Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty

 
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Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty

Have you ever felt absolutely sure about something you know or believe... only to find out you were absolutely wrong? Where does that feeling of certainty come from? Why can't it always be trusted?

The answer that's emerging from neuroscience may surprise you.

 

In Are You Sure? The Unconscious Origins of Certainty Dr. Campbell explores both the origins of certainty, but also the implications the emerging science.

 

In the tradition of physician writers like Oliver Sacks and Antonio Damasio, Dr. Ginger Campbell's clear and accessible writing style, makes this potentially complex subject accessible to readers of all backgrounds.

This book is written by Dr. Ginger Campbell who has an excellent (and very scientific), long running podcast that goes very deep into a variety of neuroscience. This ebook is a reflection of the +80 podcast interviews Dr. Campbell has conducted with leading researchers, scientists and authors in the neuroscience field.

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Good eBook Summarizing Prescient Ideas

An acquaintance of my mine and veritable neuroscience guru Dr. Ginger Campbell recently produced an ebook on the very prescient concepts and science behind embodies cognition, cognitive dissonance, the unconscious and scientifically quantifying the self.

A lot of the book deals with what is described as the feeling of knowing or the feeling of certainty. A lot of this ebook is a summarization of the ideas in another book, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not (2008) by Dr. Robert Burton. Dr. Burton has spent many years working in psychology and universities treating mental patients so he has a lot of experience with seeing what happens when people's faculty of knowing or feeling of certainty isn't working correctly. A morbid example is what's called Cotard's Syndrome:
...which is where a patient believes he's dead. Even when you show them that they have a pulse they can't believe they're not dead. I wrote about a patient who had encephalitis, and who believed that she was dead. When I showed her that she had a pulse, she said, "Well, this only proves that dead people can have a pulse."
Dr. Burton also says "the feeling of knowing is learning's best friend and mental flexibility's worst enemy".

Another idea this ebook and Dr. Burton's research supports is that the (much debated by philosophers) sentient self is NOT a little guy(or gal) somewhere in your mind 'watching a screen' of incoming nerve signals. The 'self' is a faculty for interpreting a noisy group of committees inside your head who are vying for attention:
...there's some sort of unconscious pattern-recognition going on which contains a calculation of the probability of correctness. Then when it reaches a certain level, we consciously experience a feeling of knowing. That is, the closer the fit is between, say a previously learned pattern and the pattern that comes in, the greater the feeling of correctness.
There is in fact a 'survival of fittest of ideas' occurring in your subconscious, the most superior of the ideas are filtered into your conscious by the self:
He [Dr. Burton] also says that we ought to take the point of-view, and I agree with him, that any idea that isn't capable of being independently tested should be considered a personal vision. He wants psychology to let go of the idea of a perfectly rational unconscious and to let go of the idea that we can know when to trust our unconscious.

There's a very cool idea I'm discovering the more I delve into neuroscience which is that our current and future thoughts retroactively affecting our beliefs about and memories of the past:
Dr.Burton "This rearrangement of time is essential for learning something and then being able to recognize anything. For example, if I recognized you in the street, my calculation would have been, “there's very high likelihood it's Ginger Campbell, and then I would say, Oh, that's Ginger.” But then it would have felt like the calculation occurred after the fact. We just don't know when thoughts begin."
Since this idea of retroactive memory is such an interesting to me here's another example of it. I follow some podcasts in the Pick Up Artist niche. I was listening to an interview with a instructor who's niche of expertise was sleeping with women the same night he met them, he has a lot of credibility within the Pick Up Artist community as being very good this. In the podcast he was describing how he always conducted an 'exit interview' the morning after with the women he had seduced, he would always ask the women when (over the course of the night previous) they first knew they where attracted him. The women would always say that they were first attracted to him when he first introduced himself. Now here's where this is very interesting in regards to retroactive memory, this was not an attractive looking man by any measure (I looked at his photos on his website LOL). So for the women he seduced the cognitive dissonance of sleeping with an unattractive man created an 'fake' memory of attraction at the moment they first met the night before.

If the prescient concepts and functions of neuroscience interest you I recommend this ebook, Dr. Campbell has it priced very affordably at $2.99 on Amazon. However the ebook doesn't give a whole lot of actionable information about how to apply these concepts to improve your business or social life. For example, the underlying theme I took from this ebook is that intuition is not a simple mental process and it certainly isn't always right. The great questions that this of course prompts is:
How do you develop good instincts? How do I know when to listen to the feeling of certainty? Why do some people have uncannily good instincts and other people consistently make bad decisions (and then blame them on 'it seemed like a good idea at the time')?
The world of self help sure has a lot of confusing answers to these questions but I'd sure like hear what doctors Campbell and Burton has to say about it. Hopefully I can share their answers on the Limitless Mindset Podcast.

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