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Provides compelling arguments that the mind which is generated by the physical processes of the brain, constrains the brain. Lays the scientific groundwork of what the brain is and how it evolved to be what it currently is. Fascinating facts and tidbits throughout. Does a wonderful job of explaining how the brain works. How it makes decisions. Debunks even preconceived scientific views like the notion that all neurons are alike.

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Honestly, where would we be without the understanding of evolution? Brain evolution for your understanding. The differences between the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Many great examples based on split-brain patients. Phenomenal consciousness, what is the view in neuroscience today. A thorough look at what the brain's job description is. Complex systems in an accessible manner and the implication to the brain. Non-conscious processes versus conscious processes. Free will in proper perspective, thought-provoking points. A very interesting look at determinism. Personally, it has made me reconsider some of my views.

A look at chaos theory. The concept of emergence in a whole new light. Quantum mechanics for the layperson. Some of the most thought-provoking ideas and concepts pertaining to the mind, enlightening! Great examples of upward and downward causation. The neuroscience of the influences of social interactions.

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A lot of interesting new views of social groups here that I really enjoyed. Wisdom throughout, "A genetically fixed trait is always superior to one that must be learned because learning may or may not happen. The Baldwin effect, knowledge is a beautiful thing. I kid you not, and you wonder why I read? Theory of mind, mirror neurons and mimicry. A great discussion on moral systems and moral intuitions. Including whether moral intuitions are universal or not. The impact of cultures on psychological outcomes. Interesting takes on what we know about neuroscience and how it's used in the courtrooms.

Concepts like responsibility as an example are discussed. Various forms of justice. The ultimate question of whether we are free to choose is answered to satisfaction. Lack of charts and diagrams to enhance the learning experience. There are a number of books that go into more depth on some of the topics presented in this book, check some of my recommendations of books that I reviewed for Amazon.

In summary, a fantastic, worldview modifying book that I will cherish until new discoveries are made. Books like this one are why I enjoy reading as much as I do. It provided not only current views of neuroscience but even more importantly, it gave the knowledge to update my worldview. An intellectual treat of a book, I can't recommend it enough! Nov 18, Aaron rated it liked it.


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Despite the author's initial claim that some vestige of free will could be salvaged from the jaws of determinism, he does a pretty good job demolishing that claim. All the while, he mucks around in the many very interesting weeds. In fact, the interesting weeds were what propped up this rating to three stars.

The author's premise seems to be a form similar to "god of the gaps," wherein the uncertainty of not knowing something or not being able to measure something leaves room for other sorts of d Despite the author's initial claim that some vestige of free will could be salvaged from the jaws of determinism, he does a pretty good job demolishing that claim. The author's premise seems to be a form similar to "god of the gaps," wherein the uncertainty of not knowing something or not being able to measure something leaves room for other sorts of dubious concepts.

However, he does make one case that is important enough to consider. He elaborates on the idea of emergence, the fact that simply looking at, in what is is most used example, parts of a car will not allow one to predict rush hour traffic congestion. That is, a complex system like the brain or like traffic is more than the sum of its constituent parts. He uses this to suggest that free will can't be predicted from studying the brain's components, instead moving it into the realm of social interaction.

Once he does this, he continues to undermine the case for free will by presenting all of the constraints that act upon human social relations, until we're left with the idea that there is, after all, no such thing as free will. I'll admit I might have missed something, but I don't really think so. In the end, I think the conclusion we can draw is that while our actions might not be able to be reliably predicted doing so might actually require a higher level of emergence , neither are they completely unconstrained.

Insofar as free will exists, it appears to be a useful illusion that we can treat as real for a good number of purposes. View all 3 comments. Aug 27, Joseph Monaco rated it it was amazing. While searching for an appropriate stage setter for the next block of instruction at the School of Advanced Military Studies--Morality and War--I stumbled upon this fine book.

