Problem theory depends on an a priori relation between six key problems. People appear to have adapted to it through evolution. A protective system called the backup operates when of these problems, the freedom problem, is salient. Neuroscience findings about this especially support the theory. Yet awareness is entirely lacking. It is argued that a system R originates on the right, parallel to one on the left, L that becomes the mind. R and L invent different languages for decision making and are kept apart. Accepting and exerting influence are also kept apart, leading to four subsystems. Each is active in a different microstate type and one EEG frequency band becomes important there. R and L communicate by leaving images in the cortex. R decides which of the key problems is important. Studies of schizoprenia are reviewed because the disorder is associated with poor judgment of what is important. Indeed different kinds of observation repeatedly point to the malfunctioning or abnormality of R in the disorder, supporting its supposed role. Competition between certainty and freedom problems provides R with a dilemma of choosing between them. R creates images with false information that turn attention one way or the other. Hallucinations typically turn attention to the certainty problem. Information that creates a difficult false task turns it to the freedom problem. Hallucinations interfere with perception and create loss of connectivity on the left, but that from the backup is greater. Some drugs, risperidone for example, might resemble chemical triggers for one of the later key problems. A study of R’s normal functioning points to its intelligence and understandability. It listens in to conversations. Treatment that raises hope about the certainty and freedom problems and clarifies L’s behavior for R is suggested. Integrating education with the key problems would strengthen R.
Problem theory; Backup; Lateralization; Microstates; Schizophrenia; Mismatch negativity; Connectivity; Risperidone; Treatment; Education
At the center of problem theory is the discovery of an a priori relation between six problems of everyday life, called the key problems. These are gaining sufficient of the following variables: certainty of knowing the environment and all that happens in it of its own accord, this includes the internal environment, freedom to do as one wants, power to control, and success in what one attempts to do, regardless of the goodness of the consequences in other respects, satisfaction, what is good from the viewpoint of the self, other’s good state, the health and happiness of other people, unity with other people when working alongside them, and fairness or justice in the comparisons of how members of one’s group are treated. Previously the key problems were defined as ones of raising hope about gaining sufficient certainty, freedom, and so on. The new definitions fit the present article better but make no difference to the application of the theory. It is still assumed that people try to raise hope as before.
The a priori relation that has been discovered is represented in Figure 1. It is readily checked. The key problems are on the left of the figure. They are arrived at by the successive sub-division of the overall problem presented by living. There is evidence that children work through the key problems with slightly more than 18 months on each. The difference from 18 months is ignored here. At first the estimates for the ages of the transitions were based on overt behavior  and were only roughly at 18 month intervals. The EEG data, described below, which was studied later , pointed to the changes between key problems occurring more closely at 18 month intervals. The estimates were subsequently revised to match the EEG findings . The sequence of six problems is repeated at least once more, from 9 to 18 years, Children first clarify each problem and separate it from the remainder. They concentrate all serious attention on it for a while, then alternate between it and the remainder, as if to learn how to switch problems. They then finally reject the problem, leaving the remainder, and go down a level to the freedom problem and then to the others in turn. The outcome is that adults switch between the key problems mostly appropriately, though more readily switching to one, as well as possibly being influenced in some degree by inborn factors that lead to further repetitions of the sequence of key problems every nine years.
Some of the support came from the study of isolated societies. Here people have all tended to focus attention on one of the key problems [3,4]. The evidence was helpful in constructing lists of strategies, patterns of behavior that raise hope, for each key problem.
Table 1 gives examples from the certainty list. What is important with this problem is what happens in the environment of itself as observed when one is at rest. Yet some certainty strategies do involve activity. This applies with experimenting to see how people and things behave of themselves. There is activity, but what is important is what happens afterwards, when one is at rest. For example an infant might drop an object just so as to watch its fall. Activity is needed in letting the object go, but interest centers on what happens of its own accord afterwards. With identifying and using constancies, infants engage in repeated movements, such as rotating an object so as to see it from different angles. Yet the relevant observations are all made while at rest. The strategies of keeping traditions going, keeping to a routine, require activity, but this is of a repetitive kind and there is no interest in how the activity is produced. An example of the influence of the anthropological data is the inclusion of the strategy of believing fatalistically in a predetermined life story from the study of the Ojibwa, a North American Indian society.
|Gaining and analyzing distinctive information|
|Experimenting to see how people and things behave, of themselves|
|Identifying and using constancies|
|Thinking ahead and examining all the different possible outcomes of a situation|
|Finding reliable friends and groups|
|Fitting in with people’s requests and expectations|
|Giving people the impression that they want or expect and the story that they want or expect to hear|
|Impressing people for example with one’s competence and loyalty|
|Staying in a well-known place like the home|
|Narrowing the field of one’s activities|
|Arranging for a steady stream of stimulation|
|Keeping traditions going|
|Keeping to a routine|
|Freezing, remaining immobile|
|Believing fatalistically in a predetermined life story|
|Turning attention to facts that raise hope about certainty but away from facts that lower hope about it|
Table 1: Examples of certainty strategies.
