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VII. Our Earthuman Ascent: A Major Evolutionary Transition in Individuality

3. A Complementary Brain and Thought Process

Evans, Jonathan. Hypothetical Thinking: Dual Process in Reasoning and Judgment. Hove, UK: Psychology Press, 2007. The University of Plymouth cognitive psychologist continues his work on the apparent presence of two distinct, complementary thought processes. The terms used are heuristic – analytic which could be taken as either more systematic or particulate. A final chapter then gathers an array of similar approaches that altogether supports such a dual holistic – elemental cerebral reciprocity.

Evans, Jonathan. In Two Minds: Dual-Process Accounts of Reasoning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 7/10, 2003. A survey of the theory that two sequentially evolved faculties make up a human brain. System 1, an older autonomous mode rising from animal senses, deals more with heuristic, investigative perception. System 2 distinguishes the human phase by its capacity for logic and language. This second stage is activated when hominids formed increasingly complex societies based on communication. Also known as Implicit and Explicit, these functions seem to represent in evolution the same right to left hemisphere succession that an individual person experiences.

Evans, Jonathan. Thinking Twice: Two Minds in One Brain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. A popular exposition by the British psychologist of his much studied proposal that evolution has endowed us with dual cognitive capacities of an earlier holistic, parallel “intuitive mind” and later rational, serial “reflective mind.” Once again, although they align closely with right and left hemispheres, this “dual process” school does not make this connection. Surely both archetypal modes are needed in mutual unison, while our late, worldwide digital phase could much benefit from an analog, integrative vision.

Evans, Jonathan and Keith Frankish, eds. In Two Minds: Dual Processes and Beyond. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. For the past years, psychologists have engaged the evident fact that cognition in some way involves a pervasive, archetypal complementarity, as the quote notes. Aka System 1 and 2, implicit/explicit, and so on, the first is evolutionarily old, intuitive, associative, while the other more recently human, logical, abstract and self aware. Yet nowhere in the many papers, or insular index, is there a mention of the bilateral brain hemispheres, although the parallel seems obvious. Indeed the chapter “Thinking Across Cultures” by Emma Buchtel and Ara Norenzayan (search) finds these two modes much akin to bicameral Asian and Western holistic or analytical, relational or particulate, propensities. What great altogether discovery both eludes and awaits?

In recent years an exciting body of work has emerged from various quarters devoted to exploring the idea that there is a fundamental duality in the human mind. (1) Typically, one of the processes is characterized as fast, effortless, automatic, nonconscious, inflexible, heavily contextualized, and undemanding of working memory, and the other as slow, effortful, controlled, conscious, flexible, decontextualized, and demanding of working memory. (1)

Evans, Jonathan and Keith Stanovich. Dual-Process Theories of Higher Cognition: Advancing the Debate. Perspectives on Psychological Science. 8/3, 2013. The University of Plymouth and University of Toronto psychologists have been the main articulators of this evolutionary and personal reciprocity, search names herein for more. The model gained utility and fame from Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman’s 2011 Thinking, Fast and Slow book. Its certain version then achieves another iconic representation of natural complementary archetypes which are being found to distinguish our brains, thought, and expression. While this paper answers some critics, mostly over nuances, the general substance remains in place and effect.

Dual-process and dual-system theories in both cognitive and social psychology have been subjected to a number of recently published criticisms. However, they have been attacked as a category, incorrectly assuming there is a generic version that applies to all. We identify and respond to 5 main lines of argument made by such critics. We agree that some of these arguments have force against some of the theories in the literature but believe them to be overstated. We argue that the dual-processing distinction is supported by much recent evidence in cognitive science. Our preferred theoretical approach is one in which rapid autonomous processes (Type 1) are assumed to yield default responses unless intervened on by distinctive higher order reasoning processes (Type 2). What defines the difference is that Type 2 processing supports hypothetical thinking and load heavily on working memory. (Abstract)

Evert, Denise and Meghan Kmen. Hemispheric Asymmetries for Global and Local Processing as a Function of Stimulus Exposure Duration. Brain and Cognition. 51/1, 2003. More recent findings from research studies.

