Bookmarked Visual and auditory brain areas share a representational structure that supports emotion perception by Beau Sievers, Carolyn Parkinson, Peter J. Kohler, James M. Hughes, Sergey V. Fogelson, Thalia Wheatley (Current Biology)
Emotionally expressive music and dance occur together across the world. This may be because features shared across the senses are represented the same way even in different sensory brain areas, putting music and movement in directly comparable terms. These shared representations may arise from a general need to identify environmentally relevant combinations of sensory features, particularly those that communicate emotion. To test the hypothesis that visual and auditory brain areas share a representational structure, we created music and animation stimuli with crossmodally matched features expressing a range of emotions. Participants confirmed that each emotion corresponded to a set of features shared across music and movement. A subset of participants viewed both music and animation during brain scanning, revealing that representations in auditory and visual brain areas were similar to one another. This shared representation captured not only simple stimulus features but also combinations of features associated with emotion judgments. The posterior superior temporal cortex represented both music and movement using this same structure, suggesting supramodal abstraction of sensory content. Further exploratory analysis revealed that early visual cortex used this shared representational structure even when stimuli were presented auditorily. We propose that crossmodally shared representations support mutually reinforcing dynamics across auditory and visual brain areas, facilitating crossmodal comparison. These shared representations may help explain why emotions are so readily perceived and why some dynamic emotional expressions can generalize across cultural contexts.
This portends some interesting results with relation to mnemonics and particularly songlines and indigenous peoples’ practices which integrate song, movement, and emotion.

Preprint: https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/254961v4

Beau Sievers in “New work published today in Current Biology Visual and auditory brain areas share a representational structure that supports emotion perception With @ThaliaWheatley @k_v_n_l @parkinsoncm @sergeyfogelson (thread after coffee!) https://t.co/AURqH9kNLb https://t.co/ro4o4oEwk5” / Twitter ()

I’ve just gotten a copy of Remember: The Science of Memory and the Art of Forgetting by Lisa Genova which came out earlier this week.

Simple white book cover of Remember by Lisa Genova featuring a piece of red string tied into a knotted bow

I’ve thumbed through it quickly and done some targeted searches of the text. From all appearances, it looks like she’s approaching the topic of memory from a neuroscientist’s perspective and talking about broad psychology and culture.

There are a few references to the method of loci and a tangential reference to the phonetic major system in chapter 5. She approaches these briefly with a mention of Joshua Foer’s Moonwalking with Einstein and his PAO system (without using the word Person-Action-Object), but dismisses all too quickly.

But you would have to do a lot of memorizing before you can actually use these techniques (and others like them) to remember the stuff you’re interested in remembering. If the thought of doing this kind of mental labor sounds exhausting, I’m right there with you. I don’t have the dedication or time. Unless you’re motivated to become an elite memory athlete or your life’s dream is to memorize 111,700 digits of pi, I suspect you don’t, either. Most of us will never want or need to memorize that kind or that amount of information. But many of us would like to be better at memorizing the ten things on our to-do list, our Wi-Fi password, or the six things we need at the grocery store.

Sadly she doesn’t bring up the much easier to use phonetic major system, but blows right by it.

I’ll try to delve into the rest of the text shortly, but I was really hoping for more on the mnemonics front. I mnemonists won’t get much out of it on the techniques front, but might find it useful for an overview of the neuroscience or psychology fronts from Hermann Ebbinghaus onwards.

Bookmarked Course: EDS-220 Educational Psychology by Evrim Baran, Ph.D. (ocw.metu.edu.tr)
The study of educational psychology involves both theory and practice. Focusing upon applying the principles of psychology and research to the practice of teaching, the ultimate goal is the understanding and improvement of instruction. Prospective teachers and other professionals in training who will interact with students need to understand how students learn and how that learning varies and is affected by each student’s context, culture, and development. This course focuses on the effective application of psychological concepts and principles in the learning and instructional processes; the development of teaching methods, knowledge and skills; and perspectives which enhance learning environments.

Stian Håklev in “While looking for info about his book, I came across some open courses from a Turkish distance uni by @evrimb, wonderfully organized slides. She actually has two entire courses – one on theories of instruction, another on ed psych. https://t.co/h92k0Z1fKm https://t.co/09Nz6QUlA7 https://t.co/Yp7V8m5Hlh” / Twitter ()

Read Talking out loud to yourself is a technology for thinking by Nana Ariel (Psyche)
Talking out loud to oneself is a technology for thinking that allows us to clarify and sharpen our approach to a problem

I ran across this article this evening and some of the ideas resonate strongly with me. The article mentions some areas of psychology research and a few papers I hadn’t seen before.

