[Bonus] Psychology, attention, and the urgent need for contemplative science.

30 May 2010

A number of the past bonus podcasts had been geared towards the physicists, but this weekend we have some juice for psychologists! In this bonus podcast, we have some extremely interesting points about attention training and the cognitive sciences from a more professional psychology standpoint. However, this is also very relevant for all meditators wishing to gain a better understanding of attention.

Adeline asked several questions, mostly pertaining to the “pulse-like” quality of our attention, and to the 600 or so pulses of attention that we have per second (according to both Buddhist psychology and modern psychology).

I wont go much into the details of the answers, but in a brief overview the podcast first goes into the need for actual contemplative scientists (a hybrid profession of both professional science and professional meditation) in modern psychology, followed by a discussion on the “clustering” of these pulse-like moments of cognition. Alan also relates this clustering is also related with Samadhi and with two different types of vividness, and presents a valid scientific, testable hypothesis on this topic.

Towards the end of the podcast, Alan also analyses how most of the research is now focused on the negative. How many people are depressed, how many people are unhappy, how many people have no empathy... The list goes on. He talks a bit about the Milgram torture experiment (wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment) and how nobody cared to study the 20% (aprox.)of people who did not agree to torture others. Instead of studying what it was about these 20% that caused them to be more compassionate, and how to integrate this into education systems, the result was “80% tortured, 20% did not.” Alan further talks about these “ideological blinkers” in modern psychology, and highlights the urgent need for cognitive science, to scientifically show that the human mind can evolve in extraordinary ways, unveiling levels of compassion, altruism, and ethics that are sometimes thought impossible in modernity.

Download (M4A / 26 MB)

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