New research on NLP!

The effectiveness of NLP
(Neuro-Linguistic Programming)
William D. Horton, Psy.D. CAC
Licensed Psychologist
Certified Addictions Counselor
Master Hypnosis Trainer
Master NLP Trainer

Is NLP really a pure science or an art?

NLP is the combination of Neuro- how people think, Linguistics-how people communicate and interact without words and Programme- the specific patterns in people’s emotions and behaviors. It is the technology that takes into consideration the guiding principles, techniques and attitudes regarding real life behavior that arise from the evaluation of subjective experience structure, communication and behavior. If certain behavior has a specific structure, NLP captures that in order to learn, interpret and transform. It is Hypnotic in origin and style.
NLP is defined as the art of personal excellence. If more accurately defined, it is the science of understanding behavior patterns of people and transforming those patterns after thorough understanding. Since the concept of NLP is based upon exercising powers or influence over others, it is more popular among marketing and sales people. Because it tends to gain sensitivity to people, is works well for people associated to social work, entrepreneurs and therapists, particularly at the time of conflict resolution. If we could define excellence in the context of effectiveness, then NLP is indeed a means of excellence. For example, Milton Erickson practiced the concept of NLP by monitoring his patients in order to build a bond with them and then tried to influence their behaviors and change their present and future. (Tosey, P. & Mathison, J., 2006)
The hypnosis of Erickson was a medical structure that has always considered the requirement of insightful understanding of human behavior patterns, the psyche and the mind. His model was aimed to be utilized in an association with other psychological and medical therapies that sometimes hold important organic and psychiatric mental disorders. It does not based on the concept to transform any person into a specialized human behavior expert just within a week, a month or a year training session in NLP.
The linguist Gregory Bateson followed the important points of the Erickson’s model and developed it further to NLP, though no significant credit is still associated with him.
The effectiveness of NLP should be judged on the basis of the central concepts it is based upon. The first concept says that there is nothing like failure, rather, there is just feedback. Whatever response you get, is just a means to make you realize and think how effective you are. The second one states that people have all the needed resources at hand. They just need to be able to approach those resources at the right times. They need to make realize that only results matter not problems, in the end. Thirdly, even the most challenging tasks and objectives can be achieved easily if divided into smaller tasks. The accomplishments in bit and pieces keep the people motivated enough to head towards a main objective. The fourth concept is more applicable when a team group is concerned. It states that person in the group having more adaptability than rest, will lead that group. So, people should look at gaining flexibility rather than keeping themselves being surrounded with limitations. (Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Delozier, J., and Bandler, R., 1980)

