GuoHL's translation training

The main purposes for this translation training are: (1) to strengthen my persistency (keep weekly update on website); (2) to make myself read more carefully; and (3) to learn better writing.

I am at the very beginning of this translation training. So if you happen to know both English and Chinese and find anything inappropriate in the translation, a note to my email ( would be appreciated.

Week Apr 3- Apr 9 2017

As you become skilled in a task, its demand for energy diminishes. Studies of the brain have shown that the pattern of activity associated with an action changes as skill increases, with fewer brain regions involved. Talent has similar effects. Highly intelligent individuals need less effort to solve the same problems, as indicated by both pupil size and brain activity. A general “law of least effort” applies to cognitive as well as physical exertion. The law asserts that if there are several ways of achieving the same goal, people will eventually gravitate to the least demanding course of action. In the economy of action, effort is a cost, and the acquisition of skill is driven by the balance of benefits and costs. Laziness is built deep into our nature.


The tasks that we studied varied considerably in their effects on the pupil. At baseline, our subjects were awake, aware, and ready to engage in a task – probably at a higher level of arousal and cognitive readiness than usual. Holding one or two digits in memory or learning to associate a word with a digit (3=door) produced reliable effects on momentary arousal above that baseline, but the effects were minuscule, only 5% of the increase in pupil diameter associated with Add-3. A task that require discriminating between the pitch of two tones yielded significantly larger dilations. Recent research has shown that inhibiting the tendency to read distracting words (as in figure 2 of the preceding chapter) also induces moderate effort. Tests of short-term memory for six or seven digits were more effortful. As you can experience, the request to retrieve and say aloud your phone number or your spouse’s birthday also requires a brief but significant effort, because the entire string must be held in memory as a response is organized. Mental multiplication of two-digit number s and the Add-3 task are near the limit of what most people can do.

我们研究的不同任务对于瞳孔大小的影响有着显著区别。我们将受试者清醒并准备好完成任务的状态作为基准状态 – 这个状态可能比平时的认知程度高一些。记住一两位数字或者将一个单词和一个数字联系起来对产生的临时的对感知系统的临时的需求比基准状态高。但是高的幅度非常有限 – 大概只有做加三游戏瞳孔增大幅度的5%。要求分辨两种音调的任务对瞳孔的影响就要明显的多。最近一项研究表明在读书时不去读分散精力的词同样只消耗比较小的精力。相比之下在短期内记住一个六位或七位数字则对精力要求更高。你肯定经历过类似的场景:让你大声说出自己的电话号码或配偶的生日同样会在短时间内占用相当的精力,因为整个字符串必须有规则地排列在你的脑中。心算两位数字的乘法和加三游戏几乎是大多数人所能做到的极限了。

What makes some cognitive operations more demanding and effortful than others? What outcomes must we purchase in the currency of attention? We now have tentative answers to these questions.


Effort is required to maintain simultaneously in memory several ideas that require separate actions, or that need to be combined according to a rule - rehearsing your shopping list as you enter the supermarket, choosing between the fish and the veal at a restaurant, or combining a surprising result from a survey with the information that the sample was small, for example. System 2 is the only one that can follow rules, compare objects on several attributes, and make deliberate choices between options. The automatic System 1 does not have these capabilities. System 1 detects simple relations (“they are all alike” “the son is much taller than the father”) and excels at integrating information about one thing, but it does not deal with multiple distinct topics at once, nor is it adept at using purely statistical information. System 1 will detect that a person described as “a meek and tidy soul, with a need for order and structure, and a passion for detail” resembles a caricature librarian, but combining this intuition with knowledge about the small number of librarians is a task that only System 2 can perform - if System 2 knows how to do so, which is true of few people.

同时记住几个需要不同操作的主意,或者要把它们根据某些规则合而为一是需要耗费精力的:比如说在进入超市前复述购物清单,在餐馆点菜选择是鱼肉还是牛肉,或者在统计整理较小样本的问卷的一些出人意料的结果。系统2是唯一一个能够服从规则、比较物品的不同特性、并作出精确选择的系统。自动化的系统1不具备这些能力。系统1能够探测出简单的关系(“他们长得很像”,“儿子比父亲高很多”),精通于整合一件事的信息,但是它不能同时处理多个不同问题,也不会运用统计信息。系统1会认为一个被形容为“有顺从而干净的灵魂,需要命令和结构,对细节充满渴望”的人代表一个典型的图书管理员,但是将这个本能和有限的图书管理员的知识整合起来的任务只有系统2能够完成 — 尽管真正能完成这个任务的人少之又少。

A crucial capability of System 2 is the adoption of “task sets”: it can program memory to obey an instruction that overrides habitual responses. Consider the following: Count all occurrences of the letter f in this page. This is not a task you have ever performed before and it will not come naturally to you, but your System 2 can take in on. It will be effortful to set yourself up for this exercise, and effortful to carry it out, though you will surely improve with practice. Psychologists speak of “executive control” to describe the adoption and termination of task sets, and neuroscientists have identified the main regions of the brain that serve the executive function. One of these regions is involved whenever a conflict must be resolved. Another is the prefrontal area of the brain, a region that is substantially more developed in humans that in other primates, and is involved in operations that we associate with intelligence.


