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C O U R S E 
Buddhism and Modern Psychology
Robert Wright, Princeton University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Left Brain, Right Brain, and The Self
Notes taken on October 26, 2015 by Edward Tanguay
what do we make of this thing we call the self?
the thing that we call the self, the conscious me, the thing that we think is running the show, may not be running as much of the show as we think
we may be attributing much more power and control to this concept than it really deserves
this idea goes back to pre-modern psychology
Freud: the self is controlled in large part by unconscious forces
specific ideas that Freud came up with
although Freud was skeptical of the power of the self, he wasn't skeptical enough
had a three part model:
id: harbors dark, animal forces
ego: in the middle, the self, attributed independent power to it
super-ego: conscience
today, many models of the mind have no place for the self at all
the modern history of doubt about the power of the self
the split brain experiments
have very strange results
two halves of their brains have been disconnected
to control seizures, had their corpus callosum severed
at first it didn't have much noticeable effect except to control the seizures
1960s: Michael Gazzaniga
pioneered studies in learning and understanding split brained patients and how their brains work
information from right side of the visual field enters the left side of the brain and vice versa
so its possible for information to be put in one side of the brain which just goes there and doesn't go to the other side of the brain
1. flashed word experiment
they would flash a word in one side, patient would say, "I don't see a word"
in most people its the left hemisphere that houses the language faculties
the left half of the brain does the talking
the right hemisphere controls the left hand, the left hemisphere controls the right hand
if you flash an instruction such as "walk" in the left field of vision so it goes to the right brain
the person will get up and walk
if you ask the person where he is going
the left brain doesn't know about this, but it tends to come up with an answer, e.g. I'm going to get something to drink, and apparently will believe it
2. experiment
presented to the left hemisphere an image of a chicken claw
right hemisphere got image of wintery scene with a lot of snow
let both hands choose from another of pictures
hand associated with the left hemisphere chose the chicken
hand associated with the right hemisphere chose the snow shovel
they ask him way:
the chicken claw goes with the chicken
you need a shovel to clean out the chicken shed
so the left brain in explaining why he has a shovel has come up with a story which is coherent, it's just not true
take away from these experiments
1. suggest that the conscious self is capable of greatly overestimating its influence it is exerting on behavior
2. suggest that the conscious self can promulgate and apparently believe wildly untrue stories about what is actually true of the world
we say suggests because these were not anatomically anatomically normal people
we are not seeing the conscious self work as it normally functions
how to study dual-brain effects on anatomically normal people
people are motivated to do things and come up with stories about why they are motivate to do things
study: pantyhose
Nisbett and Wilson
four pair of pantyhose
people had a strong tendency to choose the pair on the far right
the people were not aware of this
they would make up reasons why the one on the right were the same model
they were straining to come up with a reason for what they have done
subliminal techniques
does not enter the conscious mind but influences behavior
flash information on screen very fast
study: squeeze
here is a hand grip, the harder you squeeze it the more money you are going to make
each time randomly determined if reward would be a penny or a pound
before they grabbed grip, a pattern would be shown, then shown pattern
when pound was shown subliminally, they squeezed harder
brain scan
part associated with emotion and motivation
when it became aware, brain region became more active when pound was shown than penny
scans were same for subliminal showing
conclusion: same brain area is more active whether conscious of it or not
"consistently, the same basal fore-brain region underpinned subliminal and conscious motivation"
experiment: story pictures
pictures tell coherent story
man gets up, goes to work, etc.
then show same pictures with more added
ask if pictures are new
some are very similar, e.g. different picture of him driving to work
some completely different, e.g. playing golf
normally anatomically
easily reject obviously pictures which were not there
and will include some that are slightly different
split brain patients
right brain is strictly accurate
right brain is about detailed truth
sees the trees instead of the forest
left brain is more about overall plot line
left brain is responsible for telling stories to the world
left brain: the main thing is to have a story to tell
left brain: tells stories about ourselves
the left brain is capable of buying into massive fabrications