Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

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Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby BadgerJelly on July 8th, 2016, 1:45 am 

Yesterday some idiot nearly crshed into my motorbike, as is the norm here.

I did notice something I have never paid much attention to before. I swerved to avoid his bike, but it was not a considered and planned action. I was not controlling the action, it was automated but nothing like a knee jerk response. The instant reaction happened without my conscious approval. If it needed my conscious approval then I would maybe have had an accident.

I know this is all.pretty obvious. What intrigued me was whether this overiding of physical control produces a specific "fear" emotion. It was not so much that I was shocked about nearly being in an accident, I think the shock/fear was more about me having physical control taken away from my conscious intent (intent being to ride my bike in a straight line without any deviations. The reaction my body made seemed to happen before conscious recognition of the situation.

I am not really looking to get into an endless discussion about freewill here (its been doen to death several times over on these forums!). What interests me is looking at "fear" in general as different types of control. The more control we possess the less we fear. I also think there is a distinct difference between the type of emotion I had during my incident and coming face to face with a dangerous wild animal. The common perception of these I imagine is a fear for personal safety (mortal threats). I would argue that this is merely a convolution of thought and that "fear" is lack of self directedness.

People sometimes talk about controlling fear. What does this mean? If types of fear are about lack of control (such as my incident) then how can I control being scard of not being in control? If I could do I benefit in any way? It does seem obvious that attentive control is not as precise and practical as automated responses.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby zetreque on July 8th, 2016, 4:31 am 

It is my experience that the saying "we only fear the unknown" (or something like that) is completely true making perfect sense to me. That's why I think death is, or one of the top most feared things. Another significant fear is losing one's mind with diseases such as Alzheimer's which is losing control of one's self. When we aren't in control, it is unknown what will happen. If anyone wishes to explore or expand on that concept, I would be interested in hearing it.

In any case, I am happy you didn't have a collision and are ok. Growing up in half a biker family I have seen some horrible crashes. Just hope your motor bike isn't one of the ones that wakes me up at night if it drives by. I am not to keen on that these days getting into another behavioral science topic of sound and emotions. :)

Back on topic, perhaps one of the thrills of motorcycles is the level of control and also lack of control. Unlike a car, you can't control your environment around you as well such as the air/wind or objects that might come into your path while at the same time feeling a closer control connection with the ground/road. Fear can be exhilarating and that lack of control mixed with control makes for a nice combination.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby BadgerJelly on July 8th, 2016, 5:48 am 

The most striking point about the experience is that I felt "fear"/"shock" not because of the near accident, but because of not controlling my automated reaction to avoid the collision. I guess I am questioning how much was faer of an accident how much was fear over loss of control??

I think the best way to understand what I mean is next time you experience a sudden physical reactionary "jolt", stop and consider was you surprised by the agent that led to the sudden sensory exposure and/or surprised by part of your physical being "jolting" your attention toward the agent.

It interests me because of the idea of cause and effect. I do understand that emotion requires a bodily sense. I can point to certain biological happenings that coincide with "fear", "excitement", etc.,.,

I think fear of death is very silly. I think to appropriate all fear towards the idea of death is just a modern conception - I know this may sound a little absurd to say just hope you can see that having no knowledge of death does not negate fear. It is just something convenient to culturally attach fear to and fits into general scientific theories neatly too.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby Braininvat on July 8th, 2016, 9:46 am 

I would say emotion does connect very much to a sense of bodily integrity and capability. Many fear the possible pain and loss of bodily control that precedes death more than the rather abstract existential fear of ceasing to be. I was perfectly okay with nonexistence from 13.7 billion years B.C. to 1956 A.D. I can't get overly fearful of returning to a condition I've enjoyed for so long. I would fear being maimed in a bike accident far more than quick death in one.

I hope you wear a helmet, Badger. Damage to the brain seems a legitimate fear.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby Eclogite on July 8th, 2016, 10:56 am 

This is somewhat off-topic, but prompted by Badger's near miss experience. Some years ago I found myself facing a head on collision with another car in an urban setting. The thought that went through my mind was "Oh shit, this will be nasty". The emotion was embarrassment, rather than fear.

