Monday, 26 December 2016

The Mind is Flat

Nick Chater again. Many people won't like the ideas he promotes here because they cast aside traditional notions of how our minds work. I find the framework convincing enough to have spent far more time on it than just this video. Chater's framework explains too much to be fundamentally wrong.

However, it is worth pointing out that the flat mind idea is probably not convincing if one simply views Chater's experiments and rationale from a traditional outlook. The video definitely requires a willingness to change perspective, but once that is done the elegant simplicity of it becomes clear.

We are improvisers - we do not have mental depth to draw on in the traditional sense. We improvise our current behaviour, thoughts and opinions within the context of current situations and a need to be consistent with our perceived personality. One might almost say our current personality.

At first sight it all sounds too fluid and unstable to be satisfactory. Surely our personalities are more stable than Chater suggests? To sweeten the pill this approach does allow us to tie in the creative aspects of human life. To improvise is to create. We must improvise so we must create. We cannot stop. Not necessarily a good thing because we may improvise honestly or dishonestly, but worth remembering if you choose to watch the whole thing.

Here's the video introduction.

This talk presents the case that there are no hidden depths, whether evolutionary, psychological, or economic, from which the real motivations for human behaviour emerge. Motives are, indeed, astonishingly shallow, with the illusion of depth sustained by our mental projection of meaning into the actions of ourselves and other. But the illusion of depth is of crucial importance: it helps us reign in our behaviour, which would otherwise be even more capricious and inconsistent. This thesis has implications for theories in psychology, economics, and ethics which are explicitly, or implicitly, committed to "deep" motivations underpinning human life. It also provides a new framework for thinking about how to make choices, whether as individuals, in business, or in public policy.


Demetrius said...

Oh dear, oh dear, so after all these years banging my head against the wall does not help the thinking process. Perhaps a cup of tea might be the answer.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - a cup of tea and a biscuit is even better.