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Lieberman discussion questions

For discussion:

1. As readers, how do we approach and digest the information we are consuming? What enables us to trust and/or distrust the writer and the material they are presenting?
  a) On page 19, Lieberman asserts that the default network supports social cognition; that it “directs us to think about other people’s minds–their thoughts, feelings, and goals.” He offers two examples for supporting his assertion:
–Babies show default network activity almost at the moment of birth.
–When people are given a set of tasks to perform, they instantly experience default network activity upon completing them, no matter how small the space is between starting/stopping tasks.
  As it was presented, do you think the evidence Lieberman offers to support his original assertion is reliable? If “yes,” why? If “no,” why not? Now, turn to page 310. When you read Lieberman’s endnote 19 (the network in the brain…) stating, “The story isn’t quite this simple…,” does it change your initial opinion? Within each chapter, find examples of assertions and ponder their reliability while cross-referencing the endnotes once in a while. How do the endnotes strengthen and/or weaken the assertion/evidence/digestion process of your reading?
  b) As an experiment, try to become aware of/sometimes pinpoint your thoughts in the space between performing tasks while you are at home, on the subway, or at school or work. What are some of the things you immediately find yourself thinking about when your brain is “not otherwise engaged” in doing?

2. Most of the texts we have read contain a prefatory note from the writers in which they explain their position to the material (including background, interests, and intentions). How does Lieberman’s note on page 13, where he relays his position as coming to the brain “as an outsider, starting from an interest in philosophy” with a “PhD in social psychology” and spending “years studying neuroscience” affect your reading of the book? Does his core background affect your believing any of the topics he presents throughout the book more than others?
  From 1-5, order your confidence in his discussing the following subjects, based on his presentation of insights and supportive evidence throughout: psychology, psychiatry, research, social neuroscience, and neuroscience/neurobiology.
  How does a writer’s background affect a reader’s digestion of the information the writer is presenting? When looking back on the texts we’ve read so far in class, how will your awareness of the various presentations of the different writers and the subjects they are tackling affect your own research projects and the manner in which you present your material to your audience? What methods will you employ to strengthen your project? What types of things could weaken your position?

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2 Responses to Lieberman discussion questions

  1. The 3-5 times I’ve “caught” my mind after accomplishing a task, then thinking, the space has so far been inhabited with a socially inclined thought (remembering to thank someone for something they’d done, remembering wanting to reach out to a friend to plan a meetup, thinking back on visiting with my father, or a conversation I’d had, noticing the space between walkers around me and/or wondering what they are thinking, etc.). I’d like to keep trying to catch these moments and see if I’m not just noticing the social ones more instantly. Also, I wonder what thoughts couldn’t be considered social in some way, as well as the nature vs. nurture aspect: are we conditioned to think social thoughts, or are we naturally thinking social thoughts? I’d be interested to hear what others experience.

  2. Jason Tougaw says:

    I’m really curious to find out if people tried your experiment:

    “As an experiment, try to become aware of/sometimes pinpoint your thoughts in the space between performing tasks while you are at home, on the subway, or at school or work. What are some of the things you immediately find yourself thinking about when your brain is “not otherwise engaged” in doing?”

    If Lieberman’s right, then we’d find ourselves thinking socially during most of those “not otherwise engaged” moments.

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