In fact, Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain overlaps quite well with the creative theorizi While searching for an appropriate stage setter for the next block of instruction at the School of Advanced Military Studies--Morality and War--I stumbled upon this fine book. Free Will and the Science of the Brain overlaps quite well with the creative theorizing necessary to understand, adapt, and solve any complex problem within any body of knowledge. Berger The Social Construction of Reality: My bias is undergraduate Physics and military operational level problem solving so I appreciated his sub-atomic, yet simple approach to outlining the human brain and decision-making.

Is there innate moral behavior, and how does reason influence Moral Sentiments? What is the role of the brain as a decision-making device? The brain is clearly not homologous, and is not complex simply because of a lack of knowledge. The Strategic Theory of John Boyd! Conscious thought is by itself an emergent property. However, conscious thought is slow and expensive.

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Cues and perceptions drive our explanations even when faced with a lack of information, or even worse, faulty information. Insert that long list of logical fallacies studied at institutions of higher learning here too. These habit patterns drive decision-making. However, how does control relate to moral imperatives? Do deterministic laws apply in complex systems? If so, why are there groupings and why is there seemingly a unity in human thought? The interpreter module brings unity and it is only as good as the information it gets.

The brain creates a temporal map and is subject to dualism. It is also possible to hijack the interpreter for good and bad, desired and undesired effects. Insert virtual reality and visual illusions here. Thus, free will and determinism, outside the context of religion and spirituality, of course, are not found in the brain, but in the social construction of reality.

Virtues are not universal. This drives differences in morality between cultures. Studies show that culture and genes affect cognition. Unless you are an aspiring neuroscientist, I recommend a read for gist. Perhaps an audiobook version played at 1. This book would be much more painful as a hard copy for the average reader. However, it is loaded with cognitive wealth. I found the following to be the most valuable takeaways: Jan 11, Atila Iamarino rated it really liked it Shelves: E um tanto desconexo com o resto do livro.

Ainda vale pela primeira parte, de qualquer forma. Aug 25, Bob Nichols rated it did not like it. The author's argument is that reductionist theories about the brain are wrong. Gazzaniga is not a determinist. The mind emerges from the physical brain; that mind is a whole that is greater than its parts. The end result is a feeling that "someone is in charge. Gazzaniga starts out in a way that suggests his alignment with the reductionist and deterministic viewpoints. He divides our mind into its unconscious and conscious roles and stat The author's argument is that reductionist theories about the brain are wrong.

He divides our mind into its unconscious and conscious roles and states that "whatever has made it to consciousness has already happened" so that we build theories of ourselves after the fact. Interestingly, in illustrating these two roles of the brain, Gazzangia in this otherwise heavily cited book does not mention Joseph LeDoux's The Emotional Brain that uses this very same example to illustrate the role of the amygdala and fear in the specific situation involving whether a shadow on the ground is a snake or a stick.

How does Gazzaniga get beyond this "post hoc process" to free will? Emergence is the central concept. He starts out easy enough, stating that we are the products of genetic and epigenitic backgrounds. The former provides the "large-scale" plan but the specific actions are "activity-dependent" so that external factors, not hard-wired genes, influence and modify our behavior, i. From here he traces our socialization from our ape past with the end result being that we increasingly formulate and follow rules outside the brain.

Social rules, laws and norms now govern us, not genes. Then he goes on to say that we are now co-evolving in the sense that the social environment forces us to be even more social and that this in turn affects our survival and reproduction. From that sweeping statement he deduces that we are becoming more social and less determined by genes, that we have choice, and that we are personally accountable to follow social expectations.

This is one way to weave together scientific evidence. But there are questions. Gazzaniga gives an account of a brutal murder by a person with an IQ of 59 and argues that "an abnormal brain does not mean that the person cannot follow rules. Again, he says that if a criminal is smart enough to not commit a crime in front of a policeman, "that person can follow social rules and not commit a crime. Something is going on that is deeper, much deeper, than the perspective that Gazzaniga puts forward. Finally, Gazzaniga's central point on emergence involves co-evolution. I believe he is correct about the impact of the outside environment on behavior, but I don't think he's accurate in how he accounts for that impact.