However, while I was thinking all that I counter intuitively accelerated and thereby was able to turn sharply into the space between parked cars, pass the oncoming vehicle safely, then swing back out before encountering more parked cars.

Unlike Badger this did take-over by my subconscious did not bother me at all. Trust your subconscious! I've experienced similar events before and since. Rather than something to be feared, I see it as something to be grateful for.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby doogles on July 8th, 2016, 6:38 pm 

BadgerJelly and Eclogite. I notice that you both automatically took evasive action in a close call.

I've been driving since 1949 and have successfully done this many, many times. Like you, I've attempted to rationalise my automatic responses afterwards.

I've concluded, rightly or wrongly, that because I played several contact sports from an early age, I have been conditioned to take evasive action when I detect a threat (even with extreme peripheral vision on occasions). It's only in the seconds when the event has passed that I detect a pounding heartbeat and muscle tension.

Naturally, I'm curious to ask whether either of you played contact sports in early life.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby zetreque on July 8th, 2016, 6:47 pm 

It appears we are all a little different when it comes to this. I have not experienced what BadgerJelly has.

I did some extreme snowboarding for many years through my childhood having been in some really crazy crashes down the slopes and through trees/boulders. Also been in a couple pretty bad bicycle accidents. I have not been injured nearly as bad as friends and other people. Never broken anything. Fractured my sternum once landing on-top of a tree. I just tell people I must know how to fall good. I also am more cautious than others and will work my self up to being confident in a certain run, jump or situation.

When going fast down the mountain and loosing control on a snowboard, it takes a while to come to a stop with several flips and tumbles in the process. I can't explain it but I just end up moving right as to not be injured. I usually get right back up after an accident and play it off like it never happened. Unfortunately this has been to my downfall because one of my good friends learn to lay there in pain until some pretty girl comes to his rescue. On the other close call instances I don't recall the feeling of separation between my conscious control and not being in control.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby Eclogite on July 8th, 2016, 8:45 pm 

doogles » Fri Jul 08, 2016 10:38 pm wrote:BadgerJelly and Eclogite.
Naturally, I'm curious to ask whether either of you played contact sports in early life.
In truth the closest I've ever got to a contact sport is pushing the remote to switch to the sports channel.

I think my experience was more akin to the much more frequent occurrence of driving several miles in rush hour traffic, negotiating roundabouts and junctions, with no conscious awareness of doing so. I don't recommend it - patently a potentially dangerous practice. Now I recognise when I am drifting away from total focus on driving and pull myself back to reality. But clearly the subconscious is perfectly happy to do the job without conscious intervention.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby wolfhnd on July 8th, 2016, 11:14 pm 

There are traditional answers to the question of fear which obviously has some evolutionary benefit. Fear prepares the body for fight or flight,shutting down some systems and ramping up others. Paralyzing fear is then something of to much of a good thing.

Humans seem to be particular susceptible to instincts running amuck on one hand and oblivious to them on many occasions. It's the price we pay for not being slaves to our emotions.

The more advanced the brain an animal has the more likely it is to malfunction. When our brains override instinctual responses I see no reason to assume that we would be any more aware of the override of an instinct than we are of the instinct itself. Our ego of course represents our mental functions as something unified. It would be wrong to assume that our ego's view of a unified personality is realistic. So little "malfunctions" of instinctual system are key to taking advantage of other calculated solutions.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby doogles on July 9th, 2016, 4:09 am 

Thank you for those responses Zetrique and Eclogite. It looks as if my theory of prior conditioning from contact sports has nothing to do with such reactions. I've never discussed this subject with anyone before.

It's now looking more likely that we all have some inbuilt capacity for taking evasive action when under sudden imminent threat. What's more, the variation in responses suggests that some degree of rapid rationalisation is occurring. For example BadgerJelly swerved and Eclogite sped up and swerved. I've had to do both on different occasions, depending on the nature of the threat.

