3.0 Facts and Observations

3.0 Facts and Observations

This chapter provides numerous known facts and observations about animal‘s (including human) learning and thinking capabilities. These observations are necessary for the development of a statement of requirements (Chapter 4.0) for Adaptron to address. Adaptron must be based on observable facts and the following is a collection of facts about animal learning and thinking.

These observations are oriented to an information processing explanation of learning and thinking. The observations are intentionally biased in this direction because it is the information processing aspects of learning and thinking that need to be understood if they are to be simulated in a computer. As a result these observations focus on the types of information involved, its flow, storage, comparison, input, output and transformation.

These observations draw heavily on well-understood psychological results from studies of animal and human behaviour. Since many psychological theories are informal or general in their specification it is often difficult to describe them in clear information processing terms. These observations only scrape the surface of the complexity of animal behaviour. There are many behavioural characteristics that have been intentionally left out because they are not related to learning and thinking or are too complex to help in this analysis. There are also human characteristics and subtle behavioural traits that have been purposefully simplified or omitted in this chapter in order to focus on the information processing aspects and the principles that are fundamental to learning and thinking. Most of the examples given in this chapter are based on human behaviour.

This chapter is structured such that the subjects are discussed in an order from the more tangible to the less tangible. The chapter evolves from what one would call facts to items that are purely observations. It starts from the outside, the environment in which we live and the senses and muscles we use to interact with the environment. Stimuli and responses are then described in a combination of psychological and cognitive science terms. Pattern recognition, habits, attention and concentration are then dealt with. These are required to get the stimuli into memory and allow for learning to take place. Feelings and their role in learning are also described. The less tangible concepts then follow with ideas, expectations, and finally thinking.

3.1 The Environment

Animals exist and live in an environment. In order for them to survive, their environment must satisfy certain characteristics that are outlined in this section. Theoretically an environment is a system of two or more objects that interact according to some rules. One of these objects is the animal. For example the environment (world) we live in consists of many objects, some of which are other animals that interact according to the laws of physics, chemistry and biology. This includes the fundamental laws of the three dimensions of space and time, and the forces produced by gravity, electricity/magnetism and nuclear reactions. However we perceive our environment as consisting of objects and events. The events occur when the objects interact.

Environments may be artificial (man-made) or natural. But both artificial and natural environments can be usefully described according to the following criteria:

 Number of dimensions

  •    Static                               vs Dynamic
  •    Deterministic                   vs Non-deterministic
  •    Completely Detectable   vs Partially Detectable
  •    Continuous                     vs  Discrete
  •    Safe                                vs Unsafe

The number of orthogonal (independent) dimensions that can be detected in an environment can be used as a measure of its complexity. An example of a simple one-dimensional environment would be a single pitch and single volume sound turned off and on in time. This is obviously an uninteresting environment although the strings of bits a computer uses are of this nature. By adding pitch as a second dimension and volume as a third dimension it becomes more interesting. The visual aspects of an environment can contain even more dimensions. There are the dimensions of time, colour, brightness, shape, relationships between objects and the three spatial dimensions. The senses of smell, taste and touch contribute even more dimensions to the environment we experience.

static environment is one in which nothing happens unless a force or an animal causes it to happen. It is a totally passive environment and in the extreme does not exist. If such a static environment existed there would be no wind, no change in the lighting, no sound, no other animals moving around. It would be rather like being on the surface of the Moon or locked in a sound proof room by yourself. A mouse in an empty maze is in a somewhat static environment. On the other hand a dynamic environment is active. Events may or may not be caused by the animal. There could be naturally repeating occurrences such as the sunrise, random occurrences such as rain or events caused by other animals. The real world is such a dynamic environment.

deterministic environment is one in which events are predictable. You can determine what will happen because the environment consistently operates according to some set of underlying rules. These rules might be the laws of physics or something less complex such as those of logic. But the same unwavering cause and effect relationships always hold true in a deterministic environment. A non-deterministic environment acts randomly and therefore unpredictably. You can not determine the underlying cause and effect laws. You can’t predict what will happen next from the current state of affairs. Note that chaotic environments such as the weather are deterministic in the short term but are non-deterministic in the long term. But one of the most important features of a deterministic environment is that when two events frequently occur together or within a short time frame (usually less than a second) they are most likely related. If they are not related the probability of them occurring together again drops off dramatically as the number of events occur. This feature allows an animal to function with a high degree of confidence that should two events occur at the same time they are related in some way and will most likely reoccur together.

completely detectable environment provides all the information in some form that an animal would requires for making a decision. If there is insufficient information then the environment is said to be partially detectable or noisy.

continuous environment provides infinite shades of grey for all possible dimensions. Time and space are continuous. Objects have infinite possibilities for colours, sizes, shapes and positions. On the other hand objects in a discrete environment would only have a fixed set of possible values for each dimension. For example colours might be restricted to black and white or positions would be limited to specific places like the squares on a chessboard. The dimension of time could be made discrete if a second was the smallest unit of time. Then there would be no such thing as half a second. Usually by refining the resolution of a discrete dimension one can closely simulate what would happen in a continuous dimension. This is what happens when we digitize music. The sampling rate of the music’s volume is so fast that when it is reproduced we can not detect the discontinuous nature of the information used.

safe environment is one in which an animal can act without any chance of it being damaged or dying. A person in a straight jacket in a padded room could be said to be in a totally safe environment, at least as far as his body is concerned. However it may not be the safest environment for his mind. An unsafe environment however never provides an opportunity to survive for any length of time. The inside of a volcano is unsafe to animals, as would be the inside of a working machine such as a combine harvester. Most environments in which intelligent animals live are safe for long periods of time. This has allowed them to evolve, learn and think. And it is through these processes that they have been able to survive for long periods and avoid damage or destruction from the infrequently occurring unsafe events.

The real world environment we experience most of the time is dynamic, deterministic, and partially detectable at any one time, continuous and generally safe. It is extremely complicated because of all the dimensions that we can detect with our senses. At times our real world deviates from these characteristics. We experience non-deterministic events but our nature is to try to either understand them or avoid them. Examples are a chaotic environment such as the weather or a purely random environment such as that produced by the radioactive decay of Uranium. At times our environment is unsafe due to weather, natural disasters or man made events but our nature is to protect ourselves from them. Examples include tornadoes, earthquakes or even a flight of stairs from a baby's perspective.

3.2 Stimuli and the Senses

"Nothing is in the mind which was not first in the senses." Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

Stimuli are the inputs to an animal. They are the pieces of information that are produced by the senses when the senses detect the environment. They are received and processed by the brain. Stimuli are the effects in the cause and effect relationship. From an animals perspective the stimulus information is the same as the environment because there is no other way for an animal to know the environment.

Animals have many senses to provide stimuli from the world around them. Thus stimuli are often called sensations. Senses convert the environment into stimulus information. The five most commonly described human senses are the external senses. Human external senses and the types of information they provide are those of:

 Body part       Sense of             Types of Information
 Eyes              Sight (visual)       3-dimensional colourful images
 Ears               Hearing (oral)     noises, sounds
 Skin               Touch (haptic)     contact pressure, heat and electricity
 Mouth            Taste                   flavours
 Nose              Smell                  aromas, scents, and odour

Note that each sense is able to detect one or more of the environmental dimensions previously discussed. The act of receiving external stimuli is called perception.

However in humans there are more than just these five external senses that produce information for the brain to process. There is also the internal environment of the body that the brain monitors. Additional 'internal senses' gather information about its state. These are usually associated with how you feel. These senses include the following but most likely there are others:

 Body part               Sense / Feeling of       Types of Information
 Inner Ear                Balance                       orientation, acceleration
 Joints / Muscles     Kinaesthesia                position, strain / tension
 Stomach + Blood   Hunger and Thirst        building material and fuel (food and water)
 Brain parts             Tired, sick                    stored energy, state of repair

External senses provide external environmental stimuli while internal senses provide internal body stimuli. From this point on I consider the body of the animal as part of the environment in which the animal lives. Both the external and internal senses can provide pleasant and unpleasant stimuli when they detect information related to survival. Useful foods such as sugar are perceived as pleasant. But when the intensity of a stimulus exceeds some threshold it is usually detected as pain. Perceiving internal stimuli is called proprioception.

All external senses can be used to receive communication from another animal but not all are used for communication. The following table provides some examples of pleasant and unpleasant stimuli and communication mechanisms for some senses.

 Sense of         Pleasant / Unpleasant         Communication
 Sight               colour, patterns / bright       words, gestures, symbols
 Hearing          music / screech                   words, signals
 Touch             tickle / burn                          texture, heat
 Taste              sweet / spicy                        N/A
 Smell              perfume / acrid                    pheromones, scent
 Balance          rocking / dizzy                     N/A
 Hunger           full / empty                          N/A

The recognition of objects and events in the environment usually requires the detection of many simple stimuli that come from them. Let’s look at an example of each.

An example of an object as we perceive it is an apple. The image of an apple originates from the sense of sight and has many features that include shape, size and colour. By eating an apple we add additional features to it such as taste, texture, weight and firmness. A particular apple may be seen as red in colour while another is green. But both apples share most of the same features and some or all of the same values for those features because they are of the same type of object. Each feature is a simple stimulus that corresponds to one of the environmental dimensions that is measured by an appropriate sense.

An example of an event is a door closing. The stimulus consists of the sight of the door in motion and the noise as it closes. These two simple stimuli come from different senses but occur at the same time.

Any such simultaneously occurring combination of simple stimuli I call a composite stimulus. Whether two stimuli are perceived as being simultaneous or not is determined by the ability of the senses to resolve them in time. I use the term stimulus very generally to cover all possible information, simple or complex that can be detected by an animal. Section 3.5 - Recognition deals with composite stimuli in more detail.

Some of the feature dimensions of stimuli recognized by our senses are:

 Sense of          Features (subset)
 Sight                colours, size, and pattern
 Hearing           volume, pitch, duration
 Touch              pressure, temperature
 Taste                sweetness, sourness, and saltiness
 Smell               sweetness, acrid, musty
 Balance           yaw, pitch, roll, and acceleration
 Kinaesthetic    angles, strain (weight)

Stimuli features can become more complicated than colour or volume. Features such as spatial relationships between objects and features involving size and contrast are all possible. But there is one other stimulus that we often overlook because there is no obvious external or internal sensor for it and most of the time we use it subconsciously, and that is the sense of time. It is actually quite an accurate sense for detecting the rate that something is happening or the duration between events.

I broaden the meaning of the term 'stimuli' in later sections to include these more complicated features as well as to include information from other sources such as feelings and ideas. However, in all cases a stimulus remains the information that is received by the brain.


  • Stimuli are information input to an animal's brain from its senses.
  • External and Internal senses are two sources of stimuli.
  • Environmental objects and events are detected as composite stimuli.
  • A composite stimulus can be comprised of many simple stimuli
  • A simple stimulus is the value of a single feature detected by a particular sense.
  • Each sense can detect many features.

3.3 Responses

Responses are the outputs from an animal. From an external perspective they appear as the visible actions of the animal. From an internal perspective responses are information that is sent to the animal's muscles (actuators) to cause actions in the environment. This section describes responses from this internal perspective. This book does not cover responses that the brain produces to control the body in other ways such as through the generation of specific chemicals such as adrenaline or hormones. Responses provide the mechanism by which an animal can cause an effect in the environment. Therefore it would be more accurate to say the response controls the muscle to produce some change in the environment.

Muscles are used to produce a variety of environmental effects. Examples include noise and speech via the larynx and movement via the limbs. Often we cause the environmental effect indirectly through the use of a tool. The piano is an example of a tool we use to create music. Using our lungs to blow out air against something is an example of using air as a tool to obtain an effect; however the actuator is still a muscle, specifically the diaphragm.

Muscles, all over the body are used indirectly to communicate to others; we call this body language. However, communicating is most often done via muscles that produce our voice or through movements of the hands as in sign language and writing.

Many responses are only used to control the external senses so they can collect different quantities of stimuli or select different features of stimuli. These are called orienting responses. We have more accurate control over some senses than other senses. We can move our eyes and close or open them in order to select or deselect stimuli. For our ears we must put our hands over them to shut out the sound and rotate our head to hear something better. We can change what we touch by moving our bodies so our skin comes in contact with an object or do what babies do, feel objects with our mouth. There is however little or no muscular control possible for selecting stimuli from our internal senses such as the inner ear or our stomach. The orienting responses include:

 Sense of           Body part moved           Some Features Selected
 Sight                 eyes, eyelids, lens         location, brightness
                           iris, head                       distance, size
 Hearing             head, hands                  volume, direction
 Touch                skin, tongue                   texture, temperature, and solidity
 Taste                 tongue                           flavours
 Smell                lungs, head                    aromas

Muscles are actually comprised of multiple fibres and it is at the fibre level that individual simple response signals are sent. A twitch is a good example of a simple response. However, to control the speed or strength of a motion many simple responses must be sent to varying combinations of muscle fibres. These composite responses, which involve controlling a combination of muscles are more complex and occur more often. An example of a composite response is closing your hand. To close your hand and grasp something many muscles must work in unison at the same time and in a particular order. Each muscle must be controlled by its own simple response. Thus the term 'response' is a very general one that covers all possible information, simple and composite that can be output by an animal's brain to its muscles. These responses are called ballistic movements in psychology. They are ballistic because there is no opportunity to adjust them during their execution. Section 3.6 - Performing Habits deals with this in more detail.


  • Responses are the outputs from an animal's brain to its muscles.
  • A simple response controls a single muscle fibre to contract or relax.
  • A composite response is a combination of simultaneously issued simple responses.

3.4 Behaviour and Reflexes

The observable behaviour of an animal results from it performing actions in response to stimuli it perceives. The detected stimuli trigger what are best called behaviour sequences. A behaviour sequence is the combination of a stimulus and a response that follows it. An animal's overall behaviour is composed of many behaviour sequences that operate together or separately and in parallel or sequentially such that the animal achieves its goals.

