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cousin_it comments on Generalizing From One Example - Less Wrong

261 Post author: Yvain 28 April 2009 10:00PM

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Comment author: cousin_it 29 April 2009 09:40:03AM *  29 points [-]

Regarding differences in mental imagery: only this winter did I really understand that good musicians have vivid aural imagination, while I couldn't hear any sounds in my head, period. Immediately after this realization I started exercising. By now I can hear complete monophonic melodies, and (on good days) imagine two notes sounding at the same time. Classically trained conductors can imagine a complete orchestral sound while reading sheet music. I don't see any reason why visual imagination can't be similarly trained.

Comment author: stcredzero 30 April 2009 12:13:52PM 14 points [-]

My experience in my non-academic work life, is that many programmers can't visualize verbal descriptions of subsystems, but they learn how to make convincing "I got it" noises to mollify their coworkers. It's not just programmers, it's all sorts of coworkers. I have no idea how an adult can avoid this pitfall.

Comment author: CronoDAS 29 April 2009 07:40:50PM 13 points [-]

At any given time, I always have some song or another playing in my head, and I can recall songs I've memorized and "play them back" at will. Usually it's just the melody, though; the harmony usually doesn't seem to get captured as easily. (I've taken piano lessons for most of my life and I'm told I'm rather talented, although I'm nowhere near as good as professional musicians.)

Sometimes, an earworm gets attached to the point where I can't tell the difference between what's in my head and what I'm hearing with my ears. This usually happens when I've been playing a video game with MIDI-like music for a long period of time. (On a side note, I must have no taste, because I find I prefer the MIDI-like sounds of the NES and SNES-era to the more elaborate music of today's video games. The FF6 soundtrack is my favorite music, ever.)

Comment author: stcredzero 30 April 2009 12:20:35PM *  9 points [-]

There's a lot of great music that's gotten into videogames. Anything that people can listen to for hours on end and not get sick of must have some merit.

(Anyhow, the only true measure of taste is what people like years hence. And even supposedly great musicians can be unreliable predictors.)

I think a lack of aural imagination explains a lot of mediocre musicians who are beginners, and who stay beginners, in traditional music. They are only trying to waggle their fingers in the right magical sequence to get the tune to somewhat come out. They're not hearing the tune in their head and letting it come out.

Comment author: Hayashi 27 March 2012 12:24:51AM 2 points [-]

No, some of the music of the NES and SNES era are the best music ever written. And I was born AFTER that era, so by the childhood argument my favourite music ought to be of the early Pentium games I played... I only heard the music of the SNES era more recently. They are actually THAT GOOD.

Ditto, the thing that people still listen to Mozart and Beethoven even though they've been dead for centuries.

I'd argue that music nowadays is regressing to the lowest common denominator of rhythm and losing all the melodic complexity I like. And melodic complexity is perfectly achievable using only 8-bit instruments.

On my end my visual imagery is poor, I can barely remember faces, places clearly, but it does exist somewhat.

HOWEVER

My aural imagery is nearly peerless relative to any of the people I know in real life, I can sing songs in languages I know after two passes and in languages I don't after about 10 passes, I can isolate specific instruments from my memory of a song and play them back, not just the melody; I remember music not just as a whole, but as coordinations of multiple single instruments.

The idea that aural and visual imagery must be closely linked in itself is a generalisation.

Heck, for an extreme example I'd bet that the blind from birth generally don't have visual imagery and have greatly above par aural imagery, whereas the deaf from birth generally don't have aural imagery and have greatly above par visual imagery, though there will be instances where they have neither.

Comment author: CronoDAS 27 March 2012 07:42:03PM *  6 points [-]

I'd argue that music nowadays is regressing to the lowest common denominator of rhythm and losing all the melodic complexity I like. And melodic complexity is perfectly achievable using only 8-bit instruments.

I've also read that restrictions of the systems in those days are probably why there were so many games with memorable melodies; melodic complexity was the only kind of complexity possible, so that's what we ended up with. (I agree with this theory.)

Comment author: wedrifid 27 March 2012 01:48:14AM 5 points [-]

On my end my visual imagery is poor, I can barely remember faces, places clearly, but it does exist somewhat.