Most commonly I've had to brake quickly, as well as swerve. This braking by the way has to be done in a very rapid pumping motion, combined with rapid down-gearing if using a manual drive. A hard single push on the brake will result in skidding out of control.

You reminded me Eclogite of one of my near misses. I was travelling uphill round a blind curve on a two-way bitumen road when a semitrailer came boring down on me a good two metres over my side of the white line; he was travelling too fast. Like you, I swerved hard left (our side of the road in oz) while accelerating and somehow managed to get far enough over on the gravel, maneuvering both my station wagon and boat trailer in between the white posts without contacting any.

It all seemed to happen reflexly, but there must be some quick rationalising involved because of the variety of evasive measures we seem to take.

My most recent experience was just 18 months ago, although it did not involve other traffic. I was driving at 60 kph on a bitumen road on the outskirts of a provincial city. It was a dead-end road leading to a disused factory. Coming over a crest there appeared unexpectedly, a gaping hole in the road, too wide to straddle, that looked about two feet wide and two feet deep. I had no hope of stopping and in a split second, chose to 'gun' my car as hard as I could push my foot on the pedal. I pictured that if I slowed down at all, my front end would drop into the hole and get ripped out. But that if I increased speed, my front wheels may hit the other side just a couple of inches below the rim of the hole and roll over to some extent. The latter happened. But I'm sure all this rationalisation took only a fraction of a second.

So what happens? Obviously we all seem to detect a threat in milli-seconds. Is adrenaline released so quickly that it sharpens up our thinking and muscle reactions? It seems to me that our reactions are so quick that the real time of the event seems to slow down.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby Eclogite on July 9th, 2016, 8:42 am 

If by rationalisation you mean what you seem to mean, I don't buy it. Are you imagining some very rapid semi-conscious analysis and decision making?

My interpretation - highly provisional I agree - remains that the entire process occurs in the subconscious and the conscious mind is simply an interested observer. Perhaps there is a spectrum of involvement and the incidents I have remembered have been towards one end member.

Last night, returning from a dinner in town, my wife was driving as I was possibly over the limit. (Almost impossible not to be with the current Scottish limits.) She had decided to adjust the mirror just as we approached a corner, which she failed to notice. I screamed at her, as a very conscious act, but I'm reasonably sure my left foot was frantically trying to find a brake pedal - and that was coming entirely from my subconscious. [No innocent bystanders were injured in the construction of this mini-drama!)
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby neuro on July 9th, 2016, 3:36 pm 

.
Well, I was surprised by Badger's statements:

BadgerJelly » July 8th, 2016, 6:45 am wrote:I know this is all.pretty obvious. What intrigued me was whether this overiding of physical control produces a specific "fear" emotion.
...
I am not really looking to get into an endless discussion about freewill here (its been doen to death several times over on these forums!). What interests me is looking at "fear" in general as different types of control. The more control we possess the less we fear.

The former statement is interesting: does loss of control produce a specific form of fear?
But the latter confuses the question quite a lot: "the more control we possess the less we fear"? I'd say the other way around.

Fear produces loss of control. The realization of having lost control contributes to the cognitive re-elaboration of fear.

Lang in the twenties proposed a paradox: "we do not cry because we are sad, we are sad because we cry; we are do not shiver because we are afraid, we are afraid because we shiver".

Though this is an exaggeration, for the sake of the paradox, it makes some sense: the bodily expression of emotion (what Damasio calls the "body marker") precedes cognitive realization of an emotion (altough a bodily marker can in turn be generated by the cognitive evaluation of an emotion).

So, the firse statement above by Badger does make sense: something unexpected happens, a fear reaction ensues, we realize our being frightened somewhat afterwards, and this produces an enhancement of the body marker (and the perception) of fear (the particular kind of "fear" Badger is talking about).

