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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2012 > Apr > Apr 23

Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

From: Eugene Frison <cthulhu_calls.nul>
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2012 13:34:55 -0500
Archived: Mon, 23 Apr 2012 07:10:41 -0400
Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>From: Cathy Reason <Cathym.nul>
>To: UFO UpDates - Toronto <post.nul>
>Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2012 12:26:27 +0100
>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>>From: Eugene Frison <cthulhu_calls.nul>
>>To: <post.nul>
>>Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2012 10:56:18 -0500
>>Subject: Re: Ufology And Psychiatry - Summary

>>>Psychologists on the other hand proceed from the premise that
>>>all human perception is unreliable. The purpose of all
>>>experiments is then to provide an ever-lengthening list of
>>>examples of unreliable perception. It matters not that these
>>>examples are largely artifacts - the premise dictates the

>>This might have some weight if the premise that all human
>>perception is unreliable is false. But it's not. It has so much
>>backing it up that it's a pretty solid premise to start with.

>So it's a solid premise because it has a lot backing it up, and
>the evidence which backs it up must be ok because it's based on
>a solid premise. This is completely circular reasoning.

Nice try, Cathy. No. The premise is backed up by evidence
obtained from empirical research conducted in scientific fields
outside psychology. There is nothing circular there.

>>I don't know how you can argue that human perception produces an
>>accurate picture of reality. I'm going to repeat one of my
>>earlier comments: physics informs us that all matter is
>>constructed out of molecules, that molecules are composed of
>>atoms, that atoms consist of subatomic particles, and that
>>subatomic particles are energy - energy that is colorless,
>>odorless, temperatureless. Recent research indicates that these
>>quanta exist as ubiquitous fields of energy, are holographic in
>>nature, and are holograms projected from a higher dimensional
>>structure. Reality is based on interference patterns. Is that
>>what you see when you look at a tree, a car, or a dog? Because I
>>know I certainly don't. I don't know anybody else that does

>You're confusing the limits of perception with its reliability.
>It's also true we can't see in X-rays or infra-red. We can't,
>unaided, see what's going on on the other side of the world.
>These are clearly limits to perception. But, we don't usually
>say that our perceptions are "unreliable" just because they have
>well-understood limits. It just means there is much more to
>the universe than we can see with our unaided senses. Similarly
>with an optical telescope. An optical telescope can't see X-
>rays or individual molecules either, but to call it "unreliable"
>on that account would be merely silly.

Cathy, these limitations are the first step in producing
unreliability. And I'm not talking about limitations such as me
standing in my yard and not seeing something that is occurring
on the other side of the world. I'm talking about the
limitations to my perception of things of the type that are
affecting me in my back yard.

If I have, let us say, the actual painting of the Mona Lisa
before me, I have the whole picture. This represents the
totality of all that exists outside us. I take a paper towel
tube and place it against the canvas, so that I see only a very
small portion of the picture. I lose sight of most of the
picture. This represents the limitations of our senses in not
detecting most of what exists external to us. Now I take a black
marker and smude out most of the very small portion of what I
see through the tube. This represents our brains filtering out
most of the data that is assailing us on a steady basis.
Finally, let's say that the very, very small piece of the
painting that is left that I am aware of happens to be just one
of the Mona Lisa's eyes. It is really just a bit of paint on a
two-dimensional surface. But the painter did a really good job
and I perceive it as a three-dimensional thing. This represents
our perception process adding qualities to things that they
don't have, such as color, hotness or coldness, form, etc.

The picture I perceive of the Mona Lisa painting certainly isn't
an accurate one. Nor is it a very reliable one because so much
essential information is missing. (I cannot appreciate the
beauty of the Mona Lisa painting because most of the essential
information is missing.)

In the above example, missing essential information merely
caused me to not be able to appreciate a great piece of art. It
didn't affect my survival.

Missing essential information can have a detrimental impact on
our survival in the everyday world. If you walk into an
abandoned mine, for example, where there has been a buildup of
odorless, colorless, and tasteless gas  - as two children did
here in Glace Bay several years ago - that missing essential
information certainly will have an impact on your survival.
(These two children were found dead a few days later by
searchers, only feet from the entrance to the mine. They had
walked into the pocket of poisonous gas which their senses could
not detect, quickly passed out, and died trapped within the

Interpretation of things by the brain is where further
unreliability can creep in.

Change my reference to me standing in my back yard to me sitting
in my car in a parking lot in town and I will show you exactly
what I mean.

Recently I was at home when my son called me informing me that
he was getting off work early and requesting that I come pick
him up. I told him that I had to get gas anyway, and asked him
to meet me at the gas station instead (which was only a few
minutes walk away for him) as town was super busy and full of
traffic and pedestrians - which I wanted to avoid so as not to
be held up (delayed). He agreed to meet me at the gas station.

We both did what we were supposed to do. But things didn't work
out the way they were intended. I got gas and then pulled the car
about fifty feet from the pumps and parked facing the buiding that
he worked in, which I could see. There were a lot of people out and
about, as it was a beautiful and warm sunny day. As I was waiting,
two guys and a girl (her wearing a long plaid shirt) walked through
the lot in front of me. One guy was carrying a fishing rod and had
a blue back pack on. My wife was with me, sitting beside me, and
we were the only car in the lot. We waited, and waited, and waited.

Finally, we went home  - without picking up my son. When we got
in the door, he was sitting on the couch playing with his
Playstation 3. We asked him why he didn't come to the gas
station as agreed and he informed us he did, saying he walked
about twenty feet behind two guys - one of which was carrying a
fishing rod and wearing a blue back back - and a girl wearing a
long plaid shirt.

