Posts Tagged ‘Critical thinking’

Default Network, System 1 Processing, and Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)

May 8, 2019

An earlier healthy memory blog post promised more about the default mode network. That post identified similarities between the default mode network and Kahneman’s System 1 Processing. Kahneman’s System 1 processing is important in that HM thinks that too heavy a use of System 1 processing at the expense of System 2 processing, which is active thinking, increases the risk for AD.

The simplest distinction between the two terms is that Kahneman is a cognitive psychologist and his two process view of of cognitive processes comes from cognitive psychology. The default mode network comes from cognitive neuroscience. Default mode activity is identified via brain imaging. Although they might not be identical, that distinction awaits further research, it is clear that there is considerable overlap between the two.

In addition to brain atrophy, AD patients have abnormal high levels of proteins in different brain regions. In the medial temporal lobe, the accumulation of tau protein leads to neurofibrillary tangles. In cortical regions, such as the parietal cortex in early AD, the accumulation of amyloid-B protein leads to amyloid plaques. The neurofibrillary tangles in the medial temporal lobe and amyloid plaques in cortical regions can be assumed to disrupt neural processing in these regions.

Dr. Slotnick writes, “There is an influential hypothesis that were is a causal relationship between default network activity that leads to deposition of amyloid that results in atrophy and disrupted metabolic activity, which impairs long-term memory in AD patients. The regions in the default network are active when participants are not engaged in a task and include the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the medial prefrontal cortex, the inferior prefrontal cortex and the medial parietal cortex. In AD patients, amyloid deposition occurs in the same regions, which suggests the default network activity may lead to amyloid deposition. Dr. Slotnick suggests that perhaps higher level of amyloid deposition, which occurs in late AD patients, is necessary to produce atrophy in the frontal cortex.

Dr. Slotnick continues, “If high amyloid deposition is a causal factor in developing AD, older adults with low levels of amyloid should be at decreased risk for developing this disease. There is some evidence that cognitive engagement and exercise engagement throughout life may reduce the amyloid level in the brains of healthy older adults as a function of cognitive engagement, and this was compared to the cortical amyloid levels . Participants rated the frequency which they engaged in cognitively demanding tasks such as reading, writing, going to the library, or playing games at five different ages (6, 12, 18, 40, and their current age). Healthy older adults with greater cognitive engagement throughout their lifetime, as measured by the average cognitive activity at the five ages, had lower levels of amyloid in default network regions. Moreover, the healthy older adults in the lowest one-third of lifetime engagement had amyloid levels that were equivalent to AD patients, and the healthy older adults in the highest one-third of lifetime cognitive engagement had amyloid levels that were equivalent to young adults.

So maintaining a growth mindset, thinking critically, and learning new information provide double protection against AD. First, the reduction of troublesome amyloid levels. Second is the building of a cognitive reserve so that even if you develop amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles you may not have the cognitive and behavior symptoms of AD.

Dr. Slotnick’s work is reported in an important book by Scott D. Slotnick titled “Cognitive Neuroscience of Memory.” The report on which Dr. Slotnick’s statements are based comes from
Buckner, R.L., Snyder, A.Z., Shannon, B.J., LaRossa, G. Sachs, R. Fotenos, A.F., Sheline, Y.I., Klunk, W.E., Mathis, C.A., Morris, J.C. & Mintun, M.A. (2005). Molecular, structural, and functional characterization of Alzheimer’s disease: Evidence for a relationship between default activity, amyloid, and memory. The Journal of Neuroscience, 25, 7709-7717.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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How to Improve Your Mind: Twenty Keys to Unlock the Modern World

August 14, 2016

The title of this post is the title of a book by Prof. James R. Flynn.  There have been three posts that have been motivated by this book, “A Major Reason for the Ridiculously Increasing Costs of a College Education,”How Healthy Memory Differs from the Post Modernists or Radical Constructivists,” and “Intelligent Design.”  Perhaps you have already been able to infer from these posts that this is not you typical mind improvement book.   The title is a tad overstated.  Reading and understanding this book should definitely improve your mind and provide insights on the complexities of the modern world.  However, it is left to you should you read the book to decide how much your understanding of the modern world has been unlocked.

The essence of this work is critical thinking, a skill that is woefully absent from our present world.  Critical thinking needs to be considered in terms of Stanovich’s Three Process View of cognition (See the healthy memory blog post, “The Tri-Pricess Model of Cognition and Critical Thinking).  System 1 is called the autonomous mind by Stanovich and intuition by Kahneman.  This our default mode of cognitive processing and is very fast and efficient.  System 2 is called the algorithmic mind by Stanovtich and Reasoning by Kahneman . System 2 is what is commonly thought of as thinking.  One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 2.  Stanovich has also added the reflective mind, System3, as his work on the development of a Rational Quotient has led him to believe that the reflective mind needed to be added. The reflective mind, when invoked, ponders the output of System 2.  If you are to benefit from this outstanding work, you need to put your beliefs and principles where the sun does not shine and read with an open mind.  Then you can decide what to accept, what to reject, and what requires a great deal more pondering and reflection.

