Nerissa

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Improving The Akrasia Hypothesis

My guess is the perineuronal net makes akrasia common. Since the perineuronal net is poorly expressed in our conscious identity center (see wiki article below) changing our identity may be a good way to overcome akrasia.

My hypothesis is much of our behavior and lack of behavior is identity dependent with our identity a function of subconscious elements stabilized by perineuronal nets and conscious elements not so well stabilized. A first stab at lowering akrasia would be to consciously change our identity. There are various ways of doing this with the basic training in the U.S. military being a particularly good method. I.e. take near children into training and in several weeks turn them into people willing to kill on command.

The New Scientist article below focuses on a method to change the subconscious, usually relatively stable, aspects of PTSD related memory. My guess is a similar method might be effective in changing akrasia patterns.

Note that I wrote "changing akrasia patterns" and not "eliminating akrasia." I think akrasia is, for better or worse, a key element of our self-identity. Any identity will intrinsically have elements which work against self interests not consistent with that identity. This being the case even if these interests are as significant as our health and well being. Consider, for example, the low income Conservative Christians who consistently vote for Republicans who are determined to keep them in poverty.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Akrasia

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20827903.400-to-erase-a-bad-memory-first-become-a-child.html

Self-empathy as a source of "willpower"

I think part of the problem with resolving dynamic inconsistencies is it is human nature to reward bad behavior more than good. Consider as an analogy how the medical systems in most developed countries handle pathological behaviors. Suppose you went to your doctor and told them you ate a low calorie healthy diet, exercised regularly, practiced safe sex and had a good handle on your stress. As a result you were pretty healthy. Your reward from your doctor and your medical insurance company would be NOTHING.

Now suppose you smoked heavily so had COPD, ate like a pig and never exercised so were obese, already had HIV and assorted other sexually transmitted diseases and refused to work due to being stressed out. Society couldn't throw money at you fast enough. You'd get loads of attention from doctors and nurses, a welfare check, support groups eager to have you as a member, free time off, free housing, you name it. As a bonus if anyone made the mistake of asking you to do SOMETHING to show a sense of responsibility you could give any number of excuses for doing nothing.

Being a lazy freeloader is the logical choice in any society that rewards it. Likewise with our various selves the pathological versions are generally rewarded more than the healthy versions. Until and unless we change this we won't have much "willpower" since it really is most logical to be pathological.