Zero Point- A New Woo Movement?

As part of my research for my  new book about the self illusion, I have just been writing about the subjective experience we all have of being inside our head.  This location is called the “point zero”  which is the phenomenological experience of where you think you are when you are conscious. There is a simple technique to locate your own point zero. Close your eyes and introspect. Focus on your self. With both hands, point with your index fingers to the sides of your head where you think your inner self is currently located. When both fingers are pointing to where you think you are having experience at this very moment in time inside your head, keep one finger pointing and with the other hand point to this same place from the front of your head so you can accurately triangulate where you feel your site of consciousness is. Now draw the imaginary lines to find the intersection where ‘X’ marks the spot.

This is where most people think they are at the moment

The above diagram is taken from studies of sighted and blind subjects. I think the interesting finding is that most people think that their self resides somewhere behind their eyes in the midline. Now of course, this is just a subjective experience. I think that this positioning is probably due to the need to have a point of reference for all the sensory systems to coordinate to protect the head and the brain within. Anyway we can speculate about this and I would be pleased to hear your opinions.

When I googled zero point, I discovered a decidedly woo-woo operation that is flogging wands and lotions to reduce pain. Here is one of their videos.

It was filmed this summer and has only had just over 700 hits but I see that zero point woo-woo is starting to take off using the same old ideomotor effects, suggestion and basic balance tricks to prove magical powers. Keep your third eye out for this one skeptics!

7 Comments

Filed under General Thoughts, Research

7 responses to “Zero Point- A New Woo Movement?

  1. What an annoying website. I clicked on it and there were two voices talking over each other which I couldn’t turn off. Maybe if I’d had a shot of that magic drink first…..

  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Zero Point- A New Woo Movement?: -- Topsy.com

  3. I’ve always heard the phrase “zero point” used in connection with woo to refer to “zero point energy”, which in and of itself is (maybe) a real thing — it refers to the energy present in a perfect vacuum due to quantum fluctuations, and is important in many theories of cosmology. Of course the cranks then take this to posit all sorts of perpetual motion things and such. This seems to be a different context, though…? I guess the phrase “zero point” just sounds cool!

    On the topic of the actual “point zero” thing, I’ve tried deliberately imagining the center of my consciousness to be in some other places, e.g. like my stomach, and picturing my head as being like an eyestalk. You can kind of sustain it for short periods of time, in my experience, but of course the natural state is to imagine it right where you say.

    It occurs to me at this moment to wonder if creatures that have eyestalks perceive their “self” (to the extent that they are capable of doing so, of course) as being located in their head, or perhaps equidistant between the current positions of the two eyes? In other news, What is it like to be a bat?

  4. godskesen

    Hi Bruce

    I’m not sure I’ve understood your theoretical position here but I’ll offer my views. Here goes. First, I’m curious to know what ontological status you take this “self” thingy to have. I just feel like denying that there even is such a thing as a self. Am I factually mistaking in this denial just as I would be if I asserted the existence of aether? I have no idea what it is I’m supposed to be “looking” for or feeling when I try to locate my inner self. And since I’m bewildered by this I’m also curious to know how psychologists discovered the self when I haven’t even managed to discover my own.

    On a related note, I’m pretty sure I understand the various meanings (e.g. moral, attentional etc.) of focusing on myself. But that, to me, seems totally different from feeling the location of something inside me. I am myself (And that’s not an empirical fact I ever discovered. It’s just a tautology and a grammatical fact about how these words are used.) but are you claiming that my self is me? Could one of us even be factually, empirically mistaken here? I can focus on my aching feet and if I really am my “self” then it should be my self that is doing the focusing, shouldn’t it? Assuming my self exists, how would we know if it is doing any focusing?

    To me, it seems much better to speak of persons. I, the person whose last name is Godskesen, am focusing on my aching feet. It’s just a grammatical oddity that the expression “my feet” seems to be ascribing ownership of these feet to some other entity – my self perhaps. I think we can construe the meaning of this expression to be describing my feet as being part of a whole, a person, me.

    Maybe I’m the weird one but I’ve just never had the feeling of being inside my own head (and here we go again with the ownership/part-whole distinction). If I were asked to point to where I am at the moment I think I might as well point to the ground bellow my feet and go “here!” If a psychologist then reiterated “yes, yes, but where inside your head are YOU?” I would just have to answer that he was making no sense to me. Damn, now both my feet and my head are killing me.

    I have the same objections to “site of consciousness.” I’m a seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting, smelling, walking, talking, typing (I considered jumbling those up from their traditional order) person located somewhere in the world – not inside myself. I’m looking at the world – not seeing something that appears at a some site somewhere in my brain. Those were my two cents.

    Happy New Year by the way!

  5. Where am I? Hmm……unlike the people in the study, I think that my point zero would be wherever my pain happens to be residing at the moment, which only proves just how self-centered I am. Along the same lines, I am mightily tempted to buy myself some of those woo-woo wands to erase my migraines.

  6. Two things:
    1) I studied with a dyslexia specialist who had dyslexics relocate their zero point behind and slightly above their heads, purportedly to remove their point of reference from the allegedly problematic corpus callosum, thereby relieving the dyslexia. Strangely, it sort of worked. Placebos are awesome!

    2) An excellent book by psychological researcher Susan Engel might interest you: http://www.amazon.com/Context-Everything-Nature-Susan-Engel/dp/0716739658/ One of the central functions of memory, Engel posits, is not to make perfect recordings of events. Instead, memory tends to spin narratives in which we are the central actors, and in which our current beliefs, emotions, and worldviews are continually confirmed. Memory seems to be a central way for our brains maintain to the illusion of an unbroken narrative of the self.

    • brucehood

      Ooh thanks… Engel’s book seems to be fairly on track with the neuroscience. My own take on the self will be the ultimate narrative as well.

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