Studies reveal that some of the NLP techniques are absolutely the results of scientific discoveries, for example; the special case of conditioning, the anchoring, as examined in behaviorist psychology. NLP Peers have developed some techniques like rapport or submodalities that were then autonomously verified by scientific research. Interestingly, in a lot of cases, that verification took place in the absence of the awareness of the NLP observations. (Sharpley C.F., 1987).
The use of the concept of NLP and its techniques in particular situations has really been confirmed by scientific studies. There are studies that have positively endorsed certain NLP claims. However it would be appreciated if more studies could be conducted on it to reach more precise and final judgments. One must keep in mind that a lot of studies based on NLP, conducted particularly during the period between 1970s and 80s have actually tried to validate the claims that were not so related with real NLP claims. NLP is not a science, however it is provable by science and the most initial results of such confirmation have been usually positive. (Sharpley C.F., 1987).
If NLP works, as per stated by its suppliers and disciples, then it is the most simplest way of training people for incorporating the skills of sensitivity and keen observation. It is the basic conflict over astrology: is it a science; is it an art or an institution based divinatory practice? NLP have the potential to grow interpersonal skills without being a science.
A lot of leading organizations, educators, sportsmen, and common people take a help from NLP to greatly boost the performance level of people in their particular fields. By making little behavioral modification, the quality of life can be changed.
Implications of NLP in a wide range of fields endorse its effectiveness!
The increasing application of NLP is being noticed in a number of areas like criminal investigation interviews, sports psychology, formal education and police department and so on. If you notice, these are the fields in which psyche of humans matters a lot to be understand rather just taking into consideration verbal communication. NLP has proved itself a significant contributor in understanding, influencing and transforming people’ behavior process and achieving a desired outcome, which may vary from field from field.
I have met a seasoned detective Mark Hamilton. He states that he has been making the most of NLP model, in order to create rapports with the witnesses and criminals. He says he has to understand the non verbal behavior of the people he is interviewing or discussing with so that he can match his own with them. He closely gives attention to the way a person talks, like volume, pitch, speech rate and then builds rapport by matching his style with the person. This way he is able to increase the likelihood of gathering more relevant information, and he considers building rapport with the interviewee as the biggest and foremost requirement of his profession. This is the area where NLP actually comes into an action. (Subtle Skills for Building Rapport-Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the Interview Room, A paper issued by Federal Bureau of Investigation)
Furthermore, the study conducted by the Department of Physical Education, psychology and Para psychology, India, has revealed that NLP’s Meta Model linguistic patterns i.e. Distortion, that says attention on mind-reading has an impact to facilitate state sports boxing athlete confidence. The study clarified that language pattern of an individual decides the way he/she thinks. These patterns are the indicators of a person’s mental state and self talk. It is therefore very important to influence the usual communication and cognition to keep it positive and to attain self enhancement. This is one of the objectives NLP holds. If an individual can replace the mind-reading of someone else’s feelings, thoughts, emotions etc by uttering it to himself as a possibility or a guess, then this results in decreasing mind reading distortion and making the person’s self talk more appropriate, logical and accurate with the outcome and thus eventually helps the athlete in a boxing match. The socio-psychological idea of state confidence links to evaluate people’s beliefs in a particular moment, mainly in relation to their capability to that situation. Like an athletic, an athlete possesses a great body language, breathing profound and vivid eyes. (Hardy, J., 2004)
A research paper issued by University of Surrey, has demonstrated the potential of NLP in facilitating teaching and learning in an environment of formal education. The paper mentions that Bandler and Grinder (1975) refer to cybernetic systematic connections between an internal experience of a person (neuro), his language (linguistic) and his behavior patterns (programming). NLP is essentially a type of modeling that offers possibilities for systematic and comprehensive understanding of subjective experience of people. NLP is generally used to present solutions for issues that arise in teaching, for instance, the classroom management. (Lyall, D., 2002)
An NLP’s presence and contribution can be realized in learning and teaching if we consider some of the following mentioned facts.
The relationship of a learner and teacher is a cybernetic loop, an active process the meaning of which is formed by reciprocal feedback; not a diffusion of information from one person to another. People tend to behave in a manner they comprehend and the world is represented to them. It is not based upon how actually the world is. In short, teaching is a procedure of creating conditions that are favorable to learning; facilitating exploration ability of learners and/or improving their internal representations in order to lead them towards their desired objective or result of the context. (Lyall, D., 2002)
An interesting but extremely useful application of NLP has been observed in treating the veterans, almost 30% of which are found to be affected with Post Trauma Stress Disorders (PTSD). The Research and Recognition Project, to carry out a pilot study on a behavior protocol for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) was started in 2008 to take clinically efficient mental health treatments by the research stages essential to have them highlighted as evidentiary medication. Most of the stuff was taken from bit unfamiliar medical field, called Neuro- Linguistic Programming (NLP). (Frank Bourke, 2013)
NLP techniques are gaining popularity in law enforcement departments like FBI where the related officials use the concept in unveiling the truths and information during interrogations. The case is similar to the case of Mark Hamilton, a detective, mentioned earlier. Because of the growing utilization of NLP in various sectors, especially the FBI and other similar law enforcement agencies, a number of fields and communities expect the adoption of its application soon.
According to researchers Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, NLP can be the next invention of psychology. It has been termed as New Language of Psychology or a New Learning Paradigm. As a form of the organization of human experience, it might be as thoughtful step forward as the discovery of language. (Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, 1994)
NLP can facilitate you to attain those personal and professional objectives you desire, to cope with the leading and most recent technology of change, to handle your own life, and to have the skills and excellence and of the one you seek inspiration from. (Penny Tompkins)
A rigorous research is needed at hand to come to exact conclusions regarding effectiveness of NLP, though primary research portrays it all positive for transforming human behavior. Also, it is to be kept in mind that there are, indeed some terrible, horrific idiocies publicized in the name of NLP in the field by certain groups, and a clear boundary must be drawn to keep NLP away from such negative claims.

