Science of Meditation Week 4 - Modular Model of the Mind

My notes from a Coursera course on meditation, Buddhism, and modern psychology - Week 4.

Delusions about ourselves:

  • While we're convincing the world that we have coherent motivation for our actions we also convince ourself (even if not true). Coherent motivation -> pure motivation -> self-promotion
  • "beneffectance" - we believe we are beneficial to others/helpful and also effective, competent, etc.
  • Our consciousness as the press secretary or public relations department
  • (So the answer to behavioral interview question 'so what motivates you?' would be 'well I am not aware of all of the inputs for my motivation' but that wouldn't fly with most people vs. something like 'I really like building and creating and helping others with what I create')
  • Why do we make stuff up like that? Because we value others who are consistent, coherent, parsable, and understandable. So that is what we believe others expect of us. (This is the paradox of having a completely authentic public presence online. Every person you hear on a podcast interview, etc. has thought about what they want to say and how they want to come off so you're hearing the PR version of their story)
  • To us the self is "a single author of our actions that persists through time". This is exactly what the Buddha argued against in No-Self doctrine. Impermanence and lack of control.
  • It is clear that we don't see the world clearly.

Modular model of the mind:

  • So if there is no central self that is in control (e.g no CEO) then what is directing our thoughts and behavior? Nothing in particular, so one single thing. But 'modules' that take turn exerting influence on our thoughts and behavior. (a distributed system with no leader orchestrating - CS metaphor)
  • My guesses as to the 7 modules - safety, biological needs, social needs, learning/improvement, caring for offspring, freedom/control of time
  • The actual 7 modules - Self Protection, Mate attraction, Mate Retention, Affiliation, Kin Care, Status, Disease Avoidance. Pretty close, interesting:)
  • Time discount rate / future discount rate for want it now vs. later
  • All the experiments described that activate 'mate attraction' module were done on males and appear to be gendered.
  • Modular Model of the Mind is an interesting tool, but the theory is certainly not complete. But it does suggest that we are susceptible to priming and we don't have control over, neither are we aware of, which 'module' is activated.
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