3.4.1 Reflexes

Reflexes are the simplest behaviour sequences. They are pre-programmed in an animal from birth (innate). Blinking, sucking, swallowing, burping and sneezing are typical examples of animal reflexes. Simple reflexes such as these consist of a triggering stimulus and an associated response. As soon as the triggering stimulus is detected, the response is sent to the appropriate muscle or muscles. These are also called reflex arcs. The recognition of the triggering stimulus is immediate. There is no learning or decision making process involved. These simple one-shot reflexes are innate because evolution has determined that the action is usually the correct one to take in the situation indicated by the triggering stimulus. The whole process takes place at a subconscious level. It is only after the reflex is complete that we become aware, if at all, of what took place. Other examples of simple one-shot reflexes are the retraction of the arm when a finger is burnt or the knee jerk reflex in which the lower leg jerks forward when tapped just below the kneecap.

Feedback stimuli play an important role in behaviour sequences. Even in a one-shot reflex there is feedback involved in its execution. This happens because as soon as the action occurs kinaesthetic stimuli are received and usually the triggering stimulus stops. Feedback is discussed in more detail below.

Composite reflexes such as the startle reaction in response to a loud sound usually involve the recognition of a more complex composite stimulus and/or the production of a more complex composite response because multiple muscles are moved. But these reflexes are still one-shot because they are only triggered sporadically.

Figure 1 illustrates the relationship between reflexes, stimuli, responses and the environment.

 │                                     │                                                                 triggering               
 │                                     │               effect  ┌───────────┐     stimuli                 
 │                                     ├─────────>┤                            ├─────────────>┐              
 │                                     │                          │       Sensor          │                                   │
 │                                     ├─────────>┤                             │       ┌──────────┴────────┐      
 │                                     │       feedback    └───────────┘        │                                                  │      
 │       Environment          │                                                                  │     Reflex                                   │     
 │                                     │                         ┌───────────┐         │                                                  │      
 │                                     │                         │                             │        └──────────┬────────┘      
 │                                     ├<─────────┤       Actuator        │                                    │               
 │                                     │   cause            │                             ├<─────────────┘               
 │                                     │                         └───────────┘ responses               

 Figure 1 - Reflex Behaviour

Continuous reflexes are more interesting than one-shot reflexes because they involve the use of continuous feedback to control a body part using several muscles. An example is the movement of the iris muscles so that the pupil size is adjusted to allow the correct amount of light to fall on the retina in various lighting conditions. In this case the feedback loop starts when the retina detects a high or low light level stimulus. This light level is compared with the desired level. When there is a significant enough difference between the two the appropriate contraction or relaxing response is sent to the iris muscles. This changes the pupil size, which changes the light level falling on the retina, and thus the loop is repeated, continuously and subconsciously.

In general the following events take place when a continuous reflex behaviour sequence is performed:

  1. Comparison of current stimulus with desired stimulus
  2. Appropriate response
  3. Feedback stimulus
  4. Repeat the above at event 1.

Depending on the type of reflex, we have no control over it, we can control it when necessary, or we learn to replace it with other behaviour. For example we have no conscious control over pupil size but we can take control of our blinking. We can also override the withdrawal of our arm when a finger is burnt because it is possible to intentionally place your hand in a flame and hold it there. And the baby’s crying which is a reflexive response triggered by hunger, discomfort or a loud noise is replaced by new behaviour for these triggering stimuli as it matures. Reflexes that have proven through evolution to be most effective are not usually replaceable via learning. For example blinking is an example of a reflex we do not replace. The subject of consciously controlling, inhibiting or overriding these reflexes is dealt with in more detail in Section 3.15 - Thinking.

The following table summarizes the reflexes mentioned.

Reflex     Simple /           One-shot/           Controllable     Replaceable
               Complex          Continuous
Knee       Jerk                  simple  one-shot        No               No
Arm         withdrawal        simple  one-shot        Yes             No
Blink        simple              one-shot                     Yes             No
Startle     complex            one-shot                    No              No
Pupil       complex            continuous                 No              No
Crying     complex            continuous                Yes              Yes

3.4.2 Feedback

Reflexes that involve feedback such as pupil control are simple forms of behaviour. Feedback is also used in more complex behaviours such as to regulate a combination of muscles such that a part of the body stays in a desired position. In fact all behaviour requires a supply of appropriate feedback stimuli from one or more senses for its control. In order to hold out an arm for a period of time many muscles must be controlled and kept in a fixed position. If you try to hold your hand in the air you may notice extremely small motions of the hand that result from minute adjustments being made to the muscles to maintain the position. The feedback stimuli being used for this task come from the kinaesthetic sense. The sense of sight is not necessary because this can still be done with closed eyes. Your kinaesthetic senses are very accurate. With your eyes closed try holding out your arms horizontally to either side, your hands in a fist position with thumbs extended forwards. Then swing your arms together in the middle so that your thumbs are within an inch of each other. Open you eyes and see how close your thumbs came. The kinaesthetic sense is also used to control the smooth motion, the tension and speed of muscles when lifting a weight. The concept of control and feedback is the essence of the science of cybernetics.

But why is feedback necessary? Why not send a muscle the correct response information telling it where to move and let the muscle figure out what it has to do to accomplish the task? The problem with this approach is that each muscle would need its own degree of intelligence. And our environment is a dynamic one, it needs to be monitored. Muscles are simple devices that contract and then naturally relax shortly after the contraction signal. To obtain any form of controlled action by using such simple components as muscles a continuous stream of contraction responses which is regulated by continuous feedback is necessary. So movement to a desired position is achieved by using a continuous sequence of feedback stimuli, comparing them with the desired stimuli (the position) and issuing a continuous sequence of appropriate corrective responses to the muscles. Feedback is essential to controlling behaviour and will be revisited in later sections.

3.4.3 Behaviour

Animal behaviour is far more complex and consists of much more than the actions exhibited by reflexes. In general the behaviour of an animal is achieved through a combination of stimuli and responses. The resulting feedback stimuli are either the effects in the environment caused by the animal's responses or they are stimuli from internal senses. Such stimulus-response behaviour sequences can be chained together because the resulting feedback stimulus from one sequence is or contains the triggering stimulus for another sequence. This happens with kinaesthetic stimuli and muscle responses to achieve smooth actions. Another example is uninterrupted speech that requires the sound of one's voice as immediate feedback. Section 3.6 - Habits deals with chains of behaviour sequences in more detail.

Provided an animal is conscious, behaviour sequences are always available to be triggered and performed. This implies they are kept in some form of representation within the animal (memory) and can be used when the situation warrants. It is also possible for an animal to have multiple sequences triggered and/or being performed simultaneously. This implies a high degree of parallelism as is seen in the functioning of the nervous system.


  • A simple reflex consists of a simple triggering stimulus and simple response.
  • A composite reflex consists of a composite stimulus and/or composite response.
  • Reflexes are performed sub-consciously and become conscious after the fact.
  • One-shot reflexes involve one triggering stimulus and one response.
  • Reflexes require feedback stimuli to control their execution.
  • Some reflexes we can control or inhibit while we have no control of others.
  • We learn to replace some reflexes as we mature.
  • The use of feedback in regulating responses is found in all behaviour.
  • A behaviour sequence consists of a stimulus and a response.
  • Behaviour sequences can be chained together.
  • Behaviour sequences can be performed in parallel.

3.5 Recognition

Recognition is a process that is performed on stimuli. When applied to the sense of sight it is called pattern recognition and for the sense of hearing it is called voice or speech recognition. But recognition is not restricted to just sight and hearing; it takes place for all senses. Across all possible senses, recognition is the process of matching stimulus information with known stimuli. Stimulus information must be matched up by sense and at the feature level for recognition to take place. This occurs not only for simple stimuli but also any combination of stimuli making up a composite stimulus. Recognition also takes place for a sequence of stimuli over time. Recognition is the process of finding the information that is common to both the incoming stimuli and the known stimuli.

The objective of recognition is the identification of something. Recognition provides the 'same as' or 'similar to' information about a stimulus that triggers a behavioural sequence or confirms the feedback stimulus. It must also provide the 'different from' information so that incorrect behaviour is not triggered and feedback stimuli are correctly used to adjust responses. One could say that recognition converts the stimulus information into a concise package or unit that uniquely identifies the triggering or feedback stimulus of a behaviour sequence. This new unique identification is referred to as a high level stimulus.

The high level stimuli that recognition produces correspond to things in the environment. All such things can be grouped into a number of categories. There are the tangible things (three dimensional objects, locations, organizations / logical groupings of things), the abstract things (democracy, love, etc.), and events (interactions between things). There are two important ways in which we recognize these things. One way is based on the composition of their features and the other is based on the kinds of things they are. We first recognize things that are complex as collections of stimuli. Once we can recognize a variety of such complex things we then begin to recognize differences between them and thus identify kinds of things. An example of this process is the recognition of letters. We first recognize a letter as a collection of straight and curved lines and dots that are all touching or close to each other. Only after recognizing what is and what is not a letter can we start to distinguish between the different letters.

Instantaneous recognition of a complex thing requires the recognition of the things from which it is composed. A written word is a collection of stimuli that are its letters and a letter is a collection of stimuli that are its lines. This means that a high level stimulus is the identifier for a collection of other stimuli. These component stimuli are simple stimuli if the high level stimulus is identifying a composite stimulus. But these component stimuli can also be other high level stimuli. This produces a hierarchical structure of high level stimuli that is based ultimately upon simple stimuli. The stimuli that make up a high level stimulus can be thought of as the features of that high level stimulus. As an example, a house is a collection or combination of stimuli. It consists of the features of windows, doors, roof, chimney etc. each of which is a high level stimulus by itself. Humans are able to carry on this process ad infinitum. For example, a combination of houses plus other features as stimuli such as roads might be recognized as a village.

In summary, instantaneous recognition of a complex thing is the process of taking a number of features of the stimulus and producing one piece of identifying information that becomes a new stimulus. These new stimuli can then be used as features for identifying more complicated things. This process produces a multi-level hierarchy of more complex recognized stimuli. This is the process of reducing many pieces of information (features) from the senses into much less but more relevant and symbolically representative information. This process is that of induction as applied to stimuli. Note that the term induction is more broadly used to describe the process of thinking in which a rule or conclusion is drawn from a large set of known information or examples.

Recognizing complex stimuli is also at play when we consider our ability to recognize sequences of noises over time in performing speech or music recognition. At birth we are able to recognize a small set of utterances, usually things consisting of a small number of syllables. As we mature and learn we are able to recognize the more complex combinations of sounds, discriminate between similar utterances and dealing with them as new individual words. Recognition is a process that is always improving. It is a process of discriminating between some stimuli and deciding they are different while generalizing between other stimuli and deciding they are the same. This process is described in more detail in Section 3.13 - Learning.

To understand the recognition of kinds of things we note that animal behaviour is often triggered not by the recognition of a particular thing but by a common subset of the features of the thing which determine its type. For example we might recognize a type of animal called a bird by some combination of its features of feathers, beak, two legs, two wings, lays eggs, may fly etc.  Here we are using the existence or absence of common features and/or features with common values to recognize types, kinds of birds rather than recognizing a specific bird. We tune our behaviour to react to the recognition of the type of thing or the specific thing as necessary. The spectrum of kinds of things starts at one end with specific things. It then categorizes things by all sorts of combinations of common features and finishes at the other end with general things. For example, my dog Rusty is a specific thing, but he is a Labrador, which is a kind of dog, which is a kind of canine, which is a kind of mammal, which is a kind of animal, which is a kind of living thing, which is a kind of thing. Being able to recognize this spectrum is a skill called classification or categorization. This has been the subject of investigation of psychology and AI research for many years and much has been written on the subject. Psychologists have investigated these human classification skills and techniques in some depth.

Recognizing different kinds of things is important because of the variety of things that look different but can all be used for the same purpose. Take for instance the variety of chairs that exist. We recognize all manner of possible chairs but it is the recognition of a subset of a chair's features e.g. horizontal surface, above the floor and perhaps the fact that it can be moved to where needed that triggers our sitting behaviour. We then use recognition to distinguish between a chair, a stool and a bench via the features of backrest and width versus depth. The result triggers variations in our sitting behaviour.

Recognition as the process of identifying high level stimuli implies the existence of some form of memory or representation of high level stimuli for comparison purposes. Otherwise no identification or recognition could be made. Recognition and its use of some form of memory are critical components in the learning and thinking processes.

Ongoing recognition of familiar stimuli is a subconscious process. But it begins at first with two or more unfamiliar simple stimuli that are consciously detected. These are remembered. When they occur again the brain recalls them and learns that they repeat and are predictable. From then on their recognition becomes a habit that can be performed subconsciously.


  • Recognition matches stimulus information with memorized stimuli.
  • Recognition identifies complex stimuli as high level stimuli.
  • High level stimuli correspond to things in the environment.
  • Things are tangible, abstract or events.
  • We first recognize composite stimuli as collections of other stimuli / features.
  • We then recognize kinds of things which have common features / stimuli.
  • Recognized stimuli provide cues and feedback for behaviour sequences.
  • Recognition is learned and becomes a habit.
  • Recognition of familiar stimuli is subconscious.

3.6 Habits

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)

A habit is any form of behaviour that must first be learnt and then it can be performed subconsciously. Habits can be divided into two types: Recognition and Action Habits. Recognition habits have been introduced in the previous section and are not covered in any more detail in this section. They are usually performed instantaneously on a collection of stimuli but may also take some time to be performed as in recognizing a tune from the first few notes. There is no response involved in a recognition habit.

An action habit is a group of one or more behaviour sequences that has been learnt. A small sample of human habits includes catching, throwing, clapping, walking, eating, scratching and winking. When an action habit is performed it is initiated by a single conscious command. In the performance of a habit the responses that occur and the recognition of the feedback stimuli are done subconsciously and result in the actions of the animal. Performing habits can be viewed as the process of taking a single high level response, which is the conscious command to begin the habit, and performing its component behavioural sequences which are eventually broken down into simple responses and feedback stimuli for final performance. A good example of such an action habit is tying a shoe lace.

