#143 – Shrink Rap Radio LIVE! #7


Jerry Trumbule, M.A., ABD and I speak on a live episode about the brain, communication, autism, animal intelligence, and Second Life. In particular. We comment on “Inside Animal Minds” which can be found in the March 2008 issue of National Geographic and also “The Truth About Autism: Everything You Know Is Wrong” which is in the March 2008 issue of Wired Magazine. The Wired article is about Amanda Baggs and it helps if you take a look at this video on YouTube. We also talk about an amazing presentation by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., a neuroscientist who had a sort of nirvana experience of her right brain after her left brain was knocked out by a stroke. Here is a link to her “must see” video.

(Psychology podcast by David Van Nuys, Ph.D.)



  1. honeyrococo
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Gosh! I missed the live show! I really had *planned* to listen but I overslept (Sunday is the only day I get to sleep in!)

    It is funny that you guys are still talking about Second Life and the design of Avatars! Did I ever send you this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPOxuOCGi9I

    I like the people [in that clip] who are going to meet for the first time (in meat-space) whose avatars are the wasp-waisted perky pixie of a girl and the strapping chivalrous he-man with the broad shoulders and square jaw. Well, maybe they really will fall in love in real life….stranger things have happened!

    I am sorry that Jerry’s stock-knowledgeable hottie abandoned him for a person with a hotter avatar. That’s really pretty shallow, considering.

    Of course I guess that shallow women always go after the successful guys, and that it takes a stash of Linden cash to buy dream pecs and the killer abs and the well-fit clothing clothing of cyberspace — not to mention all those scripts that allow your to dance and have virtual sex etc. — so maybe she didn’t decide Jerry was frumpy and old so much as determine that he was poor! What kind of stocks can a guy afford who cannot even afford 8-pack abs and a powerful gluteus maximus? I ask you!

    I guess I will now go look up the autistic girl on YouTube. I will say that I think that many people who are diagnosed as autistic these days are not really autistic at all. When I listen to them explain how they see the world it doesn’t sound any different than how I perceive the world and think.

    For instance, I recently read (part of) the book “Animals in Translation” by Temple Grandin. Grandin attributes her ability to “see the world as animals see it” to her autism. However, she begins the book by talking about her experience in a special school for problem teenagers wherein she was taught to ride and care for horses – not just any horses, traumatized and abused horses. She recounted that these horses were easily spooked and flighty and often freaked-out when ridden in the field.

    Now I grew up riding horses in the Arizona desert. And my horse was easily spooked herself. She would get spooked if the wind rustled the bushes, or if there were too many birds on a telephone wire, or from the sounds of electricity buzzing through the electrical wires that spanned the desert, or certain shadows, roadrunners crossing our path, gunshots off in the distance, etc. Because of this experience I also “see the world like animals”. If I am out with a dog or cat or another animal and they are frightened by something I can usually survey the visual (or audible) field and determine the (usually crazy) source of the discomfort, and I am willing to bet that anyone who grew up riding an easily-spooked horse could also.

    So I think that I very much doubt that the first place from which Grandin’s special expertise derives is her autism. I would say rather it is her life experience riding horses.

    I also often hear autistic people say things like “I think in pictures” and I wonder “Is this strange?” I think in pictures too, much of the time, but I don’t think I am autistic. Maybe I am! There is even a kid on YouTube who claims to be autistic because it is easier for him to watch television than to read. Well, I certainly do also wish that all the books I had to read for my exams were acted out on television by Kenneth Branagh or Johnny Depp or Jack Black too! But I don’t think that makes me autistic, just human. Human beings have been gaining information by surveying the visual field for hundreds of thousands of years longer than they have been reading Sanskrit and Cuneiform — there is bound to be some evolutionary reason that watching TV is easier for EVERYONE than reading. Still, I will go find this autistic auteur (auteuse!) on the YouTube.

    This is not to say that I don’t believe that there are actually autistic people out there, simply that I do not believe that all the people who claim they are autistic are indeed autistic. Either that or I am autistic too based on the definitions these people are providing.

