Chapter 12. Discordant Cognitive Processing
This post addresses several interesting visual and physical phenomena that implicate cognitive processes in communications not only between subconscious and conscious thinking (Earth and Humanity, respectively, in the DDJ), but also with the range of chemical and physical connections between thinking and our physical body (Heaven in the DDJ). This is very much a work in progress, so it may not be clear by the end of this chapter. The title refers to discordant processing because, as suggested by previous clinical results (meditation studies) and theoretical considerations, cognitive processes are not operating uniformly or properly, at least not in my brain. So, we’ll start there.
DISCREPANCIES IN LEFT/RIGHT VISUAL PROCESSING
I have identified discordant visual processing in several ways both during introspection sessions and with retinal input. It is not obvious if the two kinds of discrepancy are related by physiological inconsistencies with incidental impacts on vision and/or cognition, so it’s important to proceed cautiously.
Previous posts have alluded to the use of memory to assist in the construction of visual qualia and the creation of anomalous qualia, visual and otherwise. The reported asymmetry of anomalous visual qualia in the left and right visual fields suggests variable access to memory in their creation without retinal input. For example, faces often appear as profiles, or nearly profiles, usually as if viewed from the right; when faces are seen head-on, the right side (looking at them) is blurry and deformed whereas the left half is often very clear and well proportioned. This difference suggests that the right visual cortex (left visual field) has better access to memory; in other words, my left and right visual cortices are not synchronized, at least not when in default mode (eyes closed).
Another interesting visual phenomena is the illusion of opening and closing my eyes when both eyelids are already closed. This illusion appears to favor the left visual field; i.e., it “feels” as if the left eye is open whereas the right eye often “feels” as if it is closed. When an eye is “opened” in this manner, the visual field becomes brighter. I can manipulate the illusion; “forcing” the right eye open and the left eye closed. This effect may have nothing to do with visual processing, instead being dependent on nerve and muscle connections in the eyes themselves.
The consequences of a discrepancy in visual processing are unknown, but could consist of several effects:
- poor visual processing, even with retinal input;
- practical problems with recognizing objects because of poor image completion processing; i.e., searches require longer and depend on more accurate retinal input
- unknown collateral issues, based on treating visual processing as representative of other cognitive processing
The human body is theoretically symmetrical. Mine is definitely not, from my longer right arm, twisted right hip, congenitally weak right knee, to the semi-paralysis of the right side of my face (i.e., muscles don’t respond well, making smiling difficult and lopsided), and sagging right eyebrow. All of these differences have existed all my life. It makes perfect sense then that the brain would be asymmetrical as well. When reading about this phenomenon, I came across an interesting research result:
The results suggest that while either hemisphere can generate spontaneous facial expressions only the left hemisphere is efficient at generating voluntary expressions.
In other words, our brains are apparently not perfectly symmetric in operation.
I’m going out on a limb here (again). My difficulty in generating voluntary expressions could be due to a left-hemisphere anomaly, if this is a valid result. Furthermore, speculating even more, the weak left visual cortex functioning described above could be caused by an anomaly in my left hemisphere. This is of interest because of potential collateral effects and the use of proxies to study cognitive function, as has been discussed throughout this blog.
Correlation does not directly indicate causation, but it is consistent with a common cause, even if two processes are not directly related through a physical mechanism.
RELATIONSHIP TO THE DAO DE JING
What does this mean, with respect to the stated purpose of this inquiry? From DDJ 2,
“All the world knows beauty as being beautiful, thus not being beautiful exists. All know good as being good, so not being good exists. Being and Non-being arise together. Hard and easy complete each other. Long and short shape each other. High and low fulfill each other. Voice and instrument harmonize. Before and after form a sequence. This is why people of Wisdom dwell on matters on non-designing action and go about teaching without words.
The myriad beings are active but do not undertake [to act], produce but do not take possession, function but do not depend [on design and control]. Gains are accomplished but not laid claim to. Because there is no laying claim, [gains] are not lost.”
If a well-functioning cognitive system exists, a bad one exists too, but it’s not the end of the world. We don’t have to say, “That’s just how I am…accept me for what I am.”
Learning our strong and weak points, both physical and mental, allows us to harmonize them and become more united in our approach to life. This is especially relevant to mental processes, which determine our emotional state and thus satisfaction.