John Travolta’s Walk and Confident Rats

John Travolta said when he takes on a role he begins with the walk.  Robin Williams and Tom Hanks embody the characters they play(ed).  They ask, how does the character move and respond to their environment.  What is the best way to express my feeling state using my body?  Embodying a character alerts the actor to the limitations and strengths they bring to the role.  The character’s motivation is rooted in a struggle to maintain, attain, or retain the right to behave authentically.  To have their needs met in a way that is congruent with their mindset. 

 Mindset is psychological.  It is a cognitive construct that reflects our knowledge and morals.  As a construct, a thing that is created based on experience, perspective, and age/development, it can be shifted from harmful to the individual and others to a positive, nurturing model.  Systemic and evolutionary discrimination is engrained in mindset models to keep us safe, interested, and grateful for our environment, joyful and valued among our group, and happily, competently caring for our young.  That is the good life for which we strive and fight to keep or get. 

How we go about fulfilling our mindset is studied using animals.  How rats engage with a new enclosure provides insight into anxiety and confidence.  Once a behaviour pattern is established, a checklist of likely behaviours associated with confidence, then it is possible to study the behaviour. 

Psychology identifies a behaviour and then goes looking for a reason to explain it and ways to modify it.  Embodied cognitive science, and affective neuroscience begin with asking what is typical behaviour?  Then it can examine the neurochemical, neurological levels of the behaviour and its associated feeling state.  Get over yourselves, some rats are more confident than others.  

Michael Gazzaniga writes about spending his afternoon lunch hours watching the monkeys.  They watched the monkeys for months before they noticed a behaviour that monkeys did regularly and naturally.  That behaviour became the focus of their study.  Try and write that grant application today!

This inverse research method, beginning with observation of typical behaviours is contrary to B.F.’s Skinner’s cruel and inhuman animal studies.  Skinner deprived baby monkeys of maternal care to see what would happen to brain development and the infant’s psychological development.  These unethical experiments deny the animal’s feelings and intelligence.  Becoming curious about an observable behaviour and wondering how it functions in the animal’s life schema or what it can tell us about how the brain functions as a whole.


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