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  #1  
Old 06-19-2010, 12:01 AM
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Default Science Saturday: Holding Back

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  #2  
Old 06-19-2010, 02:14 AM
I'm SO awesome!
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

with all due respect to Roy, the free will experiment is pretty much another squishy psychology experiment that doesn't teach us much about actual reality. This is why i never read any article that starts with "20 people were offered $100 immediately..."....it really just doesn't teach us much of anything.
Free will? Free from what? I'm not sure what that question even means. All behavior has some genetic component and is determined by our brain. LTP converts experiences into altered gene expression/behavior. I don't care if your genes make you a psychopath or your brain is not learning well enough to appropriately alter gene expression in your neurons - i'm still sending you to jail. My lack of free will forced me to put you in prison.
By coaxing people into thinking they're not responsible for what they're doing this is simply removing the breaks from the excitatory circuits in their mind.
The entire premise of the experiment doesn't even make any sense. If there's no free will (which there isn't) then how could "removing it" make any difference?
This experiment simply shoes that the subjects aren't that well educated and have substandard genes/gene expression.
also, the first experiment discussed seems like it'd be the result of habituation in the brain rather than lack of self control but whatever.
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  #3  
Old 06-19-2010, 02:42 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by I'm SO awesome! View Post
This experiment simply shoes ...
... that psychology socks?
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  #4  
Old 06-19-2010, 02:45 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

imo, yes....and i majored in it
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  #5  
Old 06-19-2010, 03:26 AM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default conspiracy theory on why boys are less attentive than girls...

If self control is based on a sort of energy reservoir model... if young adolescent males are constantly exerting greaterenergy to reign in their impulses for the sex, over and above what women have to put up with due to sex differences...

I wonder if this explains much of the gap in school outcomes...


Am I crazy?


Would there be less energy needed for self control with boys who attended an all boys school?

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 06-19-2010 at 03:30 AM..
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  #6  
Old 06-19-2010, 04:19 AM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/289...3:31&out=24:27


There seems to be a benefit to behavior in having greater belief in free will, in the mantra of I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship, vs behavior as a result of brain processes or environment.


How do you liberals with all that attachment and focus on environmental effects and external factors as greater forces in peoples behavior take that? It seems to undermine the models with a stronger focus on action/reaction to change behavior as opposed to making the self more resilient, changing the individual, not the universe as the more effective goal.


Ditto with self control, if it turns out that one of the bigger contributers of outcomes relate to peoples relative levels of self control, the internal locus of control vs the external one... again, what does that suggest to you all who focus on the opposite as a more probable model of the way things are?
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  #7  
Old 06-19-2010, 04:46 AM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonIrenicus View Post
There seems to be a benefit to behavior in having greater belief in free will, in the mantra of I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship, vs behavior as a result of brain processes or environment.


How do you liberals with all that attachment and focus on environmental effects and external factors as greater forces in peoples behavior take that?
I'd love to answer, but as a liberal, I do not have enough free will to do so.

I am actually surprised that I was able to overcome the Forces Beyond My Control to get this fa
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  #8  
Old 06-19-2010, 09:11 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

Quote:
Originally Posted by JonIrenicus View Post
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/289...3:31&out=24:27


There seems to be a benefit to behavior in having greater belief in free will, in the mantra of I am the master of my fate, the captain of my ship, vs behavior as a result of brain processes or environment.


How do you liberals with all that attachment and focus on environmental effects and external factors as greater forces in peoples behavior take that? It seems to undermine the models with a stronger focus on action/reaction to change behavior as opposed to making the self more resilient, changing the individual, not the universe as the more effective goal.


