Part 3: How We Think Differently
Looking in All the Wrong Places
In the early 90s, I began to hunt for research tools to identify non-rational thinking and (hopefully) to measure it. What a cornucopia of partially-effective and half-baked methods!
For years (and still), some researchers interpreted skin electrodynamics, using the widely-known (and widely-doubted) lie detector test. Others used EEGs to pick up electrical activity at least a couple of inches into the brain (this was in the early 90s, pre-MRI or even commercial CT scanners). Neither of these approaches provided consistent results, or for that matter any data without experts to interpret. My favorite approaches tapped into hand motions, such as a conductor uses to evoke emotions from an orchestra or chorus. There’s some academic evidence that conductors use consistent gestures for specific feelings in the music, and that the rest of us might too (especially those of us who ignore our mothers’ rules and “talk with our hands.”)
Letting people move their hands while they thought about something might indicate what they were feeling and how strongly. I helped design several research protocols based on these principles (cf., Manfred Clynes) and obtained endlessly fascinating responses! Unfortunately, we got completely different but fascinating responses on every retest – flunking a basic qualification for a reliable survey instrument.
When you’re looking around the ragged edges of psychology and neuroscience, you meet a lot of really interesting people. Today they’re likely to be in a college or university neuroscience department. In the 80’s many had bounced off traditional academia and research, and landed in a flaky gray area where they were free to pursue wilder and more whimsical approaches. Many of these approaches contain more than a kernel of brilliance. Every now and then one of them triggers an important innovation like Resonance.