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Science

How Your Brain Figures Out What It Doesn't Know 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the identifying-the-dunning-kruger-zone dept.
hex0D passes along an article at NPR about a study that examined the biology behind the self-assessment of knowledge. Quoting: "We isolated a region of the prefrontal cortex, which is right at the front of the brain and is thought to be involved in high-level thought, conscious planning, monitoring of our ongoing brain activity,' Fleming says. In people who were good at assessing their own level of certainty, that region had more gray matter and more connections to other parts of the brain, according to the study Fleming and his colleagues published in the journal Science."
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How Your Brain Figures Out What It Doesn't Know

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  • by cide (7039) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:21PM (#33621296)

    They should have correlated the study's participants with their preferred political party.

    • As well, the should have correlated the study's participants to whether their occupation is politician or not...

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by BitZtream (692029)

      Why? So they could see that people who vote based on a political party color have less development in those areas than people who make their vote by putting the effort into figuring out which politician will most likely do what they want regardless of political party or promises?

      Its cute that you wanted to make it political, but the very fact that you bring up 'party' shows you're an idiot.

      Vote for the guy who's going to do what you think is right, not because the guy flies your favorite color or animal.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by hedwards (940851)
        The problem though is that independents aren't necessarily any smarter than partisans, they're just not influenced by the same things.

        Republicans have run for quite a while of FUD, tax cuts for the rich and corporatism. Whereas Democrats have run more on emotions and notion that things ought to be more just and that we can do better than what we're currently achieving.

        Independents OTOH are tougher in many ways to pin down as some of them think that the party on their side isn't extreme enough, some wa
        • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

          by maxwell demon (590494)

          Republicans have run for quite a while of FUD, tax cuts for the rich and corporatism. Whereas Democrats have run more on emotions and notion that things ought to be more just and that we can do better than what we're currently achieving.

          Let me guess: You are for the Democrats, right?

          • And I'm going to guess you're for Republicans but the truth is that things are pretty much that way. Democrat *voters* are likely to choose "socialist" strategies. socialist means, for the betterment of society, specifically through government action since the context is governing policies.

            Socialism is the *obviously good* option as being opposed to it implicates being antisocial or in other words, for the detriment of society. So it's not Democrats but Republicans who have a more nuanced and rationalized p

            • And I'm going to guess you're for Republicans

              And you're going to guess wrong. I'm not American, so I'm voting for neither, but if I were, and I'd decide to vote for one of the large parties, it most probably would be the Democrats.

              but the truth is that things are pretty much that way.

              Well, his choice of words was what clearly revealed him: For Republicans he used words with clearly negative connotation ("FUD", "corporatism"), while for the Democrats he used words with positive connotation ("more just", "we

              • by ooshna (1654125)
                Unfortunately one very wrong thing about that is both the Republicans and Democrats try to use emotions to swing peoples votes in there favor. The Republicans use the scare tactics using national security as its main focus whether is be about terrorist, immigrants, or what have you. The Democrats use scare tactics as well but theirs usually deal with social problems like jobs, taxes(usually talking about the breaks given to businesses and the rich), and whatever the social flavor of the day happens to be.
              • Actually I think I have a better way to describe the political goals of both parties.

                See for so much the Republicans complain about government intervention they are enthusiast proposers of extending and empowering law enforcement agencies to unreasonable ends or indeed, to no end.

                Whereas it is population surveillance, suppression of free speech and public gathering etc

                Republicans are basically for the status quo and Democrats for change in contrast, which is why the Conservative/Liberal labels make much sen

        • by Jurily (900488)

          Independents OTOH are tougher in many ways to pin down

          Well, you are trying to handle INDEPENDENTS as a group.

    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by jellomizer (103300)

      I am willing to bet that if they did they wouldn't find much of a difference over all. Political Affiliation has influence of your environment your emotional response to particular issues and only a small fraction of actual rational thinking.

      Environment
      Left Wing Parties. Tend to have supporters who are people who directly benefit from government support. Live in Cities where they need governments to keep the infrastructure up so they can survive, or are students where the government invests into their fu

    • They should have correlated the study's participants with their preferred political party.

      How would matching participants with their flatlines help?

