ETHOLOGY & SOCIOBIOLOGY

COGNITION
& INTUITION
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"When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature." –Sigmund Freud

"Sympathy"



INTUITION involves "quick and ready insight," characterized by an " immediate apprehension or cognition" That is, circumstances are apprehended or understood without any evident reflection, rational thought, or logical processing. It presumably draws upon knowledge of which we are not consciously aware. We act "without thinking" -- a skill our species can use when there is an emergency and no "time to think" and which likely dominates the behavior of other species.
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Intuition is conspicuously manifest when an insight, perhaps a potential solution to a troubling problem, emerges unexpectedly, perhaps spontaneously. Artists in particular, often experience an urgent need to express some ideas accurately, to make explicit some ambiguous idea that might be important -- some idea which guides explicit behavior but is poorly understood. Artists (like researchers and clinicians) are often driven by a urgent need to know what lies beneath the surface, to know the causes of things. (what did the Gospel of Thomas say about such phenomena?- more) Often we are not aware of the burden of this poorly understood subconscious influence until it is expressed.

    I had "not been aware of the beauty of some thought or expression until after I had composed and written it down" (Keats cited by Tyrrell, 1946). "Flannery O'Conner, like E.M. Forster, said "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say," (cited by Lederman 1983).

    Indeed, writers are often unaware of precisely what they will write until it is actually written (Sekular, 1985). [There is often a remarkable compulsiveness, if not automaticity in the unfolding of the thought-experiments one performs in the laboratory of the mind that often leads creative personalities to feel they are possessed ---Recalling the self-generated subvocalized "voices" of schizophrenics the artist becomes "inspired" or "enthused" --- filled with compelling impulses which appear to originate from outside one's awareness, impulses to explore one's mental model which, like play, are "autotelic." Kurt Vonnegut might sit at his typewriter and let other parts of consciousness take over, and be amazed at what comes out.

    The remarkable comedian Robin Williams commented on his gift: "When it works it's like . . . freedom! Suddenly these things are coming out of you. You're in control, but you're not. The characters are coming through you. Even when I'm going "Whoa!" It's that Zen lock. It's channeling with Call Waiting." (Corliss 1987)]

    “There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write.” -William Makepeace Thackeray, novelist (1811-1863) [and see Mozart & Guston]


    CREATIVITY is the engine of self-discovery: the DEVELOPMENT of a sense of SELF is a key NEED that must be met for the fullest expression of our FITNESS as organisms [MORE on CREATIVITY]

    Keats once said that he "not been aware of the beauty of some thought or expression until after I had composed and written it down" (cited by Tyrrell, 1946). "Flannery O'Conner, like E.M. Forster, said "I write because I don't know what I think until I read what I say," (cited by Lederman 1983). Indeed, writers are often unaware of precisely what they will write until it is actually written (Sekular, 1985). Donald Murray (1978) defines writing as “the process of using language to discover meaning in experience and to communicate it” (p86).
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THE BRAIN "multitasks" --lots of things go on simultaneously --and often compete with each other for control of behavior. Surely you have had almost debilitating episodes of being unable to "make up your mind?" There always seems to be multiple explanations for phenomena -- which shall you select? why that one? What about intuition?

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Creativity (perhaps all adaptive problem solving) is arguably a function of the intercourse between conscious and subconscious components of mind, AND mind is significantly sculpted by experience of the world and others (social construction). For further insight we must look THEN into the connections within and between brains! (e.g., mirror neurons). more about creativity and how it is empowered by specific connections in the brain and neuromodulators such as the hormones associated with stress.
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Consciousness (in all its various "states," from awareness to epiphany) involves the orchestration of many distinct functional components, each of which can which can operate at varying levels of activation and in varying combinations. more about consciousness and its various states
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Connectedness involves the physical and resonant modes by which neurons and functional groups of neurons communicate with each other. The internal environment (the many psychoactive hormones, other blood factors, temperature) works with sensory input and spontaneous neural activity to modulate the responsiveness or activity of specific neurons or functional clusters of neurons. more about connectedness and its association with creativity and intelligence
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INSIGHT
Hypotheses consist of a framework for understanding -- they typically precede specifics we might seek to understand. Where do hypotheses come from? Etkin (1977) speaks for most creative scientists: "direct personal contact with phenomena generates a wealth of detailed observation which may never reach the level of consciousness and certainly cannot be expressed explicitly in scientific reports. Yet such knowledge may surface later producing novel hypotheses and interpretation." This is reminiscent of Konrad Lorenz's concern for a "diagnostic intuition" in ethology engendered by long-term experience with an animal's natural behavioral patterns, and certainly attests to the significance of subtly subjective historical influences comparable to those that underlie the artist's education.