Note: Adapted from The strategies of living in different societies (Rev. ed.) by G. Burnand, 2012 .
Support also comes from the changes with age of children’s EEGs, as reported by Thatcher . The coherence between a pair of electrode sites reflects the similarity, coordination, and coupling between underlying cortical areas. The changes in coherence in the theta range, 3-8.5 Hz, can be matched to changes in overt behavior . Thus graphs of change in the coherence between the following pairs of sites, Fp2-T6, F8-T6, T4- T6, and F8-O2, tend to go together and match changes in overt behavior relating to the certainty problem. The sites are all on the right and T6, which reflects the rear of the temporal lobe, is central. Changes in F3-P3, F7-P3, P1-T3, T3-P3, and T3-C3, go together and match changes in overt behavior with the freedom problem. Here the sites are all on the left, and P3, which reflects the parietal lobe, is central. Thus the coherences reflect work on the key problems. There is other evidence that the certainty problem is dealt with on the right, primarily in the temporal lobe, and that the freedom problem is dealt with on the left, primarily in the parietal lobe .
The backup, an aspect of the functioning of the brain
With the freedom problem attention is turned away from the goodness of effects other than success at what one is trying to do. Hence if one is stuck on a task there is no way of extricating oneself. Also dangerous tasks might be undertaken. Hence work on the freedom problem requires the backup. This includes a cut-out to discontinue attempted work when stuck and an override to avoid danger.
Evidence of the backup was first found in the EEG study of children reported by Thatcher mentioned above. The interhemispheric coherences P3 -P4 and T5-T6 vary in the same way as the work on the freedom problem. Yet they could not contribute to this because it is done wholly in the left hemisphere in infancy . Thus P3-P4 could be used to trigger the cut-out, which suppresses the left parietal. As T6 reflects the right temporal lobe and hence work on the certainty problem, T5-T6 could be used to trigger the override when uncertainty is high .
There was a little evidence of corresponding EEG findings in the research on Alzheimer’s disease. There is more in the research on schizophrenia [See Appendix 1]. Still the main evidence for the backup comes from research on brain activity as observed via blood flow or metabolism . Three studies, one each from research on hypnosis, posttraumatic stress disorder and dissociative identity disorder, linked the cut-out with a minimum activity at similar points in the left precuneus, averaging – 7 – 64 35, Talairach and Turnoux coordinates are used here and later. Only one study, that of hypnosis, gave evidence about the override, linking it with low activity at – 60 -58 0. These points were called the cut-out and override points. Subsequently the research on Alzheimer’s disease yielded evidence of the cut-out in four studies, averaging – 7 – 69 38 . One study provided evidence of the override point at – 58 – 57 2. Finally the first five studies of schizophrenia that were encountered that yielded evidence of the cut-out point averaged – 7 – 65 33 [See Appendix 1]. This is close to the average for the previous observations, – 7 – 67 37.
The backup has a special importance in relation to Alzheimer’s disease, where it offers the only current explanation for the highly left sided atrophy. The theory also accounts for the strong genetic influence .
As the backup represents an adaption to the freedom problem, the evidence about it supports how human beings have evolved so as to exploit and adapt to the relationship represented in Figure 1. Thus as well as the theory being based on an a priori relationship that is readily checked, and supported by the study of child and group development and isolated societies, there is now strong support for the theory from the study of the brain.
Figure 1: The relation between the key problems.
Figure 1: The relation between the key problems.
Yet people appear to have no awareness whatever of the key problems and how they change. This is especially evident when small groups of people are studied. In particular Bennis and Sheppard  point to six phases that match the key problems closely. Group members were observed to switch between problems in unison, without comment, “mercurially”, as if unaware of the change. People always try to raise hope of what is important, but what is considered important shifts without awareness. Previously the unawareness was attributed to activities becoming habitual and automatic. But the unawareness is present in children who are influenced for the first time.
