A new study finds that the mind’s mental map is similar to that of the brain. A team of psychologists used a new method of mapping the brain’s memory system to learn how mentalists manipulate objects and manipulate their mental map in the same way.
The study revealed that spoons (the objects) were only slightly off from what the mentalist was intending. The scientists also found that the mind map was slightly more accurate – that is, a mentalist’s knowledge of a spoon’s location on the surface of a table did not match exactly with the spoon’s placement on the spoon’s own map.
Study author Jef Boeke said the results were significant.
“These results shed new light on the mechanism of mentalism (the ability to manipulate objects by imagining the results of other people’s thoughts),” he said. “We think that these results suggest a non-intuitive, non-biological mechanism that allows these mentalists to manipulate their objects and to make their mental maps more accurate than those of humans who know about their spoons.”
Dr Boeke added: “Until this point, the only study showing this ability, called ‘mappings’, has been limited to people with a few degrees of mental ability. However, our findings on the non-biological basis of mentalism give some support to the belief that this ability also exists in a relatively low number of people, which would provide a mechanism for how a single person can have a broad range of non-biological abilities.”
The scientists also found that different spoons were more likely to have different mental maps. The mentalists, for example, seemed to be more sensitive to differences between different spoons. For example, spoons that had been placed on the surface of the table were more likely to be placed on the surface that was a little deeper than the spoons that were placed on the surface that was near to the table.
Dr Boeke said: “It could mean that the mentalists are using their mapping abilities rather than their reasoning abilities to locate the spoons.”
The researchers hope that the findings provide more clues about when mentalists’ ability to map the surface of the table and mentally arrange the spoons that were on that table could be a natural human adaptation.
Notes to editors
‘Non-biological maps’ allow spoons to be placed on surfaces with different depths
Further details of the research are published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
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