The point is that about half of our brain (mainly the dorsolateral cortex) guides our behaviour in response to external clues; heuristics (behavioral patterns learned by experience) and reinforcement (success or failure of behaviours in specific situations in our experience) are accumulated in our cortex and basal nuclei learn to privilege, in each situation, the most appropriate "spontaneous" response. All this occurs below the level of consciousness, although consciousness can monitor what happens a posteriori.

The other half (mainly the ventromedial cortices) only comes about when something unexpected, novel, intriguing, inconsistent occurs, or our heuristic behavior fails, or we make an error. These events activate the anterior cingulate cortex, elicit an arousal response and our system of rational (strategical) control of behavior takes control (notice that this occurs for cognitive as well as motor behavior).

The wonderful aspect of the machine (brain) is that when the amygdala signals a situation (stimulus, event) that is relevant for survival, then the systems that control alertness (cortical activation) get boosted, and all our responses accelerate. Such responses, however, are not rational. These are responses by the dorsolateral system, the "autopilot", which is supposed to have learned the behaviors most appropriate to each situation via experience.

The less wonderful aspect is that, as long as the dorsolateral system is not activated too strongly, the ventromedial (rational system) can take control, inhibit reflex responses and produce a reasonable behavior; but if the activation is too strong, then we only have to hope that the "autopilot" response is adequate.

Thus, it is not loss of control that produces fear; it is fear that produces (fortunately, up to a certain extent, but sometimes unfortunately, e.g. when we panic) loss of control. And realizing we lost control (and we were scared) contributes to the cognitive perception of fear.

Pardon me, as usual I made it a too long story...
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby zetreque on July 9th, 2016, 4:34 pm 

neuro » Sat Jul 09, 2016 12:36 pm wrote:Thus, it is not loss of control that produces fear; it is fear that produces (fortunately, up to a certain extent, but sometimes unfortunately, e.g. when we panic) loss of control. And realizing we lost control (and we were scared) contributes to the cognitive perception of fear.

Pardon me, as usual I made it a too long story...



What that means to me is, if you don't fear falling (say on a snowboard), then you don't lose control as easy. This makes sense because when you work yourself up to performing a stunt, such as a back-flip. The less you fear falling because of being more comfortable with the situation (from practice), the more control you will have.

What I said doesn't address those accident and unexpected situations but it's what I got out of that neuro.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby doogles on July 9th, 2016, 8:17 pm 

Eclogite, you asked – “If by rationalisation you mean what you seem to mean, I don't buy it. Are you imagining some very rapid semi-conscious analysis and decision making?”

Yes. That’s why I originally imagined that it was somehow associated with habituated reflexes associated with contact sports such as Australian Rules Football. In this sport, while about to be physically thumped by an opponent, you aim to grab a football, look for a team member or goal, decide to kick or hand-pass the football to a specific target – all in the time it takes for a car crash to happen. The actual variety of responses suggests some semi- or fully-conscious rationalisation to me.

I’ve included a video link that may give you some idea of what I mean. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3usWhXxITA . Apologies for it being 1980s vintage, but it’s hard to get footage of general play from modern footage; they tend to show ‘çlean’ highlights.

I liked your point about confidence before participating in an extreme activity Zetrique, and how it may affect your reaction to unexpected events. Maybe that’s why I stay cool when the unexpected happens while driving. I am definitely an aggressive driver. I make split second decisions to enter lines of traffic or to enter intersections before other cars - without mishaps so far. But I stick to the speed limits and road rules. I had my first traffic conviction for 65 years last year when I day-dreamed through an 80 kph sign (I was booked at 90 as I was decelerating).

Could I ask you Zetrique if you were aware of all the obstacles appearing around you as you tumbled in the snowfields?’ When I was in my early 20s, I was catapulted off the pillion of a motor bike when we ran off the road after hitting some potholes in a bitumen road. The bike ran off the road and hit a fallen log. I was fully aware of travelling at about 20 mph horizontally about four feet off the ground watching the ground with grassy vegetation below me and hoping I would miss obstacles, as I hit the ground just short of some trees. I think I had a bit of gravel rash. I was aware that I had no way of protecting myself if I did hit an obstacle.

