Childhood Impressions

EnolaGaia

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#31
Something I'd been wondering about a day or two ago and which may or may not be pertinent to this thread, is at what point did we really understand what dreams are? When did we first 'get' that dreams are stories in our head while asleep and different from waking life? ...
There's a problem ...

The answer to this question depends on the answer to another open question: Starting at what age, and then to what extent, do children dream in the same manner as we remember and recognize for the rest of our lives?

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping. The point of relevance here is that not only do they sleep a lot, they spend far more time in the REM sleep phase during which we adults experience dreaming.

This might suggest infancy involves more dreaming than any other stage of life. This is not an accepted fact, because it's not clear that REM sleep in infants involves dreaming at all.

There's an increasing base of evidence and research results indicating the REM phase isn't all about dreaming. Instead, the prevailing hypothesis is that it is during this phase of hyperactive brain activity the brain is performing its housekeeping - sorting through persistent patterns of activation (the functional correlates of memories), reinforcing certain ones, disposing of others, and quite possibly fusing or consolidating multiple similar ones into more generalized forms. Metaphorically, REM sleep is the after-hours clean-up and maintenance operations within the brain itself.

To a lesser degree of demonstrable proof, it's widely accepted that dreaming as we adults know it (i.e., images, sensations, or stories perceived internally and possibly remembered after waking) doesn't seem to occur until the child develops the ability to imagine in the strict sense - i.e., generate imagery or sensations perceivable by the "mind's eye" alone.

Once this capability arises, the earliest reportable dreams tend to be very simplistic - fixed images or scenes, with little or no action, and typically sensed as being at arm's length (something seen remotely "out there" rather than part of an immediate environment within which the dreamer is personally and actively engaged).

Dreaming as we adults know it - involving dynamic actions and storylines perceived from an immersed first-person perspective - doesn't seem to occur until the child develops a stable internal awareness of his / her self as the locus of experience. You can't be the first-person actor in your dreams until you've come to understand what it means to be the first-person actor in your waking life. Phrased another way, it would seem you don't appear and act within your dreams until you've developed a sense or concept of personal identity.

Finally, to close the loop and connect it to this thread ... This attainment of identity / ego orientation and the corresponding arrival of richer dreams within which one is an active participant typically occurs by the time one reaches age 7 or 8 - the same general age at which Jacket Potato's wedding day dreams occurred.
 
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catseye

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#32
What's that condition called - this is annoying, I was talking about it the other day - where people genuinely can't 'see' things inside their heads? ie, if they are asked to imagine their dog running towards them, they can't 'see' the images of that happening. They know what the dog looks like, they know what it looks like running towards them, but unless it's actually happening they have no 'mental image'.

And do their dreams differ from those of us who have very vivid mental images? If I'm asked to imagine my dog running towards me, I will conjure up the image of the sky, the field she's running across, the smell of wet dog and new cut grass, the whole package. But I am aware that others can't do this.
 

escargot

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#33
What's that condition called - this is annoying, I was talking about it the other day - where people genuinely can't 'see' things inside their heads? ie, if they are asked to imagine their dog running towards them, they can't 'see' the images of that happening. They know what the dog looks like, they know what it looks like running towards them, but unless it's actually happening they have no 'mental image'.

And do their dreams differ from those of us who have very vivid mental images? If I'm asked to imagine my dog running towards me, I will conjure up the image of the sky, the field she's running across, the smell of wet dog and new cut grass, the whole package. But I am aware that others can't do this.
Aphantasia.
 

Sollywos

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#34
More food for thought then Enola thanks for taking the time to set it out. :) So at what age then do we first develope that sense of self as being distinctive from our environment? Presumably it's not the same for everyone but it must be sometime in out second year and then we can start adding stuff? Research into how our brains work is fascinating (and sometimes if I'm honest a little disturbing I mean finding out that according to some there isn't really a 'you' it's all an illusion to enable us to function well something like that I'm sure you can explain it better!)

What's the relationship between language development and imagination? According to mum I could talk in sentences before I was one ... she never mentioned that I used any conditonal or adjectival clauses though so I'm not claiming to be clever. (I didn't walk until I was nearly 2 as I'd found a way of getting round by sitting on one leg and hoiking along with the other.. I could stand once I'd got to where I wanted so my legs were strong enough no one was worried). So does having words mean it's easier to create a narrative and kick start feeding the imagination?

I have a couple of memories from round about the time my sister was born when I was 21 months old and they were about trying to figure it out. Afternoon nap me having to be put in the push chair whilst this new baby had the pram was such a puzzle she'd come along and everything was different.