The objective of a habit is to cause some change in the environment. Habits incorporate a proven sequence of responses and feedback stimuli necessary to achieve a result or goal of the animal. So performing a habit converts the single habit identifying command into the appropriate response and expected feedback information. The command that initiates a habit can be thought of as a kind of response. However it is an internal response that is only used to identify and start the habit.

There are two kinds of habits, the one-shot habit and the continuous habit. Examples of one-shot habits are to sit down, to roll over and to throw a ball. These are started, go through a chain of behaviour sequences and then stop when complete. Continuous habits, however, are habits that are started by a command and repeat continuously in a loop of behaviour sequences until they are explicitly stopped. Clapping, walking and pedaling are three examples. One can also become conscious of them as they are done and apply modifications to them. For example, as you are clapping you can change how hard you clap.

By combining habit initiating commands as responses with recognized feedback stimuli into new behaviour sequences and identifying them as new higher level internal responses we are able to control ever more sophisticated actions. To survive in the real world we must be able to control many things simultaneously and in sequence to obtain desired effects. Speaking, dancing, writing and walking are all good examples of complicated actions that would not be possible without the ability to perform higher level habits.

Habits are and can be learnt. At birth we are only able to perform simple innate reflexes such as blinking, sucking or crying, but as we mature we learn to produce the more complex aggregations of responses and perform them as habits. Performing a habit involves the use of one piece of identifying information, the command that starts the habit, and the production of a number of pieces of information, the component responses. This process produces a multilevel hierarchy of habituated responses. The process consists of expanding one relevant and symbolically representative piece of information from the mind, into many more pieces of information for the muscles. This process is described in more detail in Section 3.13 - Learning.

Performing habits could be viewed as the same process as recognition but in reverse. Recognition took many pieces of information and produced one stimulus identifier and the process is one of induction. Performing a habit takes one response identifier and translates it into many pieces of information. This process is one of delegation.

Habits imply the existence of some form of memory or representation for the commands and their associated responses and feedback. If they were not stored in a memory it would not be possible to repeat them. So habits and their memorization are critical components in the learning and thinking processes.

The performance of a habit is a subconscious process. But it begins at first with a behaviour sequence that is consciously done. It is remembered and then when the same initial stimulus occurs consciously the habit is triggered and is completed subconsciously.


  • Habits are one-shot or continuous behaviour sequences.
  • Habits aggregate responses into more complex, high level responses.
  • Internal, high level responses (commands) identify habits.
  • Habits are learnt.

3.7 Attention and Concentration

Attention has been described as a single channel through which features of stimuli pass to be recorded in memory. We say that attention can be focused on one sense or another. Then within a particular sense attention can be focused on one or more features of the stimulus. Donald Broadbent has described attention as a selective filter. Attention is continuously bombarded with all the stimuli from all the senses but it selectively filters one at a time for the mind to work with. The other stimuli are ignored. The stimuli that are selected then become conscious. It is not possible to focus the attention on more than one stimulus at a time. Attention must be switched from one sense to another or while on one sense it may be switched from one feature to another.

There are two ways in which attention can be switched from one sense and feature to another. Attention may either be attracted or it may be controlled.

A good way to understand these two is to describe attention as a mental mechanism that operates internally just like your eyes operate externally. Attracted attention is analogous to the reflexive movement of your eyes to a location at which they see something changing such as a bright flash or moving colourful object. The involuntary movement of your eyes is called an orienting response because a noticeable response occurs to orient them to the source of the stimulus.

However in the case of your attention its attraction is not noticeable by others because it is an internal mental function. Note that the eyes and the attention operate together whenever your eyes are reflexively attracted. The stimulus that triggers the orienting response of your eyes also interrupts your attention and causes it to be paid to the stimulus. It does not necessarily operate in the other order. You can have your attention attracted to something e.g. a noise behind you, but you may decide not to turn your head to hear it better.

Controlled attention can also be likened to how you control your eyes. You can move your eyes to look in a certain direction or focus on a particular object. Similarly you can control your attention to pick out a particular dimension of a complex stimulus. We do this when we try to pick out a person's voice in a crowded party. The senses and attention usually work together to obtain the best stimulus possible. When you pay attention in a controlled manner to something visual you move your eyes and the lenses focus to place the image in the center of your retina. However you can pay attention to something in your peripheral vision without an orienting response of your eyes. Likewise you can pay attention to the feeling of any place on your skin without moving.

The primary reason for our attention to be attracted to only one out of the many in-coming stimuli is the interest in change. A change in the environment is the sign that something has happened. A change occurs when there is a difference between the current feature and a past feature. There are two kinds of changes that attract your attention. One is an immediate change that can be detected from one moment to the next. An example is the sun coming out from behind a cloud. The other is an historic change from what you remember. For example if someone painted your front door a different colour without your knowledge this would attract your attention the instant you saw it. The bigger the difference and the faster the change in stimuli the greater the chance of your attention being attracted. Recognizing a change involves time. In mathematics the process of identifying changes in time is called differentiation. Your attention is therefore performing a continuous differentiation on all stimuli. It does this to identify the one(s) to which you should be aware.

It is interesting to also see the process of differentiation heavily used by the senses to identify features. The eyes or possibly the back of the cerebral cortex uses spatial differentiation for edge detection. Differences in brightness levels enable this. The eyes and cerebral cortex also perform differentiation over time to detect motion. These types of changes become features that are used to recognize stimuli. One could say that the information exists in the change. If there were no changes, there would be no information worth noticing. You most likely do not pay much attention to the colour of the walls in your room. This is because they are a continuous colour and do not change.

The second most important property of reality that attracts your attention and plays a key role in recognition is coincidence of changes. Since it is rare for independent events in nature to occur at the same time, when they do, we are interested. We automatically recognize them as belonging together and pay attention to them as a composite stimulus. Coincidence aids in our recognition of the event or object that has changed. For example, when we see someone move their lips and hear speech at the same time we assume the voice is coming from them. Ventriloquism makes effective use of this to make it appear that a puppet is speaking.

The attractiveness of a changing stimulus or feature to your attention can wear off over time. This happens when the stimulus is repetitive. Stimuli that repeat may attract your attention initially but you will disregard them after prolonged exposure. The chiming of a clock will attract your attention because each chime is a change from the silence that precedes it but you will disregard it after two or three chimes because it repeats. However when you decide to count the chimes you are controlling your attention and therefore each chime is attended to. The same applies to the sights and sound of everyday life. Our attention is no longer attracted to the sound of each car driving by as we walk along the street unless we purposefully watch them.

A third reason for a stimulus to attract your attention is its relevance. A relevant stimulus is any one that is important to the animal. At birth stimuli that are relevant trigger our reflexes. Examples are a baby feeling something in its hand and the triggering of its grasping reflex or the hunger stimulus that causes it to cry. As we mature we learn that many other stimuli are relevant. Hearing your name mentioned may attract your attention because it is relevant to you. The relevance of a stimulus and the learning of relevance are described in more detail in the section on learning.

If the changes in stimuli and their relevance attract attention then how can we explain cases where you do not hear your name called even though it was loud enough that you could have heard it? The reason is that you were concentrating. Concentration is the process of establishing a threshold, a level of intensity or relevance that a stimulus must exceed to attract attention.

Concentration becomes important when you don't want to be interrupted. Computers use this same principle for handling unpredictable interrupts from input / output devices. As an example a computer keyboard produces interrupts at a low priority or level of importance of 3 when keys are typed and the disk drive produces interrupts at a higher priority level of 7 when it needs to transfer data to computer memory. If you press a key the keyboard handling software routine is begun and it sets the allowable interrupt level at 4 or higher. If the disk has rotated to the correct position for reading the next block of data it will cause an interrupt at level 7. The keyboard routine will be interrupted because it can wait and the disk handling software routine will start to handle the data transfer from the disk. This routine immediately sets the allowable interrupt level to 8 or higher because it does not want to be interrupted by any lesser important / lower priority event while transferring the data to memory. Handling the disk drive is more important than the keyboard because the data transfer might only take 1 millisecond and that is not noticeable by a person who is typing and waiting for the letter to appear on the screen. Once the disk interrupt is handled the keyboard handling routine is resumed from where it was interrupted and the interrupt level is reduced to 4.

So whenever we control our attention to a particular dimension or feature we do so at a particular concentration level. Depending on this concentration level we may or may not be distracted by the reflexive attraction of attention. Someone with a short attention span cannot concentrate at a high enough level for very long and becomes easily distracted.

Attention is central to consciousness. We feel we are conscious of one thing at a time and we talk about the stream of consciousness. Included in this stream are the stimuli upon which attention is focused. However consciousness is far more complex than this and it will be expanded upon in later sections.

How do recognition and induction relate to attention? Recognition takes place at all stages of stimulus input but is a subconscious process that does not necessarily require attention. Thus there is subconscious recognition of triggering and feedback stimuli by both reflexes and habits. The attention makes use of subconscious stimulus recognition because it must ignore and discard familiar (historic) and irrelevant stimuli and make conscious the unfamiliar, changing and relevant stimuli. The heat of a candle flame on your finger best illustrates one form of subconscious reflexive recognition. It is recognized before you can pay attention to it. It must be recognized quickly because it must trigger a reflexive subconscious response. The detection of an historic change such as the new colour of your front door that attracts your attention also takes place subconsciously. And you are subconscious of the recognition process that takes place when your attention is attracted to something relevant.

Recognition of a stimulus at a conscious level requires you first to pay attention to it. Conscious recognition of a face takes place when you see it, pay attention to it, scan it and only then realize it is familiar or novel. Face recognition can also take place sub-consciously before attention is paid to it. Your attention can be drawn to a familiar face in a crowd with out being conscious of the pattern matching being performed. In the conscious recognition of a face you are aware of the process of concentrating on multiple facial features. Conscious recognition often takes time as you pay attention to various features of a thing. Recognition may occur only after you have paid attention for some time to a related sequence of features or stimuli. Recognition of a familiar tune only takes place after you have heard several notes.

In both subconscious and conscious recognition the process usually involves differentiation of information and coincidence detection. Differentiation detects changes and it is the existence of a change that indicates there is information worth learning and coincidental events are invariably related.


  • Attention switches between stimuli.
  • The switching of attention is either attracted or controlled.
  • Attended to stimuli become conscious and are recorded in memory.
  • A change, a co-incidence or the relevance of a stimulus attracts attention.
  • Change and relevance are determined immediately or are historically based.
  • Recognition uses co-incidence of stimuli to identify things.
  • Concentration sets a level of intensity and relevance for stimuli.
  • To attract attention stimuli intensity or relevance must exceed the level of concentration.
  • When concentrating, attention is controlled to focus on particular features.
  • Stimuli to which attention is paid contribute to the stream of consciousness.
  • Recognition can take place sub-consciously and consciously.
  • Sub-conscious recognition is necessary to cause an attraction of attention.
  • Conscious recognition occurs when we concentrate and control our attention.

3.8 Conscious Action

When it comes to responses and habits it is not so obvious that there is any mechanism equivalent to attention at the conscious level. Performing habits is a subconscious process because after they are begun our conscious mind is not involved in maintaining or completing them. But how do habits get started and what happens when they finish? These steps must involve conscious actions and these conscious actions are another contributor to the stream of consciousness.

To understand conscious actions the process of performing habits must be explored in more detail. Unfortunately for performing habits the only things we can recall are our observations of the results.

When performing any task that has become a habit i.e. learnt, there is a constant interplay between stimuli and responses. For example, you will find it difficult and unsettling to try and walk along a path while reading a book. It can be done provided you feel that you are safe and walking on a very smooth surface. If there is a possibility that you may trip over something you will tend to interrupt your reading every so often so as to visually check the ground ahead. Although walking is a habit and it is performed subconsciously, after it has been started it requires continuous sensory feedback to operate. One of the most important sources of feedback are your eyes and reading while walking stops you from using your eyes to walk. Other sources of feedback for walking are your inner ear and kinaesthetic senses. If instead of reading while walking you were talking with a friend you would not have the same problem because you do not use your hearing or voice when walking. All habits, one-shot and continuous ones, need a supply of appropriate feedback cues from one or more senses in order to operate uninterrupted. This is the same concept of control and feedback as described for reflexes.

Given that performing a habit is a process which issues a sequence of complex responses and monitors the feedback stimuli from particular senses after each response there must be a way of starting and stopping a habit. Action habits get started when we consciously issue their command as described in Section 3.6 on Habits. We are conscious of the specific decision involved in starting a habit.

There are three ways in which a habit may end. The performance of a habit may finish because it:

  • Completes successfully, 
  • Fails, or 
  • Is stopped.

In the case of completed or failed habits your attention may be attracted to the situation depending on your level of concentration. As a result you become conscious of the status of the feedback stimuli at the time of completion or failure.

Successful completion of a habit is recognized at the end of its performance when the final feedback stimulus of the habit occurs and there is no next response in the habit. The completion event in the form of the final feedback stimulus may attract your attention and you may become conscious of it. It should be the goal for which you started the habit.

Failure means that something went wrong or was different from what was expected during the performance of the habit. Definitely a reason to pay attention to the situation. This is a reflexive attraction of attention that is triggered by a change or difference in the feedback stimuli. The change has been detected during the performance of the habit as the feedback stimuli received are subconsciously compared to the stimuli that should have been received while performing the habit. The unexpected feedback stimulus is then available to be used at the conscious level as a trigger for an alternate response that may work in the unexpected situation. This results in learning of new habits.

A habit can be explicitly stopped by a conscious command to stop or inadvertently by a conscious action to begin another habit that interferes with the first one because it uses one, some or all of the same senses or muscles.