Didn’t Neil Armstrong get the job of landing the first lunar module because of his history of quick thinking during a crisis or two?

And neuro, when you talk about the dorsolateral cortex, are you referring to the dorsolateral aspect of the pre-frontal cortex?
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby BadgerJelly on July 10th, 2016, 2:21 am 

Neuro -

I guess I am getting at the meaning of "fear" and how we see it subjectively.

Something startles my subconscious into action and this overriding of conscious control.

Some points of comparison could be me conscuously deciding to cross the road. I don't consciously have to think about walking. When I was on my bike I wasn't thinking much about what I was doing because it was automated. What then happened was it was brought to my direct and sudden attention that I was not in control due to the evasive action taken.

Can we say that fear causes loss of control as much as loss of control causes fear? As an example of this if I am riding my bike and the steering malfunctions I lose control and experience fear. If I am on my bike and fear running someone over (not anyone anywhere near me in immediate danger) then I lose control of the bike.

I understand that my instant assessment of my incident was after the matter of the fact. I am of course not fearful when I think about walking and leave it to automaton. It is more about lack of intent than lack of control? Does that question really make sense? I surely need intent to have control.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby zetreque on July 11th, 2016, 1:20 am 

doogles » Sat Jul 09, 2016 5:17 pm wrote:
Could I ask you Zetrique if you were aware of all the obstacles appearing around you as you tumbled in the snowfields?’ When I was in my early 20s, I was catapulted off the pillion of a motor bike when we ran off the road after hitting some potholes in a bitumen road. The bike ran off the road and hit a fallen log. I was fully aware of travelling at about 20 mph horizontally about four feet off the ground watching the ground with grassy vegetation below me and hoping I would miss obstacles, as I hit the ground just short of some trees. I think I had a bit of gravel rash. I was aware that I had no way of protecting myself if I did hit an obstacle.


Short answer is yes.

Long answer... skip if short on time :)
The worst bicycle wreck I was in, I did a front flip over the handle bars and ended up with road rash on the insides of both elbows and both knees. I was aware of the car coming up on the highway behind me (which is why I crashed), another car approaching, the obstacle/pothole in the road I hit because I had no time to react once I saw it, and how I flipped for the most part. When I fractured my sternum, my snowboard nose hit a hidden boulder lip under the snow. I went face first sliding off of that boulder onto another boulder, sliding off of that 2nd boulder onto the top of a small tree that was cut off so that my sternum landed directly on the flat top of the tree. Snowboarding through trees you have no choice but to be aware of them and if you happen to clip one of them with your edge, it could send you off in a very wrong direction. The times when I catch an edge however, things happen so fast and you are tumbling down the slope at high speeds, it's really hard to know exactly what happened. All I know is that people come up to me after it and are like "wholey @$%#, are you ok? I can't believe you are standing!". One term for that is "a yard sale", especially if you are on skiis because things fly out of your pockets, if you are wearing a backpack it falls off, headphones, gloves often come off, skiis fly off, poles, and you spend the next hour trying to find and gather everything or check what is broken in your pockets from the impact. I suppose catching an edge on your skiis or snowboard is different from a car or object coming out in front of you when driving. It's just instant out of control and not much you can do except try to tumble without breaking a bone or hitting trees or objects.

I think your point of building up practice in driving or whatever you are doing is certainly relevant. It seems to build your subconscious reaction toolkit. Have you ever watched a tense part of a movie and "cringed" moving as if you were trying to protect yourself? Things we have experience with give us a better idea how to react.

One thing that comes to mind however is when you are walking down the street and someone is approaching you, that rare time when something happens where you look at one another and can't decide which side to pass on. Between the both of you reacting, you then trip up and almost run into one another. I had this happen snowboarding once and it's not fun.