HOWEVER

My aural imagery is nearly peerless relative to any of the people I know in real life, I can sing songs in languages I know after two passes and in languages I don't after about 10 passes, I can isolate specific instruments from my memory of a song and play them back, not just the melody; I remember music not just as a whole, but as coordinations of multiple single instruments.

How did you manage to develop this superpower?

Comment author: Delta 30 August 2012 09:35:45AM 0 points [-]

I think this is something that varies between people. I was very surprised to learn that my sister doesn't even listen to the lyrics of songs, whereas I do and want to learn them so I can sing along (probably very badly, but hey) and get annoyed if I come to a part where I don't know the words. Likewise if I'm fully engaged during a film I can recall almost all of it, even some time later, whereas my sister can't (or perhaps wasn't as engaged in the examples I have in mind).

I'm sure experience helps too though. When I was younger used to listen to songs from anime and memorise the words despite not knowing the language. I probably wouldn't be as good at picking up lyrics if I wasn't as obsessive about knowing them and didn't listen to the same songs a lot.

Comment author: wedrifid 27 March 2012 01:45:08AM 1 point [-]

Ditto, the thing that people still listen to Mozart and Beethoven even though they've been dead for centuries.

This point is less strong than the SNES point. Mozart and Beethoven can be (more easily) explained by simple selection. There have been a lot of pieces of music written over many centuries.... etc.

Comment author: solipsist 20 October 2013 06:20:21PM 7 points [-]

Even after reading the article, this comment completely blew my mind. I knew intellectually that some people might have eidetic imagery, but didn't emotionally believe that people's visual imagination could really feel as vivid as life.

Unlike sounds, which obviously can be imagined as exactly as when you hear them.

Does this Futurama joke work for you? Do you get songs stuck in your head? I'm expecting a "yes", but am prepared to be shocked.

Comment author: fburnaby 13 April 2010 05:30:07PM 7 points [-]

My ex-girfriend's exceptional ability to draw realistic, well-proportioned humans in detailed scenes tipped me off to this phenomenon in much the same way.

I have very little ability to visualize a scene the way that must be required in order to do this. If I were attempting to draw (a pursuit I've long given up on, though I commend your attempt at overcoming the gap in your own abilities with music), I would have to draw an outline of the scene, and then come back and gradually fill in details, relying on my previous low-resolution version of the drawing for input as to how to draw the next iteration.

She was perfectly capable of starting on one end of the scene and filling it in at near full resolution. The proportion would be right in the end, requiring only minor touch-ups and modifications. She must have some very vivid image in her head.

Comment author: Jack 29 April 2009 09:44:14AM 2 points [-]

What were you methods for practicing? These are the sorts of practical skills that we could really experiment with and develop actual lessons and strategies for the development of certain mental abilities.

Comment author: cousin_it 29 April 2009 09:58:27AM *  10 points [-]

The Typical Psyche Fallacy says my methods won't necessarily work for everyone, but anyway...

The hardest part for me was the beginning, getting a toehold at any inner sound. Pick a note on the guitar - I started with D on the second string. Play it at a steady rhythm with rests, slowly fading away into nothing. (Might not be possible on the piano or other instruments.) At some moment the brain will start to "complete" the sound, even though by that point you're playing too softly to hear. Catch that feeling, expand on it. When you can "do" several different notes, try playing a simple melody and hearing it afterwards. After you're comfortable with that, try to hear a simple major scale without playing it immediately beforehand. Then work from unfamiliar sheet music without playing it - solfege-sing in your mind - by now I can do this quite easily. And so on.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 10:04:33AM 1 point [-]

I used to sing is a boys choir. At the time, I started to develop an ability to actually hear songs in my head, but I became afraid of this turning into uncontrollable hallucinations, so I suppressed the vividness of experience. I'm still not sure whether it's dangerous, as the issue never turned up since. But I urge you to research this risk before going deeper.

Comment author: pdf23ds 30 October 2009 12:19:20AM 11 points [-]

As a trained musician with a vivid aural imagination, I find this idea to be hilarious. Totally. Risky? Really? What could possibly be risky about practicing a skill that others possess in much greater quantities, due to the same sort of practice?

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 30 October 2009 12:56:18AM 6 points [-]

Remember, I had no data on this, and a priori starting to hear sound where it isn't really there seems like nothing normal. Even if you possess the knowledge to rule something hilarious, it doesn't necessarily invalidate the correctness of an a priori position. If I toss a coin without looking, you peak at it and see it's "heads", my suggestion that it might well be "tails" isn't wrong for my state of knowledge.