    Okay, sorry for the always a rantingness of my dispatches. It’s my nature.

  2. honeyrococo
    Posted March 17, 2008 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Oh: So here is the Amanda Baggs video:


    And here is a video where you can see her avatar in Second Life (which is really interesting and great):


    I will say that I think she is autistic (re: my last comments).

  3. Posted March 21, 2008 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Dear Dr Dave,
    another long one!
    TED.com is the best resource! There are so many fascinating people in the world, and so much to learn.

    The Bolte Taylor segment was affirming . As a teacher, the issues surrounding RH /LH functions have been an major area of research for me for many years since identifying my own RH ‘gifts’ and as a result, gaining an insight into my learning style and the reasons why I seemed to see the world differently to many other people. This awareness lead me to art school and has since allowed me to help my students negotiate the school experience a little more purposefully than I was able to do.
    You might like to visit http://www.arti.pbwiki.com – our art faculty wiki site. I’m sure you’ve seen this before … If you scan down to the spinning woman image (widely available on the internet ) you can play around with shifting from Left to Right Hemisphere or visa versa … you can actually shift at will after a time using a type of biofeedback learning. I explore this with my art students to help them see that accessing different brain functions for different purposes is within their capability and it has been a valuable tool to introduce them to identifying their favoured learning style. Many of them have a tendency to right brain dominance, and many artists also. One of the qualities of RH is seeing in wholes – a great advantage for understanding images and visual language where information is delivered in one go (Jung understood this). The down side is that reading written language can be difficult. Visual Giftedness comes at a price!
    Until the relatively recent revolution of images afforded by internet, digital media etc, LH was the favoured learning mode in the western world! School curriculum was biased toward LH learning styles and measures of intelligence (IQ tests and the like) failed to recognise that creativity, inventiveness, the ability to intuitively synthesise and make meaning all ‘stem’ from RH functioning – much to the disadvantage of many students (perhaps Einstein too)
    Meditation and yoga can help people experience RH but so can observational and imaginative drawing (particularly using whole body or whole arm movements as you create), even deep breathing and visualisation can help you realise the power of RH functioning. In fact any ‘flow’ experience (Csikszentmihalyi) will do this.

    Seeing is such an undervalued sense, we take it for granted, yet so few people do it with awareness. Most people see with the left brain, in a perfuntory manner, and when they try to draw from left brain, they wonder why their work looks stilted. The ‘opening’ required to truly ‘see’ in wholes feels like the dreaming experience and taps into deeper ways of knowing. If people could be taught to approach artworks in galleries ‘from the right’ Im convinced there would be greater appreciation of all styles of Art (not only the mimetic) as a way of knowing the world.

    It is such a fascinating area, particulary when you consider the ramifications. We know so little about how people learn despite the purely brain/chemical first level physiological research claims.
    In my more hopeful moments, I believe that consciousness research will lead people, the education system in particular, to another level of understanding ‘mind’ as opposed to brain alone, When we do, we will be amazed at the flood of creativity and self confidence that is unleashed as those students the world has ‘told’ are not ‘intelligent’ and don’t fit into the black and white measurements, will see thier own potential and be valued as individuals, with their own gifts while they are still at school and not be left to find their way when they leave.
    You might like to read this really interesting and informative article about learning styles based on brain dominance by Linda Kreger Silverman. http://www.visualspatial.org/Articles/twoways.pdf ~
    Again, thankyou for raising awareness.

  4. Axel
    Posted March 22, 2008 at 1:44 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the interesting show. It still leaves me with the question whether you can provoke spiritual experiences or the other way around, whether spiritual experiences are spiritual because we want to believe that they are. I think here is a connection to the “near-death-experiences”. Would be nice to hear more about that.
    Thanks, Axel

  5. Posted March 22, 2008 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

    I really enjoyed this show, but I was hoping to hear you discuss the HBO show “In Treatment” — maybe next time? 🙂

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