THE SOFTWARE APPROACH TO COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

By Gregory Mitchell

The Hardware Approach to Cognitive Development
At one stage, our research into a workable method for achieving high levels of cognitive development involved the use of mechanical and electrical technology. A key step forward was the invention of speech compression and the accompanying mechanical aid, the "Chromostrobe."

The EEG was used since the beginning; the Chromostrobe was introduced in 1968, the Sychrophone and the Bilateral Meter were introduced in 1969; the L-meter in 1971 and the Monroe Oscillator in 1976. The EEG and the Bilateral Meter were the crucial tools that made our discoveries possible. During the 1960s and 1970s, there were many government surplus shops in the West End of London, so I was able to acquire most of the equipment I needed in Mental Development for very little money. For example, I paid £90 for the EEG.

The Chromostrobe was a tool to prove our theories by directly driving the brain with multiple colored strobe lights, to achieve faster and faster encoding and decoding abilities; the L-Meter provided a stimulating DC potential, raising IQ by several points. Pure oxygen was used to raise IQ six to ten points. The Synchrophone provided appropriate audio stimulation alternating between left and right hemispheres at selectable frequencies. The EEG provided biofeedback monitoring of the various brain wavelengths, and the Bilateral Meter provided instant monitoring of hemispheric balance (arousal of the left brain hemisphere compared to that of the right brain). The Monroe Oscillator provided brain stimulation by the principle of binaural hemispheric synchronization, again at selectable frequencies.

I addition, the Chromostrobe was often used to drive gamma waves. These are brain waves in the 40 to 50 Hertz range that integrate different parts of the brain, and are important when learning new, mental software. We had to do the EEG experiments on a boat, several miles from land, because the gamma waves are close to the 50 cycle AC mains frequency, which had to be got away from. As gamma waves are very small, high amplification is needed, so the radiation from the AC mains affected the high frequency EEG adversely when we were on land. It was also observed that gamma waves played an important role in intuition. When a subject had an intuition, there was a large burst of gamma waves, lasting for more than a second.

In the normal child, the brain has reached the full adult size at seven or eight years of age. Further development, which continues for at least another ten years, is the result of progressive unfoldment of maturational programs, when appropriate environmental stimulation occurs.

Mechanical methods, using various types of intrumentation, can accelerate this process of stimulation dramatically. Stroboscopes, either as stand-alone devices, or in conjunction with various kinds of audio-generators, were central to the high-level brainwave entrainment techniques, carried out in Mind Development labs, to achieve an advanced state of consciousness including savant-like cognitive abilities. Equipment of this type works by entrainment and synchronization of the various brain rhythms; an increase in I.Q. and verbal fluency resulting from a synchronization of the higher frequency components of the EEG in both hemispheres. A degree of permanent change occurs as a result of restructuring, in that the brain escapes an overload condition by restructuring itself into a higher level of integration. There was limited time for this restructuring to occur during the period of entrainment with the mechanical device, nevertheless stable changes did occur, to a certain extent.

In short, these devices work by driving the whole brain; there is a cumulative effect of increasing neural efficiency when such devices are used over several sessions. Ultimately, sufficient quantitative change becomes qualitative change: a shift in consciousness in the direction of greater maturity, permitting new programs to arise from the emergent unconconscious. This reflects the natural process of unfoldment, a process usually arrested at about the age of 18.

Active versus Passive Driving
When Chromostrobes, Synchrophones, Monroe Oscillators, etc. are used to drive the central nervous system passively, especially if these devices are used in conjunction, changes can be sudden and dramatic. Increases in I.Q. of as much as 40 points (usually in students with a customary I.Q. in excess of 120) have been observed to occur within the duration of one session.

However, these effects are trainsient, short-lived, laboratory phenomena, lasting for a few days or even just a few minutes. The effects of passive driving are short-lived. Furthermore, habituation to the source of stimulus occurs rapidly, usually within a few sessions.

For maximum, long-lasting results, driving must be in the active mode, that is, in conjunction with an appropriate cognitive activity, an activity related to both the frequency being applied and the hemishere that requires the greater stimulation. Besides making the changes longer lasting, or permanent given continued practice the the ability gained, matching the task to the type of stimulation prevents habituation to the stimulus, so that many sessions are possible, thus increasing the possibility of permanent changes taking place.

Intelligence has two components: fluid and crystallized. Passive driving may cause a short-lived increase in fluid intelligence, whereas sufficient active driving will cause a permanent increase in crystallized intelligence, which is the capacity to integrate cognitive skills with knowledge and experience, under a broad range of applications.

By actively driving the brain with sophisticated machines, very high states were achieved but in many cases, there was insufficient time to practice new cognitive skills before the sessions ended, and for most people, insufficient funds to have many sessions. The primary gain was the experience itself, knowing that incredibly high cognitive barriers can be surpassed. Progess could then continue driven by will-power rather than machinery - extensive practice of new cognitive skills at an ever-increasing level would create habit patterns which last a lifetime. This is the "software" approach to Mind Development.

Mechanical shortcuts can give interesting and important research results but also less stable ones. The software route is harder work but probably safer and more stable, and accessible to millions world-wide, where the mechanical route was for the select few who were around the research phase of Mind Development at a certain place and time in history.

The software approach to cognitive development
A software approach requires a minimum of equipment, beyond that of the media of the learning sessions. For example: pen, paper, plasticine, tables, chairs, a blackboard and, perhaps, an overhead projector.

Typically, one hundred hours of work, applying the software method, would return to the student about a fifteen point rise in his I.Q. score. If a course were made up of twelve, two hour weeky sessions, with an additional one hour of practice each day during the week, this would add up to 96 hours of study. It may have required 10 hours of intensive work in the laboratory to achieve the same I.Q. improvement, but the result of the home-study approach would be more stable and have the advantage that the skills achieved were understood in their theory and practice, and new positive habits would be well developed over the 12 weeks of studying, and could easily be carried over to the person's everyday life thereafter. The course would also be much more easily affordable than equivalent time in the laboratory.

With statistics going back over 20 years, I am able to state categorically that the gains made by a software approach will be of a permanent and lasting character, because they will result from actions done by, rather than to, the student.

Note that increases in intelligence seldom occur after adolescence, without an active process of intervention, because of the fixed sets of experience and action that the individual has acquired. Increases of intelligence are facilitated by approaches designed to break the stranglehold of a fixed attention set: modes of seeing and doing that are tied to a fixed framework, such as the language model and cultural norms, through which the individual pereives and operates on the world.

To restart this natural process of growth, the student of Mind Development must be lead to a state of "becoming," in which modes of perception and action - and the type of attention set behind them - are in a state of flux. A rehabilitation to the natural growth of these factors is returned as an increase in all mental skills that prehend to them.

The capacity to perceive, pose and resolve problems is general to every sphere. This capacity, which is intelligence, therefore has vast application. In addition, the expansion of memory re-awakens much of previous learning, including physical skills and knowledge previously thought forgotten. Development of the mind is therefore generally accompanied by an increase in the student's general repertoire of skills.

Courses for Horses
Going back in time a little, my work in athletics had given me the beginning of the technology for healing the mind-body split, enough of it anyway to reinforce the 'body image,' overcome the susceptibility to hypnosis and make the hardware approach to cognitive development work for a few adults who already had a high I.Q. (over 130). However, it was not effective for anyone who had reached middle age, and it still did not work on many young persons, even those with a fairly high I.Q.

There was therefore a still deeper and earlier problem we had not discovered. We had discovered the higher states; we had produced them in at least some people; we had measured what could be done, but we could only do it for some young people with a high I.Q. By that time we had discovered the use of the advanced stroboscopic technology: it was sufficiently powerful in fact to make some people worse!

On studying the I.Q. scores of these people who got worse we found in all cases there was a considerable difference between the verbal and the visio-spatial scores on the I.Q. test, before they started work with the stroboscope. For example, a student with a score of 115 visio-spatial and 140 verbal could be expected to have problems. The verbal I.Q. of such a person would go up to perhaps 170 under the strobe, and the spatial I.Q. would drop to as low as 100. The overall gain would therefore be only about 8 points, and at a cost of considerable imbalance for the whole personality. The lower level techniques we had developed of improving memorization and awareness of the body image would not cure this condition.

Eventually we found, partially by reading up data and partially by experiment, that this imbalance in I.Q. scores resulted from an imbalance in the activity of the two hemispheres of the brain. By this time, around 1968, we were using an E.E.G. and were able to observe what was happening, and to take corrective measures by what one calls biofeedback, in combination with hemispheric transfer exercises. This marked the birth of the Basic Courses technology: courses that a wide range of persons could undertake successfully, and that provide a suitable preparation for the Intermediate and Advanced Courses to follow, so that there need be no failures in achieving the highest states, provided the entry student was not in any way suffering from pathological mental illness.

We thought we finally had a complete system, but as we tried to use it on older and older people, and those with lower levels of I.Q., we came up against a new barrier. For this, no solution was found until in 1969 a friend gave me a book by Dr Francis Lefebure. This book contained the answer I was looking for. His method consisted of improving the communication between the two hemispheres of the brain by the alternation of signals to left and right eyes and ears. We duplicated his experiments and apparatus and found that the technique worked.