However a looping habit may sometimes be difficult to stop. An example is a common difficulty experienced when trying to feed a hungry crying baby. Often neither the smell of the mother nor feel of a nipple on the baby's cheek is sufficient to attract the baby's attention and to interrupt the baby's crying reflex. The intensity of the hunger stimulus is so great it continues to reflexively trigger the crying response.

When the performance of a habit is complicated or lasts too long it may require a certain degree of conscious control or intervention. Your mind needs to consciously issue a sequence of commands based on the dynamically changing situation. Driving is a good example of a habit where you can never totally delegate it to the automatic process of performing the habit.

 Learning to dance is a good analogy I should use somewhere.

Multiple habits can be performed in parallel but must be started one after the other. For example, you can begin walking along the street and then you can begin clapping. The two independent habits do not interfere with each other and are performed simultaneously. You could then start a third parallel habit by whistling a familiar tune. Each of the three habits has been learnt independently and can be performed in parallel without any previous practice of the three in combination.

Conscious action is also involved in the intentional inhibition of a reflex. When we play the game of staring at each other without blinking to see who can last the longest we are consciously overriding our blinking reflex. As soon as we have the slightest distraction from the task we blink. The same applies when we try to suppress hiccups or hold our hand in a flame. While we are performing these tasks we are concentrating intensely on issuing the response to control appropriate muscles and thus inhibit the reflex. Thus concentration applies equally to paying attention to stimuli and performing actions.

Errors that occur in habits


  • Conscious actions are the internal responses that begin or stop a habit.
  • Performing a habit uses feedback stimuli to monitor success.
  • Habits finish because they succeed, fail or are stopped.
  • When a habit finishes the feedback stimulus may attract attention.
  • Habit failure is the opportunity for learning to take place.
  • A habit or reflex may be difficult to interrupt if concentration is high.
  • Long complicated habits may require conscious intervention.
  • We can perform many non-conflicting habits in parallel.
  • Concentration is important for attention to stimuli and performing actions

3.9 Memory and the Mind

In order for recognition, habits and attention to function correctly it is obvious that there must be some form of stored representation of stimuli, responses and behaviour sequences. A memory provides the storage for such information. It is also obvious that animals must remember behavioural information. They could not survive without it. In some insects this memory may be constant because all their actions are instinctive and innate. But in order to learn an animal must have the ability to remember new experiences. This means they must have a memory that can record stimuli and responses.

The types of information that must be stored for this to happen include:

  • Stimuli,  
  • Responses, and 
  • The order in which stimuli and responses occur.

Because reflexes, habits and other behaviour require different types of processing there appear to be three kinds of functionally distinct memories.

  • Reflex memory - the memory of reflexive behaviour sequences for purposes of recognition at the subconscious level to trigger and perform reflexes.
  • Short-term memory - the memory of recent stimuli from the senses so that the attention can be attracted to any significant change that occurs over the short term.     What about STM – working memory – ideas – thoughts?
  • Long-term memory - the memory of non-reflexive behaviour sequences. This memory is used for habits, recognition of historic change and relevance by the attention, and recall of the sequence of attended to stimuli and issued responses. This memory keeps a diary of what was experienced and done.

Our long-term memory is not just a passive record of stimuli and responses. It is an active component of our brain performing multiple parallel but subconscious processes. Stimuli that have become conscious pass through our attention before they are stored in this memory. Our long-term memory performs the three functions of recognition, storage and recall on incoming stimuli. These can be thought of as three stages in the memory process:

 The first stage is the ability to know whether we have experienced something before. In the case of sight this is the ability to compare a new image with remembered ones. This is recognition. Not something you would find in any ordinary recording device such as an audio or video recorder. And the speed at which our memory does this recognition process indicates a highly parallel search process. Note that memory is not the only part of our nervous system performing stimulus recognition. It is also done by reflex and attention memory, but the long-term memory is the highest level at which stimuli are recognized.

 The second stage is the storage of the stimuli. That is the recording of the information in some internal representation. Only the stimuli to which attention is paid get to this stage. If we consider just the sense of sight we can tell that we record images with multiple features and also time sequences of such images rather like a video recorder.

 The third stage is similar to the play back of a video recorder but not quite. Our memory does not have the video recorder's ability to project the recorded image on a screen so other people can see it but our memory can recall an image into what we call the "mind's eye". We can re-experience the images and combine them in whatever order we wish. This provides us with expected images. For example, imagine a pink elephant standing on a flat iceberg that is floating in a large swimming pool. Similarly we talk about 'internal speech' in which we can formulate sentences and talk to ourselves without vocalization. So the third stage is the recall of stimuli associated with those being stored. Section 3.14 - Ideas deals with this stage in more detail.

These three stages are familiar to us because we pay attention to and remember stimuli from all our senses and we are aware of recognizing them and recalling them. This is not so for the memory of our responses? But they must also be stored and reused if we are able to reproduce previous actions. They must be stored in context of the triggering and feedback stimuli so that given a similar situation we can repeat it, provided of course that it produces desirable results each time it is repeated.

So why does our memory of responses feel so vague or speculative? The memory of responses is harder to recognize as valid because we are only fleetingly conscious of it. None of a habit’s responses or feedback stimuli passes through our consciousness as they are being performed because habits are processed subconsciously. Only resulting sensory feedback (stimuli) from performing actions is conscious and only then, if attention is paid to it. For example, when someone asks you what you were just doing you will recall the images from watching your actions rather than the initiating command or responses. The most likely recalled stimuli will be either the habit's triggering stimulus or the completion stimulus because these are the ones that attract your attention when starting and finishing a habit.

At the beginning of this section we listed a number of types of information that must be represented in some form of memory and we identified some of these memories based on a functional categorization. Memories also have different retention properties depending on their purpose.

The lowest level memory and least obvious one is built into the sensors and actuators themselves. A sensor must have the knowledge of which features it can detect and a muscle must know the possible responses it can perform - contract and relax. Retention times for this knowledge is as long as the sensor or muscle exists and a property of that device. These are not relevant to Adaptron.

Reflex memory provides the ability to recognize stimuli and perform reflexive actions and must be built-in at birth and exist for our lifetime. These are resident in the spinal cord, and brain stem. They are innate and are never replaced through learning because you would not want to stop being able to recognize the heat of a flame nor forget how to blink.

At the level of your attention there must be a memory for the detection of immediate changes. This memory must be recording stimuli from all senses simultaneously but with a very limited time span. It must hold the stimuli for as long as necessary to detect a change from one stimulus to the next, which is intense enough to override the level of concentration. The attention memory detects changes in the stream of stimuli before they become conscious.

In long term memory there is a record of the response and stimulus sequences for habits. Their lifetime lasts until they are replaced by more recently learnt ways of performing the habits. Replacement is analogous to forgetting but in this case it is re-learning that causes the forgetting. The use of memory in this way has been called the memory of skills or procedural memory by psychologists and is analogous to production memory in production systems as described in artificial intelligence.

At the conscious level the long term memory lasts a lifetime for most facts and events but unfortunately forgets old information, information of lesser importance or information that is less frequently used. At the subconscious level the long-term memory is being continuously used. It is being used to attract attention in two ways: for recognizing historic changes and for determining relevance. This memory is called declarative memory.

Also terms used, declarative knowledge and procedural knowledge.


  • Memory is required for reflexes, recognition and habit performance.
  • Memory maintains a record of behaviour sequences.
  • Three functional memories are reflex, attention and long term memory.
  • Three stages of stimulus memorization are recognition, storage, and recall.
  • Responses must also be memorized.
  • Memories differ in information retention time and functionality.
  • Long term memory is used for recognition and attraction of attention.

3.10 Goals and Motivations

Why would an intelligent animal do something? Why not just sit in one spot, absolutely motionless, take in stimuli but do nothing? Obviously responses occur for a reason. Intelligent animals usually have one or more goals that they are trying to satisfy. When these goals are not satisfied they are motivated into action. Intelligent animals have a purpose without which they would not be considered intelligent.

Animals are of varying intelligence but they all have a purpose. This purpose manifests itself as drives or motivations. Most animal drives are directly or indirectly associated with survival. Even the majority of human actions can be attributed back to our goal to survive. This means that the need to survive is our ultimate purpose.

Human primary drives are those directly related to survival. They are all associated with the body. An incomplete list includes hunger, thirst, the needs for rest, for elimination of waste, for exercise, to maintain body temperature, and the avoidance of injury. Hidden behind these goals lies DNA. DNA is the only thing that ultimately survives between generations. It has evolved to survive and it exists because it has and can survive. It survives because it reproduces. It can do this because it contains the design for animals that carry it and reproduce. One could view the body as the vehicle which DNA uses for its continuation and that is why we are built to survive, at least long enough to reproduce.

Many other secondary drives are indirectly associated with these primary drives. They are what we want to do rather than what we need to do. There is in fact a whole hierarchy of goals and sub-goals. It is called a means-end hierarchy. Given any particular goal (end) there are always many ways (means) of reaching it. Once one of these methods (means) is selected to achieve the goal a new sub-goal is automatically generated and that is the goal of performing the method.

There are many ways to survive, or put in opposite terms; there are many things that can be done to avoid death. Typical things we do include: eat, drink, rest, detect possible injury, repair injuries etc. Each of these methods results in a goal that we experience as a drive. The hierarchical chain of goals and means for their achievement can get quite long. A simplified example in human society is: we write a document, to perform the work that comprises our job, to earn money, to buy food so we can eat, in order to enjoy life and ultimately survive and reproduce.

Humans, in contrast to other animal species, have most of their primary drives satisfied without great effort. People spend only a relatively small portion of their time doing things directly related to survival. The result is that people spend a lot of their time pursuing more subtle goals that appear to have no direct or indirect relationship to survival. This takes the form of some kind of intellectual pursuit, entertainment or play. It may be some form of scientific, artistic or social endeavour. It may be expressed as a need to be challenged or a need for new experiences. In general the goal is the pursuit of interesting things or put in opposite terms the avoidance of anything repetitive or boring. A popular T-shirt summarizes it nicely, "Been there! Done that!” Generally, people are in pursuit of change in their environment because wherever change occurs something interesting might happen. We already discussed this in the examination of attention. Note that boredom does not come from repeating a sequence of responses such as walking but only from a sequence of repeated stimuli that reach consciousness.

A dynamic environment is a constant source of change. However boredom can still occur if the change is repetitive. A changing environment like a play or movie is not repetitive and thus not boring. As a result we can stay totally motionless and speechless for long periods of time provided we are being entertained and our primary drives, hunger, thirst etc. are satisfied. As soon as any repetitive stimuli occur, such as a TV commercial, we become bored. As soon as any primary drive becomes needy we are distracted.

Primary, survival-related goals become satisfied when we reach them. But the satisfaction decays over time because survival is an ongoing process that needs frequent replenishment. As an example consider a baby sucking on a milk bottle or at its mother's breast. It does not continue this behaviour forever. Obviously the motivation decreases as the baby becomes full and its hunger is satisfied. But some time later it once again becomes hungry. This example actually contains additional complexities that are worth exploring.

The motivation to feed begins with the hunger stimulus from the baby's stomach. This stimulus attracts its attention and it instinctively and reflexively responds with a crying habit. The caregiver recognizes the crying and provided s/he can attract the baby's attention, begins to feed it. The baby sucks reflexively. As the baby feeds the hunger stimulus decreases in intensity and eventually goes away. The baby's attention is attracted to other stimuli. The sucking habit is then stopped because some other conscious command is issued. After the baby has digested the meal its stomach will again start producing the hunger stimulus. The intensity of the stimulus will grow until it once again activates its reflexive responses.

Our motivation to find interesting and changing stimuli however is not associated with a primary survival goal. It is a by-product of the attention and the learning process. Attention is attracted to novel / unfamiliar stimuli. Also, like primary goals, attention to stimuli exhibits a kind of decay. The absence of change or presence of repetition in the stimuli causes the decay. TV Commercials become boring after you have seen them once or twice. But if many years go by and you see an old familiar TV commercial you become quite interested in it because its novelty factor is greater than more recently viewed commercials. Thus the recency of experiences plays an important role in determining novelty and the detection of a change in the environment.

How do goals and the means for achieving them correspond to stimuli and responses? We must first look at the cause and effect relationship in the environment. Only in a deterministic environment are there cause and effect laws operating. We must distinguish between those effects that result from a cause initiated by the animal and the effects resulting from some other cause such as other animals or forces of nature. The animal has some control over the former effects through changing the cause. The animal has little or no control over the latter effects. Whatever the cause, the effects are detected by the animal as stimuli. Relative to its goals an animal perceives these stimuli as either violating (negative), agreeing with (positive) or neutral to its goals. A goal is some form of memory representation of a desirable or undesirable effect or stimulus. When the detected stimulus violates the goal stimulus the drive or motivation in future situations is to perform an action that is more likely to succeed, i.e. achieve the goal. When the detected stimulus agrees with the goal stimulus the drive is satisfied and in similar future situations the same actions are more likely to be performed and become habits. So goals to be reached correspond to effects which are detected as stimuli.

And to create a detectable effect (achieve a goal) in the environment an animal must cause something to happen. It can only do this through a response. Therefore the means for achieving goals is the performance of responses which change the animal’s environment.

The table below correlates these concepts with those found in the events that comprise a continuous reflex behaviour sequences.

 Concepts  Continuous Reflex

  1. Initial effect  Triggering stimulus
  2. Goal (end)  Comparison with desired stimulus
  3. Cause (means) Appropriate response
  4. Resulting effect Feedback stimulus
  5. Repeat the above at event 2 using the feedback stimulus.

This applies to habits in the same way. When a habit is performed and is completed successfully, completion is recognized by receiving the final stimulus that matches the goal / desired stimulus. The habit is therefore the means / method of accomplishing the goal.


  • Goals give us a reason to produce responses.
  • Primary goals are related to survival.
  • Secondary goals are related to primary goals.
  • Pursuit of change is a by-product goal of attention.
  • (Wanting to be active is a by-product goal of habit performance?)
  • We detect effects, some of which match our goals, as stimuli.
  • Our responses are the means by which we cause things to happen.

