The Brain and the Book - Session 11

  • March 27. What Is an Audience? What Is Genre? We will be discussing our imitative, interpersonal selves.
    1. Cialdini, "The Science of Persuasion." Handout
    2. Fadiga et al., "Visuomotor neurons." Handout
    3. Rizzolatti et al., "Language within our grasp." Handout
    4. Brothers, Friday's Footprint, "The Brain's Social Specialization," "The Editor Speaks," "The Shift to a Social Perspective," "Talking Faces," chs. 3-6, 31-99. Handout
    5. Holland, "The Willing Suspension of Disbelief." Online
      Willing, I. Psychodynamics
      Willing, II. Neuroscience
      Willing, III. Neuro-psychoanalytic
      DEFT

    1. Play the "Economics of Fair Play" game.

    2. Cialdini, "The Science of Persuasion"
      1. Very much the right side of Alp. Everybody does it. Inference: hard-wired. Built-in reciprocation, authority, other social relations.
      2. 6 basic tendencies.
        1. Reciprocation (concession)
        2. Consistency
        3. Social validation
        4. Liking:
          1. How "W" got elected.
          2. physical attrctiveness
          3. similarity
          4. compliments (cp. reciprocation)
          5. cooperation
        5. authority
        6. scarcity
        These are all so visible in primates! And note (81.1) that they are cross-cultural, but with different weights.

    3. Fadiga et al., "Visuomotor neurons." This is very recent work, but (as in conclusions section) has important implications. Interesting tt the very interpersonal Italians shld discover this.
      1. 167b4,6 Links between motor purposes and sensory information. Many spatial maps for motor effectors. 176b5: motor system feeds back and influences the sensory system. Note in metaphor theory how we learn first objects that are our size, that we can act on.
      2. show an object and certain motor neurons fire, indicating that the monkey imagines an appropriate action (e.g., grasp a ball).
      3. 176a Show the action and "congruent" neurons light up. Hence the latter embody a "vocabulary" of motor actions. Cld this be the basis for lexicon in language? Or spoken lexicon?
      4. 176a8 Representing an action in the absence of any motor contingency--could this be the basis for inter-individual general communication?

    4. Rizzolatti et al., "Language within our grasp". Rizz. did the basic work showing the "mirror neurons." Note that this paper came after Brothers' book, but there were others before. Read summary carefully. 188.3 -- where is this area?
      1. 193.9 - 194.1 Actions are recognized pre-verbally as actions. Cp. ability to recognize phonemes as phonemes, word-images as word-images.
      2. 190b4. Most people just say "mirror neurons." But the original papers emphasize the ability to recognize actions as actions as prior to the ability to do the same. Hence awareness of categories of actions. Then followed by neurons that imitate the same action.
      3. Pp. 192b4 - 193b2 Suggested evolution for speech follows from the above.
        1. Freed upper lip allows for mouth and face gestures to supplement arm-hand gestures.
        2. The mouth-face gestures are used to vary the arm-hand gestures.
        3. Mouth-face gradually taks over
        4. There are the laryngeal changes tt make greater range of vocalizations possible.
        5. Broca's area is pressed into service for these vocalizations.

    5. Holland, 4 essays on Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
      1. Psychodynamic explanation. Basically, regression to oral stage.
      2. DEFT. Why not move this back to Psychodynamic chapter? Because this is the source of 1) literary pleasure and 2) literary usefulness in an evolutionary sense.. Is there any neurological basis for this?
        1. expecatation. The emotion people talk about "anticipation"--not quite the same as cognitive expectations
        2. defense. Suggestion that defenses are various disconnections.
        3. fantasy - no neuro that I know of
        4. transformation. This is very high-level cognitive functions.
      3. Neurological explanation
        1. prefrontal cortex disconnects perception of body
        2. prefrontal cortex disconnets perception of environment
        3. prefrontal cortex disconnects the generation of plans (=countervactuals), hence one loses sight of probabiliy or realism
        4. prefrontal cortex does NOT disconnect emotional circuits (limbic). Can you voluntarily stop feeling anger (count to ten), joy (dampener), sadness (I don't see any control here).
      4. Neuro-psychoanalytic explanation. Large hypothesis: that defenses come from prefrontal disconnections of circuits. This works for isolation, denial, repression, splitting. Would not work for reversal, reaction-formation--or is there a possible neurology for this? Take out one side of a balance?