It was clear that trying to use the very advanced technology when the two sides of the brain were not effectively communicating with each other was counter-productive. We also needed methods for achieving this cross-modal ability that did not rely on mechanical equipment as so would be more accessible for group courses.

This discovery led us to the final Rubicon. The two sides of the brain go out of communication because this is the way in which we repress trauma, or the unfinished business of childhood. A graded series of communication exercises and drills delivered in a co-counseling context opened the door of Mind Development.

The technology at that time had to reject about 20% of the applicants because they had what we now call the 'orectic' problem, an emotionally-driven mind dominated by suppressed earlier traumatic experience, and were effectively too neurotic to be able to pay prolonged attention to study and exercises. This could be dealt with by psychoanalysis, however this would take about 200 hours of individual sessions, for as yet there is no adequate self-applied method of catharsis. Unfortunately, for those who would like to participate in Mind Development but who still require some form of individual, long-term psychotherapy, or in some cases are in need of psychiatric treatment by medical authorities... there is no way that Mind Development can assist these people at present. Mind Development is intended to enhance the lives of normally happy and healthy individuals; it is not intended to be a substitute for psychotherapy nor for medical treatment.

Piaget's Stages of Maturational Development
The Child-Psychologist Jean Piaget recognizes four stages of maturational development between birth and adulthood. These four stages are broken into sub-stages, as shown in the following table:

Stage 1 (Age 0-2). The Stage of Sensori-motor Intelligence

Sub-stage 1. Reflex action

Sub-stage 2. Co-ordination of reflexes and sensori-motor repetition.

Sub-stage 3. Activities to make interesting events in the environment reappear.

Sub-stage 4. Means/ends behavior and search for absent objects.

Sub-stage 5. Experimental search for new means.

Sub-stage 6. Use of Imagery in insightful invention of new means and in recall of absent objects and events.

Stage 2 (Age 2-5). Symbolic Intuitive or Pre-logical Inference is carried on through imagery and natural symbols which do not maintain logical relations or connections with one another. "Magical thinking" in the sense of:

a) confusion of apparent or imagined events with real events and
b) a confusion of perceptual appearances with reality.

This stage is referred to as the autistic phase of childhood.

Stage 3 (Age 6-12). Concrete Operational Thought Inferences are carried on through systems of classes, relations and quantities maintained logically. This stage is concerned with the development of mental imagery for the purpose of spatial and constructive thinking and the formation of a stable system of structural and operational classification.
Stage 4 (Age 12 to 20). Formal Operations Inferences are made through logical operations upon prepositions or 'operations on operations'. Reasoning about reasoning. Construction of systems of all possible relations or implications. Hypothetical - deductive isolation of variables; testing of variables and testing of hypotheses.

Sub-stage 1. Formation of the inverse of the reciprocal. Capacity to form negative classes (e.g. the class of "all not crows") and the ability to see relationships as simultaneously reciprocal (e.g. to understand that liquid in a U-shaped tube holds an equal pressure because of counter balanced pressures).

Sub-stage 2. Capacity to order triads of propositions or relations (e.g., to understand if Bob is taller than Joe and Joe is shorter than Dick, Joe is the shortest of them all).

Sub-stage 3. True formal thought. Construction of all possible combinations of relations, systematic isolation of variables, and deductive hypothesis testing.

Note: each sub-stage may be regarded as a cognitive structure.

Stage 5 (Age 20 to 30). Postformal Operations Especially if he is in a stimulating environment such as a university, or if he has a demanding profession or absorbing interest in which an extensive knowledge base is required, especially when creativity and resolution of conflicts is frequently demanded, a person who has obtained true Formal thought may continue to develop his or her intellect. With external help, such as our Mind Development Courses, the natural processes of development can be restarted even if the individual is well over the age of 30. Even university students may not have attained true Formal cognitive functionality and it appears the majority of the population function, most of the time, at the level of Concrete Operations. Furthermore, many people do not have a reliable ability to make Concrete Operations in an objective manner that is inner-directed enough to be free from the influence of their environmental conditioning and peer pressures. Postformal Operations are described in detail in the paper, Adult Intellectual Development.

Typically, a person of average intelligence (which is only 100 by definition) would remain below the sub-stage 1 of Formal Operations, predominantly using Concrete Operations. A higher level of mental maturity would only be manifest in emotionally neutral situations or in a domain specific manner, perhaps in the context of work requiring concentrated problem solving. When "off duty" or when under emotional pressure most people would tend to regress to the level of Concrete Operational thought, and under severe pressure to the Pre-Logical thinking of Stage 2.

