the hard sciences like biology, chemistry and physics, the scientific method is actually a process of thinking about reality in such a way as to ask and answer questions through observation and experimentation, and is just as useful in assessing the status of personal relationships as it is for testing scientific hypotheses. To follow the steps of the scientific method, you would ask yourself a question, (for example, I wonder if Alice likes me?) conduct research (for example, ask Alice), hypothesize (it appears that Alice likes me), test your hypothesis through experimentation (hang out for a while with Alice), analyze the data (Alice says she likes me but her behavior implies she doesn't like me all that much) come to a conclusion (Alice's words and behavior are incongruous, or I am misunderstanding something, or I don't have enough data) and communicate the results (to yourself, and/or to Alice). Most importantly, your experiment and conclusions must be fair and honest. Maybe something really shitty just happened in Alice's life which is affecting her behavior; we don't know that.


The methods of critical thinking are so similar to those of the scientific method as to be almost inseparable. Both begin with the idea of questioning. In both modes of thinking, statements are dead ends that simply repeat knowledge that is already known or accepted. Questions define tasks, express problems and delineate issues. Answers on the other hand, often signal a fullstop in thought. Effective questions lead to the discovery of new knowledge, or of new relationships between accepted facts.


The next step in the scientific method is research. An understanding of what previous others have attempted and concluded is the basis of any solid inquiry. In critical thinking, research is also essential. It could take the form of searching for resources and reading about how people have previously dealt with the same issue with which we are now faced, or research could be as simple as making ourselves better informed by talking to people who know more than we do about an issue. Either way, we are bettering the chance of making an effective decision or choice by basing it on knowledge, whether it be your own previous knowledge, as in learning by experience, or someone else's knowledge, as in learning by example.


Once we have collected our information, both the scientific method and critical thinking hinge on our interacting with that information, in the form of some kind of experiment or test. In the sciences, this takes the form of actual experimentation. In critical thinking, it could take the form of diagnosing a problem with your friend by listening to what they say, searching reputable websites to seek information on similar problems, and addressing one thing at a time (in the scientific method, this takes the form of changing one variable at a time) until we solve the problem.


If we failed to fix the problem, the next stage of critical thinking is assessment. At this stage, we stop and think about how we came to the conclusions we did, to see if we can figure out where our reasoning may have gone awry. We may end up fixing the problem once we've determined our error, or we may reason that the problem is beyond your current ability, so more learning is necessary. In the scientific method, this is the stage where we analyze our data to test our original question, or our hypothesis.


Both critical thinking and the scientific method require absolute honesty. If we are honest with ourselves about a problem, we more quickly realize what we need to resolve it. Even in the most well-planned experiment, a researcher may need to ask a colleague for a second opinion. Being honest allows us to critically assess our thinking method so that in further experiments or decisions, we will not make the same thinking errors. In both modes of thinking, honesty is an integral part of intellectual development.

Reasoning training

Given the pervasive impact of conditioning on reasoning skills and on learning & development in general, it is clear that systematic efforts are needed to change old habits and foster better reasoning skills. Of the approaches that have been attempted, there is some evidence for the success of reasoning training, which prompts students to develop more adequate arguments. It is important to explicitly study what good reasoning means, what evidence is, and how evidence relates to ideas, hypotheses and theories. This approach is especially effective if any experiments can be conducted within the context which demonstrate the principles of scientific reasoning in practical terms.

Also, if reasoning skills are used in conjunction with the content of many different subject areas, then students may develop an appreciation for the pervasive utility and importance of reasoning for the 'big picture' progress of human ideas and human culture.

As discussed above: strategies aimed at reducing JTC and improving data-gathering skills are likely to be beneficial in enhancing belief flexibility and also assisting reappraisal of delusional beliefs.[137]

The task in reasoning training is to sharpen our reasoning skills by increasing familiarity with reasoning methods, serendipitously preventing JCT. Below is a selection of methods for reasoning training.


Let's debate this

Methods of debate between students with opposing views can foster the basic skills needed for informal reasoning. Debates give students practice in having to consider opposing viewpoints and having to coordinate evidence and counterevidence in support of a claim. Also, providing justification for one's positions requires some cognitive effort.

However, interpersonal debates are most commonly construed in schools as situations in which individuals are committed to a position ahead of time, and in which their goal is to frame their issue and any evidence in a manner that will persuade their opponent or the audience that their own position is correct. This is NOT the way to approach debate!

Students' reasoning is greatly impaired by a conditioned tendency to adopt a biased, defensive, or noncontemplative stance. Debate activities that reinforce this stance simply blur the difference between defending a claim and contemplating a claim's justification, and may do more harm than good.

To date, there is no school curriculum that provides the benefits of using interpersonal debate exercises to foster critical reasoning skills; the very skills we need to develop a powerful, incisive intellect. Here are some basic methods:

using argument in debate

Debating different arguments is an essential skill, because it leads to our discovering the truth. Although very few people know how to voice effective and relevant arguments, we should be able to debate effectively and defend our points with conviction and relevance.

For optimal results, debate should be approached like a game. The purpose of the game is to discover the truth, and the debate should present opposing, paradoxical or different views on an issue or event and subject each to rational analysis; for example the observations:

“Light behaves like waves”

“Light behaves like particles”

Have, after debate, yielded to the conclusion, “Light can behave like either waves or particles depending on circumstances.” Without such debate, we can fall into the trap of trying to make facts fit theories, rather than the other way round. Remember that the map is not the territory and we are not here to defend the map; we are here to defend the territory, which is ‘the truth’.

Preparing Your Own Arguments

In debate we are explaining why a certain point should be accepted, and playing 'devil's advocate' to each other. That is the definition of an argument.

Things to use in your argument as premises: facts, demographics, theories, statistics, references, quotations, personal experiential reports, scientific papers, ideas, physical evidence; all of these can provide ‘weight’ behind your argument.

To make sure you have constructed a good argument, use the mnemonic: SPOCK

  • S = Structure: when planning and on ending, check that what you are saying presents the structure of a valid argument.

  • P = Premises: Present your premises with clarity and make sure of their relevance, giving definitions for terms you are using. Remember, your task is to help people to understand exactly what you think and why you think it.

  • O = Order: Make effective use of evidence by presenting information in a coherent order and with clarity so that people can see how you made your associations.

  • C = Conclusion: Make sure your conclusion follows from your premises, if it does then you know you have a valid argument.

  • K = Kick out any personal abuse, attacks, sentiment, ad hominem, rudeness & irrationality. They have no place in rational argument and they cannot help us find the truth; indeed they are likely to obscure it. If you are too anxious to argue rationally without being rude, don’t join in until you have fixed the anxiety problem first. This does NOT mean there is no emotion in debate; and nobody loves a passionate argument more than I do. It means there is no sentiment. Learn the difference; it is the hallmark of a healthy and mature intelligence.

Countering Argument in Debate

This is called ‘rebuttal’, and is a very important part of debate. All points made will stand if you do no rebuttal; even if someone’s hypothesis is very weak, it will still stand if uncontested and unexplored.

If someone presents the conclusion; “The sun goes round the earth”, it is of no use saying, “No it doesn’t”. We have to ask the speaker WHY they conclude this and then see if we can show evidence why their premises are mistaken or their argument is not valid. We can present contrary hypotheses with evidence, but sometimes this is insufficient to disprove the argument, as in the particle/wave situation, where proving a second thing correct does not necessarily prove the first thing wrong.

An argument may be wrong in content or form. If so, say how and why. An argument may also be true but irrelevant. Watch out for this, it is important.

Remember that it is not necessary to rebut everything, only what is relevant. All that you need to counter in a valid argument are the premises. Take care of these, and the conclusion will take care of itself.


We include a debating exercise in the Hacks & exercise section below.


“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.”

(Philip K Dick)


building constructively critical thinking & arguing habits

game rules: informal and formal language

Academic formal language is NOT the same thing as the formal languages used in computer science, pure logic or mathematics (which you will find if you look up 'formal language'). Academic formal language is simply a version of english with restrictions which serve to reduce misunderstandings, misinterpretations and inaccuracies. Here is an example of formal and informal language:



learning the language of reasoning

Some guidelines in formalizing language:

1 One word is better than two. In contrast to spoken english, a distinctive feature of formal english is for writers to choose the more formal alternative when selecting a verb, noun, or other part of speech. English often has two (or more) choices to express an interaction or occurrence. The choice is often between, on the one hand, a verb which is part of a phrase (often verb + preposition), and a verb which is one word only. In everyday spoken english, the verb + preposition is used (eg speak up, give up, write down); however, for formal style, the preferred choice is a single verb wherever possible. Using single words to describe actions and objects quickly brings them to mind. When someone “stabs” a straw into their drink we see it, but “pokes swiftly” is not so clear. When a person “meanders” it is more accurate than “walking slowly. Too much unnecessary text induces skipping.


Informal: Students may help out in the lab.

Formal: Students may assist in the lab.


Informal: The researchers had a look at the machine's history to find out what sort of software the people before them had been using.

Formal: The researchers reviewed the machine's history to establish which applications were previously used.

2 Minimize the use of the personal 'I' and avoid opinions. Formal language aims to be objective in its expression of ideas. Therefore specific reference to personal opinions, or to yourself as the performer in interactions, is usually avoided.


Informal: 'When I looked, I saw that the chemical had turned pink! Awesome!'

Formal: 'On observation, the chemical was found to have turned pink.'

Informal: 'But in my opinion...'

Formal: 'But it has been argued that...'

Informal: In my view...

Formal: Some researchers claim...

3 Where possible use more nouns than verbs or adjectives.


Informal: These results are worrying.

Formal: These results raise concerns.

Informal: Most people are probably gonna freak out.

Formal: A majority of the population is likely to experience anxiety.

4 Avoid emotional expressions.


Informal: It's so obvious that-

Formal: It appears that-

Informal: just because...

Formal: on the basis of...

5 Avoid value judgments.

Informal: Surely you trust Professor X more than blogger Y?

Formal: The evidence appears to support X's conclusion, whereas there seems a lack of evidence in Y's opposing view.

6 Always write abbreviated names in full the first time you use them, regardless of how well known you think they are. Example: Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

Informal: Otherwise, the Marlon Brando fans' 'NAMBLA' might get confused with the creepy pedophile group 'NAMBLA'.