Neither I nor my wife saw him. Both our brains had decided that
he was going to approach directly from the building that he
worked in, rather that take a quick detour into town to buy a
soda first. We were watching in the exact direction of his work
place and our brains had decided that information coming from
that direction was what was important. All the other data coming
from a busy town was not important and was filtered out. Our
brains had interpreted the image of him approaching us and
passing ten feet in front of the car as unimportant, so it was
filtered out and not made available to our consciousness. It was
not made a part of the picture of reality it created for us. It
was not simply a case of us seeing him but absent mindedly not
paying enough attention; we _did not_ see him. We were the only
car in an empty lot and we saw the three people passing in front
of the car but did not see him passing only mere seconds after
them. As a result, we sat for more than a half hour and he ended
up walking home. If my life had depended on my meeting my son at
that point in time, I would have been dead.

It gets even better. My son passed ten feet in front of the car
while walking behind the three people just ahead of him. Yet he
did not see either me or my wife, nor did he notice our car. He
had a faulty notion that I would be pulling into the gas station
from the direction I usually do, or would be at the pumps. All
his attention was focussed on this, and - as he himself states -
he _didn't even see_ the grey car with his mother and father
sitting in it. His brain had decided that only information
coming from the direction of the pumps was important and had
interpreted data coming from a different direction as
unimportant to its immediate needs. It was filtered out and not
made available to his consciousness, to the picture of reality
that it created for him.

So, at an inconvenience to my wife and I, we sat in a hot car
for more than half an hour, wasting time that we were short on
(as there were other important things we had to do). At an
inconvenience to my son, he had to walk home (several
kilometers) in the heat. These were occurances that none of us
wanted. So exactly how reliable relevant to our needs was our
perception process at that time?

It is essential to understand here that his angle of approach
toward our car was one that allowed us to view him through the
windshield for at least five minutes before he reached the lot,
and that he would walk directly passed the front of the car at a
distance of ten feet.

This is the same as our buttocks not being aware of the pressure
of our chairs against them, unless we direct our attention to
it. It is the same thing, as pointed out by Susan Blackmore, as
when we are in a situation such as a noisy, crowded party and we
hear our name being mentioned - we are usually able to
reconstruct the words preceeding mention of our name. Had our
name not been heard, these words would have remained outside our
awareness. The brain is receiving them, interpreting them as
unimportant, filtering them out, not including them in our
picture of reality. If our name is heard, this is important, so
the data emerges and is included.

>Your reasoning here is the sort of thing I was referring to in
>my earlier post. You've collected together a ragbag of
>perceptual anomalies and inferred from these that human
>perception must therefore be systematically unreliable.

The human senses not detecting most of what is out there,
blotting out most of what it does detect, creating an inaccurate
representation of what is out there that caused the initial
stimuli, then interpreting (via mechanisms that are capable of
being tricked) is quite a bit more than a ragbag of perceptual

>>There is no such thing as red or blue light. There is a field of
>>energy composed of electric and magnetic vectors propagating at
>>right angles through space, of a frequency (rate of vibration)
>>that causes the brain to create the experience of red or blue.
>>There is no red or blue color anywhere in the electromagnetic
>>field itself.

>Now I think you're confusing the mechanisms of perception with
>the phenomenology. And it's true that the phenomenology of
>perception is something we don't really understand - hence the
>notorious "hard problem" of consciousness. It's also true that
>some people believe the same sort of functional approaches we
>use to understand the mechanisms of perception should also work
>on the phenomenology. I don't agree with this and believe it
>leads to all sorts of conceptual confusion, so to that extent, I
>think you have a point.

I'm not confusing anything. I'm saying we end up with a picture
of reality that possesses qualities that reality doesn't have.
There is nothing confused about my understanding of that.

This picture, aside from being full of qualities reality doesn't
possess, is also full of the other inaccuracies described above,
as well as constructed out of missing - often essential -
information and based on often erroneous interpretations by the
brain. Empirical experimentation by fields outside psychology
and everyday observation have established this, before we even
begin to talk about psychology.

>But when it comes to the mechanisms of perception, what we
>really want to know is whether those mechanisms are reliable
>enough to extract from the world the information we need to
>survive in it. And that is pretty much guaranteed by natural

Ah ha, so it really is a case of "reliable enough" rather than
"reliable." This is the crux of the matter, isn't it? In other
words, is it "functional?" Does the human perception process
produce a picture of reality that is functional, i. e., that
allows us to survive in the world of things such as saber-
toothed tigers? "Reliable enough" is not the same thing as
"reliable." It is also not the same thing as "accurate."
"Reliable enough" really means is it functional to the point
that it will usually get us through our encounters with what is
out there.

If you are going to contend that it is a case of "reliable
enough" rather than a case of "reliable" then we have nothing to
argue about. We are in agreement!

>>What psychology does when it proceeds from this premise is no
>>different from what other fields of science do when they proceed
>>from a premise that they view as valid (having been well
>>established) in their field.

>It's true that all sciences involves assumptions. But in most
>sciences, these assumptions are stated explicitly and always
>subject to revision and test. It's true this doesn't always
>happen the way it's supposed to. The difference is that in
>psychology it hardly ever happens the way it's supposed to.

It's also true that it often _does_ happen the way it's supposed
to. And that this happens in psychological research too - more
often than you are giving credit to.

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