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Embodied Creativity: Thinking Outside The Box Is More Than Mere Metaphor
In the 17th century, the French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes famously argued that, “the mind or soul of man is entirely different from the body.” With this move, Descartes forever enshrined himself as a dualist.
Modern science tells us that Descartes was wrong; our bodies and brains are comprised of the same biological stuff – proteins, DNA, genes, etc. However, some cognitive scientists are taking this claim further: the brain is not just connected to the body, they say, the body also influences the brain. That is, rationality is greatly determined by how the body experiences the world.
For example, when we say that something is “over our heads” to express the idea that we do not understand, we’re drawing on the physical inability to perceive something over our heads and the mental feeling of uncertainty. When we say that someone is “warming up” to us, we are combining the subjective judgment of kindness, pleasantness and affection with the physical sensation of warmth. Cognitive scientists call this ever so revealing area of study embodied cognition.
Embodied cognition research illustrates many strange quarks about the human condition. One study, for instance, demonstrated that thinking about the future caused participants to lean slightly forward while thinking about the past caused participants to lean slightly backwards. Why? We treat time as a physical object that’s either in front of us or behind us. For example, if you’re experiencing a bout of pessimism I might remind you that you have, “the whole future ahead of yourself,” and encourage you to, “keep moving forward and leave the past behind you.”
Another study demonstrated that we conflate morality with being physically clean. In one of the experiments researchers showed that participants asked to think about moral wrongdoings like adultery or cheating where, compared to a control group who thought about good deeds, more likely to request an antiseptic cloth after the experiment. Again, our cognition is not confined to our cortices.
What’s interesting is the relationship between embodied cognition and creativity; two of my favorite subjects. Consider a study published this year in the journal Psychological Science. Angela Leung and a team of researchers conducted a series of experiments to see what happens when metaphors describing creativity are enacted physically. Is “thinking outside the box” real?
To find out, the researchers gathered 102 undergraduates. They completed 10-item Remote Associate Tests (RAT), which measures convergent thinking, while sitting in either a 5’ by 5’ box or in an averaged sized room. The RAT required the students to produce a fourth word (tape) that connects with three target words (measure, worm, video). Did the students who tackled the RAT “outside the box” preform better?
This is exactly what Leung et al found. Students who completed the RAT outside of the box generated more correct answers than students inside the box and students in a control condition.
Leung et al demonstrated embodiment for several other creativity clichés. In brief, ‘putting two and two together’ and ‘seeing both sides of the problem’ are more than mere metaphors. They are ideas in the brain enacted by physical movements in the environment. (Psyblog has a nice explanation of the full study)
Cognitive scientist Shaun Gallagher, author of the trippy book How the Body Shapes the Mind, puts it this way:
In the embodied view, if you're going to explain cognition it's not enough just to look inside the brain. In any particular instance, what's going on inside the brain in large part may depend on what's going on in the body as a whole, and how that body is situated in its environment.
It will be interesting to see if embodied cognition becomes a new paradigm for thinking about the brain as cognitive science continues to accelerate into the future.
xavier gallego morell/Shuttershock
"Deepfakes" and "cheap fakes" are becoming strikingly convincing — even ones generated on freely available apps.
- A writer named Magdalene Visaggio recently used FaceApp and Airbrush to generate convincing portraits of early U.S. presidents.
- "Deepfake" technology has improved drastically in recent years, and some countries are already experiencing how it can weaponized for political purposes.
- It's currently unknown whether it'll be possible to develop technology that can quickly and accurately determine whether a given video is real or fake.
The future of deepfakes<p>In 2018, Gabon's president Ali Bongo had been out of the country for months receiving medical treatment. After Bongo hadn't been seen in public for months, rumors began swirling about his condition. Some suggested Bongo might even be dead. In response, Bongo's administration released a video that seemed to show the president addressing the nation.</p><p>But the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=324528215059254" target="_blank">video</a> is strange, appearing choppy and blurry in parts. After political opponents declared the video to be a deepfake, Gabon's military attempted an unsuccessful coup. What's striking about the story is that, to this day, experts in the field of deepfakes can't conclusively verify whether the video was real. </p><p>The uncertainty and confusion generated by deepfakes poses a "global problem," according to a <a href="https://www.brookings.edu/research/is-seeing-still-believing-the-deepfake-challenge-to-truth-in-politics/#cancel" target="_blank">2020 report from The Brookings Institution</a>. In 2018, the U.S. Department of Defense released some of the first tools able to successfully detect deepfake videos. The problem, however, is that deepfake technology keeps improving, meaning forensic approaches may forever be one step behind the most sophisticated forms of deepfakes. </p><p>As the 2020 report noted, even if the private sector or governments create technology to identify deepfakes, they will:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"...operate more slowly than the generation of these fakes, allowing false representations to dominate the media landscape for days or even weeks. "A lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can get its shoes on," warns David Doermann, the director of the Artificial Intelligence Institute at the University of Buffalo. And if defensive methods yield results short of certainty, as many will, technology companies will be hesitant to label the likely misrepresentations as fakes."</p>
Context is everything.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a number of new behaviours into daily routines, like physical distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing. Meanwhile, many old behaviours such as attending events, eating out and seeing friends have been put on hold.
A new study looks at how images of coffee's origins affect the perception of its premiumness and quality.
- Images can affect how people perceive the quality of a product.
- In a new study, researchers show using virtual reality that images of farms positively influence the subjects' experience of coffee.
- The results provide insights on the psychology and power of marketing.