Formal: Otherwise, the National Association of Marlon-Brando-Look-Alikes (NAMBLA) might get confused with the North American Man-Boy-Love Association (NAMBLA).

7 Avoid contractions.


Informal: Isn't

Formal: Is not

Informal: can't

Formal: cannot or can not

8 Avoid definite verbs and absolutes; they're usually grossly inaccurate

Definites: I am, he is, they are, it is, we are, this is

Absolutes: always, never, everybody


Good: “I do not like this”

Bad: “I think this is awful”

Ugly: “This is crap”


Good: “You've said similar things before”

Bad: “You always say that”

Ugly: “Change the fucking record”

Good: “That behavior seemed idiotic in my eyes”

Bad: “His behavior is idiotic”

Ugly: “He is an idiot”

Good: “You seem depressed to me”

Bad: “You look depressed”

Ugly: “You're depressed”

Good: “I appear to have failed at this task”

Bad: “I always fuck this up”

Ugly: “I am a failure”


avoid negative arguments if possible

Everyone’s had the experience of leaving a conversation feeling frustrated, convinced the other person didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. Research suggests that negative arguments – even if we are making them ourselves - have a detrimental effect on rationality and can induce long-lasting anxiety. On the other hand, training ourselves to use positive words helps with emotional control and can even increase our attention spans.[138]

Most of the time when people speak to each other, they’re doing a number of things that ultimately don’t lead to good communication. For one, people are very reactive in the ways that they respond; they hear something and, even before they realize what they’re hearing, they have anxious or sentimental responses. Anxiety can make us get very defensive very quickly, and therefore we’re not always keeping an eye on how we are responding to what someone is saying, or, possibly, what we are saying ourselves.

The idea is to minimize any specific negativity that goes on in conversations and to focus not on the negative but to start thinking about how that negative can be turned into something positive.

constructively critical analysis

Here are some methods for enabling constructively critical analysis. They work just as well for analyzing issues in personal relationships as they do for analyzing scientific data.[139]

Ontology & framing

Failure to perceive the truth is usually caused by failures of analysis and conclusion, not failures of information collection. Relevant information is often discounted, misinterpreted, ignored, rejected, or overlooked because it fails to fit our prevailing mental model, or ontology. How can we ensure that we remain open to new experience and recognize when long-held views or conventional wisdom need to be revised in response to a dynamically changing reality?

As we know, during development beliefs, assumptions, concepts, ideas and information retrieved from memory form a mental model or ontology that guides our perception and processing of new information. An ontology is neither good nor bad; forming one is natural, healthy and unavoidable. It gives, in essence, a background to all that we think we know about a subject. It forms a frame through which we perceive reality, and once formed, it should be dynamic but accepts change only with sufficient proof. If we are anxious, it resists change altogether, which is often why it ends up being inaccurate.


Understanding mental ruts and how we get stuck

We can think of information in memory as part of an interconnected network. It is possible to connect any point within this network to any other point. When we connect the same points frequently, they form a path that makes it easier to take that route in the future. Once we start thinking along certain channels, we tend to continue thinking the same way and the path may become a rut. The path seems like the obvious and natural way to go. Information and concepts located near that path are readily available, so the same images keep coming up. Information not located near that path is less likely to come to mind.

Breaking habits of thought, or increasing creativity, or even just openness to new information is really about making new links and new paths through the networks of memory. These are links among facts and concepts, or between processors for organizing facts or concepts, that were not directly connected or only weakly connected before.

New ideas result from the association of old elements in new combinations. Previously remote elements of thought suddenly become associated in new and useful combinations. When the new connection is made in the concrete dimension, the light dawns in the abstract dimension of thought. This ability to bring previously unrelated information and ideas together in meaningful ways is what marks the open-minded, imaginative, creative intelligence.


Superintelligent Aliens

A fun game which works in much the same way as thinking backwards. Imagine that a "perfect" intelligence source (such as superintelligent aliens) has told you that a certain assumption of yours is wrong. You must then develop a scenario to explain how this could be true. If you can develop a plausible scenario, this suggests your assumption is in fact open to some question.

Role playing

Role playing is commonly used to overcome constraints and inhibitions that limit the range of one's thinking. Playing a role changes "where you sit." It also gives one license to think and behave differently. Simply trying to imagine how another person will think and respond is not role playing. One must actually act out the role and become, in a sense, the person whose role is assumed. It is only "living" the role that breaks our normal habitual thought patterns and permits us to relate facts and ideas to each other in ways that differ from those habitual patterns.

Role playing gives no "right" answer, but it usually causes the players to see some things in a new light. Players become very conscious that "where you stand depends on where you sit." By changing roles, we enable ourselves to see the problem in a different context, and this frees the mind to think differently.


Questioning the questions

For example, consider these two statements:

A Parents tend to go to bed earlier than non-parents because kids wake up early so they need to wake up early to care for kids.

B Parents tend to go to bed earlier than non-parents because it's the only time they get for sex.

Instead of just trying to figure out which is most likely to be true, make a habit of beginning by questioning the questions – DO parents REALLY go to bed earlier? Where is the proof for this assertion? DO kids wake up early? Is it REALLY the only time parents get for sex?

If a question makes assertions that are not true, if the premises are false, there is little point in seeking an answer.


constructively critical reading

We’ve been using critical thinking in all the exercises so far, and have had an introduction to critical reading in the articles above. Critical reading is a vital skill to practice because it gives us the ability to discriminate the truth from rumors, gossip, propaganda or outright lies. And critical reading IS a skill that can be learned. To do it well requires the ability to concentrate, and it is an active rather than passive process; you have to think critically about something as you are reading it. You need both to understand the author’s position and to check whether they have put forward a coherent case for that position.

This involves analyzing arguments. However, the arguments that authors use when writing books and articles are not often as clearly stated or straightforward as the ones we’ve been considering so far.

In this section of the tutorial we’ll be looking at two more pieces of writing; both are extracts from articles in online scientific publications.

This is an advanced tutorial, so we should not find these next exercises very difficult. If you’ve never done anything like this before, don’t worry if it takes you a long time to do; once you see a few examples the process gets much clearer with practice.

DO IT NOW: Critical Reading Extract 1

This first piece is an extract from N C Andreasen’s article “Dissecting the Urge to Create”.[140] Read through the extract on its own first a couple of times (without going on to the questions below) and decide what you think it is generally about and whether you think it seems convincing. Then go on to the questions.

“What causes some minds/brains to achieve awe-inspiring artistic or scientific achievements? We cannot help but be fascinated by the fact that Shakespeare—a merchant's son with “small Latin and less Greek”—could emerge from the “nowhere” of rural Stratford to create the richest literary treasure in the English language. We wonder how Michelangelo—a stonecutter's son who also came from a rural nowhere—found within himself the vision to see the shape of David in a block of discarded marble or the apolcalyptic fresco of The Last Judgment on the wall of the Sistine Chapel. What genetic influences shaped their brains to create—and to create these very specific wondrous things? How did their environments promote or impede them? Would Michelangelo have been great without the patronage of the Medicis or the competitive edge induced by Leonardo? Great art and great science are indeed often forged in the smithy of pain—with the fire fueled by self-doubt, obsessive preoccupation, sorrow, depression, competition, or economic needs.”


  1. Why, according to the author, does creativity arise?

  2. What conclusion is stated about the kind of conditions that creativity is assumed to parallel?

  3. Why has the author put quotation marks around the word “nowhere”?

  4. What is the unstated premise about creativity itself?

  5. Does the author present a valid argument that there is a link between creativity and mental illness?

  6. Does the author present a valid argument that genetics modulated by environment are responsible for creativity?

  7. Does the author present a valid argument that rural locations are in fact inferior?

Answers at end of tutorial

Once you are sure you have understood not only what the author is saying, but also what hidden premises their words are implying, there are three basic questions that you should apply to everything non-fictional that you read or hear:

  1. What is the author’s main conclusion?

  2. What reasons does s/he give in support of this conclusion?

  3. How good is the author’s argument?


Example: In order to see how this works in practice, we shall apply these questions to the extract we just read on creativity:

  1. What is the author’s main conclusion?

Creativity is associated with environments considered inferior, and with mental illness. “Great art and great science are indeed often forged in the smithy of pain”.

  1. What reasons does s/he give in support of this conclusion?

Genetic influences and environmental moderation. Two examples are given (Shakespeare and Michaelangelo). In both cases the same consideration about impoverished backgrounds is applied. There is an unspoken premise that the same genes that ‘cause’ creativity also ‘cause’ mental illness.

  1. How good is the author’s argument?

It is a fallacy. The author’s examples of creative individuals from backgrounds considered ‘inferior’ makes a convincing case that in at least some cases creativity and these backgrounds are correlated. But applying individual cases to ‘everybody’ is unfounded extrapolation and this is a fallacy. It is the equivalent of saying:

  1. Shakespeare had fleas, and Michaelangelo had fleas.

  2. Great art and great science were indeed often forged by people with fleas.

  3. To be creative, people often have to have fleas.

What constructive criticism can be made of Andreasen’s argument? One criticism is that the examples are sparse, very old, and differ significantly from the lives and backgrounds of many creative people. Another is that the article misses the possibility that all persons are creative sometimes.

But the main objection is that it is fallacious. It is a rehash of the ‘no pain no gain’ myth (which is itself a fallacy). We cannot assume that persons from non-rural backgrounds with no mental illness cannot be creative, or that all creative people conform to these conditions (or even that environmental experience is linked to creativity at all, from the evidence given). Even if both premises were true, the conclusion does not follow.

When you find a fallacy, you have found a non-workable argument structure. This means that whatever the content; regardless of what is being said, regardless of the writer’s eloquence or emotive power, you have immediate proof that the argument does not make sense. It is not logical. No useful conclusion can be reached from this structure and you know ahead of time that the truth cannot be determined by considering it.

Did you have a different opinion of the validity of this article before and after considering these questions? Do you see how you can avoid wasting a lot of time and bypass an enormous amount of complicated content just by understanding when you are looking at a workable structure and when you are looking at a non-workable structure? Recognizing a dodgy argument form can save a lot of pointless debate.