Ditto with self control, if it turns out that one of the bigger contributers of outcomes relate to peoples relative levels of self control, the internal locus of control vs the external one... again, what does that suggest to you all who focus on the opposite as a more probable model of the way things are?
Recall that Baumeister says that we can look at our self-control as a half-full glass or a half-empty glass. Our self-control is not absolute. The extreme conservative position seems to regard people as capable of infinite self-control -- poor people should just raise themselves by their bootstraps, because a very few poor people have managed this. If they don't manage this, then their poverty is all their fault, while the rich who haven't had to pull themselves up so far (and who may well have had better training in self-control etc. by virtue of what families they belonged to) are all better off solely because of their own free will. This is an extremely unempirical attitude toward free will -- very far from the attitude that Baumeister is taking.
On the other hand, as the experiments you are focusing on show, one can go too far in a permissive or determinist direction (which is not the same as a liberal direction). It's hard to help people compensate for their bad luck without seeming to give them an excuse for not trying. This is the source of economics based conservative critiques of many liberal programs. The fruitful area of debate is precisely at the half-empty/half full line. We just can't deny that self-control is itself an empirical quantity -- something that some people have more of a natural talent for and that some people get more training in by the luck of what family they are born into. But designing social programs that might help people compensate for bad luck and (one hopes) make people better able to exert self-control must be carefully designed so as not to seem to be handing out free passes. The conservative vs. liberal argument over whether the glass of self-control is half-full or half-empty is a useful tension which could help us hit the sweet spot in the design of social programs -- so long as it is carried out in a spirit of pragmatism rather than dogmatism.
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  #9  
Old 06-19-2010, 09:46 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by I'm SO awesome! View Post
with all due respect to Roy, the free will experiment is pretty much another squishy psychology experiment that doesn't teach us much about actual reality. This is why i never read any article that starts with "20 people were offered $100 immediately..."....it really just doesn't teach us much of anything.
Free will? Free from what? I'm not sure what that question even means. All behavior has some genetic component and is determined by our brain. LTP converts experiences into altered gene expression/behavior. I don't care if your genes make you a psychopath or your brain is not learning well enough to appropriately alter gene expression in your neurons - i'm still sending you to jail. My lack of free will forced me to put you in prison.
By coaxing people into thinking they're not responsible for what they're doing this is simply removing the breaks from the excitatory circuits in their mind.
The entire premise of the experiment doesn't even make any sense. If there's no free will (which there isn't) then how could "removing it" make any difference?
This experiment simply shoes that the subjects aren't that well educated and have substandard genes/gene expression.
also, the first experiment discussed seems like it'd be the result of habituation in the brain rather than lack of self control but whatever.
Your objections seem inconsistent. First you say you don't know what "free will" means and then you deny categorically that we have it. Suppose that you define "free will" as the freedom to step back from immediate impulses and make one's decisions on the basis of what seems best overall. Surely you wouldn't deny that some people have this ability to some degree.

The following objection is based on a misunderstanding:
Quote:
If there's no free will (which there isn't) then how could "removing it" make any difference?
What the experiment does is to decrease (not really remove) the strength of a person's BELIEF in free will. It's quite possible for people to believe in free will even if they don't have it -- just as they can believe in witches when there aren't any. Of course, Baumeister doesn't deny the existence of free will, but certainly his experiment need not presuppose its existence either -- only the existence of some belief in free will.
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  #10  
Old 06-19-2010, 10:19 AM
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

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Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post
Recall that Baumeister says that we can look at our self-control as a half-full glass or a half-empty glass. Our self-control is not absolute. The extreme conservative position seems to regard people as capable of infinite self-control -- poor people should just raise themselves by their bootstraps, because a very few poor people have managed this. If they don't manage this, then their poverty is all their fault, while the rich who haven't had to pull themselves up so far (and who may well have had better training in self-control etc. by virtue of what families they belonged to) are all better off solely because of their own free will. This is an extremely unempirical attitude toward free will -- very far from the attitude that Baumeister is taking.
On the other hand, as the experiments you are focusing on show, one can go too far in a permissive or determinist direction (which is not the same as a liberal direction). It's hard to help people compensate for their bad luck without seeming to give them an excuse for not trying. This is the source of economics based conservative critiques of many liberal programs. The fruitful area of debate is precisely at the half-empty/half full line. We just can't deny that self-control is itself an empirical quantity -- something that some people have more of a natural talent for and that some people get more training in by the luck of what family they are born into. But designing social programs that might help people compensate for bad luck and (one hopes) make people better able to exert self-control must be carefully designed so as not to seem to be handing out free passes. The conservative vs. liberal argument over whether the glass of self-control is half-full or half-empty is a useful tension which could help us hit the sweet spot in the design of social programs -- so long as it is carried out in a spirit of pragmatism rather than dogmatism.
Excellent post, Bloggin' Noggin.
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  #11  
Old 06-19-2010, 10:22 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Excellent diavlog. Empirical issues about self-control are exactly where I think the dusty metaphysical free will debate should go, and this kind of empirical study (as opposed to the wrong-headed Libet experiment) is the right empirical approach to free will (it gets closer to what free will really is all about).
I'd just like to note how far Baumeister's view echoes Aristotle's. For Aristotle, virtue is a matter of control over ones impulses (emotions and appetites) and the aquisition of virtue is a matter of practice. This practice is both a matter of muscle-strengthening AND of habituation. While you are becoming a good person, you will be tempted by many things that you won't be tempted by later. Part of what the person working at becoming good does is to cultivate a taste for good actions, so that good action is what one spontaneously wants to do. And another part will be to routinize the right actions -- to keep temptation from even arising in the first place.

