PASS Theory of Intelligence

PASS Theory of Intelligence

PASS Theory of Intelligence - The Daily Concept
PASS Theory of Intelligence – The Daily Concept

The PASS theory of intelligence states that cognition is organized in three systems and four processes: Planning (responsible for controlling & organizing behavior, constructing strategies and monitoring performance), Attention (maintains arousal levels and alertness), Simultaneous Processing and Successive Processing (encode, transform and retain information).

The PASS type of intelligence is tested with the Das-Naglieri Cognitive Assessment System (CAS) and unlike other IQ tests, the PASS is capable of diagnosing learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, autism, mental retardation, cognitive changes in aging and Down syndrome.


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Triune Brain

Triune Brain

Triune Brain - The Daily Concept
Triune Brain – The Daily Concept

The Triune Brain is a model for the evolution of the vertebrates brain proposed by the American physician and neuroscientist Paul D. MacLean. The Triune Brain consists of the reptilian complex, the paleomammalian complex (lymbic system) and the neomammalian complex (neocortex).

The reptilian complex is responsible for instinctual behaviors involved in aggression, dominance, territoriality and ritual displays.

The paleomammalian complex is responsible for the motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behavior, and parental behavior, mutual reciprocity.

The neomammalian complex is responsible for the abilities of language, abstraction, planning and perception.

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Mind Wandering

I was writing in my last post about my theory on Why Random Words Pop Up in Your Head. My theory is that the brain fires up random neural networks as a way to keep them ‘fit’. If a neural network is not used then, given the brain’s neuroplasticity, its components are redirected to other neural networks. For example, if a neural network corresponding to a skill is not exercised and fit then it starts decaying resulting in the loss of ability in that skill.

Mind Wandering
Source: Pixabay

I searched on Quora for an answer to this random firing of words and thoughts but couldn’t find any satisfactory answer. However, I did came upon an interesting Wikipedia article on Mind Wandering. It seems that mind wandering is very common, no surprise here, it tends to appear when reading, driving or doing some low vigilance activity, it can be linked to car accidents, it’s more common in people with low or depressed moods. It also occurs when the person consumes alcohol. When I read this, my mind immediately wandered to James Joyce and his Ulysses, because frankly speaking the book looks like it’s written by someone with a short attention span and a “wandering mind”. James Joyce was a heavy drinker and eventually died because of his drinking, I’m pretty sure that his literary creativeness owes much to it. Ulysses is creative work but quite random, random like a ephemeral thought. Let’s return to neuroscience before going too deep into bacchanal artistic license.

It also says in the article that mental time travel is common during mind wandering, bringing up events from the past or anticipating  future events. As mentioned before, in my last post, this process can be useful when it comes to preserve memories and knowledge. The ability to project events in the future is another advantageous evolutionary trait; when you live in an environment with four seasons, planning in advance can be the difference between life and death.

Happiness: according to research, it seems that mind wandering is an unpleasant activity because during this time people tend to think of unhappy topics more than happy topics.  There is no surprise here and it makes sense when adding the limbic system into the picture.

Decision-making. This is quite interesting. When it comes to decision making it seems that people are as happy when they make decisions by the way of mind wandering as they are when they make decisions by the way of careful deliberation. This means that people are satisfied with mind wandering to give them solutions to their problems.

Neuroscience is advancing very rapidly and hopefully will offer better answers in the future on the intricacies of the brain and mind.

Why do Random Words Pop Up in Your Head

It may happen sometimes that a word unrelated to any thought processes that you are having or had to just pop up suddenly. I don’t know how frequent random process is happening in the general population but for me it’s rare, when I’m running it seems to happen a bit more frequent.

I find this phenomenon interesting, my explanation is that it has to do with the unconscious, in recent years neuroscientists showed that the unconscious mind is responsible for much, if not all, of our actions . So what happens is, the unconscious makes a quick, shortcut-type decision based on the patterns that it has and then the prefrontal cortex, the conscious, rationalizes the reason why we did that action.  We also know that the mind triggers random thoughts to pop up, the whole basis of meditation is to remove this random thoughts that pop up. We also know from neuroscience that neural network get stronger the more you access them, the myelin sheath that surrounds the axons gets stronger and this in turn makes that particular neural network to fire up faster when required.

How important is myelin? Well, in order to illustrate its importance consider what can happen when you start losing it: “impairs the conduction of signals in the affected nerves. In turn, the reduction in conduction ability causes deficiency in sensation, movement, cognition, or other functions depending on which nerves are involved”.  My guess is that the brain evolved to fire up random neural networks in the form of thoughts and words as a form of “exercise”. This randomness is basically how the brain “works out”, it triggers a random thought, that thought triggers in exchange other ones in a thought circuit and so on. It can happen sometimes to have a repetitive circuit of thoughts.