    6. Brothers, Friday's Footprint, "The Brain's Social Specialization," "The Editor Speaks," "The Shift to a Social Perspective," "Talking Faces," chs. 3-6, 31-99.
          Brothers' basic argument is tt the brain is specialized for social interaction. From our pt/view, both reading and writing are social interactions.
           Psychoanalysis: SF's thinking was basically intrapsychic. P associates (convergence of surface with depth), Th listens, occasionally interprets. Nowadays, "interpersonal analysis," "two-person" analysis.
          At first, I reacted negatively to this book. V positivist. A psychiatrist tt doesn't like emotions, which she calls "behavioral dispositions."     Now, I think there's a lot to grasp here, particly for lit types.

      1. Ch. 3. General point: there are neural systems that respond to social realities.
        1. 37.4 Some neurons respond strongly to faces.
        2. 39.8. First you get "who." 2d, movement of eyes and mouth. 3rd, what body is doing.
        3. 40.1 A small popul'n of cells suffices to identify faces. (Lit, movies capitalize on this by use of distinctive features.)
        4. 40.3,5 Cells tt interpret facial expressions. Superior temporal sulcus; lateral nucleus / amygdala.
        5. 40.8 Cells tt interpret eye and head motion.
        6. 41.1 *** Important: neurons tt distinguish motion of animate object from inanimate.
        7. 41mid. "Who" and "doing what" converge in superior temporal sulcus. Cp. the "what" and "where" paths of visual pcptn.
        8. 41.9 Cells tt resp to social features 1) go to memory (hippocampus) and 2) go to "behavioral dispositions" (amygdala)
        9. 42.3 Neurons imply assemblies.
        10. *** 46.3 Amygdala gets input = highly processed sensory information. Output goes to body changes, e.g., heart rate, blood flow. Orbital frontal cortex does same.
        11. Amygdala plus orbital frontal cortex = components of a social brain system. Thus endeth the first part. NNH: Where have we heard about orbital frontal cortex connected to limbic system before?? He does not mention her, but they are in same med school, same dept / psychiatry. Hmmmmm.

      2. Ch. 4. This is a particularly important chapter, intensely related to lit. Now, how is this related to lit? Imagine litry situations. Reading at home: absorption? Being in audience. Laughing inappropriately. Weeping likewise. Absorption? What is absorption? How does it feel? 1st explanation: oral merger (fusion of ma & chi -- is there evidence for this?)
        Roy Schafer has recently made that phrase more precise by separating those ego functions that persist from those that do not. The change occurs in an aspect of thought that is prerequisite to any reality testing, though its presence is usually only implied. The change is in the representation of . . . oneself as thinker of the thought" --one ceases to think of oneself as dreaming the daydream, hallucinating the hallucination, reading the novel, or seeing the movie. "There is only suspension of the reflective self repre\-sentation that pertains to the act in question." To gain pleasure, one suspends one's representation of oneself reading. In being gratified by reading (as by dreaming), we merge with the source of gratification as once feeding child and nurturing mother formed a unit.
        Now, what does Brothers tell us?
        1. 50. Stim / temporal lobe cn produce bodily changes, feeling states, & complex impressions, static memories, memories in pix.
        2. *** You describe a social situation in order to evoke/describe an emotion. This is what fiction, drama (poetry?) do. 52.7 Note the commonality: lit as shared and not shared. 53.1,2 continuation of this.
        3. 53-54 Regions: amygdala, orbital frontal cx; anterior cingulate gyrus
        4. 54.9 RH perceives emotional expressions.
        5. 56 she sez the above structures form an "editor" (cp. Gazz's interpreter, Damasio's "extended csness"
        6. 58.1 lateral amygdala. Lateral is later than medial in an evolutionary sense.
        7. *** Pp. 58-61. V important for literature.
          1. Describing social situations (fiction, all lit?) leads to emotional responses
          2. She sees common emotional responses to common social situations
          3. She also allows for individual responses to be learned and stored.
          4. Cp. Recent paper on language localization: areas of brain specialized for particular learned linguistic features. Principles and parameters.
      3. Ch. 5.
        1. 66.7 She v critical of idea of brain as isolated knower.
        2. 72.6 - 75. She contrasts actual workings of science to postmodern caricatures. Worth reading.
        3. 75.4 "Synchronized group activities" -- examples? African or Amerindian dance. Sing-sing in new Guinea. Hitler's rallies. Woodstock. Cp. watching a performance. SF's theory of groups: re-assigning part of mental function to the group. Ego? Superego? Lynch mob.
        4. 77.4 She talks abt infant mirroring, and this takes us to Schore. "Intersubjective faith" tt there is a subjective world it shares. Psas: learn to wait; Erikson's basic trust. Is it the evolutionary purpose of literature to reinforce this? Cp. her sense of commonality with NNH's attempt to explain peo's seeing lit as "out there."
              Marxist critique: Cp. the idea of lit as a consumable commodity and lit as a common group activity. Experiments of Peter Brook in theater. Internet as raising possibilities of return to commonality.
        5. 78.5 "Intersubjectivity" a term I hate, but now think she's right in defining it as "shared knowldge," "shared understanding. "
        6. *** 78.9 she suggests there is an archaic state in which we do not distinguish self from other. Cp. literary absorption, psac notion of ma-infant not separated. Trevarthen's dance between ma and infant. Cp. Brothers' thinking to stream-of-csness narrative.
        7. 72.6 Co-evolution of facial mobility with facial recognition. Note that this follows Fadiga & Rizzolati's work. Cp. Deacon's co-evolution of language and language ability.

