Category Archives: Did You Know..?

Interesting facts about our health, discoveries, articles, and interesting news about rare diseases and disorders, surprising studies, innovative treatments, etc.

Biohacking, Transhumanism, and Redefining the Meaning of Mental & Physical Health

The human journey towards improving themselves and their lifestyle has always been on a roller coaster. Ever since man is born, he is trying to do whatever it takes to improve himself. If you look back in history, the earliest humans use to live in Jungles, wear leaves, and hunt animals to eat. There was no concept of the present world we live in. Then how things came into being? How has the world changed from a jungle to a global hub? Well, all this is due to human efforts towards improvement.

This unstoppable path towards improvement has proven to be beneficial for humans mostly. They’ve created many facilities for themselves and life has become so easy nowadays. Especially, the advent of modern technology has pacified our lives to a great extent. We have a machine for almost everything. The world is at just one right click and whatnot! However, the human thirst for improvement is not satisfied yet and this time they’re thinking of something that can be both advantageous and equally dangerous!

You’ll get to know in the latter part of the essay what we are talking about.

What is Biohacking? Photo by Compare Fibre on Unsplash

Transhumanism

Transhumanism is a social movement that was carried out to promote the idea of research for developing stronger technologies for human enhancement. These technologies are thought to elevate;

  1. Human sensory reception
  2. Cognitive capacity
  3. General well being
  4. Emotive ability
  5. Lifespan  

Yes, you read it right. The transhumanism movement says that humans should be allowed to do whatever it takes to enhance their life even if it demands the integration of biological and physical technologies into the human body.

The principal supporters of the movement have been Rayy Kurzweil, Hans Moravec, Eric Drexler, James Hughes, and Nick Bostrom. All of them are either computer technologists, nanotechnologists, or philosophers from America. Transhumanism is primarily divided into supporters of two post-humanity visions:

  1. One in which technological and genetic advancements have resulted in a distinct species of radically enhanced humans.
  2. The other emerges with greater-than-human machine intelligence.

This movement has encouraged people to carry out procedures to enhance their human abilities. They are redefining the concept of mental and physical well-being. The prominent result of which is Biohacking; the DIY biology which is beneficial and equally dangerous as mentioned above!

Biohacking

Biohacking is a very broad and unstructured term covering a wide range of activities like experimenting with yeast and other living beings, tracking your sleeping and eating pattern, changing your biological features, fighting to age, and what not! 

Do you know scientists are pumping the blood of a younger individual in an older adult with a hope to fight to age? Yes, it is a proper technique called young blood transfusion and it is a gift of Biohacking!

People who are practicing Biohacking are called biohackers. They attempt to manipulate their bodies and brain for optimizing their physical and mental performance. According to these people, Biohacking is an art that involves the use of science and technology to modify both the external and internal environment. Biohackers believe that humans have full control over their own body and as long as they are not harming somebody or something else, they are right to change their biology. Many biohackers have stem cells injected into their body, they take dozens of self-formulated supplements, bathe in the infrared light, etc. And most of them do so to live a longer life without any health adversities. This is one of the major aims behind Biohacking that people want a better and longer life. They don’t want to fall sick and die.

Biohackers not only use technology but some of their techniques have been practiced for centuries. For example, intermittent fasting, Vipassana meditation, and ice bathing in the morning are a few of them. Supplements, another tool for biohackers, have an older history. However, the difference here is that supplements of the biohackers are self-formulated having smart drugs in them.  

Some other Biohacking practices include;

  1. Cryotherapy
  2.  Neuro-feedback
  3. Near-infrared saunas
  4. Virtual float tanks
  5. Computer chips insertion

The first one is where the biohackers make him/herself cold purposely. The second one is a training of oneself for regulating brain waves and infrared saunas are supposed to escape the stress from EM transmissions. Finally, virtual float tanks help with meditation via sensory deprivation and computer chips do more than you can even imagine! Chips implanted in the bodies can help individuals to do everything like opening doors without a fob, monitoring their level of glucose, blood pressure, heart rate, etc.  

Why are people Biohacking?

The basic reason behind people practicing such techniques is their desire to feel better. They don’t want to get sick and live longer. Some people want to become smart and strong. Some want enhanced cognitive abilities, some want better looks. Human goals towards betterment are always escalating which pushes them to do such stuff.

The expected outcomes of Biohacking include;

  1. Human bodies will be augmented with stronger and sharper skills.
  2. The human thought process will be faster and transferable
  3. Human productivity will increase due to gamification
  4. Business practices will shift noticeably

Is it legal?

The present laws don’t address Biohacking particularly. Regulations issued by FDA don’t state Biohacking as an illegal procedure but many allegations have been put forward according to which humans shall not be freely allowed to do whatever they want because this could be dangerous for the world. One strong stance in this regard is that since Biohacking is expensive, only a specific class can afford it. And they will try their best to inculcate elevated features then isn’t it injustice with people who can’t afford it. So, the technique is not stated fully legal or illegal yet and authorities are still working on this matter. However, regulations must be issued as soon as possible so that people know their limits!    

