Other Contents of Experience

Before reading this article it is best to read: An Introduction to Reality, Qualities, Observation and Time.

Inner speech

Try locating inner speech. Speak a word then produce the word in inner speech to locate the inner speech. Notice that both words are located in roughly the same place in Experience.(near our mouths and between our ears).

Each word of “inner speech” (verbal thought) seems to arrive fully formed in my Experience. I do not have some elaborate process of constructing the various parts of a word (the phonemes) and putting them all together, this activity is done in some part of my brain outside of my Experience. This should not surprise us because many events in our brains are non-conscious. Our brain handles events from control of heart rate to receiving updates on our gut function without registering them within our Experience.

It is intriguing that inner speech is constructed by our brains without us experiencing that construction: what does placing inner speech inside our Experience add to the process of producing words and sentences when the “artificial intelligence”, non-conscious, part of our brains should be sufficient to review our speech?

The old saying “think before you speak” shows that people have long understood that reviewing what they are about to say by rehearsing it as inner speech in their Experience can be used to check meaning and spot problems, especially problems of social appropriateness.  The non-conscious part of our brains can create a stream of words but these are submitted to review in our Experience if there is any doubt about them.

When we check the meaning of words we tend to model what they describe in our imagination and this is weakly displayed in the perceptual "net" used for imaginary images and events. The words can also evoke emotional reactions directly, for instance "why didn't I help her?" might evoke feelings of guilt.

It is the emotional evocations of inner speech that can lead to it being addictive.

Most of us discover that when we relax we have verbal thoughts intruding into our Experience. If we just let these run they may evoke emotions and even day dreams. Free running verbal thoughts can be pleasant or can produce the emotions associated with anxiety, depression etc. Furthermore the emotions generated by verbal thoughts can generate more verbal thoughts. However, if we listen carefully to our free-running verbal thoughts they tend to stop. If we attend to the content of our Experience the free-running activity tends to be halted. This is good in some ways but also a shame because it may be important to understand what the non-conscious parts of our brains are working on!

Recent studies have shown that inner speech produces brain activity in the same areas of the brain as normal speech (see Appendix B).

Different people develop different degrees of inner speech, some have a full inner monologue, some have a dialogue, some condense inner speech into a shortened form and many people mix these types up.  Astonishing though it might seem to most people, there are some people who do not have verbal thoughts and do their thinking in images or even do not think much at all but trust that what is needed for action will just occur.


Emotions are patterns of activity across several modes of Experience such as sensation, inner speech, imagination etc. 

Emotions share a lot in common with the effects of psychoactive drugs.  As an example, alcohol can make our faces red, reduce self control, increase gregariousness etc.  We cannot see "alcohol" in our Experience but we know it by its effects and the same applies to emotions.  We tend to say that the emotion creates its effects but the effects are themselves the emotion.

Emotions often have a triggering event, for instance happiness might be triggered by the company of good friends, depression from an injury or organic change, love from personal attraction etc.  However, the emotion is not the triggering event but is the changes that the triggering event creates in Experience.

Each emotion has its group of events in Experience.  Happiness is a brightness of perception, a readiness for activity and a freedom from worry.  Depression is an immersion in worry, a dullness of perception and, frequently, an inability to act.  Generalised love is having positive inner speech and imaginings about people and things and a readiness to assist.  Anger is thinking badly of, usually specific, people or things and a readiness to obstruct or destroy.

Emotions can cause further events that reinforce them. As examples the muscular tension and readiness of anger can release hormones that increase muscular tension and readiness, and the negative inner speech and imaginings of depression can create further negative inner speech and imaginings and so on.

Emotions can influence all the modes of experience.  Raw emotions and drives are the animal method of directing activity and even subtle emotions, such as delayed gratification, guilt, shame etc. prime our Experience for action or inaction.

Emotions raise interesting questions such as how they increase or decrease the brightness of perception and most of all, why they need to change the content of Experience.

The generalised change in Experience that is an emotion causes us to be biased towards certain types of actions (such as moving towards a lover, avoiding guilt, striking out in anger etc.).

It is interesting that emotions can occur without any clearly defined triggering event.  As an example we can adopt a happy mood or work ourselves into ire.  This is intriguing because it allows us to tell ourselves stories that link into our emotions.

The sense of bodily movement and location

The sense of bodily movement and position (called kinaesthesia) creates a body image in our Experience that is extended in time. It is the time extended form of my body that separates "me" from the rest of Experience.

