Decisions for a conscious being are based on a lot of variables, some random ones (circumstances of birth, language, culture, and questionable ideas one imbibes while young), but also include desires, wishes, goals, that arise naturally out of what we each find to be
most interesting, intellectually stimulating and attractive in the special sense/feeling called “mental fulfillment” (“Oh wow, I never connected the dots THAT way before!” “Wow, did you hear how those chords go together!” “That makes sense!”)
our most happy/sad, secure/insecure sensations/feelings, i.e., “emotional and physical fulfillment”
what our hindsight and foresight reveals about practical results and how we might best achieve them, including whatever memories we have about the state of our lives over time, and what we learn about the state of other people's lives, the results of decisions others have made concerning their lives, and the results of larger historical decisions, which is all part of analyzing each trajectory of our lives loves and interests, and the lives loves and interests of others as they have moved from “here” to “there” over time — a knowledge of the history of our interactions, and what we've learned about the history of everyone else's interactions.
repeating our own thoughts inside our heads, and repeating our own verbal and physical interactions with others plays a major role in reinforcing each of the previous 3 factors, making each desire, wish, goal more likely of being sought after again in future. Reinforcement and the subsequent development of “habits” play a powerful role in how our brains learn things even from birth when brain cells begin getting whittled down. To a neuron electrical stimulation is a “treat” as has been proven in laboratories. Unstimulated they die, stimulated they flourish. A recent experiment involved giving positive feedback to a couple hundred thousand rat neurons hooked to a machine that directed a small wheeled device. The device's direction and speed was determined by cultured rat brain cells, and according to one article they were given a positive jolt of electricity whenever they directed the device to avoid a barrier. Eventually the rat brain cells continued that behavior even after the positive electrical “treat” was no longer given them, simply by force of habit. According to another account the rat brain cells learned on their own to avoid hitting walls, there's several videos of such experiments on youtube:
So reinforcement over time forms habits that play a major role in how trajectories become increasingly more “set in mental stone.” Also, all of our decisions involve feedback loops of vast amounts of information, or as Hofstadter says, we are strange loops. That includes helping your mom, dreaming about leaving a good legacy, going to church, doing philosophy, etc.
the fact we are primates and our likes/dislikes, and social behaviors, both empathetic and aggressive, reflect that.
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