All first borns would have had to undergo this trauma I'm not sure how many of us remember it but I don't doubt that it was troubling for us all. (Unless of course you had your own personal nanny when the change wouldn't have been so dramatic.) So how does having to deal with that effect us in relation to memory and sense of self?

Being a baby ousted from your pram by someone who isn't going to go away is pretty huge no matter how thoughtfully the parents present the new situation. Presumably it all gets taken care of in the nightly REM spring clean and maybe I remember it because I had the words to describe it?

Well after a fashion ... it was a bit like being split into two .. the pram was MY territory and there was still a baby there but it wasn't me .... what on earth is going on here? Those weren't the words I was using as such I'm just trying to describe how it felt.

Tell you what though it sure as hell got me off my arse and walking :D

Sollywos x
 
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Jacket_Potato

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#36
I've only told one of them so far:-

https://forums.forteana.org/index.php?threads/dreams-that-have-come-true.18201/page-7#post-1830301

I'll post the others when I get one of those roundtuit thingies, I'm off for an early night now so maybe tomorrow one will come in the mail lol.

The dreams themselves don't feel any different from normal dreams it's the waking up moment that has a different feel as in 'that was not my dream'. Usually they are the 'snap awake' variety which can occur with normal dreams as well of course, rather than the drift awake sort. :)

btw I do acknowledge that they could well be common or garden coincidences rather than precognitive but that's the thing about forteana stuff the subjective experience has to be open to scrutiny if we are ever to get to the bottom of it. That's what is so good about this forum there is always someone who can come along with a different perspective that you might not have considered yourself.

Sollywos x
Thanks for sharing your dream, just read the link - very moving and vivid, sorry to hear you went through such a tough time & hope life has been kinder since.

It's hard to scrutinise dreams isn't it, as it's hard to convey in words to other people. I guess if it feels different & there's a deep sense of knowing within yourself, it's something to pay attention to
 

Jacket_Potato

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#37
That was very interest
There's a problem ...

The answer to this question depends on the answer to another open question: Starting at what age, and then to what extent, do children dream in the same manner as we remember and recognize for the rest of our lives?

Babies spend a lot of time sleeping. The point of relevance here is that not only do they sleep a lot, they spend far more time in the REM sleep phase during which we adults experience dreaming.

This might suggest infancy involves more dreaming than any other stage of life. This is not an accepted fact, because it's not clear that REM sleep in infants involves dreaming at all.

There's an increasing base of evidence and research results indicating the REM phase isn't all about dreaming. Instead, the prevailing hypothesis is that it is during this phase of hyperactive brain activity the brain is performing its housekeeping - sorting through persistent patterns of activation (the functional correlates of memories), reinforcing certain ones, disposing of others, and quite possibly fusing or consolidating multiple similar ones into more generalized forms. Metaphorically, REM sleep is the after-hours clean-up and maintenance operations within the brain itself.

To a lesser degree of demonstrable proof, it's widely accepted that dreaming as we adults know it (i.e., images, sensations, or stories perceived internally and possibly remembered after waking) doesn't seem to occur until the child develops the ability to imagine in the strict sense - i.e., generate imagery or sensations perceivable by the "mind's eye" alone.

Once this capability arises, the earliest reportable dreams tend to be very simplistic - fixed images or scenes, with little or no action, and typically sensed as being at arm's length (something seen remotely "out there" rather than part of an immediate environment within which the dreamer is personally and actively engaged).

Dreaming as we adults know it - involving dynamic actions and storylines perceived from an immersed first-person perspective - doesn't seem to occur until the child develops a stable internal awareness of his / her self as the locus of experience. You can't be the first-person actor in your dreams until you've come to understand what it means to be the first-person actor in your waking life. Phrased another way, it would seem you don't appear and act within your dreams until you've developed a sense or concept of personal identity.

Finally, to close the loop and connect it to this thread ... This attainment of identity / ego orientation and the corresponding arrival of richer dreams within which one is an active participant typically occurs by the time one reaches age 7 or 8 - the same general age at which Jacket Potato's wedding day dreams occurred.
That was very interesting, didn't know any of that

My experience felt less dream like & more like semi waking with a sense of knowing (like when you start to wake up & think is my alarm about to go off, what day is it?), there was no imagery or words that i would associate with dreaming, just a deep feeling...maybe that means it was an early dream from a child's brain trying to establish a sense of self & lacking the characteristics i now associate with dreams, a theory i've never considered - thank you x
 

catseye

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#38
That's the one, thanks, Scargy!

