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Tershakovec's Extension of Horneyan Theory

[The following is a summary of Andrew N. Tershakovec's extension of Horneyan theory. AKS]

Tershakovec's extension of Horneyan theory

(contributed by Anthony K. Shin)

Along with other thinkers mentioned elsewhere on this website, Ukrainian-American psychiatrist Andrew N. Tershakovec (1921-2007) significantly extended Horneyan theory by coming up with a more correct model of the brain-mind that could supersede the flawed Freudian model. Tershakovec's model in turn connects Horneyan theory to computer science. Tershakovec showed, with corroborating results from split-brain patients of the 1950s and stroke survivors, that the brain-mind processes input from the environment by two distinct modes of information processing: serial-linear processing (S[L]P) in the left hemisphere, and parallel-distributed processing in the right hemisphere.

Serial-linear processing handles operations that require keeping events in order in time and space. SLP thus handles cognizance of spatiotemporal relationships, and is crucial to optimal development of abilities such as mathematics, syntax, and logic. However, the weakness of SLP is that it is necessarily closed to input from outside its own system (Gödel's incompleteness theorems). Parallel-distributed processing provides instantaneous receptivity to and processing of input from the environment that passes our (secondarily) conscious notice in wakefulness. Whereas the left hemisphere's SLP offers its report in the form of conscious thoughts, the right hemisphere's PDP offers its report in the form of emotions and feelings. Although mentation by SLP and PDP are not as neatly divided between the brain's hemispheres as I am suggesting by this simplified explanation, together they enable us to interact with and learn about the external environment and our relationship to it.

Tershakovec's SLP and PDP bear strong similarities to Daniel Kahneman's "System 1" ("fast," PDP) and "System 2" ("slow," SLP) processing, discussed in his Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011). Yet Kahneman advises us to regard "System 1" and "System 2" as heuristic devices, and notes that neither system can be pinpointed or localized to one part of the brain, such as the right or left hemisphere. Two questions arise in this connection:

(A) Why would we need to use two different kinds of information processing?
(B) What is the relationship between SLP/PDP and sleeping (primary) and waking (secondary) consciousness?

In answer to (A), briefly, we need SLP to generate hypotheses about the relationship between sensory input and its possible, unknown causes in the environment, and we need PDP to compare the hypothesized relationship with sensory input that may corroborate or disconfirm it. As for (B), the contrast between closed and open systems does NOT correspond to the difference between primary and secondary consciousness. This is because both primary and secondary consciousness exhibit openness to larger, previously unconsidered contexts. At the same time, both primary and secondary consciousness can become effectively closed off to the consideration of new input on its own merits, so that incorrect or incomplete hypotheses can be discarded or modified as the need arises. If inadequate hypotheses are adhered to, because they cannot be disconfirmed or replaced by better ones, then the overall system of understanding keeps on reinforcing itself, and the result is neurotic thought and behavior.

Update, May 26, 2014:

According to a recent article by columnist Christopher Wanjek, which has circulated on social media, there is abundant evidence to debunk the myth of left-right brainedness. This shows that I was in error to talk at length about SLP (serial-linear processing) as being seated in the left hemisphere and PDP (parallel-distributed processing) as being seated in the right hemisphere, as if these systems were inert facts of nature. Accordingly, Tershakovec also seems to have been mostly mistaken on this point.

However, it still seems correct to say that two different types of processing are indeed required to enable awareness, although the two systems are likely to be shared pervasively and found all over both hemispheres. One needs to be able to generate hypotheses, using closed-system logic (SLP), but also to be able to subject them to possible corroboration or disproof, by open-system logic (PDP). The ongoing work of Karl J. Friston and J. Allan Hobson -- among others -- seems to corroborate and provide a thorough account and abundant mathematical and experimentally supported proofs to this effect.

Friston and Hobson's model of mentation by "active inference," in both dreaming (primary) and waking (secondary) consciousness demonstrates the necessity for both types of information processing in order to enable progressively better approximations of the world, while also reducing complexity and minimizing free energy of the overall system of understanding obtained in the brain-mind's virtual-reality approximation of the world.

To quote from the above-mentioned article that appeared in social media:

"The neuroscience community never bought into this notion, Anderson said, and now we have evidence from more than 1,000 brain scans showing absolutely no signs of left or right dominance. Anderson said he wasn't out to do some myth busting. His team's goal is to better understand brain lateralization to treat conditions such as Down syndrome, autism or schizophrenia, where the left and right hemispheres have atypical roles.

So, should you trash your app that tries to determine if you are a left-brain or right-brain thinker? Both sides of your brain, as well as neuroscientists, say yes."

It seems more nearly correct to say that although we may need to discard the left-right hemispheric division of labor as a useful but inaccurate heuristic device, it still seems correct to say that our mentation relies on two different systems of information processing: serial-linear processing (SLP) and parallel-distributed processing (PDP). These terms are adapted from the work of the late Andrew Tershakovec, M.D., in his book The Mind: The Power that Changed the Planet (2007). Tershakovec thought that SLP and PDP were divided more or less along hemispheric lines; he may have been quite mistaken, but his SLP and PDP correspond nicely with Daniel Kahneman's "System 1" (PDP, "fast" thinking) and "System 2" (SLP, "slow" thinking). Kahneman advises that Systems 1 and 2 be regarded merely as useful heuristic devices.

The collaborative work of Karl J. Friston and J. Allan Hobson (cf. esp. 2012 [download Friston & Hobson's 2012 article], 2014) has shown convincingly that learning and perception take place by "active inference." In active inference, hypotheses are generated to come up with possible explanations of the hidden causes of the sensory input as coming from exteroceptive or proprioceptive sources in the environment. The hypotheses must be compared with sensory input in such a way as to subject the hypothesized explanations to to corroboration and disproof. If sensory input does not agree with a hypothesis generated from prior beliefs), the brain-mind can either modify, update, or discard the prior hypothesis and generate a new hypothesis reflecting this change; or it can alter the input to fit the prior hypothesis, such as when we are hearing or looking at audiovisual illusions, or when we need to focus narrowly on one voice in a noisy room or one spot in a visual field to make sense of it. If, however, the prior beliefs keep being confirmed despite mounting evidence that something is amiss, this condition may be described as involving "neurotic" thinking and behavior.



Friston, K. & Hobson, J. A. (2012). Waking and Dreaming Consciousness: Neurobiological and Functional Considerations. Progress in Neurobiology 98(1) [2012], 82-98. Download PDF from Friston's website

Friston, K. J., and J. A. Hobson (2014). Consciousness, Dreams, and Inference: The Cartesian Theatre Revisited. Journal of Consciousness Studies 21(1-2) [2014], 6-32.

Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. New York: Macmillan.

Tershakovec, A. (2007). The Mind: The Power that Changed the Planet. Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse.

Wanjek, C. (2013). Left Brain vs. Right: It's a Myth, Research Finds. September 03, 2013 article on

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Last updated: 05/27/2014