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Old November 11th, 2007 #12
Tomasz Winnicki
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Location: London, Ontario, Dominion of Canada
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Tomasz Winnicki
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Demolishing the Foundation of Canada's Speech/Thought Control Laws:
Exposing the Psychological lies which built the foundation of Canada's Censorship Laws


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Marc Lemire
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Dr. Michael A. Persinger
Dr. Michael Persinger was born in Jacksonville Florida, and grew up primarily in Virginia, Maryland and Wisconsin. After attending Carroll College (1963-1964), he was graduated from the University of Wisconsin, Madison (1967), selecting Psychology ("Psychochemistry") as a major because it was the interface between the social and physical sciences. He obtained an M.A. (Psychological Psychology) from the University of Tennessee and his Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba (1971). Dr. Persinger is currently a full professor of Biology and Psychology at Laurentian University, where he is the coordinator of the Behavioural Neuroscience Program. During this period he has published more than 200 technical articles in refereed journals, and has written seven books. He integrates the concepts of physics, chemistry, and biology with those of psychology, anthropology, and history in order to show the fundamental patterns of all human experiences. To challenge the basic beliefs of his students, he employs colourful metaphors, data, and the individual application of the scientific method of inquiry. Dr. Persinger emphasizes total dedication to research and teaching that are the inseparable twins of inquiry. Dr. Persinger has appeared on “NOVA”, ABC's “20/20", ABC’s “NightLine,” “60 Minutes” ( Australia ), “That's Incredible,” “48 Hours” (CBS), Unsolved Mysteries, The Discovery Channel, UltraScience, MTV News Special, The Unexplained, CNN News, NBC News, Japanese T.V. among others. In 2007, Dr. Persinger won the prestigious TV Ontario’s Best Lecturer competition as voted by close to 100,000 students across Ontario.
Testimony Excerpts

Douglas Christie | Dr. Persinger | Barbara Kulaszka


Dr. Michael Persinger was the third witness called by the Respondent in the matter of Richard Warman V. Marc Lemire. Dr. Persinger testified in Toronto on February 22, 2007 before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. The tribunal ruled Dr. Persinger could give expert opinion evidence on:


ŘHow cognitive contemporary neuroscience can support the inference that suppression of some thoughts result in the suppression of a broad range of related chains of thought and extrapolations in human discourse.

ŘThe cognitive neuroscientific research that can demonstrate the necessity for maximum freedom of verbal expression for individual and societal flourishing.

ŘThe state of psychological research before and after the Kaufman report.

Testimony of Dr. Persinger – February 22/07



Suppression of Speech

MR. CHRISTIE: Could you explain, sir, what cognitive neuroscience has given us by the way of research, either of your own or of other research that you consider credible in the field that supports the influence that restricting or punishing some thoughts result in the suppression of a broader range of thoughts?

DR. PERSINGER: Yes. In general, in terms of the behavioural level, anything that involves punishment or the anticipation of punishment usually produces something known as response generalization effects, in the sense that not only is the response that's punished not likely to occur again, but you affect other unrelated responses and the propensity to respond again.

And the creativity, that is the idea of having new combinations of behaviours, is markedly lessoned in a punitive setting. I'm not saying the person is punished. It's the anticipation of punishment. It may be simply the observation that others are punished.

Now, the first thing that's affected is thought, and, of course, thought indirectly through verbal expression. And when we look at the brain, the areas of the brain that are involved, what we find is that creativity and the ability to integrate new ideas and to adapt involves mostly frontal lobe function.

And that is the first area of the brain that's adversely affected by punishment, specifically the anticipation of punishment.
Effects of speech in the modern world

MR. CHRISTIE: In any of your research have you considered or could you assist us by describing the relationship of a wide variety of options? For example -- and I'm going to, of course, try, if I may, to paraphrase the situation that might exist if one was confronted with the Internet, with millions upon millions upon millions of options of opinion.

In that state, is there any psychological research you are aware of that would assist us to know what is the effect of the selection of a particular point of view on the likelihood that would be adopted or believed?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, in terms of belief systems -- and belief is a powerful phenomenon, we've been studying it for a long time -- usually people will read things which are congruent with their belief systems. But in addition to that, it depends on how much information that is being presented. If people are inundated with lots of information, then what you will find is that they will tend to select concepts or ideas that are congruent with their interests and their beliefs. And what we found is one of the best means of equipping the observer, and this is usually the student, dealing with multiple information is education. To challenge, to teach the person to challenge the contention with data and with rational evaluation.

The effect of Suppression of information

MR. CHRISTIE: What I'm interested is in the concept of the suppression of a broader range of related chains of thought or extrapolation.

How broad a range of thought are we able to determine is affected by the apprehension of punishment? Have we been able to determine how broad a range of thought is thereby affected?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, the experimental data, which is primarily both the human beings and with rodents, suggest it's much broader than people suspect.

For example, let me give you an canine specificity. If, for example, you are training an animal to jump over a stick and it doesn't jump over the stick but it goes under it and you kick it, you punish it. Not only does it punish the behaviour of going under the stick, but the animal may not come to you any more and may show all kinds of behaviours which are typical apprehension of punishment, that's called anxiety, and show what we call conditioned suppression of all other kinds of behaviour, including interactions with other dogs.

