Executive Function and Perceiving the World

The brain’s executive function creates a hierarchy within the brain itself, with the executive function at the top, in charge of setting goals and priorities, preventing one from giving in to whatever urges one would otherwise follow. One can think of it as the CEO of the brain. Those with weaker executive function are going to have brains with weak or even nonexistent CEOs. Yet, an organization like the body requires at least a weak EF/CEO for the world to make sense to the rest of the brain and for the body to show control from the brain. Unconscious desires get expressed, resulting in socially inappropriate actions or comments. However, conscious moral construction is able to replace EF, or to at least lend it support.

F. A. Hayek observed in The Sensory Order, and this idea is supported by Stuart Kauffman, that complex systems model the world according to their own internal structures. Hierarchically, ordered brains with a strong EF, would see hierarchy everywhere; spontaneously ordered brains with weak EFs would see spontaneous orders everywhere. Each “sees” the world through their own structures.

Network controls are through negative feedback — this is cybernetic control. The stronger positive feedback is, the more control is lost. If negative feedback is dominant, the person is very controlled, but not very creative; if they are codominant, the person is creative (just like with spontaneous orders); if positive feedback dominates, they are on the autism spectrum (including ADD/ADHD).

If positive feedback dominates, control breaks down and cycles dominate. More and more processes become decoupled from each other — which may explain why severe autistics are often non-verbal and have to rely exclusively on images. If words become dissociated from images, how can you speak? And of course, the more decoupled processes in the brain are from each other, the less sense the world makes, the less the brain can integrate.

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