I’m also particularly interested in the idea of embodied cognition within cognitive psychology. Has anyone delved into these areas in their research or memory-related work? @LynneKelly’s research and written texts encourage singing, dancing and performing (I don’t recall specifically speaking or walking in her contexts, but I’m sure they’re all closely related), but has anyone else experimented with these additional modalities in their practice?

Most of the Western-based mnemotechniques I’m aware of are focused almost solely on internalized speech/thought. Can anyone think of any which aren’t?

I’ve seen several works in which Nassim Nicholas Taleb propounds the benefits of the flaneur lifestyle for improving thought, though his mentions are purely anecdotal as I recall. I’d appreciate any additional references to research in these areas if others are aware.


Like many of us, I talk to myself out loud, though I’m a little unusual in that I often do it in public spaces. Whenever I want to figure out an issue, develop an idea or memorise a text, I turn to this odd work routine. While it’s definitely earned me a reputation in my neighbourhood, it’s also improved my thinking and speaking skills immensely. Speaking out loud is not only a medium of communication, but a technology of thinking: it encourages the formation and processing of thoughts.

I’ve noticed speaking out loud also seems to help me in practicing and acquiring a new language.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:52PM

The idea that speaking out loud and thinking are closely related isn’t new. It emerged in Ancient Greece and Rome, in the work of such great orators as Marcus Tullius Cicero. But perhaps the most intriguing modern development of the idea appeared in the essay ‘On the Gradual Formation of Thoughts During Speech’ (1805) by the German writer Heinrich von Kleist. 

Some of this is at play with the idea of “[rubber ducking](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging)” as a means of debugging programs
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:55PM

In both cases – speech and writing – the materiality of language undergoes a transformation (to audible sounds or written signs) which in turn produces a mental shift. 

There’s surely a link between this and the idea of thought spaces in the blogosphere or the idea of a commonplace book/digital garden/wiki.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:06PM

Mute inner speech can appear as an inner dialogue as well, but its truncated form encourages us to create a ‘secret’ abbreviated language and deploy mental shortcuts. By forcing us to articulate ourselves more fully, self-talk summons up the image of an imagined listener or interrogator more vividly. In this way, it allows us to question ourselves more critically by adopting an external perspective on our ideas, and so to consider shortcomings in our arguments – all while using our own speech. 

I’m also reading this and wondering about memory techniques and methods and how these may interact beneficially.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:07PM

It’s no coincidence that we walk when we need to think: evidence shows that movement enhances thinking and learning, and both are activated in the same centre of motor control in the brain. In the influential subfield of cognitive science concerned with ‘embodied’ cognition, one prominent claim is that actions themselves are constitutive of cognitive processes. That is, activities such as playing a musical instrument, writing, speaking or dancing don’t start in the brain and then emanate out to the body as actions; rather, they entail the mind and body working in concert as a creative, integrated whole, unfolding and influencing each other in turn. It’s therefore a significant problem that many of us are trapped in work and study environments that don’t allow us to activate these intuitive cognitive muscles, and indeed often even encourage us to avoid them. 

I’m curious if Lynne Kelly or others have looked into these areas of research with their Memory work? She’s definitely posited that singing and dancing as well as creating art helps indigenous cultures in their memory work.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:10PM

Bookmarked Becoming a Social Media Influencer by Jen Golbeck (Medium)
I teach a class in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland called “Becoming a Social Media Influencer”. It’s a hands-on class where students create social media accounts (or work with ones they already have) and learn how to make good content, to build a community, to gain insights into social media algorithms, and to develop strategies for growing their accounts. We do in-class critiques and offer feedback along with doing readings and trying out new tech.
This looks somewhat interesting…

 

via 

Read A New Theory of Western Civilization (The Atlantic)
Could a marriage policy first pursued by the Catholic Church a millennium and a half ago explain what made the industrialized world so powerful—and so peculiar?
This is the second article on this book that I’ve seen in the last week or so. Perhaps I should add it to my list?