Now suppose that at the end of the page you get another instruction: count all the commas in the next page. This will be harder, because you will have to overcome the newly acquired tendency to focus attention on the letter f. One of the significant discoveries of cognitive psychologists in recent decades is that switching from one task to another is effortful, especially under time pressure. The need for rapid switching is one of the reasons that Add-3 and mental multiplication are so difficult. To perform the Add-3 task, you must hold several digits in your working memory at the same time, associating each with a particular operation: some digits are in the queue to be transformed, one is in the process of transformation, and others, already transformed, are retained for reporting. Modern tests of working memory require the individual to switch repeatedly between two demanding tasks, retaining the results of one operation while performing the other. People who do well on these tests tend to do well on tests of general intelligence. However, the ability to control attention is not simply a measure of intelligence; measures of efficiency in the control of attention predict performance of air traffic controllers and of Israeli Air Force pilots beyond the effects of intelligence.


Week Mar 27- Apr 2 2017

We worked for some months in a spacious basement suite in which we had set up a closed-circuit system that projected an image of the subject’s pupil on a screen in the corridor; we also could hear what was happening in the laboratory. The diameter of the projected pupil was about a foot; watching it dilate and contract when the participant was at work was a fascinating sight, quite an attraction for visitors in our lab. We amused ourselves and impressed our guests by our ability to divine when the participant gave up on a task. During a mental multiplication, the pupil normally dilated to a large size within a few seconds and stayed large as long as the individual kept working on the problem; it contracted immediately when she found a solution or gave up. As we watched from the corridor, we would sometimes surprise both the owner of the pupil and our guests by asking, “why did you stop working just now?” the answer from inside the lab was often, ”How did you know?” to which we would reply, “We have a window to your soul.”


The casual observations we made from the corridor were sometimes as informative as the formal experiments. I made a significant discovery as I was idly watching a woman’s pupil during a break between two tasks. She had kept her position on the chin rest, so I could see the image of her eye while she engaged in routine conversation with the experimenter. I was surprised to see that the pupil remained small and did not noticeably dilate as she talked and listened. Unlike the tasks that we were studying, the mundane conversation apparently demanded little or no effort – no more than retaining two or three digits. This was a eureka moment: I realized that the tasks we had chosen for study were exceptionally effortful. An image came to mind: mental life – today I would speak of the life of System 2 – is normally conducted at the pace of a comfortable walk, sometimes interrupted by episodes of jogging and on rare occasions by a frantic sprint. The add-1 and add-3 exercises are sprints, and casual chatting is a stroll.

有时候在实验中不经意的观察甚至和细致的实验同样有信息量。我有一次在观察一位女受试者瞳孔大小在两项任务间隔中的变化。她并没有挪动她的下巴以至于我能够观察到她在同实验人员交谈时的眼睛。我惊讶的发现她的瞳孔并没有随着她与人说话而变大。与我们的实验任务不同的是,日常的闲谈并不用耗费什么精力 – 大概与记两三位数字所费的精力相当。这是一个尤里卡时刻:我意识到我们所选择的实验项目极其耗费精力。我脑中出现了这样一个画面:精神生活(在这里我尤指系统二的生活)通常以类似于散步一般的速度前进,有时候会被一些小跑打断,更少的时候会发疯似地开始冲刺。加一和加三就是冲刺,而日常的闲谈则是悠闲地散步。

We found that people, when engaged in a mental sprint, may become effectively blind. The authors of the invisible gorilla had made the gorilla “invisible” by keeping the observers intensely busy counting passes. We reported a rather less dramatic example of blindness during add-1. Our subjects were exposed to a series of rapidly flashing letters while they worked. They were told to give the task complete priority, but they were also asked to report, at the end of the digit task, whether the letter K had appeared at any time during the trial. The main finding was that the ability to detect and report the target letter changed in the course of the 10 seconds of the exercise. The observers almost never missed a K that was shown at the beginning or near the end of the add-1 task but they missed the target almost half the time when mental effort was at its peak, although we had pictures of their wide-open eye staring straight at it. Failures of detection followed the same inverted-V pattern as the dilation pupil. The similarity was reassuring: the pupil was a good measure of the physical arousal that accompanies mental effort, and we could go ahead and use it to understand how the mind works.