Self-control in the sense of the ability to resist an occurent temptation can be strengthened by practice and the exercise of such self-control also leads to right habits and tastes that take the pressure off our limited capacity for self-control to some degree. And both of these elements (occurent self-control and the habits and tastes) constitute a kind of freedom from control by impulse (which we might describe as "free will").
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  #12  
Old 06-19-2010, 10:31 AM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by I'm SO awesome! View Post
Free will?
You might enjoy, if you haven't already come upon it, reading about the work of Daniel Wegner:...the illusions piled atop apparent mental causation are the building blocks of human psychology and social life.

Quote:
The idea of conscious will and the idea of psychological mechanisms have an oil and water relationship, having never been properly reconciled. One way to put them together — the way this book explores — is to say that the mechanistic approach is the explanation preferred for scientific purposes but that the person's experience of conscious will is utterly convincing and important to the person and so must be understood scientifically as well. The mechanisms underlying the experience of will are themselves a fundamental topic of scientific study. We should be able to examine and understand what creates the experience of will and what makes it go away. This means, though, that conscious will is an illusion. It is an illusion in the sense that the experience of consciously willing an action is not a direct indication that the conscious thought has caused the action.

Last edited by badhatharry; 06-19-2010 at 10:39 AM..
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  #13  
Old 06-19-2010, 11:09 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Psychology Saturday! Great!

Excellent diavlog by Joshua and Roy.

Roy described his research on how exerting self control on one task or making decisions, can deplete the mental energy needed for a subsequent different task and how this could have some practical applications. When he mentions "mental energy" he added some clarification that this concept was borrowed from biology. The term that is being used, mental energy, might as well be called mental effort, and is not, as far as I can tell, new in psychology. Certain tasks, once they have become routine, can be carried out with minimal attention, and at very low effort/ mental energy use. That frees up mental energy for later tasks or for a second concomitant task. And indeed, the process can be easily conceptualized by understanding how neural circuits operate through stimulation/facilitation and inhibition/ deflection.

The topic of exercising self control to strengthen that ability as one would do with any other skill or building muscle, was very descriptive. The caveat of not overexerting to the point of exhaustion was also a welcome point, especially to the audience that tends to think about all or nothing, instead of a continuum or a slope.

Interesting discussion about couples and other relationships in terms of compatibility and happiness based on their respective ability for self control. Perhaps there was a failure to address sufficiently the importance of quantifying spontaneity versus self control.
An objection that could be made, is that the highest levels of self control may actually determine a neutralization of emotional availability and experience, that for many may preclude some aspects of enjoyment. Additionally, people with high levels of self control may be more likely to report that their relationship is gratifying, and less likely to admit that it might be boring. As usual, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that somewhere in the continuum, a strong ability for self control probably yields the best results.

Also, and following up with the same topic, I find that an aspect that is often neglected is that relationships are dynamic and that people adjust to each other in complementary ways. Even if two people enter a relationship with similar levels of self regulation, they may find that one starts to become more spontaneous in the context of that relationship and based on the other's ability to contain. The same phenomenon can work reciprocally so that each partner has an opportunity to loosen up in certain aspects. These dynamics are always in interplay.

Lastly, there was a discussion about how belief in one's ability for free will can determine different behaviors. The implication is that when the focus of control is external (less free will) people tend to become more antisocial. This is a well known phenomenon and is the basis for the concept of empowerment. As Bloggin'Noggin's post describes, again this isn't an all-or-nothing mechanism. People who don't have any resources, need help to build the skills to pull themselves out of their situation.

Many topics for discussion, at least for those of us who are interested in the complexities of the human mind.

Thank you both.
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  #14  
Old 06-19-2010, 11:12 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

1. Self-control can be tiring.

2. The more we practice self-control the better at it we get.

Psychology is the art of dressing up in fancy language what every grandmother on the planet knows.
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  #15  
Old 06-19-2010, 11:38 AM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by ohreally View Post
1. Self-control can be tiring.

2. The more we practice self-control the better at it we get.
Yes.

Quote:
Psychology is the art of dressing up in fancy language what every grandmother on the planet knows.
No. Psychology is the art of demonstrating through experiments what every grandmother intuitively has suspected (and believed to know).
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  #16  
Old 06-19-2010, 11:54 AM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Interesting discussion about couples and other relationships in terms of compatibility and happiness based on their respective ability for self control. Perhaps there was a failure to address sufficiently the importance of quantifying spontaneity versus self control.
An objection that could be made, is that the highest levels of self control may actually determine a neutralization of emotional availability and experience, that for many may preclude some aspects of enjoyment. Additionally, people with high levels of self control may be more likely to report that their relationship is gratifying, and less likely to admit that it might be boring. As usual, it wouldn't be hard to imagine that somewhere in the continuum, a strong ability for self control probably yields the best results.

.