Comment author: pdf23ds 30 October 2009 06:42:22AM 3 points [-]

Granted, naturally.

Comment author: Tem42 14 June 2015 10:39:16PM 0 points [-]

It is worth noting that Musical Ear Syndrome is often framed as a condition in which 'victims' can 'suffer' from auditory hallucinations. Any intrusive mental event can occur to the point that it is negative. I have also heard some sufferers of OCD (specifically Pure O) complain of ever-present music.

However, I agree that in general, more music in your head is better :-)

Comment author: christina 06 August 2011 10:34:00AM 3 points [-]

I have had that ability all my life. I do not experience any sort of auditory or visual hallucinations as a result (I can distinguish the difference between a sound or image from my mind and one from my eyes or ears). I guess it was alarming to you because it turned up suddenly and you had no prior expectation of it. Maybe for some people this is something to worry about, but as long as you can perceive the difference between external inputs and internal ones, this abiility is actually very useful.

Comment author: arundelo 30 April 2009 05:23:44AM 2 points [-]

When you say "actually hear", do you mean that the only way you could tell that the sounds weren't real was that you knew (for example) the radio was off? Or do you mean something else?

Comment author: MrHen 30 April 2009 01:26:06PM 0 points [-]

When you say "actually hear", do you mean that the only way you could tell that the sounds weren't real was that you knew (for example) the radio was off? Or do you mean something else?

I would describe my related experiences as my imagination producing background noises. If I tried to concentrate on the background noises and bring them to the foreground they disappear and I only have the non-noise version left in my head. My hunch is that this latter state is more common amongst people who get songs stuck in their head: You think of words, you think of melodies, but you do not hear anything.

Another easy way to show the distinction, I never sing along with the fake audio. It is always background and as soon as I notice that I am hearing something it goes away. The experience reminds me of deja vu to an extent. I can tell something is hiccoughing in my sensory processing but instead of complaining about it I just enjoy the song as long as I can before it goes away.

Obviously, I cannot speak for Vladimir_Nesov.

Comment author: cousin_it 29 April 2009 10:12:12AM *  2 points [-]

My singing teacher can imagine polyphony and doesn't seem crazy. My opera singer friend can imagine vocal lines complete with manner, and doesn't seem crazy either. It seems to be a pretty standard ability of trained musicians.

Comment author: PhilGoetz 26 April 2010 11:02:28PM *  5 points [-]

Wait - there are people who can't do this? How do they get ear-worms? If you imagine Boris Karlof singing "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch", and the voice in your head doesn't sound like Boris Karlof, what does it sound like? How can you do a Ronald Reagan impression if you can't hear what Ronald Reagan sounds like in your head?

I get terrible, terrible ear-worms. I once heard parts of the first 2 movements of Beethoven's 5th nonstop for almost a week.

I've introspected about this a lot - yes, introspection bad - trying to figure out how many parts I can hear at once. At first I thought I could hear 3 to 4 parts at once (4 only when the song was very familiar or the parts were very different). But I can't hear even 2 parts begin at precisely the same moment. It seems to require very rapid, barely-perceptible, attentional switching between parts, on the order of tens of milliseconds, to change the note.

Mozart could reproduce complex polyphony after hearing it once, so he must have been able to hear and imagine all the parts. Although I'm sure he had very good compression and predictive accuracy to help him reconstruct it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 20 October 2013 06:53:28PM *  3 points [-]

If you imagine Boris Karlof singing "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch", and the voice in your head doesn't sound like Boris Karlof, what does it sound like?

It doesn't sound like anything.

If that seems odd to you, imagine a triangle.

No, really, do it. I'll wait.

Now: what color was that triangle? How many centimeters across was the base? Was it a solid, or a line enclosing an area, and if the latter how thick was the line? Did it have a matte finish, or glossy? Was it opaque, transparent, or translucent? If opaque, did it cast a shadow? Where was the light source, and how tall was the triangle, and what was the color of the light... for example, was the shadow cool or warm?

Most people's imagined triangles simply won't have those visual properties, even though triangles they actually see do have those properties, because imagination isn't a matter of re-presenting things to our visual systems. It's something else, though it has aspects of that.

