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Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness

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The surprising science of the human mind's greatest power: introspection It happens to everyone: You are asked a question -- even something you know well, such as the name of a longtime colleague -- and can't answer. The information is stuck on the tip of your tongue. It's an experience so frustrating that it seems like it must be a brain malfunction. In fact, it's actually The surprising science of the human mind's greatest power: introspection It happens to everyone: You are asked a question -- even something you know well, such as the name of a longtime colleague -- and can't answer. The information is stuck on the tip of your tongue. It's an experience so frustrating that it seems like it must be a brain malfunction. In fact, it's actually a hallmark of our greatest power: self-awareness. As cognitive neuroscientist Stephen M. Fleming shows in Know Thyself,self-awareness shapes our intelligence, memory, and conscious experience. It's integral to how we teach and learn. We use it every time we weigh difficult questions, such as assessing how we'd respond in a crisis. Drawing on psychology and neuroscience, Fleming provides deep insight into how self-awareness works, and how we can enhance our ability to know our strengths and weaknesses. In the end, this book isn'tjust about psychology: it's about the science of human excellence.


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The surprising science of the human mind's greatest power: introspection It happens to everyone: You are asked a question -- even something you know well, such as the name of a longtime colleague -- and can't answer. The information is stuck on the tip of your tongue. It's an experience so frustrating that it seems like it must be a brain malfunction. In fact, it's actually The surprising science of the human mind's greatest power: introspection It happens to everyone: You are asked a question -- even something you know well, such as the name of a longtime colleague -- and can't answer. The information is stuck on the tip of your tongue. It's an experience so frustrating that it seems like it must be a brain malfunction. In fact, it's actually a hallmark of our greatest power: self-awareness. As cognitive neuroscientist Stephen M. Fleming shows in Know Thyself,self-awareness shapes our intelligence, memory, and conscious experience. It's integral to how we teach and learn. We use it every time we weigh difficult questions, such as assessing how we'd respond in a crisis. Drawing on psychology and neuroscience, Fleming provides deep insight into how self-awareness works, and how we can enhance our ability to know our strengths and weaknesses. In the end, this book isn'tjust about psychology: it's about the science of human excellence.