I have never understood and hope I never understand the situation in which people freeze up. I bombed a public speaking situation once completely blanking, but I still managed to try to talk. The only example that ever comes to mind is a deer in headlights which thinking about now.... I don't recall ever witnessing myself. Maybe it's just a saying? I don't understand why squirrels still haven't evolved to just running straight across the road with so many freaking out and getting run over. I attended a ted talk event once where 3 speakers froze up during their speech. It was extremely strange. One moment they were talking normally and seemed completely comfortable, and the next moment, a long dead silence until they either continue or say something and leave stage. That might be getting off topic though but I thought about it during neuro's response.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby neuro on July 11th, 2016, 9:38 am 

zetreque » July 11th, 2016, 6:20 am wrote:I have never understood and hope I never understand the situation in which people freeze up.
...
That might be getting off topic though ...

I wouldn't say that's off topic.
I see it every month during the exams.
Students who freeze, and cannot say what they certainly know.

The process is similar to when you try to recollect the name of an actor. If it doesn't come, it is because you are "following the wrong path" in your memory, you are not finding the correct association.
If this happens under exams, the student gets anxious, and at a certain level of anxiety she will not be able to interfere in any way, rationally, with the automatic process of trying to recollect the information she is looking for, instead of thinking, finding a reasonable answer, looking at the problem from another perspective, or whatever other "rational" solution.
She is completely harmless in trying and interfering with the "autopilot", which is of no use because it got stuck in a dead-end.

And,
doogles wrote: when you talk about the dorsolateral cortex, are you referring to the dorsolateral aspect of the pre-frontal cortex?

not quite: the parietal cortex plus the dorsolateral frontal cortex.
The parietal cortex maps any sensory input (stimuli and recognized objects) in the surrounding space, and is able to put in register (with the help of the superior colliculus of the mesencephalon) the sensory localization maps that come from sight (a map with reference to the eyes), hearing (with reference to the head), somatic sensations (with reference to body, arm, hand): all these different mappings are put in register in motor terms (i.e. the direction one has to move the eyes, the body, the arm, the hand to establish a relation with the object), and in particular the object is presented in terms of "affordance": how can I set up the appropriate motor relation with it (reject it, grasp it, hit it, ...). Such affordance is relayed to premotor neurons in the frontal cortex: both "canonical neurons" - that program a movement, independent of its aim - and "mirror neurons" - that program an action, i.e. a motor behavior with an aim, independent of the exact movement needed. If the relation proposed by the parietal cortex is associated to an adequate vital / affective relevance (based on experience), then the basal ganglia help the premotor neurons and the motor cortex to accomplish it, otherwise we shall do something else (or do nothing). All these circuits operate with no need for conscious supervision. If they fail, however, the anterior cingulate cortex (part of the limbic syste, medial) gets activated, an arousal response is elicited, the prefrontal cortex and the working memory system, come about, and a conscious evaluation of an appropriate behavioral strategy is initiated.

Again, if the arousal is too strong, such as when we are frightened or panicking, the rational control will not be able to prevail on the "autopilot", and we shall "lose control".
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby BadgerJelly on July 26th, 2016, 7:14 am 

Neuro -

I don't think you've addressed my observation?

In my analogy it is clear that loss of a control of a vehicle causes a "startlement". What leads to this loss of control may or may not be induced by fear. If I wake in the morning and I suffer some form of paralysis I experience fear because I have no control where I had control previously. If I see something scary this can lead to me losing control too.

In the analogy I made previously I thought it showed clearly that driving a vehicle that fails causes fear and losing control of the vehicle causes fear. The point being that the fear was initiated in one instance by a faulty vehicle and in the other by a factor that has nothing to do with the vehicle.

My very fleeting experience on my motorbike made me think. The reaction made by me was disjointed from my conscious intention towards the motorbike. I did not think about what I was doing. The threat of an accident was not particulary life threating or injury threatening, the fear/startle I felt was brought about by how my body reacted without any prompt from myself. When my attention was fully drawn to my surroundings I noticed that my bodily reaction was an over reaction and that the "fear" I experienced was being snapped into a state where "I" was not in control, consciously responsible, for what had just happened. If I saw the other bike coming and was fully aware of it I would have felt a different "fear" and tried to avoid a small collision quite easily, my being drawn to the other bike at a distance would have drawn me into fear of a collision.

