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week 4

Hunting Eureka

The split-second realization is a feeling commonly known amongst students, philosophers, veterans, and neurologists. In “Eureka Hunt”, Jonah Lehrer focuses on a study by Jung-Beeman and Kounios that combined the slow-but-accurate fMRI with the fast-but-inaccurate EEC to map out how people develop the epiphany. The two machines revealed the important part the right hemisphere of the brain played in sudden realizations, spurring new theories about how thoughts worked across hemispheres. The scientists describe the complex problem solving process as “concentrate, then relax”, using examples of a Zen meditator, a Nobel Prize laureate, and a psychologist who could use an EEG to predict when someone was going to have an insight, to back it up. The ground-breaking discoveries in terms of the right-hemisphere’s involvement is augmented by the 2001 papers by Miller and Cohen that relate insight to the prefrontal cortex, asserting that the conscienceless part of the brain is the conductor of activities, allowing it to use parts like the right hemisphere to determine an answer before your conscience can come to the same realization.

Though we don’t know much about how the prefrontal cortex uses the right hemisphere to come to conclusions, it reminds me of the power of biological computers, which have enormous power potentials for certain types of problems. Lehrer’s article concentrates on the topic of intuition, bringing in relevant information from several studies to help explain the science behind how Dodge was able to come up with his life-saving escape. Though he doesn’t have the level of personal experience that Thernstrom or Dominus had in their articles, he did take part one of the experiments he cites, and includes a little anecdote that helps us understand what might’ve been a hard-to-see distinction between the two types of cognitive pathways. But his lack of personal experience allows him to expand on other studies and other people’s experiences that add to his conclusion about relaxation. As a result, he relies more on quotes and stories for his ethos. His writing lacks any pathos, since, while most of us have had split-second moments of understanding, fewer of us have had the near-death escape tied to it that Dodge has when Lehrer uses him to introduce the story. The study he writes about doesn’t have as much of a social impact as Thernstrom’s does, nor does it touch the readers like Dominus’s does. The involvement of DARPA does lend credence to how important the findings of this research could be, the average reader, like me, probably doesn’t value the “concentrate, then relax” method that Jung-Beeman and Kousnios describe as much of a great aid to our cognitive processes.

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About Gib

I'm a college graduate with degrees in Biology and Political Science, and a minor in Bioengineering. I'm a self-taught programmer, and I love to learn.

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