Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Conscious/Unconscious Work

  1. Jul 16, 2010 #1
    The point of this is to bring a few interesting findings and ideas together and possibly see how experiences may correlate with others who have the common experience. That being said, I'd like to hear your observations of, or thoughtful reply to the subject.

    It's been about three years since I've taken interest in figuring out the subconscious and since then I've come across a great deal and I'd have to say that thinking about these things when your young with a flexible mind can have it's advantages. When I say "these things", I am referring to how the mind works and relates to itself and the world; the subject of subconscious was just a stepping stone and one of many at that.

    While I base my theories mainly on personal observation and experience, outside references or context which may explain them better or more fully would also be much appreciated.

    (Honestly, I would rather have simply cut to the chase, but this is how things usually come out when I start typing, even though I suppose it's appropriate.)

    There's probably around a hundred things related to the original idea (related to the title) I'd like to discuss, however I guess It would be better that I Just add to it over time (similar to the way the ideas developed in the first place).

    Someone once mentioned to me that when we think, it takes up a certain amount of 'space' or size of part within our mind in which we are aware (conscious) and that intuition is a function of it's own and requires 'space' in order to work just as thinking does. Now the point of what they were saying was that this particularly function called intuition develops when it is given more opportunity to work. Interestingly enough what this involved was quite literally a ceasing of thinking in order to make room for what was quite a foreign process in that space at the time for me. The function was very difficult to trust because it just jumped to an answer without verification and no visible process to check for error (at least not until I became familiar with it). Instead of figuring something out like usual I would have to let an answer form on it's own. The department switch gave me a chance to look at the function which I wasn't used to seeing and to compare it with my main mode of thought.

    To make a short note, I seem to be having more ideas go through my head than I've actually put down, I think it's because I spend so long with just one and then try to tie it to the next.

    A few tidbits of interesting observations:

    -Observing the mind means the mind observing itself and results in change. Think of it as two mirrors, one the observer, the other the mind -- the more they are directed towards each other, the more distorted the image becomes.

    -When we do something for a long time and become used to it, there is a tendency to make many parts of the task autonomous. Automation works like assumption, the more there is, the less flexibility and the less possible outcomes. This brings up an interesting comparison of computers and the subconscious.

    The mind's incredibly complex and there's too many places to go from one idea so I"ll stop here and hear what anyone has to say before going on.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 16, 2010 #2
    The brain is every electrician's nightmare. The average neuron has 10,000 direct connections to other neurons, including multiple connections to individual neurons. It is perhaps the most complex rat's nest of wires ever and is regularly bathed in a wide variety of liquids to boot. As if all that weren't bad enough, the brain's wiring is also changed by the way it used. It is as though a computer's wiring were changed by the software it ran.

    The obvious question is, "why such a rat's nest?" One theory gaining popularity is that, among other things, the rat's nest represents the needs of the unconscious mind. For the most part the conscious mind is restricted to specific neural pathways and structures in the brain and the theory is that when the conscious mind is active it usurps these from the unconscious.

    This could then explain why creativity can be enhanced by first concentrating on something, and then doing something completely unrelated for awhile. That way both the unconscious and conscious mind have access to the same neurons and dendrites to process the same information, but using more and less neural pathways respectively. It is as though we have two very different computers running two very different types of programs to solve the same problem and sharing their results. Instead of just two ordinary mirrors reflecting each other to infinity, we have four funhouse mirrors which alternate and then share their images to occationally produce truly unique results.
  4. Jul 16, 2010 #3
    Wuliheron, it looks like we're on the same page with this. At times it seems like the two processes work as a whole and what I've been looking at recently are the incredible results from synchronizing the two. I don't know how I've managed, but at the moment it's as simple as flipping a switch to get intuition to come into play. Oh wait I get it now, but it's kind of strange. It looks like intuition itself aids the thinking process in ways to link up. I have no idea what's translating it though, but then again I remember reading about a central part of the brain that deals with communication between the two brain hemispheres. Anyway, I never expected any of this when I was younger, and having it all come together like this has been amazing to watch unfold.

    The system is actually able to walk through and fill in the intuitive gaps now which is incredibly useful because not only can I verify it, but actually gain (sometimes bulk) new information from the process itself. I think it's like synthesis, except it's in no way simple and I'm not sure how it works.

    Right now I'm looking into how the mind can 'simulate' things that haven't been experienced at all or yet. Right now, while I get valid answers, they're difficult to verify because they're so remote. The only way I've been able to verify them has been through other people who have that experience. I've made it too specific with my mention of experience, because that same process can be used for more than that. I should note that when more information is available (such as speaking to someone in person), more advanced predictions tend to come together. I think that because it's not as simplistic that it isn't as reliable at the moment. Above all what has been the most interesting lately is the clarity with which I can see these processes actually work. At one point I had to consider that my observation of them would likely cause disruption as it usually did, however this doesn't seem to be the case now. I couldn't say in a short amount of time how they're put together, but I'm quite certain that a very large mass of knowledge is required to make these tools work. Maybe there is a process in which the mind breaks everything apart into it's simplest pieces (conceptual) and building them back up into other things. I've been thinking about this too long though, so It's probably best that I be done with this for a little while.
  5. Jul 16, 2010 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Are you guys able to ground some of your assertions in neuroscience literature? This is an interesting discussion but it would be nice to know how much has already been tested and what questions have been answered and which questions are appropriate.
  6. Jul 16, 2010 #5
    The amount of information available on the subject is truly mind boggling. It would be better if you asked specific questions.

    However, I would recommend Antonio Demasio as a good place to start. He has specialized in treating patients who through accident have lost the ability to emote. Some of these people cannot decide to get out of bed in the morning or whether or not to tie their own shoes even though their memories and reasoning remain intact. Demasio's philosophical view is in sharp contrast to Descartes': "I feel, therefore I am."

    Rodger Sperry originated the "split brain" theory way back in the 50s and it is perhaps the most thoroughly researched aspect of what we are talking about. There have even been a few case studies of people whose left and right hemispheres fight for dominance, for example, their left hand fighting with their right for control over a car steering wheel. In general the left hemisphere tends to be dominant in language and reasoning, and also more negative and sceptical.

    The number of brain imaging studies done is also quite large and I don't know of any single resource on them. For example, when CAT scanners first became commonplace in the 1970s hospitals everywhere used any excuse to image people's brains as a way to build up a database. One popular Yale honor student who had a minor volley ball accident was discovered to have a mere 13% of his brain intact. Evidently he had suffered from an undiagnosed case of encephalitis as an infant. Perhaps the most interesting recent research using brain imaging is that of Matthieu Ricard who is studying Buddhist monks.
  7. Jul 16, 2010 #6
    The subconscious is still the big mystery and looks likely to remain so for quite some time.

    What I'm suggesting is that there is a lot more going on then just the left-right hemispheres working together. For example, the "translation" that you speak of could be accomplished in part by the same parts of the brain used for language. A recent brain scan study of sign language showed that according to the grammer used, different primitive parts of the brain thought to be unrelated to language were used. Thus the unconscious mind could use the exact same parts of the brain as the conscious mind easing the translation between the two.
  8. Jul 19, 2010 #7


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Last edited: Jul 20, 2010
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook