Concurrent counting in different sensory modalities

Methodology: In the spirit of our many demonstrations of control, our excellent laboratory for investigation of control is our own corporeal experience. The evidence is in our subjective experience, but replicability and actual replication makes the experience objective data within the public constituted by those who carry out the experiment.

Several levels of perception are involved in the phenomena reported here.

Context: I routinely mix a smoothie in the morning with a hand-held blender. I count to 75 seconds.

In my counting I control the auditory perceptions in imagination so that I ‘hear’ the unvoiced number names. Bored with this, I began visualizing the numbers, controlling the visual perceptions in imagination. I controlled ‘counting’ in both sensory modalities concurrently. I counted down from 75 to 1 or up from 1 to 75.

Bored with this, I began counting the visually imagined numbers down from 75 to 1 concurrently as I am counting the auditorily imagined numbers up from 1 to 75.

At first, the visual images lagged the words.

Then I ‘shifted focus’ to counting visually (which is anyway not a usual way of counting). Sometimes the visual image leads the auditory perception, sometimes word and image are concurrent, and with practice that is the regular experience unless my focus of attention weakens. (What are the perceptual inputs to the function(s) for controlling ‘focus of attention’?)

Whatever system controls counting, two distinct instances are in operation at the same time. This suggests that ECSes of all types exist or may be recruited redundantly, at least in pairs. (I say "redundantly’ in common parlance. The statistician who clings to the technical definition of redundancy should feel free to substitute a word like “suppletively”.)

Supplemental observation: With practice, my counting of seconds has become quite accurate, i.e. coincides with a reading of the clock’s second hand when I turn and look at the end of the count. It’s possible I hear the slight tick that the electric clock makes, about ten feet away on the wall, despite the noise of the blender. This could be tested. The pulse of seconds is unrelated to heart rate. What are the inputs to the perceptual input function for this temporal perception? I bet it can be done for arbitrary relatively short time intervals, e.g. 5 seconds, though I haven’t tested that. I’m reminded of workers at the US Government Mint who could accurately count out bundles of 100 newly printed bills by riffling them in the manner of shuffling cards.

1 Like

I moved this to the intended subcategory, Fundamentals/Phenomena.

June 3

Methodology: In the spirit of our many demonstrations of control, our excellent laboratory for investigation of control is our own corporeal experience. The evidence is in our subjective experience, but replicability and actual replication makes the experience objective data within the public constituted by those who carry out the experiment.

That sounds like a very difficult task, simultaneously counting up and down, even if the opposed counts were in different imagined modalities.

. I can add another multimodal seconds counting example. In our amateur music camp, one of the teachers was a local composer. He asked us to treat one arm as the seconds-hand of a clock and move it from vertical around to vertical again in exactly one minute, which meant counting from one to sixty while moving the arm an appropriate distance. It was rather remarkable how many of these amateur musicians were exactly correct or within one or two seconds. Not as difficult a task as I imagine you to have set yourself, but similarly multimodal.

When you ask “What are the perceptual inputs to the function(s) for controlling ‘focus of attention’?”, don’t forget that this exercise is fully conscious control, not in the reorganized hierarchy, which is not concerned with “attention”. Powers never had more than self-acknowledged speculation when dealing with consciousness.

Actually not that difficult. That was a surprise. But the point of subjective experiment is that anyone can do it, so why speculate that it is difficult? Only that you control other matters with higher gain, and of course I understand that. I mentioned as context that I was doing something that required that commitment of time anyway. Some routine that you do anyway would be the experimental testbed for you.

Attention: I’m sitting at the dining room table with a laptop. I turn my eyes above and to the right of the computer screen, toward the ladderback chair on the opposite side of the table, a visual configuration above and just to the right of the screen. I shift my attention from the chair to peripheral vision and back. In peripheral vision, I shift my attention from the lit screen in the left field to the glass on the table to the right, then to the candlestick farther to the right and farther away, then back to the window, immediately to my left, then the adjacent window farther away on my left, and so on. There is no discernable motor movement of the eyes, but it is as though I am foveating each configuration in turn. Subjectively, it seems similar to examining an abstract concept in its different aspects. Obviously in ‘remembrance of things past’ we turn our attention from one to another article of our mental furniture. I don’t understand how this might be articulated in the model, but observing ourselves doing it is a first step.