In much the same way, when I imagine a song, it doesn't sound like anything... it simply doesn't have those acoustic properties.

Or, well, that's my default state. I've trained (mostly for my own entertainment) to where imagined songs have various acoustic properties for me if I pay close attention to providing them, but typically they don't.

Comment author: d65vid 11 February 2014 08:09:21PM 0 points [-]

So this is a few months later but I decided to respond anyways because 1) I had answers to many of your questions when I pictured a triangle and 2) my name is also David and "TheOtherDavid" is a name I frequently use online. How's that for typical mind?

Anyways, without even realizing I had done so, when I pictured my triangle, it was: solid, red-orange, matte, opaque, and it had no shadow. As triangles go, that particular form means nothing to me that I am aware of (it's not, for example, a sign I see at work on a regular basis or anything like that) it just happened to be what I imaged. For whatever it may be worth, I read "You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" et al in the appropriate voices in my head, but am unable to produce music or other specific sounds that I am aware of.

Similar to this type of thing, though, I experience fiction almost as a movie both as I am reading it and in retrospect. Even just after I have read a page, I will have no recollection of any of the particular words used to describe the scene, but will be able to recount everything that just happened in detail. It wasn't until I met my wife in the beginning of my time at college that I realized this wasn't how everyone experienced books.

Comment author: [deleted] 20 October 2013 10:12:14PM 0 points [-]

Now: what color was that triangle? How many centimeters across was the base? Was it a solid, or a line enclosing an area, and if the latter how thick was the line? Did it have a matte finish, or glossy? Was it opaque, transparent, or translucent? If opaque, did it cast a shadow? Where was the light source, and how tall was the triangle, and what was the color of the light... for example, was the shadow cool or warm?

Most people's imagined triangles simply won't have those visual properties, even though triangles they actually see do have those properties, because imagination isn't a matter of re-presenting things to our visual systems. It's something else, though it has aspects of that.

You might be generalizing from one example. There are plenty of games asking people to imagine (say) a cube, then asking them about various properties of the cube, and then purporting to relate them to features of the subject's personality, and I can recall very few people answering “I don't know” to any such question.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 21 October 2013 03:33:12AM 0 points [-]

I'm confident I'm not generalizing from one example, though I might certainly be overestimating the relevance of my sample.

To be a little more concrete, I would be very surprised if it turned out that more than, say, 10% of the population honestly included all of those elements, or even most of them, in their imagined triangle if instructed to imagine a triangle. Do you think I'm overconfident about that?

How many of those elements did you include in your triangle, before being prompted by the questions?

Comment author: [deleted] 21 October 2013 07:54:31AM 0 points [-]

How many of those elements did you include in your triangle, before being prompted by the questions?

I'm not sure you can generally answer that by introspection. At least in my case, when prompted by the question I remember having seen the specific detail. However knowing how the mind works, I also assign high probability to the explanation that my mind filled in the requested detail when prompted - rewriting my memory, loosely speaking. This is, I believe, the same phenomenon that makes eyewitness testimony so unreliable.

Comment author: Protagoras 20 October 2013 11:33:21PM -1 points [-]

"Very few" /= "none." People seem to vary widely in their visualization abilities. It hadn't previously occurred to me that they could vary in their auditory imagination, but now that TheOtherDave reports his experience, I feel like I should have expected it.

Comment author: christina 06 August 2011 10:11:42AM *  2 points [-]

Hi, Phil .

Seems like some people don't get them (incidentally, I'd never heard the term ear-worm used for it before now--I always thought of that as song-stuck-in-my head--yours is a good succinct term for it). I get them, though. Songs don't get stuck in my head too often, however, and I find I can easily make them go away by playing a few songs on a radio or mp3 player that are different from the song that's stuck there.

I addition, most of the time I can control the auditory channel in my thoughts, so I can use this to listen to songs I feel like hearing, and change these as desired. I can also use this to listen to other people's voices in my head, or to waves on an ocean beach, etc. I don't get perfect fidelity of remembered songs, but I can get both instrumentals and vocals. The lower the fidelity of the remembered song, the more the vocals sound like me(if I were a much better singer doing a passable karaoke of it).

