Friday, November 11, 2011

Disinhibited Imagination

Imagination is simulation of hypothetical worlds. This ability is pretty obviously useful. If you an accurately simulate how things will go before you do it, you can 'try out' different decisions and then pick the best one - just don't get confused about what is real.

It is interesting to note that this imagination happens with the same neural circuitry used to actually experience things. Our visual cortex lights up when we imagine seeing things, and our auditory cortex lights up when we imagine hearing things. This should be expected- why carry two brains when one would suffice?

We use the same neural circuitry, yet we can tell the difference between reality and imagination (with some exceptions). This is because we inhibit certain responses as a way of keeping track of the fact that it's is a simulation. These inhibitions aren't always complete.  Ever catch yourself tapping your foot just because you were hearing a song in your head without ever intending to tap your foot? Or perhaps waking up feeling upset with someone for how they behaved in your dream? This is how the oija board works, and ideomotor pendulums.  See if you can catch how Derren Brown  uses this effect covertly.

What happens if you lose track of the fact that you're imagining things? If you imagine that the territory is different, then you become delusional. However, if it is a floating belief, it becomes reality.

If you imagine away your pain so well that it feels real and you think the pain is "really" gone, then who's to say that you're "just imagining it?". They can say "Your leg really is damaged. You should feel pain", but pain is a sensation and the sensation isn't there. Similarly, "you're just imagining it" stops being helpful when incentives that should snap them out of it don't. Of course "if you just stop imagining it" you can grab the money, but if that thought doesn't light up, then that is no more helpful than telling the guy "if you just grow an arm, you can grab the money". Neither of them can. For real.

Hypnotists and NLPers have been using instructions to imagine for a long time, and they have been suggesting vividness to remove even more inhibitions. The Head Hacking guys have figured out that they should just suggest this directly.

Simulating the case where the "this is just a simulation" tag is removed... Hmm... reminds me of  little bobby tables. This just shouldn't work (if we were designed well), yet it does.

The Head Hackers claim really good results (>80% for everything up to and including hallucinations), and I have had some good success with it as well. Their method involves getting people to imagine things automatically as a way of bypassing the limitations of deliberation and allowing more connections to be made.

However, since I suspect that thee magic tag for "feels imagined" or "feels real" depends on the extent of inhibition, there's still the question of which connections are made and which aren't. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. So, at which level are these suggestions implemented?

For some suggestions like a stuck arm or name amnesia, it might seem to not make much difference (though there is more to it), but for things like hallucinations, it's not clear to me what level these occur on. The Head Hacking guys seem to think that the hallucinations are the same as imaginations that feel real, which is certainly a possibility. I'd even go as far as to guess that they're right for the typical hallucination induced through "Automatic Imagination". They also seem to think that all hypnotic hallucinations are like that, which I doubt, for reasons like "deep trance" hypnotic hallucinations causing pupil responses and such.

The Head Hacking guys also seem to think that their results mean "Hypnosis is automatic imagination", but "imagination", or "simulating hypothetical worlds" is only one way to look at it. It's one interpretation of activated neurons. One interpretation of the attention we place on different stimuli. Hypnosis is cognitive conditioning, and one way of making the right stimuli salient is to tell people to imagine things.

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