(Very much a work in progress!)
by Win Wenger, Ph.D.
Winsights No. 26 (January 1999)
The domain of your awareness — A tiny bit of mostly word-focussed consciousness; a halo of the marginally conscious (see “Sidebands” in You Are Brighter Than You Think).
Your conscious, online, resources are like what’s up onscreen, compared with all else that’s in your computer. –Or like a flyspeck riding the flank of an elephant. But all of that, throughout Fig. 1 that ham of the elephant and beyond, is you, trying as best it can to serve your best interests even though you may not have been listening to or appreciating these further reaches of yourself.
What you’ve learned to pay attention to, and what you’ve learned to ignore or let slip past, is mostly random and the accident of your personal history. There are good strategies of attention and there are some which might not be as good. It’s probably best, for example, that you’ve learned to ignore your own liver functions, to leave your attention free for dealing with other matters. (Even there, may be some contexts wherein for awhile you might want to be able to pick up on and pay attention to your own liver function so you could re-direct it.) It’s probably not so good that well-meaning parents and teachers told you to stop daydreaming (thereby cutting you off from your main communication with the further reaches of yourself), to be “attentive” to the lesson-of-the-moment instead (instead of long-term personalized understanding)….
Suffice it to say that 99.999999999999999999999%+ of your resources are offline, there somewhere in your system but well outside your left temporal wordbox which defines and focuses nearly all of what’s conscious for you. It is virtually certain that you have been, through accumulated historical accident idiosyncratic to your own individual life, operating an attention strategy which is less than optional for you. –And “more than certain” that some, at least, of your faculties, information and other resources which are now there but offline would be much better for you online. –Both generally, and situation-specific under changing conditions and in various special circumstances.
We don’t yet know how to define attention strategies which are or would be optimal. We do know, though, how to bring online resources which are now offline, and to broaden the availability-to-you of what you have. –And, to at least some extent, to increase the proportion of your resources which are online to you–one way of saying, “increasing your intelligence.”
This brings us to a key portion of our model. Expressive output, especially expressing from perception, pulls more and further awarenesses into the conscious frame defined in the left temporal wordbox. (Above is a schematic showing the left and right hemispheres of the brain as seen from above. –The frame of verbal consciousness is that small dot found in the left temporal, essentially corresponding with that small dot found in Figure 1 above. The major arrow depicts externalized action, describing or other expressive external behavior. The smaller arrows depict the process of other, additional awareness beginning to make their way toward where Fig. 2 the action is.
The further and more continuous-sustained the flow of expressive behavior, and the more closely that flow relates to perceptions, the stronger pull is exerted on your additional relevant perceptions wherever these may be found in your brain. The effect is similar to Venturi force in physical terms–a moving stream of air exerts “pull,” a partial vacuum, on its surroundings and in the case of an appropriately configured airplane wing, “lift.”
Hence our emphasis on rapid, sustained flow of sensory-concrete description as a means of reinforcing awareness and of pulling additional awareness into conscious focus. The more concretely detailed this sensory data being reported, the better this process pulls on additional awarenesses. This aspect also appears to relate to the fact that most of the brain, and of further consciousness, process in sensory images rather than in words. In any event, we’ve long observed that the solidity of concrete physically sensory detail provides better “adhesion” for this Venturi-like “pull” to work with than do data at greater levels of abstraction or data some ways removed from immediate sensory referent.
Fitted into a More General Model:
The above schematic of the expressive, “Venturi Force” brain, let us now fit into a more complete picture.
The crucial element in this part of the model is feedback. Feedback in the loop comprised of the aforesaid output, coming back to you as feedback both from the environs and directly from your own perceptions of your own output. In the instance of describing-from-perception, voice tonality may be as significant is the content of what you are saying. –Especially when you are either with a listener or anticipating that a listener will be hearing the audio tape that you are currently recording. In the event of a live listener, even very slight responses by that listener very powerfully shape your feedback loop and subsequent responses.
–Nor should this power of feedback be surprising, even if the ability to sense how your own actions are going, and to sense how the surroundings are responding to those actions, weren’t so utterly essential to survival–
- For one thing, the coordination of voice, or of any controlled movement whatsoever, rests entirely upon feedback. Hence any variations in such feedback can be expected to powerfully shape subsequent output and other behaviors.
