In one psychology experiment run by an acquaintance of mine, I was asked to dip a hand into ice water for an extended period and rate my discomfort level (the experiment also included groups which were lied to as to when they'd be told to remove their hand). I rated it as 2; days after the experiment, my acquaintance said that was abnormally low discomfort.

Similarly, in the hospital as I was recovering from peritonitis, the nurse was skeptical of my 1-10 pain rating of pi.

I guess it's just that I can remember how much things really hurt when they really hurt so my 10s are much closer to the real maximum pain than most peoples'. In that case it's not really my brain, but my mind?

4Prismattic8yI'd be skeptical too. There's no way your pain sensitivity is finely calibrated enough to give 3.14 as an answer, never mind 3.1415..... ;)
5Nornagest8yI'm a little surprised that those uncalibrated pain scales enjoy such wide use; with no obvious anchors, I'd expect people's subjective responses to them to vary quite a bit. Since this doesn't seem to be the case, I suppose most people are anchoring on something I'm not. The last time I was asked for a pain rating (doctor's visit following trauma to an eardrum), I hemmed and hawed over it for a while and finally interpreted it as a quasi-logarithmic scale with 1 being the least perceptible discomfort definable as such. This seemed to confuse the nurse.

How is your mind different from everyone else's?

by Kaj_Sotala 1 min read5th Dec 2011267 comments


Partially to help reduce the typical mind fallacy and partially because I'm curious, I'm thinking about writing either an essay or a book with plenty of examples about ways by which human minds differ. From commonly known and ordinary, like differences in sexual orientation, to the rare and seemingly impossible, like motion blindness.

To do this, I need to start collecting examples. In what ways does your mind differ from what you think is the norm for most people?

I'm particularly interested in differences - small or large - that you didn't realize for a long time, automatically assuming that everyone was like you in that regard. It can even be something as trivial as always having conceptualized the passing of years as a visual timeline, and then finding out that not everyone does so. I'm also interested in links to blog posts where people talk about their own mental peculiarities, even if you didn't write them yourself. Also books and academic articles that you might think could be relevant.

Some of the content that I'm thinking about including are cultural differences in various things as recounted in the WEIRD article, differences in sexual and romantic orientation (such as mono/poly), differences in the ability to recover from setbacks, extroversion vs. introversion in terms of gaining/losing energy from social activity, differences in visualization ability, various cognitive differences ranging from autism to synesthesia to an inability to hear music in particular, differences in moral intuitions, differences in the way people think (visual vs. verbal vs. conceptual vs. something that I'm not aware of yet), differences in thinking styles (social/rational, reflectivity vs. impulsiveness) and various odd brain damage cases.

If you find this project interesting, consider spreading the link to this post or resharing my Google Plus update about it. Also, if you don't want to reply in public, feel free to send me a private message.