The Secret Life of the Mind How Your Brain Thinks, Feels, and Decides by Mariano Sigman

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“So different social experiences result in completely distinct brains. A caress, a word, an image- every life experience leaves a trace in the brain. “

Interesting to think that our social lives do leave traces on our brains, changing how we react, think, feel. It all matters, even the things our brains leave out, discard. This book is full of fascinating information about our minds, that glorious brain. From earlier studies about babies and the changing science behind new studies that greatly change what we thought was true, to the beauty of bilingual upbringings and how it alters the brain, everything within this book is of importance to every human being. The studies into what is good, bad, fair and unfair really express that some things could be innate. How do newborns recognize intentions so soon? How is morality formed?

Bias is a funny beast, and none of us are without it. As we are told in this book, just look at history. What about love? How much is scientific, it is pheromones alone? Not so fast. What about our decisions? How often are our choices based on instinct, and what exactly is instinct? Is it supernatural, is it our brain working faster, always a step ahead of our body? What about our beliefs in opposition with the reality we exist in? Why do we remain steadfast in our beliefs, be they positive or negative, regardless of evidence contrary to said belief? Is it our brain?

Why do we forgot horrible pain, ‘selective forgetting’, as mothers do after childbirth? Was Freud really Working in the Dark, just what is consciousness? And while I can tickle you, why can’t I tickle myself? How does our brain take in visual stimulus? I find this sentence very loaded. “In some sense, then, dreams and schizophrenia have similarities, since they both revolve around not recognizing the authorship of our own creations.” It’s an interesting comparison. We need to understand our brain, it’s as vast and mysterious as outer space. A study on a woman after a car crash, thought to be an in vegetative state brings forth provocative questions about the bigger choices to be made. How do we know someone isn’t still ‘in there’ and just can’t communicate in the usual way? What if readings show the brain is active? What does any of it mean? How much more do we have to learn? How will this effect those thought to be in vegetative states and the future decisions to be made on their behalf?

Why is sleep necessary? Is it possible to learn while sleeping? Is sleep’s only purpose to cleanse, and repair? Interesting to think our brain is still highly active when we sleep, and that during the day, “our brain frequently unmoors from reality and creates its own thoughts. We often spend a large part of the day talking to ourselves.”  All of this much like night dreaming but we are awake! Personally, I have always wondered about lucid dreaming, often doing so myself, usually when I am about to do something wonderful and realize I am dreaming, my dream tends to fall apart from there and up, and out of sleep- I awake. Comes in handy for bad dreams though!

How do substances affect us? Are the more ‘harmless’ substances really safe for the young? Read on about the experiments into cannabis. This book is one of the most informative works I have read, and I have some questions now about this gelatinous computer I carry in my noggin. Do I have the questions? Wait, is it my BRAIN with all the questions, and can the brain respond truthfully about itself? I am talking in circles. It’s crucial to understand our bodies, and the brain appears to still be the control center so why wouldn’t you be curious?

Fascinating journey into the mind/brain… the self.

Publication Date: June 27, 2017

Little, Brown and Company

 

The Inkblots Hermann Rorschach, His Iconic Test, and the Power of Seeing by Damion Searls

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“In a twist of fate that seems too good to be true, Rorschach’s nickname in school was “Klex”, the German word for “inkblot”. Was young Blot Rorschach already tinkering with ink, his destiny foretold?” 

I remember one day in Kindergarten we took a blob of paint and created blotchy art work by folding the paper in half, most looked like moths or butterflies when we peeled open the paper. The first time I can recall mention of Ink Blots for psychological purposes, my mind went back to this day and the blots have forever interested me. What a strange way to invade the mind, and could this really tell you anything about a person’s psyche? Hit the internet, there are quizzes everywhere from the silly to serious telling you about yourself. As controversy entered the ink blots growth, I too am one of those people that wonders if  ‘  you  can really sum anyone up based on images, or questions?’ Really, as the reader sees in the book, if you live in another country can’t the images affect you differently simply because of one’s culture? The horrifying reality is tests can fail, as happened to a woman concerning the ink blots, that caused her child’s abuse to be dismissed. Used as a tool, it seems to have stood the test of time, but should we ever really rely on images or questions to determine court cases, should the findings be an absolute? The research stands, is it simply coincidence if most psychopaths see certain images and I happen to see the same thing or does it mean I have psychopathic tendencies? There is solid work and decades of research, and yet always that but pushes it’s way in.

This book focuses on the life of the Rorschach Test which outlived its creator. There are stories about the man himself and I was interested in his approach to patients. From the reading, Hermann appeared to be someone who truly wanted to heal the minds of the afflicted. There is controversy in everything that is meant to help or categorize, in anything that medicates, treats. The fact stands that nothing is full proof, but do we dismiss it altogether? The ink blot test morphed through the years as it changed hands, could that be the problem? Could the biggest problem  be that people  reviewing the test aren’t always qualified, trained to? That can be a fatal flaw. There was a time it held up, used by the military and in job hiring to weed out undesirable applicants, in trials, in abuse hearings… see it as you will, but it is an icon itself and not just in America. My thoughts are in the middle, I tend to believe that you can’t peg people that easily, I always think about what we say, what we don’t. My question is always, ‘How do you know the answers someone is giving are honest?” Sure, the counter argument is that deception is spotted by those trained to see it, and says a lot too. But can we ever really know? As with anything, it helped and it hindered. It is alive and well today and still has its uses. I enjoyed the history of Rorschach’s ink blot test’s birth and how it morphed into what it is today. Fascinating read that is well researched, I learned things I had never known about Hermann Rorschach and the ink blot test, the reasons why he chose the designs and color he did. Yes, read it.

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Crown Publishing