5 May 2017

Perception – Creation – Imagination – Memory

I think I am finally working my way through some of the perceptual-mechanical questions towards some bigger ones (and as we know there are some notoriously hard problems on this safari..). I love this line in Edelman and Tononi’s “Consciousness” book:

“every act of perception is, to some degree, an act of creation, and every act of memory is, to some degree, an act of imagination.” 

I must admit that I find the prose in that book hard going – it’s the hardest read out of my shelf of pop-neuro paperbacks – and I don’t completely follow the theoretical work that they put into the idea of non-representational memory that underpins it. But I love their basic ideas – that consciousness is a process not a thing, that it’s a sort of product of the ongoing feedback and re-feedback processes in the brain – and that therefore it can’t be pinned down into one area. I like the idea that a memory (and by extension an imaginary phenomenon) isn’t encoded information but a sort of state of brain that might recruit as many specialist areas as are appropriate. And I like that his idea of how the brain works is rooted in embodiment. (Also I know that ‘what I like’ isn’t an acceptable criterion for scientific acceptance.. but I work on the level of poetic association).

Please correct this if it’s wrong, scientists – or point me at counterarguments!

It works well for the experience of watching the puppet. We are creating a sensation – or a phenomenon – from the information available and our predictions. We receive more information than normal from our mirror systems because some other data might be partial or absent. We use these systems to construct our ‘memory’ of the event. Even a fraction of a second later when we are relating a new  moment to the previous one, fresh perception has become (re)constructed memory. Both are still embodied and both exist inside us and with physical (which is to say emotional) engagement.

Or something like that? And what does it imply in terms of how we relate to (our ideas of) each other?

 

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