The Cognitive Shuffle Project: Future Research

Last updated 2016–06–23 by Luc P. Beaudoin..

The Cognitive Shuffle / Serial Diverse Imagining Project Page


Future Research Pursuant to Beaudoin’s Somnolent Mentation theory and the Serial Diverse Imagining Treatment (the Cognitive Shuffle)

Future research should address each of the core postulates of the Somnolent Mentation theory:

  1. Postulate 1 (P1): A decline in situational awareness, or sense making, including active, globally coherent mentation, is not merely a consequence of impending sleep, but is pro-somnolent.
  2. Postulate 2 (P2): Energy and tension are insomnolent.
  3. Postulate 3 (P3): Alarms (primary emotions) are insomnolent
  4. Postulate 4 (P4): States of perturbance (tertiary emotions), in which insistent motivators tend to disrupt and maintain attention, are insomnolent.

The Somnolent Mentation Theory and the Serial Diverse Imagining Treatment (the Cognitive Shuffle) treatment raise new research questions about sleep onset and insomnia treatments. Here are some of them.

  1. Under what conditions and for whom is technology-administered SDI preferable to self-administered SDI?
  2. Would viewing photos of the auditory content during the day potentiate the effects of SDI as mediated by reports of more vivid imagery or mnemonic processes?
  3. Is imagining targets of phrases more somnolent than imagining single words (“simple things”)? If so (or not), why (not), and/or under what conditions does it matter?
  4. Concepts vary continuously in concreteness and effort required to imagine them. More concrete concepts can be imagined more quickly. Are more concrete concepts (e.g., government vs government building) more somnolent?
  5. Would participants with a higher need for cognition benefit from more difficult or abstract concepts? Is this mediated by cognitive alertness?
  6. Is technology-assisted SDI (with SomnoTest/ mySleepButton) particularly more effective compared to the self-directed (DIY) technique in the middle of the night than before initial sleep onset, as mediated by levels of alertness and fatigue?
  7. Does the type of word affect sleep onset (SO) latency (e.g., predicate, common noun, person, place, scene, or person)?
  8. Given that dreams of falling, flying and soaring are common at SO (Germain, Nielsen, Zadra, & Montplaisir, 2000), are images of these activities particularly potent for sleep for some people under some conditions?
  9. Similarly, might moderately threatening images be somnolent under some conditions (e.g., if participants are prepared to accept them)?
  10. Are more concrete terms (always) more conducive to sleep? Given the putative memory consolidation role of SO (Stenstrom, Fox, Solomonova & Nielsen, 2012), can SDI be somnolently combined with learning activities?
  11. Is SDI more effective when combined with mindfulness training (to accept the negative cognitions and emotions that are sometimes associated with some of the content)?
  12. Can SDI effectively be combined with learning activities, such as auditory-flashcard learning of second language vocabulary? If so, under what circumstances?
  13. How could auditory content be optimized as a function of individual differences and situational factors (such as age, vocabulary, need for cognition, tendency to ruminate, conscientiousness, mood —energy levels/fatigue and tension, source of concern and perturbance).
  14. To what extent do certain stable personality dispositions (such as absorption, as measured by the Tellegen Absorption Scale) and other thinking dispositions (Stanovich, K. E. (2015). The Comprehensive Assessment of Rational Thinking. Educational Psychologist, 51(1), 23–34. predict the effectiveness of serial diverse imagining in reducing sleep onset latency?

The somnolent mentation theory also makes other predictions from which new treatments may be derived over and beyond SDI. For example, other forms of cognitive shuffling beyond SDI, such as a random body scan, or engaging in productive practice by attempting to answer diverse audio flashcards (Beaudoin, 2014cp, ) may be super-somnolent. Having rejected the notion of cognitive arousal and postulated that mental fatigue is somnolent, I believe it is worth investigating the possibility that activities such as mental math may be super-somnolent, at least for some people in some contexts.

Design-based Approach (A.I.)

Beaudoin (2013, 2014) mark the beginning of design-based theorizing explicitly about the human sleep-onset control (SOCS) system. This contribution is qualitative and high-level. Much work remains to more precisely embed this theory in a broader computational architecture (such as a revision of H-CogAff, Sloman 2003), to propose precise, quantitative SOCS mechanisms, and to implement such models in computer programs (see, Cooper, 2007; Cooper & Guest, 2014). This theoretical effort should accommodate pertinent psychobiological facts about the control of sleep (e.g., Brown et al, 2012) while also proposing new conjectures about the psychobiology of human SOCS, in particular explain how the postulates are implemented by the brain. This work should ultimately model how all relevant parameters (e.g., sleep pressure, age, caffeine levels, perturbance, time of day, body temperature, motive activation, motive management, and meta-management) are dynamically integrated by the SOCS. It is noteworthy, that there are still no computer simulations of the SOCS. Only with computer simulations can we rigorously (Sloman, 1978) predict SO latency, explain differences between and within individuals’ responses to cognitive treatments, and tailor treatments to these differences.

SDI has also been useful for developing Beaudoin’s theory. This is a generalization of the process in computational cognitive science (including artificial intelligence), in which the development of computer simulations not only helps one test a theory, but it helps one develop theories. There is a reciprocal relation between theory-building and development of applications (Schön, 1978). The design-based approach allows one to explore a space of possible applications (Sloman, 1993) and to develop solutions that meet requirements.

Other Possibly Somnolent Techniques

There is also a need for further theoretical and empirical research in a broader variety of commonly used deliberate mentation strategies. There are many online forums, such as reddit that could be mined for this purpose. For instance, several people use other auditory inputs than SDI (audiobooks, radio and podcasts) to promote sleep. A comprehensive theory of the SOCS needs to explain how this works and if and when it works. Is it merely distraction? Does imagination play a role in this case too? Does listening to intellectually demanding audio content in environmental conditions that are typical of sleep (recumbence, low light, etc.) promote mental fatigue? Does this lead people to only vaguely pay attention to the content? Might this trigger drowsy mentation, that is itself interpreted by the SOCS as a cue to further N1 progression? If so, precisely how does this unfold?