Monday, October 13, 2014

All in the Mind

Steven Pinker, research psychologist and professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and author of "Words and Rules", HERE asks :

"What is the missing ingredient — not genes, not upbringing — that shapes the mind?"
Anyone with some knowledge of astrology has an answer, though not one as to how the process works. Why not test a theory that broad astrological principles could be involved in the answer to that question? Astrologers, in cahoots with psychologists such as Professor Pinker, might discover something of value to both science and astrology.

"If genes have any effect at all, it must be total. But the data show that genes account for about only about half of the variance in personality and intelligence (25% to 75%, depending on how things are measured). That leaves around half the variance to be explained by something that is not genetic........growing up in the same home — with the same parents, books, TVs, guns, and so on — does not make children similar.

So the variation in personality and intelligence breaks down roughly as follows: genes 50%, families 0%, something else 50%. As with Bob Dylan's Mister Jones, something is happening here but we don't know what it is.

Perhaps it is chance. While in the womb, the growth cone of an axon zigged rather than zagged, and the brain gels into a slightly different configuration. If so, it would have many implications that have not figured into our scientific or everyday way of thinking.... "

Extending those thoughts to the area of political mindset ~ a number of studies have found that biology may be linked with political orientation. Wikipedia has a page on the topic. David Sloan Wilson's article, posted in 2011, is an interesting read.
"Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species? The Answer is Yes". The article left me feeling sad that astrology cannot command the $$$$$ required for an experiment such as the one he describes. If only more scientists would open their minds, experiments like this one could be modified to take in birth data so that it could be analysed by astrologers. Dream on!

A few extracts:
If men are from Mars and women from Venus, where do liberals and conservatives come from? They are so befuddled by each other that it is tempting to say different galaxies--or, to employ a biological metaphor, that they are different species. It turns out that the biological metaphor might be surprisingly close to the truth.

For years I wanted to study people in the same way that I am accustomed to studying beetles and fish--not just in the laboratory, but also "in the field" as they go about their everyday lives. I finally found my chance when I met Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the famous psychologist who is best known for his work on peak psychological experience (Flow) and who pioneered something called the experience sampling method (ESM).

The ESM is simplicity itself. People are outfitted with devices that beep at random times during the day, prompting them to fill out a short questionnaire recording where they are, what they are doing, who they are with, and a checklist of psychological states on a numerical scale....... We began with a multi-million dollar project that Mihaly had conducted with sociologist Barbara Schneider to examine how young people prepare to enter the work force. Thousands of American high school students had participated nationwide by providing extensive background information and being beeped for a week, for roughly 50 snapshots of their individual experience................

...Everyone in our sample was an American, a teenager, and belonged to the same major religious tradition of Protestantism. In these respects they were culturally uniform. But some belonged to conservative denominations such as Pentecostal and others to liberal denominations such as Episcopalian. As Ingrid combed through the data, which involved tedious hours in front of the computer, the differences that began to emerge were astounding. It was as if these conservative and liberal religious youth were--different species.

Imagine the priceless information astrologers could glean from being included in an experimental survey like that one !

Recent articles have taken the same kind of research further: two are by Chris Mooney for Mother Jones website -

From 2013 -
The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans
Two new studies further support the theory that our political decision making could have a neurological basis

Snip -
Republicans were using the right amygdala, the center of the brain's threat response system. Democrats, in contrast, were using the insula, involved in internal monitoring of one's feelings. Amazingly, Schreiber and his colleagues write that this test predicted 82.9 percent of the study subjects' political party choices—considerably better, they note, than a simple model that predicts your political party affiliation based on the affiliation of your parents.

From 2014
Scientists Are Beginning to Figure Out Why Conservatives Are…Conservative
Ten years ago, it was wildly controversial to talk about psychological differences between liberals and conservatives. Today, it's becoming hard not to

That's pretty extraordinary, when you think about it. After all, one of the teams of commenters includes New York University social psychologist John Jost, who drew considerable political ire in 2003 when he and his colleagues published a synthesis of existing psychological studies on ideology, suggesting that conservatives are characterized by traits such as a need for certainty and an intolerance of ambiguity. Now, writing in Behavioral and Brain Sciences in response to Hibbing roughly a decade later, Jost and fellow scholars note that:

There is by now evidence from a variety of laboratories around the world using a variety of methodological techniques leading to the virtually inescapable conclusion that the cognitive-motivational styles of leftists and rightists are quite different. This research consistently finds that conservatism is positively associated with heightened epistemic concerns for order, structure, closure, certainty, consistency, simplicity, and familiarity, as well as existential concerns such as perceptions of danger, sensitivity to threat, and death anxiety.

