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Written by NHA   
Sunday, 12 June 2016 09:51


NHA Tutorial 17

Biopsychology & Belief

[updated June 2016]



In Tutorial 16 we looked at several executive processes; including strategy, self direction and coordination. In previous tutorials we looked at some of the supporting factors for executive functions; such as morality, reasoning, judgment and creativity.

There is one more main contributory factor to our executive abilities; our capacity for belief and its effect on information processing. In a sense, here is where we learn what puts the psychology into 'biopsychology'. This is what we will be exploring in this tutorial; HOW software merges with hardware as psychology interacts with biology.

In the same way that we discovered in Tutorial 15 how our natural morality underlies all our judgment and decision making, here we will examine how our beliefs and ontology underlie all processing; executive or otherwise. This will help us employ methods for augmentation, repair or redevelopment of any function or any network.

We'll also be taking an updated look at Golden Rule 7: Use it in the right way, or lose it.

By the end of this tutorial you should know:

How our beliefs affect the expression of our genome.

How our beliefs affect our behavior.

How the placebo effect works and ways in which we can use it to improve ourselves.

Why a lot of people believe bullshit.

What input is required for optimal development.

What 'multilevel self programming' means and why it's more effective than other methods.

Why it's vital to fulfill biological imperatives.

You may also have one or two of your own beliefs challenged during this tutorial.

follow the right habit


Beliefs are basically the mental acceptance of something as true; our belief indicates our confidence in the truth or existence of something. When we make choices, our beliefs change the way in which we search for information, form considerations, make judgments and decide what to do.

There are things we are in the habit of believing, and habits can become self-reinforcing cycles of belief and perception. Like this:

Past conditioning shapes current habits of perception and behavior → filtered perception reinforces conditioned beliefs → perception defines experience → past conditioning shapes current habits...

To break the cycle: if we can change the input and rewrite the software of mind, we can frame situations more accurately and change the filtering of experience.

Beliefs are not reliable unless they are supported by facts; we have all had the experience of being 'certain' of things that later proved to be false, and we've all had firm convictions.

For example, Alice had firm convictions that Bob was telling the truth when he asked her to deliver a gift to his good friend Carl. Alice now has firm convictions for two counts of drug smuggling. Carl had firm convictions that Donna was a goddess among women, until she revealed that she wasn't attracted to him, whereupon he realized she was pretty boring. Etc, etc., we've all been in some situation sometime in our lives where reality suddenly does not match up to our ideas of what it was two minutes ago. Chances are at any given time, we believe something that later proves not to be true.

It's a disabling experience to discover we've been mistaken about anything for a prolonged period of time, and the longer we have held a belief, the more difficult it may seem to face changes. The experience may include aspects of alarm, disappointment, and concern for our own lack of awareness -'How could we fail to realize that X was not true?' howls Captain Hindsight. How much else are we missing? Are we really that dumb and unaware? Thoughts such as these can obviously lead to anxiety.

At the root of our concern is the question, what causes this disparity between how we perceive aspects of our lives to be and how they actually really are? The answer of course is incongruity, often based on habits of thought and belief. Typically, it's not a matter of changing external factors that matters most. The number one thing that's probably preventing us from changing our habits is our own lack of awareness of what's going on right now.


Many terms describe unfounded beliefs including: rumors, myths, presumptions, assumptions, counterfeit rules, superstitions, conditioning, blind faith, bullshit and propaganda. It is of course wise to make good use of rationality to challenge information and assumptions before basing decisions on them. Stay curious; don't be gullible, don't be fooled. Possibilities, proposals and speculations may only become firm beliefs after curiosity, inquiry, and exploration transform claims or statements or hypotheses into facts.

As with most habits, the number one limiting factor in creating change is open mindedness about the veracity of our own beliefs. More specifically, about the existence of any limiting false beliefs we have about reality, ourselves and our identities, because many times when we say we can't do something, it's because a limiting false belief is holding us back. This can take many forms; perhaps we haven't practiced a new habit much, so every time we try, it's frustrating and takes a substantial amount of time, as is true of anything we're learning. We may tell ourselves we don't have time, when we actually just haven't practiced enough to acquire the skills which SAVE time. Once we've recognized any limiting belief and decided to move past it, focusing on the benefits of doing so helps maintain tenacity.

Alternatively, there may be some things we believe to be true so habitually we haven't ever turned the clear light of reason upon them or questioned them before. Undoubtedly some of our beliefs have come from unreliable sources with no proof; maybe apocryphal tales like 'the woman who dried her poodle in a microwave',[1] or maybe someone told us that intelligence was inherited when we were a kid, and we never thought to question it again.

Limiting beliefs may be affecting virtually any aspect of our lives, holding us back in ways we don't even realize. Our approach to making decisions and the flexibility of our executive processing relies on our ontology; on our fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the way the world works, what we are doing here and what reality is. Different beliefs 'weight' our ability to make successful decisions in different ways.

For example:

Alice subscribes to the belief that nature is an ongoing series of random accidents, and sees reality as essentially unpredictable. A small interaction, she thinks, could have entirely unpredictable consequences of unknown scale. Even small disturbances could lead to profound and potentially catastrophic changes. The world is fragile, precarious and equilibrium can be overturned by even small actions. A butterfly farts in Madagascar, and we all drown in melting glaciers. Alice thinks change is inevitable, but there's nothing we can do to predict or direct it.

Bob on the other hand believes that nature is to some extent predictable, and believes strongly in dynamic equilibrium. However strong the disturbance to the world, variation and adaptation enable a status quo to be restored, and this is likely to continue for many billions of years regardless of anything we do or don't do. He is not optimistic about the future survival of humans, but all species probably go extinct sooner or later.

Carl subscribes to the 'critical limits' idea and believes that, within limits, reality is broadly predictable and life on earth adapts dynamically to shocks and changes. However, pushing beyond those limits risks catastrophe. Carl is optimistic about possibilities for change, tries hard to discover what the limits are, and works to adapt to changes ahead of time.

Donna subscribes to the pov that whatever happens, gods/aliens/governments will save us. She believes that 'ordinary people' are helpless in the face of disaster without these substitute parents to see us through. However, because she believes reality is controlled externally (either by gods, the stars, fate, destiny or some ethereal computer programmer), she tends for obvious reasons to be pessimistic about the possibility for change. If all is predetermined, and plans can be headed off at the password by gods, there seems little point in making them.

Each of these beliefs has profound consequences for how successfully these people deal with reality. Our own beliefs have effects just as profound.

We encounter a lot of limiting beliefs in neurohacking. -Have you tried time and again to set up an NH plan, only to give up after a few weeks? Maybe you believe you can't pursue your own development because you need to give your children and family all of your attention. Maybe you believe there's no point doing NH exercises because they don't seem to make any difference. Maybe you believe you can't improve your mind because everyone in your family has mental problems. Maybe you believe work is not as important than mental health, but also believe there's no way to pursue both. Maybe you believe you're fully developed already and any problems you encounter are the fault of other people or random circumstances.

To determine the truth of a belief we must assess the correspondence of this belief with reality. As we become more curious about an belief we can learn more about the evidence that supports or contradicts its accuracy. Our understanding of the evidence begins to increase as a result of our own inquiry and exploration. As more and more information becomes available, we become better informed and create a more accurate understanding and assessment of the belief.

Be realistic about any limiting beliefs you're holding on to. For instance, do you feel like you don't have time to improve yourself because you need to be devoting that time to other people, such as caring for your children or elderly parents, or devoting time to work or other obligations? The opposite is actually true - because when you put in the time to take care of yourself, it recharges you so you're able to interact with others and function to the best of your ability in all your roles.

When we do not prioritize our own development because we are constantly busy serving others, our own growth is on the 'back burner'. Often, we are exhausted, and our ability to be there as our real selves for anyone or anything else is compromised. People who make NH a priority don't necessarily have more 'free time' than others. Rather, they make sure to schedule time for it because they know it enhances their performance and the quality of their daily lives the rest of the time.

The more energy you give to developing yourself, the more energy you have for everything else. View your NH practice as a power source for supporting everything else you want to accomplish, because that's what your mental health IS. Once you recognize and decide to challenge and overcome your limiting beliefs, you'll more easily be able to tackle your NH goals.

Paying attention to what the unconscious believes is also important in changing old habits.

Unconscious beliefs support us to learn and grow, while conscious beliefs can conflict with them and keep us stuck in the status quo of old bad routines. The way out includes becoming aware of what the unconscious belief is saying, while questioning the conscious belief with its own familiar 'safe' functions -logic and rationality. We ask it difficult questions like, What is the benefit of X? What are you getting from X that's more important than having the congruity you say you want?

When we first consider anxiety as the root of the problem, denial may result. Here are some probable answers anxiety will come up with, and the responses to them:

I'm doing this for my own protection and safety

-but what do you need protection from? Could it be, having to experience anxiety? Is your resilience to stress really so low? Why?

I'm doing this for my own/our/your benefit

-but what's the benefit of any situation which results in not having enough time, sleep, good food, learning, fun, intimacy, creativity, love or good health? How could these conditions ever produce a benefit? Think about it.

I'm doing this to avoid pain

-if we believe we're not worthy of love, that no one would want to be with us, or, if they did, that they would eventually hurt us or leave, the idea of any intimate, close relationship sounds pretty painful. Why risk being hurt if we're convinced that that's what we'll get? Why even try? But what's the truth here? Pain is pain, no matter the source. We're not really avoiding pain but rather just maintaining the illusion of control by limiting one particular instance. Anxiety about anything else hurts just as much, and regardless of the what we blame it on the real source of anxiety is incongruity itself -because that's what the unconscious believes is going on; and it's correct. Acknowledging that fact and truly understanding it is the beginning of the end for bad habits.

In order to let go of a harmful habit, we first need to understand what it is. To understand something psychologically means that we understand its psychological purpose. Therefore to change dysfunctional behavior, it can be helpful to acknowledge and understand its original purpose. Because a great deal of dysfunctional behavior derives from anxiety, and the whole point of protection mode is to protect you, respecting that original protective purpose, rather than just trying to get rid of the behaviors, will aid in changing those behaviors.

An honest openness to all the facts of the moment and the WHOLE truth; not just a part of the truth, basing judgment on kindness and consideration of the facts, and appreciation of your own advantages are all helpful in getting a clear perspective during change.

for you: congruity; clarity, reality, facts, truth and learning

Our belief system should not be static; it should expand as our knowledge and experience expand.

What can we do to move from a stuck pattern of producing results other than what we say we want? We can learn what's necessary to become aware of what's driving our results awry on the incongruity level. This exploration is not for wimps, or for the faint of heart. It requires that we reduce our anxiety sufficiently to be honest with ourselves. We must find techniques which can help us see beyond what we can currently see, in order to tackle what might be dearly held (but ultimately false) beliefs.

Breaking through old patterns takes courage, commitment and a willingness to see ourselves, others, and life in general differently. Whenever we're confronted with conflicting ideals or disappointing results, we should ask, "What's more important in real life than having what I say I want?" And instead of coming up with a good story or an excuse, be willing to take responsibility and know the inconvenient truth, the "what aspect of biological wellbeing have I been ignoring due to anxiety?" truth.

Our words, thoughts, behaviors and beliefs should all be working together to modulate the responses that our interactions are deliberately creating. Only we have the power to forever break the hold that old habits and patterns have on us. When we discover that we are the source of our own safety, worthiness, abundance and love, that we are now responsible for creating our own life, we will no longer need the excuses or imaginary benefits or fears our limiting beliefs have imposed, and a new life of freedom, passion and aliveness awaits.

against you: incongruity; superstition, gullibility, conditioning, irrationality, delusion and ignorance

“Quick to judge, quick to anger, and slow to understand;
Ignorance and prejudice and fear walk hand in hand”

(Rush, 'Moving Pictures', 'Witch Hunt')

'Superstition' is here defined as any belief not based on reason or knowledge, in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing, circumstance, occurrence, coincidence, or event, which is retained blindly despite proof against its veracity.

The 'despite proof against' part is what separates superstition from the placebo effect. To maintain a belief regardless of proof against its veracity, one has to to either remain in denial of the proof, or pretend it 'all makes sense somehow' but is too profound for mere humans to understand, both of which cause incongruity.

Superstition (despite what may be found online to the contrary) is NOT 'magical thinking' (so-called 'magical thinking', as coined by Piaget, is imagination and creativity; those parts of human intelligence which Piaget (and frontloaders in general during the last century) didn't like to admit the existence of, outside of labeling them 'dysfunctional'.

There are some popular superstitions many of us believe; for example, 'traveling in a car is safer than flying', 'most people are not addicted to anything', and, 'it's okay to live near volcanoes'. We believe these despite all evidence against, and may not be too thrilled to realize that it's not rational.

Gullibility is the tendency to believe absolutely anything. We've all met these people... “I believe in the holy ghost, telepathy, flying saucers, black magic, astrology, government conspiracies, the Loch Ness monster, the abominable snowman, alien abduction, magic healing crystals, levitation, water divining, poltergeists, reincarnation and the life everlasting”...[2]

Superstitions are irrational beliefs. Irrationality may be based on either fear (anxiety) or ignorance. Ignorance does not mean 'stupid' or 'rude' or 'impolite'; ignorance means that we don't know much yet, or that we have limited experience in a given area. We are all ignorant of everything we have thus far ignored.

Delusions come in all shapes and sizes from everyday simple things (such as believing there is still some coffee left) to big, life-changing events (such as realizing you are in lust with someone and not, contrary to what you and they believed, in love with them). Once we have revealed a delusion, it is particularly important not to go on pretending that we haven't.

We sometimes habitually choose to ignore readily apparent information that contradicts our beliefs. Choosing to ignore or dismiss relevant information, choosing a narrow worldview; refusing to inquire, examine, study, and learn; rejecting alternative viewpoints before examining or considering them; ignoring or denying evidence; choosing to stay unaware; and holding desperately to limited beliefs are all ways to choose ignorance over knowledge and anxiety over learning.

Blind faith, 'selective' forgetfulness, and lack of introspection are also forms of ignorance. When coupled with the insecure attachment to an idea, belief, person or thing, ignorance can surface as pretense, deception, shamelessness, lack of rigor, inconsideration, disrespect of others, self-delusion or distraction. Avoid these forms of deliberate ignore-ance. Stay curious.

Ignorance is dangerous for the most obvious of reasons; if we do not perceive a danger we are vulnerable to it, and if we do not perceive a benefit we miss out on it!

False beliefs often arise when we reach the limits of our knowledge – we run out of ideas, so we blame magic. Conversely, failing to believe in the existence of things which actually are true (such as evolution) is a problem for many.

When we choose to change our thoughts, we become open and receptive to other pieces of information hitherto blocked by false beliefs. When we change our understanding, we change our thinking, and we change our beliefs. When we change our beliefs, we change our behavior and we change our results.

System requirements for this tutorial:

An open mind

Low anxiety

Ability to take a scientific, rational, objective perspective without sentiment intrusion

Good sense of humor

DO IT NOW – judge the following claims as: (A) true (B) false (C) true sometimes and false other times (D) we don't know yet


1 god/s exist

2 god/s do not exist

3 cheese is good for humans

4 all living humans have a paracingulate sulcus (PCS)

5 UFOs are from other planets

6 a watermelon is a berry


see end of tutorial for answers & notes

biology of belief


Beliefs are the chosen, organized filters for our perceptions of the world (external and internal). Congruous beliefs (eg, we think it's true, and it IS true) function as modulators in processing, determining how to frame what is happening in a context within which we may appropriately respond. In the absence of beliefs or certainty about anything, people feel confused, disempowered and have difficulty making sense of the world.

A conglomerate of internally inconsistent or mutually exclusive beliefs will not help us make sense of the world either; beliefs do not indicate knowledge or appropriate responses unless they are congruous; knowledge originates both from experience via our senses (empirical knowledge) and from accessing our culture's body of knowledge, reasoning based on known facts ('a priori').

Empirical knowledge includes the results of experience, analysis and experimentation (for example, this is how I know that if I forget to keep my milk cool, then it goes off).

'A priori' literally means, 'from what comes previously'; ie, past knowledge already accumulated by our culture which we do not personally have to verify the truth of (for example, this is how I know that the earth goes around the sun).

The sources of beliefs include environment, events, knowledge, past experiences, ideas etc.; every time we make a decision that something is true or real, we form a belief, and our beliefs give meaning to all our experiences.

All beliefs have emotional weighting, both in the form of certainty and other emotions imbued via associated input. Healthy people do not normally feel threatened if their beliefs are called into question. They are eager to discover the truth about their beliefs and they update their knowledge if evidence implies inaccuracy. Anxiety about beliefs being proved wrong is simply fear of change, and has no place in a healthy view of reality.

Structure & function

Using fMRI, researchers have identified clear differences in the areas of the brain involved in belief, disbelief, and uncertainty.[3]



When belief and disbelief are compared, differences occur principally in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPFC), lateral occipital cortex, and superior frontal gyrus. Belief and disbelief are both forms of certainty. Uncertainty, however, is much more complex.

ACC = anterior cingulate cortex; R-Insu = right insula; L-Insu = left insula; R-Cau = Right caudate; L-Cau = left caudate; R-Hip = right hippocampus; L-Hip = left hippocampus; R-Amy = right anygdala; L-Amy = left amygdala; Cereb = cerebellum. Blue line indicates functional (rather than anatomical) network connectivity.

Areas especially engaged in disbelief include the cingulate areas and the anterior insula. When people experience uncertainty, the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC) shows a much stronger signal. The state of uncertainty also shows a decreased signal in the caudate.

The state of uncertainty or ambiguity also appears to correlate with specific neurons in the amygdala.[4]

The posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC), which is comprised of the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the dorsomedial prefrontal area, plays a key role in both detecting discrepancies between desired and current conditions, and adjusting subsequent behavior to resolve such conflicts. It does this for both concrete and abstract issues; for example it enables problem solving with respect to low-level conflicts, such as switching motor behavior to achieve a reward, and is also a plausible mediator of shifts in ideological commitment.[5]

pMFC activity correlates positively with behavioral shifts which reduce any given discrepancy; in other words it attempts to resolve incongruity.[6] Indeed, pMFC activity is associated with preference changes to reduce cognitive dissonance.[7]

These data offer insight into the way in which our brains work as our minds form beliefs about the world. The distinction between believing and disbelieving a proposition appears to transcend content details; that is to say, we use the same basic mental processes for determining whether we believe that 2+2 = 4 as we do for determining whether we believe that Alice really loves Bob, despite the different content. The fact that ethical belief also shows a similar pattern of brain activation to mathematical belief also suggests that the physiological difference between belief and disbelief may be independent of content detail.[8]

belief as a process

All higher processing involves the cortex, where processing is hierarchical and complex. As we learned in Tutorial 16, the sensory inputs we receive from the environment undergo an hierarchical filtering process as they travel through the brain, ultimately reaching the areas of higher processing like the frontal lobes where the processed information enters our conscious awareness. However, what portion of this sensory information enters awareness at all, and how it is interpreted, is determined by our beliefs.

To understand this, we need to know a little more about how the hierarchy works. Processing within the hierarchy uses temporal differentiation (lower levels respond to short, fast signals, higher levels respond to longer, slower signals) to construct a sequence of events in memory in the correct chronological order. (As we have learned in previous tutorials, minds use the same algorithms to do many different tasks. The same processes can be used for concrete and abstract details because the problems to be solved on a processing level remain the same, and the basics of all data are framed n the same way regardless of sensory or abstract details.)

However, the hierarchy of processing begins with the input TO process, which enters rear nets and is reformatted from sensory data into representational images in network 3. N3 learns sequences of common spatio-temporal patterns (like tunes, or regular sequences of pictures) which it compares with input, and passes stable representations on up the hierarchy. It must also 'unwrap' sequences going down the hierarchy, but it's great at multitasking with parallel processing.

The result of the transformation of individual notes into a melody or 'stills' into 'a movie' is episodic memory or 'sequence memory', and it is one of the most vital processes for intelligence to make sense out of reality; at the core of all processing.[9]

The mind constantly predicts, and in order to do this it needs this temporal knowledge of sequences of events. Even concrete motor behavior is a series of sequential patterns of activation; as soon as we have learned to walk and talk we have learned and memorized time-based sequences.

The mind also constantly infers, and this too relies on a time-based sequence. Even the recognition of individual spatial images is based on time; in order to recognize something we must be aware of how its appearance changes as it moves through time, and we must be able to recognize similar images at different times and in different places. Our awareness of how matter and energy behave move through spacetime underlies all processing we do. Our core concepts represent the basic components of all our processing algorithms.

Memory is a process which takes place between networks, as all higher processes (and almost all others) do. Episodic sequence memory emerges from interactions between N3 episodic and N4 procedural memory as data is passed up the hierarchy, and it has some very cool features: it is parallel and can process multiple simultaneous predictions (this is called 'parallel overlay'); it can form stable representations of sequences or procedures; it has high capacity, high 'noise' immunity, is robust, and allows for deep biological mapping, real-time learning (we can learn whilst inferring), and self-adjusting representations. It uses both time-based and static inference, and is context dependent.

What goes on in the cortex

The basics of how information is coded and processed in the cortex have been known for some time. The cortex is organized horizontally into six layers, and vertically into groups of cells linked synaptically across the horizontal layers; densely packed and massively interconnected. The majority of cortical connections are within the same layer.[10]

The basic unit of the mature neocortex is the minicolumn, a narrow chain of neurons extending vertically through the cellular layers. Minicolumns contain all the major cortical neural cell phenotypes, interconnected in the vertical dimension ('vertical' in this context means perpendicular to the surface).

Cortical columns are sometimes called modules or cortical 'regions'. They are formed by many minicolumns bound together by short-range horizontal connections ('horizontal' in this context means parallel to the surface).

Neurons of a column have certain sets of static and physiological dynamic properties in common, upon which other properties may be superimposed. Each column may be thought of as a microchip, if you like your analogies technical. Cells in the same column have the same feed-forward activation, but a different response to context.

Cortical columns are beautiful. Here's one below with the layers marked in colors:


Cells in the same columns have similar response properties. In terms of the processing hierarchy, feed-forward connections are few but strong, and the middle two layers are the primary feed-forward layers.

Cortical processing

A cortical column is a complex processing and distributing unit that links a number of inputs to a number of outputs via overlapping internal processing chains. Each column uses the following algorithm:

1 Create a sparse distributed representation of input

2 Create a representation of input in context of other input

3 Learn sequences of repetitions in (2) (sequences of transitions between sparse distributed inputs)

4 Form a prediction based on the current input in context of previous inputs. This prediction or 'projection' is a slow changing representation of a sequence, and this is the output of the column.

Columnar organization allows for intermittently recursive mapping, so that several variables can be mapped to the two dimensional surface of the neocortex. Cortical neurons receive extrinsic connections characteristic of the layer. They also develop trans-layer intrinsic connections that form the network basis of the columns of the mature cortex.


In cortical anatomy, the layers are often labeled in what appears to be upside-down order, due to researchers counting from the outside or top down; so we have used letters for layers in an attempt to avoid confusion.

A common process is used in each layer; that is to say, cells in different layers are all using similar processing algorithms and all learning sequences. Each layer is using the available sequence memory, learning transitions of sparsely distributed patterns (representations). But each has its own unique processing focus, as follows:


Layer A attention

Layer B primary motor output

Layer C feedforward layer. Learns first order transitions (does not need context). This is ideal for computing spatial inference; eg motion, and relatively simple processing.

Layer D feedforward layer. Learns variable order transitions (needs context). This is ideal for computing temporal inference, and relatively complex processing.

Layer E feedback layer

Layer F connection layer

Earlier layers do not need context because they are decoding relatively simple input such as motion, and making spatial inferences. Input space is very large and all relevant cells receive input. Cells with the highest response potential (stimulation potential) fire first, inhibiting their neighbors; this is what creates a sparsely distributed representation. Each new bit of input causes a different activation pattern, so we end up with a sequence of patterns.

Representation occurs in more complex formats as data moves up the hierarchy. When coming down the hierarchy, complex patterns are represented in output as sequences of motion, speech and behavior.

The brain's processing dynamic is far richer and less constrained than artificial neural networks because it has recurrent interconnection (feedback loops). Without recurrent interconnections, a particular input cannot be related to other recent inputs, so they can't be used for time-series prediction, control operations, or memory.[11]

Cortical plasticity

As we know from past tutorials, the process of plasticity takes place using the same biological machinery as learning; they are different representations of the same thing; knowledge (and all thought) is abstract but the neural connections representing that knowledge are most definitely concrete.

Cells have a 'predictive state' just after firing, during which previous patterns (especially the most recent) are compared to the present pattern. This is ergonomic; if only one tiny thing has changed in a picture, we don't have to waste processing time re-rendering the entire picture in imagination; just the updated bits, in order to update the memory.

Cells form connections to other cells that are nearby which were just active. Any cell becoming active will start forming connections with all nearby cells that were just active, and every cell now firing is also looking at the previous instance, trying to compute whether it predicts a self-firing event.

In lower layers, all transitions (across the layer) are first order; there is no temporal context; from the cell's pov, 'it doesn't matter what happened in the past; given this input, this is my prediction'. In higher layers, prediction occurs in the context of prior states (how often does X fire before Y does?), so sequences can be given a probability rating even from the two most recent events, but comparisons can come from any time in the past. This is called 'Variable Order Sequence Memory.'

If there is no prior context; no expectation; firing is not predicted, and in these instances all the cells in a column fire. If a firing event was predicted, only one cell in a column will fire. This difference represents input in the context of prior states.

At any given instant, cells firing in columns represent 'new/unknown' data, and cells firing individually represent 'known/familiar data'. As every cell can participate in many different sequences at the same time, you'll realize this gives an enormous number of ways of representing the same input in different contexts.

Plasticity literally takes place via lateral connections to distal dendrite segments of other cells. Distal dendrite segments behave like coincidence detectors, the activity of only a dozen or so is necessary to recognize the overall state of an entire column. If a distal dendrite is active it will modify the synapses on an active segment and also modify the synapses on the segment best matching the original input state.

This modifies permanence for all potential synapses; increasing connections for active synapses and those that were just active before, and decreasing connections to inactive synapses. If there are two nearby neurons that often produce an impulse almost simultaneously, their cortical maps will unite. Re-organization occurs at every level in the processing hierarchy; this produces the rapid map changes observed in the cerebral cortex.[12]

Sensorimotor systems show similar changes with respect to behavior. When a stimulus is repeated with practice, its cortical representation is strengthened and enlarged. In some cases, cortical representations can increase two to threefold in one or two days at the time when a new sensorimotor behavior is first acquired, and changes are largely finished within at most a few weeks.[13] In a matter of months, gray matter density can increase significantly.[14]

How then may this concrete physiological process be affected, let alone determined, by our beliefs? Placebo effects are the first example most people think of, in which the belief that one will feel different leads one to actually feel different.[15]

Research shows that the belief that one has received an active treatment can produce the physiological changes thought to be produced by the real treatment. We shall explore this and other similar phenomena later in this tutorial. First, we'll take a look at the mechanics of how epigenetics works.

Epigenetics and belief

The prefix 'epi-' is here defined as “on; upon; above; over”, and the term epigenetics comes from 'epigenesis; the biological term for the process by which genetic information is translated into the substance and behavior of an organism.

Specifically, epigenetics is the study of the way in which gene expression is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms.

The discovery at the root of this study is the fact that the environment controls proteins. Proteins are activated or deactivated in response to environmental signals, and proteins do all the 'work' in living cells.

Proteins are beautiful too!


Proteins are organic molecules constituting a large portion of the mass of every life form. They consist of one or more chains of amino acids linked by peptide bonds in a linear sequence, and are folded into a specific three-dimensional shape maintained by further chemical bonding.

We are largely made of proteins. Proteins work constantly to maintain life, absorb nutrients, facilitate signaling, repair and build new tissues, and are responsible for neurogenesis, neurotransmission and the changes effected in plasticity.

Proteins 'do work' in biological functions by behaving very much like nanomachines.

Signal Transduction is the science of how signals are translated into biological function. You will recall from past tutorials that environmental 'primary signal' stimuli (sensory input) trigger receptors (input devices) in the cell membrane, causing the generation of 'secondary signals' which are the responses of effectors (output devices which translate signals into behavior within the cell). This means the behavior of the cell is controlled by the input from the environment as translated by effector devices. (If you don't recall, review tutorials 2 & 7).

'As translated' is the important part here; because this is perception; the conduit via which software (an input of binary signals) is given meaning and turned into hardware internal mechanical processes in cells. That means it is not the actual input from the environment that cells are responding to; it is our perception of what those signals 'mean'; ultimately it's about what cell effector devices 'believe' is going on. This, from the bottom up, is how belief controls perception.

It's very simple down at this level. For example, a cell receptor gets a signal from insulin and the effector translates this into the behavior which preps the cell for absorbing nutrients and growing. A cell receptor gets a signal of pain and the effector preps the cell to manufacture antibodies, defense and repair mechanisms.

Regardless of later complexity of detail, the same process works on every level -the cells' behavior is determined by what the cell believes is going on, and the organisms' behavior is determined by what the organism believes is going on. (Incidentally, it also works on a species level, but that's beyond our scope here.)


we will either find a way, or make one

If the required proteins are not available to perform a necessary task, biology makes them. A secondary signal is sent to the 'Genome reference library' (our DNA), whose protective protein reveals and allows copying of the relevant DNA segment, from which RNA starts the process of manufacturing the needed proteins.

In order to send the 'request for protein' signal, firstly biology obviously has to detect the 'need' for the required protein, and secondly the request must be sent in the correct format for the proteins around the genome to understand. Signaling at this level is still largely mechanical; proteins literally change shape when they receive a signal; like keys which take up a particular shape that fits a specific lock; where 'unlocking' activates a process.

Initial signaling is simply biomechanics and signal transduction. When secondary signals go to the nucleii of cells and affect the copying or readout of genes, we are in the realm of epigenetics.


Where nature becomes nurture

Epigenetic control comes from the environment via receptors in the membrane of the cell as described above. All of our sensory organs (including our skin – every cell covering your entire body,) are part of our nervous system. All cells have receptors and effectors. Tutorial 7 explains these processes in detail, so if you've forgotten, review that tutorial before going on. For the rest of us, here's a recap:

Receptors and effectors are coupled together by a protein called a 'G protein' (it is shaped vaguely like a letter 'g'). A 'G' protein changes its shape when an environmental signal is received at the receptor. There are around 100,000 receptor 'switches' of this kind on every cell, responding to 100,000 'bits' of input from the environment. This is how interaction with the environment changes the expression of the genome; epigenetic changes begin at the cellular level. The signals that go to the genome affect the readout of genes and control gene copy activity.

DNA with protective Histones. 
DNA is a complex protein, comprised of 'junk DNA' (kinda like 'recipes' for processes) and gene DNA (kinda like recipes for tools and materials). Despite popular belief, there is no 'program' in DNA itself; by itself, without epigenetics, DNA and the genome itself do absolutely nothing. Put a wheat seed in a jar and keep it cold and dry for two thousand years isolated from all signals and what happens is nothing. Take out the seed and give it environmental cues by placing it in a matrix (a biologically beneficial (enriched) environment for growth) and within minutes it is responding to those environmental signals and beginning to grow. Place it in a harmful biological (impoverished) environment and within minutes it is responding to environmental signals and beginning to rot. In effect, the jar is simply sensory deprivation, which in seeds causes an hibernation response.