So *do* people with aphantasia have vivid dreams? Bearing in mind that it comes as a shock to a lot of people that they even have such a condition?

My OH always maintained that he didn't dream at all. Then 'suddenly' started to dream and he'd recount his dreams absolutely full of wonder and 'isn't this completely weird?' when it was a perfectly normal dream. I think he had aphantasia, as well as a complete lack of imagination of any kind.
 

EnolaGaia

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#39
... So *do* people with aphantasia have vivid dreams? Bearing in mind that it comes as a shock to a lot of people that they even have such a condition? ...
Aphantasia has been identified as a condition and popularized in the press only within the last few years. There remain questions as to what it may represent, whether or not it's simply a variability in conscious awareness of one's own mental processes, and how many degrees or shades of it may occur. Given the large but murky base of reported effects ...

Yes, people with aphantasia do or can dream. In some cases the dreaming is reported as having little or no visual components, resulting in dreams consisting of non-visual sensory content only (e.g., like hearing the soundtrack of a TV show without the imagery). Some folks claim to not dream at all, but the percentage of such claims is roughly analogous to the percentage of people in the general population who deny they dream, so there's no solid reason to suspect aphantasia correlates with a complete lack of dreaming.

Many folks reporting aphantasia in waking life report what seems to be normal - and even rich - visual dreaming.

This last version - which seems to be the majority version - is taken to indicate aphantasia is a differential ability or capacity with respect to consciously induced / controlled imagination alone. In other words - there's a growing belief aphantasia doesn't necessarily mean you're incapable of mental visualization*, but only that you cannot do it at will.

* Not counting cases of reported non-visualization attributable to neural issues or damage affecting the visual centers of the brain.
 
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Krepostnoi

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#40
What's the relationship between language development and imagination? ... does having words mean it's easier to create a narrative and kick start feeding the imagination?
Isn't it in fact the other way around? Surely mental representation precedes verbalisation: can you learn the word "dog" if you don't have a firm concept of four-legged animal companions that go woof and wag tails?
 

Sollywos

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#41
I see what you are saying as regards learning the words in the first place. I was thinking of making up a narrative beyond the 'dog is chasing the cat' type thing. Not saying I think it does have a bearing. Just wondering out loud! :)
Sollywos x
 

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#42
Isn't it in fact the other way around? Surely mental representation precedes verbalisation: can you learn the word "dog" if you don't have a firm concept of four-legged animal companions that go woof and wag tails?
Yes true, bit like trying to teach arithmetic to some-one whose vocabulary only extends to one, two, three, many.
But also - 'Big Brother is double plus ungood' The point of Newspeak was that without the words to articulate the sentiment, your mental processes became restricted.
 

Krepostnoi

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#43
But also - 'Big Brother is double plus ungood' The point of Newspeak was that without the words to articulate the sentiment, your mental processes became restricted.
I've got a certain amount of time for Orwell, but I think his thinking about language and mental processes might have been superceded. As someone else said, the reaction of the vast majority of English speakers to the German word schadenfreude is not "Yer wot?" but "Cool, they have a single word for it." Esperanto speakers developed slang terms. Deaf kids in an institution which didn't teach them sign language developed their own. Any baby, if relocated early enough, will learn the language of their new locale like a native, regardless of their parents' mother tongue.

[Edit: I mean as adults in the process of verbalising, not as babies acquiring language:] There is something which precedes language, which is likely to be complex abstract thought.
 
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EnolaGaia

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#44
Isn't it in fact the other way around? Surely mental representation precedes verbalisation: can you learn the word "dog" if you don't have a firm concept of four-legged animal companions that go woof and wag tails?
Yes, no, sorta ...

It's not mental representation per se (as in "imagination" in the strict sense) that precedes attaching words, but rather mental discrimination (arriving at a persistent or repeatable state or result as a coherent result in light of certain stimuli, which then serves as a sort of mental waypoint or marker). It's more a matter of subjective recognition rather than visualization.

The association of tags such as lexemes (words; phrases) with such states is a subsequent maneuver dependent upon having a coherent "place" to be tagged with the word / phrase. These "places" or "loci of recognition" may end up being tagged with expressible (i.e., what we treat as "linguistic") lexemes. However, some such loci don't ever get tagged and remain potentially idiosyncratic subjective loci for which expression is difficult or impossible.
 

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#47
Yes true, bit like trying to teach arithmetic to some-one whose vocabulary only extends to one, two, three, many.
But also - 'Big Brother is double plus ungood' The point of Newspeak was that without the words to articulate the sentiment, your mental processes became restricted.
Yes, but this wasn't because of an individual lacking the words, it was a societal absence.