      1. Norm's conclusion from all this. We put together Schafer's version of suspension of disbelief and Norm's version of internalized defense mechanisms, and we begin to get an account of the shared and the individual in litry response.
        1. We pcve a fundamental difference between animate and inanimate objects.
        2. We pcve both as "out there." Paper Norm is currently working on. Why we think lit is "out there."
        3. Under literary circumstances, we invoke 1) our special pcptn of animate objects. Line between self & other can blur (as I described in 1968, or as I described audience in PxP, as supplying defenses for individual)
        4. Our relation to lit is thus in between our relation to animate and inanimate objects. Critic treats it as inanimate, experiencer treats it as animate. Critic has analytic relation to an object out there. Layperson has an interpersonal relation to the work, in which self-other is blurred. Cp. 18C distinction between wit and judgment, Romantic distinction between imagination and what? discursive thinking.
        Imagine situation in play or movie, where you are part of an audience. You can be sitting back (as Brecht describes it, smoking and watching). You can be identified with a character and you can be taking in defense mechanisms from others in the audience. What happens with a book? You can be absorbed into the book, but not to anyone else.

      1. Ch. 6. She uses "narrative" in this ch. in a very broad sense. Cp. Abelson's "script" or Rumelhart's "schema." All three build on shared understandings and categories. Cp. paying the clerk in store. Her fine anlaysis of the conversation about the wallpaper. Importance of gesture and expression in these things.
        1. 83.5 causes in science vs. reasons in narrative. Her positivist bias.
        2. 84.9 novels "compel" coz they are about individuals and social order.
        3. 85.2 Face to face conversation is richly performative, i.e., display of bodily signals. 80% of conversation??? Watch peo across the room at a party.
        4. 85.8 Conversation as grooming.
        5. 89.7 Most of conversation is non-linguistic.
        6. 91.9 1. Speakers' commonest facial movements mark syntactic units. Cp. Trevarthen and child's dance to mama's words.
        7. 92.1 2. Next most common use of facial movements is illustration.
        8. 92.2 3. Next most common use of facial movements is comment on an utterance.
        9. 93.4 The notch in your upper lip --> mobile upper lips. Point is tt these facial gestures are much involved with speech production and comprehension.
        10. 97.8 Much motor cortex is devoted to mouth. 2 systems we have to learn. 1. "Paralinguistic display." 2. using mouth to articulate speech. NB. Psac importance of "oral" stage.


  • April 3. How Do We Read? We will discuss the standard psychology of reading.
    1. Smith, Understanding Reading, "Identification of Meaning," "Reading, Writing, and Thinking," chs. 9-10, pp. 148- 179, and "Notes," 276-88. Handout
    2. Crowder and Wagner, Psychology of Reading, "The Word in Context," "Comprehension," chs. 6-7, pp. 93-136. Handout
    3. Hilts, "Brain's Memory System." Handout
    4. Taylor, "Language and Brain," 362-394. Handout