Try this meditation. Clench your fingers without looking at them then open your fists. The motion of clenching and opening has a definite position in your Experience. Keeping your eyes closed, if all your fingers are extended and then lightly clenched together the fingers combine to become a sort of mitten hand which, when the fist is re-opened with the fingers held together, seems to open like the jaws of a clamp. The whole motion of opening and closing is extended over a period of time, it is not an instantaneous Experience and the sweep of the fingers from clenched to open exists now. The time extension of bodily movement has a similar duration to the time extension of sounds.

Let’s try closing our eyes and swinging an arm about. Our Experience contains a non-visual arm sensation moving around through definite positions extended in time.

It is easy for the non-visual experience of bodily position and motion to spill over into visual experience.  If we keep our eyes shut and imagine where a moving arm is placed it is easy to create a dull image of the arm that may even automatically include a dull afterimage, a sort of imaginary shadow of the arm, that follows it.

The time extension of types of qualia

Visual Experience has a very short time extension. Try this experiment. Place your finger just in front of, or on, this page and wave your finger slowly from one end of the word “finger” to the other. The image of your finger moves and it does not spread out along its path as a succession of fingers over time, visible now.  As the finger passes along the page the underlying text reappears. Although we see a movement of the finger any time extension in our immediate visual image is short enough to allow movement to be in Experience but not so long as to blur our visual image excessively. (Notice that a short afterimage may appear that closely shadows the motion of the finger.  The afterimage is not extended in time to any greater extent than the image of the finger).

Compare the time extension of sounds with that of vision. A short word might last half a second or a second and this whole time extended word is in your Experience. If visual Experience were extended in time by a second it would be far more difficult to locate moving objects.  Visual Experience extends just enough in time to allow it to contain some time extended motion (perhaps a tenth to a thirtieth of a second).  This implies that visual events are loaded into Experience as short packets and auditory events, such as words, as longer packets or combined packets. The greater time extension of sound means that there is a considerably greater error in locating moving sound sources than moving visual objects.

In the section on time above the possibility that events were arranged along a time-like direction as well as in time was discussed. The rapid replacement of visual Experience is consistent with the capacity for mounting events along a direction separate from time itself (the past cannot be erased but an extension in the time-like dimension can be erased or replaced).

A note on afterimages

Rapid motions within our visual image are often accompanied by afterimages, like dull, transparent images that follow moving objects. If you look through one eye and smoothly move your finger back and forth from one side of this page to the other whilst focusing on the page you will see a faint, dark afterimage following the finger and reuniting with it when it stops. These afterimages should not be confused with the “motion of a finger”, they, like the image of the finger, have their own motion, the motion of an afterimage. Afterimages are cues that help us to judge the amount and speed of a motion, they are not the motion itself.

The centre of gravity

I have mentioned how sounds and visual images are arranged around our listening and viewing point. Most senses are projected around this point but there is an exception. Dance shows us that the centre of our sense of body position is located somewhere towards the bottom of our chests. We have already discussed the sense of the position and movement of our arms and these senses (called somaesthesis and kinaesthesis) extend to our bodies in general. If we move around and rotate and twist our bodies from side to side our visual and auditory centre is in our head but our body sense seems to rotate around a point somewhere in our lower chest. If we fill our lungs and close our eyes whilst dancing it is clear that the centre of our feeling of bodily movement is somewhere near our solar plexus. This second centre of sensation is subsidiary to the centre of vision and sound in the sense that it can be located within visual and acoustic space.  We cannot locate anything except body position from the centre of our sense of body position.

Centre of Gravity. From University of Illinois "Physics and Dance"

Whether this centre of body movement sensation corresponds to our physical centre of gravity is not clear but it is in approximately the same position. The presence of this alternative centre probably explains why physical people think of their ‘centre of being’ as in their heart or chest. The existence of this alternative centre of sensation may partly explain why dance is often difficult for beginners, the centre of our bodily motion being different from the centre of much of the rest of the content of Experience. The extension in time of a dance move turns it into a single, four dimensional object that is separated from the rest of Experience.  Our bodies, although part of Experience, are separate objects within Experience.

Without our extension in time there would be no dancing. When we combine sounds and motion in a dance we create patterns that occur stretched over a period of time.


Our tactile Experience is also remarkable. If you rub a piece of cloth roughly between your fingers you can observe that the texture, sound and colour of the action are all at the same place in your Experience. If you feel the material more gently you will find that it has textural properties. It may be soft, greasy, lumpy, light weight, thick etc. All of these properties happen in time, they require the material to be stroked or a steady change in pressure to occur. (If your fingers are steady and stay still you may at first have feelings such as those of the hotness or coldness of the material but as time passes the predominant feeling is of pressure in your finger tips and little else. ) Notice that the textural properties of objects seem to be in the object  rather than in our fingers. It is the object in our Experience that is the rough or greasy object not our fingers. It is as if our senses have been extended into the object. What is happening is that the model in our brain that is our Experience contains qualia for all the sensations that  are the finger and object.

