Cognitive scientist Roger Shepard will speak on “Mystifying Mental Phenomena: Improbable Coincidences? Prophetic Dreams? More Than One Mind Within the Same Head?” at the Arizona Senior Academy next Thursday, Feb. 14. The topic of this lecture represents a departure for Shepard – from the realm of “hard science” to that which is not so easily explained.

In a recent interview at his home in Academy Village, Shepard talked about his long- term fascination with dreams, coincidences, and other subjective mental phenomena that he acknowledged are difficult to study in a scientific way.  Starting when he was a graduate student at Yale, he has recorded and studied his dreams and incidences of other interesting and often inexplicable mental phenomena.

Presenting cases with audio/visual illustrations, Shepard will share his observations as well as challenge his audience with some of his unanswered questions about mental phenomena and how they might be explained.  Part of his lecture will discuss dreams. Dreams can possess the same vividness and detail as wakefulness, yet often include bizarre experiences. How and why does the mind generate the odd events that we experience while dreaming?

He will consider the seemingly prophetic nature of some dreams that led him to question whether these could be mere coincidence.  At other times, someone else in his dreams said something that puzzled Shepard until he suddenly realized that it had a surprising or amusing hidden meaning, arising from what he did not recognize as “his own thinking.” Was it possible, he wondered, that two separate minds, without access to each other, could exist in the same “head”?

Shepard’s own experiences led him to explore the links between dreams and creativity. Some of his most creative ideas have occurred in that period between sleep and wakefulness. Once awake, he was able to capture these ideas and images and even to use them in his research. At other times he was able to transcribe music heard in his dreams.

All of the examples of mental phenomena that Shepard will recount will be ones that he himself directly experienced and recorded.  These include ones in which there appears to be a remarkable coincidence between powerful mental images or events that occur in two different people at the same time.

Shepard is Stanford Professor Emeritus of experimental psychology and author of “Toward a Universal Law of Generalization for Psychological Science.” He was awarded the National Medal of Science and the Rumelhart Prize for his contribution to Cognitive Sciences.

Submitted by Glenda Tonkin, Academy Village Volunteer

One Brain, Two Minds? Feb. 2013
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