His argument about our free will hinges on the impact the social environment has on transforming our behavior. Why is that environment different than the physical environment? The social environment is part of the external physical environment. It is something "mind" has had to deal with throughout our evolution. The environment, physical as well as social, has forced us to make changes in the way we engage it and has transformed us as a result.

We change our behavior what we do, how we do it to fit what the external physical as well as social world requires. Isn't this transformation "emergence? We go into the world; the world reacts to our action and we then modify our behavior. The resultant synthesis was present in what went before yet is different from each. The emergence of mind, in other words, is not the product of just our interaction with the social sphere.

Apart from the evoluton of our mind, that same dialectical interaction transforms species over time, changing them so that they can survive and reproduce , which is the fixed "End" of all life. These transformations, while fixed in genes, might also be seen as expressions of emergence. Our destinctive human quality is this free choice about how we maintain our lives and well-being, but the underlying question is why we choose one way as opposed to another. Gazzaniga has us destined to be good social beings, choosing to accommodate others.

That picture flies in the face of history. Our choices serve an underlying core that might be socially good other-oriented, respectful or might be the opposite overly self-oriented. Emergent mind, per se, says nothing about which way we will choose. The criminal uses information to make choices that allow him to do the crimnal act.

That's why the criminal does not commit his crime in front of a policeman. That's why a criminal is a good criminal. Core, in the sense of fixed character traits, human nature varies across a continuum. Again, the question is not that the criminal can't follow social rules, but why he does not.


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  4. Rather than progression to social goodness as Gazzaniga argues, we may have a fixed biochemically human nature for a good part of human kind who are fundamentally self-oriented and who do not change over time. This may explain why history tends to repeat itself, even now. Jul 21, Hayley rated it really liked it. This is an easily readable compilation of modern ideas about how our brains work and whether their function allows for free will and personal responsibility.

    The information presented is revealing and thought-provoking at least for a relative layman like me , but it does not make a strong case for will and responsibility. The author points out many of the anatomical and functional capacities that distinguish human brains from those of other animals.

    The author posits that one potential basis for This is an easily readable compilation of modern ideas about how our brains work and whether their function allows for free will and personal responsibility. The author posits that one potential basis for a lot of what we call human consciousness is a left-hemisphere brain process called the "interpreter," which fits our literal sensory experiences into an abstract personal story that we may believe in too much.

    An interpreter process given false information cannot tell us the truth. For instance, if we feel anxious because of an underlying physical problem, we may assume we're anxious about something we see in the room. In this context, people's explanations for why they did something are highly suspect. The interpreter process "fudges," and we take it for truth. This fascinates me and my intuition wants to agree. Later in the book it's pointed out that this mental fudging might introduce plenty of uncertainty into legal trials.

    The book allows that humans may have will and personal responsibility despite the fact that neurons are cells obeying the laws of physics -- a fact that has led many other neuroscientists to view consciousness as deterministic and non-willed. The author asserts that quantum physics follow different rules than Newtonian physics, but Newtonian physics emerge from them through mechanisms we don't understand.

    Can't individual brain cells follow rules that aren't obviously reflected at the level of the thinking mind and its social interactions with other minds? I think it's an intriguing point, but I don't think it proves anything about will or personal responsibility. The author does point out a possible evolutionary value of responsibility -- without society holding people accountable for their supposedly willed actions, human social order probably would not be able to exist, some studies suggest.

    Still -- evolutionary value of BELIEF in free will and personal responsibility does not, to me, prove the existence of will. One interesting thing is that the author suggests the mind's intangible essence -- the mind emerging from the brain -- exists in the algorithms or protocols it follows, not just in tissue. And these happenings, these processes, are distributed and broken up into many modules running at once.