Good points, Ocean. However, I wonder whether the trade off between "self-control" and spontaneity might be more apparent than real. A life spent endlessly reconsidering whether to shave first or brush your teeth first every morning would not be a more spontaneous life than that of someone who made a decision once and turned his faculties to more interesting questions. The writer who religiously wakes at 6:30 and locks herself in the study for four hours may be open to a lot of spontaneous decisions about what her characters are going to do next. If I go for a half-hour walk every day, I can still make spontaneous decisions about my route.

We ought to distinguish between self-control as an occurrent state -- where you are actually having to control an impulse which leads you in the wrong direction -- and self-control as a state of overall mastery of one's life.
The occurrent self-control IS opposed to spontaneity -- it requires standing back from one's impulses and questioning them, deciding whether or not it makes sense to give in to that impulse. But if we have exercised our occurrent self-control effectively in the past and have given ourselves tastes and habits that work well and have weeded out the tastes and habits that lead to conflict, we will have achieved self-control (in the sense of life-mastery) by decreasing theneed for the alienating and effortful occurrent sort of self-control.
As Aristotle points out, the self-controlled person (in this occurrent sense) wants to do the wrong thing but does the right thing anyway -- he thereby does not act spontaneously. But the truly good person wants to do the right thing (because of past training and past self-control) and so he spontaneously does the right thing. If I can train my impulses to spontaneously flow in certain channels and not others, I may increase the realm of possible spontaneity for myself rather than decrease it.

Last edited by Bloggin' Noggin; 06-19-2010 at 11:57 AM..
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  #17  
Old 06-19-2010, 12:17 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

thanks. good stuff here.
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Old 06-19-2010, 12:36 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post
Good points, Ocean. However, I wonder whether the trade off between "self-control" and spontaneity might be more apparent than real. A life spent endlessly reconsidering whether to shave first or brush your teeth first every morning would not be a more spontaneous life than that of someone who made a decision once and turned his faculties to more interesting questions. The writer who religiously wakes at 6:30 and locks herself in the study for four hours may be open to a lot of spontaneous decisions about what her characters are going to do next. If I go for a half-hour walk every day, I can still make spontaneous decisions about my route.
Yes, I agree with that. But I think you're referring to routines rather than self control. Your examples above go along with Roy's ideas of saving mental energy (effort) by engaging in low decision making (routine) activities. That certainly works well, although routine does take away from the momentary enjoyment of those activities.

Quote:
We ought to distinguish between self-control as an occurrent state -- where you are actually having to control an impulse which leads you in the wrong direction -- and self-control as a state of overall mastery of one's life.
The occurrent self-control IS opposed to spontaneity -- it requires standing back from one's impulses and questioning them, deciding whether or not it makes sense to give in to that impulse. But if we have exercised our occurrent self-control effectively in the past and have given ourselves tastes and habits that work well and have weeded out the tastes and habits that lead to conflict, we will have achieved self-control (in the sense of life-mastery) by decreasing theneed for the alienating and effortful occurrent sort of self-control.
As Aristotle points out, the self-controlled person (in this occurrent sense) wants to do the wrong thing but does the right thing anyway -- he thereby does not act spontaneously. But the truly good person wants to do the right thing (because of past training and past self-control) and so he spontaneously does the right thing. If I can train my impulses to spontaneously flow in certain channels and not others, I may increase the realm of possible spontaneity for myself rather than decrease it.
Again, I agree. You are pointing at habit and discipline to lower the amount of effort put into resisting unwanted impulses, so that more effort can be directed to wanted activities which can, of course, be spontaneous activities. You're describing a healthy psychological state that allows a balanced life. Since, no matter how good or committed we think we are at achieving that goal, we are not going to be reaching that state perfectly, we can move to consider where in the spectrum of imperfection we are going to fall. We may be to one side or the other of the perfect balance between conquered impulses (self control) and spontaneous (unrestrained) flow.
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  #19  
Old 06-19-2010, 01:12 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

no, i'm beyond that. i'm denying it exists because the question makes no sense at all. What would our will be free from? It's in a separate universe? I'm well familiar with all the experiments addressing this question. And what would be the purpose of defining free will as a "having inhibitory circuits"? All this means is that the electrical potential wasn't strong enough to overcome inhibition. There's no need to invent a false dilemma like "free will." It's just making up a problem that doesn't exist so philosophers can have a job.

