Learning Sciences of Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, +7000 Readings

Archive for the ‘Mind’ Category

Minds as Social Institutions

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I will first discuss how social interactions organize, coordinate, and specialize as “artifacts,” tools; how these tools are not only for coordination but for achieving something, for some outcome (goal/function), for a collective work. In particular, I will argue that these artifacts specify (predict and prescribe) the mental contents of the participants, both in terms of beliefs and acceptances and in terms of motives and plans. We have to revise the behavioristic view of “scripts” and “roles”; when we play a role we wear a “mind.” No collective action would be possible without shared  and/or  ascribed mental contents. This is also very crucial for a central form of automatic mind-reading (mind ascription). Second, I will argue that often what really matters is the ascribed/prescribed, worn, mind not the real, private one. We have to play (like in the symbolic play) “as if” we had those mental contents. This social convention and mutual assumption makes the interaction work. The ascribed beliefs and goals are not necessarily explicitly there; they might be just implicit as inactive (we act just by routine and automatically) or implicit as potential. The coordination and social action works thanks to these “as if” (ascribed and pretended) minds, thanks to those conventional constructs. Our social minds for social interactions are coordination artifacts and social institutions.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 28, 2014 at 2:46 pm

Mind Change: How Digital Technologies are leaving their mark on Our Brains

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In Mind Change, Susan Greenfield discusses the all-pervading technologies that now surround us, and from which we derive instant information, connected identity, diminished privacy and exceptionally vivid here-and-now experiences. In her view they are creating a new environment, with vast implications, because our minds are physically adapting: being rewired. What could this mean, and how can we harness, rather than be harnessed by, our new technological milieu to create better alternatives and more meaningful lives? Using the very latest research, Mind Change is intended to incite debate as well as yield the way forward. There is no better person to explain the situation in a way we can understand, and to offer new insights on how to improve our mental capacities and well being. Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE is a Senior Research Fellow at Lincoln College, Oxford University. A scientist, writer, broadcaster and Cross-Bench member in the House of Lords, she specialises in applying neuroscience to fundamental issues such as the impact of 21st-century technologies on the mind, how the brain generates consciousness, and the development of innovative approaches to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 28, 2014 at 12:56 pm

Social Brains, Simple Minds: does Social Complexity require Cognitive Complexity?

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The social brain hypothesis is a well-accepted and well-supported evolutionary theory of enlarged brain size in the non-human primates. Nevertheless, it tends to emphasize an anthropocentric view of social life and cognition. This often leads to confusion between ultimate and proximate mechanisms, and an over-reliance on a Cartesian, narratively structured view of the mind and social life, which in turn lead to views of social complexity that are congenial to our views of ourselves, rather than necessarily representative of primate social worlds. In this paper, we argue for greater attention to embodied and distributed theories of cognition, which get us away from current fixations on ‘theory of mind’ and other high-level anthropocentric constructions, and allow for the generation of testable hypotheses that combine neurobiology, psychology and behaviour in a mutually reinforcing manner.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

August 3, 2014 at 12:13 pm

The New Science of Mind and the Future of Knowledge

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Understanding mental processes in biological terms makes available insights from the new science of the mind to explore connections between philosophy, psychology, the social sciences, the humanities, and studies of disorders of mind. In this perspective we examine how these linkages might be forged and how the new science of the mind might serve as an inspiration for further exploration.

We have seen in this essay four specific areas in which the new science of the mind is particularly well positioned to enrich our understanding of other areas of knowledge. We have seen its potential as an intellectual force and a font of new knowledge that is likely to bring about a new dialog between the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. This dialog could help us understand better the mechanisms in the brain that make creativity possible, whether in art, the sciences, or the humanities, and thus open up a new dimension in intellectual history. In addition, an enriched understanding of the brain is needed to guide public policy. Particularly promising areas are the cognitive and emotional development of infants, the improvement of teaching methods, and the evaluation of decisions. But perhaps the greatest consequence for public policy is the impact that brain science and its engagement with other disciplines is likely to have on the structure of the social universe as we know it.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

July 6, 2014 at 10:21 pm

The Future of the Mind: The Scientific Quest to Understand, Enhance, and Empower the Mind