1. Sharpley C.F. (1987). “Research Findings on Neuro-linguistic Programming: Non supportive Data or an Untestable Theory”. Communication and Cognition Journal of Counseling Psychology, 1987 Vol. 34, No. 1: 103-107,105
2. Penny Tompkins, The Developing Company. Visit (website)
3. Joseph O’Connor and John Seymour, Introducing NLP, Thorsons, 1994.
4. Tosey, P. & Mathison, J., (2006) “Introducing Neuro-Linguistic Programming, Centre for Management Learning & Development, School of Management, University of Surrey.
5. Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Delozier, J., and Bandler, R. (1980). Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume I: The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience. Cupertino, CA: Meta Publications. p. 2
6. Subtle Skills for Building Rapport-Using Neuro-Linguistic Programming in the Interview Room, A paper issued by Federal Bureau of Investigation, Washington DC.
7. Hardy, J. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, (2004)
8. Lyall, D (2002) `NLP in Training: the power to facilitate’ Training Journal November 2002, pp. 12 – 19.
9. Frank Bourke, Ph.D. Introduction to the RTM Protocol for PTSD of the Research and Recognition Project, 2013
10. Horton, William, Psy.D. CAC Mind Control 2013
11. Horton, William , Psy.D. CAC Alcohol and Addiction Solution 2012
12. Horton, William, Psy.D. CAC & Hogan, Kevin ,Selling Yourself To Others, The New Psychology of Sales, Pelican Press 2002
13. Horton, William Psy.D. CAC Quantum Psych

When one looks at what you need to do to achieve true Mastery we have to look at those things that naturally occur that true Masters have followed. If you want to be a Master you must model a TRUE Master.
> I have found that from studying those that do achieve the true level of Mastery in any skill they seem to experience these internal Strategies and follow the same path. A true Master may follow one of more of these, but they do experience these.
> 1. Experience Failure as a learning experience. The Master does not run from a set back, or failure, but they learn from the EXPERIENCE. They take the details into themselves so that they can go forward. Some Masters would say its not they do not fail at tasks, but that they fail faster, they take the set back and move on!
> 2. Go toward fear and pain. Most people avoid things that make them uncomfortable and stay away from painful experiences. To get to a level of expert
> you will have to go through your weak and painful areas. In fact masters seek out people who can help them turn their weakness into strengths. When Michael Jordan was early in his career, he was the leagues leading scorer and offensive player, but he wanted to be the Greatest player of all time and he was self honest (and took feedback) that his defensive game was “soft” because he was a scoring machine. In the off season he worked and was mentored on the defensive aspects and the next year he was the Defensive player of the year, and we all know he is considered the greatest player of all time in his sport.
> 3. Value learning and experience over money and quick rewards. Once you start to experience success it it easy to stop learning and chase money (or fame). When one looks at acting, master craftsmen of the art, study and do roles that may not offer the biggest payday, but are the most challenging and give them the learning experience of stretching their skills (like #1) and pay less. Stallone did 5 Rocky movies (they made him a lot of money) but he is not considered a Master Actor. Think of the actors that do Broadway and offbeat roles that grow their skills. Meryl Streep comes to mind.
> 4. Expand their knowledge base. Masters grow their OVERALL skills they study their field but also learn other things that they can bring back to their field. By stepping into new areas it keeps learning new and also humbles one as you work with experts from other skills.
> 5. Trust themselves in the learning. They take new skills and master them and trust they will internalize them into their skills set. Master know they have their own unique outlook and skill set and that they bring this into the field. They model other masters, but know they have to trust their internal drives to lead them.
> 6. Know they have more to learn. Master are always learning and growing, a true Master never thinks they have ALL the answers (it helps they study fields outside of their expertise) so it keeps them grounded and humble. When combined with #4 it also brings fresh perspectives into their lives.
> I hope to see you on the path to Mastery at the upcoming class. for details.
> Keep an eye out for details on Roadblocks to success and details more trainings
> Until next time Gods Speed on your path.

