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Jonathan_Graehl comments on Taking Ideas Seriously - Less Wrong

51 Post author: Will_Newsome 13 August 2010 04:50PM

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Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 13 August 2010 10:04:40PM *  7 points [-]

dual n-back: for the past month, I've spent 2-5 minutes most days on it.

I can do dual 4-back with 95%+ accuracy and 5-back with 60%, and I've likely plateaued (naturally, my skill rapidly improved at first). I enjoy it as "practice focusing on something", but haven't noticed any evidence of any general improvement in memory or other mental abilities. I plan on continuing the habit indefinitely.

Comment author: Will_Newsome 13 August 2010 10:08:43PM 5 points [-]

After doing 100 trials of dual N back stretched over a week (mostly 4 back) I noticed that I felt slightly more conscious: my emotions were more salient, I enjoyed simple things more, and I just felt generally more alive. There were tons of free variables for me, though, so I doubt causation. Did you notice anything similar?

Comment author: Kutta 14 August 2010 06:25:41PM *  5 points [-]

A collection of anecdotal evidence from players is available in Gwern's great n-back FAQ.

I've played for some two months earlier this year and my max level was 8. I haven't really noticed anything, but since I took no tests prior or after the training I can't really say a firm thing about it. The experience of getting better in n-back is exhilarating and bewildering enough that I plan to resume playing it soon. I mean, at the earlier levels I often felt intensely that a certain next level I just got to is physically impossible to beat, and behold, after a few days it seemed manageable, and after a week or so, trivial. All of this without any conscious learning process taking place, or any strategy coalescing. It's an especially unadulterated example how a brain that gets rewired feels from the inside.

Comment author: gwern 25 August 2010 04:59:42AM 5 points [-]

Yes, I know the same feeling (and have remarked on it once or twice on the DNB ML) - it's very strange how over a day or two one can suddenly jump 10 or 20% on a level and have a feeling that eg. suddenly D4B is clear and comprehensible, while before only D3B was and D4B was a murky mystery one had difficulty keeping in one's head.

On the other hand - D8B? Dammit! I've been at n-backing for something like 2 years now, and have been stuck on D4B for months. You, Jonathan, and Will just go straight to D4B or D8B within a few months with ease. I must be doing something wrong.

(On a sidenote, as in the FAQ, I ask people for their negative or null reports as well as their positive ones. This thread is unusual in 2 null reports to 1 positive, but I'm sure there are more LWers who've tried!)

Comment author: steven0461 25 August 2010 07:23:52AM *  1 point [-]

I did maybe 10-15 half-hour sessions of mostly D5B-D6B last year over the course of a few weeks and didn't notice any effects.

Comment author: gwern 25 August 2010 07:56:12AM *  0 points [-]

Thanks; I've added it.

Comment author: Normal_Anomaly 24 November 2011 01:20:10AM 0 points [-]

All the links to your FAQ in this thread are broken. Does the FAQ still exist?

Comment author: gwern 24 November 2011 01:23:52AM 0 points [-]

Oh sure, it's just that I finally built a real website (as opposed to continuing to abuse Haskell.org's free hosting): http://www.gwern.net/DNB%20FAQ

Needless to say, it's been expanded a lot since then.

Comment author: Jonathan_Graehl 13 August 2010 10:14:03PM 4 points [-]

Sure. I tried a bunch of things at once, with the purpose of feeling and thinking better. Collectively, they worked. However, this means that I have probably just acquired a bunch of ungrounded superstitions.

I've recorded what I did but haven't learned anything from that data other than: I am unlikely to ever continue a daily practice of either napping or meditating.

I would speculate that dual n-back is a repetitive and simple enough* stimulus that it's likely to offer whatever "self-awareness" benefits I felt in meditating.

  • it's simple in coarse physical terms; obviously the actual sequences are randomly varied