DO IT NOW: Critical Reading Extract 2

Our second extract is from Ewen Callaway’s article, “Damaged brains escape the material world”.[141]

“Increased feelings of transcendence can follow brain damage, a study of people with brain cancer suggests.

As feelings of transcending the physical world can be part of some religious experiences and other forms of spirituality, the finding may help explain why some people seem more prone to such experiences than others.

The brain region in question, the posterior parietal cortex, is involved in maintaining a sense of self, for example by helping you keep track of your body parts. It has also been linked to prayer and meditation.”


Summarize the passage above using no more than 25 words. Compare your summary with mine at the end of the tutorial.

  1. What is the author’s main conclusion?

  2. What reasons does s/he give in support of this conclusion?

  3. How good is the author’s argument?

Answers at end of tutorial


Sometimes the fault in clarity of reason is our own, and we should learn to recognize the traps that lead to sloppy thinking and reading. Following the practice of rational thinking will help you to refine your own clear definitions and apprehend the misunderstandings of others.

It is part of a developing intelligence to educate yourself, and reflexive thinking and refining our own definitions is important because if we don’t have clear association categories in our own mind, our memory can accidentally reinterpret someone else’s meanings before storage. Let’s check that assertion:


Asking the right questions

Being able to formulate questions as well as premises is included in reasoning skills. Questions that start with “who,” “what,” “where,” “when,” “how,” “why,” or “could” are likely to get clear responses. To be avoided are “would,” “should,” “ought,” “is,” “are,” “in your opinion” and “do you think,” as they can limit accuracy a lot.

The key to powerful thinking is powerful questioning. When we ask the right questions, we succeed in discovering truth, and questions (things we wonder about) are the force that motivates our thinking. Thinking randomly, as we all know from experience, can take us off in thousands of different directions, so questions focus and define the agenda of our thinking; determining what information we seek. They lead us in one direction rather than randomly. They are, therefore, a crucial part of critical thinking.

Questions have to make sense; as DeGrasse Tyson points out, it is of no use asking, 'What's the square root of a pork chop?'[142] While there are a number of universal standard 'right' questions in truth-hunting, the following are the most significant:

questions for clarity
Could you elaborate further on that point?

Could you express that point in another way?

Could you give me an illustration?

Could you give me an example?

Clarity is a gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it; because we don't yet know what it is saying. For example, in the question "What can be done about the education system?" the context is unclear. In order to adequately address the question, we would need to have a clearer understanding of what the person asking the question is considering the "problem" to be. A clearer question might be: "What can we do to ensure that people can learn the skills and abilities which help them function successfully in their lives and assist daily decision-making?"

questions for accuracy
Is that really true?

How could we check that?

How do we know that this is true?

How could we find out if that is true?

'Clear' means 'easy to comprehend'. A statement can be very clear, but not at all accurate, as in: "Most mice are over 300 pounds in weight."

questions for precision
Could you give me more details?

Could you be more specific?

A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in "Alice is overweight" (We don’t know how overweight Alice is; one pound or 500 pounds).

questions for relevance
How is that connected to the issue?

How does that bear on the issue?

What relation to the issue does this have?

A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise, but not relevant to the question at issue. For example, students often think that the amount of effort they put into a subject determines their ability in that subject. Often, however, "effort" does not measure the quality of attention or the efficacy of long term memory, and when they are poor, effort is irrelevant to the final ability.


Questions for details, or depth:
How does your answer address the complexities in the question?

How are you taking into account the details in this issue?

Is that dealing with the most significant factors?

What are your sources?

Something students should write on their wall: Sources, sources, sources. (See 'quality of evidence', above).

Questions for framing, or breadth

Do we need to consider another point of view?

Is there another way to look at this issue?

What would this look like from X's standpoint?

What would this look like from the point of view of...?

questions for logic

Does this really make sense?

Does that follow from what you said?

How does that follow?

But earlier, you implied A, and now you are saying B, I don’t see how both can be true?


conflict resolution: changing the script changes the plot

We mentioned above that if a person with the ability to interact is caught up in a row, they can resolve conflict by either changing the row into an argument, which reduces anxiety, or learning from the experience, in which case only they benefit.

To change a row into an argument, we have to fill enough time to allow anxiety to fall and implement measures to enable its decline. In simple terms that means people have to feel at ease before they are able to think clearly.

Some shortcut script lines for achieving this are:


Wait, I'm getting confused.

(Even if you're not, it can raise awareness of general confusion).

Hold on a minute, let's calm down and think.

(including yourself makes people aware you are working with them).

Slow down; start at the beginning.

Let's discuss this over tea/beer/dinner/a walk etc.

Hang on, I need to pee.

(these last three all buy time for sentiments to fade, but don't take ages, people know when you're stalling and if they're stuck in sentiment they'll think it implies guilt).

By doing this we change not just the script but the framing of the whole situation from competitive to cooperative. Once there, we can lay out the details logically and attempt to solve the conflict together. Maintaining the script of an argument helps consolidate this. For example we could ask, 'Give me the big picture of the problem, what the problem is and why it is a problem', or, 'Obviously there's some confusion here, let's start by sharing what each of us thinks is going on, what we don't understand, and what we want to achieve.'


NVC (Nonviolent Communication, aka Compassionate Communication or Collaborative Communication) is a method you may already have heard of; popularized by Marshall in the 1960's. It is based on the idea that all human beings have the capacity for compassion and only resort to violence or behavior that harms others when they don't recognize more effective strategies for meeting needs, often because of anxiety and/or lack of previous good models.[143]

Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about human needs, due to conditioning coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce sentiments (fear, guilt, shame etc). These "violent" modes of communication, when used during a conflict, tend to increase anxiety which blocks people from honestly clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.

Violent ways of communicating according to NVC:

  • Counterfeit moral judgments implying wrongness or badness on the part of people who don't act in harmony with our values. Blame, insults, put-downs, labels, criticisms, comparisons, and diagnoses are all forms of this (not to be confused with value judgments, which are about the qualities we value.) The use of 'moralistic' judgments is characterized as an impersonal way of expressing oneself that does not require one to reveal what is going on inside oneself. This way of speaking is said to have the result that "Our attention is focused on classifying, analyzing, and determining levels of wrongness rather than on what we and others need and are not getting."

  • Demands that implicitly or explicitly threaten listeners with blame or punishment if they fail to comply.

  • Denial of responsibility via language that obscures awareness of personal responsibility. It is said that we deny responsibility for our actions when we start trying to lay blame or attribute their cause to anything other than ourselves (some examples: vague impersonal forces ("I had to"); our condition, diagnosis, personal or psychological history; the actions of others; the dictates of authority; gods, group pressure; institutional policy, rules, and regulations; gender roles, social roles, age roles; or 'uncontrollable' impulses.)

  • Making comparisons between people.

  • A premise of 'deserving', a belief that certain actions merit reward while others merit punishment.

You may notice that most violent communication is framed in an ontology of conditional regard. Indeed, Carl Rogers' research was central to the development of NVC, which uses very similar rules to Rogers' Core Conditions (NVC uses 'self-empathy' -defined as 'a deep and compassionate awareness of one's own inner experience', or self-knowledge, empathy -defined as listening to another with deep compassion, and honest self-expression.) Both NVC and Rogers emphasize: 1) experiential learning, 2) "frankness about one’s emotional state," 3) the satisfaction of hearing others "in a way that resonates for them," 4) the enriching and encouraging experience of "creative, active, sensitive, accurate, empathic listening," 5) the "deep value of congruity between one’s own inner experience, one’s conscious awareness, and one’s communication," and, subsequently, 6) the enlivening experience of unconditionally receiving love or appreciation and extending the same.[144]

NVC is having good results so far.[145]


Effective conflict resolution takes a lot of practice, but knowing the techniques enables us to practice with friends by debating emotional issues. The same techniques work for individual emotional issues that work for major conflicts.

Before practicing conflict resolution, you may wish to consider the following:

Coercion & self protection

“These aren't the droids you're looking for.”

(Obewan Kenobi, Star Wars 4)


Now, we've got to a level where we expect you to be coming to some conclusions of your own, and one such conclusion which may strike you here is this: there is an apparent ideological dilemma between the concept of 'helping people calm down so they can think sensibly' and the concept of 'no coercion'.

I mean, it's pretty obvious that here we find ourselves using exactly the same sort of scripting techniques we use in self-hypnosis to help calm ourselves down, imposing them on other people, without their knowledge or consent. Isn't this just 'hypnotizing other people' into behaving how WE want them to behave?

Yes! But here's why this is not hypocrisy and why there is no dilemma: biology doesn't expect us to be so dumb that we'd go poking our noses into random conflicts and trying to resolve them; the tactic illustrated here are for self defense or the defense of loved ones, to be used only if we are in danger of getting dragged into other people's dysfunctional issues.

Do not be under any delusion here: using hypnotic suggestion to convince some nutter with a knife that they ought to have tea and cookies instead of murdering your family, IS coercion. Even our prime directive is waived in the interests of self defense.

Biology often throws us apparent dilemmas of this nature, and we should get used to them and work to understand them. Understanding the process of entelechy and its automatic priority of: 'preserve and develop the intelligence with greatest potential' can help us make more sense out of our behavioral imperatives and understand biological morality (which we shall explore in a future tutorial).

Coercion is physical, physiological or psychological manipulation, and only justified where there is a need for protection. This means it is up to us to recognize situations when we need to defend ourselves, and to differentiate accurately between such situations and others where there is no need or reason to interfere. The best side to take in any argument may be debatable, but the best side to be on in a row is the OUTside. If there is no clear and present danger, there is no need to interfere.

A far more intriguing question about coercion is this: consider the inevitable influence of our own example on others who unconsciously model us. For example, if you are calm, happy and contented you are spreading those calm, happy, contented chemicals, attitudes, facial expressions and body language wherever you go. Others are breathing in your chemistry and unconsciously changing their own because without control, programs have to follow programs. You know consciously that this is going on, but they don't. You know you could reduce someone's blood pressure and help them relax, just by sitting near them.

Effectively here you are knowingly changing their minds without their knowledge or consent.

Nor is the exchange mutual -with foreknowledge of how anxiety spreads in exactly the same way, you are forearmed against letting it affect you, plus you have superior self-control from NH practices.