More specifically, the right hemisphere (RH) appears to be more specialized for global processing and the left hemisphere (LH) appears to be more specialized for local processing. (116) Within the global/local processing literature, LH specialization for local processing is most often operationally defined as faster and/or more accurate responding to targets presented in the right visual field relative to the left visual field, whereas RH specialization for global processing is defined by the opposite pattern of results. (119)

Everts, Regula, et al. Strengthening of Laterality of Verbal and Visuospatial Functions during Childhood and Adolescence. Human Brain Mapping. 30/2, 2009. University of Bern, Center for Cognition, Learning and Memory, and Paediatric Neurology and Developmental Medicine, Children’s University Hospital, researchers deftly quantify a sequential, spiral passage for the relative lifespan emphasis of our brain hemispheres. An initial Right mode and bicameral balance proceeds in turn, as we grow and mature, to go separate ways with a more Left side prominence. Our further interest is that similar cerebral preferences of global humankind seem to track the same course, ontogeny to phylogeny, from an original East and South integral holism to later West and North analytical isolates. And in both cases, as noted herein, the arc of Islam appears to lie just where an interconnecting corpus callosum would be. What palliative witness and resolve might be there for our seeing and asking?

Cognitive functions in the child's brain develop in the context of complex adaptive processes, determined by genetic and environmental factors. Little is known about the cerebral representation of cognitive functions during development. In particular, knowledge about the development of right hemispheric (RH) functions is scarce. Considering the dynamics of brain development, localization and lateralization of cognitive functions must be expected to change with age. (Abstract) To summarize, cognitive development is accompanied by changes in the functional representation of neuronal circuitries, with a strengthening of lateralization not only for LH but also for RH functions. Our data show that age and performance, independently, account for the increases of laterality with age. (Abstract)

To summarize, our data lend support to an ongoing development of functional lateralization throughout childhood and adolescence. Cognitive functions in the language emerge from an initially bilateral pattern toward more and more specialized unilateral networks, confirming and extending earlier studies. Additionally and for the first time, we here describe the development of laterality of predominantly RH functions, which also show a significant increase with age. (481)

Faust, M. and N. Mashal. The Role of the Right Cerebral Hemisphere in Processing Novel Metaphoric Expressions Taken from Poetry. Neuropsychologia. 45/4, 2007. With its enhanced ability to perceive ‘large semantic fields,’ the right brain (RH) can recognize and appreciate unique analogical relations better than the left side (LH).

The results support previous research indicating that during word recognition, the RH activates a broader range of related meanings that the LH, including novel, nonsalient meanings. The findings thus suggest that the RH may be critically involved in at least one important component of novel metaphor comprehension, i.e., the integration of the individual meanings of two seemingly unrelated concepts into a meaningful metaphoric expression.

Filippi, Piera. Emotional and Interactional Prosody across Animal Communications Systems. Frontiers of Psychology. September 26, 2016. A Vrije Universiteit Brussel AI linguist attends to how important, though subliminal, is modulated body language in motio for any social discourse. In a noted agreement with Charles Darwin’s evolutionary prescience, she goes on to aver that creaturely communications firstly arose from rhythmic utterances before discrete, syntactic speech.

Across a wide range of animal taxa, prosodic modulation of the voice can express emotional information and is used to coordinate vocal interactions between multiple individuals. Within a comparative approach to animal communication systems, I hypothesize that the ability for emotional and interactional prosody (EIP) paved the way for the evolution of linguistic prosody – and perhaps also of music, continuing to play a vital role in the acquisition of language. In support of this hypothesis, I review three research fields: (i) empirical studies on the adaptive value of EIP in non-human primates, mammals, songbirds, anurans, and insects; (ii) the beneficial effects of EIP in scaffolding language learning and social development in human infants; (iii) the cognitive relationship between linguistic prosody and the ability for music, which has often been identified as the evolutionary precursor of language. (Abstract)

Fitch, W. Tecumseh. Dance, Music, Meter and Groove. Frontiers of Human Neuroscience. March 1, 2016. The University of Vienna cognitive biologist (search) is a leading theorist and mentor for the sequential, complementary evolution of rhythmic prosody and literal language. After some years of research and reports, such as The Evolution of Language in Biology and Philosophy (20/193, 2005) and The Biology and Evolution of Music in Cognition (100/173, 2006), he is at the forefront of the current synthesis of these complementary modes of communication.

