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Sat, 15 May 2021
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The curse of game theory and why it's in your self-interest to break the rules of the game

Nash/von Neumann
© Libertad Digital/Wikipedia/KJN
John Forbes Nash, Jr. • John von Neumann
Game theory, the mathematical theory of games of strategy, was developed by John von Neumann in several successive stages in 1928 and 1940-41, according to his book Theory of Games and Economic Behaviour which he co-authored with Oskar Morgenstern.

The crux of the theory is that an individuals' behaviour will always be motivated towards achieving an optimal outcome, which is determined by self-interest. An assumption made is that the players in such a game are rational, which translates to, "will strive to maximize their payoffs in the game". In other words, it is assumed they are motivated by selfish self-interests.

Over the years, other contributors such as John Nash (Nash equilibrium) and John Maynard Smith (evolutionary stable strategy) have added to the theory and we are now at a point where it is considered by many to be an essential tool when modelling economic, political, sociological or military behaviours and outcomes, and is taught as such in many prestigious universities as something pretty much set in stone.

But what if we have made a terrible mistake?

After all, it is acknowledged by the theorists themselves that the entire functioning of their model relies upon the assumption that we are governed by rational selfish behaviour, and that they feel confident about this assumption since reality has apparently confirmed this fact to them. But what if this game is not objectively mirroring a truthful depiction of us? What if this game has rather, been used as a conditioning tool, a self-fulfilling prophecy, a positive feedback loop?

How can we know what is true? How can we know what kind of a person we truly are and not what we have been conditioned to think of ourselves as?

Info

Study on decision-making behavior - Nerve cell activity shows how confident we are

Snack Choice
© AG Mormann/Uni Bonn
The participants had to choose between two different snacks: The further they moved the slider to the left or right end, the more confident they were in their choice.
Should I or shouldn't I? The activity of individual nerve cells in the brain tells us how confident we are in our decisions. This is shown by a recent study by researchers at the University of Bonn. The result is unexpected - the researchers were actually on the trail of a completely different evaluation mechanism. The results are published in the journal Current Biology.

You are sitting in a café and want to enjoy a piece of cake with your cappuccino. The Black Forest gateau is just too rich for you and is therefore quickly eliminated. Choosing between the carrot cake and the rhubarb crumble is much trickier: The warm weather favors the refreshingly fruity cake. Carrot cake, however, is one of your all-time favorites. So what to do?

Every day we have to make decisions, and we are much more confident about some of them than others. Researchers at the University Hospital Bonn have now identified nerve cells in the brain whose activity indicates the confidence in decisions. A total of twelve men and women took part in their experiment. "We showed them photos of two different snacks, for example a chocolate bar and a bag of chips," explains Prof. Dr. Dr. Florian Mormann from the Department of Epileptology. "They were then asked to use a slider to indicate which of these alternatives they would rather eat." The more they moved the slider from its center position towards the left or right photo, the more confident they were in their decision.

Info

New clues about 'travelling brain waves'

Looking for Something
© Tara Moore / Getty Images
Next time you can't find the car keys sitting right in front of you, try blaming your "travelling brain waves".

Scientists in North America believe these neural signals exist in the visual system of the awake brain and are organised to allow the brain to perceive objects that are faint or just difficult to see - or not.

"We've discovered that faint objects are much more likely to be seen if visualising the object is timed with the travelling brain waves," says John Reynolds from the Salk Institute, US, senior author of the team's paper in Nature.

"The waves actually facilitate perceptual sensitivity, so there are moments in time when you can see things that you otherwise could not. It turns out that these travelling brain waves are an information-gathering process leading to the perception of an object."

The waves have been studied during anaesthesia, Reynolds says, but dismissed as an artifact of it. To investigate whether they also exist in the brain when awake, he and colleagues from Salk and Canada's Western University developed computational techniques to track neuronal activity in the visual cortex moment by moment.