My point being when someone creeps up behind you and says "boo!" you jump. The person may very well be not the thing that causes the fear. The fear is due to your body overriding your physical intent. You are essentially scared because you were not in control. This is not like worrying about an exam next week nor like being scared of walking over an old bridge.

With something unexpected and startling I suspect the "fear" felt is mostly due to loss of conscious control over the body in that instant.

Maybe I am just blabbering?

I do find it interesting how we assess situations in hindsight and often overlook, or simply block out, the actual event. As obvious examples there is anger and blame when things go wrong and joy and responsibility when they benefit us. The kind of startling I am talking about gives us an experience that is needed yet one which we cannot claim responsibility for. This combined with our inclination to want control exposes some intriguing things about human emotion (for me at least).
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby BadgerJelly on July 29th, 2016, 12:26 am 

Neuro -

Maybe it would help if I mentioned voluntary and involuntary attention. In neurological terms, to my understanding, involuntary attention is only used to describe attention being drawn to incoming sensory data. I personally don't see this to be the whole picture. I know that when I stop attending to some problem or stop trying to recall some content from the past my attention can be brought back to this involuntary; the answer to a previous question seems to spontaneously appear, it "suddenly comes to mind" as we say in everyday parse.

This happening is different from an unexpected shock, such as my episode described in the OP, because being optimstically "wired" beings we claim authorship over such achievements and heap on the self praise for remembering something or figuring something out even though out attention was elsewhere and we had no conscious directedness towards the problem prior to the spontaneous resolution given by way of involutary attention (maybe I am misusing the common definition of "involuntary attention" and would appreciate it if you know of a term neurologically to describe what I am talking about?).

I have noticed that many studies of attention are directed at sensory experience and use sensory data as the mainstay for describing focus of attention. I understand that this is much easier for experimentation than what I am referring to. I cannot see how focusing only on sensible experience can tell us the full story of how attention works.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby neuro on August 1st, 2016, 6:24 am 

I am sorry Badger:
I said ...
neuro » July 9th, 2016, 8:36 pm wrote:.
Fear produces loss of control. The realization of having lost control contributes to the cognitive re-elaboration of fear.


I should have added that emotional control is not a one-way system. Cognitive re-elaboration of an emotion in turn generates (or amplifies) the physical emotional reaction.

So generally fear produces loss of control.
The cognitive perception of having lost control corresponds to a the mindset of fear, therefore it amplifies (or even generates) the body-marker of fear.
So, nothing strange if losing control elicits the physical reaction one usually associates with fear - i.e. generates fear.
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Re: Fear, shock, surprise and conscious control

Postby neuro on August 1st, 2016, 6:35 am 

As regards "involuntary attention", I would try and simplify the question as follows:
1) any experience (external = sensory input or internal = recall of a memory or endogenous elaboration) is intrinsically associated to a (possibly null) emotional relevance. The higher such relevance, the more likely it will be that the experience be further elaborated by higher centers, and possibly reach the focus of working memory and conscious elaboration.
2) any experience may be more or less relevant to the current elaboration by a computational module in the brain, and will have access to such elaboration according to its relevance.

These two mechanisms can be referred to as bottom-up and top-down selective attention processes, respectively. Notice that these processes affect not only the access to conscious activity, but also to "lower" level elaborations.
Therefore I would not talk about "involuntary attention", but rather non-conscious selective attention mechanisms.

Even though an elaboration process loses the focus of conscious attention (working memory), this does not mean that it necessarily gets interrupted. If it gets where it was supposed to get (recalling a name, finding a solution), this will presumably have much more affective relevance than its working in background, so that its result might emerge to the focus of consciousness.
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