For this post I decided to watch the TED talk labeled, How We Read Each Other’s Minds. It was given by Rebecca Saxe, a cognitive neuroscientist. What drew me to this TED Talk was the name of it. When my best friend and I hang out, it’s very common for me to make a statement or suggest something, and she’ll exclaim, “I just thought that!” It happens more than sometimes we think it should and over really random things too. We try to find a reason for us both thinking that, but sometimes, it’s just really freaky. I relate to empaths a lot, so sometimes it is like I can read a mind, and that’s what I thought this might be about, but alas, it was not.
This TED Talk was about how humans can perceive and think about other’s thoughts and feelings and how we can potentially change them with magnetic impulses . The presenter showed data which proves as we age, our brains further development in a special region called, the Right Temporo-Parietal Junction. As a child, one cannot think accurately or rationally about other’s thoughts, as this region isn’t done developing until the early teens. The RTPJ’s specialized job is to perceive other’s thoughts, emotions, and feelings. Rebecca Saxe, the presenter, was a very reliable source of information, she showed vidoes of her studies and experiments in action along with the data she collected. Day to day, Rebecca Saxe studies how we think about other people’s thoughts. At the Saxelab at MIT, she uses fMRI to identify what happens in our brains when we consider the motives, passions, and beliefs of others.
I found the data Mrs. Saxe collected about before and after the magnetic stimulations fascinating. She explained a made-up scenario in which one person asked another to put sugar in her coffee for her. In scenario one, the sugar is labeled poison but is really sugar and she willingly puts it in the coffee, no one dies. Scenario two is where the sugar says sugar and is sugar and she’s fine. The third scenario is when the sugar is labeled sugar but is really poison, and she dies. Then people were asked to gauge how morally permissible the act is and how much the woman who put the ‘sugar’ in the coffee should be blamed. When asked without the magnetic stimulation, most people said it was not morally permissible in the first scenario and deserves more blame. The second scenario is morally permissible and deserves no blame. In the third scenario, they think it was morally permissible but she deserves some blame. However, when the magnetic wave was applied, it is reversed. She deserves more blame when she didn’t know it was poison but gave it anyways and less blame when she knew it was poison. This shows that when the RTPJ is not completely formed or functioning, it can cloud our thoughts on other’s thoughts and feelings.
I would want to know how this portion of the brain might deteriorate over time and if that might lend a hand to older generations not being able to perceive younger generations as well and potentially lead to intolerance or misunderstandings. I would just include older people in the study and make it a longitudinal study, so I could go back to the same people over-time and see how it changes. I would also ask them questions with varying difficulty.