Ourselves Seminar - Winter 2001

Questions to Ponder for February 6

Please think about the following questions prompted by your Mind and Brain psychology class. We will discuss them at our next meeting.

1. "To err is human" -- What if we could correct the design flaws in human nature by starting with better "hardware?" What would you do if you had the ability to change the design of humans (e.g., different brain functions, additional sensory systems)? Which glitches in human nature would you tackle first and how would you fix them?

2. As technology advances, allowing for analysis of the nervous system at a very detailed level, will humans find the answers to all their questions about human nature in the brain? Why might it be threatening to consider the possibility of finding all the secrets of human nature in the brain? What important aspects of human nature might ignored by focusing only on brain research?

3. The brain has traditionally been thought of as "hardware" -- a piece of anatomical equipment that remains pretty much unchanged, particularly after early adulthood. However, this idea has been challenged in recent years. Bring in an example from your Mind and Brain course demonstrating how the "input" that the brain is exposed to ends up changing the hardware itself.

4. There are a number of similarities between human brains and the brains of other animals and thus we can use research on other animals to help explain human neural and perceptual function. Should we think of humans as the "smartest" animals (that is, at one end of a continuum that includes other animals) or should we think of humans as categorically different from other animals (that is, in a league by themselves)? How might using one or the other way of thinking affect the questions we ask about human nature?