Behavior Change Matrix

During the conference I tested my unofficial theory of the Behavior
Change Matrix. Those of us who work with people on any type of
change always want more on this topic. What are the drivers that
get people to REALLY change? This is also true for learning new
material of any type.
There seem to be several factors, of course awareness and wanting
to change, realizing there is a problem. Have you ever seen a
smoker who is unaware that there is a problem> This week I
talked to many professional hypnotists who are broke but they did
not really think making more was in their realm of control.
So Desire to change with the awareness is key.
Openness to new ideas is a missing factor. We get stuck in our
current mindset, where and when we were trained. I will always do
what I always did, this is especially true if it worked in the
past! This is why you see many people who experience success then
something happens and they never come fully back. They are stuck in
an old matrix, so to speak!
One of my students, Cris Johnson, who I am doing a Mentalism
Training with that you can get, yes we will teach you how to incorporate
magic and mentalism into ANY presentation, more on that later, was
talking to several hypnotists who were interested in increasing
their business, he is a good guy to talk to, as he has TRIPLED his
income in the last nine months and is on target to get his hypnosis
business to equal his magic business (he is a six figure working
magician) Many of those he talked to KNEW they needed to shift but
were unable to accept new ideas or feedback.
So Knowing the need to change is first level.
Desire To change is second.
Information, techniques, guidance and mentoring are key.
BUT it is all worthless without the openness to change and
incorporate the new stuff.
If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you
always got.
The students I see excel in this material are those that do this.
More later
Gods Speed
Will Horton, Psy.D. CAC

Role Model

If a role model relationship is to help you think and act more intelligently, you’ll have to choose the right person to emulate—and as is so often the case, science has some surprising and counter-intuitive insights to contribute here. The right role model may not be the brightest light in your field, but rather someone more humanly flawed.

In an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science, for example, Jerker Denrell of the University of Oxford and Chengwei Liu of the University of Warwick counsel us to model ourselves on solid, second-tier performers, not the flashy types who come in first. The researchers reported on the results of a game played in many rounds. Over time, the most skilled players came to inhabit a second tier of reliable competence. Those who succeeded spectacularly—who took their places in the first tier—were often not the most skilled, but rather were those who got some lucky breaks early on or took big risks that happened to pay off.

Emulating these top performers would probably lead to disappointment, since imitators would be unlikely to replicate their good fortune. Because luck and risk play a dominant role in extraordinary outcomes, Denrell and Liu write, “extreme success or failure are, at best, only weak signals of skill,” and top performers “should not be imitated or praised.” Better, they advise, to learn from individuals “with high, but not exceptional, performance”—those whose success can be attributed to solid skill and not to a rare lightning strike.

Modeling ourselves on the most accomplished individuals can have another drawback: it can actually make us less motivated. In an article published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, psychologists Diana E. Betz and Denise Sekaquaptewa note that women in STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—are often labeled “unfeminine,” an image that may discourage female students from pursuing these fields.

But when the researchers exposed middle-school girls to women who were feminine and successful in STEM fields, the experience actually diminished the girls’ interest in math, depressed their plans to study math, and reduced their expectations of future success. The women’s “combination of femininity and success seemed particularly unattainable to STEM-disidentified girls,” the authors conclude, adding that “gender-neutral STEM role models,” as well as feminine women who were successful in non-STEM fields, did not have this effect.

Does this mean that we have to give up our most illustrious role models? There is a way to gain inspiration from truly exceptional individuals: attend to their failures as well as their successes. This was demonstrated in a study by Huang-Yao Hong of National Chengchi University in Taiwan and Xiaodong Lin-Siegler of Columbia University.