This is epigenetic control. Epigenetics via interaction with environmental signals IS the 'magic program'. DNA – our genome - is just the 'recipe book' for reference. We are programmed by all the details of whatever environment we find (or place) ourselves in; we literally 'become more like' whatever we are surrounded by, which means we fit in better with it, whatever it is. From there, we can also turn around and creatively induce our environment to better fit in with ourselves and our needs.

Let's 'zoom out' for a moment and look at how epigenetics is actually responsible for programming; how living things 'become more like' whatever they are surrounded by', and how they are literally modulated and shaped by their input.

The most popular example of epigenetic programming is in the development of bees, whose final phenotype is determined entirely by diet during the larval stage. This provides a striking example of epigenetic variation and the interplay between genomes and the environment.

Although identical 'clones' in terms of DNA genetic sequence, queen bees and worker bees end up entirely different in terms of their behavior, physiology, lifespan, and appearance. For example, queen bees can produce as many as 2,000 eggs in a single day, whereas worker bees are sterile. Worker bees spend their days foraging for food, collecting pollen, maintaining the hive, and fighting off invaders, while queen bees spend their days having food delivered to them and laying eggs to keep the hive populated with enough workers. Queen bees are 5 times larger than worker bees. The lifespan of queen bees is typically 20 times longer than that of worker bees.

Epigenetics is responsible for these dramatic differences. Both queen and worker bee larvae are initially fed a diet of royal jelly, which is provided by nurse bees. However, those intended to be worker bees are rapidly switched to a diet of nectar and pollen. In contrast, those intended to be queen bees are fed royal jelly throughout development, and continue to feast on the royal jelly diet as adults. Research has shown that the ingredients in royal jelly are capable of inhibiting an enzyme called cytosine methyltransferase, which methylates cytosine bases in honeybee DNA.[16]

We'll explain more about DNA methylation later; first, to really grasp the power of epigenetics, consider it as an answer to the question: 'How does cell-differentiation happen in the first place?' -Why, or rather HOW, does a stem cell 'know' to become a skin cell or a lung tissue cell or liver cell or brain cell? This is a fascinating question, since all these cells contain exactly the same DNA. All the genes are present in all the cells, so that the skin and the liver and the eye are genetically identical and contain the entire makeup of the human genome (which is why you can get a DNA sample from any cell in the body). But at any one point a given cell within a tissue might utilize only ten to twenty percent of its gene complement, in order to specialize into being 'liver cells' or 'brain cells', and they do this via epigenetics. The genes that a specific tissue does not need, or should not express in a particular environment, are (or should be) specifically turned off by epigenetic mechanisms, while the other genes that the tissue needs to continue to express in its current environment are (or should be) protected from this silencing.

It is epigenetic modulation via a cell's environmental conditions that determines which of its genes will activate and which will not.[17]

We have 46 chromosomes, and they consist of roughly 50% DNA and 50% other, non-DNA chromosomal proteins (histones) which form an interlocking structure with DNA, called Chromatin.[18] This structure will not unlock (thus the DNA cannot be accessed) without the correct entry keys (environmental signals).

Chromatin is a complex combination of DNA and histones, whose job is to compress DNA to enable it to fit inside cells, and to provide a mechanism for controlling gene expression and DNA replication via epigenetics.

Our genome is like a reference library where RNA provides photocopying facilities, and proteins outside the cell nucleus are the nanomachines doing all the assembly work and forming the building blocks and bonds for structures and functions.

When environmental input signals bind to chromosomal proteins, they open up to reveal the genome 'reference library' and expose the gene and/or other DNA which needs to be copied. Like a real reference library, nothing may be taken away or borrowed; material required must be copied, because only copies may be taken away out of the nucleus of the cell.

RNA (another complex protein) comes along and copies any exposed genes and returns to its own area of the cell, awaiting the next signal to do it again. The chromosomal protein immediately closes up again, re-covering the 'reference' DNA.

It is these copies of genes made by RNA which are activated to synthesize proteins; NOT the original genes sitting in our chromosomes, which effectively also do nothing; as 'reference material' they just sit there in storage their whole life long in case they need to be copied. Some get copied millions of times, some never get copied –because no environmental signal is ever received to copy them; there was no 'need' ever indicated for any of the proteins they could have produced.

Because only the copies get modulated (and not the original genes), this is how epigenetics can change the readout of a gene copy without changing the original gene itself. Epigenetics can in fact influence either the gene copies or the protein modules, altering not just which genes are going to be read, but also how they are going to be read.

...At this point it must be said: Beware of 'epigenetic woo-woo'. It's a bit like quantum physics woo-woo, and if you research epigenetics online you will come across wild claims that it can accomplish anything; from making us grow tails and claws, to curing all known diseases. As with all relatively new fields of science (and sadly even old ones), bullshit abounds. Keep your wits about you, use your rationality skills and read critically. Some good sources for studying epigenetics may be found in the references.[19]

Known epigenetic mechanisms currently (2016) fall into four categories:


Some environmental signals alter the interaction between RNA and DNA by a process called methylation (adding a methyl group to the molecule). Methylation controls whether the gene is going to be copied or not copied (this is like a read/no read instruction in code terms).

Changes in the structure of chromatin are controlled by the histones. A loose chromatin allows for normal gene expression. But, add methylation to the equation and histones hold DNA together tightly interfering with the normal expression of genes, including tumor suppressor genes. It keeps genes in a constant state of non-expression. In effect, methylation selects which genes are going to be activated. Usually (but not always) in this context, methylation silences genes (= no read) by attracting proteins which fold that section of the chromatin and repress the related genes.[20]

Histone modification

The second category is histone modifications. Histones are the proteins which are involved in the folding and compaction of the chromatin. There are several different types of histones, and they can be chemically modified in a number of ways. Acetylation of histone tails typically leads to weaker interactions between the histones and the DNA, which is associated with gene expression, and alters the reading (copying) of the gene (= modify readout).

Histone proteins are subject to a variety of modifications, including acetylation, methylation (which has three valences) and phosphorylation, as well as a number of others,[21] but the precise details of the histone code are currently (2016) unknown.[22]

Regulatory RNA

The third category of epigenetic mechanism is regulatory RNA. MicroRNAs are small, noncoding sequences that are involved in gene expression. Thousands of miRNAs are known, and the extent of their involvement in epigenetic regulation is an area of ongoing research.[23]

So-called 'junk DNA' also contains chromosomal protein modules which can be copied, and these behave like program functions, instructions, or 'operators' (on/off; via, etc.); so the readouts of genes can also be changed by affecting these proteins. Although genes (reference for proteins) get mutated frequently, junk DNA (reference for processes) is conserved without mutation.

'Cut & paste' / 'cutting & splicing'

Finally, 'cutting and splicing' (epigenetic gene splicing) also alters the readout of genes. Between them, these possibilities give the option of massive variation, and epigenetic hacking is becoming a real possibility even for serious diseases. We discuss some applications of this in the NHA Guide section of this tutorial.

We here need to pursue the question of how these mechanisms relate to our beliefs on a psychological level. After all, in epigenetics we are looking at concrete physiological changes caused by concrete physical environmental factors, whereas our psychological beliefs are abstract concepts.

Recall however how those concepts are formed in terms of concrete synaptic changes; and consider how synaptic connection patterns remain as our concrete representations of concepts in memory. If we change the synaptic configuration, we change the concept; this is learning. Memories or associations may be deleted, so we would not necessarily even be consciously aware of the changes. For example, do you remember the first time you ever tasted beer? Does it taste anything like the same way now? Did you notice when the change happened?

What we call an 'acquired taste' is epigenetic modification. We can adapt and 'get used to' things we started off not being too keen on, and conversely we can get bored with and 'go off' things we used to enjoy.

Not knowing this slows down a lot of NH progress, because people try something once (such as real food, or exercise,) and decide they don't like it, rather than allowing their systems a chance to recalibrate. Yes; your taste buds CAN change their mind! Your beliefs (for example, 'beer tastes horrible') will change accordingly. What seemed to be nasty has become nice, or vice versa.

We are meant to calibrate our own tastes with healthy choices right from the start, however, if we were not given that option, they can be recalibrated at any time. It takes a short amount of practice to deliberately acquire a taste for something new (both in the concrete and the abstract sense), but once we have done it, the new food will taste really nice, and the healthy habit will become automatic.

Epigenetic changes are ongoing and constant. For example, some neurons in the cerebral cortex can adapt their properties in response to changes in network activity.[24]

It not reality itself but signals filtered through our perceptions and interpretations of reality (what we believe is going on), which sends secondary signals to the genes, it is our emotions which weight all input, it is the environment we choose to be in that provides our environmental signals. Since we can change our perceptions, modulate emotional weighting with executive functions, and change our environment, effectively when we do so we are the directors of our DNA. Our control of our input and of ourselves determines what we pay attention to, what we believe is going on, and what signals our genes will receive. We are the creators of our future lives.

And not only our own lives. Our life experiences' associated epigenetic changes in gene expression may be passed on to our children and our children's children. Anxiety may indeed have lasting effects on subsequent generations.

Research has revealed the process that regulates epigenetic inheritance through generations. Small RNA molecules—short sequences of RNA that regulate the expression of genes—are among the key factors involved in mediating this kind of inheritance, which helps prepare offspring for similar conditions to those their parents live in.

Excitingly, this research has discovered an active, tuneable inheritance mechanism that can be turned 'on' or 'off.' Enzymes called RdRPs are required for re-creating new small RNAs to keep the response going in subsequent generations, and specific genes, which have been named 'MOTEK' (Modified Transgenerational Epigenetic Kinetics), are involved in turning it on and off. These changes are controlled by a feedback interaction between gene-regulating small RNAs, which are inheritable, and the MOTEK genes that are required to produce and transmit these small RNAs across generations.

The feedback determines whether 'epigenetic memory' will continue to the progeny or not, and how long each epigenetic response will last.[25]

In here and out there – it's all environment

As we discussed in the last tutorial, the term 'environment' is applicable in biology on many levels, however these break down into two main areas: the internal environment and the external environment.

The external environment is communicated to cells via our senses, perception and behavioral feedback.

The internal environment is communicated to cells via our bloodstream; from which all cells get their nutrients and information about the internal chemistry of their matrix (our bodies & brains).

In concrete terms, a cell inside a brain/body is in a culture medium of our blood chemistry and input is sensation; this is the 'internal environment'.

In abstract terms, a mind inside an organism in is a culture medium comprised of that organism's culture and input is thought; this is the external environment, and on both levels, the culture medium mediates the activity and behavior; of the cell in the former instance, and the mind in the latter.

The external environment, as interpreted by perception in the mind, controls the internal environment; thus determines our gene copy readout via epigenetics. That is to say, it is signals from our interpretation of the external environment which prompt the brain to alter the internal environment. The brain releases chemicals, or causes their release via signaling various glands in the body, using the nervous system, priming for behaviors according to whatever the mind believes is going on. If, for example, we believe there is danger, messages are sent around the body to release the chemicals which will best enable us to avoid harm. If we believe there is an opportunity for benefit, messages are sent to prompt behaviors enabling us to explore further.

Because we have such a variety of behaviors, this signaling is complex, but happily for NH students, it results from two basic modes, Growth and Protection, which we learned about in Tutorial 5.

Growth/development mode and protection mode are the two major states of being alive; affecting all other processing considerations. This is very sensible from an evolutionary pov; if you are in constant danger of being eaten, there's no time to stop and do some creative cave painting or invent the wheel. The danger MUST be resolved first; this is a basic biological need.

As we learned in tutorial 5, it is impossible for the body and mind to be in growth mode and protection mode at the same time because one effectively turns the other off. (If you cannot remember the details of how this works, review tutorial 5.)

This is the case on every level: a cell cannot be in growth and protection mode at the same time; a person cannot be in growth and protection mode at the same time; a community cannot be in growth and protection mode at the same time.

The difference between the chemistry of growth/development mode and the chemistry of protection mode is nicely analogized in the concepts of enriched or impoverished environments. Enriched environments are those which provide the most of our biological needs (for a summary of needs, see Tutorial 16). Impoverished environments are harmful and dangerous because chronic anxiety is harmful and dangerous, and this is what occurs when our needs are not being met and/or when we are experiencing danger signals from input.


The chemistry of growth/development mode includes:






Under their influence, cells grow and develop.

The chemistry of protection mode includes:



Substance P



The latter two are inflammatory agents. Immersed in this chemistry, cells stop growing and sit in protection mode, further development is put on hold until conditions improve.

Basically, in growth/development mode the entire organism is receiving environmental signals which represent the information, 'I'm ok, you're ok, everything is groovy'. And the mind believes this is so; for beliefs are conclusions from decisions derived from information and experience.

In protection mode we are getting the opposite message: the signals are communicating, 'I'm not safe, you're not safe; nothing is safe'. And the mind believes this is so, whether those beliefs are conscious or unconscious or both.

These underlying core beliefs about 'where things are at' determine our ontology and so our biological, psychological and behavioral perspective on reality. Such beliefs frame and filter reality, and we experience reality through the filter of perceptual framing in every aspect of our lives, thoughts, relationships and behavior.

For millions of years the human body and mind adapted to the natural environment because there was very little else. Our nature is nature, and this doesn't mean that technology is a mistake; rather it is a way we can enhance our experience and awareness of nature.

The mistake we make with tech is in not noticing that the more we interact with and use technology to support counterfeit games, the more we drift away from the natural input we need for healthy development.

For example, the addictive-obsessive-compulsive time invested in watching TV and consuming commercial and counterfeit conditioning messages displaces the natural experiences biology expects us to be having (such as talking with each other, making up stories, playing with trees and grass, just being alone, quiet, staring at nothing at all, organizing creative projects, learning to listen, learning to pay close attention, being aware of each sense, daydreaming, empathizing with the feelings others are having).

Displacing these natural and organic real life living experiences with dead counterfeits we cannot interact with profoundly alters the way the brain and body develops. That is the point, and understanding this hands us the power that is our birthright. The nature and quality of our everyday experiences determine and shape both how the brain grows and the capacities that are developed. How that individual brain-body will respond, meaning the nature and quality of perceptions, how that person interprets their experiences and therefore behaves, is their 'personality; which is constructed and sculpted by the quality and quantity of their experience with dynamic living systems -or static dead counterfeits.

the most important bits to remember

Beliefs are the preset, organized filters to our perceptions of the world (external and internal). They function as modulators in processing, determining how to represent what is happening, when we congruously believe something to be true. In the absence of beliefs or certainty about anything, people feel disempowered and have difficulty making sense of the world.

All beliefs have emotional weighting, both in the form of certainty and other emotions imbued via associated input. Healthy people, however, do not normally feel threatened if their beliefs are called into question. They are eager to discover the truth about beliefs and they update their knowledge if evidence implies inaccuracy. Anxiety about beliefs being proved wrong is simply fear of change, and has no place in a healthy view of reality.

we use the same mental processes for determining whether we believe that 2+2 = 4 as we do for determining whether we believe that Alice really loves Bob, despite the different content. The fact that ethical belief also shows a similar pattern of brain activation to mathematical belief suggests that the physiological difference between belief and disbelief may be independent of content or emotional associations.

Epigenetics notes

epigenetics is the study of the way in which gene expression is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms.

DNA is a complex protein, comprised of 'junk DNA' (kinda like 'recipes' for processes) and gene DNA (kinda like recipes for tools and materials). Despite popular belief, there is no 'program' in DNA itself; by itself, without epigenetics, DNA and the genome itself does absolutely nothing; it is a 'reference library' from which copies may be made. Because only the copies get modulated (and not the original genes), this is how epigenetics changes the readout of a gene copy but does not change the original gene itself.

It is epigenetics, modulating via a cell's environmental conditions, that determines which of its genes will activate and which will not.

The external environment is communicated to cells via our senses, perception and behavioral feedback.

The internal environment is communicated to cells via our bloodstream; from which all cells get their nutrients and information about the internal chemistry of their matrix (our bodies & brains).

In concrete terms, a cell inside a brain/body is in a culture medium of our blood chemistry and input is sensation; this is the 'internal environment'.

In abstract terms, a mind inside an organism in is a culture medium comprised of that organism's culture and input is thought; this is the external environment, and on both levels, the culture medium mediates the activity and behavior; of the cell in the former instance, and the mind in the latter.

Growth/development mode and protection mode are the two major states of being; affecting all other processing considerations.

In growth/development mode the entire organism is receiving environmental signals which represent the information, 'I'm ok, you're ok, everything is groovy'. And the mind believes this is so; for beliefs are conclusions from decisions derived from information and experience.

In protection mode we are getting the opposite message: the signals are communicating, 'I'm not safe, you're not safe; nothing is safe'. And the mind believes this is so, whether those beliefs are conscious or unconscious or both.

These underlying core beliefs about 'where things are at' determine our ontology and so our biological, psychological and behavioral perspective on reality. Such beliefs frame reality, and we experience reality through the filter of perceptual framing in every aspect of our lives, experience, relationships and behavior.

Many researchers in the behavioral and neurosciences have yet to take seriously the implications of epigenetic inheritance and culture-gene coevolution. A rising tide of evidence is showing how epigenetic systems modify gene expressions to adapt to local circumstances. This can create lasting heritable variation in individuals (epigenetic inheritance), and differences among populations, without any underlying differences in DNA base pair sequences – only differences in gene expression.[26]


DO IT NOW – let's talk about you

Fill in your own answers in the following statements:

One of my favorite foods is …............

I particularly like the movie …..............

One of the things I find good fun is ….....................

The color of my eyes is ….....................

I sometimes like to ….....................

I would like to learn more about …........................

Add a few more facts about yourself; anything you choose. Then, read the completed statements aloud, as if you were telling someone else these things.

See end of tutorial for notes


psychology of belief

Belief is not the easiest thing to study; a lot of self-reporting may be inaccurate and there is, of course, a big distinction between mere profession of beliefs and actual beliefs.[27] Studies on belief can obviously only make sense in a context where people actually do honestly believe what they say they believe. However, many consistencies nevertheless emerge in the study of our beliefs and the effects of our ontology on both our psychology and our physiology.

Beliefs, rather than being an addition to our executive processing, are more like a constant 'backdrop' for everything we think about and do; in much the same way as our morality underlies our judgment and decisions.

For example, expectation and prediction are crucial cognitive processes in everyone's everyday decision making, and we ultimately base them on our beliefs. Beliefs themselves are the inferences we make based on our underlying states of expectancy.

Subjective belief can override objective reality. Our sense of objectivity may sometimes be limited by preconceptions, which includes beliefs arising from external cues, prior knowledge and inference.[28]

A belief is any simple proposition, conscious or unconscious, inferred from what a person says or does, and capable of being preceded by the phrase 'I believe that-'.[29] The content of someone else's belief cannot be directly observed or reliably assessed from discussion, but must be inferred on the basis of their overt behavior and through discourse analysis. What a person says or does constantly reveals clues about their belief system, and this is one reason why discourse analysis and behavioral science are much used in profiling.

Beliefs consciously expressed in discourse are known to be very poor predictors of either actual beliefs or behavior.[30] For example, many people publicly state that they do not believe in gods, and then go ahead and celebrate a religious festival. Others may proclaim verbally that they are not sexist but constantly treat one sex as inferior (sometimes, their own) and/or stereotype them. Discourse analysis relies on spotting unconscious references in discourse that reveal the underlying belief system influencing attitude and behavior.

Beliefs often differ according to experience. For example, Alice and Bob may share the same value of equality. Alice, who has never been refused anything she asked her parents for, as has her brother, is likely to believe that equality of opportunity exists - after all she has never experienced any trouble. However, Bob, who has often found his requests refused, although his sisters' are granted, perceives the situation differently. He believes that he has been discriminated against, and that equality of opportunity only exists for those with sufficient support.

from psychology to biology

Our beliefs about what is going on shape our emotional states too, and affect our behavior accordingly. We already know that our thoughts and perceptions powerfully affect our physiology via hormones and emotions – in situations from alarm to sexual arousal - and that hormonal and neurotransmission states impact our general health in many ways. But at the bottom of it all, things always come down to maintaining growth mode rather than protection mode, and maintaining healthy emotion 'in the green zone' while avoiding sentiment.

Our psychology has profound effects on biological function. Intense anger, for example, boosts our heart attack risk five-fold, and our stroke risk three-fold. The number one cause of cancer is anxiety.[31]

Positive psychological well-being, on the other hand, is associated with a consistent reduced risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) and better immune function.[32]

Many studies support the fact that having an upbeat and positive attitude will translate into living a longer, healthier life, and conversely, that a pessimistic outlook promotes ill health and can shave years off our lives. Optimistic people have lower risks of dying from any cause, as well as lower risks of dying from heart disease, compared with pessimistic people.[33] In fact, the tendency to always expect the worst is linked to a 25 percent higher risk of dying before the age of 65.[34]

Attitude, then, and state of mind, are key factors in remaining in 'growth mode', and attitudes/states of mind are always based on what we believe is going on; both operationally (in the details of current situations) and ontologically (in our overall beliefs about reality generally).

Behave as though - Belief and autonomy

A great example of how belief directly affects behavior may be seen in autonomy studies: belief in free will enables more (measurable) executive control than disbelief (which reduces executive control). That is, if you don't believe you are in control of anything, you won't be able to control anything.

This is also a good example of Golden Rule 2 - 'Behave as though it's happening, and the brain will think it's happening.' If we believe that free will doesn't exist, we behave as though that is the case, and our brains will follow suit; providing the neurochemistry suitable for whatever it believes is going on (ie., that we are helpless). Earlier psychological studies have found that disbelief in free will also seems to trigger an increase in cheating aggressiveness, encourages people to be less helpful, and generally saps motivation. Proof confirming our belief in free will can also lead to decreased ethnic/racial prejudice compared with disbelief in proof for our free will.[35]

The latest findings extend the effects of disbelieving to a more basic physical level. Even just reading text discrediting the notion of free will can cause an immediate decrease in brain activity related to voluntary behavior and behavioral control. This changes brain processes right the way down to a very basic motor level, causing a lag between conscious choice and behavior; we literally lose control of our own behavior.[36]

Stronger beliefs in autonomy and free will predict and facilitate a series of positive outcomes that require higher levels of self-control, for example, self-responsibility leads to better task performance [37] and greater learning from emotional experiences.[38] Individual students who have been primed with evidence for autonomy and asked to write about it are more likely to write first-person narratives related to higher levels of self-control that include factors such as achieving goals and moral behaviors.[39]

However, disbelief in free will causally leads to a series of negative outcomes that are produced by lower levels of self-control and responsibility, for example, more aggression towards others, hesitance in cooperative helpfulness, increased cheating behavior on tests, and confabulation in self assessments. Past studies have found that belief in free will provides a type of volitional willpower that motivates the self to exert desirable interactive responses, such as increased cooperative behaviors, and reduced aggression and cheating behaviors.[40]

belief in the possibility of change is an essential in NH

Simply holding different beliefs about the nature of intelligence can lead people to form very different impressions of their own learning. People stuck in the old paradigm of 'fixed intelligence' tend to give up easily when things don't work out right away. Those who believe that intelligence is malleable, on the other hand, have increased tenacity; they keep forging ahead when faced with a challenge, believing that more time and effort will yield better results.[41]

The context of belief emerges from imagination plus judgment & decision, and it may have occurred to you that belief as a process is very dependent on imagination. After all, imagination has to decide what it believes is going on 'out there' and the mind bases all its processing on the assumption that imagination has got its beliefs right. But they are not quite the same thing, because imagination has one extra consideration to make before judging and deciding -is this real or is this fictional, and assuming that we get this right when we don't is a cause of many ills.

Belief and fantasy are both valid contexts for framing reality. For example, it's okay to imagine that you're an ostrich and behave like an ostrich for a laugh, but believing that you really are an ostrich is delusional -you're stepping out of the game of real life and into a world of fantasy without being aware that you're doing it. Imagination has the ability to be creative in fictional terms when aware that its content is fictional, but actual belief must always be factual or we get into deep trouble fast.

That's why we can't just pretend that change is occurring and expect it to occur. Fantasy will not suffice. We need to believe for good sensible reasons that change is taking place and preferably be able to explain why it is taking place in order for change to take place. We need to have the experience; to feel what it is like to know that change is taking place.

This can be a difficult distinction for newbies to understand when working with placebos: it won't work if we 'behave as though' because we are pretending change is occurring; it only works if we 'behave as though' because we KNOW change is occurring and that a corresponding change in behavior is both appropriate and expected. For effective change, fantasy is not good enough, for the awareness that it IS fantasy relegates it to staying in imagination, instead of progressing into belief via judgment and decisions when sufficient proof is experienced. To affect real change, we cannot simply fantasize; we must honestly believe; even if what we believe is that 'the placebo effect works because we believe in it, and we believe in it because we've seen proof that it works.' Obviously, as rational beings we cannot choose to believe without evidence, and that's why we need sufficient information to satisfy the conscious mind in support of those beliefs.

If we view 'belief', then, as 'a context in which ideally everything is true', we can see how such a context must emerge from imagination together with our judgment and decisions on veracity. Imagination, to accept a belief, must be able to imagine it and also compute that it is true in the real world. To take such decisions we must manipulate mental imagery just as we must for all other processing. 'Will these ideas fit into this context?' is almost certainly the concept behind this process; it's all about objects and containers again but this time in an abstract context.

Imagination views fantasy as a valid context too; that 'What if...?' speculative state of mind is vital for innovation, hypothesising, experimentation and creativity (not to mention entertainment). The idea of you being an ostrich makes sense only in this context. Conversely, the idea that you are not an ostrich is appropriate in the 'belief' context.

Contexts provide the choices for all categorization and hence all meaning, and environmental signals provide the input for imagination to compute contexts and respond accordingly; not just behaviorally but physiologically as well.

For example, something as simple as the information on food labels sets a context which can, if we believe it, change our physiological responses to the food, to quite a large extent, including the production of different hormones and transmitters.[42]

Regardless of whether this works on an epigenetic level or is an autonomic response to suggestion and priming (and this is not yet known), this research implies vast possibilities for placebo-type interventions for all sorts of things, indeed we do not yet know the limitations of this kind of effect.

In the meantime, we are free to experiment as we please. If priming for a context can induce changes in hormone release, what else can it achieve? This is a straightforward, free technique to explore, which needs no batteries or equipment and can be done at home. Keep us posted with your results!

We have met contextual priming many times before in these tutorials, and we have called it 'input control', because if newbies read terms like contextual priming in early tutorials, not many tutorials would get read. Do you recall the technique where reading about people we admire improves our own subsequent performance and self esteem? This too is contextual priming. Positive, inspiring input literally does inspire. It primes us for a context of success, and we then respond within that context.

There is no spoon

However, before anyone mentions cutlery-bending, telekinetic woo-woo, etc., please bear in mind that in the real world all things have measurable limits, including biopsychology. Although belief can influence biology profoundly; this is not 'mind over matter' so much as 'mind over brain'; which is exactly as things should be in the normal course of events. Our material bodies can interact with matter; our minds can only interact with brains, and through them, bodies. Belief cannot alter physical reality outside of a biological matrix, but because it can alter ourselves, it can alter our interactions with the material world (creativity and innovation being two examples of this).

To understand this caveat, and how the brain and body are used as a dynamic interface between mind and matter, we need to know how our psychology directly influences our biology, so we'll explore this below.

autonomic & somatic nervous system

The ANS is wired directly to the brain and all major systems under its influence (for example, respiratory, digestive, cardio-vascular).

The SNS is also wired directly to the brain and responsible for controlling muscles and the skeletal system.

Both systems adjust their function in response to feedback from sensory input, according to what behaviors are required and what overall mode we are currently functioning in; growth or protection.

As well as receiving direction and maintaining homeostasis, these connections relay changes in internal function as feedback to the brain; for example information about heart rate, temperature, breathing pattern and hormonal release.

our brain and immune system

The field of science which studies the links between the brain and our immune system is called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI). Once you've got past pronouncing that, it gets a lot easier.

Our immune system and brain are literally wired together,[43] and connections (conduits) between our nervous system and immune-related organs such as our thymus and bone marrow allow for constant communication between the two systems. Revealingly, our immune cells also have neurotransmitter receptors, suggesting that what goes on in our brain impacts our immune system fairly rapidly, for better or worse.

For example when in protection mode, anxiety has been shown to reduce the activity of virus-fighting immune cells. Anxiety also increases levels of antibodies for common viruses, suggesting that anxiety can reactivate otherwise latent viruses in our body. Anxiously ruminating on a traumatic incident has been shown to increase our levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in our body.[44]

Healthy emotions and unhealthy sentiments, when weighting any input, have a powerful impact on our biology, which immediately impacts our immunity. For example, chronic self-pity and feelings of isolation tend to upregulate genes involved in the regulation of inflammatory response while downregulating genes involved with antiviral control; the combination of which results in decreased immune function. In emotionally healthy, interactive people the reverse gene activation takes place, leading to improved immune function.[45]

As we leaned in previous tutorials, during anxiety, the unconscious believes that we are in imminent danger, so cortisol triggers a number of metabolic changes to ensure that enough energy is available to muscles and bones in case a fight or flight is necessary. One of these energy-saving tactics is to suppress the metabolically expensive immune system, saving vital glucose for the approaching life-threatening event, with the body tensed up constantly primed for a predicted physical exertion that never comes.

During friendly interaction, oxytocin (our 'befriend and bond' hormone) promotes healthy immune function and improved wound healing.

Remaining in protection mode also affects physiological functions such as digestion and circulation, as all of these processes are controlled by the brain, via the autonomic nervous system. Feeling anxious or afraid can cause our heart to race and our bowels to empty, for example, and triggers inflammation. These processes aren’t usually under conscious control - we can’t ordinarily 'wish' changes to occur - but there are NH methods which we can use to direct them (reducing anxiety is an obvious example).

For optimal health and effective disease prevention, it's important for the unconscious mind to communicate to our body the message that it is currently safe and not in any danger. By activating the relaxation response, which allows us to "rest and digest," we can immediately ease a variety of health symptoms and restore our body and brain to growth mode and an anti-inflammatory state.

From a self programming pov, it doesn't matter what's really going on; what matters is what the unconscious believes is going on. This is important to remember for several reasons.

One reason is with regard to incongruity. As we mentioned in previous tutorials, the unconscious often gets the blame for what the conscious believes; so it's important to realize where limiting beliefs usually come from. Most people harbor conscious (NOT unconscious) beliefs that come from past experiences and limit their ability in the present, here and now, by conflicting with unconscious knowledge.

If, for example, based on our past experiences we came to believe consciously that we were not worthy of unconditional love, or that life was just a dangerous struggle, or a mind- shatteringly boring routine, or that we were in some way inferior to others, or that we had to work for someone else in order to live, or that we had no way to protect ourselves and there wasn't a safe place anywhere; to the degree that these beliefs were created by conditioning, they cause incongruity within the operating system which determines and influences the choices we make today. When we say one thing then do something hypocritical which disproves our words, we can be sure that there is a conscious/unconscious conflicting belief at work.

We already know about incongruity, but its easy to forget that if at the conscious level we say we want one thing, but our unconscious beliefs are in conflict, those deeply important unconscious beliefs will control our behavior; changing how we feel and what we do, despite what we may say or what we think we 'ought' to feel.

