tip of the metacognitive tongue

Just noticed that if there's a word I can't quite recall (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_of_the_tongue), it actually helps if I reason about it out loud. I talked aloud, in a disinterested voice, about the particular concept as if explaining it to someone. After about a paragraph of this, the word became silently(!) available.1

I noticed that I had a slight resistance to initiating the exercise of speaking out loud to prod the memory/clear the block/etc. I mean, I believed intellectually it would work, but not emotionally. The "stuck" circuit wanted to succeed "by itself", so to speak. (I guess that's a "wait, wait, don't tell me".)

I think whatever subsystem of my brain that was handling this request wanted that tiny "reward" of dopamine that you get when a mental effort succeeds. My talking-out-loud workaround gave me the word *without* any such reward. Or indeed any sense at all of where it came from.


[1] now that I think back on it, it may even have been a picture of the word. Or more specifically, the mental state that I might have shortly after seeing a picture of the word.

Horsing around

I just agreed to do some more Gallup poll things.

It's interesting to observe how difficult it can be for me to answer what I consider poorly-formed questions. And that I consider nearly all questions to be poorly-formed when the asker cannot add any additional context to the text of the question they are asking, because they are (quite understandably) reading the question from a list and are probably specifically trained to avoid "helping" the questionee parse the question, since this would bias the results depending on who does the asking.

I kind of wanted some help with "household", though. Is my household one person (me), or is it the 17 adults that I share common living space with? If there are kids in the house, but they aren't my responsibility, does that count? I decided to go with the IRS sort of definition and said that my household is just me, one person.

Do I feel that The Economy is getting better or worse? Okay, I can translate this by adding either "...for me as an individual taking into consideration only my own direct benefit" or "for residents of the United States of America considered as a whole", but in neither case does this really help me answer. What does the asker think The Economy is? What if I think it's something completely different, and thus give an *answer* that is meaningless to the asker? I suppose that really they just want a gut response of feeling based on the trigger words in the question. I feel like I'm being too flippant if I give that sort of answer, though. I want to *really* answer things, and in everyday life this means tackling deconstruction of the question more than it does the answer. The *question* is where the real content to be uncovered exists. (In everyday life, when a person brings you a question, they are usually bringing you their answer, which you can help them discover by mutual refining of the question.)
  • Current Mood
    contemplative contemplative

And now it has a little friend

Yup, so I managed to get one of the HP Pre3 4G phones at a *really* decent price. These were built to work cooperatively with the TouchPads. These phones work great, there just aren't and won't ever be very many of them. It's an unlocked AT&T-branded GSM phone, but I'll probably use it mostly for PDA features, games, and VOIP. I plan to get a pay-as-you-go SIM from AT&T, for the rare times I'm not in Wifi range.
  • Current Mood
    geeky geeky
ADD Soup

pitchers of cats

  • Current Mood
    sleepy sleepy

Earnest Hemming

"Decades later, in response to a Freedom of Information petition, the F.B.I. released its Hemingway file. It revealed that beginning in the 1940s J. Edgar Hoover had placed Ernest under surveillance because he was suspicious of Ernest’s activities in Cuba. Over the following years, agents filed reports on him and tapped his phones. The surveillance continued all through his confinement at St. Mary’s Hospital. It is likely that the phone outside his room was tapped after all.

In the years since, I have tried to reconcile Ernest’s fear of the F.B.I., which I regretfully misjudged, with the reality of the F.B.I. file. I now believe he truly sensed the surveillance, and that it substantially contributed to his anguish and his suicide."[1]

An interesting question: how would you help a friend who was paranoid *and* right about it?

Unsurprisingly[2], I have an answer to offer for my hypothetical question.

For the purposes of this answer, let us assume that the person is not in immediate physical danger.

When I want to help someone, I play to my strengths. I harmonize, in the Aikido sense. If I am offering support or advice to someone who is delusional in some way, I restate in a neutral voice what they are telling me, to confirm I am hearing them correctly (active listening). Then, if doing more than listening seems appropriate, I try to help them reason through what their response should be. I do not attack the person or try to impose my own perceptions on them (unless perhaps they explicitly ask me to, in which case they are probably already making progress working it out for themselves). At most, I might share with them my philosophy that we should maintain a healthy skepticism of all inputs, even those from our own senses, and that this skepticism should be grounded in an understanding of how those senses operate (they have specific, known limitations, and that's okay).

In other words, if an insane idea or perception is driving someone crazy, help them make a sane response to it. Don't fight them; help them find their own strength.

-- Trip

1. sadly, I am not certain if there's a way to link to a NYT article that won't eventually break from NYT's own foolishness: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/02/opinion/02hotchner.html?pagewanted=all
2. because the ability to answer hypothetical questions is one of my most bothersome superpowers...