Kokoro Connect – Mind over Matter

First of all, I should probably apologize for my lack of posts lately. I could say that there really hasn’t been much to write about in the way of editorials, but that’s just excuses. I could tell you that I’ve been through a few rather hectic weeks with my laptop being sent in for maintenance and me moving to a new place (I will move again in about two weeks anyway), but no one really cares about my personal life. Hah! Well I’m not telling you much more about it anyway!

In any case, those of you who follow Kokoro Connect have probably been talking about the recent “deep” turn of events. It really is quite a contrast from having a guy feel a girl’s boobs in the first episode to pondering the persistence of a personality in different bodies. While I’m a little late to the party due to the aforementioned events, and it’s probably starting to get a little old by now, I would still like to write something about it. Rather, I want to write about it because it truly is a very fascinating topic to me. So, the question posed by Iori is; can a personality remain constant if it is “transplanted” into a different body? I could, of course, go off into another tangent on how the question of whether a mind changes is irrelevant, but I’ve already dealt with that quite extensively in the past. Instead, I will just ignore the futility of the question and attempt to answer it head on.

For anyone who has read up on psychology, the first thing that immediately comes to mind when talking about personality changes is the case of Phineas Gage. I’ve linked his name to the corresponding Wikipedia page, but that’s quite a lot of material, so I’ll briefly summarize for those who are unfamiliar. Back in the day when building railroads was all the rage, a poor fellow by the name of Phineas managed to get an iron rod driven through his head in a rather unfortunate accident. Normally, this is where the story ends since the guy is dead, but Phineas somehow survived, albeit having lost pretty much all of the left frontal lobe of his brain. The interesting thing is, after the incident people reported that his behavior changed quite drastically and that he was “no longer the same person”. Of course, more recent evidence and investigation has revealed that these “reports” were very much distorted and that Phineas did not in fact become a completely different person, but regardless, the case just begs the question “What kind of an effect can physical change have on the personality?”

Now back to Kokoro Connect. Obviously none of the characters has had an iron rod driven through his/her head (and I sincerely hope that never happens), but the concept of a physical change still applies. Let’s start with the most obvious. Do things change up there if a personality of one sex is transferred into a body of the opposite sex? I say that this is the most obvious starting point because the body does in fact have one major source of influence over the mind; hormones. Arguably, it is the testosterone that makes all the guys “horny dogs”, so if you put a “female mind” into a “male body” that is chock-full of testosterone, does that mind also become “more horny”? Political incorrectness aside (not that anyone cares about bad-mouthing guys over girls), I have to say that this is irrefutable proof that the body can actually affect the mind.

The hormones secreted by the body have undeniable psychological effects (and obvious physical ones), so obviously this means that having your personality transferred into a different body will inevitably alter what you consider to be your “self”. Well that was easy, wasn’t it? But I’m guessing such a brief explanation leaves much to be desired and doesn’t sound too convincing, so let’s take a look at something else then. Anyone who has played a musical instrument, or played sports, or operated some kind of sensitive equipment will be familiar with the term “muscle memory”. Admittedly muscle memory involves both the mind and the body, so perhaps the question here is; “Which is more important?” The “science” of it is still being studied intensively and I don’t want to bore you with a bunch of technical terminology and theory, so I’ll just provide my own personal experience.

Having played the violin, I can honestly say that while the mind plays an undoubtedly important role in muscle memory, the action that you carry out still depends on the body in the end. With muscle memory, you don’t think of the action in a procedural sense. Rather, you just think of the final effect you want to achieve, and the body seems to take care of the rest automatically. The exact mechanics of this are, as previously mentioned, extremely complex, but the gist of it is that your brain and nervous system physically change to accommodate this. Since the mind resides in the brain, this will undoubtedly cause some change in the mind. Perhaps the transplanted personality also gains the skill. More likely though, the ability is there, but the mind doesn’t know how to access/use it. Of course, this is all personal speculation though, so I could be completely wrong.

It’s debatable whether having theoretical access to a skill that you didn’t have before can be considered a real change in personality, especially since at face value actions are a product of the body and not the mind. More importantly, since the supposed personality change is dependent on the physical change in the nervous system, would any change even be “permanent”? I suppose that would depend on whether the transplanted personality becomes aware of the skill. If the mind remains ignorant, the only change I could see happening is a subconscious one, but if the mind is aware of this new ability, then when it returns to the “original body” it might attempt to replicate the ability there. Ok, that isn’t exactly too convincing, is it? And admittedly, I’ve also managed to stray off topic a bit. After all, Iori’s original question seemed to imply a more dogmatic focus.

If that’s the case though, then I have to say that it isn’t too likely for someone to drastically change his/her beliefs just because he/she has inhabited a different body. To begin with, the whole concept of a mind transfer isn’t concretely established. If we go by the assertion that the mind is the collection of electrical activity in the brain though, then I think it’s safe to say that by simply transplanting a personality, you’ve altered the functional state of the “host” brain. Therefore, the very act of transferring the mind ensures that the ideals and beliefs the personality had originally remain intact. It’s the more physical differences that would really ever have an effect on a personality to me. If this is starting to get confusing, here’s a simpler way to think about it. For the most part, human brains are fairly similar. The electrical impulses travel down pretty much the same neural “highways”.