I will leave the exploration of the other senses such as temperature, smell, taste, pain, surface pressure, joint position etc. to your own investigation. These senses introduce what are known as qualia (“Qualia” plural, single “Quale”) into the space and time of your Experience. Stub your toe and the quale of pain occurs at the position of your toe in the space and time of your Experience etc.

Experience without content

When we hear a stray click in the room we have a lack of sound followed by a sound at the place of the click. The lack of sound can have a duration that is far longer than half a second. When there is a half second click we have some of the preceding lack of sound present so that the combined length of no sound plus sound is greater than half a second.

The half second of Experience that attaches to changing events at a particular place in Experience is a patch of time in an extent before and after it.

We have already seen that qualia exist in nets that are loosely interconnected. The most likely explanation of time extending either side of a splash is that there is another quality that extends in time before the start or end of the splash.


The Memory in a Quale

Our current Experience is largely previous experiences evoked from the mass of our brain because each quale is connected to previous experiences that are parts of the quale.   In this way Experience itself is a connection into our memories and delves into our past. This is the Direct Memory discussed earlier. 


When we recall a word or image it is as if we are replaying something from the past. This must be a simple trick for the brain compared with generating our current Experience. The appearance in our Experience of remembered sentences and scenes is subject to similar constraints to all the other contents of Experience. Our recalled memories are composed of splashes of remembered sounds and sights etc. extended in time for up to half a second to a second. However, whatever generates our recalled memories outside of our Experience operates on a much longer time scale than half a second. Try recalling a poem, it happens word by word, the generation of these words is not performed in our Experience, they just appear, fully formed. Word after word appears as the mechanism of memory operates behind the scenes, delivering the whole poem over a period of several minutes.

Our recalled memory also keeps track of where we are and who we are.  However, our Direct Memory can also do this to some degree within Current Experience.

Having remembered a word it is gone but the fact of having remembered it remains for a while. When I remember the word “dog” it makes a connection with the place of the word in my Experience (near my vocal chords in Experience) and makes those memories that are related to “dog” ready to spring into my Experience. This effect lasts for only a few seconds and is what “short term memory” is like in our Experience.

It is possible to enhance our attention by using memory to “chase” events across our Experience. Watch a branch swaying back and forth in the wind. If we remember how the branch moves as it is moving our attention becomes more focussed. Rhythmic music exploits this ability.

More imagining

If I imagine a wheel with four spokes I can, through relaxing and placing the imagined object about a metre away, rotate the imaginary wheel.  I can extend this trick to rotating water wheels and other wheels but if I attempt to imagine the moving water as it flows towards the water wheel the wheel tends to stop.  If I see a real water wheel my experience contains the rotating wheel and the flow without difficulty.  I can embroider the Experience that currently contains the model of the real water wheel with brighter, whiter spray and the flowing water with a more mirror-like finish. Sensation effortlessly provides four dimensional objects so that our visual imagination can infuse them with brightness and meaning to create true complexity and/or beauty if we care to use it.

So what is it like?

We are looking at this page.  I hear a splash of sound outside.  The splash has dug down into my previous Experience so that it seamlessly connects to the dull imagining of a seagull floating over my garden.

Most of all we make our Experience. It can be based on the outside world, beyond our brains, like the seagull, but it is our construction. Every green is our green, every happy moment or offence taken is our own peculiar interpretation of events. When someone says “you are kind” or “you are a fool” it is our construction of these words into meanings that we add and use to feed our emotion. The full realisation that we have created every emotional pang and every thought in our experience can be destabilising. This experience is us and we put every part in its place and time to give it meaning.

If we are suffering flights of imagination or a turmoil of inner speech we can open our eyes and see the world around us for re-assurance.  The world is an anchor for our model of it because there is a good correspondence between the form, shape and position of things in the world and their form in Experience. 

The key to understanding reality is to understand that even in sensory mode, the colours and brightness of events are constructed by us. Experience is ours, we make it and we are in it and of it. We are also outside our Experience through the geometrical trick of observation. The observation point is a geometrical expression of the simultaneous connection of every part and time of our experience with other parts. Our Experience observes itself so that the things we see and hear are seen and heard by the things we have seen and heard and vice versa. How far back in time this extends is hard to know because the things that have been seen and heard are attached to our current experience. We know that the space of Experience can contain any apparent size of object because the view at the observation point is formed from angular separations at a point. It is possible that our sense of time passed is extended in a similar way to encompass our entire lifetime.

Next section: Mind.

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