Hence an aim is to argue that an intelligent and understandable system, called R, originates in the right hemisphere in parallel with the system, called L, which becomes the mind. R decides which of the key problems is to be regarded as important, yet without ever having awareness. Schizophrenia is a condition where judgment of what is important is defective. Its negative symptoms reflect a lack of importance of ordinary social and self-maintaining tasks. Sudden changes in what is regarded as important account for thought blocking and inappropriate shifts in the theme of conversation. Thus the argument is supported by showing that a coherent account of schizophrenia can be written where studies repeatedly point to the malfunctioning or abnormality of R.
R and L cannot communicate directly because they spontaneously develop different languages
The cortices of the two hemispheres lack connection at first. L emerges spontaneously on the left and it is assumed that R does the same on the right, independently. Each has a hippocampus, and that on the left is known to be active when people say that they are having memories . Yet it is such memories that are used in deliberate decision making. Hence L takes part in decision making and it is assumed that R does the same, independently.
If either R or L is to make a persisting decision it each must have a set of images that are related together in a persistent way in order to record it. In other words each must invent a language so as to describe the decision.
The hippocampuses become myelinated, ready to function, a month before birth . This implies that decision making by R and L occurs even then. Although the corpus callosum begins to be myelinated 3 or 4 months after birth, observations of infants indicate that a stable relation between the hemispheres develops only at 5 months .
Hence R and L are independent for 6 months, and during this time each will create its own non-verbal language within which decisions are made.
Yet, because of slight differences between the neural structures and between their sensory inputs, these could not be exactly the same. There will be no common language with which the systems could communicate. Indeed there is evidence that the two hemispheres develop differently, consistent with them supporting quite different language systems. The left hemisphere enables fluent speech but the right does not. As shown by what happens in deep hypnosis, where R is in control, R has very limited speech yet a relatively good understanding of speech, as when other people speak . R and L are able to use the same words but their underlying language organizations are different.
R and L are separated by being active in different microstates
R and L must be kept apart or else they will interfere with one another. This could only be done by the brain dealing with each system alternately, like a builder working on two houses, doing a bit on one and then a bit on the other repeatedly. At the same time the acceptance and exertion of influence need to be separated because each system accepts influence mainly from one hemisphere, whereas exerting influence must be bilateral equally. Hence there must be four subsystems that each requires repeated periods of time.
Such periods of time are evident in the EEG and are called microstates. In them the overall pattern of electrical potential changes over the scalp remains stable for 80-120 ms before rapidly changing to a different one . Four microstate types are always identified in the resting state EEG. Type A microstate mainly involves the left hemisphere-this could be where L accepts influence. Type B mainly involves the right hemispherethis could be where R accepts influence. Type C is bilateral and towards the back of the cortex-this could be where R exerts influence in collecting information from the environment, using inputs from both sides of the brain. Type D is also bilateral and covers the whole of the cortex-this could be where L exerts influence on voluntary activity bilaterally. It allows any sensory inputs and motor outputs to be related to one another, as required for skilled activity. It will be assumed that this is indeed what happens. The assumption is encouraged by the lack of any compelling alternative explanation for the microstates.
Yet the EEG does not change abruptly at the end of each microstate. The only way that microstate types could have independence from one another is if they are each associated with different EEG frequency bands and a particular frequency band only becomes important during a particular microstate type.
Now there is evidence that R exerting influence is linked to low theta below about 5.5 Hz and L exerting influence is linked to high theta above about 5.5 Hz . For example Demiralp and Basar  used a series of identical stimuli where every fourth stimulus was omitted. Participants were told that their task was to predict and mark mentally the times of occurrence of the omitted signals. The third successive stimulus would have been a time of high expectation of having certainty raised about the omitted stimulus coming next. Thus although L will be involved superficially, R will be heavily at work on the certainty problem, exerting influence in providing images for L to use. Low theta, 3 Hz, was observed there. High theta, defined as 5.5-7.5 Hz, was observed, for example, by Yamada  during a video game. Here L will be exerting influence in producing effects, as for the certainty remainder. Thus high theta becomes important when L exerts influence.
Hence low theta becomes important in microstate C where R exerts influence and high theta becomes important in microstate D where L exerts influence. High and low theta are distributed bilaterally consistent with R and L exerting influence rather than accepting it.
The microstate A, where L accepts influence, and B, where R accepts influence, will be linked to other frequency bands. Omitting alpha, which is known to be inhibitory, the EEG frequencies divide at 20 Hz. Above and below this serve different functions. Above 20 Hz, high beta and gamma will be linked to A because L is responsible for skilled activity and higher frequencies will optimize this. Low beta, 13-20 Hz, will be linked with microstate B where R accepts influence.