Astrologers might consider that a heavily emphasised Saturn, and/or its signs Capricorn and/or Aquarius = higher potential for a person to exhibit a more conservative mindset. Absent that emphasis there'd be plenty of leeway for a variety of other, more liberal preferences. There's obviously much more to it than that - still, it'd be a good place to start. Flowing from that, there'd be a possibility that time's cycles, mini-cycles, maxi-cycles and all between, as defined by planetary movement, in coordination with a given set of inherited genes, might incline the political mind of the newborn, when grown, to orient leftward or rightward.

(NEXT POST will be Wednesday's.)


Sonny G said...
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Sonny G said...

I'll wait for more logical, knowledgable minds to comment.
I'm unable to discuss conservatives with being snarky.

I noticed multiple saturn's in my chart from alabedotcom...I have no idea what they mean but for sure I am liberal to my core.

mike said...

I noticed that your Pinker link is dated 2002, and is 12 years old now.
Pinker states, "That leaves around half the variance to be explained by something that is not genetic........growing up in the same home — with the same parents, books, TVs, guns, and so on — does not make children similar."

Each child inherits one half of their genes from each parent, but each child receives a unique set from each parent. No two eggs from the mother are genetically identical, nor are two sperm from the father. There are complex subtleties that constantly interact between the genetics and the environment. It's been proven by the field of epigenetics that even genetically identical twins will display an increasing variation of genetic expression over time, due to exposure to environmental radiation and-or biochemicals, many through the foods eaten or inhaled. Some exposures are "good", some are "bad". The field of epigenetics is relatively new and I doubt that Pinker was fully aware of it in 2002, and he's a psychologist, which is not a "science", either.

Mercury, lead, and other toxin exposure pre- and post natal has been proven to have a dramatic effect on perceived intelligence and social skills. Prenatal exposure to the mother's hormonal variations affects the fetus. Pre- and post natal infections can have deleterious effects to a child's future physical and mental normalcy.

When I was a child, I had several elementary school teachers that were in particular left a couple of scars (scares...LOL). Would I have developed differently had I not been exposed to those teachers? Was the experience written in my astrology?

Your James Dean posting was interesting to me and I looked at his transits for the day of death. He had several "bad" transits. Was he fated to die that day or did it require the astrological interaction of the driver that struck him as well? Could it have been avoided had James Dean known of his astrological transits of that day?

Now-a-day, the notion of political liberal vs conservative groupings has its own peculiarities. Consider the conservative, gay Log Cabin branch of Republicans. Or the pro-choice, gay-bashing Democrats. The 1%-rich, liberal Democrats that have all of their money invested in the Koch brothers' businesses. There's a lot of liberal in the most conservative of us, and a lot of conservative in the most liberal of us.

Astrology has tremendous utility and, like calculus, is very good at differentiating change over time when comparing the natal chart to transits, progressions, or whatever. Like you, I would like to see more research investment in astrology. It's interesting that you quoted Pinker, a psychologist, as I've always thought that psychology and astrology were inclusive...particularly when a client is interested in self-understanding and the astrological energy expression of that person is known.

Twilight said...

Sonny ~ Saturn is just one example of how something from astrology might be seen to link to conservatism, due mainly to keywords given to Saturn by astrologers over many decades/centuries. We all have Saturn in our charts, I think the key is how well-integrated or how clear its "influence" is able to come through in any particular chart.

Twilight said...

mike ~ Yes Pinker's article
I used is an old one. It's the general thrust of it that was of interest to me, when I first read it years ago. I felt that it led on quite well to the more recent ones quoted later in the post.

Pinker's last para, anyway, kind of covers what you've written-
Also, what we are accustomed to thinking of as "the environment" — namely the proportion of variance that is not genetic — may have nothing to do with the environment. If the nongenetic variance is a product of chance events in brain assembly, yet another chunk of our personalities and intellects would be "biologically determined" (though not genetic) and beyond the scope of the best laid plans of parents and society.

You think this post, generally, is a load of codswallop then? I'm not quite seeing your overall point.

All I am trying to propose in this post is the unfortunate circumstance that though studies are being done, and have been done for years on the whys of human behaviour, political preferences etc, because astrology is treated as mere superstition
it has never been included in these experiments and researches.