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For the first time in history, the secrets of the living brain are being revealed by a battery of high tech brain scans devised by physicists. Now what was once solely the province of science fiction has become a startling reality. Recording memories, telepathy, videotaping our dreams, mind control, avatars, and telekinesis are not only possible; they already exist. The Future of the Mind gives us an authoritative and compelling look at the astonishing research being done in top laboratories around the world—all based on the latest advancements in neuroscience and physics.  One day we might have a “smart pill” that can enhance our cognition; be able to upload our brain to a computer, neuron for neuron; send thoughts and emotions around the world on a “brain-net“; control computers and robots with our mind; push the very limits of immortality; and perhaps even send our consciousness across the universe.  Dr. Kaku takes us on a grand tour of what the future might hold, giving us not only a solid sense of how the brain functions but also how these technologies will change our daily lives. He even presents a radically new way to think about “consciousness” and applies it to provide fresh insight into mental illness, artificial intelligence and alien consciousness. With Dr. Kaku’s deep understanding of modern science and keen eye for future developments, The Future of the Mind is a scientific tour de force–an extraordinary, mind-boggling exploration of the frontiers of neuroscience.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

April 18, 2014 at 12:05 pm

Mind, Brain, and Education – Implications for Educators

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This issue of LEARNing Landscapes shares historically, theoretically, and practically how the fields of neuroscience, psychology, and education are working together to get a more cohesive understanding of the physiology of the brain, and to implement learning in more effective ways. In the 1970s classroom teachers were influenced by the renewed interest in the work of pragmatist and educator, John Dewey, who advocated strongly for learning by doing and for including the arts/aesthetics in education, and by the work of psychologist, Jean Piaget, who demonstrated the significance of the early learning that occurs when a child interacts with his or her environment. By the 1980s, the work of Lev Vygotsky had been translated from Russian into other languages, and educators realized that language mediates learning and, therefore, the social interaction among peers, with caregivers, and teachers, contributes significantly to how learners construct and understand their worlds. The work of psychologist Howard Gardner on multiple intelligences sent a message to the world about the need to tap into the various strengths of students and to permit them to use multiple modes for “receiving” and communicating/representing their learning. At the same time, sociolinguist and educator Shirley Brice Heath was showing not only how important it is to start the learning from where the child is and where his/her propensities lie, but also to be aware of and value where the child is coming from to enhance his or her potential. A missing piece in the evolving understanding of learning was what was developing in the field of neuroscience, particularly in the 1990s. New and sophisticated imaging technology permitted scientists to actually see the brain at work and provided new insights about learning. It is the recent integration of mind, brain, and education (MBE) research that is helping to enhance our understanding of learning and contribute to more effective teaching. This issue illustrates many aspects of MBE work and how practice is being affected by it.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

April 9, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Brains, Education, Mind

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Dialectics of Mind, Body, and Place

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This article presents results from an exploratory study of what college students from northern Ontario think about and do to manage their mental health. Data gathered in semistructured interviews were analyzed using the constant comparative method. The purpose of the study is to advance our understanding of the ontogeny, substantive nature and deployment of mental health literacy (MHL). MHL has hitherto been defined as “knowledge and beliefs about mental disorders that aid their recognition, management or prevention.”. This definition effectively translates to knowledge of the contents of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, currently in its fifth edition. Results of the study suggest that the current definition of MHL is overly narrow, that individuals use knowledge of various types from various sources to manage their mental health, and that the literacies that inform mental health management practices are developed through iterative engagement in autologous knowledge-translation, at the core of which are cultured resonance, meaning-making, metacognitive evaluation, and heuristic experimentation. MHL is redefined as the self-generated and acquired knowledge with which people negotiate their mental health. Broadening the definition of MHL has potential to enhance the capacity of individuals and communities to manage mental health effectively.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

March 17, 2014 at 10:36 am

Touching a Nerve: The Self as Brain

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What happens when we accept that everything we feel and think stems not from an immaterial spirit but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains? In this thought-provoking narrative—drawn from professional expertise as well as personal life experiences—trailblazing neuro-philosopher Patricia S. Churchland grounds the philosophy of mind in the essential ingredients of biology. She reflects with humor on how she came to harmonize science and philosophy, the mind and the brain, abstract ideals and daily life. Offering lucid explanations of the neural workings that underlie identity, she reveals how the latest research into consciousness, memory, and free will can help us reexamine enduring philosophical, ethical, and spiritual questions: What shapes our personalities? How do we account for near-death experiences? How do we make decisions? And why do we feel empathy for others?

Churchland appreciates that the brain-based understanding of the mind can unnerve even our greatest thinkers. Accepting that our brains are the basis of who we are liberates us from the shackles of superstition. It allows us to take ourselves seriously as a product of evolved mechanisms, past experiences, and social influences. And it gives us hope that we can fix some grievous conditions, and when we cannot, we can at least understand them with compassion.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

November 6, 2013 at 11:28 pm

Posted in Brains, Mind

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