This awareness; that we always tend to do what the unconscious needs, by whatever ingenious means, is a good place from which to begin to understand how self programming often comes down to reducing anxiety sufficiently to follow our unconscious intent despite any conditioned or imposed conscious intentions.

As discussed in the introduction, paying attention to what the unconscious believes is vitally important in changing old habits. Fighting the unconscious or denying it takes us nowhere but further into incongruity. All we can do is work with it, and enable it to access what it needs.

No matter how much we may be convinced that our behavior is determined by fully conscious motives, we are still subject to unconscious motivation. You may respond, “I get what you say, and I agree that it may be true for others. But I just don’t feel that this applies to me.” Well, that response in itself is a form of unconscious denial.

It's no good believing that we are in control of our life, unless we recognize that 'we' are mostly our unconscious mind. If we insist that the conscious mind is all there is to 'me', then our unconscious and conscious minds will be in constant conflict over what will be in control of our behavior, and it can be pretty much guaranteed that the unconscious will tend to prevail unless serious dysfunction is present. The only way to 'control' the unconscious is to recognize that it is you it and get on with being it. Embody the unconscious as biology intended, and cognitive dissonance will never arise.

What the unconscious believes is going on is vitally important in multilevel programming, as it relies on processes also evident in the placebo effect; which is a good place to study them.

the placebo effect

The placebo effect reveals the most obvious aspects of the importance of perception and belief in our health and wellbeing from a perspective of self programming.

In recent decades, research has confirmed the efficacy of various placebo treatments in nearly all areas of medicine. Placebos have helped alleviate pain, depression, anxiety, hormone deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, inflammatory disorders, cardiovascular problems and even cancer.

Placebo factors have neurobiological underpinnings and actual (measurable) effects on the brain and body. Researchers have unraveled some of the biology of placebo responses, demonstrating how they stem from processes in the brain.

If we take a drug for a medical condition, we have a mental world of ideas and expectations concerning its efficacy. However, that mental world does not exist independently from the brain. Rather, mental processes correspond to a pattern of activity within the brain, thus for each mind state there is a corresponding 'brain state'. When we hear the words, “here is a drug that will bring you some relief”, that suggestion will have an effect on the mind, creating expectancy and optimism about the outcome of our illness. The corresponding brain state causes us to release hormones which improve the effectiveness of our own immune system and speed of healing; so learning how to do this on purpose is a very useful tool, and we'll explain how to do so in the NHA Guide section later on.

Our mental state can also be crucial in determining our experience of symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue and depression. Taking a placebo painkiller causes the release of pain-relieving endorphins or cannabinoids in the brain, for example, whereas fake oxygen can reduce levels of neurotransmitters called prostaglandins, which dilate blood vessels and cause many of the symptoms of altitude sickness.

Since these effects can be measured, when we experience a placebo response, it’s obviously not imaginary or “all in the mind”; nor is the result ''wishful thinking'; placebos also work on animals, who don't listen much to what we say we're giving them anyway.

Our symptoms are eased by physical changes during the placebo effect just like those triggered by drugs. This is because warning signals such as pain are ultimately controlled by the brain, and emotional weighting modulates our experience of pain. Feeling anxious, isolated or under threat causes the brain to amplify the warning with an emotional weighting for protection mode; whereas feeling safe, nurtured and optimistic triggers anxiety reduction, causing emotional weighting relevant to growth and repair.

The experience of receiving care and nurturing – whether real or fake – can reduce our symptoms for the same reason.

The placebo response may be modulated by many different environmental factors involved in the context ; factors that influence our expectations, desires, and emotions.[46] Environmental and psychosocial determinants of placebo responses/effects include conditioning, verbal suggestions and behaviors, all of which rely on our underlying beliefs.

Understanding these processes better and working out when we can (and can’t) replace drugs or techniques with placebos, achieving the same clinical results with no side effects, would obviously be a benefit, but as you can imagine, drug companies aren’t exactly lining up to facilitate this approach. Indeed, modern medical investigators have often regarded the placebo response as a bloody nuisance; so if you research this online be prepared to ward off both placebo woo-woo (like, the belief that placebos can do anything) and placebo denial (like, there is no such thing as the placebo effect and all the data must be false). Such extremist views stem from lack of scientific understanding.

In the classic placebo effect, the hypothesis used to go: a person consciously believes that a substance or procedure is therapeutic, and this belief has a physiological consequence that dampens the pain or ameliorates other symptoms.

However, research shows that placebo effects can also arise from unconscious associations and conditioning as opposed to overt conscious beliefs. Stimuli that a person unconsciously link with feeling better or with physical improvement; such as care and nurturing, a stethoscope or the smell of an herbal preparation, may also induce physiological responses even if a person has no explicit belief about the treatment being given. That is, simply taking a pill in certain conditions can produce a placebo response if a person has previously associated those conditions with feeling better.


Two types of placebo response

Placebo responses are primarily mediated via two neuropsychological mechanisms: our conscious expectations/beliefs about the benefit of a treatment, and associative unconscious learning processes.[47]

Research has identified these two main types of placebo response as driven by different mechanisms depending on the context. One targets conscious awareness, the other unconscious knowledge. Both unconscious 'association placebos' and conscious 'expectation placebos' play different roles in the placebo effect, using separate biological mechanisms.[48]

Conscious, 'expectation-based' or 'belief-based' placebo responses, such as pain relief (analgesia), are best initiated and maintained by conscious expectations of and belief in symptom changes, changes in motivation/emotions, and techniques such as hypnosis. They can be produced by expectation-based psychological mediators related to brain structures involved in benefit affinity and harm aversion, and regulation of emotions. These rely on cues, which signal that an actual medication or treatment has been given (expectation and belief).

The placebo effects of conscious expectations, desires, beliefs and emotions can target prospective symptom changes in such areas as pain, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and mood changes.

Unconscious, 'association-based' placebo responses can be produced by suggestion, or past effects of active treatments (via classical conditioning in self-programming), which works well for immune system, hormonal, and respiratory responses.[48]

Both may take place at the same time.

Expectation placebos - conscious belief, expectations & emotional weighting

Overall, those who consciously believe that a treatment will work display a stronger placebo effect than those that do not.[50] Beliefs can manipulate those behaviors

that rely on conscious processes more effectively than conditioning can.

However, beliefs and suggestions are not effective when it comes to directing involuntary (unconscious) bodily responses. That is, just sitting around saying (or thinking), 'my cortisol levels are falling', 'my anxiety is reducing', or, 'this tooth doesn't really hurt' will NOT lower cortisol levels, reduce anxiety or produce analgesia.[51]

The biological mechanism behind placebo analgesia relies on our own endogenous chemistry. Following receiving what we are told is a painkilling injection, for example, we release endogenous opioids (and in some cases, cannabinoids); and the expectation effect in this case works partly through the release of these opioids and partly because when people believe they are receiving an analgesic, neuronal activity also declines significantly in five pain-sensing brain regions, including parts of the rostral anterior cingulate, which helps determine how much pain we are feeling, the insular cortex, which receives signals from the body about pain, and the nucleus accumbens, which tells us how important it is.[52]

Here then, expectations are clearly affecting concrete physiology in two different ways: promoting the release of neurotransmitters and closing down areas of pain processing.

Conscious expectation is necessary for placebo analgesia. Adding an overt suggestion for pain relief can increase placebo analgesia to a magnitude that matches that of an active agent.

Cognitive & emotional changes

People are likely to perceive environmental factors in different ways, and these differences are likely to contribute to the magnitude, duration, and qualities of placebo responses. Cognitive and emotional factors that have been proposed to contribute to placebo effects include expected symptom intensity, desire for symptom change, changes in emotion, and distortions in memory. Interestingly, ratings of desire, expectation, and anxiety decrease over time along with the increase in placebo effect.[53]

Expectations & memory

The memory of previous experiences is also likely to influence the experience of things like pain. The magnitude of placebo analgesic effects based on retrospective ratings is three to four times greater than the magnitude based on concurrent ratings, and the main reason for this difference is that subjects remember their baseline pain intensity as being much larger than it actually was.

When placebo analgesia effects are assessed concurrently, the remembered placebo effects are strongly correlated with expected pain intensities. Thus, placebo analgesia effects may also be enhanced by distorted memories of pretreatment levels of pain. Furthermore, as remembered pain and expected pain are closely related, these psychological factors seem to interact.[54]

emotional regulation

Emotions can significantly influence the perceived intensity of pain, but the involvement of brain areas involved in emotional regulation and hence in placebo responses is not restricted only to pain modulation. Researchers have demonstrated a placebo effect related to the reduction of anxiety associated with viewing unpleasant pictures.[55] Reductions in experienced unpleasantness were accompanied by increases in brain areas previously implicated in emotional modulation and previously shown to be involved in placebo analgesia. These areas include the OFC, rACC, and amygdala. They also include areas involved in treatment expectation, such as ventrolateral PFC and rACC.

drunk without drink, nicotine without nicotine, sobriety despite substances...

Researchers have found that those who believe they have been drinking vodka (which was actually simply tonic water and lime) had impaired judgment and did worse on simple tests. Their memory was impaired, and their IQ became lower.[56] In another recent study, all participants inhaled nicotine, yet some showed significantly different brain activity. Why the difference? Some subjects were told their cigarettes were nicotine free. The people who believed they had smoked nicotine cigarettes made different choices and had different neural signals than the other participants, despite the fact that both groups had consumed exactly the same substance.

Belief can enhance or diminish the neurological effects of an addictive drug.[57] People who believed they had smoked nicotine had significantly higher activity in their reward-learning pathways, and those who did not believe they had smoked nicotine did not exhibit those same signals; regardless of what they had smoked, it was the belief alone that modulated activity in the learning pathway, erasing or enhancing the effects of nicotine in participants who were under the influence of the active drug.[58]

enhancement via placebo

An unusual experiment with the aid of professional bicyclists highlighted the possibilities of placebos for enhancement. They were told they’d receive either a standard performance enhancing supplement containing caffeine, or a new supplement, expected to improve performance to a greater degree than the standard pill.

Both pills were placebos; containing nothing but corn flour. The racers were asked to cycle at max capacity twice in one day. The first race was to establish their baseline max, and the second to evaluate the effect of the 'supplement'.

Interestingly, although the racers were tired and had received no genuine performance enhancer, half of them were faster in the second race. One cyclist broke his own personal speed record. After hundreds of similar experiments on athletes, these kinds of results turn out to be typical.[59]

Taken together, results support a model of placebo mechanism wherein goals, desire, expectation, and consequent emotional feelings codetermine this type of placebo response.[60]

Large placebo effects that accompany corresponding decreases in activity within symptom-related areas of the brain underscore both the psychological and biological reality of this placebo response and support current models of mind-brain interactions.[61]

Mainstream research is unlikely to consider whether many of the benefits of conventional drugs and medical interventions are also due to the placebo effect. Drugs work because we have the receptors for the drugs, and that means we have endogenous brain chemicals that ordinarily interact with those receptors. Receptors have evolved to respond to those natural substances. In short, this type of placebo effect relies on chemicals — our own — which are released in response to or in accordance with our mental or emotional expectations and beliefs. Whenever we are certain something should occur in our bodies or brains, and such change is possible, it happens.

Somatic attention and feedback are sometimes classed as a third type of placebo response; however this is related to expectations and belief. Somatic attention and feedback is based on how much attention a person pays a particular stimulus. The way the person interprets that stimulus depends on their belief about its importance. Often our interpretation will dictate whether we are experiencing pain or pain relief, and whether pain is from side effects or another medical condition. This mechanism will often lead to actual relief because, by construing something as relieving, it induces physiological changes from decreased anxiety.[62]

Association placebos - unconscious programming via classical conditioning

Association placebos can control those involuntary (unconscious) bodily processes of which we are ordinarily unaware, such as our immune response and the release of hormones. Expectation does often contribute, but its influence extends mainly to symptoms that we can consciously perceive, such as pain, immunity responses, or modulation of hormones in the endocrine system associated with emotion.

In classical conditioning, we are told, repeated associations between a neutral stimulus (conditioned stimulus, or CS), for example a syringe or a pill, and an unconditioned stimulus (US), for instance the active drug inside the syringe or pill, lead to a conditioned response (CR), whereby the CS alone induces a physiological response that is similar in all respects to that of the US.[63]

Simple version: this means that classical conditioning uses the 'association anchoring' effect which memory uses for all learning (see tutorial 16). For example, if a placebo and an actual stimulus are used simultaneously until the placebo is associated with the effect from the actual stimulus, once the association is automatic, the placebo alone will produce the effect.

'Learned' placebo effects on immune functions via association conditioning are based on the bidirectional communication between the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral immune system. Based on this “hardware,” experimental evidence in animals and humans shows that humoral and cellular immune functions can be affected by the deliberate use of behavioral conditioning processes.[64]

This makes it very clear that there is not just a single placebo effect; rather, there are different mechanisms taking place in different conditions on the one hand and in different systems and apparatuses on the other. Classical conditioning provides both belief in the power of the treatment and experiences that are consistent with those beliefs. Those experiences help the brain learn to respond to the treatment as a real event. After the learning has occurred, our brain can still respond to the placebo.[65]

Structure & function

The insular cortex is essential for conditioning at all times. Subjects with a damaged insular cortex exhibit no conditioned immune response. The amygdala appears to be indispensable for immune conditioning only during the first, so-called 'acquisition phase' of conditioning, suggesting that the amygdala weights the input of visceral information, including the status of vital signs and the immune system, during learning. The hypothalamus participates in relaying information from the brain to the organs and immune system to evoke the conditioned response.

Programming via classical conditioning can thus affect earlier stages of information processing without conscious awareness,[66] and also manipulate involuntary physiological processes more efficiently than conscious beliefs can, and this type of placebo response plays a key role for phenomena other than pain. Two of the best examples of conditioned placebo responses come from the immune and endocrine systems.

Immune system

Conditioned changes in immune functions have been demonstrated in humans, as discussed above. The physiological mechanisms responsible for this ‘learned immune response’ include afferent and efferent pathways in the communication between the brain and the immune system. In addition, possible benefits and applicability in clinical settings have been demonstrated where behaviorally conditioned immunosuppression attenuated the exacerbation of autoimmune diseases, prolonged allograft survival and affected allergic responses.[67]

Endocrine System

By using an analgesic drug—the serotonin agonist sumatriptan, which stimulates growth hormone (GH) and inhibits cortisol secretion— it was shown that a conditioning procedure is capable of producing placebo secretive responses of hormones [68] Anti histamine effects have been produced via classical conditioning with an association anchor: 30 subjects, who were allergic to dust, washed down allergy pills for five days, with a strange-tasting drink. (The allergy pill inhibited histamine reaction). Later, 11 of the subjects received the strange drink but with an inactive placebo pill. Those subjects who got the strange drink with placebo had nearly the same reduction in allergy symptoms as those who received the active pill.[69]

other conditions

Some biological responses to placebo administration have been described in detail. These studies are now providing interesting models to better understand the placebo effect across different systems and conditions; such as the respiratory and cardiovascular system, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.

For examples, after postoperative patients receive repeated administrations of analgesic doses of buprenorphine, which induces a mild reduction of ventilation, a placebo is capable of mimicking the same respiratory depressant response.

In a pharmacological study in healthy volunteers, it was found that placebo analgesia in experimental ischemic arm pain was accompanied by a reduction of heart rate.

Both these responses are totally blocked by naloxone, indicating that they are mediated by endogenous opioids.

Parkinsonian patients also respond to placebos quite well; a study that used positron emission tomography to assess endogenous dopamine release showed that placebo-induced expectation of motor improvement activates dopamine in the striatum of Parkinsonian patients.70] In addition, different and opposite expectations of bad and good motor performance can modulate the therapeutic effect of subthalamic nucleus stimulation, in Parkinsonian patients who have undergone implantation of electrodes for deep brain stimulation (DBS).[71]

Depressed people who received placebo treatments showed both electrical and metabolic changes in the brain. In one study, placebos induced electroencephalographic changes in the prefrontal cortex of patients with major depression, particularly in the right hemisphere.[72]

Placebo treatments for depression are associated with metabolic increases in the prefrontal, anterior cingulate, premotor, parietal, posterior insula, and posterior cingulate cortex, and metabolic decreases in the subgenual cingulate cortex, para-hippocampus, and thalamus. Interestingly, these regions are also affected by the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor fluoxetine (Prozac); a result that suggests a possible role for serotonin in placebo-induced antidepressant effects.[73]

multilevel functions

Both types of placebo effect often occur together; for example the placebo effect in pain reduction consists of both components; the expectation effect, which is mediated by endogenous opioids, and the conditioned effect, which works in the same manner as whatever analgesic is used in the conditioning.

Some studies suggest that while associative conditioning has a role in at least some placebo responses, in most cases the proximate psychological mediators seem to be expectations, beliefs, motivations, and emotions.

Contextual elements such as nurturing support from allies, care, anxiety reduction and positive attitude are important in both types of placebo effect too. Placebo effects can arise from both conscious and unconscious associations between recovery and the experience of being nurtured and cared about.[74]

Obviously, techniques which include both possibilities have greater chance of success.

placebo 'responders' and 'non responders'

It has long been known that there are placebo responders and nonresponders; the magnitude of, for example, placebo analgesia across a range of subjects may range from no responses to large responses.

We are all different. Placebo effects rely on complex neurobiologic mechanisms requiring sufficient neurotransmitters and receptors (e.g., endorphins, cannabinoids, and dopamine) and successful activation of specific, quantifiable, and relevant areas of the brain (e.g., prefrontal cortex, anterior insula, rostral anterior cingulate cortex, and amygdala in placebo analgesia).[75] Many common medications also act through these pathways. In addition, genetic signatures of patients who are likely to respond to placebos are beginning to be identified.[76]

It has been suggested that brain functional changes during placebo treatment can be used to identify the subjects who are likely to be strong placebo responders. In particular, strong placebo responders have lower pretreatment frontocentral cordance (a measure of electroencephalogram activity) in comparison with all other subjects.[77] Placebo responders also have faster cognitive processing time, as assessed by neuropsychological testing, and lower reporting of insomnia.

It appears clear, however, that this is not entirely due to differences in subjects; indeed, the type of experimental manipulation used to induce placebo analgesia plays a fundamental role in the magnitude of the response. Among different manipulations that have been performed, both the type of verbal suggestions and the individual’s previous experience have been found to be important. Verbal suggestions that induce certain expectations of analgesia induce larger placebo responses than those inducing uncertain expectations. As noted above, previous experience can also influence the magnitude of placebo analgesia.

In addition to the roles of goals, desires, and expectations in placebo responding, there is evidence that the degree of somatic awareness and attention can moderate the effects of beliefs and expectancy.

Research proposes a cognitive-emotional model of the placebo effect in which positive suggestions for improvements in our physical health lead us to attend more closely to the state of our bodies and minds, and more selectively to signs of improvement. When we pay close attention to these signs, we take them as evidence that the procedure has been effective.

If somatic focus operates as a kind of feedback that supports factors underlying placebo responding, increasing the degree or frequency of somatic focusing could increase the magnitude of placebo responses over time. This possibility is supported by observations showing that the growth of the placebo effect at least partly depends on the frequency of test stimuli.[78]

Thus, small and large placebo responses may be obtained in the same person depending on several factors, such as their previous positive or negative experience of an analgesic treatment and the time lag between the treatment and the placebo responses. These findings indicate that placebo analgesia is finely tuned by prior experience, but further research needs to be done. The placebo effect may represent a learning phenomenon involving several factors and this too may explain the large variability of the magnitude of placebo responses among studies.

Disruption of the placebo effect is seen with reduced connectivity between the prefrontal lobes and the rest of the brain; either because of cognitive impairment (for example Alzheimer's) or because of incongruity and/or retarded development.

Q: Can we train up sensitivity to placebos?

A: If we have good discrimination, the value of suggestibility is priceless. Self hypnosis becomes very easy, and the power of belief is such that it becomes reality; if it is possible for something to be real, and we convince our body and mind that something is absolutely real, it becomes so. This is the bridge between imagination and material reality that plays hell with the idea of 'fixed systems' and causes what some think of as 'miracles'. They're not. Our creative power is just that marvellous; we don't need supernature when nature is that super.

It's a hard thing to get the hang of because of course if we don't believe, it won't work, and people find it hard to get the idea of themselves as having those kinds of capabilities.

The downside to increasing sensibility is of course the danger of accidental nocebo effect. We have to make sure we've got strong awareness and control of our attention and our input first (doing things in the right order, right?) Otherwise we could just make ourselves extremely gullible and may end up sending all our bank details to Nigerian Princesses.

open vs hidden placebos

Further implications of the role of placebo mechanisms on the outcome of an effective therapy are seen with the differences between a standard administration of a treatment and a hidden administration. This difference in effect has been demonstrated not only for pain but also other conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. Several analgesia studies have used the open-hidden paradigm, demonstrating that open administration of a drug is significantly more effective than hidden administration.[79]

The open-hidden paradigm underscores the importance of placebo mechanisms, particularly expectations, on the outcome of a given treatment. In doing so, it demonstrates that the therapeutic interaction between people can play a significant role in the outcome of a therapy.

eyes open vs eyes shut

Researchers have found that placebos work even when administered without any deception (eg., the person is told they are being given a placebo).[80] This is known as an 'eyes open' placebo.

If subjects are deceived and told they are receiving a powerful drug, that is 'eyes closed' placebo; ie., the person is unaware of what is going on.

Q: Since placebos work in both circumstances, why bother using the deceptive kind?

A: For some people, the deceptive kind of placebo produces stronger results. However, there are important benefits for learning how to use the 'eyes open' placebo method, as we cannot deceive ourselves when using this technique.

What happens if  things go  wrong?

The nocebo effect

“Nocebo” (meaning “I shall harm”), might be thought of as the 'dark side' of the placebo (“I shall please”). In a nocebo response, a negative attitude, belief or expectation can actually cause harm or another undesirable outcome.

For example, as mentioned above, disbelief in free will, or the belief that 'willpower' can be reduced if our brains don't receive reinforcement, can trigger a nocebo effect.[81]

According to several recent studies, pain and itching appear to be especially susceptible to verbal suggestion in the nocebo effect; people who are told that a stimulus will cause itching feel the itching more intensely than those told that the stimulus is unlikely to cause itching.[82] Another area of health that researchers suspect may be affected by nocebo is the increased incidence of asthma and allergies.[83]

This is as real a biochemical and physiological process as placebos, involving pain and stress pathways in the brain.

Mounting evidence suggests that the nocebo effect is having a substantial negative impact on clinical research, medicine, and health, because it may be much more widespread than previously suspected.

In December 2012, a meta-analysis revealed the shockingly large impact of the nocebo effect in clinical trials: in 18 drug studies, 11 percent of 3,546 patients in the placebo arm—meaning they were receiving a completely inert substance—dropped out of the study because of 'side effects' from a placebo, including dizziness and nausea.[84] Other studies have calculated that nocebo effects cause between 4 and 26 percent of patients taking placebo to leave a clinical trial because of 'side effects' from an inert treatment.

But the most common place where the nocebo effect makes an appearance is in everyday visits to clinics and hospitals. Anxiety, fear and distress before an operation has been associated with slow postoperative recovery and delayed wound healing. What's more, the nocebo effect can occur without conscious awareness.[85] In those susceptible, even the 'possible side effects' listings on drug leaflets could ostensibly trigger those very effects![86]

It is also becoming clear just how easily dangerous beliefs can spread through gossip and misinformation via nocebo effects. Negative expectations can be communicated to friends, neighbours, and others, and they spread very quickly, producing nocebo effects in a large population of subjects.

It is now known that the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the brain is activated during a nocebo response, as detected by an increase in the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland, a measurable marker of anxiety.[87] A person’s expectation of pain can induce anticipatory anxiety, triggering the activation of cholecystokinin (CCK). CCK-mediated pathways in turn facilitate pain transmission, which occurs in specific areas of the brain.

The good news is, anxiety reduction lowers the possibility of nocebo effects, and any anxiolytic reduces the likelihood of nocebo. For example, any cholecystokinin (CCK)2 receptor antagonist will block the nocebo effect (for example Proglumide).

Proglumide enhances the analgesia produced by opioid drugs,[88] and blocks receptors for CCK2. (CCK2 antagonists have been primarily investigated for the treatment of anxiety and panic attacks, as well as for analgesic effects.) Interestingly, Proglumide can also prevent drug tolerance for opioids.[89]

It's helpful to have a clear understanding of the nocebo effect, and awareness of how to initiate its placebo counterpart.

Wrong input/lack of input

In context of belief, wrong input and lack of input manifest as follows:

Believing things are true or real when in reality they are not (wrong input)

Believing things are not true or real when in reality they are (lack of input)

Needless to say, both often occur in the same person.

Believing things are true when they are not is exemplified in the nocebo effect. Reading or hearing misinformation can have harmful effects; another reason why input control is very important.

But, we hear you think, isn't 'believing misinformation' the same mechanism – based on false expectations - as the placebo effect?

Oddly, it isn't (and this is where you really get to understand placebos). What the unconscious mind 'believes' in is our own ability to direct our own biological responses, and this is not a false belief; it is absolutely real and can be measured on a concrete level. We don't even have to believe in a pill -as we know, 'eyes open' placebos still work, and they do so because what the mind believes in -our own ability to change our physiology via self-suggestion – is absolutely real.

Unlike the placebo effect, the nocebo effect appears to be something we are only vulnerable to if anxious (since anxiolytics can totally block it). We can, in fact, build up resilience against nocebos simply be decreasing anxiety, which has no effect on placebo effectiveness.

In the same way that anxiety can shift us from growth mode into protection mode, turn interaction into action/reaction, and warp emotion into sentiment, it seems likely that nocebos are a dysfunctional effect caused by anxiety warping the placebo response.

Our mission in NH, therefore, is to learn how to use the 'eyes open' placebo method. The benefit of this comes from the fact that autonomy is involved. We can train our systems to respond to the placebo effect when initiated by us using any input we choose, yet also to ignore any harmful suggestions made by others, and to be resilient against false suggestions.

It all comes down to who you want to be in control of your mind and your health -you, or anybody else. The mind itself can be a potent healing factor – but it can also be used against us if we do not have autonomy


why we end up stuck with false beliefs:

Here are some reasons why we end up stuck with false beliefs


conditioning with counterfeit game rules

Conditioning reduces many of our beliefs to one: obey the rules. Taken together 'the rules' become our worldview. Anxiety, including our responses to threats, attacks, abuse, and insults, often cause us to revert to counterfeit rules based on fallacies created by incongruous thinking.

Conditioning with counterfeit game rules is harmful because they distract us from the many alternatives that could provide creative solutions or help us constructively resolve conflict. They also lead to assumptions about ourselves and others which cause interaction problems.


An assumption is an unfounded belief. Assumptions are unchallenged, unquestioned, unexamined, and very often untrue. Know how you know. Don't be seduced by assumptions, challenge them instead. Don't ignore or dismiss evidence, be guided by it. Don't rely on blind-faith; inquire and explore.


presumption can range from an over-dismissive and skeptical stance to an over-accepting and gullible stance. It is a form of prejudice (pre-judging something as true or false before all facts are available).

filtering (selectivity)

This is a failure to consider all the evidence in a balanced and objective assessment. We go where our attention is, and our attention is inherently limited. Selectivity is a failure to consider a neutral, or balanced, point of view. It can have two basic forms. The first is considering only the negative details and magnifying them while filtering out all the positive aspects of a situation. The second is taking the positive details and magnifying them while filtering out all the negative aspects of a situation.

In either case evidence that supports your bias is selected, favored, or weighted more heavily than evidence contrary to your bias. Find the realistic balance between the optimistic and pessimistic points of view. Seek out, carefully consider, and assimilate ALL the evidence you can.


It is incorrect to arrive at a general conclusion based on a single incident or piece of evidence. This is a common example of the more general fallacy of basing a conclusion on unrepresentative evidence. Consider a broad range of representative evidence before drawing a conclusion. Consider systematic evidence, and dismiss anecdotal evidence.

false dichotomy (false choice, polarized thinking, primal thinking, false dilemma, black and white thinking)

Counterfeit game rules often create a rigid and absolute notion of good and evil, based on the fallacy of thinking that things are either black or white, good or bad, harm or benefit, all or nothing, nature or nurture. This belief distracts us from recognizing that most situations result from and impart a combination of both.

Conditioned thinking relies on absolute, polarized categories while it dehumanizes the perceived enemy or threat. When these faulty rules are used to interpret another's behavior, they can lead to very wrong conclusions and hostile overreactions.

mind reading illusion

You conclude, incorrectly and without considering other alternatives or testing your assumptions, that you understand how another person is/was thinking and what their reasons and motives are/were for taking a particular action. This is an example of the Fundamental Attribution Error where we incorrectly attribute an action or intention to an agent.

One example of this is drawing a negative conclusion in the absence of supporting information. Focusing only on evidence that supports a negative position, while neglecting to consider alternative positive explanations is the fallacy of not considering representative evidence. It is false to conclude that “Alice must hate me because she didn't say 'hi' to me.” There are many plausible explanations for why she neglected to say “hi”.

It is a fallacy to believe we can correctly know a person's intent for behaving as they do. Intent cannot be reliably inferred from behavior, even though many beliefs can. The results of someones behavior may or may not be deliberate. The person may not even be aware of what they are doing. Their behavior may or may not be directed at you. Their behavior may have unintended consequences which may result from an accident or chance.

personalization (self-bias, self-reference)

This is the fallacy of incorrectly thinking that everything is all about you and that everything people say or do is a reaction to you. It is a self-centered viewpoint where you attribute personal meaning to everything that happens.

This point-of-view often causes the aggressor to view themself as the true victim; their cause is just and is not to be thwarted. It also often results in a set of self-centered synthetic (counterfeit) rules. The only way out of this trap is to face the truth; life is not all about you. Other people have, on the whole, no interest in you whatsoever. Live with it.

intentional stance

A class of attribution errors based on the belief that outcomes only result from an agent's intent, that nothing happens by accident, and that bad things are the result of intentional evil. One example is attributing natural disasters such as drought, floods, and hurricanes to the revenge of supernatural forces. Personal examples, such as attributing the difficulties faced by one group to the habits or behavior of another, quickly provide a basis for distrust, suspicion and offense.

pattern discernment

In some situations we may think we see a pattern that isn't in fact there; the outcomes are simply the result of random events, coincidence, or accidents. We may also fail to recognize a pattern that is present.


This is when we anticipate an unreasonable disaster based on a small problem. Every scrap of bad news turns into an inevitable looming tragedy. This is another example of the more general fallacy of basing a conclusion on unrepresentative evidence. Consider a broader range of representative evidence before drawing a conclusion. Strike a realistic balance between optimistic and pessimistic views. Skip the histrionics.

control fallacies

It is a fallacy to mistake what you should be controlling (such as, yourself) with what you cannot control (such as, the ocean, the weather, or other people). Don't underestimate the degree of control you have for your own behavior. You are not helpless, powerless, nor perpetually a victim. Do not depend unrealistically on others for your own well being. Examine the alternatives you have for interaction and taking responsibility for your life. But also, do not overestimate your personal responsibility for the happiness or pain or behavior of others. In real life other peoples lives are none of your business, even if they choose to interact with you sometimes. You have no automatic right to anyone's company or conversation, and you certainly have no right to pry into their affairs.

fallacy of fairness / just world theory

There is a seriously mistaken belief that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. This is sometimes used as an excuse to blame the victim; “they got what they deserve.”