Henrich, who directs Harvard’s Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, is a cultural evolutionary theorist, which means that he gives cultural inheritance the same weight that traditional biologists give to genetic inheritance. Parents bequeath their DNA to their offspring, but they—along with other influential role models—also transmit skills, knowledge, values, tools, habits. Our genius as a species is that we learn and accumulate culture over time. Genes alone don’t determine whether a group survives or disappears. So do practices and beliefs. Human beings are not “the genetically evolved hardware of a computational machine,” he writes. They are conduits of the spirit, habits, and psychological patterns of their civilization, “the ghosts of past institutions.” 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:03AM

WEIRD people have a bad habit of universalizing from their own particularities. They think everyone thinks the way they do, and some of them (not all, of course) reinforce that assumption by studying themselves. In the run-up to writing the book, Henrich and two colleagues did a literature review of experimental psychology and found that 96 percent of subjects enlisted in the research came from northern Europe, North America, or Australia. About 70 percent of those were American undergraduates. Blinded by this kind of myopia, many Westerners assume that what’s good or bad for them is good or bad for everyone else. 

This is a painful reality. It’s also even more specific to the current Republican party. Do as we say, not as we do.

This is the sort of example that David Dylan Thomas will appreciate.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:09AM

By the time Protestantism came along, people had already internalized an individualist worldview. Henrich calls Protestantism “the WEIRDest religion,” and says it gave a “booster shot” to the process set in motion by the Catholic Church. Integral to the Reformation was the idea that faith entailed personal struggle rather than adherence to dogma. Vernacular translations of the Bible allowed people to interpret scripture more idiosyncratically. The mandate to read the Bible democratized literacy and education. After that came the inquiry into God-given natural (individual) rights and constitutional democracies. The effort to uncover the laws of political organization spurred interest in the laws of nature—in other words, science. The scientific method codified epistemic norms that broke the world down into categories and valorized abstract principles. All of these psychosocial changes fueled unprecedented innovation, the Industrial Revolution, and economic growth. 

Reading this makes me think about the political break in the United States along political and religious boundaries. Some of Trumps’ core base practices a more personal religion and are generally in areas that don’t display the level of individualism, but focus more on larger paternalistic families. This could be an interesting space for further exploration as it seems to be moving the “progress”(?) described by WEIRD countries backward.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:19AM

If Henrich’s history of Christianity and the West feels rushed and at times derivative—he acknowledges his debt to Max Weber—that’s because he’s in a hurry to explain Western psychology. 

This adds more to my prior comment with the addition to Max Weber here. Cross reference some of my reading this past week on his influence on the prosperity gospel.
Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:21AM

Henrich defends this sweeping thesis with several studies, including a test known as the Triad Task. Subjects are shown three images—say, a rabbit, a carrot, and a cat. The goal is to match a “target object”—the rabbit—with a second object. A person who matches the rabbit with the cat classifies: The rabbit and the cat are animals. A person who matches the rabbit with the carrot looks for relationships between the objects: The rabbit eats the carrot. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:25AM

Toppling the accomplishments of Western civilization off their great-man platforms, he erases their claim to be monuments to rationality: Everything we think of as a cause of culture is really an effect of culture, including us. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:27AM

He refutes genetic theories of European superiority and makes a good case against economic determinism. His quarry are the “enlightened” Westerners—would-be democratizers, globalizers, well-intended purveyors of humanitarian aid—who impose impersonal institutions and abstract political principles on societies rooted in familial networks, and don’t seem to notice the trouble that follows. 

Annotated on September 06, 2020 at 11:29AM

Listened to Behavioral Economics When Psychology and Economics Collide — Lecture 1: What Is a Good Decision? by Scott HuettelScott Huettel from The Great Courses
Begin by examining “rational choice” models of decision making from traditional economics, which assume consistent, foresighted, and self-interested decision makers. Then consider how this concept fails to explain many human decisions that appear counterintuitive or paradoxical. Identify two fundamental limitations that challenge our decision-making process.
4% done; Finished Lecture 1
Fairly facile introduction from my perspective. Didn’t learn anything new here.
Read What's wrong with WhatsApp by William Davies (the Guardian)
The long read: As social media has become more inhospitable, the appeal of private online groups has grown. But they hold their own dangers – to those both inside and out.
Replied to a tweet by Greg McVerryGreg McVerry (Twitter)
Without checking, I have to think that I carefully couched my wording there. For that audience, I did use the more famous example of Stonehenge, for which there is some pretty solid evidence for my claim. There are other examples in the archaeological record that certainly are older and in other cultural contexts. I can easily think of standing stones that are as old as 12,000 years old for which the same case could be made in borderline agricultural societies. The tough part is that would have required the definition of standing stones and a lot of other pieces which I didn’t feel I had the time to create the context for in that setting.