The researchers gave a group of physics students information about the theories of Galileo Galilei, Issac Newton and Albert Einstein. A second group received readings praising the achievements of these scientists. And a third group was given a text that described the thinkers’ struggles. The students who learned about scientists’ struggles developed less-stereotyped images of scientists, became more interested in science, remembered the material better, and did better at complex open-ended problem-solving tasks related to the lesson—while the students who read the achievement-based text actually developed more stereotypical images of scientists.

I’ll leave you with this excerpt from the experimental materials, about the development of Newton’s theory of gravitation: “While the famous fable suggests that Newton was inspired by seeing an apple drop from a tree, it was actually his hard work and inquisitive nature that led to his formulation of a gravitational theory. As he said, ‘I keep the subject constantly before me, till the first dawnings open slowly, by little and little, into the full and clear light.’”

Captains Log: Labor Day

Here are a couple of cool articles!
Haters gonna hate? Why some people are such downers
Laura Poppick LiveScience
“Nah,” “eh,” “no” and “ugh”: These are the familiar sounds of people who don’t seem to like much and conjure negative quips for just about anything. While people with more positive dispositions may try to shake enthusiasm unto these downers, new research helps to explain why this often doesn’t work.
That certain people like more things than others may seem obvious, but, until now, nobody has ever tested whether such dispositions operate as distinct personality traits, separate from other traits such as optimism/pessimism or extroversion/introversion. A team of researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Pennsylvania have now conducted the first quantitative analysis of dispositional attitude, finding that it is, in fact, distinct from these other traits.
“Optimists tend to have generalized beliefs usually about the future, such as ‘Things are going to turn out well,'” said Justin Hepler, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and an author on the study. “We were interested in whether people liked or disliked things, in general, and had people report their attitude about different things.”
Debbie downers
The researchers started with a sample of 1,300 people, and a list of 200 unrelated items, including mullets, sea salt, T-shirts and extinction. They ultimately narrowed down their list to 16 items, and continued their study to include a total of 2,000 participants.
The study subjects — including undergraduate students from the University of Illinois and a broader demographic gathered from an survey service — rated items on the list from 1 to 7, with 1 representing “extremely unfavorable” and 7 representing “extremely favorable.” Subjects also completed other surveys that tested for potentially overlapping traits, such as optimism/pessimism and extroversion/introversion.
The researchers found that people’s dispositional attitudes often correlated with other similar traits, but were still statistically distinct, meaning that some optimists have a tendency to dislike many things, and some pessimists, likewise, might like lots of things.
As with all personality traits, dispositional attitudes develop through a combination of one’s biology and environment. The team has not yet assessed how therapy could help mediate these traits, but suggests that adjusting one’s external stimuli, such as surrounding oneself with positive people, could ultimately sway a person from one side of the spectrum to the other.
Turning a frown upside down
These findings could potentially help people with strongly negative or positive dispositions become aware of their own role in their attitude toward things, and separate this from the inherent quality of those things. For example, a person with a negative disposition might read reviews before watching a movie, focus only on negative reviews, and end up not enjoying the movie either because they were influenced by the negative reviews or simply see themselves as contrary people. Becoming aware of this tendency may help that person assess movies or other things more objectively, Hepler explained.
The team plans to conduct follow-up studies to more closely examine how this distinct personality trait influences behavior.
“If you like something, you are more likely to do it — there’s no surprise there,” Hepler said. “When you combine that with the fact that some people have a tendency to like a lot of things, some people might just do more things overall.”
Participating in more activities could create a feedback loop in which people feel stimulated and enjoy more things, though this idea was not assessed in the study, Hepler said. The team also did not assess the correlation between depression and negative dispositions, but they hope to address this in future research.