If I were to magically remove a given concept from your mind, it would quickly be re-acquired from re-exposure and the linguistic community I exist in : if I could magically remove one from the entire linguistic community, it would have to re-evolve organically, and depending on the forthgoing progress of that community it might be acquired in a different form or perhaps never re-acquired.

Even today with our highly interconnected and endlessly cross-pollinating societies, the users of un- or distantly related languages can 'divide up' the world of our experience in quite different ways. The resulting mental interpretations really can differ in wholly non-trivial ways.
 

EnolaGaia

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#48
... Even today with our highly interconnected and endlessly cross-pollinating societies, the users of un- or distantly related languages can 'divide up' the world of our experience in quite different ways. The resulting mental interpretations really can differ in wholly non-trivial ways.
I can recommend a book illustrating how different some of these worldviews can be and how differently they can be expressed:

Technicians of the Sacred by Jerome Rothenberg

Originally published a half-century ago, this is a compendium of non-Western poetry and short (usually sacred / teaching) texts. There have been subsequent editions over the years. It's the best one-stop sampler for non-Western textuality / lore I've seen.

It's always been highly recommended, it's not rare, and it may well be readily found at a library.
 

Zeke Newbold

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#49
I've got a certain amount of time for Orwell, but I think his thinking about language and mental processes might have been superceded. As someone else said, the reaction of the vast majority of English speakers to the German word schadenfreude is not "Yer wot?" but "Cool, they have a single word for it." Esperanto speakers developed slang terms. Deaf kids in an institution which didn't teach them sign language developed their own. Any baby, if relocated early enough, will learn the language of their new locale like a native, regardless of their parents' mother tongue.

[Edit: I mean as adults in the process of verbalising, not as babies acquiring language:] There is something which precedes language, which is likely to be complex abstract thought.
We are able to understand, and appreciate the word schadenfreude because we can already say the same thing in the form of a phrase which acts as a synonym for it. (Something like: `That feeling of pleasure you get when someone who deserves their comeuppance finally gets it`). The gratitude we get from encountering this word isn't because it expresses something new - it's just that it provides one word for something which it takes us (in English) much longer to express.

The Esperanto slang example is weak. People who have learnt Esperanto are most likely to be cunning linguists who are already bilingual, if not polymaths. So it is hardly surprising to find them to creating their own slang version of a new language. They have already been exposed to slang in their previously learnt languages, after all - so all they are doing is creating an equivalent.

As for the deaf kids with their self-created `sign language`. I would want to know what exposure these kids might have had to - at least the idea - of sign language outside of their schooling (from parents, friends and the mass media, etc). I would also want to know to what extent their `sign language` really was a `language` - with grammatical structures and so on - as opposed to a complicated system of gestures such as a twisting motion to indicate the opening of a door, etc.

Krepestnoi: you are (like me) a language teacher. You are also (unlike me) a linguist. So it is highly likely that you will have been exposed, directly or indirectly,to the ideas of Noam Chomsky. These have ruled the roost in linguistics for the last forty years or so. His core idea was that the human brain contains a sort of `black box` in it that already understands language structures without this needing to be taught. It is this presumption which you seem to be channeling here.

However, the Chomskyian approach is falling rapidly out of favour! There are a number of reasons for this, but one is that neuroscience is making vast strides and is now able to map the human brain. Many things have been found this way - but one thing that hasn't been found is an area of the brain that deals with linguistic blueprints of any kind. No black box!

Another reason is that computer programmers can now create programmes which can learn new languages in a way that uncannily replicates the stage by stage way that humans do - but without (again) any special linguistic `black box` needed.

It seems more and more likely that instead of human beings having special innate language blueprints which separate us from animals - it was more the other way round. We developed language first - and then our brains and thinking capacity expanded as a result - thus differentiating us from animals.

For a better explained version of what I'm trying to say, read the `How We Learnt English` chapter in English For The Natives by Harry Ritchie (UK: Murray, 2013).
 

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#50
One could argue that without a thinking capacity, there would be no need for language.

What would you talk about ?

I did think it rather unkind of some one to refer to 'Nim Chimpsky'.

INT21
 

EnolaGaia

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#51
One could argue that without a thinking capacity, there would be no need for language.
...
Precisely ...

The hallmark feature of human cognition is the capacity for distinguishing (bringing forth; ascribing) ephemeral / imaginary entities (objects of reference) and interacting with them within a phenomenal realm independent of the surrounding physical world.