I imagine that there are potentially examples of this sort of behavior going back as far as 30-40,000 years or more, but there is is no direct (known) archaeological evidence left to make such cases. There are oral histories of indigenous peoples in Australia that indicate memories of things that do exist in the geological record to provide some evidence of this.

I’ll also point out that astronomical use is NOT equal to memory use. To make that claim you’d need a lot of additional evidence. In fact, I might suggest something stronger, particularly about Stonehenge. Stonehenge’s primary use was not an astronomical one. Its primary use was as a mnemonic device. The astronomical one was important for the ritual practice (we would call it spaced repetition in modern psychology and pedagogic contexts), but wholly tangential.

If you’re interested in the underlying evidence, Dr. Lynne Kelly has an excellent Ph.D. thesis on the topic, but you might find her book The Memory Code, which expands on the thesis, more accessible. She’s also got a great bibliography of these topics on her website.

Read A Harvard sociologist explains why we confide in strangers by Jenny AndersonJenny Anderson (Quartz)
Who did you last trust with some really personal information? 

Small says there are three reasons we might avoid those closest to us when we are grappling with problems about our health, relationships, work, or kids. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:39PM

The first is that our closest relationships are our most complex ones. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:39PM

The second reason is that when we are dealing with something difficult, we commonly prefer to confide in people who have been through what we are going through rather than those who know us, seeking “cognitive empathy” over guaranteed warmth or closeness. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:40PM

The third reason is that in our moment of vulnerability, our need to talk is greater than our need to self-protect. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:41PM

Adam Smith, writing in 1790, said we can only expect real sympathy from real friends, not from mere acquaintances. More recently, in 1973, Stanford sociologist Mark Granovetter established as a bedrock of social network analysis the idea that we rely on “strong” ties (our inner circle) for support and weak ties (our acquaintances) for information. 

Annotated on March 07, 2020 at 08:43PM

Indicating Introversion / Extroversion at Conferences and Public Meeting Spaces

While I was at Innovate Pasadena’s Friday Morning Coffee Meetup on the topic of design this morning, I saw a woman wearing a large decorative flower in her hair. It reminded me of the social custom of Hawaiian women wearing flowers in their hair and what that indicates socially in terms of their wanting to be approached or not.

This made me begin wondering about the less gregarious or introverted people at meetings or conferences who can become overwhelmed by the sights, sounds, and interactions that it becomes so burdensome that they need to take a break and get away for a bit. What if there were a way to easily indicate at conferences that one wanted to be approached, pitched, or engaged in conversation? While some are sure to still need quiet spaces or breaks, perhaps there’s a way to leverage external indicators to generally diminish the additional social, mental, and emotional burdens of interacting in large crowds of strangers?

I might suggest using the position of one’s name tag as the indicator, but in the United States, generally etiquette has been to wear the name tag on the right hand side and at many conferences it’s almost more common that one wears a lanyard which prevents explicit positioning of a name tag in any case. I might also suggest using different sides of a name tag or lanyard, but experience with the physics and design of these indicates they would be poorly suited for this.

The second method that comes to mind is to use the placement on the right/left of other conference paraphernalia? Perhaps pronoun badges might serve this secondary function? It’s a bit Western-oriented to suggest, but perhaps following the existing pattern of wedding rings on the left hand (or flowers above the left ear in Hawaiian culture) to indicate that one is “unavailable” or would prefer not to be bothered, pitched, or interacted with at the moment? Wearing them on the right indicates I’m open for conversation, pitches, or interaction. Using this also has the potential side benefit of encouraging more conferences to explicitly advertise pronouns and normalize these sorts of behaviors and cultural conventions.

Multi-colored pronoun buttons for she (orange), he (yellow), they (green), and ask (red) as well as an IndieWebCamp button
Image courtesy of the IndieWeb.org wiki via Aaron Parecki (with a CC0 license)

Have other event organizers considered this sort of system before? Are there other examples of it occurring in the wild? What other external indicators could one use and simultaneously be easy for both organizers and participants?