One of the more interesting concepts in neuroscience is called the Default Mode Network (DMN). This Wikipedia article does it justice — as much as one can believe scientists studying what might be called the center of purposelessness.
And what is the DMN? It’s the connected regions of the brain that communicate with each other when you’re not particularly focused. If you believe the Wikipedia article, then you’ll see that much of what the DMN does is background processing for relationships with others and self. Here’s the list:
It is potentially the neurological basis for the self:
- Autobiographical information: Memories of collection of events and facts about one’s self
- Self-reference: Referring to traits and descriptions of one’s self
- Emotion of one’s self: Reflecting about one’s own emotional state
Thinking about others:
- Theory of mind: Thinking about the thoughts of others and what they might or might not know
- Emotions of other: Understanding the emotions of other people and empathizing with their feelings
- Moral reasoning: Determining just and unjust result of an action
- Social evaluations: Good-bad attitude judgments about social concepts
- Social categories: Reflecting on important social characteristics and status of a group
- Social isolation: A perceived lack of social interaction.
Remembering the past and thinking about the future:
- Remembering the past: Recalling events that happened in the past
- Imagining the future: Envisioning events that might happen in the future
- Episodic memory: Detailed memory related to specific events in time
- Story comprehension: Understanding and remembering a narrative
What this list makes me more assured about is how we see transfer of relational modes to actual cognitive action modes. If we are indeed captured by the guiding principle of this blog — “as we relate, so we think” — it should come as no surprise that what happens in the DMN bubbles up to the surface when we attempt to focus. Our brains are practicing this constantly, even when we don’t believe we are thinking.
What this also means is our default, First Tier v-Meme is a real thing. I think it’s a fun exercise for blog readers to ponder what this might mean. For me, I am totally a Performance-based thinker. Confront me with a problem, I’ll give you some path out of your current state toward a goal you might have, or we might share. Some people obsess over status and moral judgment (Authoritarian/Legalistic.) And still others are deeply concerned about individual needs, and attempting to contextualize whatever their response is by considering the people around them (Communitarian.) Go down the v-Memes and see where you might fit in.
You’re likely to not get operating v-Meme out of reading any skilled writer’s prose, however. Writing is a developed ability all its own, and people versed in active reflection can often write at a much more evolved v-Meme than they actually operate at. Which is also interesting! And nope — I’m not going to go through my various writer friends and tag them out. Though I did just write this piece on contemporary journalism.
I’m all in favor of more research on the DMN — but it doesn’t lend itself easily to standard techniques. So stay tuned.