30 review for Know Thyself: The Science of Self-Awareness

  1. 5 out of 5

    Maher Razouk

    تشير الأبحاث إلى أن التعديلات اللاواعية على نطاق واسع يتم إجراؤها باستمرار لضمان بقاء أفعالنا على المسار الصحيح. في بعض الأحيان ، تصبح عمليات المراقبة اللاواعية هذه مكشوفة ، على غرار الطريقة التي نكشف بها الأوهام البصرية . على سبيل المثال ، عندما أسافر للعمل في مترو أنفاق لندن ، يجب أن أخطو على سلسلة من السلالم المتحركة ، وأعتمد على جسدي لإجراء تعديلات سريعة على الوضع لمنعني من السقوط عندما أفعل ذلك. لكن في حالة تعطل السلم المتحرك وثباته ، فمن الصعب إيقاف نظام المحرك الخاص بي من التصحيح التلقائي تشير الأبحاث إلى أن التعديلات اللاواعية على نطاق واسع يتم إجراؤها باستمرار لضمان بقاء أفعالنا على المسار الصحيح. في بعض الأحيان ، تصبح عمليات المراقبة اللاواعية هذه مكشوفة ، على غرار الطريقة التي نكشف بها الأوهام البصرية . على سبيل المثال ، عندما أسافر للعمل في مترو أنفاق لندن ، يجب أن أخطو على سلسلة من السلالم المتحركة ، وأعتمد على جسدي لإجراء تعديلات سريعة على الوضع لمنعني من السقوط عندما أفعل ذلك. لكن في حالة تعطل السلم المتحرك وثباته ، فمن الصعب إيقاف نظام المحرك الخاص بي من التصحيح التلقائي لتأثير السلالم المتحركة عادةً - لدرجة أن لدي الآن توقعات عالية المستوى بأنني سأفعل ذلك. تتعثر قليلاً وأنت تصعد على سلم متحرك ثابت . في تجربة كلاسيكية مصممة لتقدير هذا النوع من التصحيح التلقائي للخطأ السريع ، طلب بيير فورنيريت ومارك جانيرو من المتطوعين تحريك مؤشر الكمبيوتر إلى هدف على الشاشة. من خلال التأكد من إخفاء أيدي المشاركين (حتى يتمكنوا من رؤية المؤشر فقط) ، تمكن الباحثون من إدخال انحرافات صغيرة في موضع المؤشر ومراقبة ما حدث. وجدوا أنه عندما خرج المؤشر عن مساره ، قام الناس على الفور بتصحيحه دون أن يكونوا على علم بذلك. وخلصت ورقتهم البحثية إلى: "وجدنا أن الأشخاص قد تجاهلوا إلى حد كبير الحركات الفعلية التي كانت تؤديها أيديهم". بعبارة أخرى ، يراقب نظام المستوى المنخفض دون وعي كيفية قيامنا بالمهمة ويصحح - بأكبر قدر ممكن من الكفاءة - أي انحرافات بعيدة عن الهدف. يُعرف جزء من الدماغ الذي يُعتقد أنه مهم لدعم هذه التعديلات باسم المخيخ - من اللاتينية "الدماغ الصغير". يشبه المخيخ دماغًا ثانويًا مثبتًا بمسامير ، يجلس أسفل الدماغ الرئيسي. لكنه في الواقع يحتوي على أكثر من 80 بالمائة من الخلايا العصبية ، حوالي تسعة وستين مليارًا من إجمالي خمسة وثمانين مليارًا. دوائره هي شيء من الجمال المنظم ، حيث تتقاطع ملايين ما يسمى بالألياف المتوازية في الزوايا اليمنى مع نوع آخر من خلايا الدماغ المعروفة باسم الخلايا العصبية Purkinje ، والتي تحتوي على أشجار شجيرية ضخمة ومتقنة. تأتي المدخلات من القشرة في سلسلة من الحلقات ، مع إسقاط مناطق في القشرة إلى نفس مناطق المخيخ التي تتلقى منها المدخلات. تتمثل إحدى الأفكار في أن المخيخ يتلقى نسخة من الأمر الحركي يتم إرساله إلى العضلات ، بدلاً من تلقي نسخة كربونية من رسالة بريد إلكتروني. ثم يولد النتائج الحسية المتوقعة للفعل ، مثل حقيقة أن يدي يجب أن تتقدم بسلاسة نحو الهدف. إذا كان هذا التوقع لا يتطابق مع البيانات الحسية حول مكان وجود يدي بالفعل ، فيمكن إجراء تعديلات سريعة لإعادتها إلى مسارها. . Stephen Fleming Know Thyself Translated By #Maher_Razouk