...Welcome to the Alien Shore : )

You must answer questions like this for yourself, and we hope to include enough information to enable you to do so.


brain training

'Brain training' (BT) has become a popular mainstream pastime over the last decade and 'brain training' tech & software now abound. Marketers have made big claims about improvements, while at the same time mainstream science media have criticized and claimed 'hype'.

Overall, the original 'Brain Fitness Program' by Posit Science got the best reviews, with (according to them) measurable improvements in working memory and processing speed (4% improvement over eight weeks, which is not fabulous but better than nothing.)[146]

The effect of BT is measurable. fMRI scans reveal changes in the number of receptors for dopamine. Interestingly, those with sparse receptors gained more, while those with plentiful receptors pruned off a few; suggesting some sort of 'optimizing' (to the tasks of brain training.) Some mainstream researchers missed the 2009 study and in 2011 announced “Brain training increases dopamine release!”[147]

By the end of 2014 though, most mainstream sources were announcing, “Brain training doesn't make you smarter.”[148] Also, the mainstream started squeaking about internet brain training programs, where consumers' details are collected; claiming, “Safeguards are needed to protect participants' privacy and the evolving scientific enterprise of big data.”[149]

Eventually, a BIG bunch of scientists got together to review the evidence for brain training products. They were not amused, and concluded: “We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles. In the judgment of the signatories, exaggerated and misleading claims exploit the anxiety of older adults about impending cognitive decline. We encourage continued careful research and validation in this field.”[150]

To keep things in perspective, BT programs do not improve brain performance as much as physical exercise does. Like it or not if we were to make a list of all things which can improve the brain, and grade them according to how much they improved the brain, good nutrition, natural sleep and exercise come right at the top of the list for all functions, and anxiety reduction beats everything. So if time is limited and we must choose between methods, half an hour of anxiety reduction or going for a walk will do more to improve processing speed and working memory than half an hour of brain training.


Proprioceptively Dynamic Training

So that's a bit of a bummer, but something cool which came out of this research was the selection of alternative tasks set as 'controls', because some of the controls improved brain function measurably and notably. They ranged from reasonably difficult, such as learning a musical instrument, to medium effort, such as gardening, to methods requiring no effort at all, for example 'viewing natural surroundings'. One of the most interesting was sensorimotor/ spatial exercises (called, 'Proprioceptively Dynamic Training'), which were found to improve cognitive abilities dramatically, showing working memory improvements in just a couple of hours.[151]

Examples of Proprioceptively Dynamic Training exercises are: climbing trees, walking and crawling on a beam approximately 3 inches wide, moving while paying attention to posture, running barefoot, navigating over, under and around obstacles, as well as lifting and carrying awkwardly weighted objects. After two hours, working memory capacity in participants had increased by 50 percent, a very dramatic improvement. Interestingly, sensorimotor exercises such as yoga, which does not involve such complex spatial skills, does not work; being better for relaxation.

There is still a place for brain training too: for those times and places where we might otherwise be bored and there is no opportunity for better input (for example, waiting in airports), and we include some links for BT in the Hacks & Exercises below.

Personal assessment 1

Memory Accuracy Check

Try this exercise: without looking back, which of the following words appeared in the extract you read earlier in Critical reading extract 1, called “Dissecting the Urge to Create” (Andreason) 

  • Amazing

  • Bipolar disorder

  • DNA

  • Family

  • Genes

  • Genius

  • Gifted

  • Grief

  • Hardship

  • Heredity

  • Inherited

  • Literature

  • Masterpiece

  • Painting

  • Poverty

  • Statue

  • Upbringing

Look back and check, or see answers at end of tutorial.


Personal assessment 2

Stressors test

The following short test has been designed to help you spot symptoms of stressors and find out how well you are coping with the pressures of everyday life.

Scoring: Choose from: never, almost never, sometimes, often, and very often.


1 How often do you find yourself being irritable with friends and family?

2 How often do you find yourself being irritable with strangers or colleagues?

3 Do you ever have trouble sleeping?

4 Do you ever feel like you are unable to control the important events in your life?

5 Do you ever feel nauseous without being unwell?

6 How often do you feel uninterested in the things going on around you?

7 Do you ever experience a lack of appetite?

8 How often are you distracted from the task in hand?

See end of tutorial for scores


Practical Assignment

Experience through practice 1

When we are looking at research, then, we have to bear a lot of things in mind. No amount of information is as valuable as personal experience, so here we guide you through a truth-hunting exercise. [Please note: if the links below expire during the lifetime of this tutorial, we have copies of the articles, so just let us know.]

We'll have an practice example first:

Below is an article ('article 1') from a mainstream science publication. Take a look at it, and note what the result of this research was.

"Study finds signs of brain changes in pot smokers

A small study of casual marijuana smokers has turned up evidence of changes in the brain. The young adults who volunteered for the study were not dependent on pot, nor did they show any marijuana-related problems. Longer-term studies will be needed to see if such brain changes cause any symptoms over time, said Dr.Breiter, of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Massachusetts General Hospital. Previous studies have shown mixed results in looking for brain changes from marijuana use, perhaps because of differences in the techniques used, he and others noted in Wednesday's issue of the Journal of Neurosciences. The study is among the first to focus on possible brain effects in recreational pot smokers, said Dr. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The federal agency helped pay for the work. She called the work important but preliminary. The 20 pot users in the study, ages 18 to 25, said they smoked marijuana an average of about four days a week, for an average total of about 11 joints. Half of them smoked fewer than six joints a week. Researchers scanned their brains and compared the results with those of 20 nonusers who were matched for age, sex and other traits. The results showed differences in two brain areas associated with emotion and motivation - the amygdala and the nucleus accumbens. Users showed higher density than nonusers, as well as differences in shape of those areas. Both differences were more pronounced in those who reported smoking more marijuana.

Volkow said larger studies are needed to explore whether casual to moderate marijuana use really does cause anatomical brain changes, and if so, whether that leads to any impairment. The current work doesn't determine whether casual to moderate marijuana use is harmful to the brain, she said."[152]

When you are sure you know what the result actually was, consider what that result implies for brain health. You know enough at this stage to make up your own mind on this subject.


Next view article 2 below; also from a mainstream science publication:


Notice how this second article adds the term 'damage' and continues to assume that change/ difference MEANS damage.

What other problems can you find with article 2?


Finally, view article 3:


Feel free to follow up links in the articles, and also to do your own research on marijuana.

Do you think Article 3's criticisms of the earlier papers is justified? Did the author spot the same issues that you did?

Can you spot any problems with article 3? There are at least four.


see end of tutorial for answers


Experience through practice 2

View the following articles, then answer the questions below.

Here is an article from a mainstream science publication:



Here is an article from another mainstream science publication:


Feel free to follow up links in the articles, and also to do your own research on CES.


1 Which of these articles do you think is likely to be most accurate?

2 Why?

3 Give an example of two things in these articles which could be misleading


There are no 'answers' for this Do it Now. -This is for your practice!


towards entelechy

"A world without intelligence is a primitive place; not an enchanted place.

Intelligence is part of the advancing scheme of evolution.

Without it, nature reaches a plateau very quickly and does not progress beyond raw survival. The full flavor of possibility goes unsavored.

And that... is a true shame."

(Mr. Spock; 'The First Frontier': by Diane Carey & Dr. James Kirkland)


There are only two ways to live your life.

One is as though nothing is a miracle.

The other is as though everything is a miracle.

(Albert Einstein)


Though no one can go back and make a brand new start,

anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

(Carl Bard)



Summary of Key Skills in Rational Thinking

  • Understanding and identifying arguments, either explicit or implied, and the goals of critical reading in different types of presentations.

  • Identifying the premises from which conclusions are derived.

  • Establishing who made the initial claim in argument (and is thus responsible for providing evidence why his/her position merits acceptance).

  • For the one presenting the argument, the task is to present evidence for his/her position in order to show the reasoning that has led to the conclusion. The method by which this is accomplished is producing valid, sound arguments, devoid of weaknesses.

  • In a debate, fulfilment of the burden of proof creates a burden of rejoinder. Both sides must try to identify faulty reasoning in counter-argument, to investigate the reasons/premises of the arguments, to provide counterexamples if possible, to identify any logical fallacies, and to show if a valid conclusion cannot be derived from the reasons provided for any given argument. Interactional debating is useful because many minds working together can reveal weak arguments quickly.

When we began this tutorial, we said that by the end you should be able to:



understand how reason and our intellectual skills assist in judgment, decision-making and problem solving.


  • know the difference between facts and opinions, between theory and hypothesis, between good and bad evidence, and between a row and an argument.

  • understand why Sherlock Holmes' skills are required for truth-hunting

  • Recognize what is useful about a rational approach to various issues

  • Identify and use the basic tools of argument analysis

  • Analyze information critically to reveal the truth, and present your own ideas logically



...can you? If not, review the tutorial until you understand these issues to your own satisfaction.

Hacks & Exercises


Directed abstraction for hacking low self-esteem

People with low self-confidence are liable to hold onto negative assumptions about themselves despite concrete evidence of the contrary; that is, they fail to "generalize from success". This can often happen to NH students during snapback. A new technique, called directed abstraction, can help the overly-self-critical change their mindsets.[153]

Directing abstraction means:

1 considering something you are usually good at

2 stopping to consider how a specific success with this task or skill may have more general implications (this is the abstraction part)

3 directing your thinking towards which personal abilities were key to the success.

Student's example: “I was able to score very high on this computer game because I have good spatial and sensorimotor responses, a good working memory, fast reflexes...etc ”

Engaging in directed abstraction appears to give a particular boost to those people who tend to believe they have low competence day to day: afterwards, they not only had more confidence in their ability (than similarly self-critical control participants), they also believed they would do better at similar tasks (like playing computer games) that they approached in the future.

The technique seems to be appropriate for a range of settings, although obviously it’s only useful to use it following an event that can be reasonably seen as a success, otherwise it could backfire. And it’s simple to use working with a friend or by ourselves, just by taking the time after any success to think through what it owes to our personal qualities.


Hack to assess self-capability at any task

The answers to two simple questions, if we are able to be honest, can accurately forecast how we will respond to a stressful situation.
The two key questions are:

"How demanding do you expect the task to be?"
"How able are you to cope with the demands of the task?"