Here is Another:
Time on the Brain: How You Are Always Living In the Past, and Other Quirks of Perception
I always knew we humans have a rather tenuous grip on the concept of time, but I never realized quite how tenuous it was until a couple of weeks ago, when I attended a conference on the nature of time organized by the Foundational Questions Institute. This meeting, even more than FQXi’s previous efforts, was a mashup of different disciplines: fundamental physics, philosophy, neuroscience, complexity theory. Crossing academic disciplines may be overrated, as physicist-blogger Sabine Hossenfelder has pointed out, but it sure is fun. Like Sabine, I spend my days thinking about planets, dark matter, black holes—they have become mundane to me. But brains—now there’s something exotic. So I sat rapt during the neuroscientists’ talks as they described how our minds perceive the past, present, and future. “Perceive” maybe isn’t strong enough a word: our minds construct the past, present, and future, and sometimes get it badly wrong.

Neuroscientist Kathleen McDermott of Washington University began by quoting famous memory researcher Endel Tulving, who called our ability to remember the past and to anticipate the future “mental time travel.” You don’t use the phrase “time travel” lightly in front of a group of physicists for whom the concept is not a convenient metaphor but a very real possibility. But when you hear about how our minds glide through time—and how our memory provides a link not only to the past but also to the future—you see Tulving’s point.

McDermott outlined the case of Patient K.C., who has even worse amnesia than the better-known H.M. on whom the film Memento was based. K.C. developed both retrograde and anterograde amnesia from a motorcycle crash in 1981. (The literature doesn’t say whether he was wearing a helmet, but let this be a lesson.) He can’t remember anything that happened more than a few minutes ago. He retains facts and skills, but can’t remember actually doing anything or being anywhere.

Tellingly, not only can he not recall the past, he can’t envision the future. When researchers ask him to picture himself somewhere he might go, he says that all he sees is “a big blankness.” Another patient McDermott has worked with can explain the future in the abstract, but says he can’t imagine himself in it.

To investigate the perception of past and future in people without brain injuries, McDermott did fMRI brain scans of 21 college students, asking them to recall a specific incident in their past and then envision themselves in a specific future scenario. Subjectively, the two feel very different. Yet the scans showed the same patterns of activity. Areas scattered all over the brain lit up; our temporal perception is distributed. As a control, McDermott also asked the students to remember events involving Bill Clinton (presumably, ones they were not personally involved in), and the patterns were very different. In a follow-up study, McDermott asked 27 students to anticipate an event in both a familiar and an unfamiliar place. The brain scan for the familiar one resembled the one for the act of remembering; the unfamiliar one was the odd man out.

The bottom line is that memory is essential to constructing scenarios for ourselves in the future. Anecdotal evidence backs this up. Our ability to project forward and to recollect the past both develop around age 5, and people who are good at remembering also report having vivid thoughts about the future.

McDermott’s colleague Henry Roediger studies metacognition—thinking about thinking. We express varying degrees of confidence in our memories. How we do this is clearly an issue for the court system. The N.J. Supreme Court recently tightened standards on the consideration of eyewitness testimony, citing the risk of false positives. Roediger pointed out that false negatives get less attention, but are equally bad. The worst eyewitnesses are full of passionate intensity, and the best lack all conviction. In both cases, innocent people can be sent to death row while the guilty walk.

Cognitive psychologists find that confidence sometimes correlates with accuracy, sometimes not. Roediger gave volunteers a memory word test. They had to study a list of words; afterwards, they were presented with a series of words and had to indicate whether each had been on the original list. They also had to say how confident they felt about their answer.

Whenever I hear about such tests, I brace myself for bad news. But Roediger said people actually did pretty well, and their confidence scores tracked the accuracy of their recall. Their blind spots were predictable. They systematically messed up, both in recall accuracy and self-assessment, when presented words that weren’t on the list but were synonyms of ones that were. The findings match what happens with eyewitnesses. We get things broadly right, but are easily confused by similar situations and faces.

It’s not that our memory is a glitchy wetware version of computer flash memory; it’s that the computer metaphor just doesn’t apply. Roediger said we store only bits and pieces of what happened—a smattering of impressions we weave together into feels like a seamless narrative. When we retrieve a memory, we also rewrite it, so that the time next we go to remember it, we don’t retrieve the original memory but the last one we recollected. So, each time we tell a story, we embellish it, while remaining genuinely convinced of the veracity of our memories.

