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

Medical Five dimensional thinking

  1. Jun 7, 2006 #1

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The word dimesional may not be a good choice, but the idea is to consider how many thoughts [maybe levels of awareness] we can carry at once.

    The other day while driving down a long, straight, remote road that passes through the grass fields, I was playing a little mental game to see how many things I could think of at once. Obviously this would normally be a bad thing to do while driving, but in my case there was absolutely nothing to hit, and no traffic.

    It seems that I could stay aware of my driving while [in my mind] singing along with the music on the radio, while adding two simple but different series of numbers. Beyond that I would start to lose track of my driving. I think Feynman did something like this and concluded that he could add five series of numbers simultaneously.

    Is this parallel processing, or do we just fool ourselves into thinking that we can carry more than one thought at a time? Can each of the minds that make up the brain carry an individual thought?
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 7, 2006 #2

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In my case, it's multiplexing. My concentration cycles through each subject very rapidly, so the thoughts seem simultaneous.
     
  4. Jun 7, 2006 #3

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I bet it's case specific. I say the only way to tell is if you can do multiple calculations at the same time at roughly the same pace then if you did just 1. Otherwise your mind is probably fooling you by just putting 1 thing on the backburner yet still keeping it in mind while it works on something else.

    I personally cant think of more then one th... look at that dog outside!!!
     
  5. Jun 7, 2006 #4

    Q_Goest

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I've noticed that I can remember more digits of a long number if I visualize so many digits and audibly remember yet more. For example, the number 3924-8672 might be remembered by saying to yourself 3924 and remembering it audibly, while looking at the number 8672 and remembering it visually. From that I take it that people can at least remember two different things by using different parts of the brain. Not sure what else it might mean.
     
  6. Jun 7, 2006 #5

    dav2008

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I remember phone numbers by their characteristic "melody" when you say them. I guess I automatically assign a certain pitch to each number and sing it out in my head.
     
  7. Jun 7, 2006 #6

    Danger

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Fine for those of you who can sing. I'd get nothing but wrong numbers. :grumpy:
     
  8. Jun 7, 2006 #7

    Pengwuino

    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I do that! Expect i imagine myself pressing the numbers on a telephone pad :blushing:
     
  9. Jun 11, 2006 #8
    I remember them by how they appear on the keypad of the phone.
     
  10. Jun 15, 2006 #9

    Moonbear

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I think you'd need to have an independent observer with at least one observable task. You might think you were still attentive to your driving, but were you just switching your attention between driving and singing? Someone else in the car with you might have a different opinion of whether you were actually attentive to your driving.
     
  11. Jun 17, 2006 #10

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The number of tasks you can attend to simultaneously is a function of your working memory capacity-- how much information you can keep maintained, updated, and ready for voluntary access. And unfortunately, working memory capacity is pretty limited. There are different considerations that go into determining WM capacity for different kinds of information, but in general WM capacity has been determined to be about 7 plus or minus 2 ("the magic number") units of information, where "unit" is a flexible term that can refer to smaller or larger chunks of information depending on the task.
     
  12. Jun 18, 2006 #11
    I don't think everything Ivan was doing constitutes a "task". Driving and singing can be quite automatic and are probably covered mostly by proceedural memory. As to the question of how many levels of awareness we can sustain, I think the answer would be pretty high. We seem to be able to maintain a low grade awareness of many, many things without being engaged in thinking about them. We are always "monitoring" our senses for things we need to react to.
     
  13. Jun 19, 2006 #12
    Agreed. One can carry out most of these tasks almost without awareness in some cases

    I think the important issue is whether we can be consciously aware of more than one thing at any one instant of time. I think not. I think (in agreement with danger's post) that our conscious awareness cycles through multiple things sequentially, and not in parallel.

    Best Regards
     
  14. Jun 23, 2006 #13

    hypnagogue

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Driving can become a quite automated kind of activity, true, but it's not completely devoid of attentional demands. A simple demonstration of this is how driving is affected by talking on a cell phone. So while driving may not be as attentionally demanding as, say, multiplying two three digit numbers, it does still drain some of the brain's limited attentional resources.
     
  15. Jun 24, 2006 #14
    This is my experience as well in so far as I can manage to "observe" what I'm paying attention to. This, itself, is a kind of task.

    Yes, you have to pop back to it as an exclusive task quite frequently.
     
  16. Jun 24, 2006 #15

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Even if the thoughts are sequential, you still have to keep track of what you are doing. You have to remember what to keep active in thought.

    There was a distinct point of overload at which time I was aware that I was unaware of my driving.
     
  17. Jun 24, 2006 #16
    There is also the destinction between conscious thought and subconscious thought. While asking someone to make two simultaneous calculations consciously may be proof that they can process in parallel, a failure wouldnt neccarily exclude the possibillity that the brain processes other stimulae simultaneously.

    I think that is partly the distinction between conscious and subconscious thought, conscious thought is very much sequencial and linear imo.

    Some well honed skills become subconscious in a way, i think driving and walking/balence to be among them. Like loops or processes that have become detached from the need to be monitored activley by the conscious mind.
     
  18. Jun 24, 2006 #17
    Are you including the function of the "unconscious" as a thought process?

    Unconscously we're processing a large number of internal and external stimuli...... while consciously we are, at best, getting away with what Feynman claimed to be able to do.

    Opps, sorry 3trQN! I didnt' read beyond the first post before I posted... I seem to have duplicated your thought...
     
  19. Jun 25, 2006 #18

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I don't know that I can tell where the conscious and unconscious separate. On one hand, we can go into an auto-pilot mode when driving. I'm sure that most people have had the experience of driving somewhere but hardly remembering the trip. We might be involved in thought in addition to responding to the demands of driving, but at some point it seems that auto-pilot can fail due to distraction. So would you consider auto-pilot driving mode a conscious or unconscious process?
     
  20. Jun 25, 2006 #19
    Unless you're driving asleep I'd say that driving is a conscious act. In this act you must be aware of several stimuli.

    Gas pedal. Steering mechanism. Speedometer. Standard gear shifts (require more thought). Watching the road includeds, aligning with the centre line... aligning with the curb line... aligning with any other traffic... it also requires suppression of the desire to have the eye wander... requires registering with the horizon... adjusting to lighting conditions... turning on the radio.... listening to music or talk... comprehending the music or talk... ...

    These are some of the mental tasks and functions of driving. They may be performed at a semi-conscious level but probably not at an unconscious level....... not for very long anyway!

    But, the unconscious is processing other data. My guess is that its processing all the data in the universe... since it is part of the universe and is connected in one way or another to the rest of the universe... no walls or fences or even states of mind can separate the brain from the rest of the universe... so... it is also processing the complete set of data that is the universe...unconsciously... while it also drives through the desert in a straight line.
     
  21. Jun 26, 2006 #20

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    On a related note... and this is something that I've noticed for a long time.

    As a pre-teen and teen I played the piano. Most songs were learned by age sixteen, and over the years I have played less and less to where now I may sit and play something on an impulse, but to learn anything new [at the level that I could once play] would be a huge challenge that would probably take months of serioius practice. However, of the songs that I can still play by memory, I can only play them if I don't think about it. Just now I caught myself playing while thinking about a problem with work. As soon as I thought about the fact that I was playing, I screwed up. It has been like this for years. As long as I just sit and play and don't think about it, the notes still flow as if the thirty years since never happened.
     
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?



Similar Discussions: Five dimensional thinking
  1. Thinking in words (Replies: 8)

  2. Think about it! (Replies: 13)

Loading...