Only about 17% of the population, those with an IQ above 110, use Formal Operations on an everyday basis. And only about 5% of the population reach the final stage of Formal Operations, true formal thought, and probably about 2% continue to develop at the Postformal Level. Of them, about 0.1% go on to complete this process. This is mainly because a person needs to be in an educational or otherwise stimulating environment, until he or she is about thirty. Most university students leave university after gaining a first degree at between the ages of twenty-two to twenty-four, so the process of Postformal development all but ceases, unless they continue to work in an intellectually stimulating environment.

Concrete Intuition
In some primitive cultures, the fourth or formal stage of operations is seldom reached since there are not the language and educational demands, and so a further intuitive phase of the Concrete Operational stage may become manifest, and the concrete cognitive structures may be sufficiently mature to operate intuitively. Concrete Intuition is a missing stage in advanced cultures, because due to the influence of education the students progress quickly from Concrete Operations toward Formal Operations, or at least, the education system attempts to achieve that; on the other hand, Concrete Intuition is the mental state of shamans and witchdoctors and the Dream Time of the Australian Aborigine. In the state of Concrete Intuition, they have special powers and savant abilities. When manifest, this state is also similar to certain states of hypnosis. In these states, the hypnotized subject has greatly increased physical strength, heightened perception and an extended field of memory. There is much similarity between the awareness of people at the Concrete Intuitive level and the "no-mind" state described in Zen literature.

In my opinion, people who are still in a state of Bicameral Consciousness have eidetic imagery (outstanding concrete memory) and operate (at best) at the level of Concrete Intuition, in which perception and memory are undifferentiated. Concrete Intuition is therefore the endpoint of development for people living in primitive cultures. The commonest form of outstanding memory in primitive man is topographical memory, or recollection of a particular place or route. It retains an image, complete down to the tiniest details, that enables primitive man to find his way with an assurance Europeans regard as astonishing. Similarly the native would know instantly if a member of their herd was missing, without having to count linearly.

Note: I got the idea of Concrete Intuition from Eugene Marias in his book The Soul of the Ape, although he did not exactly use these words. Marais began writing Soul of the Ape in 1916, but never finished it. It was published posthumously years later. His theory was that all primates have the ability to memorize the relationship between cause and effect. They could therefore vary their behavior voluntarily. While termites were instinctive, the mind of baboons was based on 'causal memory.'

The reason for this difference, according to Marais, was natural selection. According to him, natural selection was not, like Darwin had insisted, the survival of the fittest, but rather the line of least resistance. Those species best able to adapt to their specific environment survived, while those not able to, would become extinct. Natural selection, therefore, had the tendency to both localize and specialize species. These conclusions to which he came were new and radical and might well have had an influence in Europe. But Marais was half a hemisphere away, half a century too soon and writing in a language no one could understand.

Mature Intuition
This table appears to omit an advanced Stage. This stage would appear after Stage 5 and it would be Intuitive. When this level has been reached there will be spontaneous attempts to increase mental capacity still further. This is Teilhard de Chardin's "point of ignition," at which a person has become sufficiently self-aware to attempt to direct his own course of mental evolution. If the natural process of maturation could proceed unhindered, Piaget's fifth stage of Postformal Operations would become mature and a following sixth stage of intuitive development would begin.

A minority of exceptional people have reached this further stage of maturity. By self-evolved methods they have brought themselves to what we call Mature Intuitionor the Metavert State. When this stage is reached, all significant cognitive structures of the first five stages have sufficient maturity to be utilized pre-reflectively or intuitively. This is the goal of Mind Development Courses as a whole.

The Objective of the Mind Development Courses
Each course in the Mind Development series represents both a level of preparation for subsequent courses and a level of achievement in itself. At the manifest level each course appears complete in itself, however there is an underlying continuum, and the successive courses of Mind Development represent the multi-dimensional facets of a hidden continuity.

The fundamental objective of the Mind Development Courses is to increase the interaction between the two sides of the brain. Interaction between the two sides must be sufficient to give access to the non-verbal content of the right hemisphere, permit verbal tags to be applied to this content, and permit verbal input to the left hemisphere to trigger a parallel train of sensory images in the right. These are the minimum necessary criteria for work to be meaningful at the higher levels of Mind Development. If these criteria are not met as a precondition, many of the higher level techniques are impotent - indeed many of these techniques would be beyond the ability of the typical student.

When interaction between the two sides of the brain is sufficient, the two sides will operate in concert. For many people this will represent a new state of consciousness. In this new state of consciousness, a more effective approach to problem solution becomes possible through a synthesis of verbal and non-verbal mental processes, which are under conscious control.