We cannot simply will creative insights into being . . .

We cannot kindle when we will
The fire which in our heart resides,
The spirit bloweth and is still,
In mystery our soul abides:
But tasks in hours of insight will'd
Can be through hours of gloom fulfill'd
(Matthew Arnold, "Morality," st I)

. . . we can only set up circumstances that let them emerge. When trying to recall a forgotten name, we patiently reconstruct the circumstances in which the name is relevant. When we are working on the frontiers of knowledge, the source of a potentially significant insight cannot be anticipated: most researchers accept the probability that they are engendered in a deep level of the mind, the workings of which we are unaware. This underground has been half-facetiously referred to as a "random idea generator" a mental mechanism which submits a multitude of possible insights to a cerebral censor that filters out obvious idiocies and submits the remainder to yet a higher level where they are tested against reality (Jones, 1979). Of course, this occurs everyday in all of us. Our personal progress depends upon generating, testing and incorporating ideas that lead us beyond our own boundaries and up to our personal limit and possibly, up to the "ultimate" public boundary of the discipline. Progress in science and art occurs when this public boundary is breached. It is breached by hypotheses.

It appears that within various physiological and cultural or traditional biases, the creative process in art and science is the same. Information and corrections are sought, but by tradition the artist emphasizes internal, personal corrections, while those of scientists are predominantly external; but of course this division is increasingly untenable. The great nineteenth century physiologist Claude Bernard may have felt that "Art is I and Science is We" but we are learning the tremendous depth and generality of "No man is an island."
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THEORY and PRACTICE.
Theory and Practice are the everyday, practical expressions of the tension between (1) beliefs derived primarily from generalizations unaffected by aspects of mind about which we have little understanding, they involve coherence, reason, rationalization . . . and (2) beliefs derived primarily from experience of specifics, the details of which may be integral to understanding and effective process but involving processes inaccessible to expression or articulation and reasoning. This recalls the essential tensionbetween tradition and innovation described by Thomas Kuhn as integral to the development of scientific ideas. As with our confidence in any belief (more-or-less "truth"), both components must interact, albeit in varying proportion, for any meaningful action to be undertaken. [more on tension between affect and cognition]
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CASE STUDY: Theory and Practice in Medicine
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EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE was recently identified by Jack Hitt (2001) as an idea whose time has come. He cited an “article in the journal Patient Care:‘Some experts estimate that only 20 percent of medical practices are based on rigorous research evidence.’ The rest are based on what has been published in books repeatedly without independent testing – or what doctors have always said should work. In other words, it’s a kind of folklore.” The use of meta-analysis has led to some striking insights about prevailing medical procedures that are misleading at best and do more harm than good. He called it “A revolution” and defined the practice using the words of The British Medical Journal as “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.”
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BUT, as R Brian Hayes (2002) points out, research evidence is only a third of a clinical decision at best, necessarily tempered by "the circumstances of the patient (as assessed through the expertise of the clinician), and the preferences of the patient."
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There are always "science wars" -- highly qualified experts on both sides of an issue. The ideological issues loom almost as large as the questions of validity and efficacy, when "overarching" public welfare questions, public perceptions, or practicability (economics) are involved.
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REFERENCES

Hitt, Jack (2001)THE YEAR IN IDEAS: A TO Z.; Evidence-Based Medicine. New York Times Magazine, Sunday December 9, 2001, Section 6 , Page 68 , Column 3. Cited (along with an example about the value of mammograms) at http://www.stanford.edu/~hakuta/Statistics/Fall2002/Evidence-based%20medecine.htm

Hayes, R. Brian (2002) What kind of evidence is it that Evidence-Based Medicine advocates want health care providers and consumers to pay attention to? BMC Health Serv Res. 2002; 2: 3. Published online 2002 March 6. - http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6963/2/3

Murray, Donald M. (1978) Internal Revision: A Process of Discovery. In Research on Composing. (Charles R. Cooper and Lee Odell, editors). National Council of Teachers of English, Urbana, Illinois. p. 85-103.


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ngreenbe@utk.edu

2-22-07