Admittedly astrology is a complex, many faceted subject and it'd be difficult, impossible even, to find an easy way to combine it with those kinds of studies mentioned - but's a thought that has struck me many times when reading articles like the ones mentioned in the post.

mike (again) said...

No, not codswallop, Twilight...LOL. It's a complex subject is my point. You have several potential subtopics under one umbrella today and it all flows together, but has possible divergences.

We've previously discussed how an individual's natal chart is an energy map and is dependent upon that individual's free will to work its magic in determining the future outcomes. There is an infinite array of variables constantly created when considering a natal chart to transits (or other methods) over a lifetime. The outcome of one transit can influence a future transit, and so on over time.

I've been fascinated by various friends' natal charts and their transits. My familiarity makes it easier for me to understand some of their inner-being and their reactions to current events. The astrology rarely deceives the reality. But, that's because I know how that person did express their natal energy, the intervening transits, and how they are likely to handle the current astrological energy, yet I never know for sure how that person will actually react to a current transit with certainty. I've had my share of surprises. More often than not, how a person reacts to transits is also dependent on other individuals, which becomes multi-layered at that point. A lot like a "six degrees of separation". We all have influence and astrological bearing upon each other, particularly those closest to us.

Interpreting natal charts and transits is much like the current understanding of quantum physics. It's more a matter of probability than actual certainty and probability-accuracy increases with shorter intervals of time considerations.

LB said...

While Democrats and Republicans may be wired differently (according to the study you referenced), the fact that individuals within these groups generally identify with the goals of one or the other of the parties (and apparently place their faith in our political system) seems to indicate they share an important similarity: these individuals seem to actively seek acceptance from other members of their chosen group by conforming to certain group norms.

Wish I could remember which astrologer said it -and I hope I'm not mistaken in the way I remember it- but it was something along the lines of human motivation falling into one of three general categories.

The majority of us are motivated by the group (could be political, religious, social, cultural, etc), followed by a lesser percentage of people who are motivated by being *different* from the group, and lastly, there are a small handful of individuals who answer to an altogether higher calling - which doesn't make them any more or less "religious".

Genes, heredity, culture, environment, even past life memories (which might come with a whole other set of memories and influences), etc. all help to shape us.

Yet beyond all of those, I believe there exists an invisible force that calls us to remember, encourages and invites each of us without forcing its will. Some call it God or Source or the Universe, or something else.

Like character, I'm not sure our willingness or our ability to listen to this cosmic voice can me measured by science *or* seen in our astrological charts - though I'm sure many would disagree.:)

LB said...

I think the point is when we reach the place where we're motived by that inner voice, we're more likely to move beyond our wiring and previous limitations.

It's when we become more profoundly aware of our interconnectedness, our relationship to everyone and to all things. Not as an abstract ideal, but as a guiding principle.

LB said...

My husband the Buddha (:)) added how there's probably some truth in all of the ways we look at ourselves - using Science, Astrology, whatever.

The bigger TRUTH however, stands on its own. All things are possible no matter how unlikely.

Twilight said...

mike ~ This topic could develop into extreme complexity if stretched - I agree.

I've just read Matthew Currie's last but one post (see astrology blog links in sidebar "Oh My stars!" )- his post titled Free Will (and Steve's a jerk).

One of Matthew's last observations

It seems to me that Steve has had some moral choice in how he has played the hand he was dealt. But ultimately, it’s still the hand he was dealt… and ultimately, that’s how he chose to play it.

I like that - I'd try to put it in more general terms (minus Steve) if I could, but I can't without sinking in the quicksands of complexity. ;-)

Probability or potentiality is all astrology can offer - yes I agree on that. The probability/potentiality is bounded, limited, by certain factors though, including natal chart content - yes? Also, with regard to "the other person" or "other group" or "other nation" involved in any event - their astrology too must be factored in.

It's an astrological jungle out there ain't it?

Twilight said...

LB ~ I like the 3 group idea - albeit rather stereotypically inclined. :-)

I haven't much opinion on the "invisible force" you mention. It's not something I sense very clearly other than it being a combination/amalgam of all the rest of the factors mentioned already in comments. I wish I did have that belief in the invisible, I did once upon a time, but it faded.

I agree with your husband that there's some truth in most of the ways we look at, and define ourselves, and each other. And, as you said - nothing is impossible.
If we could bring back our ancestors to look at life as lived in 2014, they'd agree with you too.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Good point. Still, something rang true for me about the three descriptions, though I probably messed them up! I also choose to believe we can change, which means our motivations can change too.