You score your answer to each question on a scale of 1 (not at all) to 6 (extremely). The difference between the two provides a single measure of whether you interpret the forthcoming event as a challenge (when coping ability outweighs demands) or a threat (coping ability insufficient for the demands).

The important research finding is that this single measure accurately predicts how well we subsequently cope with situations. Those who rate the upcoming situation as more of a threat tend to perform worse than those who rate it more as a challenge. Moreover, these two simple questions predict our coping abilities above and beyond other relevant factors such as age and years of experience.[154]


hacking JTC bias with reasoning training

object identification, picture interpretation, and visual illusion.


1 Object identification

You will need: an assistant to prepare 10 small (about 10cm x 10cm) pictures of objects (from magazines or online) which you do not get to see until the test. Use a source which you have not seen before; not a magazine you have read or a website you have already seen. The assistant prepares the test pictures by cutting them up into (at least) 10 bits each, and only allowing you to see one piece at a time until you can guess what the object in the picture is. When you think you can identify it, write down what you think it is, and how many pieces it took you to guess. Then continue the jigsaw piece by piece. If you change your mind, write down the new interpretation and how many pieces it took you to guess, and continue until the picture is complete.


If you really can't find anyone to help you do this test, use the link below, making notes on how often you were right first time and how often it took two guesses or three:



Focus on any that you guessed wrongly, and assess why (did you jump to a conclusion without enough evidence?)


2 picture interpretation

Below are ten pictures and ten titles. Consider the likelihood of each alternative title being correct based on the content of the picture. Which title do you think belongs with each picture? 




A autumn reflections

B cascade

C come in

D hazy day symmetry

E little sunshine

F near and afar

G spring tree

H the path

I white water mountain

J woodland spring


Note down the REASONS for each of your choices, identifying each piece of evidence contained in each painting that would support your title choice being correct. (eg, 'Picture 1 probably goes with title E, BECAUSE in the picture the sun is shining, it is a sunny day but there is partial shade'.)


See notes at end of tutorial


Self programming: Bias hack - Unlearning implicit biases or false beliefs during sleep

This hack builds on our rapidly developing understanding of the way recent memories become ingrained in our mind during sleep.

The consolidation process takes an unstable new memory and makes it stronger and more resistant to forgetting, changing its nature in the process. Previously we explored odor cues in assisting memory consolidation for learning. The idea here is that sound cues can also reactivate the memories of recent events and facilitate their consolidation. In effect, using sound and/or odor association in sleep is a way of picking out particular memories and asking the brain to give them special treatment during consolidation.[155]

You will need:

1 Good self knowledge -it's impossible to overwrite false beliefs or prejudices unless we know what they are! At this stage in NH, it shouldn't be too hard for you to determine if you have any.

2 A chosen song, preferably without lyrics, not more that 5 minutes long.

3 Your own personal anti-bias program. (We'll explain how to construct this in a moment)

4 A device that will repeatedly play back your chosen song, even when you are sleeping.

How to do it:

We write our personal anti-bias program as follows: we find an example that shows up the bias, and reverse the results using pictures and associated text. Here's a student's example:

Alice found she repeatedly thought of mathematicians as more likely to be men than women, so she collected a selections of pictures of women, labeling each one 'mathematician' (with text on the actual picture), which she viewed as a slide show while playing her chosen song, twice a day. When Alice went to sleep at night she left her music player on 'repeat', playing only that song.

During the times Alice was in deep sleep, the song assisted in prioritizing those associations in Alice's memory, and now she thinks of mathematics as a gender-independent field. (This has by incidental association increased her interest in maths.)

Of course, biases developed over many years are not going to be eliminated overnight using a short intervention and then giving the natural consolidation process a helping hand. Practice, as always, is important. Maybe Alice did this for days, weeks or even months, depending on the strength of her initial bias, but the good news is, the healthier our brain becomes and the more it is allowed to develop, the fewer such problems or issues we encounter. At this stage in NH, we should not have so many biases or false beliefs to deal with.

It is important to use graphics rather than just text, as N3 processes in that format to begin with. If you use odor association as well as the chosen sounds, the effect will be stronger.

Furthermore, unlearning implicit bias is a lot like breaking other bad habits. The method also has potential to combat habits such as anxiety, sentiment, addictions, phobias or unhealthy behaviors.

Remember when constructing your program, we cannot just take away a wrong idea; we have to replace it with the right idea.



 congruous metaphor framing practice

1 Imagine a “virus infecting a city” and then make notes describing the best ways to solve the problem that you can imagine. Consider what you would need to investigate, what measures might prove effective for protection/prevention and what sort of interactions might solve the problem permanently.

2 Imagine a “wild beast preying on a city” and then make notes describing the best way to solve the problem that you can imagine. Consider what you would need to investigate, what measures might prove effective for protection/prevention and what sort of interactions might solve the problem permanently.

3 Which one of your descriptions for 'dealing with the problem' can also be used congruously as an archetypal metaphor for framing ideas about anger management?

To decide this, ask yourself which metaphoric frame (story of reality) best fits the actual reality. Do you think anger behaves more like a virus spreading or more like a wild beast hunting?


This exercise introduces us to strategic thinking and the ability to use creative imagination to view a situation or problem from different perspectives by using 'framing' on purpose. It will also make us more aware of when knowledge or belief is being 'framed' in other people's ontologies as they are discussing ideas, we will spot incongruous ontologies that create ideological dilemmas, and we will gain more self awareness and control of our own 'framing' habits.


Self Hypnosis: Tips:

As we mentioned in previous tutorials, the unconscious responds to the term 'you' much better than the term 'I'. For this reason we use "you" instead of "I" when hypnotising ourselves or doing self suggestion.

Don't be tempted to miss bits out when running sessions; we may think we should 'keep it simple' and don't need all the formal language; but it is there for the unconscious; not for our conscious awareness. Programs have to respond to programs. Some people find self hypnosis easier if they pretend they are hypnotizing someone else.

A good way to learn hypnosis quickly is to record your intended sessions in advance and then listen to them later (if you can leave a day or so between recording and listening

that's even better).


Self Hypnosis: how to structure a freeflow induction

If you've been practicing you should now have tried a few versions of the Staircase Induction from Tutorial 12. A freeflow induction is one in which we create the context ourselves, without using a preset. Here's how to structure a freeflow induction:

1) Sit in a comfortable chair or lie down in a warm comfortable place where you will not be interrupted. Our hypnosis technique should match the way we feel, so start by observing the way you feel. If you are feeling a bit 'hyper', then start your induction off briskly; talking quite quickly and in an 'everyday' voice'. This parallels your emotional state and makes it easier for your unconscious mind to get involved. If you're already laid back, just speak in an ordinary relaxed voice. Do not put on an artificial voice; contrary to popular belief we do not have to sound like Christopher Lee or Darth Vader to do hypnosis and your own voice will do just fine.

2) Talk about things that are immediately observable to start with - "You are sitting in that chair", "You can listen to my voice", "You are still nice and awake" - remember adjunctive suggestions? (see Tutorials 9, 10, 12).

3) As you feel yourself beginning to focus, just start to slow your voice down slightly, and soften it a little.

4) Begin introducing nominalizations (see Tutorials 9, 12) for the sort of response you want; for example relaxation, calmness, focus, confidence. Start making suggestions for responses.

5) Start to use imaginative involvement – imagine an appropriate context (see notes below) and talk about things you imagine you can see, hear, smell, touch and feel in this context. As you begin to relax more, your imagination will respond better.

6) Once you have attained a good level of relaxation, you can do any rehearsal you want to do - you can rehearse how you want to feel in a particular situation.

7) When you decide you want to bring the session to a close, draw the attention away from internal imagination back to things in the immediate environment, such as sensations in the body, sounds in the room. This will begin the reorientation process.

As you do this, very gradually make your voice normal volume. This will serve as another message to the unconscious we are returning to the normal waking state.


Note on appropriate contexts: the more archetypal we make it, the better it works. Therefore concepts representing accessing the unconscious may be used (such as descending, moving downwards, passing down steps/across rivers/into valleys/caves/underground tunnels etc) -and use the same imagery in reverse when returning. For inducing change, images such as passing through doors, gates or entrances works well. Do not include archetypal characters or talking animals etc in this type of induction.


keywords for self programming

There are six important words for self programming and they are:

you because free now new why

These can be extremely powerful in self-suggestion or self hypnosis.

'you': is the name our unconscious responds to and takes it personally. It may seem odd at first to say to yourself, 'You are going down the stairs' instead of 'I am going down the stairs', but honestly the former is much more effective.

'because': Creating a causal relationship is incredibly persuasive in self suggestion.

'free': The unconscious values freedom very highly.

'now': Jolts our unconscious into the present.

'new': Novelty engages our attention.

'why': 'Why?' is the most powerful question for tracing back issues to their origins (see 'why chain analysis'; Tutorial 13.)


Practice including these terms in your hypnotic scripts.


debating exercises

1 Consider the following two hypotheses, then follow the instructions:

A “Humans automatically hold infants against the left side of their chests, because that's where the heartbeat can be heard most clearly and that strengthens bonding.” 

B “Humans automatically hold infants against the left side of their chests, because most humans are right-handed and want their strongest hand/arm free to get on with doing things.”


instructions if working alone:

prepare notes to debate this issue. You will want to find any evidence you can to back up these claims, and any evidence available to disprove them. Using these resources, create a well-structured argument to present for either side.

instructions if working with other/s:

prepare notes to debate this issue. Choose one of these claims and find any evidence you can to back it up, and any evidence that might disprove it, which you must counter. Whomever is debating with you will want to research the other claim in the same way. Also look up any evidence that might disprove the opposing claim. Using these resources, create a well-structured argument to present for your chosen claim.


Which hypothesis wins the debate?


2 Consider the following two hypotheses:

A Cloning animals is a bad idea because replication within the same genome causes genetic problems, same as incest does.

B Cloning animals is a good idea because that way we can feed more people.

Instructions as above.


Brain Training links

Memoriad Software (Free):
Has a lot of math and memory games with nice customization (timer/speed/difficulty settings etc)

Math Games/Test Web Based

Reflex/Response Training

This is originally for gamers who want to improve their counter strike skills, but there is a direct link between response time and cognitive efficiency, via a bottom-up approach.


