This article is a long-winded attempt to describe a very elusive sort of mental activity which I think exists, as part of a larger description of human behavior which may eventually support an agent based model or an analytical framework.
There are a few straightforward kinds of conscious mental action which may be numerated as follows:
- Notice/Observe/Capture a portion of a stream of perceivable information.
- Calculate/Consider/Evaluate captured information. This includes asking, answering and comparing.
Then there is at least one other sort of mental activity which is less conscious or even unconscious:
- Direct/Try/Exert Effort/Will/Focus
The terms given above all refer to the same activity I am trying to describe, which I refer to as immediate mental direction. This is the mental activity responsible for handling immediate tasks, whether physical or mental. Under mental activity type 3 I can choose to go for a walk, but perhaps that preference will be actualized some time later. If I choose to walk under this fourth type of mental activity, in contrast, I am directing my legs to move in some direction immediately after or simultaneously with my thought.
I’m not actually sure if this mental activity occurs immediately prior or simultaneously with the physical act, but I do know that in normal circumstances your hand will not draw a cup of water to your mouth unless you want it to, which is the concept I’m trying to convey here.
This concept is so elusive to me that I would like to claim it doesn’t exist, except that it also appears to be the best explanation of certain phenomena. For example, the non-moving hand mentioned just prior. It may also explain the behavior of a person who is said to be driving “on autopilot” and makes a right hand turn instead of a left hand turn “without thinking.”
Any model should consider that this mental activity can be conducted with varying degrees of effort. I can urgently direct my hand to grab a cup of water and throw it on my burning hair, or I can casually direct my hand to grasp the last spoon of soup, since I’m not very hungry, but you know, I have to finish my soup right? Because of mental exhaustion and recovery, we can treat this varying level of effort as essentially the spending of a kind of self-synthesizing mental income.