There is no magical 'justice' on the planet; there's just us. Only intelligent beings can give concepts such as 'fairness' meaning. The world may not be fair, or at least it may not always work according to what you feel is fair. Examine your own sense of justice and continue to calibrate and reconcile it with what happens in the real world. The principle of empathy is a good basis for justice, and rectitude is the emotion that urges us to act on our sense of justice.

Not all beings are intelligent; don't harbor anxious resentment at every injustice you perceive. Also examine any feelings of self righteousness for anxiety based origins. Consider ways you really are able to make life fairer.

the blame game

As discussed in previous tutorials, when we are anxious, dependent or insecure we blame our difficulties on outward causes. This leads us quickly to blame others or 'circumstances' for our difficulties. This fallacy describes an inappropriate belief in an external locus of control.

disproportionate responsibility (single causes)

Almost always, many causes contribute to each result, outcome, event, or incident. For example, the causes contributing to an automobile accident can include: design of the automobile, manufacture of the automobile, maintenance of the automobile, design of the road system, weather conditions, driver training, driver preparation, driver attention, choice of vehicle, choice of route, choice of time and schedule, passenger behavior, pedestrians, obstacles, traffic signals, other cars and drivers on the road, alcohol, headaches, fatigue, illness and many other factors. With any problem or issue, it is very unlikely that any one thing is solely responsible. Don't make the mistake of single cause attribution when assessing responsibility, and don't attribute undue blame to other factors in order to avoid responsibility yourself.

'should have, would have, could have, ...didn't' (counterfactual thinking, imperatives)

Don't get anxious every time someone does not act according to your ideal. The word “should” is a plea to behave according to a particular (often implicit and parochial) set of values and beliefs. Examine those beliefs, and decide if they really do apply to the person or situation that is irritating you. What is the evidence? What can you change and what can't you change? It is reasonable to expect that others will act according to your ideal vision of their behavior or role, especially when your preferences are unstated? Even empathy can't help other people to know what you personally find ideal.

fallacy of change

It is unrealistic and arrogant to believe you can or ought to deliberately change other people's lives, personality, deeply ingrained habits, or strongly held beliefs, 'for their own good'. Be realistic about what you are supposed to change and what are not responsible for. What other people believe is none of your business; your task is to be certain of what you believe.

appearing to be right is more important than being right

If we are anxious about what others think of us, dogmatically holding onto an opinion, belief, or defending an action can be a destructive result of the fear of appearing wrong.

cognitive dissonance & confabulation

Tension between beliefs, thoughts and behavior cause an uncomfortable contradiction and lack of integrity, for incongruity always exists unless our behaviors support our thoughts and beliefs. To 'close the gap' and relieve this tension anxious people often revise their thoughts after the event to support their actions. In other words, people spontaneously invent defenses and justifications for the situations they now believe they are stuck with. What is remarkable is how strongly we can delude ourselves into believing these self-justifying stories when we make them up ourselves.

People often unknowingly fill gaps in memory with fabrications that they believe to be true, manufacturing a plausible story to account for surprising events or behavior. They confuse imagination with memory, or they confuse true memories with false memories. Often people can’t seem to stop themselves from making up explanations after the fact for whatever it was they just did for unconscious reasons. Other times, boredom with everyday tedium results in confabulation in order to 'make life seem more interesting' and avoid an ongoing lack of input.


Believing that all is good and everything will turn out fine provides the important benefits of encouraging us to persist toward our goals and overcome obstacles. However, unchecked optimism and unrealistic wishful thinking can easily detach us from the truths of reality.

Examine the evidence, think critically, allow for skepticism, consider a variety of viewpoints, come to a balanced conclusion, and interact.

reward fallacy

Don't play the martyr; expecting every sacrifice you make to be rewarded. Sometimes others will appreciate what you do, but often they will not. Anyone who didn't actually ask for help may not even notice whether or not you personally help them. Likewise, no one is coming to take over your life and save you. You are responsible for your own life, well being, and happiness. Exercise your autonomy and interact because you want to, not because you believe you will somehow be rewarded.

Asch effect

People often change their opinions to agree with the majority, despite the presence of clear contrary evidence. Anxious people often modify their judgment or estimate of an observation to conform with the majority opinion of a group, or that of someone they think of as important.[90] Think for yourself!

in-group bias

The tendency to attribute positive motives to in-group members (especially yourself) and negative motives to out-group members (especially those regarded as “the enemy”).

universal labeling

If someone argues, “Everybody knows that”; 'It has long been known that'; 'It's common knowledge'; 'experts believe'; or 'it's scientific fact', ask to see the proof. These are script catchphrases in counterfeit games. 'Everyone knows' is not evidence. If there really is scientific proof, it shouldn't be at all hard to find.


It's a mistake believing that the laws of physics or biochemistry don't apply to everything, including us. Believing in miracles or believing that wishful thinking or sheer 'will' alone can cause the outcome you are hoping for are examples of belief in magic, as are appeals to paranormal or supernatural phenomena. Don't let optimism exceed the bounds of reality. Blind hope is not a workable strategy.

accepting repetition as evidence

Sometimes a person will simply repeat their opinion when asked to provide evidence to justify an assertion or belief they have expressed. They may repeat their position emphatically, engage in various bullying behaviors, show impatience, or unbalance power relations as they simply repeat their opinion. But repetition is not evidence and it should not be accepted as evidence.

assumptions, opinions, rumors treated as fact

It is both easy and common for assumptions, opinions, or rumors to be accepted as fact. This can happen if these ideas or stories seem reasonable to you on the surface, if they support your views or interests, if they advance some hoped for outcome, if they are expressed by someone in authority or someone you trust, if the stories are fun to tell, or if others you know also share these beliefs. The incorrect assumption, opinion, and rumor that the earth is the center of the universe went unchallenged by millions of people for perhaps thousands of years. Other rumors and unchallenged assumptions can be even more destructive. When you hear a rumor, take the time to challenge it; identify and examine the source, and get independent confirmation of it before passing it on. Don't accept myths, legends, hearsay, speculations or fiction as fact.


This is the error of treating an abstract construct (such as 'the government', 'the company', ''the bank' or 'the church') as if it is or represents a living person or physical entity with desires, feelings, wants, thoughts, morals and an opinion.

Only living creatures have these things. Imaginary abstract constructs that we make up cannot have emotions, desires or opinions.

It's surprising how easily we are fooled into believing that synthetic constructs are real, alive, well defined, widely shared, and correct. Stating that “The government has decided . . .” or "The company feels..." does not make any kind of rational sense; as it falsely attributes intent and responsibility and the ability to make decisions to an abstract concept, which is delusional.

'A government' cannot decide anything; only entities with minds can do these things.

A related error is to treat a non-living object as if it has intent or judgment. Remember that abstractions are nothing more than arbitrarily defined, ephemeral, imagined mental constructs. Fictional constructs are all just as elusive as the legendary pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Don't take them seriously. Operational definitions can help reduce the ambiguity inherent in the abstractions we use.



Research identifies two major catalysts for the prevalence of superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs: the misinformation explosion on public media (wrong input) and the low level of scientific literacy  in the general public (lack of input).

The human mind is a prolific generator of beliefs about the world. The capacity  of our minds to  believe or disbelieve linguistic propositions, for example, is a powerful force for controlling both  behavior and emotion.

Because our minds have evolved to detect patterns in the world, we may tend to detect patterns that aren't actually there—ranging from faces in the clouds to an array of gods poking their divine hands into the workings of nature. As long as we recognize these musings as what they are – imaginative musings – there is no problem here. We are creative, pattern-recognizing beings; we invent and imagine many things in the passage of each day. However, if we start taking these musings as significant or real in some way, superstition arises.

Because false beliefs become just as habitual as true beliefs, people often participate in superstitious thinking or behavior without even realizing they're doing it. When was the last time you saw somebody 'touch wood' or 'knock on wood' for luck, cross their fingers, spill salt and throw some over their shoulder, follow (or avoid) a black cat, carry a 'lucky charm', worry about it being Friday the 13th, or read their daily horoscope? These are all examples of 'everyday' superstitions.

It may occur to you that superstition is in fact a kind of prejudice (ie, we are pre-judging a situation without all the relevant information), resulting in an inaccurate conclusion and biased decisions. But much superstition arises from a fear of the unknown – it is better to believe nonsense than to believe nothing and have to admit that 'we don't know yet'. Anxious people will do all sorts of mental gymnastics to avoid admitting 'we don't know yet', except for the one thing that would work -having the courage to learn more.

Often we invoke gods at the limits of our knowledge. Why do the stars move? We don't know yet? - Gods must be responsible. Why do people get diseases? We don't know yet? - Gods must be angry with them. Why do volcanoes explode? Etc., etc...

Conditioning is responsible for many superstitions. We know this because children without such conditioning are rarely influenced by non-logical coincidence. In other words, children don’t automatically infer meaning in natural events without first being primed somehow with the idea of an identifiable supernatural agent.[91]

Superstitions can play a very negative role in our lives, not least by restricting us, and are particularly dangerous when combined with bad habits such as gambling or problems such as paranoia or OCD. Phobic (fearful) superstitions can also cause a lot of anxiety. Inconveniently, the more anxious people are, the more likely they are to be superstitious.

Autonomy and dependence also play a role. Superstition requires the belief in external control of our lives. If our ontology includes an internal locus of control, we believe that we are responsible for our own lives; we are the director of our lives and we can make things happen. If we have an external locus of control, we tend to sit back and let things happen to us instead of the other way round. Dependent people with an external locus of control are much more likely to be superstitious, possibly as a way of pretending they have more power over their lives. The less control people have in real life, the more they pray to imaginary gods or attempt to manipulate 'luck' and 'fate' to help them control reality. People who are less decisive are also more superstitious.[92]

Mistaking patterns of coincidental correlation for causes and effects often leads to superstitions via accidental association conditioning. If, for example, every time it rains we coincidentally get really good news, this only has to happen two or three times before we start believing that the rain causes the good fortune; the rain becomes falsely associated with the reason for success.

Once again we could see this as a type of prejudice – or at best, premature conclusion and assumption. Selective attention or selective memory can add to the confusion, for example if we fail to pay attention to all the times when it rains and nothing happens, or when it rains and something bad happens, and only notice the 'rain=good things' correlation. The best way to treat any repeating correlation is to start exploring it experimentally. If you can't find a scientific explanation for a connection, chances are it's coincidence, and coincidence happens more often that we tend to believe is 'likely' if we don't understand probability.

One of the best ways to avoid superstition is to learn more about things. Your woo-woo awareness will increase accordingly. If something is in doubt, you have the ability to resolve it by experimentation and keeping records (written records don't get selective memory problems, and numbers don't lie.)

Most supernatural beliefs are picked up from others, and a good way to start ferreting out facts is to reframe the situation; for example, begin by assuming that everything you currently assume is 'supernatural' is in fact absolutely natural; that nature is in fact pretty super; and that all the super things which go on in nature may be examined by scientific method, even if we have to wait for adequate theories or technology sometimes in order to do so.

Revealingly, superstitious thinking is most evident precisely when people feel most

helpless, and superstitions can grow into disabling defense mechanisms.[93]

There is an explanation for everything we experience, and being open minded is about looking for genuine causes (which takes effort) instead of blaming events on our particular society's favorite fantasy demons or spooky forces (which is very easy). Those who believe in anything blindly are habitually lazy thinkers, and habitual lazy thinking results from lack of input and lack of energy, and leads to decline.



Unexpected, unconscious hallucinations (by which we mean NOT the sort induced on purpose via altered states, LSD, etc.) are the cause of much confusion between real and imagined input, and these are not usually a simple problem of wrong input or lack of input, but arise due to a monitoring error about the source of input.

Reality monitoring is the psychological process by which we introspectively discriminate real from imagined events; distinguishing a present perception from a present act of imagination or act of remembering.[94] When we make a wrong interpretation of the origin of input, we mistake signals generated inside our minds for signals coming from the outside environment, or we mix them up in some way.[95]

When reality monitoring breaks down, there's a resulting continuum of possible hallucinatory experiences. Mild events may cause us to mistake attribution, believing that a product of our own mental processes is something that is taking place (or did take place) in the real world. False memories are a good example. Various increasingly delusional states follow, with fairly harmless brief incidents (such as seeing a ghost) to more serious events such as those manifested in mania, paranoia or schizophrenia, in which the brain may make no distinction between the real and the imagined at all, or flick in and out from one to the other.[96]

Neuroimaging research has implicated the medial anterior PFC in reality monitoring, most particularly the morphological variability in a specific part of N6; the paracingulate sulcus (PCS). Activity in this area is differentially modulated when contrasting recollection of which encoding task was previously undertaken with stimuli with recollection of spatial or temporal data about those stimuli; such as where on the screen,[97] when in time,[98] and in what size we remember perceiving them.[99]


The left picture above shows a healthy PCS, marked with the arrow. The right picture shows no development in this area at all. Both these examples are from so-called 'normal, healthy volunteers'.[100]

This is an area which, viewed via MRI, clearly shows very different development in each of us; ranging from none at all to an extensive network, and if this were any other body part, such as a finger or a kidney, we would not be calling its total failure to develop 'normal'. The PCS, which (when present) forms the superior and dorsal border to the paracingulate gyrus, develops in only 30–60% of the 'normal' (western industrial -see later) population, is most frequently only partially developed, and most often what development there is arises only in the left hemisphere.[101]

This developmental bias is likely due to N5 'hothousing' in the sample population. In the left hemisphere, it is healthy in 54% of those tested, only partially present in 38% and completely absent in 8%. In the right hemisphere it is healthy in 37%, only partially present in 48% and completely absent in 15%.[102]

The functional consequences of this variability have been observed in performance on tests of executive function and cognitive control, such as spatial working memory, emotion regulation and verbal fluency,[103] and previous research has linked PCS variability with performance variations on other working memory tasks.[104]

There is growing evidence that individual differences in our introspective abilities such as reality monitoring is also associated with these specific structural variabilities in network 6. Those with absence of the PCS in both hemispheres show significantly reduced reality monitoring ability compared with individuals with a well developed PCS.

These results explain why some people really can’t tell the difference between what they saw and what they imagined or were told about — such as whether they or another person said something, whether an event was imagined or actually occurred, or whether something on TV is factual or fictional.[105]

In addition to exhibiting a reality monitoring deficit, individuals with lack of PCS appeared to lack introspective awareness of their reality monitoring deficit, scoring significantly lower in the metacognitive ability to discriminate correct from incorrect reality monitoring decisions, compared with those who have a healthy PCS. This includes the introspective ability to make judgments about our own memory accuracy; in other words, although these individuals have a faulty memory, they think it's fine. The resulting confusion is easy to imagine.

Poor or zero development in this area reflects not just differences in neuronal and synaptic density, but also differences in the degree of intraregional (within one network) versus interregional (between networks) connectivity, given that cortical folds appear to emerge as a product of gradients in the tension of axons linking proximal and distal areas.[106]

The observed differences reflect a constraint imposed by neurodevelopmental processes on the subsequent emergence of reality monitoring. The only way to get around this sort of problem is via further development and healthy use; firstly of the supporting networks and then of the area itself. We include some exercises for this area in the Hacks & exercises section of this and other tutorials.

Hallucination occurs in other ways related to false belief in many disorders; for example, people who have anorexia can be completely emaciated yet still look in the mirror and see themselves as fat. In bipolar disorder, the mania phase is often characterised by grandiose and apparently unchecked beliefs. The depressive phase is the opposite; a collapse of self-belief.

neurotransmitter imbalance

A variety of clinical conditions related to dopaminergic or seratonergic dysfunction—mania, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, and temporal-lobe epilepsy—are regularly associated with delusions or other false beliefs.[107] Obviously these are serious conditions which (it is hoped) would be noticed; however it is wise to remember that mental health falls along a sliding scale, and minor imbalances can cause some of the same symptoms as major imbalances as they also seem to affect the PCS. PCS reductions have been reported in schizophrenia;[108] and other disorders in which people often exhibit impaired reality monitoring.[109]


In schizophrenia, there is evidence that very high levels of dopamine in the medial system (N3-N6) play a major role in emergence of hallucinations and delusions. Antipsychotic medications, which block central dopamine activity, alleviate the hallucinations of psychosis.

Drugs with strong dopaminergic effect, such as L-dopa, methylphenidate, bromocriptine, pramipexole and piribedil, may induce hallucinations. D-amphetamine, a direct dopamine agonist, may also induce psychosis and hallucinations. The fact that hallucinations were also described in Parkinson’s disease before the introduction of L-dopa indicates that not only hyperdopaminergic states but also hypodopaminergic states, presumably due to progressive loss of dopamine projections to the cortex, can induce hallucinations.


Dysfunctional cholinergic neurotransmission has also been involved in the pathophysiology of hallucinations. For example, alteration of consciousness and hallucinations have been described widely since ancient times for members of the Solanaceae family of plants (Belladonna and Datura), which contain Scopolamine, Atropine and other antimuscarinic agents. Hallucinations occur in about 30% of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 60% of patients with Lewy body dementia, which are characterized by reduction in acetylcholine and abnormalities in nicotinic and muscarinic receptor expression.


Serotonin has also been implicated in the causation of hallucinations, based on the fact that a number of hallucinogenic drugs, like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), mescaline, psilocybin and ecstasy, appear to act, at least in part, as serotonin 5 HT2A receptor agonist or partialagonists. In addition, hallucinations have been reported as side effects of Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which increase the availability of serotonin in the synaptic cleft.


A possible role of glutamate in hallucinations is suggested by the finding that glutamate antagonists like phencyclidine and ketamine can induce hallucinations. This has led to the hypothesis that psychotic symptoms may in part be attributed to hypofunction of NMDA receptors.


PET and SPECT studies using GABA-A receptor ligands showed that the intensity of hallucinations was strongly associated with diminished GABA-A binding, specifically in the left medial temporal region.[110]

Certain other drugs, notably alcohol, sleeping medications and acetaminophen can affect our ability to notice errors, including erroneous beliefs.[111]

Growth or protection modes determine our options

Are you in Growth mode (development) or Protection mode (defense)?

When we have an optimistic attitude and focus on benefits, decisions are goal-oriented and often used in the fulfilment of dreams and creative ideas. We tend to search for information in both individual details and overall big-picture terms, devoting more time and effort to higher levels of information hierarchies. In contrast, when we have a pessimistic attitude and focus on potential harm, decisions are avoidance-oriented and often used in the fulfilment of synthetic counterfeit game requirements. We then tend to restrict our search for information to only parochial, detail-oriented data, such as specific descriptions of individual items.

Development-focused people thus tend to consider larger numbers of alternatives before making their final choices than do protection-focused people. This is another way of saying, Anxiety reduces our mental ability and behavioral options.

These differences apply across the board; that is, regardless of what topics, items, facts or events we are making decisions about.

Anxiety epigenetically changes gene expression

Acute and chronic anxiety cause an imbalance of neural circuitry subserving cognition, decision making and mood that can increase or decrease expression of behavioral states.

Brains of all ages show (reversible) structural and functional plasticity in response to anxiety; including neuronal replacement, dendritic remodeling, and synapse turnover. This is particularly evident in the hippocampus, but also measurable in the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.[112]

Adrenal steroids such as cortisol end up in the cell nucleus,[113] and thus the regulation of gene expression is a key aspect of their action, that is to say, epigenetic influences. Histone modifications and DNA methylation have been the most thoroughly examined with regard to the hippocampus.

The hippocampus undergoes a number of adaptive changes in response to anxiety, which can impair hippocampal-dependent behaviors (in a manner that is reversible), along with dendritic shrinkage in the CA3 region. Anxiety can also diminish the size of the dentate gyrus,[114] cause dentate gyrus dendritic remodeling [115] and dentate gyrus long-term potentiation LTP.[116]

Anxiety also causes functional and structural changes in other brain regions, such as the prefrontal cortex and amygdala, including dendritic shortening in the medial PFC.[117] Behavioral correlates of remodeling in the prefrontal cortex include impairment in attention set shifting [118] and enhancement of amygdala-dependent unlearned fear and fear conditioning.[119] Anxiety is already known to increase aggression between animals living in the same cage, and this is likely to reflect another aspect of hyperactivity of the amygdala.[120]

We include a hack to help prevent this sort of damage in the Hacks & Exercises section of this tutorial.


Our society suffers an overwhelming surfeit of bullshit. We here define 'bullshit' as 'something that is designed to impress but that was constructed without any concern for the truth.'[121]

There is little question that bullshit is a real and consequential phenomenon, and given the rise of communication technology and the associated increase in the availability of information from a variety of sources, bullshit may be more pervasive than ever before.[122]

Until very recently (2015) there was no psychological research on bullshit. Nobody had attempted to answer the questions, 'Are all people equally able to detect blatant bullshit?', and, 'Who is most likely to fall prey to bullshit and why?', using science and technology to seek the answers. Now, however, we have some idea of what they are; which we share with you here.

There are two main types of bullshit; pseudo-profound bullshit; and pseudo-intellectual bullshit. Both are used for the same three main reasons: (1) in order to con resources out of people (usually money, energy and time); (2) in order to impress people; and (3) in order to get others to do what you want. All three reasons arise due to insecurity and anxiety.

Both types of bullshit statements imply substance and meaning, yet both are sufficiently vague to contain none. Both try to give the impression that you are 'not quite intelligent (or holy) enough to understand them'.

Pseudo profound BS is used mainly by rearloaders, and pseudo intellectual BS is used mainly by frontloaders.

Across multiple studies, the propensity to judge bullshit statements as 'profound' is associated with a variety of conceptually relevant variables (e.g., intuitive cognitive style, supernatural belief). Results also support the idea that some people are more receptive to each type of bullshit than others, and that detecting it is not merely a matter of indiscriminate skepticism, but rather a discernment of deceptive vagueness in otherwise impressive sounding claims. A bias toward accepting statements as true may be an important component of bullshit receptivity.[122]

DO IT NOW - Find out how you experience the profound

('Profound' means “of deep meaning; of great and broadly inclusive significance.”)

Below is a series of statements. Please read each statement and take a moment to think about what it might mean. Then please rate how “profound” you think it is.

Rate the statements' profundity on the following 5-point scale:

1= Not at all profound, 2 =somewhat profound, 3 =fairly profound, 4 = definitely profound, 5 = very profound.



A Consciousness consists of supercharged electrons of quantum energy.

B Through crystal healing, our hearts are immersed in non-locality.

C There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

D Our conversations with other dreamweavers have led to a condensing of ultra-unrestricted consciousness.

E They do not love that do not show their love.

F We are at a crossroads of faith and illusion.

G Where there is yearning, choice cannot thrive.

H You will soon be aligned by a power deep within yourself —a power that is ever-present, interstellar.

I Cowards die many times before their deaths, the valiant never taste of death but once.

J We are in the midst of a psychic awakening of wonder.

K Through affirmations, our hopes are engulfed in potential.

Scoring details at end of tutorial

DO IT NOW - Find out how you experience corporate communication

Below is a series of statements. Please read each statement and take a moment to think about what it might mean. Then please rate how “meaningful” you think it is.

Rate the statements' meaningfulness on the following 5-point scale:

1= Totally meaningless, 2 =vaguely meaningful, 3 =fairly meaningful, 4 = definitely meaningful, 5 = deeply meaningful.


A Segmentation synergizes a value chain by expanding its boundaries.

B Resources incentivize a tolerably expensive and open benchmarking.

C In terms of group management, patience is particularly essential.

D Financial milestones empower corporate game changers.

E We are remorseful about our past mistakes and energetic about making them right.

F Urban-systematized channels dramatically prioritize the community.

G An active supply-chain fosters paradigms.

H Top-level, well-crafted, focused and productive changes enable the stakeholders.

I Our human resources department targets a business model in which systematized policies challenge us to think out of the box.

J The best strategies, ideas, and plans are supported by powerful foundations of fact.

K Our gut-feeling is that innovators standardize time-phases.

Scoring details at end of tutorial

What makes people susceptible to believing bullshit

Anxiety is at the root of several factors which underlie why someone might be particularly receptive to bullshit, but there are several other factors to consider.

Anxiety - Conformity under pressure, or, 'The Emperors New Clothes Syndrome'. This is a situation where people are too anxious and afraid to disagree with a (real or perceived) powerful group of others. A good example is the rise of Adolf Hitler.

Anxiety - Trying not to appear stupid in front of others is also a driver for bullshit acceptance. In the face of bullshit used for obfuscation (obscuring clarity), people may doubt their own capacity to reason and assume that the information is just 'too highbrow' for 'ordinary people' to understand. Frontloaders often include pseudo-intellectual BS in technical works in a deliberate attempt to sound clever, but such tactics always reduce the clarity of communication. For example, instead of 'This is how fast wood dries', we may get,'This is the rate of the dissipation of endogenous moisture from timber'. This phrase does have meaning; it is not nonsense, but it does serve to confuse rather than enlighten.

Anxiety – The desire to control others via bullshit occurs in inverse proportion to ability to control the self, due to unconscious anxiety about personal helplessness and dependence. Those busy convincing others can come to believe in the bullshit themselves if they repeat it often enough; via unintentional self-programming through repetition.

Anxiety – about being thought 'different' often turns into blind habit – for example, assuming that everybody 'really knows' a particular thing is bullshit, but going through the ritual of pretending to believe it and joining in because 'everybody does that'. A good example is atheists celebrating christmas.

Gullibility/ignorance – these can lead to response bias. Response Bias means some people are just more open to believing anything they come across. From the outset, they are less skeptical. This may be due to lack of awareness, experience or knowledge (lack of input) or misinformation (wrong input). A good example is the association of saturated fats with heart disease.

Incongruity or low density frontal lobes -The ACG should trigger an alert when there’s something 'off' about a statement or problem, and this allows us to reconsider input and detect when there might be bullshit. With low frontal lobe density or lack of blood supply (for example because of anxiety), this type of executive function 'bullshit detector' signaling may only sometimes occur, or in some cases not at all. Likewise, if insufficient signaling arrives at the ACG in the first place due to sparse wiring between N3 and N6, no conflict is detected. Also, the involvement of the PCS with reality monitoring (see 'hallucination', above,) can contribute to our propensity to believe bullshit.

certain behaviors make us more receptive to bullshit than others

Those who give higher credibility ratings to bullshit use less analytical and intellectual reasoning, have lower scores on numeracy, verbal intelligence and cognitive reflection, and tend to be more susceptible to ontological confusion; often mistaking metaphoric for literal meanings or vice versa.

DO IT NOW – test your potential for resisting bullshit

You will need a stopwatch or second-counter. Start it NOW and read on:

Answer the following questions:


1 which one word is related to all of the following?: falling, actor, dust.

2 fill in the blank spaces: "escape, scape, cape, _ _ _.

As soon as you have finished, stop the timer and note down your time. If you are unable to solve them at all, record the time as 'unknown'.

See end of tutorial for answers and interpretation.

Conversational bullshit may include psuedo-profound or pseudo-intellectual bullshit, but also includes other types (for example, sentiment-invoking bullshit). The same detection tools of reason and critical thinking (the basics) will serve for detecting and avoiding all kinds of bullshit, (the details) despite the differences.[122]

We explore some methods of protecting against bullshit in the NHA guide below.

lack of input

There are a lot of examples of wrong input causing difficulties, but lack of input is equally responsible for a lot of problems. This may be lack of factual input, lack of experiential input, or lack of input generally.

Of course, we are not in control of our input when we are very young, and poor choices may have been made for us. But we ARE in control of our input now, and plasticity is not limited to youth; it is limited to regularity of use.

Lack of input creates mental stasis, and the worst enemy of health (mental and physical) is stasis. Fear of change is also a major cause of stasis. And there is another cause that is hardly ever considered because it's thought of as 'normal', which is chronic exhaustion.

Physical exhaustion is fairly obvious and easy to detect, but we may fail to notice mental and emotional exhaustion unless it is severe (for example, such as the mental exhaustion following burnout or the emotional exhaustion following trauma). Permanent fatigue, sleep interruption/deprivation and low energy are states of being which have come to be considered 'normal' in our society.

If you think mental and emotional 'energy' is a concept that sounds a bit woo-woo, remember that organic life is all about physics, chemistry and biology and that energy conversion factors do indeed literally apply. This is not some mystical 'bio energy'; it is the simple process of life. One thing that all cells should be doing is using nutrients to produce the energy needed to do work in the cell. Poor nutrition, lack of natural sleep and high cortisol levels all take their toll on our energy availability, as do repelling an infection or maintaining resilience and responding effectively to toxins.

Because everyone is in pretty much the same state, being psychologically compromised in these ways is not something we generally notice until we start living more healthily and learn from personal experience what happens. We need to have the experience to understand what 'increased energy' means in real terms.

For examples, sleep interruption (for example, with alarm clocks or strict schedules) reduces our mental abilities as much as drinking alcohol, but we don't notice because everyone is in the same dumbed-down state. Natural sleep makes it a lot easier to think clearly and respond quickly. Healthy food behaves like a stimulant. The better and more comfortable we feel, the more we are able to do. Anxiety is the biggest sapper of energy of all, inducing us to return to that 'womb state' of physical comfort where we never have to move and nothing ever changes.

People in an energy-depleted state will always (obviously) take the easy way out of anything, including thinking. This is not 'laziness' or 'not giving a shit''; it is exhaustion. In this state we are focused on protection; the unconscious knows when there is not enough energy available and restricts our behavior accordingly. It probably concludes that we are not very well. No growth can take place in an exhausted system; it needs to repair itself and build up strength first.

If we're feeling like we're constantly swamped with too many problems, most of which are other people's, and it's all just too complicated and too much hassle to cope with, often exhaustion is the reason.

Relationships can exacerbate this, because (as you may have realized by experience) most people are anxious and looking for pacification, and in this state a lot of illness happens, which puts anyone healthy in the position of being a 'carer' for other adults who should really be able to take care of themselves. The mental, physical and emotional drain of this role (and it is a never-ending role, unless the anxiety is dealt with) is extensive. Every time we appear to make some progress, somebody else's anxiety problems cause another obstacle.

We should consider this issue in the long term too, because unless we choose companions who are aware of anxiety and taking good care of themselves, the role of 'carer' will come upon us and at some point (when decline reaches a certain critical mass) their dependence will be permanent for the rest of their lives. You may be of the ilk that believes it's fine to plonk such people in a 'care home', but it can still end up being your responsibility. Choose your companions wisely, or you could end up traveling down the road to decline right along with them. There is a time and place for parenting and nursing, but they should come to an end when dependents mature or casualties recover. If no maturity or recovery takes place, you may be committing yourself to remain stuck in Faithful Servant mode for the rest of your life, instead of having a life.

If we're independent and taking care of ourselves, there is no good reason for lack of input. If you find yourself slipping into the 'same old, same old,' practice some input control. YOU are in charge of changing things for the better; remember?

the most important bits to remember

Beliefs, rather than being an addition to our executive processing, are more like a constant 'backdrop' for everything we think about and do; much like our morality underlies our judgment and decisions. Our beliefs about what is going on shape our emotional states and behavior accordingly.

Things always come down to maintaining growth mode rather than protection mode, and maintaining healthy emotion 'in the green zone' while avoiding sentiment.

Belief in free will enables more (measurable) executive control than disbelief (which reduces executive control). That is, if you don't believe you are in control of anything, you won't be able to control anything.

From a self programming pov, it doesn't matter what's really going on; what matters is what the unconscious believes is going on.

Research has identified these two main types of placebo response as driven by different mechanisms depending on the context. One targets conscious awareness, the other unconscious knowledge. Both unconscious 'association placebos' and conscious 'expectation placebos' play different roles in the placebo effect, using separate biological mechanisms.

Anxiety reduction lowers the possibility of nocebo effects, and any anxiolytic reduces the likelihood of nocebo.

In context of belief, wrong input and lack of input manifest as follows:

Believing things are true or real when in reality they are not (wrong input)

Believing things are not true or real when in reality they are (lack of input).

Research identifies two major catalysts for the prevalence of superstitious and pseudoscientific beliefs: the misinformation explosion on public media (wrong input) and the low level of scientific literacy in the general population (lack of input).

Within psychology, reality monitoring describes how we make distinctions between mental events and events that take place out there in the real world. For example, did you really lock the door before you went to bed, or did you just think about doing it.

When reality monitoring breaks down, this may cause us to mistake attribution, believing that a product of our own mental processes is something that is taking place (or did take place) in the real world.

The paracingulate sulcus (PCS) important for reality monitoring, is either completely absent or only partially developed in a majority of those living in western industrial societies.

There are two main types of bullshit; pseudo-profound bullshit; and pseudo-intellectual bullshit. Both are used for the same three main reasons: (1) in order to con resources out of people (usually money, energy and time); (2) in order to impress people; and (3) in order to get others to do what you want. All three reasons arise due to insecurity and anxiety.

If we're feeling like we're constantly swamped with too many problems, most of which are other people's, and it's all just too much hassle to cope with, often exhaustion is the reason.

If we're independent and taking care of ourselves, there is no good reason for lack of input.

DO IT NOW – improve memory association

You will need some old fashioned tech: some paper, a pencil and an eraser. You cannot get the same effect from working on a screen.

Choose a subject you are currently learning about or would like to learn more about. Draw the main concepts that the subject is about. Drawing does not have to be good or detailed -just very basic sketches. Thusly, make a mind map using only graphics. If desperate, you are allowed to draw words (but not to write them). Try to do this briskly, without deep thought.

See end of tutorial for notes.

Using imagery is also an effective way to decrease certain types of false memories.[123]


self programming for healthy development – the big picture

This is a very exciting time to be getting into (or remaining in) the science of biopsychology. Over the last two decades or so, due to the astonishing rate of new discovery, research has shown many previous models of biological systems to be not only flawed, but entirely false.

This barrage of new discovery has led to a new paradigm – a new system of scientific understanding and framing of biological reality, providing such profoundly different answers to those previously offered that it will undoubtedly change the way we live in the future. This is indeed, a 'new' science of life.


And it is still emerging. Some questions biologists have found unanswerable for decades are being answered, and science being what is, the answers are raising more questions. The answers are also toppling a few pet theories and upsetting a few people, just as the answers in physics originally did. Morality, for example, is clearly shown to be a normal biological survival function and nothing to do with gods or religions, just as the tide going in and out and the orbits of the planets were released from that superstition long ago (for most people).

Those who have already dropped the woo woo and who welcome new paradigms have a clear advantage right now in the frontiers of discovery about their own minds and about neuroscience in general. Aligning our beliefs with reality is the goal for this stage in NH.

Difficult things most students have to face when challenging and changing beliefs

Some issues recur for many students, and if they come without warning they can cause snapback or distress, so we will go through them here.

1 Realizing that you are responsible for your own responses to others' behavior.

With mental maturity and interactive ability comes an acceptance of responsibility for how your behavior affects others who are anxious and insecure. Understanding this and bearing it in mind helps you to navigate through everyday life more smoothly. It doesn't help others to improve their behavior, of course, but it does create an atmosphere (with core conditions) where improvement is possible. Let's say, it opens a door...

2 Realizing that you have unknowingly harmed others, before you knew about anxiety.

We must recognize injurious acts of the past (and sometimes present) consciously and openly (open-mindedly; without value judgment), and recognize the anxiety that contributed to the injurious acts in the first place. Failing to do so is often a matter of fear: fear of saying “No,” fear of setting limits, fear of appearing foolish or ignorant, fear of admitting that we were anxiety's bitch, fear of what others might think, and so on. But past poor behavior is often a matter of panic, coupled with behavioral habits derived from copying friends, siblings or parents. Learn from these mistakes; don't fear them. Don't allow anxiety to control your life again.

Beliefs we may need to challenge

Our beliefs about nature and about human nature shape our environment, our health, and our individual lives. Here are some major beliefs that many of us may have to challenge:

old belief: our body is a physical machine, preprogrammed by DNA (OR our genes predetermine and control our lives)

The new paradigm shows that our thoughts, our attitudes, our beliefs, and the environment, are more primary in shaping our lives than our DNA is.

The locus of 'control' in life does not lie within genes, but rather within the mechanisms of cells' responses to environmental triggers. It is actually the cell’s membrane, operating in response to environmental signals picked up by the membrane’s receptors - that control the copying and “reading” of the genes inside.

This means that we are not controlled by our genetic makeup. Instead, our genetic readout (which genes are turned “on” and which are turned “off”) is primarily determined by input control and output control (our thoughts, attitudes, and perceptions)

The major problem with believing that our genes control our life is that is frames us as a victim of our heredity. Since we can’t change your genes, it essentially means that our life is predetermined, and therefore we have very little control over our health.

The new paradigm reveals that our perceptions control our biology, and this places us in the role of director, because if we can change our perceptions, we can to some extent modulate and direct our own genetic readout.

Understanding this necessitates adopting the belief that we have power over our lives. If our current perception is that we are victims, and since perceptions control life, when we behave as though we are victims, we become victims. So we are moving out of “victimhood” into directorship, which comes as a big surprise for some people.


old belief: Survival of the fittest is about being physically big, strong ('fit') and aggressive

This is a total misinterpretation of Darwinian 'survival of the fittest', where 'fittest' is taken to mean physically fit, and emphasises 'natural' competition and a struggle for existence that goes on forever.

The new paradigm (and in fact, Darwin) shows that this is incorrect; that evolution is not based on competition, but rather on cooperation. “Fittest” means 'that which FITS IN best with its environment'.

This is a profound difference, and it tells us that if we want to evolve as a species, we must stop competing, and begin to recognize our coherence – that we evolved to live as a harmonious culture of people; one living “thing” called humanity.

old belief: life evolved as a totally random process

This is another misinterpretation of Darwinian theory. The significance of this myth is that, based upon it, humans have no purpose or meaning here, and are somewhat disconnected from the environment altogether.

This belief says that we got here by accident, life evolved by accident, and life continues to evolve by accident.

The new biology, on the other hand, reveals that genetic mutation is not random but emergent and directed by changes in environment.

If we alter the environment that beneficially shapes us, or avoid that environment, then essentially, we are taking away the biological input which we need to stay healthy.

old belief: people who have harmed us in the past were evil

It can be difficult realizing that others whose behavior has harmed us in the past are/were mentally dysfunctional; ie, sick, not evil.

If we frame this wrongly we are likely to get caught up in sentiment based on wanting to make others 'pay' because of 'what they did to us'. In effect we are penalizing someone and framing them as 'bad people' because they have a poorly-functioning brain, or mental illness. Would we penalize someone as 'bad' because they had poorly-functioning legs, or physical illness? Get real! Don't fall into anxiety and sentiment on this one. What's more, enjoy a little gratitude for your knowledge, pride in yourself for self-educating, and appreciation for your own sanity!

old belief: our perceptions of others reveals more about them than about ourselves.

In reality, our perceptions of others reveals more about ourselves than about others.

How can this be so? Consider: how positively we see others is linked to how happy, kind-hearted and emotionally stable WE are, according to new research, which has found that a person's tendency to describe others in positive terms is an important indicator of the positivity of the person's own current state of mind. Particularly strong associations exist between positively judging others and how enthusiastic, happy, kind-hearted, courteous, emotionally stable and capable we are ourselves (as judged by others). This study also found that how positively we see other people shows how satisfied we are with our own life, and how much we are liked by others.

In contrast, negative perceptions of others are linked to higher levels of narcissism and antisocial behavior in ourselves.[124]

DO IT NOW -rate three people as honestly as you can

By rating the positive and negative characteristics of just three people, as long as you answer honestly you can find out this important information about your own well-being, mental health, cooperative attitudes and how you are judged by others.

This research also suggests that when you ask someone to describe a particular colleague or acquaintance, you may learn as much about the rater providing the description as the person they are describing. The level of negativity the rater uses in describing the other person may indeed indicate that the other person has negative characteristics, but may also be a tip off that the rater is unhappy, disagreeable, neurotic—or has other anxiety problems.

Viewing others negatively indicates a greater likelihood of depression and even various personality disorders, and finding techniques to see others more positively could promote the cessation of behavior patterns associated with such disorders.[125]


old belief: people like us are 'normal' examples of humanity

At this stage in our studies it has almost certainly occurred to you to wonder, what exactly IS 'normal healthy development'?

One of our most fundamental beliefs is that scientific research as we know it can adequately inform us with regard to human development, in terms of brains, minds, psychology and behavior. Our belief that A Priori knowledge may be relied upon as factual and applicable guides our progress, and at the root of this is our automatic assumption that if experiments are performed or observations are made on 'normal' humans, the results obtained are automatically applicable to most if not all of us.

We do put caveats on this belief of 'universality' in humans to a small extent. While all humans might begin with (roughly) the same potential for cognitive equipment, our genetic content, acquired content and environment all provide developmental factors and feedback; which enables and enhances OR retards and restricts developmental learning processes through epigenetics, plasticity and cultural transmission.

For example we know that we all have individual differences which can affect our responses to drugs, infections and stressors; we all have different genomes, and we all have different epigenetic influences. Overall though, we would expect the basics of human development or 'human nature' to be fairly universal, as it is with other species. That is to say, since all humans share the same biology, we would expect humans from all over the world to share, and probably share substantially, basic aspects of cognition, motivation, and behavior.

Scientific research may therefore logically be expected to assist us in discovering what is, and what is not, healthy normative functioning on all levels.

This, in a nutshell, is what we believe about mainstream science. Universality of application has worked marvelously well with physics, chemistry, astrophysics and geology; logic suggests that it should also work with biology and psychology.

Logic also dictates that science can only come up with correct answers to what constitutes optimal development by learning what healthy development IS, by accumulating data about optimal development, and by studying large numbers of people from a wide variety of contexts with optimally (or at least nominally) healthy minds.

Now here's the challenge: where are they? Mainstream science assumes that they are all around us; that is to say, any large enough group will show a range of ''normal' human abilities within certain parameters. And sure enough, this is what we see in research; for example, a range of human ability 'scores' set against the background continuum of what we believe is possible and expect to be probable.

This is the faulty assumption -that 'most people' from our society are a good indication of human development possibilities and probabilities; that most people are 'fairly normal'.

And the big problem here is, they are not. Optimal development is not just rare, but may well be completely unattainable in most current societies; indeed even 'normal healthy' development seems beyond their reach; it's unusual these days to meet anyone who doesn't have something serious enough to need medication for or need counseling about.

So, what are the criteria for 'normal healthy' people, and if they are indeed so rare, what has science been studying instead? How much does the concept of what 'normal' means to society differ from the awareness of 'normal' to biology?

Of late, scientists have become aware that research in human sciences has unfortunately focused upon an extremely narrow parochial example of human dysfunction; and that scientists have routinely assumed, at least implicitly, that their findings from this exclusive sample (a) are 'normal' and (b) can be generalized to the human species.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. What we think of as 'mainstream science' has been studying (and presenting data on) a tiny subset of humans who have quite notably deviated from natural development in some fundamental ways. The vast majority of research we read about 'ourselves' comes from this specialized study of dysfunctional people with, on the whole, badly retarded or blocked development, and these people in no way represent 'the norm' for healthy biological development. In fact, this group is particularly unusual compared with the rest of our species, as we shall detail below.

Since this may initially seem an astonishing claim, we must follow with firm evidence as proof that this is so. Searching scientific papers in order to do this may seem like a contradiction in terms, but we here reference research about the specific issue we are facing -exactly how unusual is the group we think of as 'normal people'?

Until the advent of the internet, data on this subject was sparse, but information-dense. We have selected the most relevant points and those who wish to delve deeper may do so by following references.

Now and again during the course of research for these tutorials, we come across what we call a 'real steamer' of a paper. Such was the case with the source of this material; whose main reference is given below. The gist of the researchers' approach is to point out this very anomaly: researchers conduct human experiments/trials and routinely publish broad claims about human psychology and behavior, in the top scientific journals, based on samples drawn entirely from Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic (WEIRD) societies.[126]

However, in the interests of factual accuracy, for 'educated', read 'conditioned'; for 'rich', read 'materialistic', and for 'democratic', read 'consumerist'. In fact, a much more accurate definition of 'WEIRD' would be: “Wronguse & Environmental Impoverishment Retards Development.”

Initially the concept of a small group of 'WEIRD' people forming the entire focus of human scientific study might make us laugh, until we realize that we, too, are probably (at least partly) WEIRD; or at least have grown up in WEIRD societies. What then does this portend for (a) our own development and (b) the degree to which we may assume 'mainstream research' is safely applicable as a guide to us personally or to healthy human development in general?

Who's weird? -Which group exactly are we talking about here? Here are the figures from a recent analysis of the top journals in six sub-disciplines of psychology. 96% of subjects are from Western industrialized countries, 99% of first authors are at universities in Western countries. 70% of all psychology citations in mainstream science come from the US, and 90% of peer-reviewed neuroimaging studies come from Western countries.[127]

So before we even start looking at differences, this means that 96% of psychological samples come from countries with only 12% of the world’s population.[128] Right from the start, the available research does not study or reflect 'normal human' diversity or development. Rather, we have largely been studying the psychology and behavior of WEIRD people, a parochially narrow and apparently rather peculiar (see below) subpopulation; about which researchers (and we) have assumed universality of human psychology and behavior.

Research has determined that WEIRD subjects are in fact particularly unusual compared with the rest of the species. Domains reviewed include sensory calibration, visual perception (perceptualization), fairness, cooperation, spatial reasoning, categorization and inferential induction, bonding, moral reasoning, reasoning styles, self-concepts and related motivations, and executive function.

We have assumed that that the findings one derives about 'normality' from a particular tiny sample will generalize universally and that one adult human sample is pretty much the same as the next. That is the belief we must challenge.


Known differences between the WEIRD group and Others:

Sensorimotor, spatial & behavioral

Comparative projects involving sensorimotor development, locomotive abilities, balance, visual acuity and illusion effects, color categorization, attention and spatial cognition all show WEIRD populations as outliers.[126] To make differences clear, we have referred to non-weird peoples as 'Others' throughout.

sensorimotor development, locomotive abilities & balance

Differences in daily childrearing practices and supporting versus retarding biological processes explain Others' faster development relative to WEIRD norms.[129] For example, wherever caregivers vigorously massage and exercise infants as part of daily bathing routines, stretching infants’ limbs, tossing them into the air, and propping them into sitting and walking positions, motor skills develop faster.[130] Infants who receive massage and exercise begin sitting and walking at earlier ages than infants who do not.[131] Reciprocally, restricted practice can delay the age at which children reach motor milestones. Among WEIRD families, the recent practice of putting infants to sleep on their backs in a motionless environment rather than holding them while they sleep has resulted in delayed onset of crawling and other prone skills.[132]

In WEIRD societies, we even lose some of the automatic 'practice' behaviors which caregivers are meant to pick up on and help us to develop; for example: newborn stepping disappears after about 2 months of age in WEIRD societies, and upright stepping does not return until the end of the first year. But in contexts where caregivers interact with the stepping and exercise infants’ leg movements (and this is confirmed in laboratory experiments), stepping shows no break; but monotonic increase throughout the first year.[133]

Daily tasks require Others to develop walking and running skills that exceed the abilities of WEIRD adults.[134] WEIRD infants sit at 6 months, but Other infants sit at 4 months.[135]

WEIRD people end up with flat, narrow feet with underdeveloped big toes, which are the product of a lifetime of having one’s feet bound in cushioned plastic shoes. Others' footprints show a separation between the big toe and second toe, an anterior “fanning,” and a substantial arch – all helpful in maintaining good posture and all indicating differences compared with the feet of WEIRD humans. Others' footprints match up with ancient fossilized human footprints; WEIRD footprints don't.[136] WEIRD populations habitually wear cushioned trainers as footwear, which lead to dramatic modifications of the human running profile by causing wearers to land principally on their heels instead of the balls of their feet. (shoe-manufacturing firms know little about the evolved design and engineering of human feet).[137] If one studies life-long trainer-wearers, the engineering of human feet appears ill-suited for long-distance running. In contrast, studying Others (particularly barefoot runners) suggests a marvelous evolved design for the human foot, possibly specialized for long-distance running.[138]

visual acuity and illusion effects

WEIRD newborns often fail to calibrate sensory input due to failure of bonding and required sensory input at birth, and may take some three months to learn to see. Others (and natural-births in WEIRD societies) calibrate senses immediately after birth, can see right away, and focus within forty-five minutes. They also smile from birth, something else WEIRD infants take three months or so to do (or as long as it takes for birth stress hormones to wear off). Similar figures apply to face recognition.[139]

Myopia is rampant in WEIRD populations; particularly those who learn to read early and who lack sufficient long-range focus practice, which Others get from being outdoors.

WEIRD populations are consistently fooled by popular optical illusions (for example, the Mueller-Lyer illusion). Others are not.[140]

These findings suggest that visual exposure during development to impoverished indoor environments prevents certain optical calibrations, and results in visual habits which create and perpetuate the illusion. Since impoverished environments are products of particular societal designs, they were not part of most peoples' experience for most of human history.

color categorization

In terms of how many divisions of the color space a language makes, WEIRD people use 7-11 main color categorizations. Others use 12-15. Others see six colors in a rainbow; WEIRD societies count seven (because Newton had a thing about sevens).[141]


Differences in attention among WEIRD populations vs Others have been found in saccadic eye ‐ movements as measured with eye‐trackers. WEIRD subjects gaze at focal objects longer than Others, who are less likely to focus exclusively on objects within a complex visual scene [142] but gaze at the background more than WEIRD subjects.[143] Furthermore, when performing these identical tasks WEIRD populations and Others show differential brain activation, corresponding to brain regions associated with attention control and object‐processing.[144]

spatial cognition

WEIRD societies are at the extreme end of the continuum in spatial cognition (how they think about spatial orientation and deal with directions), and these differences may be influenced by linguistically‐based spatial reference systems. WEIRD societies rely on self-centered frames of reference in spatial relations. (e.g., “the man is on the right side of the house” Others favor either geocentric relations (i.e., a landscape- or earth-fixed spatial coordinate system; e.g., “the man is east of the house”) OR an allocentric system which uses an object-centered relationship for framing (e.g., “the man is beside the house”.)[145]

Others do not show the sex differences observed in spatial abilities that WEIRD populations show.[146]

emotional and psychological

Theory of mind, Isolationism, fear or death, absolutism, folkbiological cognition (categorization and induction), low cooperation, occurrence of the “fundamental attribution error” and and the self-serving 'attributional bias', long term relationship motivations and memory differences mark WEIRD subjects once again as unusual compared with Others.[126]

theory of mind

The age at which subjects can pass the explicit version of the false belief task varies from 4 (Others) to at least 9 (WEIRD subjects).[147]


WEIRD parents are the only humans who create a separate room for their baby to sleep in.[148] From the time they are born, WEIRD children are raised in an environment that emphasizes non-closeness and isolation.[149]

fear of death

WEIRD people respond more defensively to death thoughts than Others, usually referencing their societal beliefs.[150]


WEIRD people are more likely than Others to see the world in absolute moral terms where everything and everybody is ''good' or ''bad'. Others tend to recognize the dual nature of all things in terms of risk and benefit.[151]

folkbiological cognition

Our beliefs affect what we think, feel and do.[152] For example, in folkbiology, differences in what people believe about plants and animals affect their memory organization and ecological reasoning about living things.

Children of WEIRD parents develop their folkbiological reasoning in a culturally and experientially impoverished environment, by contrast to those of Others (and of our evolutionary past), distorting the species‐typical pattern of cognitive development as well as adult patterns of reasoning for WEIRD people. WEIRD people reason about biological phenomena by analogy to, and by extension from, humans; often assuming animals feel and think like we do. Others do not.

In rural environments both exposure to, and appropriate interest in, the natural world is commonplace, unavoidable, and an inevitable part of culture. This suggests that the anthropocentric patterns seen in WEIRD children result from insufficient cultural input and a lack of exposure to the natural world. The only real animal they know much about is Homo sapiens, so it is not surprising that this species dominates their inferential patterns.

Indeed, studying the cognitive development of folkbiology in urban children would seem the equivalent of studying “normal” physical growth in malnourished children. This deficiency of input likely underpins the fact that the basic level biological categories for WEIRD adults are life‐form categories (e.g., bird, fish, and mammal) and these are also the first categories learned by children: e.g., If you say “what’s that” (pointing at a maple tree), the common answer is “tree”. However, in all Others studied, the generic species (e.g., trout, fox, and maple) are the basic level category and the first learned by children.[153] Impoverished interactions with the natural world may also distort assessments of the typicality of natural kinds in categorization.[154]


WEIRD subjects are more likely to rely on rules over similarity relations in reasoning and categorization; for example they are more likely to group objects together if they belong to a category defined by a simple deterministic rule; such as 'carnivores'. Others are more likely to group together objects which share a functional or contextual relationship according to their practical functions; such as 'predators'.[155]

low cooperation

In games, WEIRD people make mostly competitive moves. Others make predominantly cooperative moves. When compared with Others, WEIRD people consistently score lower measures on trust, fairness and cooperation.[156]

fundamental attribution error and the self-serving attribution bias

In WEIRD populations this is operationalized as the tendency for people to take personal credit for their successes but to direct blame externally for their failures. Others do not do this.

The tendency to ignore situational information in favor of personality information is so commonly observed—among WEIRD subjects—that it was dubbed the “fundamental attribution error”.[157] However, while WEIRD people attend to assumed dispositions at the expense of situations.[158] Others are more likely to infer that behaviors are strongly controlled by the situation.[159]

People from WEIRD populations strongly believe the notions that 'personality traits' remain static over time and predict behavior over any situations, while Others have strongly contextual beliefs about personality, such as that imagined 'traits' do not describe a person as well as roles or behaviors, and that trait‐related behavior changes from situation to situation.

long term relationship motivations

WEIRD people tend to base long term relationships on romantic/sexual feelings. Others do not.[160]

memory differences

The spatial encoding of topological relations between objects in non-WEIRD languages also challenges long-held assumptions about 'the human mind'.[161] Languages carve up the spectrum into a number of discrete categories, and it is these linguistic categories that are utilized in memory and perception.[162]

cognitive and executive functions

In decision making and ideas about 'punishment', dependent/isolated vs. interdependent self concepts (and associated motivations), cognitive dissonance, inductive reasoning, analytic vs. holistic reasoning, and moral reasoning, WEIRD people are again clumped at the extreme end of the behavioral distribution. Notably, the behaviors measured in the experiments referenced are strongly correlated with the strength of formal institutions (ie, conditioning).[126]

decision making

WEIRD people are found to go along with a majority’s incorrect judgment much more often than Others.[163]

WEIRD populations also show a relative bias towards rule‐based judgments, whereas Others assume a relative bias towards family‐resemblance based judgments.[164]

punishment concepts

Community size and the strength of formal institutions in WEIRD societies positively predicts greater keenness to 'punish' those who behave in ways the society doesn't approve of.[165]

dependent/isolated self concepts

Self‐concepts are important as they organize the information that people have about themselves, direct attention to information that is perceived to be relevant, shape motivations, influence how people appraise situations that influence their emotional experiences, and guide their choices of relationship partners.

WEIRD people usually conceive of themselves as isolated agents that consist largely of component parts, such as their attitudes, personality, and abilities. Others conceive of themselves as interpersonal beings intertwined with one another in relationships, with inherent role‐based interactions with each other within cultural contexts. This has significant consequences for a variety of emotions, cognitions, and motivations.[166]

WEIRD people tend to exaggerate their self‐importance and view themselves more confidently and positively than objective measurement would justify. This is arrogance; unjustified confidence, rather than self esteem. Others don't engage in self-serving biases, and we are much more likely to find humility.[167]

cognitive dissonance

When cultural and societal incongruity reveals inconsistent beliefs about reality, people will experience ideological dilemmas.[168] Wherever there is incomplete wiring between unconscious and conscious areas, cognitive dissonance is likely.[169]

inductive reasoning

In inductive reasoning, WEIRD people make strong inferences from computations of similarity, whereas populations with greater familiarity with the natural world make strong inferences from folkbiological knowledge that takes into account ecological context and relationships among species.[170] To the extent that there is population‐level variability in the content of folkbiological beliefs, such variability affects cognitive processing in this domain.

analytic vs holistic reasoning

WEIRD populations use analytic reasoning. Analytic thought involves a detachment of objects from contexts, a tendency to focus on objects’ attributes, and a preference for using reductionism to attempt to explain and predict behavior. Others use holistic reasoning (analysis + synthesis). Holistic thought involves an orientation to the context or field as a whole, as well as its details, including attention to relationships between agents and contexts and a preference for explaining and predicting events on the basis of such relationships.[171]

Some of the psychological differences regarding the self and holistic versus analytic reasoning can be observed in differential patterns of brain activation.[172]

WEIRD people attend more to objects than fields; explain behavior in more decontextualized terms; and rely more on rules over similarity relations to classify objects.[173] WEIRD subjects also show differences in medial prefrontal activity when thinking about themselves relative to close allies, but Others do not.[174]

moral reasoning

Wherever culture and society contain incongruous moral values, and society's moral intuitions and conscious moral reasoning are based on beliefs that are neither complete nor consistent, people will experience moral dilemmas.[175]

WEIRD populations express an 'omission bias' in moral judgment (an omission bias is the tendency to judge harmful actions as worse, or less moral than equally harmful omissions (inactions) because actions are more obvious than inactions.) Population-level differences in philosophical intuitions and moral judgments between WEIRD people and Others include a recent finding of the lack of any “omission bias” in the moral judgments of Others.[176]

WEIRD adults evaluate right and wrong on the basis of synthetic 'ethical principles' regarding justice and individual rights; a static moral code inherent in their society's legal systems. Others use conventional moral rules, which emerge from childrens physical or hedonistic consequences of actions into dynamically-adjusted adult behaviors that benefit both themselves and their culture in different circumstances.[177] There are two other morality-based concepts that are commonly found outside of WEIRD samples; a concept of community/culture, in which morality derives from the fulfilment of interpersonal roles, and a concept of rectitude, in which moral decisions are based on the most appropriate behavior within a perceived natural order or 'overall ecology'.[178]

overall brain development

WEIRD people exhibit an unusual pattern of brain growth and decline. Whereas an average child's cortex thickness peaks around age eight, hothoused (high IQ) children start off with a relatively thin cerebral cortex, which thickens rapidly by age 12 before undergoing general diminishment. In the highest IQ (hothoused) kids the cortex shrinks more than most during adolescence, in some cases dropping them below their relatively intelligent peers.[179]

As in the behavioral sciences, psychiatric models have largely been constructed on an empirical foundation that was gathered from WEIRD people.

Other differences

WEIRD parents use 'baby talk'. Others do not.[180]

WEIRD parents attempt active 'teaching' of children. Others expect children to learn from observation, modeling, practice, asking questions, and reading.[181]

WEIRD mothers get 'pregnancy sickness'. Others do not.[182]

WEIRD people experience earlier (and earlier, and earlier) onset of puberty. There IS a universal here: across the planet, people growing up in impoverished environments where they do not feel safe exhibit earlier onset of puberty.[183] It is of no use conditioning the conscious mind to believe that we are 'safe', or that our environment is fine, if the unconscious knows that's just a superstition. The developmental system, in this case determining the timing of reproduction, can thereby produce a clear correlation between environment and behavior. Like anything else, there are multiple triggers of early puberty, including hothousing frontal networks and eating hormone-laced food. However, all of them occur in WEIRD societies.

WEIRD people value greater quantities of friends and constantly gathering new friends, Others value greater quality of friends, and improving relationships with current friends.[184]

WEIRD people are prone to “social-loafing” (i.e., reducing efforts on group tasks when individual contributions are not being monitored). Others are not.[185]

Distinct differences in the gut microbiome have also been found between WEIRD populations and Others.[186]

Findings that reveal population differences do not imply an absence of a universal human nature, but they do indicate that what is universal is not the same as what emerges from WEIRD participants. The findings suggest that members of WEIRD societies, including young children, are highly unusual along many important psychological and behavioral dimensions, and therefore among the LEAST representative populations one could find for generalizing about humans. Many of these findings involve domains that are associated with fundamental aspects of psychology, motivation, and behavior. As the research viewed above reveals, WEIRD subjects are unusual in the context of the real world and humanity in general in many key ways.

There is a final way in which WEIRD people are weird, although this hasn't been covered by research so far. As a group, WEIRD people exhibit a peculiar sort of 'mass Stockholm Syndrome'; that is to say, they have sympathized with and adopted the beliefs of the counterfeit system that hijacked their minds. This is why people do not wish to 'help themselves'; they prefer living in a fantasy where societal institutions become surrogate parents. They have become, en masse, institutionalized, captive animals; too anxious to believe in (or even imagine) anything outside the cage.

It's getting weirder

Some documented changes in WEIRD populations over the past few decades include increasing isolationism, as indicated by an increasingly solitary lifestyle dominated by individual-centered activities and a decrease in group participation.[187]

Those of you who study anthropology or evolutionary psychology may not be so surprised that this is so. For the vast majority of our evolutionary history, humans have lived in small‐scale groups without institutions such as schools, governments, prisons, churches, hospitals, police, complex divisions of labor, markets, militaries, formal laws or money. Every household provisioned, made or bartered for their own food, clothes, furniture, tools, and shelters, and almost everyone had to master the same skills and domains of general knowledge as well as any specialization. Children grew up and played in mixed age groups, received only interactive instruction, and learned largely by observation, study and modeling. By age 10, children in some hunting/ foraging societies today have sufficient skills to feed themselves, and adolescents take on most of the same tasks as adults. WEIRD people, from this perspective, grow up in, and adapt to, a highly unusual environment. It should not be surprising that their psychological world is unusual as well.[126]

Since most developmental research is (currently) with infants from WEIRD families, the oft-highlighted developmental 'milestones' for various cognitive and linguistic abilities may reside at the extreme end of our true underlying species distribution. Both ethnographic and experimental work with children from across diverse human populations shows just how unusual the worlds are of children who grow up in WEIRD societies, and how different their cognitive development can be.[180]

Research has highlighted the relative strangeness, in a broad global and historical context, of WEIRD beliefs, values, societal models, and childrearing practices. It is only just beginning to document how these practices impact cognitive, linguistic, and motor development, including long-term cognitive outcomes.[188]

Natural development must be a foundation stone upon which the scientific study of 'human nature' is built. All of the studies currently mainstream on human development, from Piaget to Kandel, were made using WEIRD samples. Research scientists now face a choice – they can either acknowledge that their findings in many domains cannot be generalized beyond this unusual subpopulation and leave it at that), or they can begin to take the difficult steps to building a broader, richer and better ‐ grounded understanding of the real 'nature' of our species.