This is an example I give in first year psych very often. And what you find with punishment is that not only is the response's punishment affected, but anything related to it: Related thoughts, related combinations, the ability to combine thoughts in new ways. These will also be decreased. They won't be eliminated but they will be decreased.

That's why you find that very often if we're talking about creativity in the classroom, and creativity in research, it's very important to have an open, non-punitive -- not even a hint of punitive environment in order to allow creativity to continue.

The obscurely of “Hate laws” and knowing the line

MR. CHRISTIE: So if I draw a line about verbal communication but it's very obscure -- it could be here, it could there, it could be dislike -- but if it goes over into intense dislike then I've reached the line. What affect would that have on anxiety when I don't know where that line is?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, there is nothing more enhancing for anxiety. There's nothing more facilatory to anxiety than ambiguity. Ambiguity makes anxiety even worse, and it interferes with creativity even worse.

So simply anxiety itself and the anticipation of something as small as a reprimand from a dean, is sufficient to often eliminate entire topics of discussion which can be quite fruitful for the developing mind.

MR. CHRISTIE: In regard to societal flourishing, what does that got to do with cognitive neuroscience today?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, we're living from a species point of view, in certainly more challenging times. And in order to be adaptive we have to use all of our potential in terms of brain function, and that requires maximum creativity, maximum adaptability and maximum freedom of expression, because freedom of expression gives ideas to others. It allows you to adapt. It allows us to put new ideas together and old ideas together in different ways.

So the freedom of expression, and indeed allowing our frontal lobes to do what they do best, is essential for us to flourish as a society, and the more complex the problems become, which they are, the most verbal expression, free expression has to take place. Because the first thing that suffers with anxiety and verbal suppression, verbal repression, is you lose your ability to solve complex problems.

Kaufmann and alleged "psychological distress"
and the unscientific propaganda term “hate”

MR. CHRISTIE: There was one paragraph which I'm told was incomprehensible to someone, Dr. Mock actually, and I want to go to it. That was page 8, and perhaps we could put it in other words so that it might be more readily understood. And that paragraph began with the words the "Concordance Concept". Quote:

"Psychological distress is so
vague that it is meaningless."

Where were you quoting the word "psychological distress" from?

DR. PERSINGER: The components of the [Cohen] report. Dr. Kaufman.

It's like the word phlogiston in the days of [old] Before chemistry came along, people were asked why things burned. Things burned because they contained phlogiston. Because the concept of atoms and oxygen and combustible reactions are not known.

And we no longer use that term because it's not useful because we now realize that matter is made up of atoms, not fire, earth, air and water.

The term psychological distress is so vague it's very much like phlogiston. It can be defined by anyone depending upon how they define it, and it's so unbelievably subjective that it has no value except as a catch-all term for a vague concept.

MR. CHRISTIE: Now, in neuropsychological, do you use the term hate?

DR. PERSINGER: We don't use the term hate. We use the term aversive stimuli. Hate is a subjective experience and is just simply one of the many labels that people apply to aversive experiences.
So we study aversive experiences very, very significantly and frequently including looking at the correlates of brain function. But the term hate is simply one of the many labels that can be applied to an aversive experience.

MR. CHRISTIE: Why wouldn't you use the term hate in any of your research?

DR. PERSINGER: Primarily because it's arbitrary. Secondly, because it's highly subjective, and third very difficult to quantify because it's a term that's used so indiscriminantly that you really can't use it effectively. The term aversive stimulus also is not as pejorative. In other words, it doesn't have connotations.

MR. CHRISTIE: That's correct. If I could use a specific example, hoping not to offend anyone if I were to say, I saw a message somewhere that said, all scots are mean, bitter, vicious, dower, penny-pinching, overly aggressive individuals. But I had the option of putting up a message that said that that's only me and a few other scots and there are some good ones, would that affect the capacity to adapt to what was an aversive stimuli?

DR. PERSINGER: Certainly. There are two options here. One, if it's a free operant society in the sense that you have choice to read it or not, okay –

MR. CHRISTIE: That's one premise?

DR. PERSINGER: That's the important feature. I mean, if you read it and become offended, you also have an opportunity in a free operant setting not to read it and to avoid it. That's also your choice, if you had that opportunity.
On the other hand, you also have a chance to respond to overcome what I guess would be the most appropriate explanation, the categorical error. And a categorical error is over-inclusiveness, to say all scots are this way, all scots are that way. That's the limit of human language.


“Hate speech” And alleged lowered Self-Esteem

MR. CHRISTIE: I just want to briefly and quickly, if I can, go to the previous paragraph where you start to deal with the assertions of the Cohen Committee, that individuals subjected to racial -- and this is a quote:

"Individuals subjected to racial or religious hatred may suffer substantial psychological stress, damaging consequences including a loss of self-esteem, feelings of anger and outrage."

You say, "...is confounded by archaic concepts of psychological processes." Can you tell us what are those "archaic concepts of psychological processes"?