3.11 Pain and Pleasure

Intense stimuli are often experienced as some form of pain whereas other stimuli are pleasurable. These concepts are similar in that they result from an interpretation of a stimulus by the brain. Thus pain and pleasure are additional stimuli that are internally detected like hunger and thirst.

Pain is a feeling produced by our mind when it detects a stimulus that exceeds some threshold of intensity. If a painful stimulus were being measured using a meter of some kind it would just be another reading on the scale of intensity. If the stimulus dimension were heat, a thermometer would just indicate how hot it was. However our brain has been pre-programmed from birth to detect any stimulus that is intense enough to threaten our survival and to produce the feeling of pain.

Pain interrupts you from whatever you are doing. You stop all action and pay immediate attention to it because it provides a dramatic contrast to the normal flow of stimuli. The pain may have triggered a reflex in which case you would have reacted to avoid it before being conscious of it. Whatever the case, pain provides a strong and memorable stimulus as to the failure of your actions. Pain signals that something has gone wrong.

It is interesting to note that when painful stimuli are detected continuously they lose their impact. This form of decay corresponds with the fact that the recognition of a stimulus only occurs when there is a change in the input. Only a change in the level of pain attracts our attention. This appears to work well with the goal of survival. Continuous pain from a damaged limb should not stop us from using it should we need it to survive.

Pleasure is the feeling of satisfaction or enjoyment that we can receive when we detect certain stimuli. In other words we interpret some stimuli as being pleasurable. Psychologists say that some stimuli are pleasant while others are unpleasant. But most stimuli are neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The site of a telephone pole is neither pleasant nor unpleasant; it is just a stimulus. Pain, however, is always an unpleasant stimulus. All external and most internal senses can detect stimuli that result in both pleasant and unpleasant stimuli. But why are particular stimuli pleasant or unpleasant and the majority neither? The obvious reason to recognize some stimuli as either pleasant or unpleasant is that they are related to the survival of the animal. If our actions result in the detection of a pleasant stimulus we will interpret it as a reward, as a signal of success in what we were doing. It basically says we have reached a goal. In the same context we will interpret an unpleasant stimulus as a punishment, as a failure indicator for our actions. The interpretation of these stimuli is clear, unambiguous and pre-programmed in accordance with our survival goals. Certain foods taste good, some skin contacts feel good, an empty stomach feels bad, smoke smells bad etc.

This kind of information is helpful in learning but it is possible to learn without being painfully punished or pleasantly rewarded every time we do something. In fact most of the time we just experience ordinary stimuli, neither pleasant nor unpleasant. The majority of stimuli just provide us with information about the environment and we learn how it works and how to behave within it. So what information is used in these cases to guide the learning of habits? There is more subtle information involved. The answer lies in a deeper understanding of emotional feelings.


  • Pain is a stimulus produced by the brain when other stimuli exceed a built-in threshold.
  • Some stimuli are pleasant and others unpleasant but most are neither.
  • Pleasant and unpleasant stimuli are built-in and survival related.

3.12 Feelings and Emotions

The word 'feelings' can be used in two different ways. First, there are feelings that are associated with emotions. Feelings of joy and feelings of fear are good examples. Second, there are the feelings that are perceptions of internal body states, e.g. the feeling of being healthy, thirsty, dizzy or tired. These body state feelings are the result of internal stimuli from internal senses described previously. It is the former emotional feelings and not the latter body state feelings that directly participate in and guide learning and thinking. These emotional feelings require a more detailed discussion and are the subject of this section.

Emotional feelings are very complex phenomena that humans experience. [This needs a better order of presentation] Emotions are easier to understand than their associated feelings. We can observe emotions in others. An emotion is more complicated than a feeling because it is the combination of three things: a feeling, a physiological response such as a faster heart rate and a habit that is triggered by the feeling. Psychologists call these three the experiential, the physiological and the expressive components of emotions. We can usually judge what others are feeling by observing the expressive response part of their emotions. Facial expressions are usually a good indicator of a person's emotions and what they are feeling. This however does not always work because the response / expressive part can be changed through learning. Different people exhibit different behaviour even though they are experiencing the same feelings. It is more difficult for us to relearn the physiological component of our emotions although it is possible using biofeedback techniques to alter these responses. Thus lie detectors are not always foolproof.

Psychologists generally agree on five primary emotions from which all others are derived. Some psychologists have identified an additional three. The first five emotions are Anger, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, Joy, and the additional three are Acceptance, Surprise and Curiosity. There are many other emotions that are combinations and/or subtypes of these with varying intensity. They are different depending on the situation or the thing to which they are associated. A list of emotions includes pleasant (positive) ones such as:

Love, desire, happiness, anticipation, courage, contentment, satisfaction, pride, humour, enjoyment, confidence, reverence, excitement, enthusiasm, joy, energetic, hope, awe, determination and belonging

And emotions that are mostly unpleasant (negative) ones such as:

Hate, loneliness, anxiety, nausea, sorrow, rage, indignation, remorse, pity, terror, bitter, embarrassment, shame, jealousy, frustration, strain, tired, contempt, disgust, puzzlement, guilt, envy, fright and grief.

However it is the experiential component of emotions, the feelings, which contain the information that is important in learning and thinking. When feelings are combined with certain situations they give rise to the variety of emotions listed above. The following is a collection of observations about feelings rather than facts. This is because facts about feelings are hard to find because of the subjective nature of the phenomena.

[Needs rework here because feelings translate into success, failure information for guiding learning. And this applies to familiarity feelings as well as pleasant feelings!.]

Emotional feelings are produced internally in our brain as a result of it detecting and recognizing certain stimuli (pain is a stimulus) from external and internal sources. One type of stimuli that trigger feelings are the survival related ones that we classify as either pleasant or unpleasant. A pleasant stimulus will produce a positive feeling and an unpleasant stimulus will produce a negative feeling. These good and bad feelings are remembered, interpreted and used by the mind in the process of learning and thinking.

The context in which these good and bad feelings occur is important for their interpretation. If the good and bad feelings occur just after we have done something (responded) and received a feedback stimulus they are interpreted by the mind as the feelings of reward and punishment. The corresponding emotions produced are those of pride and hurt. If however the good and bad feelings occur after some series of stimuli that do not result from a response our mind interprets the situation as one to seek or to avoid.  [needs example!]

(Because feelings are survival related they tend to decay over time and therefore a change in the stimulus produces the feeling. If pleasant feelings didn’t wear out their welcome so to speak we would end up locked into a never ending cycle of responding and experiencing the same thing. We would waste our time and energy without reproducing. These feelings also come from a change in the pleasantness of the stimuli. It feels good when you stop hitting your head against the wall. Less unpleasant stimuli produce a good feeling). There is a direction gradient to feelings.

Two other important emotional feelings that come from the mind are the feelings of familiarity and novelty. These feelings are the source of the emotions of boredom and surprise / curiosity. These feelings result from the process of recognition of stimuli and were seen to operate in the attraction of attention. They are necessary for us to learn what to recognize and what to pay attention to but not what to do. Recognition, when performed as the first stage of long term memory is the process that determines degree of familiarity / novelty. The matching of a stimulus with those in memory produces these feelings. Novel stimuli attract attention while familiar stimuli are ignored unless one is concentrating on them specifically. Novelty is synonymous with change. Any change from one moment to another (immediate) may be a source of novelty as could be any change between now and yesterday or last year (historic). Stimuli are always being compared with memory by the attention to determine their novelty in the given context.

Surprise - magician causes it (see loose leaf AA and BB 2nd side bottom.

Deja vu - feeling of familiarity with no recollection of actual object or historic event from memory.

I use the term degree of familiarity / novelty because it is only at the simple stimulus levels that total novelty / familiarity can be determined. At this level a pure pitch can be compared with ones memory and it can be determined absolutely that it has or has not been heard before. But simple stimuli of this nature are usually only experienced by babies. There are some people who have had a sense medically restored that was inoperative since birth. Such people have had the rare privilege to experience first time stimuli. But most adults have experienced all possible simple stimuli as babies and can not recall the first time they occurred. Therefore familiarity / novelty becomes a degree to which many simple stimuli have been experienced in this particular order or coincidental combination. Thus no stimulus is ever totally novel or totally familiar.

(Feelings of success and failure) Novelty in the context of performing a habit produces the feeling of unexpectedness. This happens when a habit fails because the feedback stimulus was unexpected. If we are walking along and the toe of our shoe catches on a bump in the path our attention is immediately attracted to the unexpected situation. This unexpected feedback stimulus may be totally novel or it maybe familiar but just novel in this context. In the second case recognition may identify an appropriate response that could be used in the given situation. Such situations are opportunities to learn and to practice.

It is these feelings of novelty and familiarity that are fundamental in the learning process because most of the time the experienced stimuli do not produce good or bad feelings. Novel stimuli are rewarding in their novelty because they provide new information about the environment and an opportunity to learn that can subsequently be used to obtain pleasant stimuli and avoid unpleasant stimuli.

Recognizing relevant stimuli is only possible because they have associated feelings. Their relevance is determined by the feelings they produce. It is these feelings which attract attention and result in the relevant stimuli becoming conscious.

Concentration can stop the detection of feelings. It is certainly possible to experience a sequence of events and ignore your feelings because of the importance of the situation. Then later when you relax and "let down your guard" the feelings become conscious. Consider a doctor who handles an emergency and the patient dies but only later does the doctor experience the grief. Consider the joy that only comes to you in its full magnitude a number of minutes or sometimes hours after the birth of your first child.

It is well known that feelings play a part in determining what experiences get stored in our long-term memory. Or it is more likely that experiences which have feelings associated with them are easier to remember. Since we cannot know whether something is stored in memory without first recalling it the puzzle of whether it is not stored, forgotten or is stored but not recallable can not be solved. However it is certainly advantageous to recall those experiences with related feelings before recalling experiences with no feelings because it is the feeling related experiences that are more likely to be goal related and can be used in learning and thinking.

Emotional feelings play a significant part in the decision making that our mind must do to control our behaviour at the conscious level. When we face a familiar situation and are about to respond, the decision to act or not act is based on the feelings that we recall from past experiences.

Another important role played by feelings is that of influencing our concentration level. The feelings we experience determine the level of concentration at which our mind operates. Strong past feelings of reward and punishment produce higher levels of concentration than past feelings of novelty or familiarity. At the level of no concentration, that of free associations, we are relaxed and no emotional feelings are controlling our thinking processes.

When we experience the same emotional feeling many times during a short period we are said to develop a mood. A mood is a state of the mind that can strongly influence our choice of behaviour. Moods are similar to emotions but tend to last for longer periods of time. For example boredom is the mood that develops from multiple occurrences of familiar stimuli. The name for the emotion that is elicited by the feeling of familiarity is closer to 'acceptance' than 'boredom'. However the word acceptance does not fully capture the emotion. I suspect the English language is missing a word to identify the emotion caused by familiarity because most of the time familiar stimuli are ignored.


  • An emotion consists of a feeling, a physiological response and a habit.
  • A feeling is the mental component of an emotion.
  • Feelings are produced by certain stimuli.
  • Good and bad are two fundamental feelings.
  • In the context of a response, good and bad become reward and punishment.
  • Good and bad are interpreted as success or failure when performing habits.
  • Familiarity and novelty feelings are important in learning.
  • Memories with feelings are more likely to be recalled.
  • Feelings are used as feedback by our mind for learning and thinking.
  • Feelings determine our level of concentration.
  • Moods result from an accumulation of feelings.

3.13 Learning

“I hear and I forget. I see and I believe. I do and I understand.” Confucius (551 – 479 BC)

The term 'learning' is often used to describe the process of memorizing or rote learning. When you are a child you are said to learn your times tables. However this description tends to emphasize the memorization aspect of learning. Memorizing experiences is a necessary part of learning but it is the dynamics of the learning process that needs explaining. There are two kinds of learning, learning to recognize and learning to do. The first kind we do when we learn how to read. We learn to recognize a hierarchy of more and more complicated composite stimuli. These start with the simple straight and curved lines that are combined into shapes of letters that combine to form words and finally into grammatical constructs. The second kind of learning, which is more interesting to understand, results in new action habits gained from experience such as when we learn to walk or speak. This is the learning how to do or act. This involves learning to combine simple responses and feedback stimuli into more and more complex composite responses we call habits. Both kinds of learning; recognizing new combinations of stimuli and forming new habits, depend on memorization and feelings and these work together to give us the ability to learn ever more complex patterns of behaviour.

The ability to learn varies greatly in the animal kingdom. Animals such as insects have a limited ability to learn. They have most of their behaviour pre-programmed in the form of instincts. Instincts can be thought of as reflexes that are not modifiable. Evolution has found the right combination of responses that works best in most situations for insects to satisfy their goals. Larger animals, birds for example, have less instinctive behaviour and a greater capacity to learn different means for accomplishing their goals. Evolution has found that providing animals with built-in motivations and the capacity to learn allows them to survive in a more varied and dynamic environment. Humans are the most evolved species in this respect. Adults satisfy nearly all of their goals through learnt behaviour. We have few instincts.

3.13.1 Learning to Recognize Stimuli

The only emotional feelings required for learning to recognize stimuli are those of familiarity and novelty.

We begin this analysis by exploring the learning of new stimuli. As we mature we learn to recognize more and more complex combinations of stimuli as new stimuli and more complex collections of stimuli as new things. A whole hierarchy of stimuli is learnt based on this complexity. A good example is our ability to recognize speech. It progresses from recognizing simple sounds to recognizing words, phrases and sentences. Also when learning to read we learn to recognize letters before words and words before sentences. At each level of learning to recognize more complex stimuli we need to have learnt how to habitually recognize the less complex stimuli. I use the word habitual in this context to emphasize that once learnt, the recognition process becomes sub-conscious and it is done automatically as part of the process of performing habits. Habitual recognition is most easily illustrated when it fails. Its failure causes us to become conscious of the process. A good example of this occurs when you try to read upside down. The learnt pattern recognition for letters, words and phrases no longer works as well and you become conscious of having to recognize them once again.