There is a substantial dorsal area that is common to all four microstates. This could be home to lasting images that are created by R or L and read by the other. The sharing of inputs from the sense organs might lead to images that are sufficiently like sensory inputs being recognized by both systems. For example this could be where R creates size and shape constancies, creating images of objects that are independent of distance, orientation, or lighting, so as to raise its own expectation of certainty about the environment, and where L reads them and uses them. R and L could share the same phonetic word images while at the same time having to learn their meanings independently.
As R and L do not communicate directly, the selection of the key problem must be controlled entirely either by one or the other. Yet the first problem, the certainty problem, is dealt with only by the right hemisphere in infancy . Hence R must control attention to the certainty problem. It therefore controls attention to all of the key problems, directing attention to one at a time. Any influence that L has must be via its influence over R.
However what R is responding to in selecting the appropriate key problem has yet to be studied. Possibly R is much influenced by other people’s facial expressions. If so then L might influence R by imagining particular facial expressions. Because of such possibilities, R might be only partly independent from L.
The changes with age of children’s EEGs reported by Thatcher, mentioned above, support the role of R in controlling attention to the key problems. There are changes of direction of the graph of F8-O2 at each of the transitions between key problems, every 18 months, most of them large . This implies that there are changes in the way that the coherence is being used at each transition. As F8-O2 is on the right and involves the visual cortex it implies that R is active in all of the transitions and that visual images are used in labeling. There are no similar changes on the left, consistent with L having no role in the selection of key problems. The actual labeling of the first key problem by R is reflected in observations by Bell and Fox . There was EEG power growth at 7-8 months in the right visual cortex and at 9-10 months in the left. Accordingly the clarifying phase of the certainty problem, as identified from the overt behavior of infants, is 7-10 months. Thus R labels activities relating to the certainty problem in the right hemisphere at 7-8 months and activities relating to the certainty remainder in the left at 9-10 months, so as to clarify the problems. The large scale of the effects suggests that the task is import to R and that intense effort is put into it. Overall the findings are consistent with visual image labels for the key problems being held in the right cortex where they can optimally influence R. Those for the remainders, which have only temporary importance, are held in the left cortex. Yet as they are in the rear of the brain they can still influence R.
In deep hypnosis, and probably in shallow hypnosis as well, the hypnotist is communicating with R . Thus when studied under hypnosis the identities are found to have selective memories. This means that they could help by selectively remembering facts that help to decide the key problem. Yet when the identities are studied outside of hypnosis they do not have selective memories [18,19]. This means that they could not help L in selecting the key problem, in the way that they could help R.
These findings point to R on its own mediating the choice of key problem, without any help from L. Still L could have some influence over R.
The retention of an earlier hypothesis
A hypothesis for schizophrenia was put forward earlier [2,20]. The term recurrent confusion was preferred to schizophrenia, where confusion refers to the set of symptoms involved. Both confusional states and recurrent confusion were regarded as resulting from a competition between certainty and freedom problems. Here the term disorder is used to refer to both isolated and recurrent conditions. The hypothesis was supported by a wide range of research that need not be duplicated here.
Work on the certainty problem is mainly done in the right hemisphere and work on the freedom problem is mainly done in the left hemisphere. Thus the hypothesis went on to claim that the competition between the certainty and freedom problems results in a competition between the hemispheres. This is relieved by focusing attention on one. Here the hypothesis that the disorder is caused by the competition between the certainty and freedom problems is retained, but emphasis is now placed on the consequent dilemma faced by R about where to direct attention.
The effect of the disorder on microstates
A meta-analysis by Rieger et al.  indicated that in the resting state EEG, the microstate type B is shorter. During this microstate type, R accepts influence primarily from the right hemisphere. Its shortening implies that R cannot be fully accepting influence normally and is therefore malfunctioning. The finding was reliable without a Bonferroni correction. One is not necessary here because the theory specifically relates to the malfunctioning of R and therefore focuses attention on the microstate B rather than the other microstates. Type C, where R exerts influence, is more frequent, implying that R is functioning abnormally. Type A, where L accepts influence, is unaffected, implying that L is accepting influence normally. Yet type D, where L exerts influence, is shorter. This implies that L is behaving abnormally because of the abnormality of the images left by R.
There is evidence of a lowering of the intra-hemispheric EEG coherence at low beta . This is the frequency band involved when R accepts influence during the microstate B. Its lowering again implies that there is a weakening of the influence on R and that R is therefore functioning abnormally
Now in early life the influence accepted by R is entirely from the right. Yet valuable information for R will be available on the left, and R is expected to come to use this in some degree. Thus it is the low beta coherence on the left that is lost in the disorder . This implies that R has shifted to a less mature pattern, more divorced from the functioning of L, and is again abnormal.