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Medical Chess, the Drosophilia of Cognitive Science

  1. Jul 26, 2006 #1


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  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 20, 2006 #2
    Do you know if the Flynn Effect is mentioned or discussed anywhere in these forums? I think it'snot, but seems to me it should be.
  4. Sep 21, 2006 #3
    I'm sure you meant to write drosophila instead of drosophilia. I had a little trouble looking it up.

    Main Entry: dro·soph·i·la
    Pronunciation: drO-'sä-f&-l&
    Function: noun
    Etymology: New Latin, genus name, from Greek drosos dew + New Latin -phila, feminine of -philus -phil
    : any of a genus (Drosophila) of fruit flies used in genetic research
  5. Sep 21, 2006 #4
    I agree. The last paragraph is important:

    Of course, I like it because it echos what I was saying recently to Evo about art:

    The article talks about expertize being the result of "effortful study"; constantly challenging yourself with things that are a little beyond your grasp. This, as opposed to, people who spend a great deal of time at an activity simply treading water at a comfortable level. A person can spend their entire lives doing that, not progressing, while they are overtaken and surpassed by people who engage in sustained "effortful study".
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  6. Sep 21, 2006 #5


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    zooby, while I fully agree that "Experts are made not born", I do wonder if there are not (a) genetic, and (b) random early life environmental factors which affect an individuals propensity to be enough involved in a particular field like chess to go through what the making of a master involves. People are always asking me why I am not a chess master, and my answer is that chess does not intersest me and I have never in my life been willing to devote the time and resources tomastering it. There has got to be a rational reason why one kid grows up to be Bobby Fisher and another one doesn't!
  7. Sep 21, 2006 #6
    Maybe the reason is:

    (a) biological
    (b) historic (social influences)

    Which especially shows when you hear about some of the wiz kids upbringing
  8. Sep 21, 2006 #7
    Suppose reading and math skills aren't the highest objective

    "Can educators find ways to encourage students to engage in the kind of effortful study that will improve their reading and math skills?"

    Maybe. But suppose reading and math skills aren't the highest objective.

    I heard Herbert Simon call chess the fruitfly of AI research at Georgia Tech in 1984. More to the point, he said it's unusual for any person to achieve world-class performance in any field in less than 20 years of diligent exploration and practice. (Let's distinguish world-class performance / expertise from merely remarkable performance that might obtain in ten years or so.) Notable in that sense and in the context of these various forums, Simon spoke of world-class performance in domains of expertise.

    Speaking of heritable abilities, James Flynn acknowledges g (the general intelligence factor...a cross-correlation of several different kinds of IQ test scores by an individual) to be a valid indication of that individual's brain quality. But g doesn't tell the whole story. Environmental effects owing to social and individual multipliers open or foreclose the circumstantial doors of opportunity. Surely Polgár's rearing of his three chess masters and the Flynn Effects of popular culture suggest Phillip Ross's question is worthwhile: "Why should there be anything in the world that Johnny can't learn to do?"

    The question transcends American Johnnies, of course.
  9. Sep 21, 2006 #8
    You're asking if there are genetic and environmental factors that predispose some people to "effortful study". I'm sure there is some genetic factor but the article obviously leans toward the environmental factors as the important ones as it mentions parents who deliberately and systematically train their children in various kinds of "effortful study". It is urging people to take advantage of the fact that the environmental factors, which are controllable, are the really important ones.

    The article shifts the focus from an issue of "talent," which I think people concieve of as a sort of effortless understanding and insight, to one of insight earned through sustained concentration.

    The question of why you don't have the interest to persue master status in chess would almost surely be answered by exploring your environmental/psychological history: the sum total of your experiences with the game, which somehow added up to leave you disinterested in applying more effort than you do. This is a quite different proposition than asserting you were born completely lacking the capacity to go further in it.
  10. Sep 21, 2006 #9
    I think the point is that, whatever ends up being "the highest objective" can be much more successfully encouraged by chucking the notion of innate talent and focusing on "effortful study".
  11. Sep 21, 2006 #10

    Yes, those things are obvious. Less obvious: the earning of insight through sustained concentration is typically seen as a serendipitous, largely inadvertent eventuality. It's true that environmental factors are important because they're controllable. What isn't said, but should be, is that we now have more means to know and be informed than ever before. For example, Einstein's reply to Hadamard's question (How do you do what you do?) was somewhat insightful, but it left too much to the reader's imagination. If Einstein was alive today, somebody at PBS could manage better representations of Einstein's cognitive production in terms of what Flynn calls "habits of mind". I think higher orders of cognitive gain than commonsense typically allows derived from that. Indeed, Ross's key to achievement, "effortful study" can surely be made much more evident and apprehensible to otherwise naive persons than his implicit definition allows. Grist for the Video Professor.
  12. Sep 21, 2006 #11
    Only to those to whom they are obvious :)

    It's common to misinterpret an apparent facility for a certain activity as "talent", an uncontrolable result of the toss of the genetic dice. In most cases, I think, the facility has actually been encouraged in many ways, though some may be subtle, by the parent or anyone in a position to influence a child. In any event, it hasn't been discouraged.

    Odd anecdote about discouragement of ability: I knew a family where all the kids sang off key in the presence of the mother, who also sang off key. At school, though, two of the four seemed to bow to peer pressure and sang with perfectly good intonation.