    There is no little man or woman in each of our heads -- something I think neuroscientists have recognized for quite awhile. All in all, the ideas in this book that I value most relate to the unreliability of my brain's stories. As someone who meditates and tries to tell raw sensation apart from mental interpretation, I wonder if the interpreter process described here is what I see when observing mental interpretation. Or I might be making NO sense. Also, I am not sure what to make of the fact that so much of our mental processing is preconscious.

    We react to things before we're aware of them. What does cultivating more awareness, through meditation or any other activity, really mean? Can we see more of what would be unconscious, or can we simply see better what would've been conscious anyway? Does that question even make sense? I just liked it a lot.

    Jan 20, Caren rated it really liked it Shelves: This is not light reading or, not for me anyway , but it is extremely interesting and profitable. Just last year, in "Incognito", David Eagleman indicated that some changes in legal procedures may need to take into account new findings in neuroscience. Toward the end of this book, Mr. Gazzaniga is more specific about the ways in which the unfolding findings of neuroscience are changing proceedings in the courtroom.

    By studying patients who have had the two hemispheres of the brain severed usua This is not light reading or, not for me anyway , but it is extremely interesting and profitable. By studying patients who have had the two hemispheres of the brain severed usually to prevent seizures , researchers discovered that, while the right brain is quite literal in what it perceives, the left brain has an "interpreter" which will construct a story to make sense of the information it perceives.

    Eagleman recounted in "Incognito", the brain does most of its work on autopilot, outside of our conscious control. In fact, a person may feel he has made a conscious decision, but he probably has acted first and later felt that he decided to act.


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    From such discoveries, the idea of determinism has taken hold in our culture including in the courts. Gazzaniga's understanding of the research goes deeper. After spending much of the book showing how the research has led to determinist conclusions, he expands the scope of our view by showing the ways in which the culture in which we find ourselves influences the tendencies of our individual brains.

    He says that we in the West have evolved from the ancient Greeks to focus on the individual, while those in the East evolved from the culture of China, in which the individual is seen as a part of the whole society and the goal is harmony, not rugged individualism. Hence, the brains of those living in these cultures have evolved in different directions. He also says that the human brain was able to grow larger than those of other primates when agriculture allowed for a more sedentary rather than nomadic culture, with greater calorie intake.

    There is a limit to the size of the surrounding society that any individual brain can handle. The author says is the top number of people a brain can keep track of in forming relationships. As an example, he notes that people who have more than 1, friends on Facebook only really keep up with or fewer.

    Oh my, there are so many interesting avenues Mr. Gazzaniga explores with us. In the end, his real point if that he does not agree with determinism when considering human consciousness and free will.

    Who's in Charge? Free Will and the Science of the Brain

    He wants us to see that we are a part of a bigger picture, that we can indeed be held accountable because, in his words, " More on the Gifford lecture series can be found here: Mar 03, Andris rated it liked it. Mar 29, Andy Oram rated it really liked it. This book offers interesting observations on two levels. Scientifically, the author as a leading neuroscientist lays out a sophisticated theory of how we make decisions. Although each individual decision is driven by a complex, interacting set of "modules" in the brain, Gazzaniga does not give in to a reductionist, deterministic philosophy.

    He calls for "a unique language, which has yet to be developed," to help us understand how our decisions affect future brain interactions and how social forc This book offers interesting observations on two levels. He calls for "a unique language, which has yet to be developed," to help us understand how our decisions affect future brain interactions and how social forces affect each of our brain's behavior, right down to the level of genes.

    Ethically, this book wades into current debates over how much responsibility can be assigned to criminals Harvard, for instance, recently created a Center for Law, Brain and Behavior. Gazzaniga criticizes the current overuse of brain scans in deciding court cases and punishments. We were in crisis as a family trying to deal with the behaviour of our 10 year old son. On a daily basis, I was having to deal with verbal and physically aggressive and violent behaviour.

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