Sunday, August 1, 2021

Post 1: TED Talk

    The TED talk “The Pattern Behind Self-Deception” by Michael Shermer was a highly informative video, detailing how our innate pattern-finding skills can play a role in our tendency to believe in unusual, pseudoscientific beliefs. Shermer’s discussion of how humans are pattern-seeking, associative learners and the idea of patternicity helped me better understand how the human mind works in relation to forming patterns and even beliefs. The part I found most interesting was the impact dopamine can have on our ability to perceive patterns. Shermer stated a study had discovered meaningful patterns are perceived in the right hemisphere of the brain and not in the left hemisphere; and when given L-DOPA to increase the levels of dopamine in the brain, patients perceived more patterns. In addition, dopamine changes the accuracy in pattern finding such that too little dopamine can lead to one being too skeptical and unable to recognize a true pattern when one is there. Too much dopamine, on the other hand, can result in one seeing patterns everywhere even if some are not real, resulting in madness. Shermer’s discussion of agenticity truly helped me understand how our pattern-finding skills can lead one to believe in pseudoscience such as ghosts, aliens, etc. Learning such information makes me wonder if excessive dopamine combined with agenticity may be the reason a friend of mine believes she has the ability to see ghosts. She, along with her mother, claim to have the ability to sense when spirits are present and can see these spirits. They claim their abilities to see the spirits depends upon how strong the entity is or if the spirits are willing to reveal themselves. Is it possible her alleged “abilities” are real or could it be she has high levels of dopamine in her brain?  Overall, this video was truly fascinating as I learned how not just my mind, but others minds, are incessant pattern-seekers that can infuse patterns with meaning and agency in which we come to believe in pseudoscientific notions. I have gained insight and understanding as to why some people are more susceptible than others to believe in such notions.  

Below is a link to an article written by Shermer in which he discusses further the ideas of patternicity and agenticity and their relation to pseudoscience. It's an interesting read. I also included a photo of the book Shermer wrote regarding this information

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