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Concept Formation: Attributes Dynamically Inhabited From Conscious Awareness
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Fall 2005
Claim of Fact
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Concept Formation: Attributes Dynamically Inhabited From Conscious Awareness
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Imperial, the Highest Stage
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Spring 2006

Schiefelbein, Stacey


Fall 2005

Meaning & Madness


Concept Formation: Attributes Dynamically Inhabited From Conscious Awareness

Allan Snyder


            In the process of learning how to group ‘objects” we see objects as a whole not in parts. For example, when we see a tree we think “tree” not a growth from the ground that has a trunk made of bark and green leaves.

            As a concept driven individuals we are not aware of the elements that are used in the process of judgment. We simply use unconscious inferences from past experiences, rather than the knowledge we already know. What all that means is that we force out all the images we see.

            All of us have this switch that can be turned off and on for the quality called inhibition. Inhibition is what allows, rather prohibits us from being able to see things in parts versus viewing things as a “whole” object. However if transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is used across the left fronto-temporal lobe it “turns off the switch” allowing non-conscious skills to be used, meaning we would now be able to see things as individual parts versus whole.

            At the first stages of life it is believed that the “switch” is “off”, leaving newborns with raw sensory allowing them to see in parts, but as time goes by we recognize concepts rather than parts, this is “turning the switch on”. But the grouping doesn’t stop there. Neural models capture the strategy of suppression which deals with dynamic inhibition. The most provocative prediction is that unconscious skills and  things that aren’t processed as much in normal people is like switching off the switch that is associated with concept formation. This procedure is able to be done through puberty and is believed in being able to bring back perfect pitch, bring up levels of creativity and recalling details in an easier manner. The disorders known as bipolar and schizophrenia are believed to be do to over processing.

            Now when it comes to infants and the way they deal with raw sensory data is completely different than adults. Adults are concept driven and details are surprised from awareness that we are conscious of.  Infants tend to grasp things more literally than adults. An interesting fact is that infants to the age of six months can tell the differences in faces, for example they can tell the difference between monkey faces and the faces of humans but not after the nine month mark. Another interesting fact is that between four and six months infants can tell the difference between languages, but at ten months to a year children only respond to their native language. In conclusion of this section; infants have perfect pitch, are able to decipher between languages, and faces but as they get older they lose these abilities.

            Adults with our mature concept driven minds lose awareness, details linked to sensory, as well as the loss of perfect pitch. As we get older and old our concept formation groupings get more compact. Let me explain this in a different way. When we are younger our groupings are very specific and very detail orientated, as we age we begin to have less individual groupings and everything that “sort of” goes in that group gets thrown into it.

            Once a concept is formed we become less and less aware of the sensory details that make up the concept. We continue to build concepts through out our life but in the form of metaconcepts, which is the grouping of concepts. A way to look at it is, when you are learning a new skill, at first it is complicated and you may fail, but as time goes on you can do the skill in your sleep. You don’t even have to think about the process.

            An interesting thought; what would the brain do without concepts? It is believed that we wouldn’t be able to process the world around us, meaning that we would live in continual surprise, which would leave us with over-sensitive people….and no one likes anyone else that is too sensitive. Children that have autism are in the same spot as those that cannot form concepts. The only way these children can survive is through strict routine, meaning eliminating the possibility of surprises.

            What is post-concept of the brain? It is when the brain’s sensory details are inhibited from conscious awareness; meaning that only a stimulus can activate the concept network. The “object” the normally suppresses the consciousness is retrievable because disinhibition. But when the metaconcepts kicks in, everything sort of comes back. Cool, huh?

            Sometimes it is necessary to restore lower level sensory information artificially.  There are two ways to possibly restore the lower level sensory information. First is to remove or completely get rid of the concept network. The second way is to remove inhibition, and this would leave executive awareness. Some cool ways of accessing subconscious information is to use perceptual tricks, magnetic stimulation such as TMS, Psychotropic Drugs and EEG-assisted Neuro- feedback.

            Snyder has done some research on how we can get back some of the things we loose as we get older for example, not stimulating sections of the brain bring back creativity, a stroke may make us able to acquire an accent-free second language, applying TMS to the left temporal lobe could possibly restore perfect pitch, and by temporally turning off the front left temporal lobe you might be able to recall meaningless details. All of these things could make us more aware of whom we really are and make us more aware by using concept formation.

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Stacey Schiefelbein