Reasoning training: Personal research exercise

Assertion in UK: “drinking more than 21 units of alcohol a week is damaging to your health”.
Where did the evidence to support this well-known ‘fact’ come from? What research is the figure '21 units' based on?
See if you can find out! The answer may surprise you.
...What sources are you NOT going to believe?

(if you really get stuck on this one, mail the forum)



1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellect

2 Hintikka, J.. "Philosophy of logic". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved 12 November 2013.

3 "So We Need Something Else for Reason to Mean", International Journal of Philosophical Studies 8: 3, 271 — 295.

4 Michel Foucault, "What is Enlightenment?" in The Essential Foucault, eds. Paul Rabinow and Nikolas Rose, New York: The New Press, 2003, 43-57. See also Nikolas Kompridis, "The Idea of a New Beginning: A Romantic Source of Normativity and Freedom," in Philosophical Romanticism, New York: Routledge, 2006, 32-59; "So We Need Something Else for Reason to Mean", International Journal of Philosophical Studies 8: 3, 271 — 295.

5 Ruth M.J. Byrne (2005). The Rational Imagination: How People Create Counterfactual Alternatives to Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

6 Piaget (1970)

7 Schaffer (1988)

8 Inhelder & Piaget, 1958

9 McLeod, S. A. (2010). Formal Operational Stage. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/formal-operational.html

10 Bruce G Charlton MD; Evolution and the cognitive neuroscience of awareness, consciousness and language; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/awconlang.html

11 Rachael Rubin, Sarah Brown-Schmidt, Neal Cohen, Melissa Duff and Daniel Tranel; "How do I remember that I know you know that I know?" Association for Psychological Science; Psychology & Psychiatry; August 24th, 2011. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-how-do-i-remember-that.html

12 NeuroImage, www.sciencedirect.com/science/… ii/S1053811914008726 "Brain study uncovers new clues on how cues may affect memory." December 3rd, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-12-brain-uncovers-clues-cues-affect.html

13 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-consciousness-question/201205/intellect-and-intelligence

14 in honor of George Carlin (1937-2008), who spoke the truth and got away with it; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kKub5FOjCyA

15 http://www.columbia.edu/cu/21stC/issue-3.4/valhouli.html

16 David Papo; Characterizing the neural correlates of reasoning; email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ; https://davidpapo.wordpress.com/

17 Neuron, www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S… ; http://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2014/12/03/reasoning-skills/ "Scientists detect brain network that gives humans superior reasoning skills." December 3rd, 2014. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-12-scientists-brain-network-humans-superior.html

18 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2864011/

19 Holyoak and Kroger, 1995; Damasio, 1998

20 di Pellegrino and Wise, 1991; Rao et al., 1997; Asaad et al., 1998; Rainer et al., 1998; White and Wise, 1999

21 Sylvester et al. 2003

22 Figner et al. 2010

23 Braver et al. 2009

24 Fangmeier et al. 2006

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AND Johnson-Laird, P.N. (2013). Mental models and cognitive change. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 2, 131-138

AND http://mentalmodels.princeton.edu/

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33 Johnson-Laird, P.N. (2006). How we reason. Oxford: Oxford University Press

34 Byrne, R.M.J. (2005). The Rational Imagination: How People Create Counterfactual Alternatives to Reality. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

35 Piaget; theory of cognitive development

36 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information-processing_theory

37 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Piagetian_theories_of_cognitive_development

38 Epstein, H.; www.brainstages.net

39 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_of_Hierarchical_Complexity

40 http://study.com/academy/lesson/lev-vygotskys-theory-of-cognitive-development.html

41 Reaching beyond Magical child: Awakening of intelligence; Joseph Chilton Pearce, Michael Mendizza, and Touch the Future videocassette (58 min., 30 sec.) http://libguides.rutgers.edu/content.php?pid=159479&sid=1654646 MEDIA 2-6516

42 http://www.continuum-concept.org/cc_defined.html

43 http://neurohackers.com/index.php/en/menu-left-workshop/75-cat-ws-icmm

44 http://physiologyonline.physiology.org/content/18/6/257

45 http://www.mpi.nl/news/news-archive/semantic-processing-occurs-in-both-hemispheres

46 [refs Dr. Marek-Marsel Mesulam et al; "Redrawing language map of brain." “Brain” journal, June 25th, 2015; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-06-redrawing-language-brain.html ]

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52 LaBar et al., 2001; Morris and Dolan, 2001; Hinton et al., 2004

53 Canli et al., 2002

54 Sabatinelli et al., 2005

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60 Schacter et al., 1998

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64 Eichenbaum, Yonelinas, & Ranganath, 2007

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73 Reisberg, Daniel. (2013). Cognition: Exploring the Science of the Mind. W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.

74 Oppenheimer, D.M. (2004). Spontaneous discounting of availability in frequency judgment tasks. Psychological Science, 15, 100-105.

75 Evans, J. S. B. T. (2012a). Dual-process theories of deductive reasoning: Facts and fallacies. In Holyoak, K. J., & Morrison, R. G. (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Thinking and Reasoning (pp. 115-133). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

76 Sun, R. (2002). Duality of the Mind. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

77 http://www.apa.org/monitor/nov05/culture.aspx

78 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason; Critique of Practical Reason.

79 Jeffrey, Richard. 1991. Formal logic: its scope and limits, (3rd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill:1.

80 LiveScience Staff. (2012). Deductive Reasoning vs. Inductive Reasoning. Retrieved from http://www.livescience.com/21569-deduction-vs-induction.html

81 Edward De Bono, who invented the term lateral thinking; http://www.edwdebono.com/

82 http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/hipo.22323/full

AND Blaisdell and Krawczyk; "Rats, reasoning, and rehabilitation: Neuroscientists uncovering how we reason." Provided by Cognitive Neuroscience Society; March 29th, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-rats-neuroscientists-uncovering.html

83 Dr. Herman T. Epstein; “The fourth R or WHY JOHNNY CAN'T REASON” http://www.brainstages.net/4thr.html

84 Epstein, Herman T. ; “The roles of brain in human cognitive development” 2001;

AND Ramonsky, Alex; “Find: key factors of damage...” Chapter 4, pp39-41; “I’ve Changed My Mind”, BCC books, ISBN 0954834402; 2004

85 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity

86 http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/12/18/cercor.bht348.full

87 Ahola et al. 2006; Fernandez Torres et al. 2006; Rydmark et al. 2006; Copertaro et al. 2007, 2010

88 Koenigs and Grafman 2009

89 Arnsten 2009

90 Arendt et al. 2012; Boyle 2013

91 Conrad 2008; Leuner and Shors 2012

92 Bremner et al. 2008

93 Magarinos and McEwen 1995; Brown et al. 2010

94 McEwen 2000a

95 Isovich et al. 2000

96 Wellman 2001

97 Arendt et al. 2012; Boyle 2013

98 Magarinos and McEwen 1995

99 Roozendaal et al. 2004

100 Sandstrom et al. 2005; Jovanovic et al. 2011

101 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/dont-delay/201208/the-power-hypocrisy

102 From an old saying, meaning one person is deriding the other for something they actually do or fear themselves.

103 c.1400, from Latin deludere "to play false; to deceive," from 'de-' "down, to one's detriment" + ludere "to play"

104 Garety 1999; Fine 2007; Freeman 2007

105 Lincoln 2009

106 the Camberwell Walk study; Ellett 2008

107 George Carlin https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uo-QIY7ys-k

108 “Scientists learn how food affects the brain”; www.nature.com/ nrn/journal/ v9/n7/abs/ nrn2421.html ; http://www.physorg. com/news13484254 5.html

109 Michael Ehlers; 2008

110 http://psychcentral.com/news/2015/06/20/sitting-linked-to-increased-anxiety/85906.html

111 Touron, D. (2015). Memory Avoidance by Older Adults: When "Old Dogs" Won't Perform Their "New Tricks" Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24 (3), 170-176 DOI: 10.1177/0963721414563730; recent review for Current Directions in Psychological Science.

112 proposed by Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in the early 1970s.

113 Gilovich, Thomas; Savitsky, Kenneth (1996). "Like Goes with Like: The Role of Representativeness in Erroneous and Pseudo-Scientific Beliefs" (PDF). Skeptical Inquirer 20 (2): 34–40. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511808098.036.

114 Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974.

115 Esgate, Anthony; Groome, David (2005). An Introduction to Applied Cognitive Psychology. Psychology Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-1-84169-318-7.

116 Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment

117 Schwarz, Norbert; Bless, Herbert; Strack, Fritz; Klumpp, Gisela; Rittenauer-Schatka, Helga; Simons, Annette (1991). "Ease of retrieval as information: Another look at the availability heuristic". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61 (2): 195–202. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.61.2.195.

118 Kahneman & Tversky 1972

119 Tversky & Kahneman 1982

120 Gilovich, Thomas; Savitsky, Kenneth (1996). "Like Goes with Like: The Role of Representativeness in Erroneous and Pseudo-Scientific Beliefs" (PDF). Skeptical Inquirer 20 (2): 34–40. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511808098.036.

121 Fortune, Erica E.; Goodie, Adam S. (2012). "Cognitive distortions as a component and treatment focus of pathological gambling: A review". Psychology of Addictive Behaviors 26 (2): 298–310. doi:10.1037/a0026422.

122 Tversky & Kahneman 1974;

AND Nisbett, Richard E.; Ross, Lee (1980). Human inference: strategies and shortcomings of social judgment. Prentice-Hall. pp.115–118. ISBN978-0-13-445073-5.

123 https://biasandbelief.wordpress.com/2009/06/01/attribute-substitution/

124 Bengzon et al. 1997

125 http://www.nature.com/nrn/journal/v15/n12/full/nrn3817.html

126 Ulmer H et al., 2004. Why Eve is not Adam: prospective follow-up in 149650 women and men of cholesterol and other risk factors related to cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. J Womens Health (Larchmt.). 13(1):41-53.

127 Windle, W. F. “Brain damage by asphyxia at birth”. Sci Am. 1969; Oct;221(4):76-84. AND Faro, M. D.; Windle, W. F. “Transneuronal degeneration in brains of monkeys asphyxiated at birth”. Exp Neurol. 1969 May;24(1):38-53

128 Visit your local pharmacy and view 'topical Psoriasis medications' to experience this type of labeling for real.

129 Callaway, E; http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn18513-damaged-brains-escape-the-material-world.html

130 National Cancer Institute (n.d.). "NCI Dictionary of Cancer Terms: Levels of evidence". US DHHS-National Institutes of Health. Retrieved 8 December 2014.