Info

We learn faster when we aren't told what choices to make says new study

Making a CHoice
© Klaus Vedfelt Getty Images
In a perfect world, we would learn from success and failure alike. Both hold instructive lessons and provide needed reality checks that may safeguard our decisions from bad information or biased advice.

But, alas, our brain doesn't work this way. Unlike an impartial outcome-weighing machine an engineer might design, it learns more from some experiences than others. A few of these biases may already sound familiar: A positivity bias causes us to weigh rewards more heavily than punishments. And a confirmation bias makes us take to heart outcomes that confirm what we thought was true to begin with but discount those that show we were wrong. A new study, however, peels away these biases to find a role for choice at their core.

A bias related to the choices we make explains all the others, says Stefano Palminteri of the French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (INSERM), who conducted a study published in Nature Human Behaviour in August that examines this tendency. "In a sense we have been perfecting our understanding of this bias," he says.

Using disarmingly simple tasks, Palminteri's team found choice had a clear influence on decision-making. Participants in the study observed two symbols on a screen and then selected one with the press of a key to learn, through trial and error, which image gave the most points. At the end of the experiment, the subjects cashed in their points for money. By careful design, the results ruled out competing interpretations. For example, when freely choosing between the two options, people learned more quickly from the symbols associated with greater reward than those associated with punishment, which removed points. Though that finding resembled a positivity bias, this interpretation was ruled out by trials that demonstrated participants could also learn from negative outcomes. In trials that showed the outcomes for both symbols after a choice was made, subjects learned more from their chosen symbol when it gave a higher reward and when the unchosen one would deduct a point. That is, in this free-choice situation, they learned well from obtained gains and avoided losses.

Info

New study says writing by hand makes kids smarter

New brain research shows that writing by hand helps children learn more and remember better. At the same time, schools are becoming more and more digital, and a European survey shows that Norwegian children spend the most time online of 19 countries in the EU.
Brain Research
© NTNU/Microsoft
Typing, clicking and watching occupy an increasing number of hours in the average child's day. But brain research shows that writing by hand helps people remember better and learn more.
Professor Audrey van der Meer at NTNU believes that national guidelines should be put into place to ensure that children receive at least a minimum of handwriting training.

Results from several studies have shown that both children and adults learn more and remember better when writing by hand.

Now another study confirms the same: choosing handwriting over keyboard use yields the best learning and memory.

"When you write your shopping list or lecture notes by hand, you simply remember the content better afterwards," Van der Meer says.

Caesar

Epicurus on the role of suffering and pursuit of happiness

Epicurus
We've all been there. Fear, anxiety, depression, existential dread...these are common side effects of the human condition and part of life experience.

No matter where you have found yourself in history or what may be happening in global society, anxiety, depression and other mental and emotional challenges present themselves to us all at some point in our journey through life.

Greek philosopher Epicurus (341 - 270BC) recognized the suffering within himself and his fellow men and women. He established the Epicurean school of philosophy that promoted the Art of Simple Living.

Comment: Even though Epicurus started Epicureanism which was a school of philosophical thought, another well-known branch started around the same time called Stoicism. For more on that, see here:


Star

Covid-19 infecting our DREAMS, says study - and researchers claim it hints at 'some form of SHARED MINDSCAPE'

nightmare monster sleep dream
© Getty Images / Grandfailure
Many of us consider it a living nightmare and, now, new research proves the Covid-19 pandemic is invading our dreams too. Moreover, it concludes that the similar themes of its test subjects' dreams point to a "shared" mindscape.

Researchers in Finland used artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze the recent dreams of several hundred people, details of which had been recorded on a database. They found that Covid-19 had 'infected' over half the dreams that the participants described as 'bad'. The resulting paper, titled 'Pandemic Dreams: Network Analysis of Dream Content During the COVID-19 Lockdown', was published on the online open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.

To carry out their study, the researchers crowdsourced sleep and stress data from a pool of some 4,000 participants during the sixth week of lockdown in Finland, 800 of whom also gave detailed information about and descriptions of their dreams.