Understanding what it is that makes people WEIRD is very important in input control. Cognitive “development” in WEIRD societies is largely restricted by institutionalization and exposure to conditioning institutions – schooling, in particular – rather than reliably emerging, like second molars.[189]

At a more ultimate level, in the context of counterfeit games, societal conditioning will favor the spread of child-rearing traits that speed up and enhance the development of those particular behaviors and skills that provide supply chains of new individuals into these games. This kind of conditioning is undoubtedly part of what is driving the dramatic increases in IQ observed in many industrialized nations over the last century,[190] along with increases in biases toward analytic reasoning and individualism. It would also explain the obsession with active instruction of all kinds shown by WEIRD people,[190] and the current epidemic of depression in WEIRD societies.

As we know, captive animals experience such divergent experiences from their wild relatives that they cannot be considered as psychologically (and often, biologically) representative of their wild counterparts. This narrow, unrepresentative sample of humans has led to a distorted and incomplete understanding of what human intelligence is capable of under optimal conditions (or even under decent sane conditions) and it is currently impossible to specify A Priori what a representative sample of healthy human cognition 'should' be.

Be aware, therefore, that at this level of NH we approach unknown and unexplored frontiers where hardly anyone has gone before. There IS no research we can turn to for answers about optimal intelligence development, because none of it has actually been done yet. If we carry on exploring from here, we become the experiment; the human trial subjects for finding out what intelligence can really do when it's allowed to fully develop.

Welcome to the Alien Shore : )

"This is it...

...If I take one more step, it will be the fartherest away from home I've ever been."

(Sam Gamgee on leaving the Shire, JRR Tolkien; Lord of the Rings)


golden rule 7 - use it in the right way, or lose it

For a long time researchers have been aware of the link between what we do with our brains and the risks for both burnout and dementia. In general, it has been discovered (perhaps not surprisingly) that those who are more mentally interactive and maintain good input will maintain cognitive abilities throughout their lives and are at lower risk of either.

The protective effects of an interactive cognitive lifestyle arise through multiple biological pathways, and are associated with less cerebrovascular disease (in particular disease of the brain's microscopic blood vessels) and regardless of brain weight, greater neuronal density and cortical thickness in all areas.[193]

Although some degree of neural 'pruning' is always necessary to facilitate learning and the process of plasticity itself, the large-scale deterioration of white matter connectivity, particularly in frontal lobes, is a significant cause of cognitive decline at any age. Research findings indicate - at a population level - that like it or not, environmental factors outweigh the impact of genetics in this type of neural decline in the brain.[194]

In NH, burnout- and dementia-prevention strategies are of obvious importance. Understanding the mechanisms of cognitive enhancement can help support and inform the development of effective strategies to enrich cognitive lifestyle and reduce the risk of cognitive decline.

Ok, we're convinced that we've gotta use it, but 'use' alone isn't enough not to lose it. After all, we can 'use' any item in ways that will prolong its life and function, or in ways that will lead quickly to its depreciation and decline.

Using the brain for boring repetitive functions is not a good way to get the best performance out of it; nor should we be using input that is so stressful it will lead to strain and burnout from excess glutamate & cortisol. We need, in effect, the 'happy medium'; stretching without straining, relaxing without boredom; the Goldilocks zone where input is not too dull and not too stressful – but 'just right' and exciting or engaging enough to maintain ongoing development.

Using the brain in real life (preferable outdoor) environments that offer exposure to complex real life experiences and interactions constantly improves the networks that process information in the brain. Brain cell production and survival increase, neural connections that receive and transmit communication signals grow, overall brain blood-flow increases, and the connections between brain cells multiply.

The first (scientific) hint that mental stimulation was needed to bolster brain development surfaced in the 1960s, and has been mentioned before in these tutorials. Researchers found that animals reared in an environment filled with interactive stimuli, including things to play with, had lower anxiety and grew a thicker and heavier cerebral cortex than those raised in a laboratory cage.

Evidence soon began to grow. For example, rats that frolicked with chums in enclosures resembling playgrounds acquired more branches on their neurons and interconnections than rats which were sealed in isolated cages. These brain differences arose in both young and older rats.

Other studies confirmed factors that can alter or counter the positive influences of a stimulating environment. For example, anxiety has the ability to stop new neuronal development, and so do conditioning and coercion.

In every case, researchers have found that organisms raised in impoverished, isolated conditions, where they are alone, rarely touched, played with or spoken to, have alterations in their brains and deficits in brain function. If school or work currently imposes this on you, you need to take steps to protect your brain, and implement lifestyle changes as soon as is practically possible.

The good news is, submerging organisms in intensely stimulating natural environments begins to bring back those functions and restart development. An enriched natural environment can not only increase the number of connections in the brain but can also repair damage. Changes in lifestyle that introduce new sensory experience and learning can cause massive rewiring of the brain, even as one ages.[195]

New neurons arise all the time in the adult brain but only stick around for ten days or so if they are not used. Learning by play enables their survival; and the more engaging and challenging (and fun) the game, activity or problem, the greater the number of neurons that stick around to develop new connections. These connections are then available to aid in other real life situations which tax the mind.[196]

Underlying ongoing brain development is a complex and coordinated process of epigenetic regulation, and cell production can be influenced by a number of different environmental factors. For example, alcohol consumption has been shown to retard the generation of new brain cells, and conversely, their birth rate can be enhanced by non-repetitive physical exercise. But data implies that it is the process of learning—and not simply the exercise of training or exposure to a different environment or a different routine—that rescues neurons from death.

Although learning must occur if neurons are to survive, not all types of 'learning' achieve this. For example, learning an obvious, easy, repetitive task does not enhance cell survival. Nor does classical conditioning. We need the type of learning which requires independent thought.

Some other activities work as well as learning; being creative and solving puzzles helps to maintain neurons too. It looks like the tasks which maintain the most new neurons are the ones that are most challenging to learn, or requiring the most mental effort to master. Tasks and games requiring more thought—or taking longer periods of practice to learn—activate the networks of nerve cells more vigorously, including newborn neurons, and this activation is the key to maintaining denser networks.

It works via Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH), which is released during the 'stretch' part of learning, reducing GABA in surrounding networks, where new neurons 'listen to' signals from their environment even though they don't yet have connections of their own. If no signals are forthcoming, they don't develop connections. How to produce ACTC? -Fun and learning; in other words, play.[197]

And that's ALL. Differences in brain biology, including brain size and shape, as well as the individual's age, do NOT explain differences in cognitive abilities between people. Play -but only play within the game of real life- develops, maintains, and augments intelligence.[198]

For biological development, the 'right input' is nature's developmental triggers. Play and learning in an enriched natural environment -and consequently an enriched LIFE- is what biology is looking for.

Retard the development of rich, deep empathic intelligence by substituting counterfeit games for living experience, and intelligence starts to degrade. Filling our lives with challenging natural living experience, opening, developing and expanding our capacity to imagine and reason by immersing ourselves in story, puzzles and rich descriptive language, and interacting empathically with all living things, gives us the enriched environment we need to restart and augment development. These signals cannot be simulated by drugs, VR or hypnosis -nature, and its signals, are way too complex, and to reproduce that environmental complexity we would need to reconstruct the entire universe. Only our imagination can do that; because that's what perception does.

Rest assured that without this input, intelligence cannot fully develop, at any age. It is not just that all we have to do is play, or that everything must become a form of play, the issue is that we have to play with the right stuff, and avoid playing with the wrong stuff.

This may be a much more difficult task to accomplish than the simple taking of pills or doing exercises. But it is the only way to achieve optimal development that we know of. Fortunately, working out how we can achieve it in our own lives in more and more ways is just the sort of challenge the brain thrives on.

NHA guide to methods & tech

cognitive mechanisms that protect against bullshit

It is worthwhile to distinguish uncritical or reflexive open-mindedness (gullibility) from thoughtful or reflective open-mindedness (consideration). Whereas reflexive open-mindedness results from an intuitive mindset that is very accepting of information without very much processing, reflective open-mindedness (or active open-mindedness);[199] results from a mindset that searches for information as a means to facilitate critical analysis and rational reflection. Thus, the former should cause one to be more receptive of bullshit whereas the latter, much like analytic cognitive style, should guard against it.

Critical thinking and anxiety reduction facilitate bullshit detection. At a very basic level, the willingness to stop and think analytically about the actual meanings of the presented words and their associations is a good defense against accepting bullshit at face value (i.e., to avoid an excessively open-minded response bias). Moreover, increased detection of bullshit may reinforce a critical attitude and potentially engender a more restrained attitude to profundity judgments. Present research also provides evidence that an increased knowledge of word meaning (via verbal intelligence) may assist in critical analysis. An understanding of more precisely nuanced meanings of words may reveal inconsistencies, incongruities, and conflicts among terms in bullshit statements. Some skepticism about the sources of statements until verified will also guard against bullshit acceptance.

A lot of information is subject to emotional weighting; if we love or respect someone, we want them to know the right answers, and can find it hard to argue rationally. Being aware of our own emotional responses to information can enable us to take a step back and ask ourselves questions such as, 'Do I wish this were true? Would I be disappointed if it proved to be BS? Is that affecting my belief in its factuality? Would this person get anxious if their belief was proved wrong? What if someone has misinterpreted something here?'

CBT for rooting out delusion

We can gain a great deal of knowledge about the rationality of our own beliefs through semi-structured self-assessment interviews, in which we evaluate the veracity of our own beliefs as well as assessing them as if they were expressed by another person.

Here's an example:

Alice holds a belief that certain types of technology has bugs inside that can transmit audio or video to whoever programmed them. When asking herself, "How convinced are you that this is true?", Alice may confirm that she is absolutely sure because she has seen the code for them and even written a couple, or she may admit there is no actual proof for her suspicion, which will lead her to question it.

If a similar belief is presented from a third person perspective: 'Imagine Bob meets you in the local bar and during your conversation he tells you he believes that certain types of meat has bugs inside that can cause Alzheimers', how does Alice respond? How convinced would she be that this belief of Bob's is true?" Alice thinks, 'I would want to know more'. When considering, 'Would there be some doubt? Would I think Bob is delusional?' Alice thinks, 'Yes … I'd be unsure, even though I know Bob is intelligent'. She now sees how others probably respond to her voicing her own beliefs, and why they doubt her.

Through this method of self-interviewing, people reveal to themselves any erroneous logic they routinely use. This is far more powerful than having a psychologist lecturing about it, and may ultimately make it easier to change thinking patterns and behavior.[200]

multilevel self programming

Most of our long term memory is unconscious for most of the time. Working memory is conscious of course, and current/recent episodic memory is conscious for long enough for us to maintain a coherent concept of ongoing events through time, but the vast majority of memory of necessity remains unconscious until it is recalled; being the long term storage of past knowledge and experiences, attitudes, ideas, values and beliefs.

Conscious awareness is based on memory, prediction and current input, and is (or should be) volitional; we use it to plan, set goals, judge, make decisions, and respond in the here and now. Unconscious knowledge is by definition the stuff we 'know already'; and unconscious processing is habitual and largely automatic.

To get our attention, the unconscious uses emotions. For example, if we suddenly feel afraid, our unconscious has detected (rightly or wrongly) that our survival is at risk.

Most 'self-help' systems target conscious awareness only, however it's much easier to change habits of belief and behavior if we access our unconscious as well as our conscious awareness; because this accesses the 'long term storage depot' for attitudes, values and beliefs.

Multilevel self programming accesses multiple levels of biology both consciously and unconsciously, from physiology to psychology; using everything we can (sensorimotor input, behavior, chemistry, psychology, cognitive awareness, tech) to address awareness holistically.

Multilevel programming can be difficult if we do not understand clearly what unconscious knowledge is responsible for and what conscious awareness is responsible for, and many 'self help' systems (and indeed popular psychology books) have these concepts the wrong way round. This is partly due to misunderstandings by early psychiatrists and psychologists about the nature of the unconscious, because often conscious awareness was (and still is) mistaken for unconscious knowledge.

What we believe about the conscious and unconscious is obviously very important when self programming. So first we need to make sure we have this distinction clear.

Consider the way that we are capable of thinking in words. Words are an abstract way of representing ideas and as such, thoughts in words are part of conscious processing. If you come across anything claiming that 'the inner voice' is 'the voice of the unconscious', disregard it.

Likewise the 'deep, dark' unconscious gets blamed for 'leading us astray' with emotional responses instead of reason, and instincts instead of intellect; this is not only the wrong way round but neglects the fact that we need both.

The 'inner voice' is the voice of conscious awareness; not unconscious knowledge (which doesn't have a voice – it thinks in graphic format). It is the conscious mind which has these debates with itself due to incongruity; unconscious knowledge may not even get a look in and it certainly can't contribute anything in words; it can't think in words. Consequently, no infant thinks in words, because the networks for processing words aren't developed yet.

Nor are sentiments of unconscious origins; while we are consciously interpreting feelings as fear, anger or jealousy, all that the unconscious is feeling is anxiety. We may well consciously interpret the anxiety as coming from outside ourselves and warp our emotions into sentiments, but we do this via conscious thoughts and conscious associations, in full conscious awareness. Did you ever meet anyone angry who didn't know they were angry? This is full conscious awareness.

Another misconception is the belief that techniques such as hypnosis affect only the unconscious mind. In reality such techniques, if they are to be successful, must communicate with both conscious and unconscious mind, and achieve congruity; both aspects of our mind must agree with each other before beneficial change can take place. To achieve this, several layers of concurrent input in multilevel programming help to convince us cognitively, emotionally and unconsciously that change is desired and that there is a NEED for such change, before laying out the details of the change and progressing through it. This is what multilevel self programming means.

In this context, hypnosis can be viewed as a procedure that allows you to use your own ability to produce a placebo effect. Multilevel programming takes advantage of this, while adding as many 'layers', dimensions or levels as possible within the context, via directed association, to form association nodes (see 'self programming hack', tutorial 15).

In the self programming hack, we provided simultaneous input for as may senses as possible in order to form a sensory 'association node' which treats all the input as though it emerged from the same source. Here we add other powerful factors to our association; such as conscious belief, behavior, and emotional weighting.

The ideal is 'full communication', that is to say, communication with our unconscious and conscious minds and appropriate emotional weighting simultaneously; therefore we include areas for each; for example sensorimotor and spatial input communicate directly with the unconscious mind, cognitive and verbal input communicate with conscious awareness, and belief, expectation and assumptions add the appropriate emotional weighting.

'Sensorimotor and spatial input' means we add material and spatial 'things and stuff' to the association node, such as real objects and real places (rather than imaginary ones).

We also add emotionally salient 'events', such as bathing, opening and walking through doors, going up or down stairs, except that we do all this literally rather than in the imagination, as is usually done in hypnosis.

What are we doing when we pursue the concrete (physical role play) rather than abstract (imagination) option? Communicating directly in the format understood by each network, and (not incidentally) increasing the strength of mirror neuron responses. This helps form a strong programming node for future access.

Using belief, expectation and assumptions to add the emotional weighting creates some wonderfully paradoxical concepts to be explored here. Consider: we are manipulating the development of neural connections using our knowledge of science and reality with regard to those connections and neuronal properties. In a sense, science and reality and facts do not actually require belief: it is of no import whether we believe the sea exists, for example, because it does anyway. There's no need for you to believe in the existence of the chair you're sitting in for it to continue existing (good thing too). So, if we tell ourselves that it doesn't matter whether we believe in the placebo effect or not, because it works anyway, that's one method of eyes-open placebo use. Understanding that our beliefs change ourselves, not 'the spoon', is a major step in self-programming.

Multilevel programming can include classical conditioning techniques, but doesn't have to. It can include anything that has personal meaning to you.

Things to remember:

In hypnotic inductions, always address the unconscious as 'you' (not 'I').

The unconscious gets confused by negatives: So if you say, “I don’t want to procrastinate any more,” in an induction, the unconscious generates a picture of you procrastinating. Switching that picture from the negative to the positive takes an extra step. It's better to tell your unconscious, “Let’s concentrate more on the good stuff!”

The unconscious absorbs and interprets pictures, not words. In multilevel programming, the real life imagery should have strong associations with the imaginative imagery.

The unconscious only thinks in the present. If in using affirmations to get something you say… “YOU WILL CHANGE….(whatever)”, or… “YOU'RE GOING TO CHANGE (whatever)”, you’re thinking of the future, and the unconscious believes that nothing is necessary NOW. The key to programming is to 'behave as though' – to enable the unconscious to accomplish changes in the here and now. Behave as though those changes are already present; act and feel as if you NOW have the change you want. 'YOU ARE CHANGING..........' or 'YOU HAVE CHANGED..........' is a much better choice. A good, simple keyphrase during incidents of snapback is: 'You don't do things this way anymore, remember?'

The unconscious does not know the difference between what is real and what is imagined. That’s what programming, and hypnosis, take advantage of. If you’re using those methods to enhance something or change something about yourself, you need to behave as though you have done so NOW. The unconscious will never disagree with you or believe you don’t need or haven’t made the change; and will adjust your neurochemistry accordingly.

How to do multilevel programming:

Regardless of which type you wish to do, you'll first need to decide what basic type of approach currently works best for you; either a cognitive behavioral approach, or an intuitive imaginative approach. If you don't yet know this, it's best to try each method and find out. It's also wise to switch methods now and again because the unconscious pays more attention to novelty. We give examples of both types below.

Multilevel programming – intuitive imaginative approach:

Example 1

1 select your association input for each network (eg., physical objects, places, items which invoke a particular mood, specific behaviors related to the program or process, keywords or keyphrases, and an overall goal concept).

Alice chooses a small ceramic model of a white rabbit, the path between her bathroom and her garden, half a bottle of wine which gives her a relaxed, relieved and open mood, the process of bathing, approach, and walking the path, the keyphrases are song lyrics: 'you can mend the wires'; and her goal concept is shedding all the anxiety and hassle she's encountered over the week, stepping out of other people's problems and fuckups, and into her own space, where she can relax, play and be creative and forget about all the nonsense.

2 set the scene & write the script

Alice writes a short scene modeled on an hypnotic staircase induction of herself going 'down the rabbit hole' to meet the white rabbit in the garden. First she will have a hot bath with nice lavender smells, during which she will just think of relaxing and deliberately banishing all thought of hassle and nonsense along with the grime that's washed away. All clean and fresh, she will step out of the bath, get dried and into comfortable clothes while still in the bathroom, then she will put on her favorite song and join in the lyrics (having set up the song in advance to play when she hits the remote). She will walk downstairs and straight out into the garden, (where she left the white rabbit model previously). She will pick it up and carry it with her as she walks around the garden sniffing her herbs, then just sits still and drinks her wine; trusting her unconscious awareness to come up with the next idea. At some place she will decide what to start doing first, at which point she will put the rabbit down and go about doing it. The next time she comes along, the rabbit will be right there where she left it.

Multilevel programming – cognitive behavioral approach:

Example 2

1 choose your association input for each network

Bob chooses his watch, his bed, clothes, tea, which gives him a light-hearted humorous mood, the concept of gratitude, the process of dressing and undressing, key phrases: 'you are such a lucky bastard to be able to think properly!' and, 'now we are free'; and his goal concept is exactly the same as Alice's.

2 set the scene & write the script

Bob has created a short ritual which involves going up to his room as soon as he gets home, taking off all his clothes, and last of all removing his watch which he shuts inside a drawer while saying, 'now we are free'. Then he gets dressed again, makes a cup of tea, and lays on his bed drinking it, saying aloud, 'you are such a lucky bastard to be able to think properly!' He lies there and reminds himself that this is his own time and he can do absolutely anything he wants to do, whenever he feels like it. He can eat when he wants to, sleep when he wants to, and there is absolutely no need at all to know what time it is. He thinks about how fortunate he is to be in this position, and feels appreciation for his mind and proud that he's taking care of it. If hassles or worries try to surface, he gently but firmly reminds himself with a short script: 'This is REAL life. We don't do that shit in our own time. This is growth and regeneration time; it's how you build resilience'.

...So ...what shall he do first? When he thinks of something he'd like to do that is good input, he gets up and does it.

These two examples have very different details yet use the same basic method. Instead of 'washing away' memories of other people's problems, Alice could be washing away memories of old bad habits, of old unwanted behaviors, or a weary state of mind. Bob's focusing reminders incorporate cognitive behavioral reframing at its best. As with all programming, it's not the details of the data which matter -it's the basics of the program itself.

Q: But what kind of details are relevant input?

A: Any details that have personal meaning to you are relevant input, so long as they do not incorporate old bad habits.

Awareness of the here and now is an important concept in both examples; Alice's awareness that other peoples' hassle is not her problem and Bob's awareness that he can 'think properly' and that 'we don't do this shit in our own time'. Both are aware of their freedom in the real world right now. Neither use first person, future tense phrases such as 'I am becoming better at this'. Both are in the here and now addressing the unconscious directly, with thoughts such as, 'You are better at this; practice is improving this right now', and behaviors which confirm these assertions.

Affirming reality; thinking or speaking the truth, consolidates it. Saying, 'You are walking down the stairs' when you actually are walking down the stairs, or saying 'As I do this, new connections are forming in my brain' whilst knowing that they ARE, can lead to some of the strongest programming association nodes we can make.

directed association - using placebos in self programming via classical conditioning

This technique consists of creating an association between real drug + other substance/activities (placebo) initially by giving them together. We can link in other associative factors for each network to use the multilevel effect.

Once all items are firmly associated together, we replace the real drug with another placebo (or half dose made to look like full dose) for the same response.

It doesn't matter that we consciously know we are using the placebo effect; the technique works if done properly. Re-triggering the 'desired state' via association triggers is one reason for placebos' effectiveness -eg, you have a cold, your immune system goes into hyperdrive, and at the same time you drink hot brandy with spices. You get better. The next time you drink hot brandy with spices, your immunity will temporarily increase. The drink is now functioning as an association trigger, and the body reproduces the same factors that were associated with it last time.

We include a hack using directed association in this tutorial.

Epigenetic hacking

Environmental signals reflect the context an organism can expect to find itself in, and genes are selected accordingly. Epigenetic hacking is about manipulating input in order to alter the expression of genes; via the use of either drugs or other epigenome-influencing techniques.

Many conditions, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and mental illnesses are influenced by epigenetic mechanisms,[201] and epigenetic therapy offers a potential way to influence those pathways directly.

This effectively puts us in the position of being directors of our own gene expression, via known promoters or inhibitors. At the current time (2016) promoters and inhibitors are still being discovered, so it's important to keep up to date. Currently epigenetic therapy focuses on the use of agents with hypomethylating and histone-deacetylase inhibitory activity, and several drugs in these two categories are actively being studied in clinical trials in humans.

Some examples:

Folic acid, Vitamin B12 and Choline are all inputs that inhibit the 'AGOUTI' gene, which alters the way we store fat and helps prevent obesity.

L-tyrosine and L-phenylalanine promote activity of the 'TYR' gene (tyrosinase gene), that alters our skin and hair color to darker versions and helps prevent gray hair. Conversely, tyrosinase inhibitors (if you want to avoid them) include kojic acid, tropolone, coumarins and vanilla.[202]

DNA methylation and histone H3 phospho-acetylation have been associated with hippocampal memory formation and the latter modification appears to be responsive to both stress and exercise.[203] Differences in our lifestyle and environment can result in lasting, trans-generational changes in gene expression, mediated in part by changes in epigenetic histone marks and DNA methylation in the hippocampus,[204] and functional and structural changes in the prefrontal cortex and amygdala.[205]

Behavioral correlates of this remodeling in the prefrontal cortex include impairment in attention set shifting.[206]

The consequence of these modifications is a down, or up-regulation in resilience against anxiety that persists across generations and produces significant differences in stress responsiveness and affective behaviors.[207]

Exposure therapy for phobias works due to epigenetic effects. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors (NMDA) have been identified as crucial in the exposure therapy process. Successful exposure therapy is associated with increased acetylation of these receptors, leading to transcriptional activation, which appears to increase neural plasticity.

Increasing the acetylation of these two receptor types has been a major area of recent research into the treatment of anxiety disorders, using histone deacetylase inhibitors such as Vorinostat, Entinostat, TSA, sodium butyrate, and VPA in context of exposure therapy.[208]

The behavioral factor in exposure therapy is here essential for the 'environmental signal', as the drugs alone will not effect epigenetic changes without it. Indeed, administration of HDAC inhibitors without successful exposure therapy actually worsens anxiety disorders significantly.[209] Exposure therapy works by a learning process, and can be enhanced by substances which increase neural plasticity and learning. However, if a person is exposed to input which causes anxiety in such a way that their fear does not decrease, compounds which increase learning may also increase reconsolidation, ultimately strengthening the memory.

Research findings have demonstrated that schizophrenia is linked to numerous epigenetic alterations, including DNA methylation and histone modifications, and there is much interest in the possibilities of epigenetic therapy in such conditions.[210]

It could be argued that epigenetic modification is merely reversing the symptoms of deleterious epigenetic changes, rather than looking into addressing the causes of these deleterious changes in the first place, without which the solution may not be permanent. This is why epigenetic changes made via lifestyle alteration is more likely to be permanent than drug-induced epigenetic changes.

Using drugs to alter biochemical activity together with behavioral therapies apparently provides an opportunity to permanently reverse the changes and 'reset' the DNA to its pre-anxiety environment. However, because this type of therapy is so new, the long-term repercussions of epigenetic modification of genes is completely unknown. It is therefore unwise to charge ahead regardless with epigenetic modification to 'enhance intelligence'. If there is a genuinely life-threatening condition, such experimentation is justified, but much more research is necessary before we can assume that epigenetic alteration is safe in the long term.

A most important thing to bear in mind is: find out ALL the effects of the target gene that are known, before doing anything; because genes rarely affect just one thing and side effects need to be taken into consideration because they can be deadly. For instance, a deficit of L-Tyrosine can predispose us to melanoma, and an excess of L-Tyrosine can damage eyes and cause migraine headaches and dopamine overproduction in some individuals.[211]

This is not a type of therapy which should be ordinarily considered for anyone currently under 25, anyone trying to become a parent, or anyone pregnant or breastfeeding. Some epigenetic changes can be inherited, and whilst there is nothing morally wrong with doing whatever we please with our own bodies and minds, we don't have any right to mess with anyone else's without their knowledge or informed consent.

One thing we can all do to maintain healthy epigenetic responses is adopt lifestyle changes which help us avoid inflammation. It IS known that inflammation damages epigenetic responses, and that repressing or avoiding inflammation restores or maintains epigenetic health. So removing unhealthy sugars and oils from the diet (such as sucrose, HFCS, artificial sweeteners, corn oil and processed foods in general), and getting sufficient sleep and exercise, can help maintain epigenetic health as well as mental health.

Another thing we can all do is adopt anxiety-reduction techniques, because anxiety damages epigenetic responses.[212]

Some of the things we are already doing are epigenetically affecting our gene expression. For example, cannabis mimics relaxation-response-related endocannabinoid release,[213] which is involved not only in HPA regulation,[214] but also in negative regulation of glutamate, GABA and acetylcholine release.[215] Chronic use may be an unconscious attempt by the user to replace endocannabinoids whose release has been blocked by anxiety.

Similar mechanisms are likely true in using opiates to replace endogenous opioids, amphetamines to replace endogenous ACTH, nicotine to replace endogenous acetylcholine, chocolate to replace endogenous anandamide, and so on, in the same way that synthetic dopamine (L-dopa) is used to replace the endogenous dopamine deficiency seen in Parkinson's disease, or serotonin enhancers are used in some cases of depression.

Aside from this, unhealthy eating, natural sleep deprivation and other behavioral/envronmental choices, can all effect epigenetic modulation. It's often lifestyle-directed epigenetic changes which contribute to cancer, mental illness or obesity in the first place. Remember Golden Rule 1!

CES - the neural equivalent of body-builders' EMS?

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) sends electrical signals to directly stimulate and exercise muscles. EMS is a proven efficient way to physically exercise, rooted in sports science research. What’s more, this can be done whilst completing other tasks and puts no strain on other parts of the body. Electronic Muscle Stimulation technology uses a gentle current to contract muscles, just like you would naturally do with exercise.[216]

What does this have to do with brains? Well, CES (Cranial Electrical Stimulation; aka Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation; Cranial-Electro Stimulation and 'TE' (transcranial electrotherapy)), applies a small, pulsed electric current across a person's head which has been shown to induce changes in the electroencephalogram, increasing alpha relative power and decreasing relative power in delta and beta frequencies. CES treatments have been found to induce changes in neurohormones and neurotransmitters that have been implicated in psychiatric disorders: substantial increases in beta endorphins, adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) and serotonin; moderate increases in melatonin and norepinephrine, modest or unquantified increases in cholinesterase, gamma-aminobutyric acid, and dehydroepiandrosterone, and moderate reductions in cortisol.[217]

So... is CES supplying for the brain what EMS supplies for the body – sufficient exercise to maintain healthy function without having to do very much?

It would appear not, unfortunately. Our brains generate new neurons all the time; with only those cells which receive both chemical and electrical stimuli surviving, and the remaining ones dying off. It is already known that if a cell is not appropriately stimulated by both chemical and electrical signals, it assumes it is surplus to requirements and self-destructs. This self-destruct process is also known to be an important factor in stroke, Alzheimer's and motor neuron diseases, leading to the loss of essential nerve cells from the adult brain.[218] Nerve cells will survive if appropriate input stimuli are produced to block the self-destruct process, and ordinarily this requires enriched natural environments and healthy interaction.

TMS and undermining false beliefs

Research has found that with the posterior medial frontal cortex suppressed by TMS, both beliefs in supernatural entities and prejudice towards immigrants can be reduced.[5]

The possibility of coadministration of TMS with cognitive behavioral therapy has also been explored in treatment of depression [219] and OCD.[220]

Can we, then, use TMS to help remove habitual false beliefs?

The area targeted in the first study (above) is the posterior medial frontal cortex (pMFC), which, as discussed in the anatomy section above, attempts to resolve incongruity. A first point to consider is, on structure and function terms this is a relatively large area of brain; including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex (dACC) and the dorsomedial prefrontal area anterior to the supplementary motor cortex (dmPFC).

Convergent lines of evidence indicate that the dmPFC/dACC complex functions as an interface relating threat detection with the coordination of targeted solutions relevant to resolving particular threats. The dACC component has been proposed to induce a compensatory increase in moral or cultural values following exposure to threats (e.g. reminders of death, uncertainty, isolation or meaninglessness).[221]

Since the the paracingulate sulcus (PCS) is also in the medial prefrontal cortex, and given its previously established role in reality monitoring,[222] it is clear that more than one process is at work simultaneously here, however, the most obvious point is: if a given area assists in making more accurate decisions, it does not make sense that downregulating it should lead to more accurate decisions, unless there is some pre-existing problem with it in normal operation. Such problems are indeed indicated by the choice of subjects in this study, who (of necessity to prove the point) held (or at least claimed to hold) false beliefs in the first place.

That puts this study into the mainstream habit of studying dysfunctional people, and gives no guarantee of what happens when a non-anxious person gets their medial cortex beneath the TMS.