Incidentally, why would introspection be bad? As an introvert, I desire large amounts of introspection. In addition, I think that understanding one's self is essential for knowing what one really wants in life, which in turn is essential for creating plans that will maximize your satisfaction of life. Some examples of this would be choosing the best major for yourself in college, choosing what employment you will seek, and choosing your overall approach to life. I feel this is always one part understanding myself and one part understanding the world.

Comment author: lindagert 06 August 2011 09:38:51AM 2 points [-]

Some of us are devoid of all mental imagery, not just visual, but in all sensory modes. It's awfully quiet in my mind! I've never heard a peep, not the sound of a voice --my own or anyone else's --, no music, nada. No ear-worms possible. I can't imagine Boris Karloff doing anything, because I can't imagine Boris Karloff! I can't hear what Ronald Reagan, or anyone else, sounds like. Auditory imagery sounds like a mighty fine superpower that I would like to have!

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 10:49:54AM *  2 points [-]

That's anecdotal evidence; if it's that usual, there should be a better study. How many people do you know that have hallucinations? Is not knowing people who can imagine hearing sounds but don't hallucinate any indication that there is as little risk of developing hallucinations in these people as in the rest of the population? What is the absolute risk with/without aural imagination? At most, you may place an upper confidence bound on the absolute risk, like 10%, which is not that good for deciding to jump off the roof. Also: "imagine" allows too much ambiguity, I was talking about hearing in a way that's basically indistinguishable from actually hearing (hence the worry).

Comment author: pdf23ds 30 October 2009 12:26:26AM 2 points [-]

I was talking about hearing in a way that's basically indistinguishable from actually hearing (hence the worry).

Ahh, I see. I've never really experienced this; I can always tell the difference between imagined sounds and real ones. Note that this is entirely different from the phenomenon of misinterpreting real sounds as being something else (especially very soft ones), which is completely harmless.

Comment author: MrHen 29 April 2009 01:30:33PM *  2 points [-]

To add more anecdotal evidence, I also "hear sounds" in my head that relate to music. I can catch myself actually processing these as audio which seems similar to your statement of actually hearing songs in your head. As soon as I notice it, it will go away.

The real example, however, is that I took an intro from a folk song and made it my ring tone. I hear that thing everywhere even when my phone is not ringing. I have no idea why. If I think, "was that my phone?" I start hearing the song.

Personally, I find it annoying, but not harmful.

Comment author: linguera 26 April 2010 10:55:45PM 8 points [-]

"As soon as I notice it, it will go away."

Wow, you are blessed. When I hear sounds in my head, whether remembered or imagined, I feel as though I literally hear them. They are not merely background noise... on some days all of the music in my head gets so loud I just can't think straight and I have to find a way to silence my inner world. When I hear a melody, even in isolation, I hear full harmonization in my mind, which is why if I start singing along with a friend I have to work at sticking to the melody and not expressing the accompanying harmonies I hear in my mind. Because hearing them so vividly while knowing the sensory sells in my choclea are not vibrating accordingly is sometimes frustrating, thus by creating phsyical expressions of the sounds I hear in my mind, I reconcile my external reality and my internal reality. All this, too, is anecdotal evidence, and evidence of perhaps nothing more than my own strangeness.

Comment author: Swimmer963 14 March 2011 07:01:46PM 1 point [-]

That is actually pretty cool. Are you a musician/composer in any form? If not...I think you could be without too much effort. I would love to have the ability to sing harmony on the spot...I know the theory well enough to write harmonized parts, but not in real-time because it's not intuitive to me. And when I have a song in my head, it's usually just the main vocal line my attention can hold. With a LOT of effort I can "hear" chords or two parts in counterpoint, but I have to work hard at it.

All this, too, is anecdotal evidence, and evidence of perhaps nothing more than my own strangeness.

I can imagine hearing imagined sounds like you do, maybe because it's something I wish I could do...although you find it annoying, so maybe I should revise my expectations. I do know that up until about age 11, when I was completely tone-deaf, I had almost no ability to hold a tune in my head..."songs" stuck in my head consisted of the lyrics, in rhythm, but in a sort of monotone. Which is how I would then sing them, which is why everyone said I was tone deaf.

Comment author: Alicorn 29 April 2009 02:11:09PM 2 points [-]

Is this related to the phenomenon where if I play on a Gameboy for a long time, I start hearing its music constantly (usually identifying it as someone else playing the same game on theirs)?