The counting, the pulse of seconds, is independent of the number symbols, be they words or visual configurations. It occurs to me that I could count with words while visualizing the letters of our alphabet three times. I’ll try that today. I won’t run the blender now, as people are sleeping. Backward reciting of the alphabet is too unpracticed, so I don’t think there’d be much point in attempting that as well, the added difficulty is, shall we say, a confounding variable?

Well, it was certainly difficult for me when I tried it a few times. I kept getting stuck at three and seventy three.

As for attention, that’s a conscious process, probably not related to the reorganized hierarchy other than in its role of implementing conscious control processes. The reorganized hierarchy’s processes do their jobs without attention. We are never conscious of individual muscle tensions when we are walking unless we make a conscious effort to be aware of them. A skilled pianist is ordinarily not conscious of the notes of a well practiced piece of music. A scale or an arpeggio likewise is a component of a phrase, not ordinarily considered consciously, at least not if the music is fast. Those things are what the reorganized non-conscious hierarchy takes care of.

All the things you talk about are conscious, an area Powers declined to incorporate in his published work afaik, and seldom ventured even a speculation about in person (at least in my presence) or on CSGnet. We are not using his guidance when we study it, and experiments like yours are evidence to be used in any theoretical considerations of conscious control.

Attention is another process with which I think everyone is familiar, and that should be incorporated into any serious study of conscious control along with many other shreds of evidence, all of which refer to processes accessible to an experimenter only from their manifestations in observable behaviour. There, they must be disentangled from or coordinated with interpretations of the actions, all of which are mediated by the non-conscious reorganized hierarchy.

Ah, yes It’s easier counting down from 70, because subtractions from 10 are familiar perceptions which recur (in part) with each decade. Building facility with decades on the 5s takes a bit of practice time. Most of the time I was counting 70 and then adding another 5 seconds if I wanted 75, or before that 60 and then 15. This trivial adventure with boredom has been going on a while, I’m just getting around to posting about it. It exposes some interesting perceptual processes.

We are never conscious of individual muscle tensions [when we are walking, with skilled sequences, etc.] unless we make a conscious effort to be aware of them.

Yes. The topic here in this part of the discussion to which we are now attending is precisely “making a conscious effort to be aware of” this instead of that, and then those instead of this. Yes, whatever controlled variable is subject to attention, its control is ‘implemented’ by way of subconscious control of other variables.

I’ve been thinking of presenting something about ‘the subconscious’ at the meeting in October, as a challenge and an attempt at disentaglement rather than a presentation of findings. The subject is ragged and my time has been even more so, but the thought is still percolating.

See attached.
PowersSystemsConsciousness.pdf (1.4 MB)

I have read the PDF chapter by Powers to which you link, and it does have consciousness in its title and that of a final section, but it does not seem to contain anything about consciousness except some comments about what it is not. It is a good tutorial on the state of what came to be known as PCT, including discussions of what at the time were shortcomings of the theory. He seems to be suggesting that “consciousness” is the unknown magic bullet that will slay all these pesky problems. Before I read it, I was fully prepared to say that I stand corrected, but I can’t.

I confess I came upon it while looking in vain for something I had done concerning programming languages, and, seeing the title, sent it without reading past the first paragraph. I apologize for misleading you.

Here are some fascinating phenomena: First, we seem to have available unbelievably accurate internal clocks, and secondly, with conscious training we can learn to control unbelievably complicated perceptions. After these complex perceptions have be well learned they tend to vanish from consciousness and continue to function in the “silent darkness” of the non-conscious control hierarchy – but not necessarily totally: Often they require some kind of (semi-) conscious supervision. I think that for example what we call program level control requires conscious operations in every branch point.

Martin wrote: “As for attention, that’s a conscious process…” Yes, I agree that attention and consciousness are connected, but not in a such way that we always consciously direct our attention. Sometimes we do but sometimes something like a pain in a leg wakes our attention and directs consciousness to the possible reason of that pain. According to Mark Solms our internal perceptions (or some of them) excite a certain emotional state, which in PCT would meant that we start to control certain perceptions with a high gain. So for example a perception of hunger put us in a state where our attention will fix to the next restaurant we see. If we were not hungry we would not notice that restaurant at all but instead something else.