Given the neuroplasticity of the brain which means that the brain tends to allocate neurons from less utilized networks to highly used networks – that’s why you start forgetting words and skills that you don’t use – the effect of not triggering random thoughts can lead to loss of memory. It’s clear why evolution would favor a brain that generates random thoughts over one that doesn’t. The hominid with a zen-like, thoughtless mind has a higher probability to forget crucial survival knowledge, skills, which plants are edible, which plants are poisonous, hunting and trapping techniques, how to make fire, where are the water sources, memories of unexpected situations and their outcomes. Such an hominid won’t stick around for too long if he has to re-learn things through trial and error more frequently than it should. For example, tribal songs are a great way to transmit and keep knowledge in an oral form. Oral tradition lasted quite long, even long after writing first appeared. Songs are designed to be repeated and mimicked and the word repetition is the key here. There is a wise saying: “Repetition is the mother of learning”.

So this would be my theory on this subject: the mind triggers randomness and repetition as a way to consolidate memory and learning.

Genghis Khan and the Art of Winning

One of my favorite books that I’ve read last year is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. The author did a great job researching and tracking the footsteps of Genghis Khan and his ruling descendants through Mongolia and outside Mongolia.

It was a pleasant experience to discover the complexity and depth of the Mongolian way of life through this book and to see beyond the image in the popular culture, the image of the horde with blood thirsty brute savages.

Conan’s words are supposedly attributed to Genghis Khan

I’m not going to write about that complexity in this post, I highly recommend reading the book and finding for yourself. The purpose of my post is to illustrate winning Mongolian strategies and tactics that have applicability not only on the battlefield but outside of  it as well.

Genghis Khan empire
Genghis Khan’s Empire. Source: Wikimedia.

Throughout history it’s unity and discipline that usually made the difference between winning or losing. Break the unity of the enemy, seed chaos and you gain the upper hand over him even if he has superior numbers, divide et impera | divide and conquer are winning strategies and were used not only by the Romans but by other victors as well.

The Mongol’s success arose from their cohesion and discipline, bred over millennia as nomads working in small groups, and from their steadfast loyalty to their leader.

There is no honor in only trying, there is no second place, go for total victory and finish what you start:

The Mongols did not find honor in fighting; they found honor in winning. They had a single goal in every campaign—total victory. Toward this end, it did not matter what tactics were used against the enemy or how the battles were fought or avoided being fought. Winning by clever deception or cruel trickery was still winning and carried no stain on the bravery of the warriors, since there would be plenty of other occasions for showing prowess on the field. For the Mongol warrior, there was no such thing as individual honor in battle if the battle was lost. As Genghis Khan reportedly said, there is no good in anything until it is finished.

Use the element of surprise, vary your tactics, reward loyalty and punish treachery, create a few basic but unwavering principles that should become the “religion” of your group of people:

Genghis Khan recognized that warfare was not a sporting contest or a mere match between rivals; it was a total commitment of one people against another. Victory did not come to the one who played by the rules; it came to the one who made the rules and imposed them on his enemy. Triumph could not be partial. It was complete, total, and undeniable—or it was nothing. In battle, this meant the unbridled use of terror and surprise. In peace, it meant the steadfast adherence to a few basic but unwavering principles that created loyalty among the common people. Resistance would be met with death, loyalty with security.

You are invincible until your last dying breath, never give up, keep hope alive, don’t think about death and failure, think positive and think about solutions not the problems. 

On and off the battlefield, the Mongol warrior was forbidden to speak of death, injury, or defeat. Just to think of it might make it happen. Even mentioning the name of a fallen comrade or other dead warrior constituted a serious taboo. Every Mongol soldier had to live his life as a warrior with the assumption that he was immortal, that no one could defeat him or harm him, that nothing could kill him. At the last moment of life, when all had failed and no hope remained, the Mongol warrior was supposed to look upward and beckon his fate by calling out the name of the Eternal Blue Sky as his final earthly words.

We know now from neuroscience that each thought we have forms a  unique neuronal network in our brains. The more we use that thought the stronger that network becomes and the stronger the connections between the neurons become and the more readily available that neural network becomes to your reasoning process.  You are what you thinkThe limbic system is constantly searching for threats so it can trigger a fight or flight response to the first sign of threat. Don’t feed the limbic system with imaginary threats. You want to see solution not problems. The mind is great at creating imaginary threats,  evolution favored individuals with this characteristic. However, the environment has changed, there are not that many potential imminent threats, there are not that many bushes left in the city that have a lion or a serpent lurking in them.

Don’t give in to hedonistic pursuits, once you start following them you start forgetting your focus and goals, you will be no better than a slave:

In keeping with his own sober manner and simple style of living, Genghis Khan warned them against the pursuit of a “colorful” life with material frivolities and wasteful pleasures. “It will be easy,” he explained, “to forget your vision and purpose once you have fine clothes, fast horses, and beautiful women.” In that case, “you will be no better than a slave, and you will surely lose everything.”

As seen, these are the characteristics that make a winning mentality. The Mongol success doesn’t consist only in prowess with the bow and arrow and prowess riding the horse, you also need wise leaders with a winner mentality to funnel collective skill into achieving goals:

“I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep; I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Alexander the Great.