Endocepts form as combinations and layering of ideas and concepts from culture and allow the brain to create many possible solutions to problems. But the real power is in its ability to develop solutions that are actually useful, rather than just random new combinations of ideas or possibilities. Inventions and discoveries have been described as insights: internally visualised solutions that are presented to the consciousness as ideas that can be edited and tested in working memory (Walkup, 1967). But this seems to suggest that on some level the unconscious is deciding what the solution is – how does it know out of possibly infinite combinations?
Arieti (1976, p.64) argues the unconscious is not ‘smart’, but a system of randomness, “the content of the endocept is unintended, unplanned”. But he adds a further option, and suggests that it is possible for the content of the endocept to be partly random and partly tailored to the problem at hand, “by a combination of past experiences, present unconscious feelings and neuronal or intra-psychic organisations”. This idea is entirely possible as it reflects the constant feedback loop that is operating in the brain, combining information not only inter-conceptually but also with past experience in memory through present experience. The better a problem is understood, and as we have discussed, emotionally engaged with, fewer options are actually made ‘available’ by the unconscious. If it is only those ideas that are emotionally enriched or peak our interest are available to our consciousness, then there is considerably less to work with than all our unconscious connections.
Poincare (1913) hypothesised that during the preparatory work the mind focuses on those connections that have something to do with the object of study and this increases the amount of useful ideas related to it. When our working memory ‘RAM’ has a higher proportion of thoughts about the problem than usual, it increases the amount of endocepts that relate directly to the problem, and the more random combinations of endocepts and ideas will relate to the problem. The combination of the two offers fewer ‘ideas’ that can be looped through the prefrontal cortex, checking their outcomes in ‘virtual’ simulation even as they are realised by the conscious mind. These ‘good combinations’ can be extracted from the vastly complex systems we have discussed.