The problem of dubious veracity (that is, whether the 'average' person really, honestly believes what they claim to believe) is currently an unsolvable one, and a huge problem for research of this kind. We have no way of telling, for example, whether downregulating the pMFC simply makes it easier for people to tell the truth; that they don't really believe in gods and they're not really prejudiced, but were pretending to do so because that's how all their friends behave. There is, after all, prior evidence that downregulation of the pMFC (in 'normal' people) decreases anxiety about social conformity.[223]

Conversely, downregulation of the pMFC could be inducing people to start lying about what they believe, perhaps due to increasing anxiety about the sudden apparent loss of their judgmental ability. Or the interference with areas involved in determining certainty/ uncertainty, loss of certainty may simply result in uncertain answers.

And yet another possibility: if the pMFC is on overdrive trying to process wrong input all the time, 'turning it down' may allow more coherent processing and more accurate decisions. But this still doesn't tell you what happens to a healthy person in the same situation.

So the short answer is, we don't know yet, and if any of you do know (for example, because you've tried it), please share the results!

Mindfulness meditation

Four days of mindfulness meditation practice can significantly improve visuospatial processing, working memory and executive functioning. Brain scans show that mindfulness meditation increases the functional connectivity of the participants' resting default mode network in areas important to attention and executive control, namely the dorsolateral PFC. Mindfulness meditation also results in reduced IL-6 levels, an inflammatory health biomarker; and it is thought that changes in brain functional connectivity coupling accounts for the lower inflammation levels. It would appear that mindfulness-induced brain changes provide a neurobiological marker for improved executive control and stress resilience.[224]


DO IT NOW – self assessment for ontological confusion

The statements below may be literally true, the way a sentence such as ‘Jimi Hendrix played the guitar' is true; or they may be true only in a metaphorical sense, like the expression ‘Jimi Hendrix rocked the world'. Study each statement and rate how metaphorical/literal the statement is on the following scale: 1= fully metaphorical, 2 = more metaphorical than literal, 3 = both literal AND metaphorical, 4 = more literal than metaphorical, 5 = fully literal.


A Birds of Paradise are beautiful creatures

B Birds of Paradise are not mammals

C I grasp this idea

D Descents are often quicker than ascensions

E Mountains live for centuries

F I can see the point of this exercise

G Life emerged from a primeval soup

H A rolling stone gathers no moss

I They fell in love

J The church would not approve

K Africa was the birthplace of homo sapiens

L Don't count your chickens before they hatch

Scoring at end of tutorial

assignment – test yourself for accurate confidence

If we're asked how much we understand the workings of everyday things like cars, vacuum cleaners or computer printers, or how to perform fairly ordinary processes such as storing food, cooking, or cutting hair, many of us massively overestimate our own knowledge. This overconfidence extends beyond objects and processes to more abstract matters, such as our comprehension of counterfeit games' policies, and subjects such as empathy, plasticity or memory; and collectively this phenomenon is known as "the illusion of explanatory depth".

Alternatively, some of us underestimate our knowledge and ability and assume we know less than we actually do.

One method of testing ourselves for over- or under-confidence works as follows: you produce a detailed explanation of whatever it is that you think you understand. After doing this, most of us come to realise the true limits of the extent of our knowledge. However, as an intervention or "cure" for reducing over-confidence, producing full explanations is impractical because it is time consuming and pretty boring.

Research has now demonstrated that that it's not necessary to generate full explanations; merely reflecting briefly, in a very specific way, on our knowledge is enough to effectively combat over- or under-confidence.

It's called "Reflecting on Explanatory Ability", and you do it like this: before estimating your understanding of various objects or processes, you "Carefully reflect on your ability to explain to an expert, in a step-by-step, causally-connected manner, with no gaps in your story, how the object or process works".

Simply spending a few seconds doing this is enough to substantially recalibrate people's estimates of their own knowledge, this is almost as effective as spending time typing out a full explanation, and far more effective than simply spending time on unguided reflection.

Researchers believe this works because it enables us to assess the complexity of the object or process we're thinking about, and to get a sense of the number of gaps in our knowledge.

As a result of applying this method to more abstract concepts, such as understanding conditioning or sentiment or epigenetics, our attitudes towards these things becomes more realistic and open-minded.[225]

towards entelechy

““Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”


“Irrational fear is a construct of an undisciplined intellect"

(Mr.Spock; Star Trek, Deep Domain)

"Some things need to be believed to be seen."

(Guy Kawasaki)

Your mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

(Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)

'It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science...

... Underneath all science and art; at the root of creativity, learning, memory, prediction and imagination -and intelligence itself- is an essential 'pendulum' balance which swings between two neural states; two parts of a process; one of which allows an openness to new ideas, no matter how bizarre or counterintuitive they may seem, and one that pursues the most ruthless skeptical scrutiny of all ideas, old and new, hunting for the truth. This is how deep truths are winnowed from deep nonsense'. (Carl Sagan)[226]

“The fears, prejudices and limitations that we impose on ourselves must someday pass, because they are not as real as hope, tolerance and possibility.”

(Gene Roddenberry)

“If people have turned away from human nature, how can they expect to represent it?”


the  most important  bits to remember

Beliefs are basically the mental acceptance of something as true. There are things we are in the habit of believing, and habits can become self-reinforcing cycles of belief and perception.

If we can change the input and rewrite the software of mind, we can change the filtering of experience. Belief should not be static; it should expand as our knowledge and experience expand.

Beliefs do not indicate knowledge unless they are congruous; knowledge originates from experience via our senses (empirical knowledge) and from reasoning based on known facts ('a priori').

Epigenetics is the study of the way in which gene expression is modified by environmental influences or other mechanisms. The discovery at the root of this study is the fact that the environment controls proteins. Epigenetics IS the 'magic program'. DNA – our genome - is just the 'reference library'.

Epigenetics can in fact influence either the gene copies or the protein modules, altering not just which genes are going to be read, but also how they are going to be read.

'Command chain' for how epigenetics works:

environmental signals interpreted via beliefs (primary signal) → Cell receptors → cell effectors (secondary signal) → DNA uncovering (removes regulatory protein) → RNA copies DNA → RNA copy is used to synthesize proteins → parts & processes result.

This is how signals from the environment activate expression of our DNA.

The external environment is communicated to cells via our senses, perception and behavioral feedback.

The internal environment is communicated to cells via our bloodstream; from which all cells get their nutrients and information about the internal chemistry of their matrix (our bodies & brains).

It is impossible for the body and mind to be in growth mode and protection mode at the same time because one effectively turns the other off.

Our beliefs about what is going on shape our emotional states and behavior accordingly.

If you don't believe you are in control of anything, you won't be able to control anything.

Placebo factors have neurobiological underpinnings and actual (measurable) effects on the brain and body.

The paracingulate sulcus (PCS) important for reality monitoring, is either completely absent or only partially developed in a majority of those living in western industrial societies. Make sure you're developing yours.

If we're independent and taking care of ourselves, there is no good reason for lack of input.

Natural development must be a foundation stone upon which the scientific study of 'human nature' is built.

The protective effects of an interactive cognitive lifestyle arise through multiple biological pathways, and are associated with less cerebrovascular disease (in particular disease of the brain's microscopic blood vessels) and regardless of brain weight, greater neuronal density and cortical thickness in all areas.

Submerging organisms in intensely stimulating natural environments begins to bring back those functions and restart development.

As we have learned in past tutorials, the mind computes our context from a mixture of stored memories, environmental circumstances, current state of mind, and prediction via imagination; and the electrical activity of neurons represents information about these things.[227]

As we have also learned, it is context, together with temporal awareness, which gives code meaning. Neural signaling is software: mind is a process; not a thing. Our minds emerge as the result of evolving brains interacting with complex environments. We order our perceptions by categorizing these environments into contexts, and operate as agents within those contexts.

Our beliefs ARE our psychological context. Everything is contained within them; not the other way round. Everything is framed within morality; not the other way round. This is why beliefs control our lives (the 'how' may be explained via epigenetics).

Without context we are lost, and without direction of our own context, we are inevitably cast into other peoples'. Whose context are you operating in right now -yours, or other peoples'?

Our beliefs and morals are the rules which guide our interactions. We create maps of contexts that help us navigate, produced by classifying the world in ways that reflect a largely unconscious awareness of mathematical symmetry.[228]

Intellectual (abstract) concepts (objects) are arranged by the mind in conceptual, contextual space (containers) and this enables the flow of information/communication (conduits).

We, ourselves, are a process. Consciousness in the sense of self-awareness is what you get when a generalized feature-detector makes a recursive attempt to detect itself.

...but that's another tutorial...

Hacks & exercises



cognitive reappraisal anxiety hack

A fast-working cognitive reappraisal trick that helps with anxiety:

Tell yourself that you feel excited whenever you feel nervous.

That's it. It sounds stupidly simple, but it's proven effective in a variety of studies and settings. It works because the chemistry of desire and excitement utilize some of the same neurotransmitters and hormones as the chemistry of alarm; or 'arousal' in general.

You've probably noticed already how calmness feels nothing like anxiety, but excitement feels 'sorta' like it. If we prime the unconscious with a verbal cue to expect and interpret the chemistry as excitement, rather than anxiety, it obligingly complies. Likewise apprehension becomes anticipation.

For some people, this is much easier than trying to calm themselves down all the time. Calmness, of course, is low in arousal chemistry, and it takes less effort for the brain to jump from charged-up, negative sentimental feelings to charged-up, positive emotions. This makes sense, since changing anxiety into calmness requires flipping both the intensity (high to low) and the valence (sentiment to emotion). Changing anxiety into excitement just requires one of those flips. If you can accomplish this, you'll not only feel better, you'll perform better.[229]

multilevel self programming hacks

Remember: The ideal is 'full communication', that is to say, communication with our unconscious and conscious minds and appropriate emotional weighting simultaneously; therefore we include areas for each; for example sensorimotor and spatial input communicate directly with the unconscious mind, cognitive and verbal input communicate with conscious awareness, and belief, expectation and assumptions add the emotional weighting.

1 approach

People are motivated to approach things they like. They must have learned that association - if they approach something, they infer that they like it. We can flip that association and use it to influence ourselves to change our attitude about something.

We can essentially convince ourselves that something is more attractive or less aversive by making ourselves approach it or at least have the feeling of approaching it. The unconscious informs the conscious mind - we use what happens to our body to help our cognition; this is using your body to help inform a decision.[230]

Incorporating 'approach' scenarios into your hypnotic inductions is one way to use this information, and using that as part of a multilevel hack can enhance results.

Example: include the approach scenario, deliberate smiling, imagery of what you intend to achieve with regard to a new habit or idea, and verbal information about the ideal.

It is also possible to use this approach to reduce phobic aversion to certain items.

2 doors, gateways

Often a key archetypal behavior in stories, going through doors, especially to the outside, is another effective trigger for unconscious awareness of change. Incorporate this move into a program for inducing change.

Example: include a 'doors' scenario, calm music, images of serenity, scented flowers, and verbal information about the ideal.

3 bathing

Having a bath or ritual washing is a classic shamanistic maneuver before inducing altered states. It primes the mind for expecting 'new beginnings'.

Example: include a ritual bathing with scents and sounds, candlelight, and verbal reminders of the new behavior. Remember: never mention what you are NOT going to do (ie, don't say, 'I'm giving up cakes', instead emphasize, 'I'm eating fruit daily. That's the new me. Some fruit every day. That's why my skin is improving', etc.

Hack to prevent dendritic remodeling during anxiety

The effects of chronic stress on dendritic remodeling are blocked by blocking NMDA receptors, as well as blocking adrenal steroid synthesis.[231] A recent report indicates that NMDA receptors and glutamate are also involved in stress-induced shortening of dendrites in medial prefrontal cortex.[232]

NMDA receptors can be blocked by many substances, including theanine (in green tea), huperzine A ('chinese moss'), zinc, l-phenylanaline, alcohol and ketamine.

Excess glutamate is implicated in much anxiety-related damage. At this stage you should be able to research 'glutamate antagonists' or 'glutamate inhibitors' for yourself.

hack using directed association

If you habitually use any product for a mild condition (for examples, anti-histamine cream for insect bites, moisturizer, vitamins or supplements, athlete's foot powder) you can make up a placebo version. A great trick is to disguise it to look like the original so that you can''t tell them apart, and there are various ways to do this. For example, we can pull apart a capsule, tip out the contents and replace them with another substance, such as coconut oil or an herbal product. Ideally we should get this into the same packaging as the original substance; the two should look identical, so save empty packaging.

We do not use this right away, but leave it sitting beside the original. At some point, when we go to grab the original, we will select the alternative instead, and at this point the less attention we pay, the better. We behave as though we are doing the usual thing, and just get on with life as though everything were ordinary.

Note: I personally have experimented with this hack, replacing anti histamine cream with Calendula herbal cream, and successfully achieving an anti histamine effect with no active ingredient and no side effects.[233]

hack to improve default mode network (creativity open mode) function

Everyone has at least a few non-negotiable values. These are the things that, no matter what the circumstance, you'd never compromise for any reason - such as "I'd never hurt a child," or "I'm against the death penalty."

When people read stories that deal with these core, protected values, the "default mode network" in their brains activates. The more important to you personally the issues raised in such stories are, the more activation will occur.

It will take experimentation to do this, but you can make a collection of stories, legends, myths etc that prime you for creativity open mode.[234]

hack to improve salience network function

Reading literature is encouraged as an activity because research has shown it to be of benefit to mental health and wellbeing, but it is specifically good for mental flexibility (the ability of a person to shift a course of thought or action according to the changing demands of a situation, using the salience network).

Mental flexibility allows an individual to abandon a previous response set or pattern in order to generate an alternative that is better suited to the requirements of the situation at hand. Since this is exactly what is required in adopting new habits, this is a very worthwhile tool for augmentation.

Research found that the sustained experience of reading poems can challenge rigid expectancies and fixed thoughts and increase mental flexibility through the process of the reappraisal of meaning and the acceptance of fresh meanings; a process that is experienced as intrinsically rewarding. This is especially promising since the activated areas of the brain that provided a sense of reward in the very process of activation is known to be particularly under-vitalized in those suffering from depression.[235]

'categorization game' hack

People can increase their attention skills by grouping objects into categories, and then using these categories to search for objects more efficiently. In other words, we can build new knowledge or use existing knowledge to increase our attention, using deliberate conscious categorization.[236]

Use this hack when learning something new, or on any subject you are studying, shortly before studying, to prime your attention.

Example: Alice is learning about marine biology. She selects 50 pictures of marine animals, some of which she doesn't yet know, and categorizes them into groups depending on size. Then she categorizes them in terms of shape, then in terms of feeding habits (for this she has to do some research), and so on. The more we play with information we are learning in these simple ways, the more primed our attention will be for study after this hack.

fine tune your smile hack

Remember one of our earliest hacks; the smile hack? Chances are you've made use of this for a quick mood boost. Now we can extend it a little.

Smiles come in two variants: calm smiles, which involve a wrinkling of the eyes and a widening of the mouth, and excited smiles, which involve extra muscle action to part the lips and open the jaw.

So, instead of just 'cheering yourself up' you can decide what sort of cheerful would be most beneficial to you. Do you need to be happy and calm, or happy and excited?

Choose the type of smile most relevant to your situation. If you need high arousal emotions, you can demonstrate this to your unconscious through excited smiles. Meanwhile, calm smiles should be used when lower arousal emotions are more desirable.

Bear this in mind when in public too. Calm smiles tend to attract the attention of those who value a calmer demeanor, while excited smiles attract those who value higher arousal in behavior.[237]


exercises for developing PCS

1 what single word associates with the following words in each group?
















2 Choose a word at random; our example is 'cat'. How many directly-associated words or terms can you list for the chosen word?

Example: cat

cat walk, alley cat, big cat, wildcat, catfish, cool cat, catmint, cat scan, tomcat, cat burglar

Answers to part 1 at end of tutorial

exercise to improve working memory, attention, modeling skills, executive function and comprehension

Learn to spell, in your own language.

This is a very serious suggestion, because actually bothering to learn to spell without needing a spellchecker makes such noticeable improvements in all these mental functions that intelligence overall is augmented bigtime.

For a start, you need to be able to control your attention and focus in order to learn to spell. And you have to play with words. You need to go back to that 'childlike' space of paying genuine attention to stuff and noticing details and small differences. You need to actually look at words, think about words, play with words, study words, wonder why some words are spelled the way they are, find out, use words to practice getting the spelling right, consult dictionaries if you are not sure, and generally immerse yourself in the nature of wordiness.

Second, you will learn more about words themselves, their origins and meanings, and you'll become able to predict with this knowledge how to spell a word you haven't heard before and what a word is likely to mean although you're not familiar with it. You'll learn where words come from and what their meanings really are. You'll learn the traditions of scientific language, such as 'if it ends with -ase, it must be an enzyme'. You'll even learn why the periodic table uses 'Pb' for 'lead' and 'Ar' for silver. The whole experience will add an extra dimension to your knowledge of words.

Third, your self esteem will probably improve too because hardly anybody has this skill despite the fact that most of us are capable of learning it. Being able to spell without technical aid sends a clear message of the presence of intelligence.

interactional analysis practice

Alice owns a house in the village of Wexton Fused, and her friends have rooms there.

Alice tells everyone that she happens to know certain sorts of technology are bugged, and if her behavior is recorded,she is likely to be arrested for hacking. She claims this has happened several times before and can be confirmed through other friends. So, she says, she's asking everyone to remove these types of tech from the house and keep them out until she upgrades the security system.

Bob thinks Alice is paranoid. Things like that don't really happen. So Bob doesn't comply. He ignores her request to remove the tech, as fulfilling it would be quite a lot of hassle and take up his whole weekend. He doesn't bother telling Alice he hasn't got rid of it because what she believes is probably a load of crap anyway.

Carl doesn't know whether Alice is paranoid, because he hasn't any similar experience, but he considers a few things he believes are facts, such as:

Alice is a hacker and a security expert, with 35 years' experience. That's a lot of experience, which Carl respects.

Alice is an intelligent person.

Alice wouldn't lie about this issue having causing her problems before.

...So Carl complies, thinking, 'Better safe than sorry,' and takes his tech temporarily round to a friend's, even though it takes up his whole weekend.

Donna thinks Alice is probably being paranoid. However, she considers a few other things, such as:

Alice owns the house, and if she doesn't feel comfortable here she may either move or ask the others to leave. So Donna complies, in, she thinks, her own best interests, so as not to piss Alice off and get asked to leave.

Eve thinks it's irrelevant whether Alice is paranoid or not. Alice is her friend, with whom she wants to improve bonding. Alice has been good enough to offer her a room here, has asked for her cooperation, and she now wants to help Alice feel sure of her allies as well as build upp her own reputation for being a reliable ally. She also wants the housemates to get the good feeling of working together as a team, and after removing her own tech she helps Alice check through communal areas for anything that still needs removing.

Consider these responses to Alice, and answer the following questions:

1 Who is interacting?

2 Which interaction has the greatest benefit to intelligence?

3 What message does Bob imagine Alice will get if she notices he hasn't removed the tech? (bear in mind his framing of circumstances and use empathy to get this)

4 What message is Alice likely to perceive she's getting from Bob? (bear in mind her framing of circumstances and use empathy to get this)

5 How do you think Bob would feel if Alice got arrested?

6 What is Alice likely to think if she discovers Bob didn't comply (even though she didn't get arrested)?

Finally, explore the responses above. Which one would you be most likely to choose if you had been among the group? Or would you have chosen another solution (such as talking to Alice and trying to learn more details about her claims, or asking others to confirm them?)

Can you see how the details of the issue above are irrelevant? Outcomes (in real terms of relationships between people) would be the same if this were a story of Alice requesting on vegetarian food only in the house for a week due to her suspicions of a hushed-up salmonella epidemic, or a request to keep drugs out of the house during her parents'' visit, for fear they remove her monthly allowance (which pays for the house). ANY belief on Alice's part about events which may sound unlikely to others will do. The issue is not the details, but the basics, and in the real world of basics we interact best by addressing strategies and predicting outcomes in terms of our relationships with each other; not by addressing the details.

Answers & notes at end of tutorial.

exercise in critical awareness

Imagine you are shopping for a food item you regularly use. A label on the food catches your eye and you read, 'New, added ingredient: Fofimer'.


What would your response be (apart from thinking, 'WTF is Fofimer?')? Would you still get the food? Would you tend to believe it's probably safe to eat as usual? Make a decision.


Imagine you look up 'Fofimer' and find one article that says Fofimer is a synthetic additive which was used to preserve grains and beans in the late 20th century but was withdrawn from use due to suspected harmful effects on humans. What would your response be? Would you still get the food? Make a decision.


Alternatively, imagine you look up 'Fofimer' and find one article that says Fofimer is a powder made from a tropical berry recently suggested as a 'superfood' which is beneficial to human gut flora. What would your response be? Would you still get the food? Make a decision.

When you have decided what you would do in each case, write down what you would do in each case and why. Now consider what factors have featured in your decisions, bearing in mind one of the main points of successful strategies: analyzing and interpreting information and situations. Would you change your decisions in each case, after considering this point?

See end of tutorial for notes and the second half of this exercise.

Exercise to practice argument analysis

Below is a list of categories, followed by a series of arguments. Your mission is to determine which categories match which arguments.


1 false dichotomy

2 Over generalization

3 Implausible contradiction (false conclusion)

4 Circular reasoning

5 plausible

6 wrong example


A the concept of receptor sensitivity could explain why some people do not become alcoholics even though they have already had a considerable number of drinking sessions.

B the proportion of people drinking occasionally or regularly decreases towards the end of adolescence, from 80% to 50%, which implies that there is an increasing interest in drinking over the course of youth

C negative attitudes towards drinking are often reinforced in young people, for example when parents display how much they enjoy a drink after dinner

D the expectation that drinking alleviates stressful situations leads more likely to drinking behavior in these situations than the expectation that drinking is helpful in situations of high strain.

E the concept of inherited alcohol sensitivity relates to the fact that some people react more sensitively to alcohol, because they are more susceptible to alcohol.

F it was found that young people started drinking when they did not make friends, thus, the missing influence of friends is generally an important factor to start drinking.

See end of tutorial for answers

games to exercise your brain

1 (week long game): choose an event which occurs every day (such as, eating). Set an associative goal (for example this week, every time I eat the second meal of the day, I will find a word whose meaning I don't know and learn the meaning.)

At the end of the week, see how many of the new words you can recall. Can you remember which words you learned on which days? Where were you at the time?

2 assign each network to a number on a 6-sided die. Roll the die. Whatever number comes up, you must find a task or part of a task to do which is relevant to that network.

3 think of six short phrases which tell an important truth about developmental reality (examples, 'practice builds networks'; 'ecstatic means ex-static'; 'growth proceeds in stages'.) Collect them in your Captain's log. Use them in hypnotic inductions, or as key phrases in self programming.

4 Without looking, can you remember what topics were discussed in Tutorial 1? Write down what you can remember, then check how well your memory is doing.

Just for fun

(needs assistant with good sense of humor and low anxiety)

When two people stare into one anothers' eyes for a long period of time, both can experience altered states, including disassociation symptoms and hallucinations. Certainly, people tend to experience odd sensations when staring at ANYTHING for a long period of time - dots on a wall, for example; but for some reason, ogling each others' eyeballs has peculiarly strong effects.[238]

The idea is to stare, motionless and emotionless, into each others' eyes for ten minutes, in a dimly lit room to enhance facial features, and see what happens. Thus far, experimenters' experiences include disassociation, changes in sound, color, or time perception, hallucinations, dysmorphic face perceptions, strange-face apparitions, odd perceptual experiences, spontaneous giggling, general mirth and in some cases great hilarity. Some were unable to continue without laughing.

If you really can't find a suitable assistant, this exercise can be done with a mirror; however results are not so pronounced as with another living human (staring at pictures of others' eyes doesn't work so well either).

Nobody in a lab has afaik yet (2016) tried this in various different mental states (for example, does it still work if you're drunk?) So here we are on the leading edge of research. Party on, dudes.



1 http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/dogs/a/microwaved_pet.htm

2 Inspired by 'The Apostles Creed' from 'Not The 9 O'Clock News', series 3 episode 5, Nov 24th 1980

3 Sam Harris, Mark Cohen and Sameer Sheth; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071212202008.htm ; December 13, 2007

4 Madarasz TJ, Diaz-Mataix, L, Akhnad O, Ycu EA, LeDoux JE, Johansen JP (2016) Evaluation of ambiguous associations in the amygdala by learning the structure of the environment. Nature Neuroscience. DOI: 10.1038/nn.4308 "The uncertain brain: Untangling ambiguity in neural circuits" May 23, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-05-uncertain-brain-untangling-ambiguity-neural.html

5 Colin Holbrook, Keise Izuma, Choi Deblieck, Daniel M. T. Fessler and Marco Iacoboni; “Neuromodulation of Group Prejudice and Religious Belief”, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (2015). DOI: 10.1093/scan/nsv107; October 13, 2015; http://colinholbrook.com/Holbrook_Neuromodulating_Ideology_SCAN_2015.pdf

6 Izuma, 2013

7 van Veen et al., 2009; Izuma et al., 2010, 2015

8 Article: "Functional Neuroimaging of Belief, Disbelief, and Uncertainty," Sam Harris, Sameer Sheth, Mark S. Cohen, Annals of Neurology, December 2007. "Different Areas Of The Brain Respond To Belief, Disbelief And Uncertainty." ScienceDaily, 13 December 2007.

9 Jeff Hawkins; temporal pooling; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dDtwK9JYK94

10 Mountcastle, 1978

11 P. Taylor et al. 'The global landscape of cognition: hierarchical aggregation as an organizational principle of human cortical networks and functions'; Scientific Reports (2015). DOI: 10.1038/srep18112 "How brain architecture leads to abstract thought" December 16, 2015 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-12-brain-architecture-abstract-thought.html

12 Buonomano, Dean V.; Merzenich, Michael M. (March 1998). "CORTICAL PLASTICITY: From Synapses to Maps". Annual Review of Neuroscience 21: 149–186. doi:10.1146/annurev.neuro.21.1.149. PMID9530495.

13 Michael Merzenich and DT Blake 2002, 2005, 2006

14 Doidge, Norman (2007). The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the frontiers of brain science. New York: Viking. ISBN978-0-670-03830-5.

15 Kienle GS, Kiene H; Kiene (December 1997). "The powerful placebo effect: fact or fiction?". J Clin Epidemiol 50 (12): 1311–8. doi:10.1016/s0895-4356(97)00203-5. PMID9449934.

16 http://www.nature.com/scitable/spotlight/epigenetics-26097411

17 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/body/epigenetic-therapy.html

18 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chromatin

19 http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/biology/7-347-epigenetic-regulation-of-stem-cells-spring-2014/ AND https://www.coursera.org/learn/epigenetics?trk=profile_certification_title AND https://www.mooc-list.com/tags/epigenetics?static=true

20 Razin, Aharon (1998). "CpG Methylation, Chromatin Structure, and Gene Silencing - A Three Way Connection" (PDF). The EMBO Journal 17 (17): 4905–4908. doi:10.1093/emboj/17.17.4905. PMC1170819. PMID9724627. Retrieved 29 April 2014.

21 Gardner et al; Jiang et al 2008

22 Strahl, Brian D. (6 January 2000). "The Language of Covalent Histone Modifications" (PDF). Nature 403 (6765): 41–45. doi:10.1038/47412. PMID 10638745. Retrieved 29 April 2014.

23 Prasanth, Kannanganattu V.; David L. Spector (2007). "Eukaryotic regulatory RNAs: an answer to the ‘genome complexity’ conundrum" (PDF). Genes & Dev. 21: 11–42. doi:10.1101/gad.1484207. Retrieved 29 April 2014.

24 The molecular factor responsible for tuning the properties of these cells is an epigenetic transcription factor - a protein able to influence gene expression - known as Er81. Nathalie Dehorter, Oscar Marín, "Tuning of fast-spiking interneuron properties by an activity-dependent transcriptional switch," September 10, 2015; www.sciencemag.org/lookup/doi/10.1126/science.aab3415 "Brain cells get tweaked 'on the go'" http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-09-brain-cells-tweaked.html

25 Leah Houri-Zeevi et al; "Biological mechanism passes on long-term epigenetic 'memories'" March 28, 2016 http://phys.org/news/2016-03-biological-mechanism-long-term-epigenetic-memories.html

26 Jablonka & Raz 2009

27 Dennett DC (2006) 'Breaking the spell: religion as a natural phenomenon'. London: Allen Lane.

28 Yumi Shikauchi et al. 'Decoding the view expectation during learned maze navigation from human fronto-parietal network'; Scientific Reports (2015); DOI: 10.1038/srep17648; "Mazes and brains: When preconception trumps logic" December 22, 2015 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-12-mazes-brains-preconception-trumps-logic.html

29 Rokeach 1973: 113

30 Fishbein and Ajzen 1975

31 Eli Jones, “Cancer - Its Causes, Symptoms and Treatment.” 1908; http://www.amazon.com/Cancer-Its-Causes-Symptoms-Treatment/dp/0974117854

32 Scientific American November 27, 2013

33 Psychol Bull. 2012 Jul;138(4):655-91

34 Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2000 Feb;75(2):133-4

35 Xian Zhao, Li Liu mail, Xiao-xiao Zhang, Jia-xin Shi, Zhen-wei Huang; “The Effect of Belief in Free Will on Prejudice”; March 12, 2014. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0091572

36 http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/05/free-will/

37 Stillman TF, Baumeister RF, Vohs KD, Lambert NM, Fincham FD, et al. (2010) Personal philosophy and personnel achievement: Belief in free will predicts better job performance. Social Psychological and Personality Science 1: 43–50. doi: 10.1177/1948550609351600

38 Stillman TF, Baumeister RF (2010) Guilty, free, and wise: Determinism and psychopathy diminish learning from negative emotions. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 46: 951–960. doi: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.05.012

39 Stillman TF, Baumeister RF, Mele AR (2011) Free will in everyday life: Autobiographical accounts of free and unfree actions. Philosophical Psychology 24: 381–394. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2011.556607

40 Baumeister RF, Masicampo EJ, DeWall CN (2009) Prosocial benefits of feeling free: Disbelief in free will increases aggression and reduces helpfulness. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35: 260–268. doi: 10.1177/0146167208327217 AND Vohs KD (2008) Schooler JW (2008) The value of believing in free will encouraging a belief in determinism increases cheating. Psychological Science 19: 49–54. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02045.x

41 "How beliefs shape effort and learning." Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry April 15th, 2011. http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-04-beliefs-effort.html

42 Alia Crum's 'milkshake experiment'; Crum, AJ; Corbin, WR; Brownell, KD; Salovey, P; “Mind over milkshakes: mindsets, not just nutrients, determine ghrelin response”; Health Psychology; July 2011; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21574706; https://open.ted.com/videos/27

43 Scientific American November 27, 2013

44 Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology

45 Steve Cole, 6Genome Biology 2007, 8:R189

46 Colloca & Benedetti 2005

47 Albring A, Wendt L, Benson S, Witzke O, Kribben A, Engler H, et al. (2012) Placebo Effects on the Immune Response in Humans: The Role of Learning and Expectation. PLoS ONE 7(11): e49477. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049477; http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0049477

48 Colloca, Luana (Aug 28, 2013). Placebo and Pain: From Bench to Bedside (1st ed.). Academic Press. pp. 11–12. ISBN9780123979315.