The second objection is neither here nor there. How would you know what the person believes after they're been told to repeat phrases about the lack of free will in humans? Anyway, regardless of whether its strength decreases or is entirely gone what is happening is the neural circuits inhibiting their actions get suppressed. This is what happens during social situations like genocide. The "brakes" on your mind get suppressed and we lose control. The experiment could simply tell them that a god is in charge of everything they do and have the same effect. Furthermore, Roy is essentially studying what fatigue or short term memory does to our inhibitory circuits and calling the inhibitory circuits "free will." That is all the experiment is. It'd be like loosening the brakes on a car and saying that the car's "free will" had been eroded. All any of these experiments are doing are either making a subject tired or changing gene expression in long term memory - both of which will suppress inhibitory circuits. It's a just a parlor trick that even my grandma would already intuitively understand.
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Old 06-19-2010, 01:13 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post

As Aristotle points out, the self-controlled person (in this occurrent sense) wants to do the wrong thing but does the right thing anyway -- he thereby does not act spontaneously. But the truly good person wants to do the right thing (because of past training and past self-control) and so he spontaneously does the right thing. If I can train my impulses to spontaneously flow in certain channels and not others, I may increase the realm of possible spontaneity for myself rather than decrease it.
Who is to say what is the right thing? In the cases you cite it would be the actor, himself and not some outside judge. Therefore, in the first example, there must be an awareness beforehand of the wrong thing and the choice of doing the right thing. The judgment of rightness/wrongness is made by the actor. In the second event the person makes no choice but is somehow assured that he is doing the right thing or maybe has been transported because of his past good deeds to a place where he has no awareness of the dichotomy. What makes this any different than a sociopath who never struggles with the dichotomy?
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Old 06-19-2010, 01:14 PM
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wow! we're in the same track cuz i didn't even read your grandma comment and i included the exact same sentiment in my last comment. folks....this guy gets my vote
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  #22  
Old 06-19-2010, 01:30 PM
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by badhatharry View Post
Who is to say what is the right thing? In the cases you cite it would be the actor, himself and not some outside judge. Therefore, in the first example, there must be an awareness beforehand of the wrong thing and the choice of doing the right thing. The judgment of rightness/wrongness is made by the actor. In the second event the person makes no choice but is somehow assured that he is doing the right thing or maybe has been transported because of his past good deeds to a place where he has no awareness of the dichotomy. What makes this any different than a sociopath who never struggles with the dichotomy?
B'N wasn't addressing who decides what's right or wrong. It is assumed that the individual in question makes that decision. He was addressing that in an early stage the person has to put effort into controlling some unwanted impulse, for the sake of a higher value. Later on, and through practicing self control, the person no longer has to put in effort. The favored action (what's right) becomes the spontaneous behavior instead of the original undesirable impulse.

As to your example, the sociopath tends to favor his/her own desires and impulses. Of course, there's always some degree of socialization. The socialization of the sociopath is very close to what utilitarians/ hedonists seem to advocate. But that's another story, and I probably will not be the one diving into it.
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  #23  
Old 06-19-2010, 01:41 PM
badhatharry badhatharry is offline
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
B'N wasn't addressing who decides what's right or wrong. It is assumed that the individual in question makes that decision. He was addressing that in an early stage the person has to put effort into controlling some unwanted impulse, for the sake of a higher value. Later on, and through practicing self control, the person no longer has to put in effort. The favored action (what's right) becomes the spontaneous behavior instead of the original undesirable impulse.
So I guess we're just talking about the strength of impulses and through practice they become lessened. I guess my mom and Aristotle were right.
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  #24  
Old 06-19-2010, 01:49 PM
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So I guess we're just talking about the strength of impulses and through practice they become lessened. I guess my mom and Aristotle were right.
Yes, others (I'm SO awesome and Ohreally) on this thread have made that point. The research that Roy talked about is just a way of testing that old folk belief by means of an experiment.

That's what research is about. Whether you're testing a theory in physics or some popular interpretation about how we conquer our impulses, depends on the field of study.
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Old 06-19-2010, 02:11 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
That's what research is about. Whether you're testing a theory in physics or some popular interpretation about how we conquer our impulses, depends on the field of study.
This is a very important point, and I'm glad you made it. (Twice, even.)

Too many people who have not done science fall into the easy rut of belittling studies that "confirm the obvious." Such people do not really grasp, deep down, that science is a process, often a gruelingly incremental one, and that the only way we can build it up is to figure out systematic ways to test and confirm what intuition and anecdotes might suggest.