As mentioned above recognition becomes habitual and we build upon already recognized stimuli. In recognizing stimuli we are serving two purposes. One is to recognize related stimuli and the other is to recognize triggering and feedback stimuli. Recognizing related stimuli is important in order to identify things and to be able to predict the order of events. An animal spends significant amounts of time just receiving, filtering and attending to a stream of stimuli without any intermediate actions. The ability to recognize things results from recognizing patterns of related stimuli within this stream.

Triggering and feedback stimuli are important to recognize because they are the cues for beginning and continuing the performance of behavioural sequences. They are often found in the middle of a stream of stimuli.

Learning to recognize related stimuli is the process of identifying things in the environment. One learns which stimuli are coincidental with objects and which stimuli are the expected order of events. This form of learning relies heavily upon the feelings of novelty and familiarity that occur when a stimulus is memorized. As mentioned previously two stimuli that occur coincidentally in a deterministic environment are very unlikely to occur again together unless they are related to the same object or event. So when two or more stimuli occur together frequently the recognition process identifies them as a new higher level / composite stimulus.

Listening to music is a good source of examples of what happens as we learn to recognize related stimuli. When we first hear a new piece of music it is usually interesting because it contains unexpected and novel note sequences that attract our attention. The individual notes are not novel because we have heard each at some point in our past. As we listen to the piece several times we identify segments of multiple notes that we mentally group together. After we have heard it many times we often ignore it unless it is relevant to us i.e. stirs our feelings. If we make a point of intentionally listening then it is enjoyable because it is predictable. If we are listening to a live performance and there is a wrong note this note will stand out like a sore thumb. If a sequence of notes from one tune is inserted in the middle of a second familiar tune we can usually pick out the inserted segment as a single unit that does not belong. If the inserted segment is unfamiliar it is perceived as a single unit even though it may have been composed of two pieces from unfamiliar and unrelated tunes. We will only recognize the new segment as two pieces when we have heard them separately in some other context.

The recognition of related stimuli, as a single stimulus is important in identifying triggering and feedback stimuli. Recognition of these stimuli is very dependent on the context in which they occur. Since feedback stimuli are used as the triggering stimuli for subsequent behaviour sequences in a habit this discussion applies equally as well to feedback stimuli as it does to triggering stimuli.

Many stimuli may occur and be attended to without any intermediate responses before a reflex or habit-triggering stimulus occurs. One of these initial stimuli could be related to the triggering stimulus. If so after several repetitions we recognize this fact and the response can be triggered by the stimulus that is consistently occurring in the initial stimuli. In this way we learn to discriminate between the many initial stimuli and identify the relevant one(s). We identify the one or several stimuli that are critical for triggering successful behaviour. In psychology this is called discrimination learning. The famous experiment by Pavlov in which a dog is conditioned to salivate when a bell is heard is a good example of this process. The bell is initially rung just before the presentation of food. The food triggers the dog's salivation response. However after this is repeated several times the dog will salivate after the bell is rung with or without the food being presented. This learning relies heavily on the recognition of coincidence of stimuli.

As another example, while trying to play both squash and tennis during the same month I experienced quite some difficulty improving either. The problem arose because the habits I had learnt for one were being triggered by the stimuli experienced while playing the other. Only after much practice was I able to increase my discrimination of the triggering and feedback stimuli to a point where the two habits did not interfere with each other.

So recognizing triggering and feedback stimuli is a process of discriminating between some stimuli and deciding they are different and determining which ones are relevant in the context. There is another process called generalization, which works in reverse to discrimination. It is the process of recognizing that as far as triggering responses or feedback is concerned many stimuli are the same. For example, most people have their own generalized opinion of snakes. One person may consider them terrible reptiles and want to avoid them all. Such a person has not learnt to discriminate between the many different kinds of snakes based on their markings. They have not lived in an environment where some snakes are dangerous and there is a need to distinguish between them. So generalization occurs when one learns that a habit applies to a variety of different stimuli and is triggered by a feature or combination of features that they all have in common.

We start out with generally learnt habits and then refine/specialize them. Can an example of the reverse be found?

(Use an example of the head rotation of baby when finger on cheek to illustrate discrimination. i.e. touched with glove, ice cube, warmth. baby should learn to tell difference and not rotate for the ice cube).

As in learning new habits, emotional feelings are critical in learning new stimuli. At a conscious level the feelings of novelty and familiarity are returned when a stimulus is detected.

3.13.2 Learning to Perform Habits

"What we have to learn to do, we learn by doing." Aristotle (384-322 BC)

Learning new habits require feelings of success or failure resulting from achieving a goal, desired / rewarding stimuli.

Let us now describe the learning of new habits. Let us start at the beginning of a baby's life when there are no experiences from which to learn. At birth a baby's behaviour is primarily composed of instinctive and reflexive behaviours. There are few, if any learnt behaviours. A baby is full of innate patterns of responses that are designed for its survival. It breathes, it blinks, it sneezes, it withdraws its foot when tickled, it cries for all sorts of reasons, it rotates its head when its cheek is touched and it may even imitate someone poking out their tongue. But as it grows, it learns. Learnt behaviours replace many of the reflexive and instinctive ones. Others the child learns to consciously inhibit when desired.

If a new born is left alone in a static environment such as a nursery and provided it does not fall asleep, it will not stay still or quiet for long. After some time visually exploring its environment it will more than likely start to cry because it is hungry, uncomfortable or bored. Crying is the built-in reflexive response to the feelings produced by these stimuli. Crying usually results in a change in its environment because its caregiver enters the room and the environment changes and becomes dynamic. It will now begin to experience some familiar and/or new stimuli.

The known stimuli will be recognized and some may trigger appropriate reflexes or habits. The sight of the caregiver is familiar and may interrupt the crying if boredom is the problem. If hunger is the problem a familiar stimulus that would stop the crying and trigger a reflex is the touch of a nipple against its cheek. It will rotate its head towards the nipple. If it is the feel of a nipple in its mouth it will begin to suck on it. This behaviour sequence will be rewarded with the taste of milk and will continue repetitively until attention is attracted away.

Should the baby detect a new stimulus this will attract its attention and become a new experience. If the stimulus is totally novel the baby will continue to be interested. It will pay attention to it until it loses its novelty. What about a new stimulus that has at least one feature similar to a known stimulus? If the known stimulus normally triggers a reflexive response it is likely that the new stimulus will also trigger the response even though the actions may be inappropriate. For example if you touch your finger on a baby's cheek, it will rotate its head just as though it were a nipple. Another reflexive response is sucking which a baby will do on most things it feels in its mouth whether it is a rattle, a pacifier, a nipple or your finger. At this point the response will result in a stimulus which may be pleasant (e.g. the taste of honey on your finger), may be unpleasant (e.g. a bad taste such as salt on your finger) or more likely just a stimulus from the environment (e.g. the texture of your finger). Most of the time when reflexive habits are erroneously triggered it is the latter; the resulting stimulus is either new or familiar but neutral in emotional feelings. Thus new stimuli that trigger reflexive habits result in stimuli which produce feelings of reward, punishment, familiarity or novelty. Erroneously triggered reflexive responses such as these are the initial source of a baby's repertoire of experiences.

In the above examples a baby begins to learn about its environment and store the experiences in its memory. But if it is to use these experiences to change its behaviour it has to be able to interpret them and use them in making decisions about what to do the next time in the same or similar situation. It needs to make choices about its actions.

The process of using experiences and choosing actions implies there is some form of mental processor that is processing the experiential information. This mental processor is the mind. The mind is the seat of consciousness and is the processor that performs learning. On its input side the mind has the attention that it can control when it concentrates or which gets attracted to new stimuli when it is not concentrating. To learn new habits the mind compares stimuli with experiences, repeats the rewarding experiences and avoids the punished ones.

As it matures a baby progresses from the reflexive level of behaviour described above to one of controlled actions producing desired results. This occurs when it uses its memorized experiences to predict what the outcome of a particular action will be and to make a decision about what to do. This might sound complicated but it is really quite simple. The baby's mind operates based on the principle that it is in a deterministic environment. It processes the experiences assuming the environment will exhibit the same effect in a particular situation and a known action is performed. Past experiences are interpreted as statements either in the form:

 "Whenever something happens then perform the following response in order to obtain a rewarding or interesting result – it succeeded last time".

Or in the opposite form:

 "Whenever something happens then do NOT perform the following because the result is uninteresting, or punishing – it failed last time".

Statements of this form are called production rules in artificial intelligence and are found in expert systems.

It is between a triggering or feedback stimulus and the response that the mind has an opportunity to choose what to do. Initially, when presented with a novel stimulus there is no experience on which to base a choice of action and nothing is done unless it is reflexive. Once experiences have occurred from reflexive behaviour there is a memory of possible responses from which to choose.

A successful experience if not rewarded continuously can become a boring one after the novelty has worn off. Also a novel experience will continue to be repeated provided novel resulting stimuli are detected. The same happens with rewarded experiences.

Play provides no reward or punishment – just novelty.

Most of the time the feelings of novelty and familiarity are the ones that cause us to repeat past actions. This is usually done at a low concentration level such that other novel stimuli can attract our attention. It is only occasionally that a pleasant or unpleasant stimulus occurs to give us the feeling of reward or punishment. Reward feelings produce higher levels of concentration than novelty feelings when the experiences are repeated.

Most of the time we are learning to avoid pain. This occurs with the drives of hunger, thirst, physical damage, too hot, too cold etc. The reflexes involved give a clue as to the learnt behaviour. When any of these occur in a baby it cries and makes random movements. Even children cry when some of these things occur but usually adults intervene and solve their problems. These feelings don't give direction to their solution. They only warn of a bad state. You can not move a rope by pushing on it; you must pull on it. Only pleasant feelings give direction. Parents show us the correct solutions. A rat tries random actions to avoid a mild shock and if it by chance happens on the correct avoidance behaviour it never forgets it and never tries out any new ones as long as the learnt one works. (Trial and error learning is also learnt by cat to escape box or to obtain food.)

Humans, as babies, quickly learn to control their eyes. They learn to control them to follow an interesting stimulus or to obtain a change in their stimulus (visual images) so as not to get bored. This is the result of learning how to obtain novel stimuli. In the process we learn the cause and effect relationship of visual stimulus and eye motion responses. Babies spend many hours exploring their visual environment. However, a steady environment such as their nursery does eventually become boring and they may start to cry. This brings a person into the room and the baby obtains pleasure from the visual changes (novelty) in their environment. The environment has become dynamic. A wind-up mobile above a crib may keep a baby entertained for a longer time. It also provides a dynamic environment. But a mobile attached by a string to the baby's foot will keep a baby entertained for much longer, at least until it learns the relationship between its foot motions and the mobile and becomes bored with playing this game. And this novelty / familiarity cycle continues throughout our lives. It just takes us longer to reach the familiar / boredom level as we mature because the environments are more interesting and complex.

How do learnt behavioural experiences become habits? This results from practice. When we practice we concentrate and attach feelings of success to our behaviours if the feedback stimulus matches the expected stimulus. These successful behaviour sequences can then be performed as habits. This results from the fact that the feedback stimulus may become a triggering stimulus for some other behaviour pattern. Thus complicated sequences of behaviours are accomplished by chaining together individually successful sequences. As we learn we build more and more complicated behavioural sequences from previously learned ones.

high concentration. - practice

When I am practising the game of tennis, I am faced with a slightly different situation every time the ball comes on to my side of the court. But I am practising my forehand habit. I am trying to make it as robust a behaviour sequence as possible so it works while I am standing and while stepping to the right or to the left. But it's all one habit (also called a skilled act). It is a co-ordinated sequence of muscle responses that takes place in a very short period of time between 1 and 3 seconds. Sometimes I don't watch the ball right up until the moment that I swing and instead look at the place in the other court where I want the ball to go. As a result the racquet does not connect with the ball quite as desired and is not returned correctly. By practising I learn to watch the ball right up to the time of contact and only watch where it is to be hit during the follow through. But what information do I use to learn when practising this skill. There is no pleasant or unpleasant stimulus being experienced. The guiding feelings tend to be ones that I produce myself. When I observe where the ball goes, I mentally compare it with where I wanted it to go and produce the feelings of success or failure. In general the feedback stimulus as experienced is compared to the goal / desired stimuli. The match / mismatch produces the feeling of success/failure.

Same with learning to throw darts.

3.13.3 Summary

We started this section by mentioning that memorization is often thought of as learning. We can now see that memorization involves both the learning of new stimuli and new habits. Memorizing the times-table is really learning to recognize the stimulus of the numbers to be multiplied and then learning to respond with the answer. This is no different than learning in general except the nature of the stimuli and responses are more symbolic than behavioural in their use.

A general definition of learning says that it occurs when an animal changes its behaviour as a result of its experience. It continues to repeat rewarding actions and avoids repeating punished ones. Both pleasure and novelty are rewarding while pain and familiarity are punishing. Learning is a continuous process of change and adaptation to the environment.

Learning applies to all the senses and any stimuli they detect. And learning can associate any response done on any muscle with any triggering stimulus from any sense. This rule applies at all levels of complexity of stimuli and responses and the level of stimulus complexity need not match the level of response complexity. At one extreme a single simple stimulus from one sense can trigger a complex habit. At the other extreme a combination of complex stimuli from many senses over a period of time can trigger a single muscle movement.

In summary learning requires many capabilities to work in unison.

  • Memory must record the stimuli and responses,
  • Recognition must match or not match stimuli with memory,
  • Recall must provide past experiences and emotional feelings so that decisions can be made,
  • Past stimuli and responses must be performed and practiced to become habits, and
  • Feedback feelings must be felt to register success or failure.


  • Learning is a process of improving behaviour based on experience.
  • Learning improves stimulus recognition and habit performance.
  • Both kinds of learning require memorization.
  • Improvement is measured through emotional feelings.
  • Learning new habits involves practice done at a high level of concentration.