Much like the electricity meter outside your house or apartment, the pupils offer an index of the current rate at which mental energy is used. The analogy goes deep. Your use of electricity depends on what you choose to do, whether to light a room or toast a piece of bread. When you turn on a bulb or a toaster, it draws the energy it needs but no more. Similarly, we decide what to do, but we have limited control over the effort of doing it. Suppose you are shown four digits, say, 9462, and told that your life depends on holding them in memory for 10 seconds. However much you want to live, you cannot exert as much effort in this task as you would be forced to invest to complete an add-3 transformation on the same digits.


System 2 and the electrical circuits in your home both have limited capacity, but they respond differently to threatened overload. A breaker trips when the demand for current is excessive, causing all devices on that circuit to lose power at once. In contrast, the response to mental overload is selective and precise: system 2 protects the most important activity, so it receives the attention it need; “spare capacity” is allocated second by second to other tasks. In our version of the gorilla experiment, we instructed the participants to assign priority to the digit task. We know that they followed that instruction, because the timing of the visual target had no effect on the main task. If the critical letter was presented at a time of high demand, the subjects simply did not see it. When the transformation task was less demanding, detection performance was better.


The sophisticated allocation of attention has been honed by a long evolutionary history. Orienting and responding quickly to the gravest threats or most promising opportunities improved the chance of survival, and this capability is certainly not restricted to humans. Even in modern humans, system 1 takes over in emergencies and assigns total priority to self-protective actions. Imagine yourself at the wheel of a car that unexpectedly skids on a large oil slick. You will find that you have responded to the threat before you became fully conscious of it.


Beatty and I worked together for only a year, but our collaboration had a large effect on our subsequent careers. He eventually became the leading authority on “cognitive pupillometry”, and I wrote a book titled attention and effort, which was based in large part on what we learned together and on follow-up research I did at Harvard the following year. We learned a great deal about the working mind – which I now think of as System 2 – from measuring pupils in a wide variety of tasks.

我和beatty只在一起工作了一年,但是我们的合作对于我们后面的工作都有很大的影响。他最终成为了“认知瞳孔学”一书的第一作者,而我则基于我们共同学习的内容和我在接下来的一年中在哈佛大学的研究写了一本名为注意力和精力的书。我们通过测量在不同任务下的瞳孔尺寸学到了很多关于工作脑的内容 – 我现在则把它归结为系统二。

Week Mar 20-26 2017

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow. Daniel Kahneman, 2011. Chapter 2: Attention and Effort

In the unlikely event of this book being made into a film, System 2 would be a supporting character who believes herself to be the hero. The defining feature of System 2, in this story, is that its operations are effortful, and one of its main characteristics is laziness, a reluctance to invest more effort than is strictly necessary. As a consequence, the thoughts and actions that System 2 believes it has chosen are often guided by the figure at the center of the story, System 1. However, there are vital tasks that only System 2 can perform because they require effort and acts of self-control in which the intuitions and impulses of System 1 are overcome.


If you wish to experience your system 2 working at full tilt, the following exercise will do; it should bring you to the limits of your cognitive abilities within 5 seconds. To start, make up several strings of 4 digits, all different, and write each string on an index card. Place a blank card on top of the deck. The task that you will perform is called add-1. Here is how it goes: Start beating a steady rhythm (or better yet, set a metronome at 1/sec). Remove the blank card and read the four digits aloud. Wait for two beats, then report a string in which each of the original digits is incremented by 1. If the digits on the card are 5294, the correct response is 6305. Keeping the rhythm is important. Few people can cope with more than four digits in the add-1 task, but if you want a harder challenge, please try add-3.

假如你想体验一下系统2全力工作的状态,可以尝试一下下面这个练习:只需要五秒钟它就能迫使你达到自己认知能力的极限。准备开始时,编一些不同的四位数字符串,把每组数字写在一张卡片上。在这叠卡片的最上面放一张空白的卡片。这个练习的名字叫做加一。它的玩法是这样的:开始有节奏的打拍子(最好设一个每秒一响的节拍器)。拿走空白的卡片,大声念出那个四位数字。等两拍后念出把四位数字的每位数字加一的新数字。假如卡片上的数字是5294,正确答案就是6305. 保持节奏对这个游戏非常重要。极少有人能完成多于四位数的加一游戏。如果你想要一个更难的挑战,可以尝试改作加三的游戏。

If you would like to know what your body is doing while your mind is hard at work, set up two piles of books on a sturdy table, place a video camera on one and lean your chin on the other, get the video going, and stare at the camera lens while you work on add-1 or add-3 exercises. Later, you will find in the changing size of your pupils a faithful record of how hard you worked.