There are, of course, occasions when intuition is shown to be dead wrong, and only a rigorous set of experiments was able to show this. These, of course, are rare moments and often form the basis for our heroic stories about Science. This is not entirely bad, since such stories are often the reason the next bunch of smart kids decides to pursue science education and careers, but they do have the downside in that the lay audience is made wildly impatient with much of the day-to-day reality.
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  #26  
Old 06-19-2010, 02:18 PM
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Excellent post, Bloggin' Noggin.
I agree -- an excellent post.
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Old 06-19-2010, 02:29 PM
Bloggin' Noggin Bloggin' Noggin is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by I'm SO awesome! View Post
no, i'm beyond that. i'm denying it exists because the question makes no sense at all. What would our will be free from? It's in a separate universe? I'm well familiar with all the experiments addressing this question. And what would be the purpose of defining free will as a "having inhibitory circuits"? All this means is that the electrical potential wasn't strong enough to overcome inhibition. There's no need to invent a false dilemma like "free will." It's just making up a problem that doesn't exist so philosophers can have a job.
I told you free from what -- free from immediate determination by impulse and therefore able to be determined by deliberation over what it's best to do. "Having inhibitory circuits" is not a reasonable summary of that.
You appear to assume a very definite meaning for "free will" -- namely "freedom from causality" -- even though you assert that you have no idea what it means. But this is not what everyone means by free will -- as I tried to point out.
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The second objection is neither here nor there. How would you know what the person believes after they're been told to repeat phrases about the lack of free will in humans? Anyway, regardless of whether its strength decreases or is entirely gone what is happening is the neural circuits inhibiting their actions get suppressed. This is what happens during social situations like genocide. The "brakes" on your mind get suppressed and we lose control. The experiment could simply tell them that a god is in charge of everything they do and have the same effect. Furthermore, Roy is essentially studying what fatigue or short term memory does to our inhibitory circuits and calling the inhibitory circuits "free will." That is all the experiment is. It'd be like loosening the brakes on a car and saying that the car's "free will" had been eroded.
There's no claim that the person's free will was eroded -- just a claim that when people tell themselves they don't have free will, they tend not to try to control themselves and to feel less remorse etc. These are empirically establishable regularities. It's as if you could fiddle with the break light and thereby strengthen or weaken the breaks.

The experiment actually rules out the possible explanation you seem to be suggesting: both groups had to go through a similar exercise, but one group recited that they did have free will and the other group recited the claimthat they didn't. If just repeating something over and over had this weakening effect (irrespective of what you were repeating), then both groups should respond the same way, but I believe those who recited pro-free will slogans reacted differently than those who recited anti-free will slogans.

One could try to explain this in some other way, but a fairly obvious way would invoke the observation that people can reinforce beliefs by repeating them (an observation which is not restricted to this kind of case.
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Old 06-19-2010, 02:53 PM
Wonderment Wonderment is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

I am about to listen to the dialog but first I read a few posts and found this interesting, more from what I know about social psychology than philosophy.

Two comments: First, (help me here, Ocean) lack of impulse control is a psychiatric disorder associated in varying degrees with a wide range of other diagnoses.

Two, the conservative Horatio Alger critique is bogus for reasons beyond corresponding inequities in the system ("I grew up poor, but I didn't commit crimes and go to prison.")

Most youth at risk for premature death, abuse of others and a life of crime have multiple risk factors. Let's say you can score for risk on a scale of 1 to 8. When you get up to 6, 7, 8 predicting bad choice outcomes is really a slam dunk. Risk factors might include physical or verbal abuse by a parent AND another parent in prison AND living in a housing project AND substance abuse in the home AND sexual abuse by a family member AND no after-school programs AND early gang initiation AND stints in foster care, etc.

Point being, free will (good choices) is a lot more likely for the child with a score of 1 -4 than for a child from 5-8.

You'll meet a lot of > 5 in prison. Early intervention can enhance free will.
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  #29  
Old 06-19-2010, 03:06 PM
ohreally ohreally is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by Ocean View Post
Psychology is the art of demonstrating through experiments what every grandmother intuitively has suspected (and believed to know).
Perhaps, but that's not science. Every grandmother knows that, if you drop an apple, it falls to the ground. Baumeister will then set up an experiment and confirm the finding with low enough p-value.

That is not science. Newton did not confirm gravity.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:17 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by ohreally View Post
Perhaps, but that's not science. Every grandmother knows that, if you drop an apple, it falls to the ground. Baumeister will then set up an experiment and confirm the finding with low enough p-value.

That is not science. Newton did not confirm gravity.
Most "grandmothers" also believe that an apple will fall to the ground faster than a feather, and that this is due to gravity behaving differently on objects of different weight.

Newton did not confirm gravity, but he did lay out a remarkable theory for it (building on Galileo's work, of course), in which acceleration due to gravitational attraction by object A on objects B and C was shown to be independent of the masses of B and C.

Unsung are all the people who did increasingly careful measurements (experiments) to confirm that his theory could be believed, and therefore confidently applied to engineering problems where lives were at stake.

It should also be noted that additional work, by other people who are also largely unknown to most everybody else, led to the realization that Newton's theory of gravitation was actually only a very good approximation, and suitable for use only at what we might call human scales.

[Added] I should add that I'm not commenting on Baumeister's work per se, since I haven't had a chance to watch the diavlog yet, but just following up on the general principle I tried to lay out earlier.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:36 PM
ohreally ohreally is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

Joshua asks whether psychological research can help us determine whether humans have free will. An odd statement coming from a philosopher.

Free will is not like some property A, which we can define, and the question is then to establish whether we have A or not.