131 http://www.brainvision.co.uk/blog/2014/04/the-brief-history-of-brain-computer-interfaces/ ...Oh, but perhaps they mean the first game using this tech? Nope, brain-to-computer control in the 'modern' style (you put on a headset, your thoughts control the computer) was around in 1998, although for some reason they were loth to sell it to anybody until 2005 and it's still horribly expensive. http://www.ibva.co.uk/

132 Hoofnagle M, Hoofnagle C. What is denialism. [Accessed on 29 November 2008]. Available at: http://scienceblogs.com/denialism/about.php.

133 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denialism.

134 2009. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Public Health Association.

135 Lonnqvist, J-E., Paunonen, S., Verkasalo, M., Leikas, S., Annamari, T-H. & Lonnqvist, J. (2007); “Personality Characteristics of Research Volunteers”, European Journal of Personality, 21, 1017-1030.

136 "Neuroscientists find that different parts of the brain work best at different ages." March 6th, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-03-neuroscientists-brain-ages.html

137 Philippa Garety, Daniel Freeman, Suzanne Jolley, Kerry Ross, Helen Waller, Graham Dunn; “Jumping to conclusions: the psychology of delusional reasoning”; Advances in Psychiatric Treatment Aug 2011, 17 (5) 332-339; DOI: 10.1192/apt.bp.109.007104

138 Mark Robert Waldman and Andrew Newberg, M.D., “Words can Change your Brain”; http://www.amazon.com/Words-Can-Change-Your-Brain/dp/1594630909/saloncom08-20

139 courtesy of a Certain Intelligence Agency.

140 Andreasen NC (2004) Dissecting the Urge to Create. PLoS Biol 2(2): e47. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0020047

141 Callaway, Ewen, “Damaged brains escape the material world”, New Scientist 11 February 2010; Journal reference: Neuron, 26/01/2010

142 https://potomac9499.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/neil-degrasse-tyson-answers-10-questions/

143 Inbal Kashtan, Miki Kashtan, Key Assumptions and Intentions of NVC, BayNVC.org

144 Little, Marion (2008) Total Honesty/Total Heart: Fostering empathy development and conflict resolution skills. A violence prevention strategy. MA Thesis, Dispute Resolution, Victoria, B.C., Canada: University of Victoria, 286.

145 Jane Branscomb (2011), Summation Evaluation of a Workshop in Collaborative Communication, M.A. Thesis, Rollins School of Public Health of Emory University.

AND Little, Marion (2008) Total Honesty/Total Heart: Fostering empathy development and conflict resolution skills. A violence prevention strategy. MA Thesis, Dispute Resolution, Victoria, B.C., Canada: University of Victoria, 286.

AND CNVC NVC Research page ; Nash, A.L. (2007) Case Study of Tekoa Institute: Illustration of Nonviolent Communication Training’s Effect on Conflict Resolution. MS Sociology. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, Virginia: pp.40

AND Tay, Louis; Diener, Ed (2011). "Needs and Subjective Well-Being Around the World" (PDF). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 101 (2): 354–365. doi:10.1037/a0023779. Retrieved Sep 20, 2011.

146 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=brain-trainings-unproven-hype ; Scientific American 2009

147 "Brain training increases dopamine release in the caudate." August 5th, 2011. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-08-brain-dopamine.html

148 http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/brain-training-doesn-t-make-you-smarter/

149 “Internet-based brain training games, citizen scientists, and big data: ethical issues in unprecedented virtual territories”; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25905809

150 http://longevity3.stanford.edu/blog/2014/10/15/the-consensus-on-the-brain-training-industry-from-the-scientific-community-2/

151 [refs August 1, 2015 in Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry; Percept Mot Skills. 2015 Jun;120(3):766-75. Epub 2015 Jun 1. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26029969 ; "Researchers reveal climbing a tree can improve cognitive skills" August 1, 2015 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-08-reveal-climbing-tree-cognitive-skills.html ]

152 Jodi M. Gilman, John K. Kuster, Sang Lee, Myung Joo Lee, Byoung Woo Kim, Nikos Makris, Andre Van Der Kouwe, Anne J. Blood and Hans C. Breiter. Cannabis Use is Quantitatively Associated with Nucleus Accumbens and Amygdala Abnormalities in Young Adult Recreational Users. Journal of Neuroscience, April 16, 2014 (in press)

153 Zunick PV, Fazio RH, & Vasey MW (2015). Directed abstraction: Encouraging broad, personal generalizations following a success experience. Journal of personality and social psychology, 109 (1), 1-19 PMID: 25984786

154 Vine, S., Uiga, L., Lavric, A., Moore, L., Tsaneva-Atanasova, K., & Wilson, M. (2015). Individual reactions to stress predict performance during a critical aviation incident Anxiety, Stress, & Coping, 28 (4), 467-477 DOI: 10.1080/10615806.2014.986722

155 May 28th, 2015 in Neuroscience "Unlearning implicit social biases during sleep." http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-05-unlearning-implicit-social-biases.html

156 British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

157 "Study finds nicotine changes marijuana's effect on the brain" August 18, 2015 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-08-nicotine-marijuana-effect-brain.html

 SPECIAL THANKS TO Grea for the great cartoons used in this tutorial - see www.sangrea.net  for loads more!


Answers & notes for do it nows

'Evidence against' links for DO IT NOW – learn the good habit of avoiding 'confirmation bias'

Saturated fat http://www.slate.com/id/2248754/

vaccination http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/health/ubc-stands-behind-vaccine-studies-discredited-by-who/article23302328/

hydration http://healingnaturallybybee.com/why-we-dont-need-to-drink-8-glasses-of-water-a-day/

exercise http://theconversation.com/mondays-medical-myth-no-pain-no-gain-12298

fluoride http://fluoridealert.org/articles/50-reasons/

living without money http://zerocurrency.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/moneyless-tribe-update.html

animals sleep http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7396356.stm

cereals http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/06/28/cereal-killers-movie.aspx

paleolithic lifespan http://paleoleap.com/why-cavemen-didnt-die-young/

school http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0952170361?*Version*=1&*entries*=0

antibacterials http://www.tufts.edu/med/apua/about_issue/agents.shtml


Answer to DO IT NOW - Tactical Strategy (IF/ THEN thinking in real life)

More than 80% of people answer this question incorrectly. If you concluded that the answer cannot be determined, you’re one of them. (So was I once.) The correct answer is, yes, an armed ship IS aiming at an unarmed ship.

How do we know? Most of us believe that we need to know whether or not the Centauri ship has armed her weapons in order to answer the question. But, using IF/ THEN thinking, consider the possibilities; because there are only two:

IF the Centauri starship has not armed weapons, THEN an armed ship (the Minbari starship) is aiming at an unarmed ship (the Centauri ship).

IF the Centauri starship has armed weapons, THEN an armed ship (the Centauri starship) is aiming at an unarmed ship (the Narn ship). Either way, the answer is yes.


Answers to DO IT NOW - implicit premises

1. unstated premise: All creative people like solving problems

stated premise: Alice is a creative person

conclusion: So of course she likes problems to solve 

2. unstated premise: If your landing gear is damaged, your craft cannot take off

stated premise: Your landing gear is damaged

conclusion: So your craft will never get off the ground 

3. unstated premise: All men are mortals

stated premise: Bob is a man

conclusion: So he is mortal 

4. unstated premise: It is beneficial to do things which help to improve your thinking skills

stated premise: Laughing helps to improve your thinking skills

conclusion: So you should laugh frequently 

5. unstated premise: Everything that thinks exists

stated premise: I think

conclusion: Therefore I exist

Answers to DO IT NOW - Key Ideas


(a) I’m not a robot.

(b) You can’t have any pudding. 


(a) Valid (even though one of the premises and the conclusion are false)

(b) Invalid (even if the two premises were true, they do not lead to the conclusion)

(c) Valid

(d) Valid 


(a) an unstated premise = Implicit assumption

(b) a structure that guarantees a true conclusion if the premises are true = Valid argument

(c) a statement from which an argument’s conclusion is derived = Premise

(d) a statement given without providing any reasons or supporting evidence = Assertion

(e) a belief that is formed without considering evidence for or against it = Prejudice

(f) a statement derived from premises, from which it follows = Conclusion

(g) reasons leading to a conclusion = Argument

(h) a valid argument with true premises = Sound


Answers to DO IT NOW - Fallacies

  1. Fallacy. From the premise: “All geniuses have been slightly crazy”, it doesn’t follow that anyone who is slightly crazy is a genius.

  2. Valid argument (regardless of whether the premises are true)

  3. Fallacy. Doing something wrong is not the only reason for someone to be questioned by the police. So the conclusion cannot be deduced from the premises.

  4. Fallacy. The first premise doesn’t state that ONLY or ALL creative people have bipolar disorder. So the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises, since you could still have bipolar disorder even though you weren’t very creative, or you could still be creative even though you weren’t bipolar.

  5. Valid argument (despite its false premise: sex in spaghetti is not a religion)


Answers to DO IT NOW - Deduction & Induction

  1. Deduction

  2. Induction

  3. Induction (provided I haven’t met every person in the universe)

  4. Deduction

  5. Deduction


Answers to DO IT NOW - Critical Reading Extract 1

  1. Why, according to the author, does creativity arise? Because of genetic influences (“What genetic influences shaped their brains to create”), modulated by environment (How did their environments promote or impede them?”)

  2. What conclusion is stated about the kind of conditions that creativity is assumed to parallel? “Great art and great science are indeed often forged in the smithy of pain -- with the fire fueled by self-doubt, obsessive preoccupation, sorrow, depression, competition, or economic needs”.

  3. Why has the author put quotation marks around the word “nowhere”? There is an unstated premise here that rural areas on the whole are ‘nowhere’ in comparison to urban areas; in other words rural environments are inferior.

  4. What is the unstated premise about creativity itself? That creativity is something only a few gifted or unusual individuals have.