- Psychologists and behavioral scientists please also consider: feedback = reinforcement. Your most significant natural law is the Law of Effect. The behavior of all complex systems revolves by Darwinian necessity around the phenomenon that “you get more of what you reinforce.” Your Law of Effect is pervasive, it is more than a natural law of behavior: it is a law of physics. In our changing universe, any complex system living or non-living, which does not sense and respond to the effects of its own outputs and to how its environment responds, does not remain around very long!
Now to a statement which might surprise you, but which would not surprise a long line of researchers, educators and neurologists spanning our entire century–including Maria Montessori; the father of neuro-anatomy, Santiago Ramon y Cajal; Omar K. Moore; and Marion Diamond.
Most of your learning, and nearly all of your growth, development and evolvement as a person, come at one critical point. That point is in this very same loop of expression-&-feedback. These come at the point of that loop where you are receiving back that feedback upon what you have put out.
This one singular point in the loop, infinitely sensitive to a wide range and variety of factors, is also our singular opportunity for working transformations of many kinds and of ourselves. Make changes thereto make changes anywhere else or everywhere else in ourselves and in our lives.
Have you considered how wholly dependent upon sensory feedback/reinforcement even your most routine physical actions are? If you walk or even move at all, you require a sense of the space you are moving in and of its boundaries and contents. You require a sense of position including that of verticality as regards gravity and direction and inertia. You require a sense of your support. You require the kinesthetic feedbacks of your limbs and members…
One of the “prime laws” of neurophysiological development is, to first establish awareness. The ability to act then follows. If you’ve sat in a position that cramped circulation such that your leg “has gone to sleep,” remember how difficult it was to stand or walk using that leg until you had full awareness (ability to receive feedback/reinforcement) back in it?
As totally dependent as we are upon feedback/reinforcement for even our most routine actions, is it really surprising how susceptible we are to changes in that feedback, to changes in (a) the conditions which provide us that feedback/reinforcement, and (b) to changes in how we receive such feedbacks as are coming to us? And to (c) changes in our own outputs which change all of the above in terms of what we receive from our feedbacks/ reinforcements?
Ways to Change the Loop, And Our Reception of Our Feedbacks
1. Change our outputs. Building and sustaining a flow of output, especially output based upon our own first-hand sensory perception, concerns a good part of the current method systems of Project Renaissance. Also, nearly everything observed in Flow Theory as bearing here. Aim is to strengthen, clarify or render more accessible, sustain and enrich as much as possible, the feedback/reinforcement coming back to the action point of transformation of the outputter.
2. Part of the Project Renaissance system of methods also concern how you receive back, at that point of transformation, your own feedback/reinforcement. Simple as it sounds, to pick up on and pay attention to your own ongoing perceptions, represents what appears to be the most crucial part of such a change in your receptions.
3. Flow Theory bears upon all aspects of the loop. That work is complementary to that of Project Renaissance in enriching and sustaining the output phase of the loop,. and to that of O.K. Moore and Maria Montessory in “clarifying the environment…” The positive achievements of many fields and practices relating to the quality of human performance and experience, reflect these same considerations though usually despite their theory rather than because of it.
4. A blizzard of facts and findings pertain as regards changing or adjusting the environment to cause the feedback bounced from it to coincide more closely with what will support desired outcomes. Among the more powerful approaches, historically, to this “clarifying environments” approach, were Maria Montessori’s rigging of the environment to do the teaching of desired skills and understandings and behaviors to young children; and University of Pittsburgh’s sociologist Omar Khayyam Moore’s “Edison Talking Typewriter.” That device, featured in the work of his “Clarifying Educational Environments Foundation,” consisted of a computerized typewriter rigged to teach 2-year-olds how to read, write and type. Its action was based solely upon selectively reinforcing the spontaneous behaviors of the child. Powerful in another way was the demonstration of Peters/ that to feed your own voice back to you with a 1/6th second delay such as experienced by lecturers in halls with poor acoustics, slows and muddies not only your speech but your thinking and perceiving for hours afterward. To feed your own voice back at electronic speed, stereo microphone through a stereo system to stereo headphones, which is faster than you normally receive back your own speech, speeds and clarifies not only your speech but your thought and perception and for hours following. Further gains can be gotten, incidentally, as we’ve recommended for Image Streaming, with the gain up slightly and the treble (the higher-pitched sounds contain the more information) also up some, further crispens up speaking, thinking and perceiving.
In short, a change anywhere in the loop means changes in the loop as a whole and changes in–
A) The pattern of response, behavior, and nature of the person or organism receiving at the return end of that loop. –And, of course, changes in
B) The experience, the perceptions, the world of that person or organism.