3.14 Ideas - Recall and Associations

While the sub-mind is performing a habit attention can be paid to other senses or thoughts.

 - You are faced with a situation and you think through a sequence of input and outputs until you find a goal you want to achieve - now how do you put the "thought plan" into action. Well the current situation is still facing you and this is the cue for doing the sequence you just thought of - which is still in short term memory.

Ideas may be very complicated formulations of expectations and stimuli, but psychology usually reserves the term concept to mean a single attribute or value for a single feature on a single sense i.e. the concept of yellow or bigger than.

In the section on memory we discussed how we can recall an image into what we call the "mind's eye". We can re-experience images. In fact this is not limited to just stimuli from the sense of sight. We can recall any stimulus, the sound of your parent’s voice, the heat from a flame, the smell of a rose or taste of ice cream. When we recall such a stimulus we are conscious of it and recognize it as a recalled stimulus and not an actual stimulus from one of our senses. Being conscious of recalled stimuli means they must pass through our attention and become memorized. We can even recall the kinaesthetic stimulus of a limb in a certain position. Try this, close your eyes and imagine what it feels like to hold you arm up vertically.

Recalling stimuli from memory provides us with another source of information to which we can pay attention. This input is another kind of stimuli. We have already discussed the stimuli from external senses, stimuli from internal senses, and feeling stimuli produced by our brain.  Now we have to add to this list recalled stimuli from our memory. Recalled stimuli retain the dimension information about the originating sense and their features but have an additional property indicating they come from memory. These recalled stimuli are not just limited to stimuli that originated from external senses. We can recall stimuli from internal senses. We can recall what it feels like to be dizzy, or the feelings of hunger and being tired. We can also recall emotional feelings. For example it is the recall of an unpleasant experience i.e. expected punishment and not the actual experience of failure that produces the emotion of fear.

Recalled stimuli are more commonly called ideas, thoughts or notions. They originate when a triggering stimulus or cue is experienced. The cue is attended to, memorized, recognized and our memory produces the next expected stimulus. Expected stimuli are these ideas or thoughts. Therefore ideas are just expectations and they are always well grounded to the original stimulus they represent. Our memory may produce many possible associated stimuli from one cue but we only become conscious of one. This is because our attention selects the one recalled. Attention is either attracted to it or controlled to obtain it. Attention is attracted by a recalled stimulus if it overcomes our concentration level. As before this would happen based on intensity, novelty, or relevance. Attention is controlled to obtain a recalled stimulus if we are concentrating on repeating a past experience in which a recalled stimulus exists.

Rules for producing associated stimuli

  (When the memory receives a triggering stimulus and there is more than one previous experience that matches the triggering stimulus then the recall process will provide a number of possible expected resulting stimuli and emotional feelings. The one that will attract attention will be based on recency and strength of association - novelty, intensity and relevance) (what if it has two - recency, strength of success)

The recall of stimuli plays an important role in the learning process. Recall provides us with the expected stimulus and expected feeling that are used in deciding whether or not to repeat a response. The expected feeling also determines what level of concentration to use. The sub-mind depends upon the recall of stimuli from a habit that has been learnt because it needs to compare actual feedback stimuli with expected stimuli. So wherever the term 'expected' arises the recall process must be providing the expected stimulus.

Recency and emotional feeling determine association strength – An expected stimulus results from the recall of a triggering stimulus. Past experiences of this triggering stimulus are associated with expected stimuli that occurred at the same time or directly after it. The strength of the association between a recalled triggering stimulus and its expected stimulus is determined based on two factors: recency of occurrence and the emotional feelings associated with the expected stimulus.

The strength of an association is determined by the reward, idea of reward, neither, punishment or idea of punishment that follows the associated item. This is used at attention attraction time to identify which association should be attended to first. But this strength does not in any way provide the signal that the recalled sequence should be executed. It will be the associated feelings that will initiate execution that will most likely be there any way in order to get the strength of association.

 Forgetting is important and a natural process because older information is less likely to be recalled - used.

 - Recognition of similarity - important in applying old strategies to new situations. Short term memory produce - store the things to be recognized, both old and new situation generate the same concept - idea, that which is generated is obtained by paying attention to only a subset of the data at hand, i.e. subset of situations matches.

Doing things in different circumstances but same stimulus depends on the context. The context must be recognized.

The benefits from incorporating recognition of a series of "ideas" rather than just the one "stimulus" are:

  • Recognize context and act differently on same cue depending on the context.
  • Recognize a series of stimuli - act upon recognition of whole series not just single stimulus.
  • Keeps all series that match 'active' so easier to identify which is same - easier to identify if its a new situation and therefore needs attention.
  • emulates hierarchy of stimuli as mentioned in STM.
  • Helps produce generalization and discrimination -Generalization and discrimination require that objects have a number of properties that are common or different. This implies that a single concept is insufficient for generalization and discrimination. This means my current model can not generalize.

+ What about Generalization and discrimination, and abstraction.

Abstraction is the formation of an idea apart from the concrete things or situations that are used to form the idea. Sounds just like recognition and induction. Abstract ideas so formed e.g. goodness, anger, whiteness, and absentmindedness.

Generalization is the forming of general notions or statements that are derived from particular instances.

+ Recognition takes place only after an initial abstraction/induction has been performed. Subsequent information is then recognized as belonging to the same abstraction.

Maybe the maximum amount of information that can be stored in one concept is the same as can be stored in short term memory. This tends to be true because only that which is in the short-term memory can act as the data for the recall process. Yet we appear to be able to control the data quantity and detail used for recall - must be able to do this with those functions acting on short-term memory.

In psychology the process of association

Psychology uses the term concepts and distinguishes between concrete concepts such as apple and more abstract concepts such as love. Concepts in psychology are said to be formed by the abstraction or generalization of a set of common features from some stimuli, responses or experiences. Thus the concept of an apple describes anything that has the same set of visual, taste and possibly touch features we expect from an apple. I take this definition one step further and say the recalled image of particular apple is a concrete concept of that apple.

Once the results are recalled and placed before the response then the chains can be interpreted as " If you want this result, then in this situation perform this response." If we have this knowledge then given a particular goal we can choose between possible causes. We need to be able to memorize ideas for this to be possible.

A test for association takes a sound or feeling or picture in your memory and continually recalls it to your conscious again. Use your front door.

 - I propose Idea of Input match  Stored Inputs

                  Inputs            match   Stored Inputs

     but        Inputs do not match  Stored ideas of Input.

 - This means that an idea of input immediately matches the stored input that generated it and therefore an active memory trail can be established but also other memory trails can become active and the trail acts similarly to the next concept desired.

Associations should be made based on the assumption of cause and effect relationship between events. Associations must follow cause and effect rules. i.e. associating an input with a thought is not logical. Reward and idea of reward must be used to give strengths of association only for logically associated things.

No ideas of responses, only ideas of stimuli. I think that maybe we never have ideas of responses. Ideas are only formed from recalled stimuli and recalled feelings. So there is no expected response, only an expected resulting stimulus – goal.

[Notes with dates on them are waiting to be incorporated into the text of the book]

11th Nov 1994 Execution and Recall both incorporate concept of next. Are they the same. Recall/thinking needs to model execution so recall should simulate execution. - Should there be any recall process after a response? This would imply asking the question what did I see after I did something. In a "S/R/F only" simulation maybe there is no recall of associated stimulus, it is more likely that you would continue doing and if the same stimulus occurs you carry on else if its different you stop doing. The expectation of what stimulus occurs next is in the execution process not the recall process. Execution and recall are similar in this way in they both deal with what is next. Are they combinable or should they remain distinct?

4th Aug 1994 - After each recall there are a number of associations predicted. Events that happen which match any one of these associations reinforces the sequence - continues at same concentration level. Therefore only stop concentrating if no match to any one of recalled associations (or should that be the next experience to be executed - sequential?).

19th May 1986 - Expected means next thing when doing not necessarily associated. What is associated if it is not next? Next implies associated in time - can we have associated not in time? Yes if the association is between two simultaneous stimuli.

Concept recognition Whenever we recognize something (physical or conceptual) we are identifying (putting a name to or a handle on) the thing from a lot of detailed information. The same process as induction - from lots of information / properties / characteristics to one identifier. The one identifier can then be used as one of the properties for recognizing something else. (OO aggregation) This is one of the functions that STM must be performing on its contents.

25th Aug 1995 complexity continues on up into the ideas of stimuli - We have the ability to build concepts of combinations of concepts and deal with them like any other concept - to any order of hierarchy / complexity - Does language play a part in this? We have the ability to name things, which is similar to identifying complex concepts. A Deictic pointer is a reference to something such as ‘it’ or ‘the event that took place over there’. It is the encapsulation of a complicated something into a concept that can be worked with as a unit or exploded into its components if and when necessary. Short-term memory is up to 7 +/- 2 deictic pointers (markers) of the real world.  21st March 1981 - I have just read chapter 6 of "The Brains of Men and Machines" and come to the conclusion that the mechanism I am designing must have in it the ability to continue the pattern recognition hierarchy on and on forever - grouping symbols and giving it a single symbol identity - using this symbol in a group etc. So the function of short term memory to do this is most important just as the ability to un-group a symbol into its components.

9th Feb 1983 - Short-term memory packetizes sequences of inputs (concepts) - puts handle on them.  28th Jan 1977 - Short-term memory seems to be able to consolidate a sequence of ideas or pictures and produce one concept from them. Or to take a number of letters and produce the word.  In reverse it can split up a concept into its component basic ideas - pictures - letters etc.

Try this little mental imagery exercise. For each word in the sequence draw an imaginary line on a piece of paper in the direction specified, Up, Left, Right, or Down. Make each line the same length – one unit long. Add each line to the end of the previous. Pay attention to the images in your mind as they form. The first line is drawn from right to Left horizontally. The second line goes Up, from the left end of the first line. Then draw one to the Right, then Up, Right, Down, Right, Down, Left, Down, Down, Left, Up and Up. Did you expect the 4th line to go down to close the box? Did you expect the eleventh to go Left and Up to make the figure symmetric?

3rd Sept 1971 controlling attention to associations - The recall mechanism operated by STM definitely is able to search or recall from LTM information that is from a particular sense. This means that one can pick out the taste associated with an apple or the word associated with an apple or the picture of an apple separate from each other. Thus the mind has an idea of what it wants; it knows the sense of the association it is after.  This means that we can switch our attention to recall stimuli from memory as well as switch attention to sight, hearing and feel.

30th Sept 1978 performing past thoughts - Let's make an analogy - my system with brain centres - loose analogy. [Diagram] generate record of output from idea of output when executing (doing) as result of associated reward.

 - Ideas of Input and Output are generated reflexively when attention attracted to them. But when they are executed do we get a record of I/O just as what was done reflexively or do we get the associated idea of I/O? What about when executing, we first check record of I/O and if not there check for idea of I/O.

 - Also when executing an idea of output 1st check record if any then check idea if any. Which ever is obtained, stored and remembered is also kept around so that it can be output if no other associations occur.  This means a reflex exists to output the last thought about action if nothing else attracts one's attention.

22nd Nov 1986 Ideas of stimuli are the goals - The brain seems to be able to answer the question "to obtain this input what output do I need to do?" - Reverse (in time) association - to achieve this goal what output do I need? (In this current context perhaps!) How does the idea of the goal arise - it must be recalled and linked by a recall process, which means it needs a cue that is the current situation - input thus context sensitive.

16th Feb 1977 No association found produces a feeling - A question results from no associated whatever being recalled (this is a concept).  (4th Aug 1994 - It's a Feeling!)

5th Nov 1972 Can an idea about an idea be a goal? - 175 - I can keep paying attention to recalled items asking for an associated concept and I check to see if it is the desired concept i.e. has associated good or bad and then carry on looking for associated concept and checking to see if it is the desired concept until I find it or give up.

8th June 1972 No backward association! - 164 - There is no backward (in time) association step. To obtain a concept that proceeded before a known concept we go into an elaborate method of associations to come up behind the known concept. If I want to remember what I did before I sat down; I can not recall it instantaneously. I start off by picking a subject long before when I sat down and start proceeding from there until I come up to what I did before I sat down. How do I get that starting subject? I have learnt if I want to do this function that I should need a starting subject so I look around for a cue and produce associated picture concepts until I come across one which has occurred to me this morning and then I proceed from there.

3rd Sept 1971 Sequence of associations. - we are able to read off a whole string of associated sights, like in recalling a familiar building or what we did in the order we did it.  I can recall seeing a sequence of sights ==> can actually do recall and look at the associated output and input.

Does the feeling of novelty get stored when any new stimulus arrives - independent of whether it is a resulting stimulus?

12th Dec 1976 Pain is a stimulus and can be recalled - The recall of pain does not hurt. - No attraction of attention, it just serves to stop the possible execution of motor response.

3.15 Thinking

“Cogito ergo sum” [I think therefore I am] Rene Descartes 1591 – 1650.

“… thinking is identical with the thoughts which are its parts”  Aristotle in his de Anima (On the Soul)

Doing is more important than proving (Hammond) - Doing uses the real world as a test site. Thinking uses the model of the real world as a test site.

Since ideas are another kind of stimuli they are also memorized and can act as the cue to recall yet other ideas. This is the basic method by which we think.

26th March 1990 Thinking is modelling - With ideas modelling real world - ideas of reward / punishment are the replication of real world reward / punishment and should be used and analyzed (interpreted) the same way as the real world ones when they are recalled. 16th Aug 1981 - Thinking is a process to model the external world by going through the conceptual representations (internalized inputs/outputs) and predicting the outcome. Thinking is made up of expectations that are predictions based on experience.

26th July 1981 - Thoughts provide a form of symbolic manipulation that allows one to model ones environment without suffering the consequences of real life. One can think through a situation sequentially searching for cause and effect and evaluating desirability of actions and consequences before acting.