DR. PERSINGER: I think one has to be respectful to the level of science at the time Dr. Kaufman wrote this, in the 1960s. In the 1960s, the psychological concepts were dominated by primarily Freudian theories and various kinds of very primitive sociological theories, social psychology theories which, in large part now, have been shown to be inaccurate or simply more complicated aspects to the whole process.

So those were archaic types of concepts. For example, the term self-esteem is a term that's primarily a psychometric test and we now realize that almost all of the things that were claimed here are correlational. They are not experimental, they're correlational studies.

And even the strength of the effects are really, really small. For example, self-esteem and correlations with these types of things are smaller than the self-esteem effects associated with being left-handed or right-handed.

These are all very small effects, but they are all based on psychological ideas that were very prominent in 1960s. And neuroscience and neuropsychology and cognitive neuroscience has gone a long way. Now we know how the brain works much more effectively. And many of these ideas were great ideas at the time, but are just out-of-date.

Modern Neuropsychology and unbiased answers

MR. CHRISTIE: What if modern neuropsychology had as tools to, shall we say, refine and re-examine these concepts more effectively at the present time than we did in the past?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, at the present time now, for the first time certainly in the last 10 years, if you are interested in studying hatred or aversive stimuli you can actually evaluate what goes on in the brain at the time when a person is having experiences. You can now look at the changes throughout the brain, in different areas of the brain that are involved with not only perception but empathy, with emotion, with hurt, with rage, with love. You can look at all of these emotional behaviours in a real-time way without relying on verbal report only.
MR. CHRISTIE: Or anecdotal?
DR. PERSINGER: Or anecdotal evidence, yes.


Correlational Studies Are very Questionable

MR. CHRISTIE: Can you explain the significance of correlational effects to, for example, subjective and anecdotal evidence? Is there some relationship between those?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, subjective experiences are simply experiences that the person reports. And one thing we do know about human experience is that individuals are relatively good measurers of their internal states, relatively good. They are not very good, not very accurate about telling you the reasons for it. In other words, in a clinical setting very often you listen to a person's experiences. If they say, I've got unusual lights in the upper -- flashing lights in the upper left visual field, you pretty much know that it's a right temporal lobe phenomenon.

But if they then say it's because an angel is visiting me, or if it's because of this or that reason, most of the time people's attributions for why they have an experience are not correct, most of the time.

So attributions are really, really erroneous. So I would say that whenever we are looking at subjective experiences one has to accommodate that.

Now, correlational studies, that simply means you have two variables and they are related. It doesn't mean cause/effect and because somebody listens to something and you expose them to -- they're exposed to literature or to a stimulus it's correlated, for example, with self-esteem changes, that doesn't tell you that it's a causal phenomenon.

Let me give you an example, an everyday example.

If you start with a fever and then after a couple days you start getting a cold, then start to sneeze, you'll be totally inappropriate to say the fever caused the sneezing. There's a third favor producing both. And one of the limits of correlational studies is you almost never know what the third factor is, especially when the effects are very weak and the correlations between self-esteem and many of the variables suggested by Kaufman are very, very weak.


Large Group Identity (Race/Religion) Effect

DR. PERSINGER: Well, the primary thrust here is when you see somebody hurt, I would hope most people would stop and help them. When you see somebody in distress feeling badly because they had been offended -- many people feel bad when people fail a course, they feel bad. When people have a divorce they feel bad.

So the critical question, what area of the brain allows us to experience sympathy? Where in the brain does sympathy take place and is that area related to social interaction and social bonding? And that's what the point of this article was.

MR. CHRISTIE: Does it assist us to know what social interaction is more likely if there is a large group identity to reinforce our reaction?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, if indeed a large group of people after you've been aroused tell you why you are aroused, and says it's because that group or that person made you feel bad, that tells us -- this particular study tells us a great deal about the dangers, or perhaps sometimes the benefits, of having groups of people telling you how to respond and how to feel. But, moreover, regardless of the social implications, it tells you what part of the brain is involved so you can realize what other things, what other variables may influence empathy and sympathy.

MR. CHRISTIE: Is this a correlational study?
DR. PERSINGER: No, this is an experimental study.



Hate Laws create an environment that
leads to frustrative aggression

MR. CHRISTIE: You seem to indicate that honesty of belief is possible without reference to truth?

DR. PERSINGER: Without a doubt.
MR. CHRISTIE: So does honesty of belief have any relationship to frustrative aggression if the belief is suppressed?

DR. PERSINGER: Well, one of the things you find about belief if it's suppressed is the individuals will find other forms and other ways to manifest it. And when they cannot freely express it, then you get the motor behaviour, the physical behaviour taking place. I mean, human beings -- that's what we do, we talk. Fish wag their tails, rats gnaw, we talk. And if you interfere with free expression, then the other option is crude, physical behaviour.

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The above testimony of Dr. Michael Persinger are short excepts from the 186 page transcripts of February 22, 2007. Warman v. Lemire. Canadian Human Rights Tribunal hearing: T1073/5405. Transcripts volume 14, pages: 2785 – 2967. Paris Room of Novotel Hotel, Mississauga, Ontario.
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