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Wineberg

    There is less and less in the way new fields of endeavor for psychologists, it seems. So a book on self-awareness holds promise. Stephen Fleming, who researches and teaches about it, has summed up the state of the art in Know Thyself. There is much to understand, but less to be excited about. Self-awareness is called metacognition in the biz. It has been studied in animals (the famous mirror tests that elephants and dolphins pass, but cats and birds fail). It is most common in homo Sapiens, who i There is less and less in the way new fields of endeavor for psychologists, it seems. So a book on self-awareness holds promise. Stephen Fleming, who researches and teaches about it, has summed up the state of the art in Know Thyself. There is much to understand, but less to be excited about. Self-awareness is called metacognition in the biz. It has been studied in animals (the famous mirror tests that elephants and dolphins pass, but cats and birds fail). It is most common in homo Sapiens, who is constantly introspective (a word which oddly does not show up in the book until ¾ of the way through). Man evaluates himself and others constantly, automatically and unconsciously. It’s called mindreading in the biz, but it is a learned appreciation of what others might be thinking or feeling. We do this to avoid saying something stupid and looking foolish. We thereby seem to have insight, or at least be “with it”. We also have the ability, if not the obsession, with looking backward and criticizing ourselves for having done or said something stupid, or ignorantly, or just in error. Fleming says “We track uncertainty, monitor our actions, and continually update a model of our minds at work—allowing us to know when our memory or vision might be failing or to encode knowledge about skills, abilities, and personalities.” We are forever thinking about our thinking. This, possibly fortunately, is unique in the animal kingdom. Metacognition is not fixed. It can be degraded, stuck, fixed or enhanced with practice. What is still not clear is if any of these states is desirable. So there’s lots of studying going on. The book is chock full of simple, complex and innovative psychological studies to measure the depth and effects of metacognition. Fleming does it for a living. If anyone knows, he does. There are times and places where self-awareness is a liability. Fleming gives the examples of learned actions, like playing a piano piece or swinging a golf club. The very last thing anyone wants to do is have a crisis of self-confidence in the midst of swinging a bat or shooting alien attackers. These kinds of things must, of clear necessity, be devoid of self-awareness, and just rely totally on automatic action. So we can turn off metacognition when necessary. Physically, metacognition takes place in several parts of the brain, but is headquartered in the frontal lobes, the newest parts of the brain, specifically the lateral frontopolar cortex. Those with higher metacognition have higher amounts prefrontal gray matter as well as greater white matter to connect that gray matter throughout the brain. I happen to work with brain trauma injury victims, people who’ve been in car crashes or fallen off ladders, and I can tell you the first thing to go – because it is up front and right against the skull above the eyes – is self-awareness. Hit your head on the dashboard and you could lose self-awareness just like that. Lack of it dramatically changes a person’s ability to appear normal, transact business or converse in a relaxed manner. Being considerate or selfless is no longer on the agenda. Fleming cites studies of tribal societies where people are not permitted to ask after each other’s health or emotions. They develop self-awareness far later and more weakly than those who live in complex societies where reading everyone else is critical. In most humans, development of self-awareness begins around age four, and is fully fledged by the end of high school. Though, as Fleming points out at the end, with effort it can still be improved throughout adulthood. (assuming the brain is not physically damaged). The key to measuring self-awareness seems to be the confidence level (“Is that your final answer?”). Numerous psychological studies ask participants to re-evaluate their confidence in their initial answers. Higher self-awareness is associated with higher confidence levels. Middling confidence can be a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. Lack of confidence means we didn’t read the other person correctly or enough – and we know it. However. The thing about confidence levels is that no matter how self-aware someone might be, their evaluation might not be accurate. People can be totally confident in a statement, and still be totally wrong. This takes the potential for the employment of self-awareness down several notches. Fleming’s best example is the eyewitness. Juries value the testimony of an eyewitness most highly. But eyewitnesses have proven to be wrong again and again, sending the innocent to prison or even execution. Sadly, whole organizations must dedicate their time and effort to overcoming wrongful convictions by unanimous juries and confident eyewitnesses. It is far too common, and a clear symptom of overconfidence by the both the witness and the jury. Overconfidence can be as bad as lack thereof. Fleming has managed to see hope in this. He says “by recognizing that our confidence in our views is a construction, and prone to distortion, we can cultivate a more tolerant attitude toward others who may not agree with us.” That would indeed be a different society from what we have under management today. Near the end, Fleming does come up with a potentially useful and practical application of self-awareness. If engineers busily working on artificial intelligence could just “simply” build in confidence levels, machines could tell us how they feel about a decision they are making. This would be especially valuable in, for example, self-driving cars. If the car were faced with a choice (imminently killing a dog vs. hitting another car), the dash could glow green or blue or yellow or red according to its level of confidence. The driver could then assume control, letting the car off the hook. It would have been nice if Fleming could have written a whole chapter of useful applications for metacognition, but self-driving cars was the best of a very short list. So while Know Thyself is thorough and clinical, safely scientific in its approach, it is not at all inspirational. Metacognition seems to be a science in search of a mission. I don’t see readers dropping out of their day jobs to pursue it. Or even giving it a further thought. It is, after all is said and done, mildly interesting. David Wineberg