    People seem to get their ideas of what is possible for them from what their parents tacitly present as possible.

    I'm not familiar with this quote. In general I've become fatigued by people trying to unlock the Einstein secret. It's clear from reading his words his success was due to his subjecting the problem at hand to an excruciatingly slow, deep, point by point, logical analysis. He never felt compelled to rush to understanding because he was convinced he was "retarded" as a result of being told as much by teachers and other adults. Therefore, I believe, his success came from feeling himself to be at liberty to think things through at a speed appropriate to a "retarded" person.
  13. Sep 22, 2006 #12
    I agree. Children are relatively plastic, possibly because their experiential frames of reference are relatively uncomplicated. I think of the progressive effects of momentary experience like paint of different colors being poured at a constant rate into a large holding tank. A lot of the incoming paint tends to be like a lot of paint already there. Anyway, if the tank is more or less empty at birth, early experience moves the paint's collective hue more than experience later on.

    I understand your sense of weariness with Einstein's secret; my point wasn't to seek Einstein's mind so much as to put his habits of mind as a exemplar of efficient habits of mind. I think that follows Capablanca's skill in sizing up chess positions, generally speaking, the point of The Expert Mind.

    I've attached text of (Hadamard's Question) and Einstein's reply to show Hadamard's hopeful intent to know more about Einstein's facility with concepts. Einstein made some effort to cooperate, and, as you read the second attachment, you might conclude his answer was astute, albeit so brief as to be cryptic. On the other hand, I doubt that Hadamard or many reader's of Einstein's answer would have understood his answer in the more clinical sense presented by the second attachment (Generation Speed in RPMs). Generation Speed isn't about Einstein's thinking per se, but it might be about it, or it might be useful in its own right.

    Sorry, I can't seem to master the art of file attachment. I get an Internet Explorer "object required" error, and the error doesn't seem to follow my email attachment experience. Will try attachment again later today.

    I think of Hadamard's discussion with Einstein, jump from that to Generation Speed, and then think of ways to recode the duo so as to represent their convolution in a visual metaphor that might have general utility to individuals who might not apprehend them otherwise. That recoding from objects of clinical research to something more apprehensible stands for many other habits of mind and ways of thinking as well.

    If I wanted to know more about a physicist's mind, I might try to interview a live one, beg Lisa Randall, for instance, to do something on the order of what Hadamard asked of Einstein. Here, the point wouldn't exactly be to know how Lisa looks at the physical Universe and what she makes of it so much as to probe her thinking for structure, representive forms and progressions, perhaps then to contrast forms and progressions from person to person and purpose to purpose. I've done something like that introspectively (and superficially, to be honest) with Ravens Progressive Matrices. While I can't say my productions were a good as they might have been given more effortful study, I think RPM translations from raw matrices to visual cues and rule types aren't difficult at all...probably duck soup for a good game programmer.

    And, by extension, for many other useful habits of mind and ways of thinking.
  14. Sep 22, 2006 #13
  15. Sep 23, 2006 #14
    This is the first time I've ever encountered this kind of file attachment on a forum and, as a computer naive person, I'm leary of opening them: when I clicked on one it turned out to be something I would have to accept onto my computer. Sorry, but I feel a bit squeamish about that. Any way you can just quote the salient parts here?
  16. Sep 23, 2006 #15
    We seem to have somewhat the same problem. This is the first time I've been able to post a word document to a forum. I've just opened both files from the forum post, and both open fine for me. The first file is a two page excerpt (that I've pasted just below)...and the second file is 20 pages that I haven't pasted as I see many posts here with attachments and so far, no 20 page posts.


    Hadamard's question....

    Jaques S. Hadamard
    Questions on the Psychology of Mathematical Invention

    Albert Einstein
    Testimonial on the Psychology of Mathematical Invention

    My note: Einstein shows keen understanding of the "narrowness of consciousness" (Enge des Bewusstseins) which turns out highly pertinent to this discussion.

    A second note: It seems to me that Einstein's references to "combinatory play" circa 1945 seem to resonate in accord with the research findings of the second attachment Generation speed in RPMs circa 2000.
  17. Sep 24, 2006 #16
    I find the whole answer fascinating and am surprised that Einstein was so articulate on this subject. I think he must have pondered his own thought prosesses before this occasion, perhaps in response to the general opinion of his intelligence, wondering, himself, if he thought differently than other people.
    This, right off the bat, strikes me as exotic and peculiar. I rarely have anything going on in my head besides words. This makes me feel like experimenting with replacing word by signs and images, though I'm not sure where I might begin.

    This is important, I think. He recognizes and acknowledges that the whole process is emotion driven. Some people maintain that thought is separate from emotion, but personally I doubt that's ever true.
    This resonates for me. I think of thinking as "mental modeling" which sounds like his phrase "combinatory play."
    His non-verbal "combinatory play" had to preceed, and be completed before, a subsequent and separate translation of the results into words.
    I'm completely baffled. "Muscular" type? What on earth could that mean?
    I just think this part is funny. He's set a "limiting speed" to consciousness: "No one may attain or exceed full consciousness, hitherto to be known by the designation c."

    Thanks for posting that, Dubina. I didn't know this self-analysis by Einstein existed.
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