Classical physics and engineering models of input/output and of “black box analysis” may also prove to be useful toward further refinement and correction or improvement of this model and theory of human nature, behavior and development. In general,
The Utility of This Output/Feedback/Reinforcement Perceptual Model:
This model affords us–
1. A good degree of simplicity in phenomenological and inquiry fields otherwise characterized by seeming great complexity. There is little in those fields which does not fit reasonably comfortably within this model. The model itself is far simpler than alternate models and theories within this domain, yet affords reasonably accurate accounting for and even predicting of much of the phenomena encountered in this domain, that of factors affecting levels of human performance and quality of experience.
2. This model gives us a usefully convenient way to think about and relate to various of the many recent discoveries which bear strongly upon levels of human performance and apparent intelligence, and upon the quality of human experience. –Notably it provides us cognitive convenience regarding various discoveries which enable, among other things, a rapid and very remarkable advance of humans’ ability to perform, whether in the creative and performing arts, in athletics, or intellectually.
3. This model points directly toward the likeliest areas wherein may be made further such discussions. Far more of these appear to be pending than thus far have actually been made, meaning that there is very considerable opportunity for original research and for original and new researchers.
(These next few paragraphs will feature in later stages of this monograph, but in the immediacy of time have not yet been appropriately bridged in:)
One Corollary Aspect:
A) A range of consequences stemming from spreading the practice of people talking perceptively with each other and to their tape recorders.
B) What might be done with people here, and in our electronic community, experimenting with auditory-enhanced Image Streaming and related experiences.
C) To decipher inventions in “Beachhead” (and to some extent, in problem-solving): changing where you are looking at the thing from, changing your point of view–(1) changes the feedback you are getting from that experience, and (2) changes the way you receive back such feedback as you are getting, among other things.
One of the Most Productive Phenomena in the Human Domain with which we have been working, is the remarkable fact that all of us immediately generate, upon instant of contact with any question or problem or issue, sensory mental images. These images in some way reflect the best answer and understanding which can be generated from our vast, mostly unconscious, data-base and faculties. This representation is usually symbolic, idiosyncratic and “rich” in the sense that it bears many additional insights and “messages” besides the one input or answer. The technique which appears to best enable decoding of this symbolic representation is that of generating three different sets of sensory impression or imagery, each reflecting the same answer or message, but each in very different ways. With everything else different,the key meaning is found or best found through factors common to all three or more sets of imagery thus defined. One thing this approach does require is to notice, experience and record a lot of sensory detail from each imagery set, by verbally describing and/or by sketching. Otherwise the overlapped or common features might not get noticed.
Further Reasons for Descriptive Flow:
To express enough descriptive detail requires a rapid-enough expressive flow to exert that Venturi force-like “suction” on related awarenesses pulling them into our focus of consciousness. This flow also generates and sustains the desirable “flow” aspects of your output/feedback-Reinforcement loop which feeds your action point of transformation and growth. Hence, some of the many benefits of simple rapid-flow Image-Streaming, both generally and on answering questions and problems.
More and further levels of this inquiry are bound to develop.
1) For one thing, asking our own Image-Stream faculties to point out for us, farther and better practices (and considerations) which this model indicate and which we’ve not yet consciously considered, is bound to be productive of new and sometimes better methods and understandings (and theory).
2) For another, the Toolbuilder phenomenon, that of using our best problem-solving methods, including our imagery-related techniques, to show us new and better such methods. (The main, best publication on “Toolbuilder” technique and practice is the final chapter in the book Beyond Teaching And Learning, in both the recent and new editions.) Use your best methods to create better methods – one of the simplest and most obvious of procedures, yet many people even today refuse to begin to understand this simple principle of re-investment. They appear to prefer to think they have THE answer, THE method, and that’s that! Perhaps we can blame that on a television-reared passive insta-media generation; perhaps we can blame it on the trauma of present-day schooling. –Or, perhaps, the fault lies not in our scars but in ourselves…
Enough faults! What we see with this model is a burst of unprecedented human progress and well-being. The inquiry has barely begun, yet already we can see clearly how to enable virtually any of us – or all of us – to experience and to perform at high genius level across a very wide range of effects. Old assumptions about our own limitations, and about human limitations generally, are now in the dust. Constrained only by our own energy and will to implement in our own practices what we know works we are free to move forward. –Not only to better answers but to better questions and to better methods for answering them.
- For our children.
- And for all that we hold dear.
- And for ourselves and each other.