I argue that core aspects of musical rhythm, especially “groove” and syncopation, can only be fully understood in the context of their origins in the participatory social experience of dance. Musical meter is first considered in the context of bodily movement. I then offer an interpretation of the pervasive but somewhat puzzling phenomenon of syncopation in terms of acoustic emphasis on certain offbeat components of the accompanying dance style. The reasons for the historical tendency of many musical styles to divorce themselves from their dance-based roots are also briefly considered. To the extent that musical rhythms only make sense in the context of bodily movement, researchers interested in ecologically valid approaches to music cognition should make a more concerted effort to extend their analyses to dance, particularly if we hope to understand the cognitive constraints underlying rhythmic aspects of music like meter and groove. (Abstract)

Forster, Jens and Laura Dannenberg. GLOMO: A Systems Account of Global Versus Local Processing. Psychological Science. 21/3, 2010. While the study of reciprocal cognitive modes by bicameral hemisphere and dual process approaches has been underway for some time, in this paper and other writings, University of Amsterdam social psychologists make a strong, cumulative statement of their validity and value. An initial motive is David Navon’s classic paper “Forest before Trees” in Cognitive Psychology (9/3, 1977). As supported by many references, a concise case can now be made for definitive integral holistic and/or separate discrete, distinctions. These attributes are also seen to distinguish Eastern interdependent and Western individualist cultures. See also Forster’s paper “GLOMO: The How and Why of Global and Local Processing” in Current Directions in Psychological Science (21/1, 2012) with a long listing of global right (feminine) and local left (masculine) traits. So may it finally be known that we human epitome contain this very cosmic complementarity in our own heads?

In sum, the current analysis suggests two psychological processing systems, the global system (glo-sys) that processes novel events and the local system (lo-sys) that processes familiar events. Whereas glo-sys integrates, lo-sys differentiates. Whenever something is novel, unfamiliar, ambiguous, complex, uncertain, distant, vague, abstract, or otherwise represents an information gap, glo-sys tries to make sense of it by integrating it into superordinate, inclusive knowledge structures. Upon a global understanding, lo-sys takes over, reflecting a global to local sequence. Whenever something is experienced as familiar, clear, close, proximal, or concrete, lo-sys may simply accept this event as “understood” or may search further for informative details that differentiate this event from others. (190)

High spatial frequency images that contain fine-grained and detailed information seem to benefit from left hemisphere processing, whereas low spatial frequency images that are usually perceived as more “blurry” convey global configurational or gestalt information are processed better in the right hemisphere. (190)

Friederici, Angela. Language in Our Brain: The Origins of a Uniquely Human Capacity. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2017. The MPI Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences neuroscientist director and MPI vice president surveys the past 35 years of her own work from MIT (her mentor/colleague Noam Chomsky writes a preface) and the full literature into 2010s as the cerebral nature of our unique linguistic abilities became clearly evident. Rather than a left side trait, as long held, it is lately realized that both complementary hemispheres are actively involved in speaking and hearing. As Dr. Friederici well conveys, it is now confirmed that an on-going interplay of a left syntactic, lexical, rapid frequency mode and prosodic, semantic, complex pitch right input achieves a whole, fast and slow, brain system. Her studies of infants and children reveal a holistic right side start which later transitions in the second year to a left side emphasis. Ontogeny and phylogeny parallels accrue by way of gestural, melodic evolutionary origins for animal and primate communications.

With the development of new neuroscientific methods, the relation between language and the brain could be observed in living persons while processing language. Today the language network can be described to consist of a number of cortical regions in the left and right hemispheres. These interact in time under the involvement of some subcortical structures that are not specific for language but may serve as a relational systems between the network and its sensory input systems and its output systems. In this book I primarily focus on the cortical regions of the neural language network, which I will discuss with respect to their particular function in the adult brain and the developing brain. (8)

Pitch information is crucial in linguistic prosody and emotional prosody, but also in processing music melody. In this section I reviewed the neuroscientific studies on prodessing prosody during speech perception and of music. The processing of prosodic information during speech comprehension crucially involves the right hemisphere, whereas syntax is processed in the left hemisphere. During speech the left and right hemisphere interact online to assign phrase boundaries as the borders of constituents. They do this via the corpus callosum – a white matter structure that connects the two sides. In sum these studies conclude that although pure pitch may be processed in the right superior temporal gyrus, the localization of higher pitch-related processes is dependent on the particular function that pitch conveys: lexical tone in the left hemisphere, linguistic prosody bilaterally with a leftward lateralization, and music with a rightward path. (81)

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