Tag Archives: Thought associations

Mind and Impressions

Most of us have the delusion that our thinking is conscious and intentional. But this might be far from truth. I think we have no clue what the mind does with the magnitude of information and sense perceptions that we receive every day. Even things that you don’t notice, are picked up by the subconscious mind and processed. Here is an interesting experience that shows how subtle this is.

About three days back I was in conversation with a colleague on Salary benchmarking. During the discussion he told me that at “Oceanus Builders” (this is a construction company in India), this is what they pay for a 15 year experienced engineer. We continued the conversation and I forgot all about it.

Yesterday night we were in a restaurant for a team outing and one I had a person called Navjit sitting next to me. We were there for about talking and eating.

During my sleep yesterday night I had a dream. In one part of the dream, I was walking with Navjit and he pointed to me an area (there was something like a communication tower there) and told me that ‘Oceanus Builders’ were planning to construct a building there, but it did not go forward because of a technical flaw. I asked him if it is something like a design error and by then the frame of the dream changed.

I remember the dream clearly because at some point, we climbed on a rooftop and I fell from there and I woke with a start. What is also interesting is that this person Navjit is recently purchased an apartment and of late I saw him (and heard him) discussing issues related to it with people over phone.

So in my dream, I actually connected three things and tried to put them in to a meaningful incident. What is surprising is also that in this case, I woke up and caught the dream. So we could be seeing hundreds of such dreams in our sleep and do not remember them at all.

Is it that the mind is trying to do some organizing during sleep of all the information that comes in, to make some sense or is it that some neurons just misfired?

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On Connections Again..

 The way mind connects thoughts and memories is something I have been interested in deeply. Perhaps it can throw some light on how the memory is organized and accessed. Since as adults we have consciously/unconsciously altered our thinking patterns and we are very reactive in nature, it is difficult to see the brilliance of the mind. On the other hand children can give you lot of such insights, because what’s in their mind comes out without much of logical interference. Here is an incident that happened today evening.

We were waiting for a doctor’s appointment; and I was chit-chatting with my 6-year-old daughter. Somehow the conversation strayed in to topic of me getting old.

 “Will you look after me when I am old?” I asked her

“Yes” she says

 “What will you give me?”

 “I will give you Orange, Apple….” She pauses here for a moment and suddenly asked..

“Papa, will you buy me those love birds that we saw in the market other day?”

As she went on to describe how many birds she would like to have and what color etc, I was wondering at the abrupt switch in the topic.

Though it seems like that the topic of conversation changed all of a sudden, it is not really so. The two topics are in fact connected.

If you didn’t get it, here is what probably happened. Last week when we were at the market, we saw some pairs of love birds for sale. My daughter was very much interested and we had watched them eating, drinking and merry-making. Probably when this incident is stored in her memory, she has also stored the meta data around it. One such meta data was ‘feeding’- this was something that caught her attention the most.

During our conversation, at the point when she was promising to give me orange, apple etc, it is ‘feeding’ that must have been at the back of her mind(as a feeling or as an experience, I do not know for sure). And immediately the mind connected this conversation to a memory which was also related to ‘feeding’

What makes this even more interesting in children is that the associations are not done through language. This is a common problems we adults face, because most of our experiences are stored as words and sentences and the associations we trend to form generally are derived through word comparisons. But in children, since the language is not yet developed fully, some of these experiences are stored in abstract forms.

 This is also reason why children can think creatively….

PS:I was reading an article on the evolution of language and the author suggests that it in language lies the root cause for schizophrenia. I agree. No wonder silence is so much glorified in this tradition.

The act of watching

To know why the mind is normally unable to perceive something completely, let’s see how it works. Typically the thoughts (including the memory) are connected to each other and there is always a tendency for forming new connections and strengthening the old ones. Thoughts can hardly exist without being connected with an existing thought (we make use of this aspect while accessing the memory).

Any stimuli could potentially evoke a range of thoughts in the mind. Assume that these thoughts arise in a sequence. But then there is also a strong urge to connect the ‘first thought’ with an existing one in the mind. Normally this urge is very strong and beyond the control. So abandons the act of forming new thoughts and moves to connecting the thoughts.

The act of allowing as many responses to occur in response to a stimulus without the unconscious urge to form an association is the essence of ‘presence’.

Here is a representation of how the mind behaves while responding to a stimulus:

As soon as the first thought occurs (the first few..) there is an urge to form an association with thoughts in the memory. The association could be based on an event, appearence, place, person, emotion etc. The next thought again tend to form subsequent associations till either the thought links become weak or an exteranl trigger interrupts it or the mind suddenly becomes concious.

The relationship to creativity is simple. Creativity is about forming new thought associations and patterns is about sticking to old associations. The former is the creative way and the latter is the productive way- at deep down this is what differentiates creativity and productivity. You get to choose one, not both; at least simaltaneously.