  3. 4 out of 5

    Max

    Nice for an introduction into the research that happens under the banner of metacognition. As somebody writing a thesis in the area the book served to patch some knowledge holes, but what I came for was more broad understanding and connections, and wild ideas and speculations that would engage me. The obligatory "What does that mean for AI?" chapter felt a bit shallow and under-developed for its potential, something like "having AIs report confidence with their decision would be great" and "self Nice for an introduction into the research that happens under the banner of metacognition. As somebody writing a thesis in the area the book served to patch some knowledge holes, but what I came for was more broad understanding and connections, and wild ideas and speculations that would engage me. The obligatory "What does that mean for AI?" chapter felt a bit shallow and under-developed for its potential, something like "having AIs report confidence with their decision would be great" and "self-aware AIs might be problematic, maybe the Neuralink 'humans merge with AI' approach is better". Maybe I'm a bit disillusioned of my hope that metacognition will prove useful for coming transformative AI projects. Fleming doesn't once mention dual process theories, which I found noteworthy. In literature metacognition is often separated into monitoring and control: Fleming's research mostly resolves around the subarea concerned with our confidence in our judgements, memories and perceptions, i.e. monitoring. His research background might lead him to neglect the control angle. I'd for example be interested in what he thinks of the ideas in Keith Stanovich's Rationality and the Reflective Mind. In Stanovich's model of cognition metacognitive control has a much more central role and made me more enthusiastic about the role of metacognition in advanced AI systems. Other notes: - nice podcast interview about the book: https://braininspired.co/podcast/107/ - I finally found a concrete example of what kinds of experiments the controversial Würzburg school of psychology did around the birth of psychology at the end of the 19th century: The Würzburgers, by contrast, designed experiments in which the experimental subject was presented with a complex stimulus (for example a Nietzschean aphorism or a logical problem) and after processing it for a time (for example interpreting the aphorism or solving the problem), retrospectively reported to the experimenter all that had passed through his consciousness during the interval. source - this smelled like a "people back then were stupid" fallacy: „From the Industrial Revolution onward, a dominant model in education was one of rote learning of facts and memorization—of capital cities, times tables, body parts, and chemical elements. In John Leslie’s 1817 book The Philosophy of Arithmetic, he argued that children should be encouraged to memorize multiplication tables all the way up to 50 times 50. The schoolteacher Mr. Gradgrind in Charles Dickens’s Hard Times agrees, telling us that “facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else and root out everything else.” The assumption was that the goal of education was to create people who can think faster and squirrel away more knowledge.“ - as a quick check, I found the entry exam of Harvard of 1869, and it clearly is not only learning by heart (instead: Latin and Greek translation, historic facts but also "Compare Athens with Sparta", arithmetic and math proofs source) source - ... maybe Mr. Gradgrind was supposed to be mocked? - general observation: I wish popsci books would report effect sizes more often to give impression of relevance, case in point: - „Illusory boosts in self-efficacy indeed lead people to perform better, and persist for longer, at challenging tasks, whereas drops in self-efficacy lead to the opposite“ - this one made me suspicious, reminded my of Scott Alexanders Beware the Man of One Study: education interventions seem similar to economics, you can always find a study supporting your pet hypothesis - „That a short advice-giving intervention could achieve meaningful effects on school grades is testament to the power of virtuous interactions between teaching, self-awareness, and performance“ - and nice quote about the fear of losing capabilities by outsourcing to machines: „Such worries about the consequences of offloading to technology are not new. Socrates tells the mythical story of Egyptian god Theuth, who is said to have discovered writing. When Theuth offered the gift to Thamus, king of Egypt, the king was not impressed and worried that it would herald the downfall of human memory, introducing a pandemic of forgetfulness. He complained that people who used it “will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.“