The question of free will is not whether we have it or not. It's what and whether it is.

That's why dismissing free will as an illusion is a category error because illusion is an epistemological concept. Free will (like consciousness) are first-person ontological ideas.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:42 PM
bjkeefe bjkeefe is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by ohreally View Post
Joshua asks whether psychological research can help us determine whether humans have free will. An odd statement coming from a philosopher.
Just curious: have you watched his other diavlogs? Because his research program, as I understand it, involves trying to build some bridges between what usually are seen as these two separate disciplines.

I think it's a pretty noble effort, myself, and pretty interesting work already. For whatever that's worth.
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Old 06-19-2010, 03:44 PM
I'm SO awesome!
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

it's not that i don't know what it means - clearly i'm inferring it's a nonsensical question. see, there's these things called
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inhibit...and_inhibitory

excitatory and inhibitory transmitters and receptors. if a stimuli is salient enough then neural spiking will kick it up to our consciousness.
(first paragraph)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spiking_neural_network

"immediate determination" makes no sense when it comes to actual reality. the immediate determination of what? how do you know if something would've cause you to do something? you don't. if something isn't salient enough to be brought to your attentional spotlight then it doesn't exist in your consciousness - only in your unconscious. the brain, meaning the actual human brain rather than some fabricated, abstract philosopher's brain, is not "immediately determined" to do anything at all. what you're asserting is literally saying that a swimming pool "deliberated" on whether to allow a wave to spill over it's side and if the wave had gone over then (x) would've happened. it either does, or it doesn't - there's no need to invent a question of "free will" for the pool. you're not "making a determinaton" on each of the trillions of bits of info surrounding you at any given time in any other sense than they're not salient enough for you to pay attention to. they're not strong enough to overwhelm inhibitory receptors.
why would you assume your "immediate impulse" (which doesn't exist) wouldn't be to do nothing rather than something? there's no way to even determine what the "immediate determination by impulse" would even be for any given person anyway. even further is the fact that your unconscious mind is still making the decision to do something or nothing for either scenario. your "higher functioning" frontal lobes only become aware of this decision after the decision has already been made. so if a you're scared by a snake your lower brain modules have already decided to run or stay before you've realized consciously "It's only a gardener snake." impulse control is not some "extra" thing to be philosophized about.

to the second part: yes, that's the point. the inhibitory receptors are what the actual, physical mechanism in the brain are that controls this type of behavior. Joseph LeDoux, Eric Kandel and others have known this for over a decade. when you "teach" someone something what's actually happening is that gene expression changes, new proteins are created or old ones are manipulated and this is what controls behavior. this isn't some abstract thought experiment.

Last edited by I'm SO awesome!; 06-19-2010 at 04:10 PM..
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  #34  
Old 06-19-2010, 03:57 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

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Originally Posted by Wonderment View Post
Two comments: First, (help me here, Ocean) lack of impulse control is a psychiatric disorder associated in varying degrees with a wide range of other diagnoses.
Yes, there is a psychiatric disorder that involved impaired ability to control one's impulses.

This diavlog is not about disorders but about normal levels of impulse control, how routines can help, and how the effort directed towards controlling impulses, under certain conditions, may impair subsequent efforts to control other impulses.
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Old 06-19-2010, 04:51 PM
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Default Re: conspiracy theory on why boys are less attentive than girls...

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Originally Posted by JonIrenicus View Post
Would there be less energy needed for self control with boys who attended an all boys school?

Actually...no. In that case, the boys just start going after each other.
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Old 06-19-2010, 06:47 PM
JonIrenicus JonIrenicus is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

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Originally Posted by Bloggin' Noggin View Post
Recall that Baumeister says that we can look at our self-control as a half-full glass or a half-empty glass. Our self-control is not absolute. The extreme conservative position seems to regard people as capable of infinite self-control -- poor people should just raise themselves by their bootstraps, because a very few poor people have managed this. If they don't manage this, then their poverty is all their fault, while the rich who haven't had to pull themselves up so far (and who may well have had better training in self-control etc. by virtue of what families they belonged to) are all better off solely because of their own free will. This is an extremely unempirical attitude toward free will -- very far from the attitude that Baumeister is taking.
On the other hand, as the experiments you are focusing on show, one can go too far in a permissive or determinist direction (which is not the same as a liberal direction). It's hard to help people compensate for their bad luck without seeming to give them an excuse for not trying. This is the source of economics based conservative critiques of many liberal programs. The fruitful area of debate is precisely at the half-empty/half full line. We just can't deny that self-control is itself an empirical quantity -- something that some people have more of a natural talent for and that some people get more training in by the luck of what family they are born into. But designing social programs that might help people compensate for bad luck and (one hopes) make people better able to exert self-control must be carefully designed so as not to seem to be handing out free passes. The conservative vs. liberal argument over whether the glass of self-control is half-full or half-empty is a useful tension which could help us hit the sweet spot in the design of social programs -- so long as it is carried out in a spirit of pragmatism rather than dogmatism.