In the Mind Development Courses we are dealing with a primary mental process 'the cross-model integration of sensory information'. This is the capacity to translate information represented in one modality, e.g. verbal, into another modality such as non-verbal. Techniques in the Basic Courses bring about a new structural relationship between the hemispheres, consequently more information from the various sense modalities is available to verbal report. Improvement of this general factor of intelligence will often cause hidden cognitive structures to emerge. By hidden cognitive structures, I mean, by and large, cognitive structures that should have arisen as the result of the natural process of maturation, or latent structures that would have arisen if the process of maturation had continued to a higher level.

Cross-modal integration is fundamental to mathematical and numerical thought. A classic example of this process would be the translation of a graph into an algebraic statement and the converse, the translation of an algebraic statement into a graph. Were the process of cross-modal integration lacking, concepts of number, proportion and ratio could neither be fully grasped nor properly communicated. A fully developed mathematical consciousness could not exist - at best there would be only vacuum behavior. One sequence of symbols would give rise to another on a stimulus-response basis. Both sequences would lack meaning to a person who lacked cross-modal integration.

Often a student will learn mathematics on a stimulus-response basis in order to pass an exam, however, when material is learned in this way it is rapidly forgotten. If such a student is presented with a mathematical problem in real life, he will experience bewilderment. He may have an intuitive awareness that the problem has a mathematical solution but he cannot solve it. Why? Because his powers of cross-modal transfer are limited, he is unable to re-formulate the problem. He may be able to manipulate symbols to some extent and he may be able to visualize, however, he cannot translate one mode of representation into the other. His bewilderment stems from this inability to translate. He may be able to perform a pure calculation as an abstraction, but he has an inhibition in the area of production, which is manifest as an inability to apply.

The cross-modal problem is a major factor behind the lack of numerical literacy in this culture. Researches of the nature of intelligence by Vernon and others demonstrate that students below a certain level of mental maturity perform numerical operations with the verbal centers of the brain. In contrast, superior students are using a combination of verbal and spatial intelligence. In other words, the numerical I.Q. of an inferior student has a very high correlation with his verbal IQ, whereas the numerical I.Q. of a superior student has a much higher correlation with his spatial IQ. This is illustrated in the diagram below. Because most students are working purely verbally, they will lose cognitive structures for operation on numbers soon after leaving school. These structures become submerged and for all practical purposes cease to exist.

General Intelligence

The link between numerical and spatial ability, shown as a dotted line, only occurs in high grade subjects.

With improved hemispheric interaction these submerged structures will usually re- emerge. This may be detected on the numerical section of an IQ-test. The score on this section may change by as many as 20 points. The capacity of selective attention or concentration, the ability to ask questions, and the ability to communicate subjective experience will all increase as the result of enhanced cross- modal integration. It must be noted, however, that many new cognitive structures will arise which cannot be utilized at this level. Once a new structure has arisen, it will continue to develop towards whatever will constitute its functional maturity. Consequently full competence in the utilization of these new structures will usually occur somewhat later on the Intermediate Courses.

The natural sequence of Mind Development training is determined by a laid down program - a program somewhere in the central nervous system. The determining factors are dictated by a stage-specific process of natural maturation and not by some arbitrary theory imposed by fiat. In an optimum environment, Mind Development probably would not be necessary. All present environments are less than optimum, so the natural process of maturation has been thwarted in various ways. The journey through childhood within the confines of a sub-optimal environment generates inhibitions which eventually cause the natural process of maturation to cease. When these inhibitions are removed, the natural process of maturation will restart.

When a student comes into Mind Development, he comes with numerous barriers that hinder the further unfolding of the natural maturational process. This same natural program determines the order in which these barriers are to be removed. When a barrier is removed, the program moves on to the next stage. Some new cognitive structure will emerge and so will some new barriers. These are the barriers to be dealt with next. Often, the reason why a technique from one of the more advanced courses does not work, when it is used out of context, is that the barrier the technique is addressed to, is yet not manifest.

Irrespective of his I.Q., a student tends to have a specific level of competence. This is a level of cognitive function at which he feels capable and complete. We tend to be very successful in avoiding situations that could cause us to operate above this level. In fact, we learn to be so good at avoiding such situations, we are seldom made to feel thick or stupid. Mind Development, however, will only work if a student is continually pushed above his level of competence. This will frequently make him feel stupid, and this feeling of stupidity is the student's feedback as to the existence of a barrier, and it is with this awareness that he is in a position to deal with it. The removal of this barrier will permit him to work at a higher level of competence; further work will push him to the limit of this new level, then the next barrier and so on.