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mitch Olson

    Not sure who this book is targeted at. Not me that’s for sure. OMG it was boring. You won’t learn a thing about “self awareness” in this book, an almost criminally mislabelled book, or at least a teeny tiny portion of that domain. The biggest shortcoming of this book is that like almost all psychological models that attempt to explain phenomena by referring to processes in the brain it is conceptually impoverished. There is no underlying conceptual model of the self or it’s relationship to itsel Not sure who this book is targeted at. Not me that’s for sure. OMG it was boring. You won’t learn a thing about “self awareness” in this book, an almost criminally mislabelled book, or at least a teeny tiny portion of that domain. The biggest shortcoming of this book is that like almost all psychological models that attempt to explain phenomena by referring to processes in the brain it is conceptually impoverished. There is no underlying conceptual model of the self or it’s relationship to itself and it’s goals or experience. Any intellectual endeavour that does not have a clear and well defined conceptual model is a waste of time. Anyway I have already wasted enough time on this book so I’m off to hopefully find a more interesting one. I’ve come back to edit this review (later on the evening I wrote it) because I realise what annoyed me about the book. And that was that I invested all this time in reading it in the hope that it would better equip me in life to more robustly work towards what is important to me. In other words, it would have utility in my life. And failing that that I could see it perhaps have utility for other people. But my disappointment in this book, & all those other sub-3-or-4-star rated books, is that I am left no richer or well prepared for life and I can’t see how it has progressed humanity in any meaningful way. What the f**k is the point about studying & then writing about self-awareness (or the teeny tiny portion of that he calls “meta cognition”) if a “tool” is not produced from this. A rule of thumb that helps someone in the everydayness of their life. A tool that can be shared. If knowledge doesn’t help someone move closer to what is important to them then it’s not knowledge; it’s noise. I’m sure there are some people for whom this book is knowledge but I lay odds it’s not you.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris Boutté

    I was unaware of Stephen Fleming’s work, so I was pleasantly surprised about how awesome this book was. Without a doubt, self-awareness is one of the most important aspects of our lives, but how self-aware are we? Fleming has been studying self-awareness for years and has conducted a ton of really interesting research. Sometimes, I get concerned that books like this will get heavy into neuroscience jargon, but Fleming did a great job writing this with non-academics in mind. He starts the book by I was unaware of Stephen Fleming’s work, so I was pleasantly surprised about how awesome this book was. Without a doubt, self-awareness is one of the most important aspects of our lives, but how self-aware are we? Fleming has been studying self-awareness for years and has conducted a ton of really interesting research. Sometimes, I get concerned that books like this will get heavy into neuroscience jargon, but Fleming did a great job writing this with non-academics in mind. He starts the book by sharing a bit about why he became interested in this field at a young age and a bit of his experience. Until this book, I had never heard of metacognitive neuroscience, but now, I just want to learn more about it. Starting early with the first chapter, Fleming tackles one of the most important subjects, which is how to be uncertain. Without self-awareness, our confidence and certainty can be a dangerous thing, and in this chapter, Fleming explains some of our cognitive processes and thinking errors that can become obstacles for our self-awareness and decision-making. Then, he goes on to cover what the research tells us about how well we know ourselves, how well we know others, and why our brains are designed for self-deception. With a combination of all of these studies as well as some real-world examples, this book provides a ton of value to the reader. As someone who finds this subject extremely important as well as fascinating, I’m glad this book was provided so much easy-to-grasp information that I haven’t read in other books. I can definitely see myself reading this book again in the future.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bogens Liv

    At first, I would like to thank Netgalley and Basic Books for allowing me to review this book. Keep in mind that my review, however, is my true opinion on this book. A book on health, mind and body by Stephen M Fleming is behind the interesting cover and the book “Know Thyself”. The author, Stephen M Fleming, is a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology and Principal Investigator at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University Coll At first, I would like to thank Netgalley and Basic Books for allowing me to review this book. Keep in mind that my review, however, is my true opinion on this book. A book on health, mind and body by Stephen M Fleming is behind the interesting cover and the book “Know Thyself”. The author, Stephen M Fleming, is a Wellcome Trust/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow at the Department of Experimental Psychology and Principal Investigator at the Wellcome Centre for Human Neuroimaging, University College London, where he leads the Metacognition Group. So he surely knows what he is talking about in the book! In the book, Stephen M Fleming explores the human mind through science. He explains all about the brain's complexity, and how our brain determines everything in our lives. How do we know who we are? What is self awareness? What about depressions? In the book, you will learn about how to learn, and the decisions about decisions. You will learn about yourself, and you will learn about others. ANd all of it, leading back to the brain. It is a very interesting topic, and I loved that everything in this book is based on science. The book is written in a language that is easy to understand, even though the complexity and the science behind the book is difficult to understand. But in the book, it is presented so that everybody can understand it and learn from it. There is no doubt that you will learn something about yourself, your brain, and other people just by reading “Know Thyself”.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Ferngrove