  • Oh dear.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:23PM (#33621302)

    So my brain didn't know that my brain didn't know...that my brain didn't know... break;

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by catmistake (814204)
      I'm going with Plato on this one... easier to swallow: we already knew everything, we just forgot, and we 'learn' by being reminded of what we already know (knew).
  • by Chocolate Teapot (639869) * on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:25PM (#33621312) Journal

    The ability to introspect about self-performance is key to human subjective experience, but the neuroanatomical basis of this ability is unknown. Such accurate introspection requires discriminating correct decisions from incorrect ones, a capacity that varies substantially across individuals. We dissociated variation in introspective ability from objective performance in a simple perceptual-decision task, allowing us to determine whether this interindividual variability was associated with a distinct neural basis. We show that introspective ability is correlated with gray matter volume in the anterior prefrontal cortex, a region that shows marked evolutionary development in humans. Moreover, interindividual variation in introspective ability is also correlated with white-matter microstructure connected with this area of the prefrontal cortex. Our findings point to a focal neuroanatomical substrate for introspective ability, a substrate distinct from that supporting primary perception

    Nope.

    • by Mikkeles (698461) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:34PM (#33621360)

      We found a distinct part of the brain that, if more developed in a particular way, lets one know that he sucks at making correct decisions. For everyone else, they don't realise that they suck.

    • by istartedi (132515) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @05:41PM (#33622418) Journal

      The ability to introspect about self-performance is key to human subjective experience, but the neuroanatomical basis of this ability is unknown

      Error correction is important; but we're not sure where the EC functionality is on this board.

      Such accurate introspection requires discriminating correct decisions from incorrect ones,

      Let's parrot the definition of EC in pretentious sounding verbiage so we'll look more important.

      a capacity that varies substantially across individuals

      Some of the EC chips are better than others.

      We dissociated variation in introspective ability from objective performance in a simple perceptual-decision task, allowing us to determine whether this interindividual variability was associated with a distinct neural basis.

      We ran the bogomips benchmark while some logic probes were placed in strategic locations.

      We show that introspective ability is correlated with gray matter volume in the anterior prefrontal cortex, a region that shows marked evolutionary development in humans

      We found some interesting signals on pin 3A of the 3rd chip from the CPU. By the way, did I mention that the Homo Sapiens model rocks? That's us. We RULE!

      Moreover, interindividual variation in introspective ability is also correlated with white-matter microstructure connected with this area of the prefrontal cortex. Our findings point to a focal neuroanatomical substrate for introspective ability, a substrate distinct from that supporting primary perception

      We're pretty sure that the ATMEL 5344-C with the glob of thermal goo performs some of this functionality on the system too. It looks like EC functionality is done on a couple of separate chips.

  • Mostly, it doesn't (Score:5, Interesting)

    by flaming error (1041742) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:27PM (#33621326) Journal

    In The Science of Fear (a book I heartily recommend), Daniel Gardner claims the strength of our "feeling of knowing" generally has no statistically significant correlation with factual reality. Humans are not very good at "knowing." and our most cherished concepts of "truth" may be unverifiable or demonstrably false.

    Which is why, paradox intended, a person who knows he knows nothing is wise.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by hedwards (940851)
      Precisely, I've found that I know far more than I think I know, and it isn't until later on that the knowledge is proved or disproved that I have any idea as to what I really know.

      It's odd sometimes how gut feeling and instinct end up being correct.
      • by Spatial (1235392) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:53PM (#33621464)

        It's odd sometimes how gut feeling and instinct end up being correct.

        Nope. Confirmation bias is perfectly normal.

      • When I was in high school, I used to try to cram for history exams the night before, having never cracked the book prior to the test. I would fall asleep sometime during the night, with my face in the middle of a chapter on, say, the Byzantine Empire.

        I would wake up in the morning without really recalling anything from the previous night. I must have dreamed, though, that I finished the chapter. I would walk into my exam feeling good about it: Constantinople was named after Emperor Constantine, there was
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by farnsworth (558449)
        "Do you know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than in your head? Look it up. Now somebody's gonna say, "I did look that up and it's wrong." Well mister, that's cause you looked it up in a book. Next time, try looking it up in your gut. I did. And my gut tells me that's how our nervous system works."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spatial (1235392)

      I'm quite certain that you're wrong!

    • [..]

      Which is why, paradox intended, a person who knows he knows nothing is wise.

      No, they aren't. They're retarded.