“How to Improve Your Mind”  is divided into five Parts.
Part 1 is titled Arguing About Right and Wrong divided into the following sections
Logic and Moral Debate
Getting Rid of Tautologies
The Naturalistic Fallacy and Its Consequences —be Judgmental
But that is Unnatural—Words Best Never Said

Part 2 is titled The Truth About People divided into the following sections
Random Sample—Quality Not Size
Intelligence Quotient—Hanging the Intellectually Disabled
Intelligence Quotient
Control Group—How Studying People Changes Them
The Sociologist’s Fallacy—Ignoring the Real World

Part 3 is titled The Market and its Church divided into the following sections
Creating a Market—Not a Frankenstein
Market Forces—How they Take Their Revenge
Market Worship—No Ritual Sacrifices
The Economic Collapse of 2008
What is to be Done?

Part 4 is titled Enemies of Science
Reality—What Scientists Really Say About Science
History, Science, and Evolution—Only One Kind of Each

Part 5 is titled Nations and their Goals divided into the following sections
Understanding Nations—Understanding Anyone
Four Cases—Making Sense Out of Nonsense
Conclusion

It should be obvious from the preceding text that this is written at college level, and not an the dumbed down college level that HM has found some current texts to be.
In case you do not read the book, here are two take aways from Dr. Flynn worth considering:
The world is still vulnerable to another possible financial crisis.
How long before American finds that economic interdependence with China will force her to coordinate her policies with China as an equal?

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stanovich and the Rational Quotient

June 28, 2016

This post is based on a paper, “The Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking” in the January-March 2016 issue of the “Educational Psychologist.”  This paper constitutes the 2013 Thorndike Award Address by Stanovich.  The award was for Stonovich’s work in the areas of reasoning and reading.  Stanovich is the primary author of the Tri-Process Model of Cognition, which is an elaboration of Kahneman’s Two System View of Cognition.

Stanovich has long been of the strong opinion that the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) does not adequately capture intelligence.  He and his colleagues have been working for more than twenty years to compensate for the shortcomings of this quotient.  This work has been most fruitful and Stanovich and his colleagues now have developed a Rational Quotient (RQ).  They have developed a rational thinking assessment instrument called the Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking (CART).  This research is highly technical, but the goal of this post is to provide some flavor for the RQ and to what it captures that is missed by the IQ.

Rationality is a central concept in cognitive science.  Two types of rationality are recognized:  instrumental and epistemic.  The simplest definition of instrumental rationality involves behaving in the world so that you get exactly what you most want, given the resources (physical and mental) available to you.  More technically, instrumental rationality is the optimization of the individual’s goal fulfillment.   Economists and cognitive scientist have refined the notion of optimization goal fulfillment into the technical notion of expected utility.

Epistemic rationality concerns how well beliefs map on to the actual structure of the world. In other words, how much do you really know, how accurate are your beliefs.  Mahketelow has emphasized the practicality of both types of rationality by noting that they concern two critical things:  what is true and what to do.  “For our beliefs to be rational they must correspond to the way the world is—they must be true.  Healthy Memory (HM) feels compelled to note here that our knowledge of the world should always be tentative and that this knowledge should consist of different probabilities of belief.  We only have our internal models of the world to work with, and we should be continuing to update these models based on our experiences and what we learn.  For our actions to be rational, they must be the best means to our goals—they must be the best things to do based on what we know

To be instrumentally rational, one must choose among options based on which option has the highest expected utility.  Decision situations can be broken down into three components:  possible actions, possible states of the world, and evaluations of the consequences of possible actions in each state of the world.  HM must once again make the point that in many, if not most, of the cases, this can be computationally demanding and difficult to do.  Perhaps in the near future there will be apps to help us do this.  But in the meantime, the best we can do is to satisfice.

Rational thinking subsumes critical thinking.  Critical thinking is important, but it is a type of thinking rather than a domain of knowledge.  The best way to assess critical thinking is to assess how well it fosters rationality.  “We value certain thinking dispositions because we think that they will at least aid in bringing belief  in line with the world (epistemic rationality) and in achieving our goals (instrumental rationality).  Critical thinking is important.  Assessing critical thinking along the lines of epistemic rationality and instrumental rationality seem to be good routes for both assessing and developing critical thinking.

HM hopes this post has been helpful.  Perhaps future posts will make it clearer.  The key take away is that CART and the RQ has begun.  It will mature in the future, with the hope that measures of mental ability will improve.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What to Teach Our Children

January 11, 2015

The penultimate chapter in Levitin’s The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload is titled “What to Teach Our Children.” He considers the world into which today’s children are born in contrast to the world in which we older adults were born. In that world information was both hard and slow to come by. In contrast, today’s world information is much easier to come by. But although vast amounts of information are easily and quickly accessible, this can make finding the exact information needed difficult. And there is the question of assessing the veracity of the information. I would wager that today the most commonly used encyclopedia is the Wikipedia, but anyone can make an entry to the Wikipedia. The vetting process is that the entry can be corrected or elaborated, but the vetting process can produce errors and the original author can change reintroduce the original error. Nevertheless, the Wikipedia works pretty well and I am a frequent user, although I always try to keep these caveats in mind.