Obviously the physical location of these neural connections varies from person to person, but that doesn’t change the fact that that connection does exist in the first place. Building up something like muscle memory, though, is like creating a new “highway” that only exists uniquely in that body. That is to say, two people with the muscle memory for the same skill may not have manifested it the same way in terms of neural connections. After all, we all learn things in our own way that makes sense to us. To me, this is the difference between something that can actually change the mind and something that doesn’t.

So to answer Iori’s question, don’t worry. The “essence” of your self that you probably think of as your “identity” is not likely to change just because you now inhabit a different body. If anything, there would only be “less important” peripheral changes that won’t really have a major impact on your thought process as a whole. Even if your personality does somehow go through a “significant” change, there is nothing to say that this “new you” isn’t still “you”, as Taichi eluded to in episode five. And in the end, I guess I still can’t avoid having to come back to the irrelevance of any discussion of minds changing. It just happens.

P.S. If you didn’t already realize, the post title is irrelevant.

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6 Responses to Kokoro Connect – Mind over Matter

  1. windyturnip says:

    You’re certainly taking that question literally. I’d say you’re probably pretty close to the truth although the ridiculous premise kind of makes your entire conclusion moot. I mean, even if your personality were to change, how would you know?

    I’m just playing the devil’s advocate here, but doesn’t your conclusion tie in with the nature vs. nurture debate? If your mind were to switch into someone else’s body, would you still have their DNA? How important of a role does our biology play in shaping our personality? How important are our memories? And are those experiences merely the physical manifestations of our biological tendencies? I would argue that you might maintain your personality for a short period of time, but eventually it would be overwhelmed by your host’s original personality.

    That’s just my two cents on the subject.

    On a side note, not a lot of people are posting about Kokoro Connect so don’t hesitate to write again. I think a lot of bloggers never looked at it because the synopsis seemed rather generic, but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorites this season. It does have some pacing problems and the ending will likely make or break the series, but I still think it deserves more attention than it’s received.

    • Sumairii says:

      You hit the nail on the head there. There really is no way for the person in question to know that he’s changed if he didn’t make the change consciously himself. But of course, that doesn’t stop us from being afraid; many of our fears are so obviously irrational yet we still have them.

      As for nature vs nurture, I think I did make a post a while ago about it. In any case, my opinion is that nurture is a far stronger factor than nature, which is probably why I thought that the body wouldn’t matter much. I believe our experiences make our personality, not the DNA in our brain cells. Retaining the experiences of the “transplanted mind” (it wouldn’t be much of a switch otherwise) would ensure that the “transplanted mind” is distinct from, and will never be “merged with” or “taken over by” the “original mind”.

      I guess it’s showing that I don’t read too many other blogs, haha. I do read a couple others, but my main interaction with the community is through direct communication with a certain few. Of course, the obvious implication is that the people I hang out with are like-minded and thus we talk about this kind of stuff a lot, leading me to believe that talk of Kokoro Connect was indeed pervasive throughout the entire community. Or I’m just going crazy.

  2. Carillus says:

    I thought this was a Kokoro Connect post at first, but then it wasn’t really.
    I’m strictly of the science camp, though, so the idea of transferring someone’s mind in the first place is really far out for me, since that would mean transferring the relevant mental synapses and individual connections – which is basically impossible at the current level of things. Unless someone actually manages to do it without killing both parties in the process…
    However, if this actually happens, it’ll basically be like waking up in someone else’s body, ala Kokoro Connect, since the host body would no longer possess any of the original parts of the ‘mind’ proper, seeing as it was completely replaced by the transferred person’s mental faculties. A recent study into virtual reality also showed that the mind is extremely able to adapt to changes in physiology, with participants being convinced that virtual limbs – even extra ones – were part of them, and manipulating them with great ease.
    The way I see it, you will still continue to possess skills that you had originally and will not know of those that your host used to possess, but your physical means might not be present, e.g. you might know how to play a guitar, but your fingers are no longer strong enough to hold the bar chords.

    • Sumairii says:

      Haha yeah, my editorials never seem to directly focus on the anime in question.

      In any case, I have to agree with what you say except for one point. I believe that if the mind is aware of a skill “possessed” in the original body, it will attempt to replicate that skill in a new body. And despite failing at first, we all know that practice makes perfect, so I like to think that the mind may be able to “force” the new body to “learn” the skill purely as a result of motivation. Barring absolute physical impossibility, that is.

      • Carillus says:

        If the new skill doesn’t require physical execution as much as mental one, then yes, it can be brute-forced; you can get an unfamiliar body to draw a beautiful picture if you are a prior artist, but it’ll be hard to get an unfamiliar body to sprint 100m in 10 seconds without the years of training you had before.

        • Sumairii says:

          I was thinking you would keep trying with the new body until it is also capable of doing the same thing, no matter how long it takes, simply because you expect to be able to do it.

          Of course, this is easier said than done, but I digress.

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