Comment author: steven0461 29 April 2009 02:43:01PM 3 points [-]

I'm reminded of the Tetris Effect.

Comment author: MrHen 29 April 2009 02:45:05PM 2 points [-]

Possibly. It certainly seems related, but I have no real idea. It seems a little more like processing long-distance repetition after the source has stopped. Hearing my ring tone may be more of an association between the thought "I wonder if I am going to miss a call" and hearing the ring tone. My experience backs this up: I only hear the ring tone if my phone is within earshot and I am doing something that causes me to miss calls (driving, taking a shower).

While we are talking about auditory randomness, when I listen to a large amount of music in a day and the next day listen to none, I have the songs from the previous day stuck in my head but in reverse-chronological order. The song I played at the end of day 1 is in my head at the beginning of day 2 and as the day progresses I move backward up my playlist. Has anyone else ever noticed this?

Comment author: Steve_Rayhawk 30 April 2009 05:13:16AM *  4 points [-]

The song I played at the end of day 1 is in my head at the beginning of day 2 and as the day progresses I move backward up my playlist. Has anyone else ever noticed this?

Related: Reverse replay of behavioral sequences in hippocampal place cells during the awake state (LiveScience, Nature News and Views)

Here we report that sequential replay occurs in the rat hippocampus during awake periods immediately after spatial experience. This replay has a unique form, in which recent episodes of spatial experience are replayed in a temporally reversed order. This replay is suggestive of a role in the evaluation of event sequences in the manner of reinforcement learning models. We propose that such replay might constitute a general mechanism of learning and memory.

Comment author: Emile 29 April 2009 05:35:44PM 1 point [-]

I can't relate ... that sounds weird. I'll certainly lower my expectations as to how other people's experience is like mine.

Comment author: pjeby 29 April 2009 03:05:31PM 0 points [-]

I became afraid of this turning into uncontrollable hallucinations, so I suppressed the vividness of experience. I'm still not sure whether it's dangerous, as the issue never turned up since. But I urge you to research this risk before going deeper.

You don't need to suppress it, you just need to include something to be able to tell the difference between it and a real sound. It doesn't even need to be something auditory, it can be imagining them coming out of a pair of imaginary speakers.

Hypnotherapist Milton Erickson is said to have cured a woman of schizophrenia in the following fashion: after finding out that she couldn't tell the difference between things that actually happened and things she imagined, he hypnotized the woman's therapist and asked him how he could tell the difference between fantasy and reality.

The therapist said that he saw imagined things in a little square box like a TV set, with a black border around them. So Erickson hypnotized the woman and told her to put a square black border around everything she imagined so she'd be able to tell the difference. Subsequently, she ceased to be "crazy".

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 03:17:48PM -1 points [-]

Your reply is not even anecdotal evidence. It only tells me that you find it fitting to give this particular advice.

Is your example with curing hallucinations supposed to impart the idea that getting hallucinations is OK, since they can be cured or worked around anyway? That's bullshit.

Comment author: pjeby 29 April 2009 03:47:16PM 6 points [-]

Is your example with curing hallucinations supposed to impart the idea that getting hallucinations is OK, since they can be cured or worked around anyway? That's bullshit.

No, it was intended to impart the idea that the primary difference between imagination and hallucination is whether you can tell the difference between the two. NLP latched on to this distinction from Erickson's example, and have since noted that skill in a wide variety of achievements (music, baseball, golf, interior design) rely on various forms of visual or auditory hallucination, and that these hallucinations are behaviorarlly indistinguishable from the hallucinations of crazy people. (Same eye movements/focal changes, same breathing/posture/ shifts, etc.)

The only difference they've been able to find is that the crazy people don't know when they're hallucinating, but they can be taught to do so.

IOW, distinguishing imagination from reality appears to be a learned skill, just like learning to imagine things on purpose.

Comment author: Annoyance 29 April 2009 03:57:57PM 12 points [-]

No, it was intended to impart the idea that the primary difference between imagination and hallucination is whether you can tell the difference between the two.

Yes, very yes! Talking to oneself is considered to be a sign of madness in folk psychology, but in actuality everyone talks to themselves constantly and merely represses the exterior component of this discussion to an incomplete degree. (The nerves of the larynx still react, making it theoretically possible to 'read someone's mind' by examining the electrical activity of the throat.)