      Someone who imagines they know nothing is as retarded as someone who imagines they know everything. Wisdom cannot possibly be found in either of these simpletons.

      Some things are known. Some are not. Some are knowable. Some are not. Some are difficult to figure out, others are obvious. There's a universe of subtlety and complexity there, with all shades of grey from the deepest back to the most brilliant white.

      Wisdom is the ability to acknowledge this and find one's wa

  • by PPH (736903) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:27PM (#33621330)

    .... there's an anatomical explanation for who is ignorant. If it takes an autopsy to arrive at the proper conclusion, I'm fine with that. Shoot them all and let the coroner sort them out.

  • by Duncan J Murray (1678632) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:31PM (#33621350) Homepage

    Well, at 3 weeks prior to the most important professional exam of my career, I appear to be posting on Slashdot.

    I hereby donate my brain to medical science so that the lesion present in my prefrontal cortex can help pinpoint this area more precisely.

  • thanks (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday September 18, 2010 @02:35PM (#33621364)

    ...for not linking the NPR article -- and for linking the same paywalled article twice. Good job. Is this what you were going for?

    http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2010/09/16/129910351/how-your-brain-figures-out-what-it-doesn-t-know [npr.org]

  • by nebaz (453974) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @03:18PM (#33621592)

    Bill: "So-crates . . . the only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing."
    Ted: "That's US, dude!"
    Bill: "Oh, yeah!"

  • I like this.... I think..
  • So in the future, they'll demand a scan of your forehead, and if that region isn't large enough, you'll not get employed?

  • by manaway (53637) * on Saturday September 18, 2010 @04:01PM (#33621806)
    The study mentioned at the end of the NPR article with this quote: "In fact, there was one study where people who are narcissistic would say they are really spectacularly good at this and they were actually worse than everyone else" is referring to Unskilled and Unaware of It [homedns.org] (scanned pdf [psu.edu]). The Unskilled study covers regular people too, not just us narcissists.
  • What you don't know you don't know.
    • by robot256 (1635039) on Saturday September 18, 2010 @04:35PM (#33622010)
      "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know." --Donald Rumsfeld
      • by Yetihehe (971185)
        "And no one will convince us that white is white and black is black" - Some other politician.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Philotic (957984)
        "In March 2003, Donald Rumsfeld engaged in a little bit of amateur philosophising: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." What he forgot to add was the crucial fourth term: the "unknown knowns", things we don't know that we know - which is precisely the Freudian unconscious. If Rumsfeld thought that the main danger
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ZorroXXX (610877)
        Also expressed as Orders of Ignorance by Phillip G. Armour in "The Laws of Software Process":
        • 0OI - Lack of Ignorance. You know something.
        • 1OI - Lack of Knowledge. You know that you do not know something.
        • 2OI - Lack of Awareness. You do not know that you do not know something.
  • Think impressionist paintings with thick strokes. You have to take a few steps back to see them clearly. I think the same thing applies to decisions and planning; they're difficult to make because the one making them is too close, too attached to the situation.

    Years ago, I made some poor decisions. A few years later I saw how stupid they were and I thought "Ah, if only I had been as wise as I am now, I would have made good decisions back then". What I think now is I never got a lot wiser; it's just the det

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by macraig (621737)

      EMOTIONAL detachment is part of the key. Emotions are a dangerous input to allow in the decision-making process. Sadly as a species we are wired to allow exactly that, excepting those blessed with specific neural damage or mutations.

  • Anyone with a fully functioning prefrontal cortex knows this.

  • ...what you know that you don't know?

  • Sorry, my brain does not have that feature. It doesn't even know how much it knows.
  • third eye area....
  • "A man's gotta know his limitations."

    At least a slim majority of H. sapiens seems to come up a few cards short of what's required to do this effectively; I don't think there's nearly enough "marked evolutionary development". I wish it were fun for me to watch this circus. Will it ever be better?

  • So the left has committed itself to the godless religion of political correctness because it appeals to a lot of voters. What they miss is that political correctness is not science, it is a religion, and thus a lie. This doesn't bother them except that the opposition is a better liar. So they are like the monkey whose hand is stuck in the jar of peanuts and won't come out because he won't let go of the goodies. Both sides are simply pushing their religion on a society that doesn't want a religious state.

Whenever people agree with me, I always think I must be wrong. - Oscar Wilde

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