I have a long personal history with the add-1 task. Early in my career I spent a year at the university of Michigan, as a visitor in a laboratory that studied hypnosis. Casting about for a useful topic of research, I found an article in scientific American in which the psychologist Eckhard Hess described the pupil of the eye as a window to the soul. I reread it recently and again found it inspiring. It begins with Hess reporting that his wife had noticed his pupils widening as he watched beautiful nature pictures, and it ends with two striking pictures of the same good-looking woman, who somehow appears much more attractive in one than in the other. There is only one difference: the pupils of the eyes appear dilated in the attractive picture and constricted in the other. Hess also wrote of belladonna, a pupil-dilating substance that was used as a cosmetic, and of bazaar shoppers who wear dark glasses in order to hide their level of interest from merchants.

我从很早以前就知道了加一游戏。在我职业生涯的早期我曾在密歇根大学访问过一年研究hypnosis。在寻找研究课题的过程中,我在科学美国人上读到了一篇文章。心理学家Eckhard Hess在文章中提到瞳孔时灵魂的窗户。我最近又重读了这篇文章一次,依然很受启发。在文章的开始,Hess提到他妻子注意到他在看到好看的大自然画面的时候瞳孔会放大;在文章的结尾提供了一位美女的两张照片,其中一张照片明显比另一张照片更吸引人。而两张照片只有一个区别:在更吸引人的那张照片中,这位美女的瞳孔是张大了的。Hess还提到了一种能使瞳孔放大的药物被用作了美容产品,而一些逛市场的人则会带深色墨镜以免被店家看出他们对商品的感兴趣程度。

One of Hess’s findings especially captured my attention. He had noticed that the pupils are sensitive indicators of mental effort – they dilate substantially when people multiply two-digit numbers, and they dilate more if the problems are hard than if they are easy. His observations indicated that the response to mental effort is distinct from emotional arousal. Hess’s work did not have much to do with hypnosis, but I concluded that the idea of a visible indication of mental effort had promise as a research topic. A graduated student in the lab, Jackson Beatty, shared my enthusiasm and we got to work.

Hess的一个发现尤其吸引我的注意。他注意到瞳孔可以作为精神努力的敏锐的指示灯。在人们做两位数乘法的时候瞳孔会明显放大,问题越难瞳孔越大。他的发现暗示花费精力和情绪的反应是不同的。Hess的工作对于催眠并没有什么作用,但是我认为可视化的精力花费是一个很有前景的研究课题。实验室里的一个研究生Jackson Beatty和我有相同的感觉,于是我们开始了对这个课题的探索。

Beatty and I developed a setup similar to an optician’s examination room, in which the experimental participant leaned her head on a chin-and-forehead rest and stared at a camera while listening to prerecorded information and answering questions on the recorded beats of a metronome. The beats triggered an infrared flash every second, causing a picture to be taken. At the end of each experimental session, we would rush to have the film developed, project the images of the pupil on a screen, and go to work with a ruler. The method was a perfect fit for young and impatient researchers: we knew our results almost immediately, and they always told a clear story.


Beatty and I focused on paced tasks, such as Add-1, in which we knew precisely what was on the subject’s mind at any time. We recorded strings of digits on beats of the metronome and instructed the subject to repeat or transform the digits one by one, maintaining the same rhythm. We soon discovered that the size of the pupil varied second by second, reflecting the changing demands of the task. The shape of the response was an inverted V. As you experience it if you tried Add-1 or Add-3, effort builds up with every added digit that you hear, reaches an almost intolerable peak as you rush to produce a transformed string during and immediately after the pause, and relaxes gradually as you “unload” your short-term memory. The pupil data corresponded precisely to subjective experience: longer strings reliably caused larger dilations, the transformation task compounded the effort, and the peak of pupil size coincided with maximum effort. Add-1 with four digits caused a larger dilation than the task of holding seven digits for immediate recall. Add-3, which is much more difficult, is the most demanding that I ever observed. In the first 5 seconds, the pupil dilated by about 50% of its original area and heart rate increases by about 7 beats per minute. This is as hard as people can work – they give up if more is asked of them. When we exposed our subjects to more digits than they could remember, their pupils stopped dilating or actually shrank.


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