People who hear voices aren't fundamentally different from normal people, except that they attribute their own internal thoughts to other entities instead of perceiving them to be self-generated. There's actually very little reason to think that the auditory system of such people acts differently.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 04:10:19PM 0 points [-]

No, it was intended to impart the idea that the primary difference between imagination and hallucination is whether you can tell the difference between the two.

Uncontrollable imagination that you can tell from reality but can't get rid of isn't fun either. I'm pretty confident it's called 'hallucination' too, although we'd need to look that up in a diagnostic manual to resolve the question of definition.

Comment author: pjeby 29 April 2009 04:17:09PM 0 points [-]

Uncontrollable imagination that you can tell from reality but can't get rid of isn't fun either.

True. Sometimes I find it annoying when a song gets stuck in my head. I usually just replace it with a song I like better, though.

Still, it would be nice to be able to learn how to suppress auditory information like that... which sounds like something you learned to do. Any pointers?

Comment author: jimrandomh 29 April 2009 05:29:01PM 0 points [-]

Still, it would be nice to be able to learn how to suppress auditory information like that... which sounds like something you learned to do. Any pointers?

This came up awhile ago; actually, we went back and forth a few times about it, here. That discussion looks like a clear case of the typical mind fallacy, on both our parts, but there may still be something of value there.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 04:29:26PM *  0 points [-]

I'm not very susceptible to this. On the rare occasions when it happens, a session of thinking about something with total concentration consistently does the trick. The routine of concentrating on one question or another during the day is possibly the reason this problem got away since childhood, but I won't count on that explanation. The statistics on what portion of people gets that effect, how often it goes away, and how often if goes away for e.g. mathematicians will be more informative as a start.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 09:58:14AM 1 point [-]

I don't see any reason why visual imagination can't be similarly trained.

I guess it can be trained somewhat, but not to a game-changing degree.

Comment author: MrHen 29 April 2009 01:20:15PM *  3 points [-]

Out of curiosity, can you back that up with a reference or really cool personal story?

(Edit) "Out of curiosity," was originally "No offense, but"

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 01:58:54PM *  0 points [-]

I'm sorry, maybe you misread my statement? I didn't assert anything extraordinary, on the contrary actually.

Comment author: MrHen 29 April 2009 02:38:00PM 2 points [-]

Well, I am not trying to say you were right or wrong, I was just wondering why you thought what you did. If the statement was merely a reaction, that is fine.

I didn't assert anything extraordinary, on the contrary actually.

Sure, I understand, but ordinary for you is extraordinary for me. My instinctive opinion is that visual imagination can be trained a significant amount. I have no real reason for believing that, however, so I thought that any input you can offer to the contrary will help me figure out the puzzle.

Comment author: Vladimir_Nesov 29 April 2009 02:54:56PM *  2 points [-]

The "No offence" prefix communicates a connotation that is strongly at odds with your elucidation above.

Anyway, my response was basically indicating that I'm unaware of evidence for training being able to improve visual imagination in a game-changing degree, my intuition tells that it isn't so, and so I'm surprised by cousin_it's remark. Although, strictly speaking, "I see no reason why it can't happen" communicates the same statement, but again with the opposite connotation.

Which is an example of exactly the kind of clash of overconfident beliefs resulting from different intuitive judgments that Yvain described in this article!

Comment author: MrHen 29 April 2009 05:46:43PM 2 points [-]

The "No offence" prefix communicates a connotation that is strongly at odds with your elucidation above.

Sorry. I changed it.

Anyway, my response was basically indicating that I'm unaware of evidence for training being able to improve visual imagination in a game-changing degree, my intuition tells that it isn't so, and so I'm surprised by cousin_it's remark. Although, strictly speaking, "I see no reason why it can't happen" communicates the same statement, but again with the opposite connotation.

Which makes sense. I guess my original comment was just a ping for "Is this an opinion?" but it did it in an confusing way. But I guess I got an answer, so it eventually worked. :P

Which is an example of exactly the kind of clash of overconfident beliefs resulting from different intuitive judgments that Yvain described in this article!

Haha, good point.

Comment author: pjeby 29 April 2009 03:06:37PM 1 point [-]

I guess it can be trained somewhat, but not to a game-changing degree.

What makes you say that?