    This is a book in essentially two halves. The first is a situation report from the present frontiers of neuroscience, or rather one of its frontiers. The central theme is that of metacognition. These are the processes in the brain that monitor our cognitive performance on any number of tasks from reaching to pick up a cup of coffee and then avoid spilling it, to assess the effects our actions have on those around us up to how we decide our own best strategy for cramming before an exam. The first This is a book in essentially two halves. The first is a situation report from the present frontiers of neuroscience, or rather one of its frontiers. The central theme is that of metacognition. These are the processes in the brain that monitor our cognitive performance on any number of tasks from reaching to pick up a cup of coffee and then avoid spilling it, to assess the effects our actions have on those around us up to how we decide our own best strategy for cramming before an exam. The first half of the book gives us a quick tour of what's been going on in cognitive psychology labs with regard these cognitive functions lately. The second part of the book looks at the implications of these latest findings on wider human affairs and they are indeed pervasive. IT has implications for the propagation of fake news to the reliability of witness testimony in courts, even to the point that a witness who appears confident with flimsy evidence could well influence a jury more than a hesitant witness with solid evidence. There is a diffuse argument about how forming awareness of our own metacognitive biases is the key to better 'knowing thyself', socratically speaking. It seems to me that introducing reflection on these issues at an early stage of education could well have broad social benefits. The book is very clearly written and pitched well for the lay reader. If you like your neuroscience a little deeper you will probably find this treatment too shallow.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Kristine

    Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April. To know thyself is to have the confidence in what you already know for certain, the ability to interpret new information, synthesize it with logic and heuristics, then bring up accurate answers and solutions from your breadth of knowledge, and what inner cognitive workings of the brain occur to make that all happen. It promises a lot from the start and, through well-spaced and well-presented histories, hypothe Know Thyself by Stephen M. Fleming is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late April. To know thyself is to have the confidence in what you already know for certain, the ability to interpret new information, synthesize it with logic and heuristics, then bring up accurate answers and solutions from your breadth of knowledge, and what inner cognitive workings of the brain occur to make that all happen. It promises a lot from the start and, through well-spaced and well-presented histories, hypotheticals, and case studies, does it deliver? Yes, mostly.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    This book makes you think about your thinking about your thinking? Confused? At times, I admit I was. However the book is written well, and in quite an engaging style; philosophical, neurological and psychological in equal parts. I found it an interesting and thought-provoking read. I feel at the end I understand myself and my thinking a little better.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Nichola Raihani

    This is a really accessible overview of the science of metacognition by a leading expert in the field. I know a bit about this area but I still learned a lot and found the book incredibly thought-provoking. There are also a few laugh out loud anecdotes scattered throughout. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Theodore Kinni

    Really good exploration of metacognition--the human ability of self-awareness that enables us to know ourselves and understanding our thoughts and actions (forthcoming April 2021)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Justine

    Thanks to NetGalley and Basic Books for providing an ARC!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Kim

    research about a little of meta cognition and self-awareness.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alex

  15. 4 out of 5

    TΞΞL❍CK Mith!lesh

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Firmage

  17. 4 out of 5

    Chinedu

  18. 5 out of 5

    Maria Vakmann

  19. 5 out of 5

    Michael Geers

  20. 4 out of 5

    Hankyol

  21. 4 out of 5

    Alex Fleming

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marine

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vojta Smekal

  24. 4 out of 5

    Johnney Butler

  25. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Cross

  26. 5 out of 5

    Keith Lawson

  27. 4 out of 5

    Samuel Barnett

  28. 4 out of 5

    John

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kely Norel

  30. 5 out of 5

    Cakelin Marquardt

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