This is all fine.

But if the greater belief in free will has a sort of placebo like effect, then shouldn't we foster that belief in people while at the same time assisting them if they fall too far?


I think the main point is that just as a personal attitude to take in life, the more internal control leanings are healthier.

Not surprising. To believe that people are little more than rafts unmoored, drifting in a sea of chance and circumstance would seem to take peoples finite attention levels away from areas they have some control over and shift it to areas that are beyond their personal power to alter.

Is it such a terrible thing to keep reminding people that they are rarely rudderless, that no matter what hand they are dealt, playing the hand is better than spending most of ones time on decrying not getting the same high cards of another.

It just seems like a broken, sloppy, unproductive outlook on life. An outlook that many more liberally minded people seem to encourage in their agitations and what they choose to focus on.


And btw, none of that acknowledgement means liberals would have to abandon trying to give greater assistance to the less advantaged, what it means is they might find it more useful and productive to shift their focus to more internal/behavioral aspects of people as opposed to external and environmental effects.

Last edited by JonIrenicus; 06-19-2010 at 06:54 PM..
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Old 06-19-2010, 06:53 PM
uncle ebeneezer uncle ebeneezer is offline
 
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No wonder we've all been acting so impulsively since Bob asked us not to use sarcasm!!

Last edited by uncle ebeneezer; 06-19-2010 at 06:58 PM..
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  #38  
Old 06-19-2010, 06:59 PM
Ocean Ocean is offline
 
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Default Re: More vs less belief of free will, more vs less self control

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Originally Posted by JonIrenicus View Post
This is all fine.

But if the greater belief in free will has a sort of placebo like effect, then shouldn't we foster that belief in people while at the same time assisting them if they fall too far?


I think the main point is that just as a personal attitude to take in life, the more internal control leanings are healthier.

Not surprising. To believe that people are little more than rafts unmoored, drifting in a sea of chance and circumstance would seem to take peoples finite attention levels away from areas they have some control over and shift it to areas that are beyond their personal power to alter.

Is it such a terrible thing to keep reminding people that they are rarely rudderless, that no matter what hand they are dealt, playing the hand is better than spending most of ones time on decrying not getting the same high cards of another.
All the above is included in a basic concept: empowerment.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JonIrenicus
It just seems like a broken, sloppy, unproductive outlook on life. An outlook that many more liberally minded people seem to encourage in their agitations and what they choose to focus on.
I'm not sure where your logic falls apart, but it does. As far as I can tell, "liberals" don't promote dependency, but rather they promote providing the resources so that people can become self-sufficient. Here's an excerpt from the above quote:

Quote:
Sometimes groups are marginalized by society at large, but governments are often unwitting or enthusiastic participants. For example, the U.S. government marginalized cultural minorities, particularly blacks, prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This Act made it illegal to restrict access to schools and public places based on race. Equal opportunity laws which actively oppose such marginalization, allow increased empowerment to occur. It should be noted that they are also a symptom of minorities' and women's empowerment through lobbying.

Marginalized people who have no opportunities for self-sufficiency become, at a minimum, dependent on charity or welfare. They lose their self-confidence because they cannot be fully self-supporting. The opportunities denied them also deprive them of the pride of accomplishment which others, who have those opportunities, can develop for themselves. This in turn can lead to psychological, social and even mental health problems.

Empowerment is then the process of obtaining these basic opportunities for marginalized people, either directly by those people, or through the help of non-marginalized others who share their own access to these opportunities. It also includes actively thwarting attempts to deny those opportunities. Empowerment also includes encouraging, and developing the skills for, self-sufficiency, with a focus on eliminating the future need for charity or welfare in the individuals of the group. This process can be difficult to start and to implement effectively, but there are many examples of empowerment projects which have succeeded.
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Old 06-19-2010, 07:07 PM
BornAgainDemocrat BornAgainDemocrat is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

I thought it was interesting that "opposites attract" -- people with different levels of self-control find each other romantically interesting -- but that happily married couples tend to have more self-control on both sides. How do you explain that? Presumably it is the guys who usually have less self-control. So is it just a matter of settling down with time, part of the aging process?
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Old 06-19-2010, 08:52 PM
ohreally ohreally is offline
 
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Default Re: Science Saturday: Holding Back

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Originally Posted by bjkeefe View Post
I think it's a pretty noble effort, myself, and pretty interesting work already. For whatever that's worth.
A noble effort, indeed -- the nobility wrapping the impulse to rescue analytic philosophy from the dead end in which it's stuck.
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