So go easy on your friend who caught the 150-pound catfish. He wasn’t consciously lying, which is why he spoke with conviction, but that still doesn’t mean you should swallow his tale. To confuse is human; to accept we confuse, divine.
Speaking of fish, as neuroscientist Malcolm MacIver of Northwestern once put it to me, electric fish are the fruit flies of neuroscience—model organisms for studying how we sense the world. MacIver told the FQXi conference about his astoundingly comprehensive, leave-no-stone-unturned study of a species of Amazonian electric fish, using everything from supercomputer fluid simulations to an working model of the fish (captured in this video) and even an art installation.

The fish generates an electric field of about 1 millivolt per centimeter at a frequency that ranges from 50 to 2000 hertz. Water fleas, its prey, give themselves away by disrupting the field. (You can build a proximity sensor based on this concept. I use one to control the lights in my study.) What gets ichthyologists flapping is that, when this fish is out hunting, it doesn’t swim straight ahead, but at a 30-degree angle to the axis of its body—a seemingly cuckoo behavior that nearly triples the water drag force.

But MacIver demonstrated that the orientation also increases the effective volume of water sensed by the electric field. The fish strikes a balance between mechanical and sensory efficiency. Generalizing this insight, he distinguished between two distinct volumes around an organism: its sensory volume (the region it can scan for prey) and its motor volume (the region it can directly reach). For this fish and most other aquatic animals, the two are comparable in size—there’d be no point in looking out any farther. A fish’s reach does not exceed its grasp.

For land animals, though, things are quite different: their sensory volume is much bigger than their motor volume, since light travels much farther in air than in seawater. So when our ancestors crawled out of the sea, they gained the opportunity to plan their behavior in advance. No longer restricted to reacting to immediate stimuli, they had time to take in the scene and deliberate before moving. Animals that could arbitrage the difference in sensory and motor volumes gained an evolutionary advantage.

MacIver speculated that this set the stage for the evolution of consciousness. After all, what is consciousness, but the ability to make plans and gain some advantage over our environment, rather than lurching from crisis to crisis? Psychologist Bruce Bridgeman proposed this view of consciousness in the early 1990s. MacIver elaborated in a post on his blog, Science Not Fiction, earlier this year.

The fun thing about neuroscience is that you can do the experiments on yourself. David Eagleman of the Baylor College of Medicine proceeded to treat us as his test subjects. By means of several visual illusions, he demonstrated that we are all living in the past: Our consciousness lags 80 milliseconds behind actual events. “When you think an event occurs it has already happened,” Eagleman said.

In one of these illusions, the flash-lag effect, a light flashes when an object moves past it, but we don’t see the two as coincident; there appears to be a slight offset between them. By varying the parameters of the experiment, Eagleman showed that this occurs because the brain tries to reconstruct events retroactively and occasionally gets it wrong. The reason, he suggested, is that our brains seek to create a cohesive picture of the world from stimuli that arrive at a range of times. If you touch your toe and nose at the same time, you feel them at the same time, even though the signal from your nose reaches your brain first. You hear and see a hand clap at the same time, even though auditory processing is faster than visual processing. Our brains also paper over gaps in information, such as eyeblinks. “Your consciousness goes through all the trouble to synchronize things,” Eagleman said. But that means the slowest signal sets the pace.

The cost of hiding the logistical details of perception is that we are always a beat behind. The brain must strike a balance. Cognitive psychologist Alex Holcombe at Sydney has some clever demonstrations showing that certain forms of motion perception take a second or longer to register, and our brains clearly can’t wait that long. Our view of the world takes shape as we watch it.