  5. Does the author present a valid argument that there is a link between creativity and mental illness? No. Individual examples are given, but one cannot extrapolate from individual to general. This is a fallacy, even taking into account that the author says ‘often’ rather than ‘always’. Two examples do not prove something happens ‘often’. The author is assuming ‘everyone knows that’.

  6. Does the author present a valid argument that genetics modulated by environment are responsible for creativity? No. No reasons or evidence are given for this assumption; the unstated premise is taken as a given; ‘everyone knows that’.

  7. Does the author present a valid argument that rural locations are in fact inferior? No. No reasons or evidence are given for this assumption either.


Answers to DO IT NOW - Critical Reading Extract 2

Summary: Increased transcendental feelings can follow damage to brain areas controlling body awareness, which might explain why some get these feelings more than others.

What is the author’s main conclusion? That increased transcendental feelings can follow damage to certain brain areas.

What reasons does s/he give in support of this conclusion? A study connected with brain cancer, details of the brain area concerned and what its functions are, and that the region has been linked to prayer and meditation.

How good is the author’s argument? This is a valid argument. IF the premises are true (and the full article does give references for readers to check the study), THEN the conclusion must be true. Even if the study used only two people, the author’s use of the word ‘can’ makes the argument work. There is no claim that this is always the case or that it is the only thing that can cause such feelings (indeed, prayer and meditation are also mentioned). There is good clarity here in that the author distinguishes religion from spirituality. If people themselves claim an increase in feelings of transcendence after damage to this part of the brain, and this change is measurable with technology, then this is also a sound argument. We could argue that the sub-conclusion “the finding may help explain why some people seem more prone to such experiences than others” is unjustified (no evidence is given that implies this conclusion can be drawn and it unclear exactly what is meant here). We are also not told whether the ‘transcendent feelings’ were temporary or permanent, and that’s a very important issue. An LSD trip or watching a sunset can cause ‘transcendent feelings’ but they don’t remain there for the rest of your life.


Suggestions for DO IT NOW - Hidden Truth Spotting

Here are some possibilities:

CONTAINS NO ADDED SUGAR OR SWEETENERS (but is mainly made from sugar in the first place)

MORE PEOPLE HAVE SEEN THIS MOVIE THAN ANY OTHER (more people have bought tickets to see this movie than any other)

CRIME RATES DOWN (people are reporting fewer crimes, and/or fewer criminals have been caught)

PEOPLE ARE READING LESS (people are reading fewer books and magazines, because they now mainly read the same stuff online)

ACCORDING TO FIGURES, THERE WERE FEWER CASES OF DEPRESSION THIS YEAR (fewer people reported having depression to their doctors this year)

AUTISM IS AT AN ALL TIME HIGH (more people are recognizing autism and more doctors diagnosing it because more people know about it now)

$200,000 WAS ADDED TO THE BUDGET FOR ORGANIC FARMING THIS YEAR (and $200,000,000 was added to the factory farming budget).


Answers to DO IT NOW - Semantic Problem Spotting

Affect: Often used as ‘effect’ when describing experiments

They bought a house/ car/ supercomputer: Almost always the truth is “They borrowed a house/ car/ supercomputer”, unless the specified item was in fact fully paid for. Watch out for similar twists in the obvious in other everyday discussions that most people take for granted.

Complementary: Often misused to mean ‘complimentary’, and vice versa. Complementary neurotransmitters are transmitters that work together to maintain balance. Complimentary things are things that give you compliments, such as “You’re a really smart dude”, and “Cool hairdo”.

Confidence: Often misused to mean ‘assertiveness’, extroversion or arrogance. You will find big problems with emotion related words; currently neuroscience hasn’t categorized them very effectively (more on this below.)

Controls: Often used in popular science articles to mean ‘modulates’, ‘adjusts’. ‘increases’, ‘decreases, ‘changes’ turns on/off’ ‘is one of a number of factors controlling’, ‘correlates with’, ‘is associated with’, ‘may be associated with’, and even ‘is controlled by’. Make sure you know what the author means by ‘controls’. The prime examples of this usually are: “The gene that controls...” or “The area of the brain that controls...” Statements like this are almost always untrue.

Education: Can mean indoctrination, schooling, instruction, learning, academic qualifications, experience, teaching, literacy,

Fear response: A seriously misused term, associated with problems classifying emotions and sentiments.It is used to describe all sorts of responses and reactions; such as ‘fight or flight’, panic, the release of adrenaline, the release of cortisol, specific behaviors, shock, hysteria, alarm, defense, paranoia, hesitation, learned avoidance, PTSD and too many more to mention. Be careful to understand what the author means when you encounter this term.

Hallucinating: Used for ‘imagining things’, also for seeing or hearing things, also for ‘high on drugs’, ‘fantasizing’, ‘demented’, ‘disturbed’ and ‘confused’.

Hypothesis: Used for 'theory', 'idea', 'opinion', 'fact' and 'rumor'. An hypothesis is a feasible idea which has not yet been tested much or which does not yet have much evidence behind it.

Hysteria: Used for panic, fear, anxiety, melodrama, histrionics, phobia, tantrums and insanity in general.

I couldn’t live without... Usually really means “I’m too insecure to let go of”.

It’s the truth, honest... Could mean “I’m not lying”, “This is a true account of what I believe”, “It is a proven fact”, “It is what I believe to be true”, “Everybody knows that”, and many other possible things. It can be hard to explain to someone that although they are telling the truth, what they are saying may not be true! If you understand this you have a good grasp of rational thinking.

Pride: Could mean pleased at your achievements, or could mean hubris (unjustified bragging beyond actual achievements). Also used to mean ‘arrogance’ and ‘vanity’.

Psycho: Interchanged with ‘schizo’ (see below)

Scared: Emotion words are a nightmare of misunderstanding because they are dependent on the personal scale of experience and intensity of individual experience, but assumed to be mutually understood. A paranoid person, a firefighter, a monk, a racing driver and a soldier will all use the word ‘scared’ to define different intensity levels of feeling as well as completely different emotions or sentiments, when in reality they may mean anything from ‘mildly alarmed’, ‘apprehensive’ or ‘surprised’ to ‘fight & flight’ or ‘crapping my pants and passing out’, so it becomes clear that ‘scared’ is not describing the same experience. Remember this problem with ALL emotion words (and descriptive terms like ‘very’ or ‘enormous’). Such terms are always relative.

Schizo: Could mean schizophrenia but is often used for bipolar disorder, psychopathy, multiple personality disorder, or any general mental condition that causes bizarre behavior. It is also used for mass murderer, serial killer, violent person, and ‘lunatic’ in general.

Starving: Could mean dying of starvation. Could mean restricting food from self or other. Could mean ‘I’m really hungry’. Could also mean ‘I haven’t had my lunch’.

Theory: A theory is an hypothesis that has gained a lot of proof for and none against, for example Newton’s gravitational theory or Evolution theory, but this word is used in the popular press to mean anything from a random guess to fact, including hypothesis, wild imagining, idea, belief, consideration. If the press are quoting you as a scientist, everything you say may be labelled ‘your theory’.


Answers to personal assessment 1 Memory Accuracy Check

NONE of these words are in the article. The ones you thought you remembered will have revealed to you your own associations with the subject, which your memory has mistaken for the author’s.


Answer to congruous metaphor framing practice

3 Description 1.

When anger is framed metaphorically as a virus, students usually propose investigating the root causes and treating the problem by helping to inoculate the community, with emphasis on healthy lifestyle, eradicating stressors, encouraging self-control, and improving education. This would also work well in anger management, so it's a congruous metaphor.

When anger is framed metaphorically as a beast, students usually propose catching and locking up or punishing those out of control and enacting harsher behavioral enforcement laws. This is not an effective method of anger management -in fact it could well make offenders more angry. This is an incongruous metaphor, and thinking in these terms could do more harm than good.


Answer to do it now – rational thinking practice

1 The name of the fourth child is Mary

2 Because the water-lily doubles its size every day and the complete pool is covered after 20 days, half of the pool will be covered one day before that, after 19 days.

Notes for: Do it now – experience the insidious nature of confirmation bias

The majority of people believe that the added information from the examples means they have figured out the rule, but they haven’t. To figure out the rule, we would have to see the answers to sets such as 2, 2, 2 or 9, 8, 7 – these, the researcher would say, do NOT fit the rule. With enough guesses playing against what students think the rule may be, they would finally figure out what the real underlying rule was: 'any three numbers in ascending order.'

The exercise is intended to show how we tend to come up with a hypothesis beore all the facts are in and then work to prove it right, instead of experimenting to disprove it. Once satisfied that something makes sense, we stop searching.

Scores for stressors test:

Scoring: never = 0, almost never = 1, sometimes = 2, often = 3 and very often = 4.

0-16 low stressors, 17-24 medium stressors, 25-32 high stressors

If you have high resilience, the amount stressors pressure you is reduced. If you have low resilience, take steps to reduce anxiety until you can increase resilience.[156]


Answers to DO IT NOW – Experience through practice 1

Palmer states: A joint has about 1.5g of Cannabis. Wrong: Everybody's joints are different; for example, if I smoked this much in one joint I would fall over.

Extremely wrong: Cannabis is NOT Marijuana; it is a processed product of marijuana which has different effects. He uses these terms interchangeably throughout, which is a serious error.

He gives figures for Cannabis overdose which are both wrong (no one smoking cannabis has ever died from 'cannabis overdose') and irrelevant (cannabis is not marijuana).

The article ignores whether or not tobacco is used with marijuana, this is very important because the effects of both drugs are VERY different when combined.[157]

This article gives no references to the original study, or to the articles it is criticizing.


Notes for reasoning training/Picture interpretation

This is not about whether we guess the pictures' titles correctly; it is about how much evidence we habitually assemble before making a decision. Each piece of evidence provided wins you a point. So count up 'reasons to suppose' and add up your points for all pictures.


1-10 points = you are not gathering enough evidence before making a decision. Impatience, poor attention or too many stressors could be the cause.

11-20 points = fairly good. You are considering more than the basics. Fine-tune your focus and attention skills to do better.

30 or more points = very good. You are collecting sufficient evidence to justify your choices.

Anyone who looked for possible proof against their choices: fucking excellent. Well done you! That's the kind of habit we need to accurately distinguish truth from fiction.





Last Updated on Friday, 12 February 2016 21:28