“The Hour Between Dog and Wolf” by John Coates (book review)

Excellent example of “body-mind-brain-hormones game” genre

Great collection of interesting facts and stories on how human mind and body work. With accent on stress reactions of different nature.

Claimed subject of the book is the stock markets traders’ behaviour. Authors are trying to analyze what makes a good trader. But most references and examples of the book are about human biology, psychology, rational & irrational thinking, stress reactions, hormones etc. in general.

Some of the facts discussed in the book:

1. Our eyes process hi-res data stream about 10Mb/sec equivalent
2. Human image processing is much slower than sound processing
3. We process actual video at framerate equivalent of about 5 independent frames per second(!)
4. But our brain fills the gaps by very accurate predicting and interpolating the picture — it makes the video smooth
5. Low res version of the image is sent to another part of the brain responsible for our safety, it works very fast, but with very low accuracy. It can’t really distinguish the dark shadow from a black bear, but it makes us duck under the flying stone before we even realize we should’ve ducked.
6. Our ears are genetically more old and more advanced tool. Professional baseball players rely on the sound of the bat strike as much as on the visible movements.
7. The stated above really equalize the value of visual and audio information for our survival and well-being.
8. We have independent “gut” nervous system. The “gut feeling” is not just a figure of speech, we actually make decisions with our whole body.
9. Our decisions are actually made by our subconscious (+body) mind. Consciousness usually just implements and likes to explain the decisions to itself.
10. More than that, our subconsciousness is capable of processing rather complex incoming information, analyzing and acting on it even without notifying the conscious mind.
For example good traders often find hidden patterns and make good bets on the stocks but can’t explain why.
There was also a research where people were trying to guess complicated patterns and make a right choice — most people learned to make the right choice far ahead of the moment they started to realize the pattern itself.
11. Little short stresses (short cortisol bursts) toughen our body-mind system.
12. Long cortisol release periods are bad, they destroy the system.
13. The more testosterone you have, the more risky behaviour you show. Opposite is also true.
14. But people with high T levels tend to live shorter lives.
15. Victories usually boost your T, defeats — lower it.
16. But the real stress comes from your attitude as much as from the causing event itself!
17. The same is true about dopamine release — it is the anticipation of the pleasure that throws it in your blood, not the event itself.
18. Most temporary psychological/mood problems you experience are just messages from your body. It’s the way of communication. Your should listen and react on it.

For example if our body predicts that current activity would not bring us benefits better than the resources we are spending on it — we may experience fatigue.
And the fatigue can disappear right after we change the activity (with no rest in between).

19. Trust your body as much as you trust your everything else (thoughts, emotions, speculation). May be even much more. Because…
20. There is no boundary between body and mind, it was just an abstract idea introduced once by Aristotle and other greek folks.
It’s not the reality of things!