16th May 1993 when does thinking take over from doing? - The normal stimulus response episode is S1 - R1 - S2 - (Reward Idea). This means that when S1 re-occurs and associations are being obtained at recall time R1 and S2 are strongly associated and an idea of reward is associated too. Attention is first paid to the idea of reward that is stored after new S1 and execution begins at the R1. This conflicts with the idea of recalling R1 or S2 and starting the thinking process of recalling ideas and storing ideas.

23rd Mar 1996 Feelings involved in Thinking - A feeling that I have experienced - I know there was something nice I wanted to do but I can't remember what it was. I remember the feeling about the goal but not the actual goal. 25th Aug 1995 - Some examples of Good / Neutral / Bad feelings are:

 - Have achieved goal - success at end of habit performance.

 - Can't obtain any recall matching attention wanted while executing thinking sequence.

31st May 1994 - Reactions to feelings - some instinctive things and some learnt things.

Some typical internal feelings:

 Feeling of knowing the answer but recall is not providing the associations you need / want.
      => feeling of have a match but the particular association desired (attended to) is not available.

Feeling of I don't know about it.
    => feeling of no match found. 

Feeling of last time I did that I got punished / rewarded. 
     => controls thinking / behaviour - instinctive reaction can be overcome by learnt behaviours.

  • Feelings control the flow of thinking + behaviour.
  • Should also be a set of feelings associated with S.T.M. processes. Maybe STM is easier to design if there are such feelings involved.
  • Some feelings associated with logical events that occur in the mind. Examples are the feeling of reaching a goal, of failure, fear, mystified, lost, sad, happy etc. What about confidence?  The knowing that you can, or the knowing that you know.
  • The idea of feelings is then used to guide actions and thinking.

+ When attention is paid to a thought and there is no data there a blank feeling should be returned - because attention was paid to that dimension.

8th May 1993 - Another internal concept might be 'latest accomplishment does not satisfy outstanding goal desired - unsatisfied - expectations not met'.

11th April 1993 - The brain must have some internal states which it can recognize as concepts and which it can use to control its thinking processes. For example in directed thinking when one is trying to come up with an associated idea or when one is asked if one knows something the memory/recall process returns a concept of not found/ don't know.

4th April 1993 - Given that experience is a limited knowledge base of the real world upon which to model the world for thinking about what to do, we need a recalled feeling from memory when a purposeful, concentrated thought operation is being performed looking for an association and none is returned.

This then is the feeling 'I don't know'.

Thinking and goals - A drive is persistent in time until it is satisfied at which point it goes away. Later on it re-occurs and again persists until it is satisfied. Are mental goals such as the desire to reach a particular outcome that you know you will recognize when it occurs similarly persistent in time? Can you have only one such mental goal at a time and therefore one goal is interrupted by another. Or is it that at any one time one goal is current - in awareness and the other ones are recalled and thought about - especially when trying to achieve a sub-goal of a more global desired goal.

Types of thinking - Thinking includes deduction, abduction? problem solving = decision making (deduction?)   Induction is a form of recognition. I say inductive thinking is really a higher form of pattern recognition because it takes a large set of instances and comes up with a conclusion. What is happening is recognition of a pattern at the thinking level instead of the sensory level.  

25th Aug 1995 - Thinking consists of:

 Induction - concept forming from examples - recognition in thought / learning (learning of concepts).

 Deduction - reasoning from facts to form a conclusion

 Problem Solving = decision making (deduction?)


8th Nov 1993 - Some dictionary definitions help to get our mind around what is thinking.

Intelligence:      ability to perceive logical relationships and use one's knowledge to solve problems and respond appropriately to novel situations - Not acquired knowledge - perform human reasoning.

Think:             Process of arranging ideas in a pattern of relationships or of adding new ideas soon to be related to such a pattern - imagine. My definition includes the processes of reasoning, sound-intelligent reasoning, problem solving, deduction, induction, abduction?, not observable=covert (not overt), requires internal symbolic representation, requires an inference approach or sanctioned and recommended set of inferences based on the symbolic representation.

Reason:          Logically think - to understand - to draw inferences.

Induction:       Drawing a general conclusion from number of known facts.

Deduction:     Reasoning from the general to the particular. infer.

Inferences:      arrive at by thinking - to deduce, forming conclusions from premises.

Ideas:             Mental image, conception, opinion, plan, notion conceived by the mind

Concepts:      Thought or opinion, general notion or idea, especially one formed by generalization from particular examples.

Learning:        Get knowledge of (subject) or skill (art etc.) by study, experience (and practice), or being taught (instruction). By observation. Commit to memory.

Thinking is a higher level of learning Also have a Motivation to Think - improved? learning - another form of learning identifying environmental relationships not previously identified.

15th March 1993 The process of thinking - There are two types of things that the mind can be doing: action things which result in some detectable activity and thought things which are the processing of thoughts. They can be going on in parallel. The activity only gets interrupted when the thought process results in the decision to do some activity that requires the busy sensors or output devices.    + If we are talking we do not pay attention to what we are hearing. Our attention is internal, that is we are thinking, our mind is analyzing, it is presenting concepts to the brain and hunting for the words which are associated with the concept and the mind is reading out those words. The mind is not paying attention to the words spoken by listening to them. However when one is paying attention to how one is moving or feeling one can do this because the movements are under control of the automatic system and do not require the processing by STM. This means one can look at ones hands moving while they perform a simple task.

Thinking in parallel with doing - I'm getting the impression that thinking can take place in parallel with and independently of the input/output sequences. Attention is always paid to thinking when it occurs and only to input/output when learning is involved. It is as though input/output can go on from the built up habit base without attention except for the instigation of the habit. And associations can be made between Inputs, Outputs and Inputs across any number of thoughts.

3rd March 1993 - Idea from reading 21st May 1986 is that there is a stream of consciousness that simply processes experiences in sequence unless interrupted. So at no concentration level it recalls sequentially, like singing a song. The sequential mode plays back experiences in order as a default mode of 'thinking' when nothing is happening to interrupt it. And we have also learned to do this when we need that sequential play back capability. Undated - Association processing replaces Short-term memory processes.

23rd Feb 1995 Thinking is decision making - Thinking is more than just repeating the Stimulus-Response experiences from memory. It must include a decision making process based on feelings and a strategy for finding better responses than the punished ones that may be recalled. Do we continue to mentally search for (recall) a response that is neutral or positive by repeating the cue? 15th March 1993 - As we are interpreting the experiences in memory (That's what thinking is - interpreting a model of reality which is the collection of all the experiences of the being) which we do by playing back the experience and looking for the emotional associations. We make a decision that we either want the same as what our experience tells us or we want something different. If it is something different we need to perform some other activity than was done in our experience. This is where we have a feeling for 'what can we do?' and if something is recalled then that is done else we need to generate some random output.

5th Aug 1994 Thinking and get next association - From "Processing, Doing, Concentration" - 17th May 1986 - Thinking is the mental execution of a sequence of experiences - running the model - mentally and while this happens paying attention to the associations that are generated. So we don't need next input/output as a type of association - it is the process of thinking about something that has happened and the ideas are associations spun off of this process (see 26th March 1990 Reminding-Recall). 21st May 1986 - We either must have a next input, next output type of primitive thinking function or associated input and associated output must be possible from a cue which is an associated input itself. e.g. Think of a series of pictures from your house to work, each picture is pure thought. They are not actually occurring as you think so it is all thoughts. One picture is the cue and it stimulates the next recalled picture in sequence of motion to work based on sequence in time. If these are associated ideas (internalized pictures) then the cue idea must match the remembered original picture and generate an associated (idea) picture that acts as the next cue.

Or the first alternative which is that we have a primitive function called get next picture which uses the localized location in context from where the last picture was recalled. This means no input information for a cue into memory to generate a recall.

 - Currently I lean towards the context oriented idea with a location that is active and get next is a primitive operation (attention operation).

 - However I also like the idea that the thought of an input matches with the recorded real inputs because this is the initial basis from which thoughts model reality. A thought of input is matched against our experience of reality and the results - associated outputs and rewards etc. are used to determine chosen actions. Thus our experience (recorded) acts as testing ground against which to try out our ideas-thoughts and get back what experience tells us will happen.

17th May 1986 - Along with the ability to recognize a sequence of inputs comes the primitive attention - instructions to break down the sequence i.e. get next input, get previous input. These feel like they should be short term memory type operations.

22nd Nov 1986 Memory of thoughts? - Are thought and ideas actually stored for recall purposes? Why save an idea - maybe thoughts and ideas are really a process and the process is repeated to reproduce (recall) an idea - thought.

 - Why save an idea? Input - output is saved / memorized so it can act as a model database of reality so one can learn and think upon - it is experience itself. But ideas don't form a database as such for modelling! What about concepts - are they stored ? - take the concept of "impossible" - do we store the word and only really understand impossible as a thought process result.

1st April 1982 Thinking patterns - Man has the ability to recognize thinking patterns and modify them also if results not obtained. Obtaining results implies preconceived idea of what is needed (objective) and ability to match with accomplishments and get reward idea when successful and no reward if not, or fatigue in trying and another thing interrupts processing.

Reflexive Thinking? - We also need reflexive thinking when we don't know what thinking to do - need fatigue on thinking just as in output sequences.  The objective of thinking is to obtain or identify the correct output to obtain pleasure or avoid punishment.

28th March 1982 Thinking initiating behaviour - After thinking -> predicting the outcome there must be some way of deciding not to repeat the same thing or to repeat it. Is doing it good enough?

 - Presumably when one is thinking and comes across a concept that "has negative connotations" one does not do the actions which would result in it. If one comes across "positive connotations" one would do the actions - starting from the original input that instigated the line of thought. Line of reasoning. Words we use are very telling about the nature of what is going on in our brains when we think. Chain of deductions.

Thinking and concentration level - Two modes of thought are executing mode where the thought process exists and one is just following the steps and the other is free thought where associated ideas interrupt the process. One could look upon it as procedures that are continually being perfected. 12th Dec 1976 - Thoughts are data driven and verge between reflexive ideas and directed associations.

Learning to Think? - The same process (as in 16th August 1981 GOALS) should apply to thought process.

 New concept - interested

 Same concept - familiar   - expecting previous associated concept

or should it? or does it?  The purpose of actions in environment is to be interested in it and adapt to it. In absence of rewards & punishment above scenario works - trial and error. The purpose of thought is to model the actions and environment. We must learn to do correct actions and we must learn to think - therefore one must be trying to think - and not repeat unsuccessful thought sequences. Does one learn to think? No such thing as unsuccessful thought sequence! Is it the content of thinking that is learned or do we learn new + different thinking processes?

 - Thought models environment - Inputs and action - outputs as well as reward/punishment, therefore it models trying to achieve concept of reward and avoid concept of punishment.

 - Go back to process applied to thought!

 1 New input idea - interested

 2 Same input idea - familiar - possible associated same input

                                            or possible associated different input.

   If input idea is same as associated input then look for associated output.

   If input idea different to associated input then store new idea of input, go to 1 or 2.

14th Jan 1974 - 180 - Recalled pleasure is that which is used in the process of learning to think, in the direction of the thinking process.

18th July 1972 Thinking about goals - 168 - Some interesting things which I can do in the process of thinking. When I'm doing a signal detection or any other job where a certain thing happening indicates the end of the job, I can set it up in my mind so that when that thing happens and attention is paid to it, recall indicates that the thing has happened which was set up to attract attention. Also at the position where the indicator was set up is a reference to "I know what to do then" which is a concept to the steps that have to be taken but that concept is not followed through until the set up is triggered.

25th April 1993 STM definition - STM is also called working memory in scientific literature.

Learning STM functions? - 24 - In doing a calculation in its mind it might want to remember a figure just calculated. It will be able to scan its memory in different amounts and to find how to scan its memory for this figure it will scan whole memory to see how it did it before. Then it will scan just the past few seconds. Soon it will know by an automatic learning process just to scan the last part of its memory. This will become a habit and learned whenever it wants a recently calculated figure it will know where to scan. This would be an internally learnt thing to do. This sort of thing could be a habit of the centre unit which is recorded in its own separate memory.

15th March 1993 STM feelings - When a thought sequence repeats and overlaps with the thoughts in STM and we are not concentrating / paying attention or doing a previous activity then we have a "boredom" event, a feeling of familiarity and some activity is initiated.

Should also be a set of feelings associated with S.T.M. processes. Maybe STM is easier to design if there are such feelings involved.

23rd Feb 1995 What is transferred to LTM from STM - When executing a sequence from experience that has been successful in the past there is no need to store the new sequence because it is the same as the past. It serves no purpose. Only need to record it in LTM if something new occurs. It would exist in STM and not be transferred to LTM unless something new occurs and then it would be saved Long Term. A mark would be placed in LTM to identify where the missing piece was and no associations could be made across the marker.

13th Jan 1985 - Idea from reading "Dynamic Memory" - Maybe goals - wants are kept in short term memory so they are semiconscious during processing - rather like a status indicator as above - maybe feelings as above are kept during short term memory life time?

25th Dec 1979 - Information goes from short term memory [to long term memory] if it is:

1/ Punished or rewarded or has emotional associations,

2/ If it is new information.

27th Aug 1976 - Must think about the possibility of having a short term memory and long term memory. A filtering process takes place as events are passed from short term memory into long term memory. This process could possibly reorder, remove or add things so that long term memory was organized correctly.  See 12th March 1971. This would also imply that different recall processes would take place on short term memory and long term memory simply because they would be organized slightly differently. 

12th March 1971 - 145 - The short term memory could act as a memory which passes onto main memory those experiences or learned sequences which turn out to be complete or produce a required level of importance. The "passing on to main memory" could be made compulsory by the brain mechanism (central control) or could be left to the requirements at any time. (See 163)


 - Thoughts (ideas) and words are one to one.

13th May 1970 - 134 - When I think, there seems to be an automatic mechanism which immediately converts my concept or concepts into words or speech which is not spoken but just recalled - read off into memory again.