The ability to generate, maintain, and disseminate patterns or orders of behavior is critical to establishing and maintaining operational coordination and cohesion on a collective / social basis.

Language is the instrumentality by which we individuals engage our respective internal phenomenal domains with those of others, so as to signal and share reference to things not immediately present in our share physical environs.
 

Krepostnoi

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#52
The gratitude we get from encountering this word isn't because it expresses something new - it's just that it provides one word for something which it takes us (in English) much longer to express.
That's my point, too. Which I raise to counter Orwell's contention with Newspeak that a lack of lexis would inevitably entail an inability to understand concepts. I think the relation is more complex than that, and that comprehension operates on some level which precedes verbalisation, either aloud or internal.
The Esperanto slang example is weak. People who have learnt Esperanto are most likely to be cunning linguists who are already bilingual, if not polymaths. So it is hardly surprising to find them to creating their own slang version of a new language. They have already been exposed to slang in their previously learnt languages, after all - so all they are doing is creating an equivalent.
Again, this point was to counter Orwell's contention: it's not that people can't comprehend concepts if they lack vocabulary to express them. The urge to do so is served by the invention of the necessary lexis, if need be.
However, the Chomskyian approach is falling rapidly out of favour! There are a number of reasons for this, but one is that neuroscience is making vast strides and is now able to map the human brain. Many things have been found this way - but one thing that hasn't been found is an area of the brain that deals with linguistic blueprints of any kind. No black box!
Yes, I'm aware that strides in neuroscience and our understanding of cognitive processes seem to be sidelining Chomsky's notion of the language acquisition device (although, IIUC, he always intended this to be understood metaphorically rather than literally) in favour of the idea that humans are simply very good at acquiring certain skills, of which language seems to be one. And yet, as a colleague working in EFL, you will doubtless know of the Critical Period Hypothesis, which holds that after a certain age, a learner will not achieve native-level competence in a language, whereas I don't know that the same applies to other skills. So I'm not quite sure yet that it is time to throw the Chomsky out with the bathwater.
As for the deaf kids with their self-created `sign language`. I would want to know what exposure these kids might have had to - at least the idea - of sign language outside of their schooling
My dim recollection was that these kids had endured isolation in one or another of the former soviet-bloc states. And yet they had developed their own language with, yes, a grammar. Mind you, I'm pretty sure that I read this in Pinker's Language Instinct, which is avowedly pro-Chomskian in its perspective. (The irony is not lost on me that Chomsky himself is a terrible communicator.) I no longer have a copy, so cannot check the details, but wikipedia seems to confirm the broad thrust. I don't claim to have the answer myself, but the apparently spontaneous generation of linguistic features of one or another degree of complexity does seem quite compelling evidence that there is something peculiar about language which is not true of other skills we humans develop.
It seems more and more likely that instead of human beings having special innate language blueprints which separate us from animals - it was more the other way round. We developed language first - and then our brains and thinking capacity expanded as a result - thus differentiating us from animals.
If I recall it correctly, Pinker's argument was that once we had developed language, it became such an adaptive advantage that facility for language would be selected for, thus stimulating the development of the Chomskian LAD in whatever form it actually took. I leave it to others better versed in evolution to comment as to whether this is a realistic contention given the time-scales involved.
 

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#53
I did think it rather unkind of some one to refer to 'Nim Chimpsky'.
Wasn't this in fact the monicker given to a representative of Pan troglodytes, recruited into a study as to whether other great apes had any facility for language? In which case, the opportunity was too good to miss. But the poor creature would have done far better never to have been roped in in the first place, clever name or not.
 

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#54
Krepostnoi,

I can't remember the context regarding the Nim Chimpsky item. I think it was in an item I read in Omni magazine.

Language in children is closely tied to the 'nature v nurture' arguement.
 

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#55
Nim Chimpsky was a real chimpanzee, taught sign language in order to "speak" to the scientists who trained him in order to study language, hence the punning name. He had a very sad life, outlined in the superb documentary Project Nim (well worth tracking down, as fascinating as it is moving).
 

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#56
Thanks for the reminder.

What were the conclusions from that experiment ? If Nim could communicate via sign language, was he considered to be a sentient being on a level of a human ?
 

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#57

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#58
Thanks for the reminder.

What were the conclusions from that experiment ? If Nim could communicate via sign language, was he considered to be a sentient being on a level of a human ?
I would say, watch the film and find out, but I don't know if there were any concrete conclusions reached, not that I remember. He was basically abandoned for vivisection once they discovered they weren't learning anything new. He certainly felt emotional pain like a human.
 
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