Comment: It's hardly surprising that the current state of the world is giving people nightmares. But it does present a unique opportunity to see how collectively our dreams are shaped by the world around us.

See also:


SOTT Logo Radio

MindMatters: The Allure and Contagion of the Criminal Mind

criminal mind
In such works as Inside the Criminal Mind and The Myth of the Out of Character Crime criminologist Dr. Stanton E. Samenow conceptualized and gave credence to the specific traits and behaviors of the 'criminal mind'. Such works not only show the thinking processes involved in law-breaking and antisocial behavior, but also (however unintentionally) instruct the more normally oriented of us of the self-entitlement one can and should be wary of - within our own character structure.

Making use of the above, and as a point of departure, we look at how historical and current cultural landscapes have, and do still, feed the criminal mind. Through political indoctrination and ideology this sickness glorifies, popularizes and normalizes pathological thinking - and, like a virus, is emulated and adopted across all strata of society.

Join us this week on MindMatters as we take a gander at the criminal minds at work all around us; from popular culture, Mao's China, and the hallowed halls of government, to the streets of Portland, the boardrooms of multi-national corporations, and your next-door neighbor. Criminal minds and thinking are all around us - but we can learn to see the signs of them lest we get infected by their poison.


Running Time: 01:14:05

Download: MP3 — 67.8 MB


Life Preserver

Actions to take when you dislike yourself and your life

Negative Self Talk

Be-gone!
Most of us have experienced that pivotal peak of pain, anger or frustration in which we want to scream "I hate my life." Yet, the feeling that a dark cloud has specifically settled over us and our experiences can feel pretty isolating. The truth is, no matter how singled out or overwhelmed we feel, and no matter what area we are struggling in, we are not alone. More than half of U.S. workers are unhappy with their job. One in 10 Americans struggles with depression. All of us have moments of utter despair. Escaping from this hopeless-seeming state may feel impossible. Yet, in reality, we are not doomed, and we are not powerless. No matter what our circumstances, we can all learn tools to help us emerge from the darkest moments in our lives.

In his 35 years of research, Dr. Salvatore Maddi of The Hardiness Institute has discovered that what predicts how well we will do in life, our relationships, careers, and so on is NOT how much money we have or even how many struggles we face. It's a matter of how hardy or emotionally resilient we are. We can all learn to become more resilient. We can implement tools that help shape how we see and experience the world around us. We can uncover what's at the root of our unhappiness and create a life that has personal meaning to us, a life that reflects our unique goals and desires.

Comment: There are a number of different terms used to describe this 'foreign installation'. Elan Golomb called it the Negative Introject, Carlos Castaneda the Flyers Mind. The false personality, etc. What becomes apparent is that the messages and beliefs it inculcates into human beings is damaging and prevents people from moving forward in life or actualizing their true potential. There are a number of different ways of reclaiming your sovereignty. Here are a few:


Galaxy

Extraordinary cases of children remembering their past lives and proving it

Children Remembering Their Past Lives
Reincarnation is a fascinating subject that has remained on the fringe of scientific study for too long. Fortunately, it has recently begun to attract serious interest from the scientific community. Decades ago, American astronomer and astrobiologist Carl Sagan stated that "there are three claims in the [parapsychology] field which, in my opinion, deserve serious study," with one being "that young children sometimes report details of a previous life, which upon checking turn out to be accurate and which they could not have known about in any other way than reincarnation." Fast forward to today, and amazing discoveries have been made, as multiple researchers have taken it upon themselves to study this intriguing and inexplicable — at least from a materialist scientific worldview — phenomenon. Subjects like reincarnation belong to the non-material sciences, an area of research that deserves more attention. As Nikola Tesla himself said, "the day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence."

University of Virginia psychiatrist Jim Tucker is arguably the world's leading researcher on this topic, and in 2008, he published a review of cases that were suggestive of reincarnation in the journal Explore.

Comment: See also: