Sunday, October 6, 2013

So we think we know everything?

If you look at the rescorla wagner model of classical conditioning, you see that there's this (lambda-Vtot) term in the deltaVx equation, where lambda is the strongest possible association for the unconditioned stimulus and Vtot is the sum of the association strengths for all conditioned stimulus. When the two terms are equal, the learning rate drops to zero. This keeps us from "learning" extraneous associations for a stimulus that has already been explained.
And from what I have seen with hypnosis, it looks like Vtot ~= lambda in general. In other words, I think we walk around thinking that we already know everything and that there is nothing left that needs to be explained, so there's nothing to learn. It fits with how people can just brush off unexpected events as "god dun it" or "it's just random" - and then go on with their day as if there's nothing strange happening. Hypnosis and mind hackery are all about creating a gap where you think you have something to learn - whether it's explaining the uncharted territory of "hypnosis" from a position of authority, or driving in a wedge with a pattern interrupt or confusion pattern.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why I'm not (actually) an evil hypnotist

Evil is cool. It can be a lot of fun to keep people on their toes - or even freak them out a bit. And it's okay even. If there's a lesson to be learned and they'll look back on it as good fun, then go ahead and try on the "evil hypnotist" costume. It's just that doing the evil hypnotist thing for real is almost always a bad idea.
I'm not going to waste time moralizing that "you shouldn't be evil because it's morally wrong", because that's completely unpersuasive. Either you agree or you don't care. Well, mostly. I could try to use dark arts to moralize you, but light arts tend to work better. That's kinda the point of this post.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Put people together

The naive model of how people work seems to be something like "People are just messes of conditioning that respond to outside pressures and innate drives". You see people getting chemically rewarded for smoking cigarettes, and say "no wonder people get addicted - how do people ever stop!?". You find out that hypnosis can covertly condition responses and try to come up with clever schemes to maximize your effect - perhaps by having a meta level suggestion that the object level suggestion is reinforced every time some common thing is encountered. I remember devising a few clever schemes myself. However, this frame is entirely wrong. It completely neglects the internal structure - that thing that washes all your clever schemes out over time. The right way to help a smoker is not to implant a suggestion that makes them vomit every time they smoke - and then a suggestion that that suggestion and this one are permanent. The right way to help a smoker - the right way to help anyone is to... well...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

When truth isn't enough

True beliefs are pretty darn useful, so epistemic rationality contributes pretty strongly to instrumental rationality (i.e. the one that matters by definition).
Interestingly, as I've become more aware of what I want out of life and see more long term challenges, epistemic rationality has begun to seem less terminally important - yet still very instrumentally important. It's just that the purpose of epistemic rationality is much more gut level clear to me now - the reason to have a really good map is to get places, not just to hang up it up on your wall and admire for its accuracy.
Additionally, I've become much less hung up on "literal truth" (that is, truth as straightforwardly explicitly/denotationally interpreted) since I realized that that's not really how people work - so obsessing on that level is a bit silly. Once you really grok the idea that true beliefs are for navigation, then you can use all sorts of funky encodings - as long as you keep track of them. If you take a bunch of magic mushrooms and the world starts bending, it's not a simple map, but the information is still mostly there - and you don't run into problems until you forget to walk the same bendy that the sidewalk bends. Try to walk straight and you're in for trouble. And phrases like the "most amazing show ever!" are totally acceptable too - as long as you realize that it really means "I'm experiencing awe and very much enjoyed the show".
Putting these together can explain a lot of "irrationalities" people have where they say stuff that is just blatantly not true and don't seem to care when you point it out.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Oh no! An appeal to emotion!

So everyone knows that we're supposed to strive to be logical because.. well, it's the logical thing to do. Emotions lead us astray. We have to be constantly on guard against appeals to emotion - since they're evil and bad and manipulative and bad. Right?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

When to use hypnosis

I tend to come off as "a hypnosis guy" - and I focus on it a lot. Yet other times, I "just talk" to people and it looks like I almost shit talk "hypnosis". So what is hypnosis good for?

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What do I mean by "hypnosis"?

"Hypnosis" doesn't really have an agreed upon definition - because it isn't a sharply defined cluster of things. The socio-cognitive guys have figured out that hypnosis is really just a grab bag of tricks that happen in "normal" situations. There is no "special state" and no voodoo magic - we just utilize the principles of influence that come up naturally in everyday interactions - even if we dress it up like stereotypical hypnosis to make it flashy and exploit the expectation that comes with it. We can do the same things stripped of the "formal hypnosis" clothing - which is what "conversational hypnosis" is - just hypnotic principles applied in a natural conversation setting. However, you can usually get results with things that don't even look anything like hypnosis.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Direct and authoritarian vs indirect and permissive

There's this dichotomy in hypnosis between being authoritarian and direct or being indirect and permissive. New hypnotists often want to know which is "better", and the answer is always "it depends". Happy with that answer? :p
Okay, enough with the "it depends" and "everyone is different" fluff. It's not a "red wine or white?" kind of preference. It's more of a scalpel or sword kind of thing. There really is a right choice - it just depends on the context and what you're trying to do. Behold! The criteria for choosing!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rah conversational hypnosis

When you go to a hypnotherapist or go up on stage with a 'tist, the context pretty freaking clearly says that you're in for some hypnosis. They'll probably even explicitly ask for your permission and then explicitly state when it's about to happen. They'll use words like "hypnosis","relax","sleep", and "deeper". And they'll do weird things like stick your hand to the chair. All the while, the meta level fact that you're "doing hypnosis" is very salient and it's a key player. That's overt hypnosis.
But there is another kind of hypnosis where you don't have to do any of that stuff and you can still stick their hand to the chair. You still use hypnotic techniques, but it all just looks and feels like a "regular", if a bit exceptional, conversation. That's conversational hypnosis.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Against covert hypnosis

I'm generally against covert hypnosis since it is usually unethical, risky, and not effective.
It's not always necessary to do formal "hypnosis" - conversational hypnosis is great. It's the "covert" part that I'm against. I'm against hiding things. I'm against there being anything to hide. I don't necessarily call attention to labeling the situation as "hypnosis" when I do conversational hypnosis, but that is because it's not helpful and there's nothing to interest them there - and not because there's important information that I'm hiding from them.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Direct symbolic manipulation

Our words are handles. And the images that form in our head - every aspect of them - are handles. Handles that pull on strings that are attached to "concepts" - or whatever you want to call your nodes on your neural net. And the strings are as strong as the conditioning between the concepts.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

How real is it anyway?

So how "real" is hypnosis to the subject? There's a whole spectrum of what the experience can be like for the subject - from "I know what's going on, and I am deciding to lie in order to play along. And I'm aware of this and it doesn't even feel real to me" to just being 100.000% entirely genuine. It is easy to get small tweaks on reality to be 100% genuine. There's already noise there, and you're just shifting the estimate a tad. But what about for name amnesia? What about when they forget the whole experience? What about invisible parentheses? What exactly does it even mean to be "real" or "fake"?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Put the map down and drive

People model reality using maps, but the map is not the territory. Our perception is just a map, but it doesn't necessarily feel like one because it's a fairly direct representation of what's going on and we seldom doubt it. When I look to my left and see a piano, it's like it's just there. I know my seeing it is just the representation in my head, but that fact isn't very salient. When I say "that's a piano!", that is a level above - clearly my interpretation of what's going on. Who knows, maybe it's just an over-complicated table.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Attention without Awareness

So it turns out that attention is not the same thing as awareness 1, 2, 3, 4,. It seems really weird that you can pay attention to things that you're not aware of, but you can. Attention and awareness often overlap a lot, but they can also diverge wildly. 
Most occurrences of attention without awareness aren't too crazy. It actually happens all the time and again, we're not even aware of it.