The 80-millisecond rule plays all sorts of perceptual tricks on us. As long as a hand-clapper is less than 30 meters away, you hear and see the clap happen together. But beyond this distance, the sound arrives more than 80 milliseconds later than the light, and the brain no longer matches sight and sound. What is weird is that the transition is abrupt: by taking a single step away from you, the hand-clapper goes from in sync to out of sync. Similarly, as long as a TV or film soundtrack is synchronized within 80 milliseconds, you won’t notice any lag, but if the delay gets any longer, the two abruptly and maddeningly become disjointed. Events that take place faster than 80 milliseconds fly under the radar of consciousness. A batter swings at a ball before being aware that the pitcher has even throw it.

The cohesiveness of consciousness is essential to our judgments about cause and effect—and, therefore, to our sense of self. In one particularly sneaky experiment, Eagleman and his team asked volunteers to press a button to make a light blink—with a slight delay. After 10 or so presses, people cottoned onto the delay and began to see the blink happen as soon as they pressed the button. Then the experimenters reduced the delay, and people reported that the blink happened before they pressed the button.

Eagleman conjectured that such causal reversals would explain schizophrenia. All of us have an internal monologue, which we safely attribute to ourselves; if we didn’t, we might think of it as an external voice. So Eagleman has begun to run the same button-blink experiment on people diagnosed with schizophrenia. He reported that changing the delay time did not cause them to change their assessment of cause and effect. “They just don’t adjust,” Eagleman said. “They don’t see the illusion. They’re temporally inflexible.” He ventured: “Maybe schizophrenia is fundamentally a disorder of time perception.” If so, it suggests new therapies to cajole the brains of schizophrenic patients into recalibrating their sense of timing.

In the experiment for which Eagleman is best known, he sought to find out why time passes more slowly when we’re scared. Does something really happen in the brain—for instance, the time resolution of perception speeds up—or do we just think it does, in hindsight? After brainstorming scare tactics that probably wouldn’t have passed muster with a university ethics committee, he hit upon asking volunteers to take one of those Freefall or Demon Drop rides you find in amusement parks. They wore a special watch whose digits counted up too quickly for people to register them under normal conditions—thinking that, if perception really did speed up, people would be able to read the digits.

Alas, they couldn’t. Although they consistently reported that the ride took about a third longer than it really did, this must have been a trick of memory; their hyperacuity was a mirage.

Our memory becomes distorted because our brains react more strongly to novelty than to repetition. Eagleman investigated this effect by asking volunteers to estimate the duration of flashes of light; those flashes that were the first in a series, or broke an established pattern, seemed to last longer. This feature of consciousness, like the 80-millisecond rule, explain so much about our daily experience. When we’re sitting through a boring event, it seems to take forever. But when we look back on it, it went by in a flash. Conversely, when you’re doing something exciting, time seems to race by, but when you look back on it, it stretched out. In the first case, there was little to remember, so your brain collapsed the feeling of duration. In the second, there was so much to remember, so the event seemed to expand. Time flies when you’re having fun, but crawls when you recollect in tranquility.

I suspect that this inverse relation in our perception of time also explains how our experiences shift as we age. When you’re a kid, you wake up and say to yourself: “I’ve got a whole day ahead of me. How will I possibly fill it all?” But when you’re an adult, it’s more like: “I’ve got a day ahead of me. How will I possibly get it all done?” And don’t get me started on how people swear that the first year of their baby’s life went by so fast. (A second child is usually enough to disabuse them.)

You can probably tell from my lengthy description of Eagleman’s talk that it seemed to zip by at the time. The physicists in attendance found it one of the highlights of the conference. Not only was it engrossing in its own right, it had some professional interest for them. All theories of physics begin with sense-data. As Eagleman said, “We build our physics on top of our intuitions.”

We also build our physics on a recognition of the limits of perception. The whole point of theories such as relativity is to separate objective features of the world from artifacts of our perspective. One of the most important books of the past two decades on the physics and philosophy of time, Huw Price’s Time’s Arrow and Archimedes’ Point, argues that concepts of cause and effect derive from our experience as agents in the world and may not be a fundamental feature of reality.

Time plays a variety of roles in physics, from defining causal sequences to giving a direction to the unfolding of the universe. How many of these roles are rooted in the contingent ways our brains perceive time? How might an alien being, who perceives time in a radically different way, formulate physics?