Marty, I agree with both your points about the brain having biases and limitations to what it can understand. However, many facts are pointing to the brain as having a specific series of steps it goes through for every thought it thinks, whether the brain is dealing with information coming from the senses externally or the organs internally. The first time this notion was entertained was in the 70’s by a neuroscientist named Vernon Mouncastle. He noticed the appearance of the brain was uniform throughout. The brain tissue has no differences in any of the lobes. This made him hypothesize the brain was operating with a single algorithm, that brain tissue was doing the same thing in the Occipital Lobe as it was in the Parietal Lobe, etc. Jeff Hawkins is one of the first neuroscientists to test this hypothesis and he found he found it to be true.
When I am super angry, my brain doesn’t take information through a different series of steps compared to when I am calm and happy. My anger will simply give me more information to process when I make my decision in that moment, information that is not present when I am calm and happy. In other words, my brain doesn’t change structurally or functionally when I am making decisions while mad, sad, or joyful.
Lisa Feldman Barrett’s Constructed Theory of Emotion is holding up with other scientists. She says the same thing about the brain. And she shows how an internal sensation such as anger, is interpreted by the brain conceptually just like the noise of a car engine is interpreted, or the smell of popcorn. My emotion never does my thinking, as an emotion is just an internal sensation like bladder fullness or hunger. An emotion has the ability to influence my thinking, but it cannot do my thinking any more than a sensation of a full bladder can.
These findings, in my opinion, are pretty mind blowing, and have caused me to re-evaluate a whole lot of assumptions made by psychologists about human thought, emotion, and behavior.
None of these negate the fact we all have biases based on our experiences, knowledge acquisition, and thinking capacities. And none of these ideas negate the fact the human brain can only know what it can know. Regardless of our IQ, none of us can understand what we are not able to understand.
In terms of self knowledge, it is acquired the same as any other knowledge, and what we think of ourselves is based on the concepts we develop about ourselves. When you get down to it, my brain forms concepts about other people the same as it does for myself. Typically, I will have many more concepts about myself and they will be more specific than the concepts I have about other people. But in terms of how my brain handles the information about self and other, it’s the same.
Thanks for the conversation! Any thoughts?