Levitin recommends comprehensive instruction in critical thinking for our children, and I would add also for ourselves for the process of critical learning should not end, but should continue as long as we live. So children should be taught how to think critically about an article. They should also consider sources of possible bias. Some journals and websites do make an effort to identify political sources as being conservative or liberal and might even go on to assess the extremity of the political belief. Of course political leanings are not the only source of bias, there are also religious biases, academic biases, and even strongly held biases within different fields of endeavor. For healthymemory blog posts on critical thinking, enter “critical thinking” into the healthymemory blog search box.

Levitin also recommends understanding orders of magnitude to aid understanding how large or how small an object or quantity is. Being able to understand orders of magnitude estimates is important. Basically these are estimates of how many zeroes are in the answer. So if you were asked how many tablespoons of water are in a cup of water. Here are some “power of ten” estimates: 1,10, 100, 1000,etc etc. There are also fractional powers of ten such as 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, etc. Basically these estimates help us understand the magnitude of size under consideration.

Enrico Fermi was a famous physicist who was famous for making estimates with little or no actual data. This involves sophisticated approximating sometimes called guesstimating. Regardless of its name, it is an important creative thinking skill. Examples of Fermi problems are “How many basketballs will fit into a bus?” “How many Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups would it take to encircle the globe at the equator?” and “How many piano tuners are there in Chicago?” Here is a four step solution to the last problem.

  1. How often are pianos tuned (How many times per year is a given piano tuned?)

  2. How long does it take to tune a piano?

  3. How many average hours a year does an average piano tuner work?

  4. How many pianos are in Chicago?

One can find the answers to these questions and come up with an approximate answer. Then one can criticize this analysis and propose a different solution. This is a good exercise for developing both creative and critical thinking.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Thanksgiving 2014!

November 25, 2014

We, homo sapiens,have much for which to be thankful. I often question whether we are worthy of our name. Nevertheless, we have much cognitive potential for which to be thankful. I believe that the best way of giving thanks is to foster and grow this potential throughout our lifetimes.

Consider our memories, which are de facto time travel machines. We travel into the past and into the future. Actually we travel into the past, to retrieve what we have learned, to cope with the future. We have both experienced and remembered pasts (see the Healthymemory blog post, “Photos, Experiencing Selves and Remembering Selves”). We can go back in time before we were born via our imaginations and transactive memory. Similarly we can go forward into time via both our imaginations and transactive memory (transactive memory are those held by fellow humans and by technological artifacts such as books and computers).

When human minds are put to best use via creativity and critical thinking, tremendous artistic, scientific, engineering, and cultural feats are achieved. And we each have individual potential that we should do our best to foster and grow throughout our lifetimes by continuing to take on cognitive challenges and to interact with transactive memory (our fellow humans and technology). We should not retire from or give up on cognitive growth. And we should assist our fellow humans who are in need to grow their individual potential. This is the best means of giving thanks!

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Tri-Process Model of Cognition and Critical Thinking

November 10, 2013

The Tri-Process Model of Cognition has been developed to elaborate on how rational thought, and, hence, critical thinking is accomplished. Critical thinking should be a goal for all of us. One of the first steps is making a commitment to fair-mindedness. A primary obstacle to fair-mindedness is our egocenticity. What follows is a set of questions we need to ask to ascertain the role our egocentricity is playing on our “fair-mindedness.”
“It’s true because I believe it.” (Paul & Elder, 2002)
“It’s true because we believe it.” (Paul & Elder, 2002)
“It’s true because I want to believe it.”(Paul & Elder, 2002)
“It’s true because I have always believed it.”(Paul & Elder, 2002)
“It’s true because it is in my selfish interest to believe it.”(Paul & Elder, 2002)

The key word in this last item is “selfish.” It is not meant to imply that you never do anything or believe anything in your self interest. But when your self interest breaks legal or moral grounds, then it needs to be questioned.
These are all examples of what is called my sidedness or we sidedness.Another term that has been used is “hardening of the categories.”

Most likely these processes occur during System 1 (Kahneman) or the Autonomous Mind (Stanovich). In other words, these processes typically occur below our level of conscious awareness. Consequently we must invoke System 2 (Kaheman) or the Reflective Mind (Stanovich). We need to examine our thought process and ask why. What is the evidence and logic that leads us to these beliefs and how sound is the evidence and the logic.
This is one of the reasons that politics and religion are often topics to avoid in social situations. They can lead to arguments, and these arguments rarely yield insight into the others’ position, and almost never result in changing the others’ position. Many beliefs appear to be hard wired. They should be inspected to see if they should be tweaked or changed.
One of the problems in examining these beliefs is that it requires attention and extensive thought. In other words, cognitive effort. There is a reluctance to expend this cognitive effort that leads to what is called cognitive miserliness.

Reference

Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc., p.39.

Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc., p.40.

Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc., p.40.

Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc., p.40.

Paul, R.W., & Elder, L. (2002). Critical Thinking. Pearson Education, Inc., p.40.

© Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and healthymemory.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.