49 Donald D. Price, Damien G. Finniss and Fabrizio Benedetti; “A Comprehensive Review of the Placebo Effect: Recent Advances and Current Thought”;1 December 2007; http://pharmacology.ucsd.edu/graduate/courseinfo/placebarticle.pdf

50 Kirsch I (1985). "Response expectancy as a determinant of experience and behavior". American Psychologist 40 (11): 1189–1202. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.40.11.1189. AND Voudouris NJ, Peck CL, Coleman G; Peck; Coleman (1989). "Conditioned response models of placebo phenomena: further support". Pain 38 (1): 109–16. doi:10.1016/0304-3959(89)90080-8. PMID 2780058.

51 Benedetti and Martina Amanzio; “Neuropharmacological Dissection of Placebo Analgesia: Expectation-Activated Opioid Systems versus Conditioning-Activated Specific Subsystems”; The Journal of Neuroscience, 19 (1):484–494; January 1, 1999; http://www.jneurosci.org/content/19/1/484.full.pdf

52 Donald Price et al 2007[??] AND Jon-Kar Zubieta; Nature Neuroscience, vol 25, p 775 2005

53 Vase et al. 2005

54 De Pascalis et al. 2002

55 Petrovic et al. 2005

56 Maria Testa et al; “Understanding Alcohol Expectancy Effects: Revisiting the Placebo Condition”; Feb. 2006; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1403295/

57 Xiaosi Gu, 'Belief about nicotine selectively modulates value and reward prediction error signals in smokers', PNAS, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1416639112 AND "Study suggests that belief is as important as biochemistry in addiction." January 22nd, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-01-belief-important-biochemistry-addiction.html

58 "Scientists discover beliefs can be just as powerful as nicotine." February 26th, 2015. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-scientists-beliefs-powerful-nicotine.html ; The complete study is available online: www.pnas.org/content/112/8/2539.full.pdf+html

59 VR Clark, WG Hopkins, JA Hawley, LM Burke; “Placebo effect of carbohydrate feedings during a 40-km cycling time trial”; Sports Science Institute of South Africa; 2000 Sep;32(9):1642-7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10994918

60 Geers et al. 2006 and Vase et al. 2005

61 Schwartz et al. 2005

62 Mark Alfano; "Placebo Effect and Informed Consent" American Journal of Bioethics, 15:10, 3-12. DOI: 10.1080/15265161.2015.1074302

63 Kokkotou E, Conboy LA, Ziogas DC, Quilty MT, Kelley JM, Davis RB, Lembo AJ, Kaptchuk TJ; Conboy; Ziogas; Quilty; Kelley; Davis; Lembo; Kaptchuk (2010). "Serum correlates of the placebo effect in irritable bowel syndrome". Neurogastroenterology and Motility : the Official Journal of the European Gastrointestinal Motility Society 22 (3): 285–e81. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2982.2009.01440.x. PMC2852478. PMID20028464.

64 Vits, Sabine; Schedlowski, Manfred; “Learned placebo effects in the immune system”; Zeitschrift für Psychologie, Vol 222(3), 2014, 148-153; http://psycnet.apa.org/index.cfm?fa=buy.optionToBuy&id=2014-33307-006

65 Scott Schafer, Tor Wager, and Luana Colloca, "Conditioned Placebo Analgesia Persists When Subjects Know They Are Receiving a Placebo"; The Journal of Pain; May 2015

66 Barnett AG, van der Pols JC, Dobson AJ; Van Der Pols; Dobson (February 2005). "Regression to the mean: what it is and how to deal with it". Int J Epidemiol 34 (1): 215–20. doi:10.1093/ije/dyh299. PMID15333621.

67 Sabine Vits, Elvir Cesko, Paul Enck, Uwe Hillen, Dirk Schadendorf, Manfred Schedlowski; “Behavioural conditioning as the mediator of placebo responses in the immune system”; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3130401/

68 Benedetti et al. 2003

69 Scientific American

70 de la Fuente-Fernandez et al. 2001

71 Pollo et al. 2002

72 Leuchter et al. 2002

73 see Benedetti et al. 2005 for a review

74 Colloca & Benedetti; “Placebos and painkillers: is mind as real as matter?”; Nature Reviews Neuroscience; July 2005; http://dcscience.net/placebo.pdf

75 Finniss DG, Kaptchuk TJ, Miller F, Benedetti F. Biological, clinical, and ethical advances of placebo effects. Lancet 2010;375:686-695

76 Hall KT, Loscalzo J, Kaptchuk TJ. Genetics and the placebo effect: the placebome. Trends Mol Med 2015;21:285-294 AND Tomas Furmark, Journal of Neuroscience DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2534-08.2008

77 Leuchter et al. 2004

78 Geers et al. 2006, Lundh 1987

79 Amanzio et al. 2001, Benedetti et al. 2003, Colloca et al. 2004, Levine & Gordon 1984

80 Kaptchuk TJ, Friedlander E, Kelley JM, Sanchez MN, Kokkotou E, et al. (2010) “Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. PLoS ONE 5(12): e15591. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0015591; "Placebos work -- even without deception." December 22nd, 2010. http://www.physorg.com/news/2010-12-placebos-deception.html

81 Beliefs about willpower determine the impact of glucose on self-control, PNAS, Published online before print August 19, 2013, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1313475110; "Study indicates willpower not depleted by use nor replenished by food." August 20th, 2013. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-08-willpower-depleted-replenished-food.html

82 Antoinette van Laarhoven et al; Induction of nocebo and placebo effects on itch and pain by verbal suggestions; PAIN 152 (2011) 1486–1494; https://sites.oxy.edu/clint/physio/article/Inductionofnoceboandplaceboeffectsonitchandpainbyverbalsuggestions.pdf

83 Manfred Schedlowski; “Neuro-Bio-Behavioral Mechanisms of Placebo and Nocebo Responses: Implications for Clinical Trials and Clinical Practice.”; Pharmacol. Review; 2015 Jul; 67(3):697-730. doi: 10.1124/pr.114.009423. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26126649

84 W. Häuser et al., “Placebo and nocebo responses in randomised controlled trials of drugs applying for approval for fibromyalgia syndrome treatment: systematic review and meta-analysis,” Clin Exp Rheumatol, 30:78-87, 2012.

85 K.B. Jensen et al., “Nonconscious activation of placebo and nocebo pain responses,” PNAS, 109:15959–64, 2012.

86 M.G. Myers et al., “The consent form as a possible cause of side effects,” Clin Pharmacol Ther., 42:250-53, 1987.

87 F. Benedetti et al., “The biochemical and neuroendocrine bases of the hyperalgesic nocebo effect,” J Neurosci, 26:12014-22, 2006.

88 McClean,  GJ (2003). "The cholecystokinin antagonist proglumide enhances the analgesic effect of dihydrocodeine". The Clinical journal of pain 19 (3): 200–1. doi:10.1097/00002508-200305000-00008. PMID12792559.

89 http://opioids.com/proglumide/

90 http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html

91 Becky Parker and Jesse Bering; Some of the foregoing material is excerpted, with edits, from their book, The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny and the Meaning of Life.) Source: Scientific American

92 Scott Fluke; “Re-Examining the Form and Function of Superstition”; http://www.k-state.edu/media/newsreleases/sept10/superstition90210.html

93 Gloria Keinan; The Effects of Stress and Desire for Control on Superstitious Behavior


94 Cameron, 1963; Horowitz, 1978; as quoted in: http://memlab.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/1981_Johnson_Raye_PsychRev.pdf

95 http://scienceblogs.com/mixingmemory/2006/06/27/was-it-real-or-did-i-imagine-i/

96 Adam Marcus; http://www.sciam. com/article. cfm?id=ghost- lusters-if- you-want&print=true

97 Simons et al., 2005b; Gilbert et al., 2010

98 Simons et al., 2005a

99 Dobbins and Wagner, 2005

100 Marie Buda, Alex Fornito, Zara M. Bergström, and Jon S. Simons; “A Specific Brain Structural Basis for Individual Differences in Reality Monitoring”; J. Neurosci., October 5, 2011; 31(40):14308 –14313; http://www.jneurosci.org/content/31/40/14308.full.pdf

101 Paus et al., 1996

102 http://neuro.imm.dtu.dk/wiki/Paracingulate_sulcus#cite_note-0

103 Fornito et al., 2004

104 Fornito et al., 2006b

105 Marie Buda, Alex Fornito, Zara M. Bergström, and Jon S. Simons, A Specific Brain Structural Basis for Individual Differences in Reality Monitoring, Journal of Neuroscience, Oct. 5, 2011, 31(40):14308-14313;doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3595-11.2011

106 Van Essen, 1997

107 Previc FH (2006) The role of the extrapersonal brain systems in religious activity. Conscious Cogn 15: 500–539.

108 Noga et al., 1995; Yücel et al., 2002b; Fornito et al., 2006b

109 Keefe et al., 2002

110 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2996210/

111 Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience; "Is a popular painkiller hampering our ability to notice errors?" April 8, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-04-popular-painkiller-hampering-ability-errors.html

112 Bruce S McEwan, Lisa Eiland, Richard G Hunter, Melinda M Miller; 'Stress and anxiety: Structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation as a consequence of stress'; Neuropharmacology; Volume 62, Issue 1, Pages 3–12; January 2012

113 McEwen & Plapinger 1970

114 Pham et al 2003

115 Sousa et al 2000

116 Pavlides et al 2002

117 McEwen 2010

118 Liston et al 2006

119 Conrad et al 1999

120 Wood et al 2003

121 Harry Frankfurt 2005

122 Paraphrased from: Gordon Pennycook, James Allan Cheyne, Nathaniel Barr, Derek J. Koehler and Jonathan A. Fugelsang; “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit”; Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 10, No. 6, November 2015, pp. 549–563; http://journal.sjdm.org/15/15923a/jdm15923a.pdf

123 Merrin Creath Oliver et al. False memories and the DRM paradigm: effects of imagery, list, and test type, The Journal of General Psychology (2016). DOI: 10.1080/00221309.2015.1110558

124 Dustin Wood, Peter Harms et al; Research shows what you say about others says a lot about you; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology July 2010

125 "Research shows what you say about others says a lot about you." Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry www.physorg.com/news199982319.html; August 2nd, 2010

126 Joseph Henrich, Steven J. Heine, Ara Norenzayan; http://hci.ucsd.edu/102b/readings/WeirdestPeople.pdf ; The commentaries are also interesting

127 Chiao 2009

128 Arnett 2008

129 see Adolph et al. 2010, for a review

130 Bril 1988; Super 1976

131 Hopkins & Westra 1988

132 Davis et al. 1998

133 Super 1976; Zelazo 1983

134 Heglund et al. 1995; Bastien et al. 2005; Bennett & Zingg 1935

135 Lana B. Karasik, Karen E. Adolph, Catherine S. Tamis-LeMonda and Marc H. Bornstein; 'WEIRD walking: Cross-cultural research on motor development'; doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000117

136 Tuttle et al. 1990; 1991

137 Lieberman et al. 2010

138 Bramble & Lieberman 2004

139 J Chilton-Pearce, Magical Child Matures; (1985) ISBN 0-525-24329-1

140 Segall et al. 1966

141 Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson; “WEIRD languages have misled us, too”; doi:10.1017/S0140525X1000018X

142 Gutchess et al. 2006

143 Chua et al. 2005

144 Gutchess et al. 2006, Hedden et al. 2008

145 Majid et al. 2004

146 Levine et al. 2005

147 Boesch 2007

148 in a survey of 100 societies; Burton & Whiting 1961, also see Lewis 1995

149 on unusual nature of American childrearing, see Lancy 2009, Rogoff 2003

150 Burke et al. Two decades of terror management theory: a meta-analysis of mortality salience research; May 2010; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20097885

151 Seymour Lipset 1996

152 Bang et al. 2007

153 Atran 1993, Berlin 1992

154 http://hci.ucsd.edu/102b/readings/WeirdestPeople.pdf

155 Ji et al. 2004; Grossman, 2008; Luria, 1976

156 Madsen 1971

157 Ross et al. 1977

158 Gilbert & Malone 1995

159 Miyamoto & Kitayama 2002, Morris & Peng 1994, Norenzayan, Choi et al. 2002, Van Boven et al. 1999; Choi & Nisbett 1998; Mezulis et al. 2004

160 Levine et al. 1995 AND see meta ‐ analysis by Lee & Stone 1980

161 Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson; 'WEIRD languages have misled us, too'; doi:10.1017/S0140525X1000018X

162 Davidoff et al. 1999; Gilbert et al. 2006

163 Asch 1951, Bond 1996

164 Adapted from Norenzayan et al, 2002, and Uskul et al 2008

165 Henrich et al; Costly punishment across human societies; Science Jun 2006; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16794075

166 Kuhn & McPartland 1954 AND for a review see Heine 2008

167 Heine & Hamamura 2007, Mezulis et al. 2004

168 Haritatos & Benet-Martınez 2002

169 Sangeet S. Khemlani, N. Y. Louis Lee, and Monica Bucciarelli; 'Determinants of cognitive variability'; doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000130

170 Atran et al. 2005

171 see Norenzayan et al. 2007 for review

172 Joan Y. Chiao & Bobby K. Cheon The weirdest brains in the world doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000282

173 for further discussion of the cross‐cultural evidence see Nisbett 2003, Norenzayan et al. 2007

174 Zhu et al. 2007

175 Bucciarelli et al. 2008

176 Ben Fraser and Marc Hauser; http://philrsss.anu.edu.au/people-defaults/benF/The_Argument_from_Disagreement.pdf

177 Snarey 1985

178 Haidt & Graham 2007

179 Judith L. Rapoport and Nitin Gogtay; 'Brain Neuroplasticity in Healthy, Hyperactive and Psychotic Children: Insights from Neuroimaging'; Neuropsychopharmacology (2008) 33, 181–197; doi:10.1038/sj.npp.1301553; published online 12 September 2007; http://www.nature.com/npp/journal/v33/n1/full/1301553a.html

180 David F. Lancy; When nurture becomes nature: Ethnocentrism in studies of human development; doi:10.1017/S0140525X10000154;

181 Lancy & Grove 2010

182 Fessler 2002; Flaxman & Sherman 2000

183 Ellis et al. 1999

184 Adams 2005

185 Earley 1993

186 National Geographic March 26, 2015

187 Putnam 2000

188 Fernald and Karasik et al.

189 Cole et al. 1971

190 Flynn 2007

191 Lancy 2008

192 Mental Health Disorders Now Leading Cause of Non-Fatal Illness Worldwide; Mercola;


193 Michael J. Valenzuela, Fiona E. Matthews, Carol Brayne, Paul Ince, Glenda Halliday, Jillian J. Kril, Marshall A. Dalton, Kathryn Richardson, Gill Forster, Perminder S. Sachdev; "Multiple Biological Pathways Link Cognitive Lifestyle to Protection from Dementia"; Biological Psychiatry, Volume 71, Issue 9 May 1, 2012; doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2011.07.036

194 Ian Deary; Disconnected Mind Project; http://www.nrscotland.gov.uk/files/statistics/seminars/eiha09-cognitive-ageing-cognitive-epidemiology.pdf

195 "Persistent sensory experience is good for aging brain." Neuron May 24th, 2012. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-05-persistent-sensory-good-aging-brain.html

196 Tracey J. Shors; Scientific American

197 The neurons messaging the stem cells are parvalbumin-expressing interneurons. "Brain's stem cells 'eavesdrop' to find out when to act." August 6th, 2012 in Medical research. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2012-08-brain-stem-cells-eavesdrop.html

198 P.D. Watson et al, Underlying sources of cognitive-anatomical variation in multi-modal neuroimaging and cognitive testing, NeuroImage (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2016.01.023 ; "Study: Mental abilities are shaped by individual differences in the brain" February 25, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-mental-abilities-individual-differences-brain.html

199 e.g., Baron, Scott, Fincher & Metz, 2014

200 John Done ; "What are delusions – and how best can we treat them?" The Conversation in Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry;May 3, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-05-delusions.html

201 Moore, David (2015). The Developing Genome (1st ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN9780199922345.

202 Rescigno A, Casañola-Martin GM, Sanjust E, Zucca P, Marrero-Ponce Y (Mar 2011). "Vanilloid derivatives as tyrosinase inhibitors driven by virtual screening-based QSAR models". Drug Testing and Analysis 3 (3): 176–81. doi:10.1002/dta.187. PMID21125547.

203 Collins et al 2009; Miller & Sweatt 2007; Reul et al 2009

204 Szyf et al 2005

205 McEwen 2010

206 Liston et al 2006

207 Weaver et al 2004; AND Bruce S. McEwen, Lisa Eiland, Richard G. Hunter and Melinda M. Miller; “Stress and anxiety: Structural plasticity and epigenetic regulation as a consequence of stress”; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196296/

208 Whittle, N.; N. Singewald (2014). "HDAC Inhibitors as Cognitive Enhancers in Fear, Anxiety and Trauma Therapy: Where Do We Stand?". Biochemical Society Transactions 42 (2): 569–581. doi:10.1042/BST20130233.

209 Jonathan, L. C. Lee; Amy L. Milton; Barry J. Everett (27 September 2006). "Reconsolidation and Extinction of Conditioned Fear: Inhibition and Potentiation". The Journal of Neuroscience 26 (39): 10051–10056. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.2466-06.2006.

210 Roth TL, Lubin FD, Sodhi M, Kleinman JE (September 2009). "Epigenetic mechanisms in schizophrenia". Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1790 (9): 869–77. doi:10.1016/j.bbagen.2009.06.009. PMC2779706. PMID19559755.

211 http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/scientific_output/files/main_documents/3310.pdf

212 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3196296/

213 Hill et al 2010a; Tasker et al 2006

214 Hill et al 2010b

215 Hill & McEwen 2010

216 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_muscle_stimulation

217 "Cranial Electrotherapy Stimulation for Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Insomnia" (PDF). Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Retrieved 17 January 2016.

218 Elizabeth Coulson; Journal of Neuroscience February 6, 2008; http://www.physorg.com/news12152956 9.html

219 Andrei Vedeniapin, Laura Cheng and Mark S George; “Feasibility of Simultaneous Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Left Prefrontal rTMS for Treatment Resistant Depression”; Brain Stimul. 2010 Oct; 3(4): 207–210. ; Published online 2010 Apr 15. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2010.03.005; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2962866/

220 “Cognitive Behavioral Strategies and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Open Label Study (CBT-TMS)” August 2015


221 Proulx et al., 2012; Tritt et al., 2012

222 Buda, M., Fornito, A., Bergstrom, Z. M. & Simons, J. S. A specific brain structural basis for individual differences in reality monitoring. J. Neurosci. 31, 14308–14313 (2011).

223 Klucharev et al., 2011

224 Chiesa, A; Serretti, A; (27 November 2009). "A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations". Psychological medicine 40 (8): 1239-1252. doi: 10.11017/S0033291709991747. PMID 19941676; AND Zeidan, Fadel;  Johnson, Susan K; Diamond,  Bruce J; David, Zhanna; Goolkasian, Paula (1 June 20110). "Mindfulness meditation improves cognition: Evidence of brief mental training". Consciousness and cognition 19 (2): 597-605. doi:10.1016/j.concog.2010.03.014. PMID 20363650 AND "Neurobiological changes explain how mindfulness meditation improves health" Medicine & Health / Psychology & Psychiatry; February 4, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-02-neurobiological-mindfulness-meditation-health.html

225 Johnson, D., Murphy, M., & Messer, R. (2016). Reflecting on Explanatory Ability: A Mechanism for Detecting Gaps in Causal Knowledge. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General DOI: 10.1037/xge0000161

226 paraphrased from carl sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark; 1997, 304

227 "Information in brain cells' electrical activity combines memory, environment, and state of mind." July 17th, 2013. http://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-07-brain-cells-electrical-combines-memory.html

228 Ian Stewart & Jack Cohen; 'Figments of Reality'; p170; ISBN 0 521 57155 3

229 https://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-a0035325.pdf

230 http://www.physorg.com/news180806338.html

231 Magarinos & McEwen 1995

232 Martin & Wellman 2011

233 The Calendula cream was home made from the flower heads, chopped up and steeped in coconut oil by sitting it in the sunshine. It does have active ingredients and is good for skin generally, but has no known anti histamine effects

234 Kaplan et al; "Stories that force us to think about our deepest values activate a region of the brain once thought to be its autopilot"; Cerebral Cortex.; January 7, 2016; http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-01-stories-deepest-values-region-brain.html

235 Noreen O'Sullivan et al. "Shall I compare thee": The neural basis of literary awareness, and its benefits to cognition, Cortex (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.08.014

236 "New study finds that increasing your attention comes from using newly acquired knowledge" January 29, 2016 http://medicalxpress.com/news/2016-01-attention-newly-knowledge.html; AND https://www.sfu.ca/psyc/faculty/blair/Dr._Blairs_Site/Publications_files/paper680.pdf

237 Tsai, J., Ang, J., Blevins, E., Goernandt, J., Fung, H., Jiang, D., Elliott, J., Kölzer, A., Uchida, Y., Lee, Y., Lin, Y., Zhang, X., Govindama, Y., & Haddouk, L. (2016). Leaders’ smiles reflect cultural differences in ideal affect. Emotion, 16 (2), 183-195 DOI: 10.1037/emo0000133

238 Caputo, G. (2015). Dissociation and hallucinations in dyads engaged through interpersonal gazing Psychiatry Research, 228 (3), 659-663; August 30, 2015. DOI: 10.1016/j.psychres.2015.04.050

239 http://www.biopsychiatry.com/pressor.htm

240 http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2015/151117/ncomms9956/full/ncomms9956.html

241 https://agriculture.sc.gov/resources/agriculture-organizations/south-carolina-watermelon/facts/

242 Adrian F Ward ; “Why do people spend so much time talking about themselves?” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-neuroscience-of-everybody-favorite-topic-themselves/

243 'The New Age Bullshit Generator (http://sebpearce.com/bullshit/ AND William Shakespeare quotes

244 Corporate business version: http://cbsg.sourceforge.net/cgi-bin/live AND quotes from genuine items

245 Gray, S., & Gallo, D. (2016). Paranormal psychic believers and skeptics: a large-scale test of the cognitive differences hypothesis Memory & Cognition, 44 (2), 242-261 DOI: 10.3758/s13421-015-0563-x

246 Jeffrey Wammes, Melissa E. Meade, Myra A. Fernandez; “The drawing effect: Evidence for reliable and robust memory benefits in free recall”; Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology; 16 Feb, 2016; http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17470218.2015.1094494

247 von der Mühlen, S., Richter, T., Schmid, S., Schmidt, E., & Berthold, K. (2015). Judging the plausibility of arguments in scientific texts: a student–scientist comparison Thinking & Reasoning, 1-29 DOI: 10.1080/13546783.2015.1127289


Answers & notes for DO IT NOW – judge the following claims


1 god/s exist = D (we don't know yet)

2 god/s do not exist = D (we don't know yet)

3 cheese is good for humans = C (true sometimes and false other times)[239]

4 all living humans have a paracingulate sulcus = B (false)[240]

5 UFOs are from other planets = D (we don't know yet. That's what 'unidentified' MEANS.)

6 a watermelon is a berry = A (true, apparently)[241]


How did you go about judging these claims? -Did you answer them on a 'probably' basis, intuitively, did you use your memory to access prior knowledge, or did you do research and look each item up before answering? Consider this: you have just discovered your own 'everyday' habitual method of reasoning about claims. Would you like to change your habitual method?

If you got any of them wrong, do you know why? What habits of thought may have caused the error?

Notes for DO IT NOW – let's talk about you

Answering questions about ourselves results in greater activation of neural regions associated with motivation and reward (i.e., the nucleus accumbens (NAcc) and the ventral tegmental area (VTA), plus the medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) - generally associated with self-related thought. Both talking about the self and talking to someone else are associated with reward, and doing both produced greater activation in reward-related neural regions than doing either separately. However, introspection—thinking or talking about the self, in the absence of others—also produces a noticeable surge of neural activity in these regions. Talking about the self is intrinsically rewarding, even if no one is listening![242]

Scoring details for DO IT NOW - Find out how you experience the profound

Add up your scores for statements A, B, D, F, G, H, J and K. (DO NOT include items C, E or I.)

Divide your answer by eight.

This is your 'BRS' (Bullshit Receptivity Score) for pseudo-profound bullshit.

Now add together your scores for items C, E and I, and divide your answer by three. This is your profundity detection score.[243]

Scoring details for DO IT NOW - Find out how you experience corporate communication

Add up your scores for statements A, B, D, F, G, H, I and K. (DO NOT include items C, E or J).

Divide your answer by eight.

This is your 'BRS' (Bullshit Receptivity Score) for pseudo-intellectual bullshit.

Now add together your scores for items C, E and J, and divide your answer by three. This is your 'meaning detection score'.[244]

Answers for DO IT NOW – test your potential for resisting bullshit

Question 1: 'star'

Question 2: 'ape'

If you got the correct answers in less than a minute, you are likely to have a high resilience against bullshit.

If you got the correct answers between one and five minutes, you are likely to have a reasonable resilience against bullshit unless you are taken by surprise and not given time to think.

If you took longer than five minutes, or got the answers wrong, you are likely to be in danger of being conned by bullshit. People who find these kind of puzzles difficult are most vulnerable, so if this is you, take extra care to assess what you are listening to or reading, and make sure you look for proof of claims.[245]

Notes for DO IT NOW – improve memory association

In research, participants who draw their concepts and words recall more than double the amount of working memory items. Further research showed that drawing is a better memory aid than visualizing the words, more effective than writing a description of the physical characteristics of each word's meaning (designed to encourage deep-level encoding of the words), and more effective than just looking at pictures of the words. The drawing advantage also remains when participants are given just four seconds to draw each word, and regardless of whether they perform the tasks alone or together in a lecture hall.[246]

Scoring for DO IT NOW – self assessment for ontological confusion

Correct scores are as follows; give yourself one point for every one you got right

A 5

B 5

C 1

D 3

E 2

F 1

G 4

H 3

I 1

J 1

K 4

L 2

Now add up your points.

If you scored 9-12, you are unlikely to have any ontological confusion

If you scored 5-8 points, you may have some ontological confusion

If you scored 1-4 points, you almost certainly have some ontological confusion

For extra clues, those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and/or paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to believe in concepts such as Alien abduction, angels and the Loch Ness monster. If we believe ANY bullshit, we are more likely to believe ALL bullshit.

Answers to part 1 of exercise for developing PCS

A ball

B cheese

C sleep

Answers & notes for interactional analysis practice

1 Carl, Donna and Eve. Admittedly Donna's interaction is shallow, but it still achieves the correct strategy if for limited reasons. Carl's response is thoughtful, and Eve takes the opportunity to exercise interaction as fully as she can.

2 Eve's. Everybody wins. ...But this is still not the optimal interaction.

There was cooperative behavior in most cases here, but nobody sat down with Alice and asked her for proof of her claims, or followed up her statement that others could verify her experience, and there is urgent need for communication here because in real life either: (a) Alice is paranoid or (b) Alice's claims are true. Either possibility needs to be explored if these dudes are going to remain housemates. Since Carl thinks Alice is an intelligent person AND has valid experience, he should surely be more interested in finding what's really going on.

Through rational argument revealing the veracity or otherwise of Alice's claims, everybody learns something, including Alice. And one of the first things Alice learns is that she can trust her allies to be intelligent, to question apparently unlikely claims, and to give each other honest early-warning signs of possible dysfunction. This would improve bonding and protect against further misunderstanding.

3 Bob will probably imagine that if Alice sees the tech still there, she will get the message that he doesn't believe her concerns are legitimate and isn't going to lie about it, but just get on with being himself, living according to his own beliefs; that's the honest thing to do. But he's not thinking it through, because...

4 ...From her own situational framing, Alice will most likely get the message, 'I don't give a crap if you get arrested'. Other strong possibilities are: 'I don't think you're intelligent enough for your views to be respected', 'I don't pay any attention to you whatsoever,' 'I think you''re delusional', or 'Nothing you say matters to me'.

5 This depends on how anxious Bob is, how much he cares about Alice, and whether or not he has security of tenure. Let's face it, whatever happens when Alice gets back, Bob won't be staying long. Surprise, however, may trump all other concerns and lead to Bob (if healthy) reassessing how seriously he takes Alice or (if not healthy) denying any connection, writing off Alice's arrest as coincidence, and wondering why everyone is making such a big deal out of it all.

6 Bob's behavior shows that he either doesn't believe Alice and/or that he doesn't care about what happens to her, or about his relationship with her.

If Alice is healthy, she will reassess Bob as an 'unsafe' ally; she has learned that she cannot trust him to take her concerns into consideration if he doesn't share them, even when it is something very important to her. She has learned that he has no respect for her extensive experience or specialist knowledge. She may also feel disappointed that he didn't interact, if she was previously convinced that their interaction was either good or improving. Or she may just feel confused and sad that things were not as she believed they were. Importantly (to her), this was only a 'one off' request - so complying was not really any great inconvenience; just a bit of hassle. In most people's books, anyone who won't put up with minor hassle for the sake of an ally isn't a close ally. Plus it was important to her, and Bob knew this.

If Alice is anxious, she will therefore feel hurt. She may feel Bob is insulting her intelligence by refusing to believe her. Any rapport they were developing will stall, and paradoxically there will be an obstacle limiting their interaction which can only be navigated by interaction. If Alice is anxious, Bob has inadvertently sent a message she will interpret as, 'I don't care whether we're friends'. If she really IS paranoid, this is a message it is not in Bob's best interest to send.

Reducing situations to their basics always helps us to analyze what's really going on and what's important. Remember, 'forget the details'!

Notes for exercise in critical awareness

Are these facts or opinions? -The information you are given here would not be anything like sufficient to base a decision on; you would need to know the SOURCES of all the information and you would need much more than one source of information before you had enough evidence/facts to successfully predict whether 'Fofimer' was safe to eat or not.

Something being 'natural' does not mean it is safe to eat, and something being synthetic does not mean it isn't safe to eat. Somebody else claiming it is or isn't safe to eat is completely meaningless without solid proof.

Second part of this exercise:

Now that you know the format of the exercise, design your own exercise based on a similar set of circumstances about which you could question an NH student in the same manner, encouraging autonomy in finding out information and assessing its validity.

The idea of these exercises is to encourage autonomous habits of seeking information, evidence-gathering and critical thinking, BEFORE making a decision.

If you'd like your exercise design to be used in a tutorial, send it in!

Note to those who genuinely looked up 'Fofimer': Well done you! You are thinking for yourself instead of just limiting your interaction to the instructions in the exercise. Keep it up! The world needs more brains like yours. And you've also learned something from experience: we made it up. -But have you any idea how difficult it is to find a realistic-sounding word that doesn't mean anything and gets no search engine hits, these days?

Answers for Exercise to practice argument analysis

A = 5 (plausible)

B = 3 (implausible contradiction – false conclusion)

C = 6 (wrong example)

D = 1 (false dichotomy)

E = 4 (circular reasoning)

F = 2 (over-generalization)






Last Updated on Sunday, 12 June 2016 11:34