The link between hydration, health, and happiness

All of us know how important it is to drink water. This is because water is the key to life. Every single cell, tissue, and organ of your body needs water for proper functioning. Water is necessary for your major corporal processes like metabolism of nutrients, regulation of temperature, lubrication of joints, better cognitive functioning, and many other.  If you aren’t drinking enough water, you may be risking your health badly. How? Let’s find out.

This article presents a comprehensive link between hydration and health. It enumerates that why it is important to stay hydrated and what could be the consequences if you don’t.  But before that let’s dig into what is hydration.

What is hydration?

The scientific definition of hydration is the process of causing something to absorb water. In simple terms, hydration refers to the absorption of the water, which you drink, within your body. For instance, you drink water daily, right? What do you think it is doing in your body? Well, it goes to each and every cell of your body and is being absorbed for proper functioning. This process is called hydration and if you are providing enough water to your body, you are said to be hydrated.    

Why it is important to stay hydrated?

It’s important to stay hydrated. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Hydration is something more than just drinking and absorption of water. It is crucial for the proper functioning of a living body. Majority of the biochemical processes occurring in our body require an aqueous medium to occur. So, water is necessary! Also, hydration is a must for the delivery of nutrients to the cells. Proper hydration keeps your body temperature right, strengthens your immune system, and improves cognitive functioning. If you are hydrated enough, you’ll be sleeping properly, have a good mood, not likely to catch many infections, etc.

Here is a little detail about how can staying hydrated transform your health.

Hydration ensure good heart health

The heart is one of the strongest muscles of living beings. It continuously pumps blood throughout the body and works 24/7 until you die. Many factors may contribute to the overworking of your heart and dehydration is one of them. If you don’t drink enough water, your blood volume is likely to lower. It causes your heart to work fast and harder thus making it prone to strokes, cardiac arrests, and other diseases. On the other hand, drinking an ample amount of water daily can save you from such cardiovascular risks. 

Hydration lubricates your joints for easy motion

If you are into sports or some intense physical activity, you must have noticed your doctor or trainer tell you to drink more and more water. This is because water helps to improve your muscles and joints so that they can respond well to physical activities. A lesser amount of water may cause dehydration followed by muscle cramps and stiffness of joints which is very painful. Well-lubricated joints and muscles make motion easy.    

Hydration cleanses your body

Do you that the food you eat, beverages you drink, and the environment you live in have a wide variety of contaminants in them. And these contaminants enter your body as toxins causing physical imbalances and making you feel tired and fatigued. Drinking enough water and staying hydrated cleanse your body. Water helps your kidneys with filtration of all types of waste and toxins from your blood and excrete them out. The more water you drink, the more waste will be excreted out and you’ll feel refreshed.

Hydration strengthens your immune system

Hydration can help you treat different illnesses because it strengthens your immunity. In fact, water is considered one of the safest and natural immune boosters. When you are sick, your body is fighting the germs that have entered to cause the disease. If you are taking in enough water, it becomes easy to get rid of these germs because water has an excellent cleansing effect. It provides an adequate environment for your immune cells to function and thus aiding a speedy recovery.   

Hydration causes weight loss

Drinking enough water can cause you to lose weight healthily. It keeps your stomach satisfied and thus prevents unnecessary and untimely food cravings.

How dehydration affects the brain and cognition?

As mentioned above, hydration is crucial for the working of all the cells in our body. Similarly, your brain cells need an adequate amount of water for proper working as well and dehydration can sometimes be very dangerous for cognitive functions. For instance, mild dehydration can disturb your mood, ability to concentrate, memory, and cause headache, anxiety, fatigue, etc. Even 1-3% loss of water can hamper your cognitive abilities.

Adults with a dehydrated brain exhibit signs of enhanced neuronal activation during cognitive tasks. It indicates that their brains have to work harder than normal to get the task done. This can possibly link dehydration with declined cognitive performance. Also, a meta-analysis of almost 33 studies links dehydration to impaired attention, poor motor coordination, and lessened cognitive functioning.

Signs and symptoms of dehydration

As dehydration poses significant harm to human health, it is necessary to recognize and treat it at its earliest. Common symptoms that signify the likelihood of dehydration include;

  1. Dry mouth
  2. Lightheadedness
  3. Nausea and vomiting
  4. Weakness
  5. Muscle cramps
  6. Dark yellow urine 
  7. Sleepiness and fatigue
  8. Headache and confusion
  9. Feelings of drinking more and more water
  10. Little or no tears when crying

If you are experiencing most of these symptoms, you’re most probably dehydrating. It is time that you start drinking enough water to avoid major complications. 

Ways to stay hydrated

Simple ways to stay hydrated. Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

There are many simple ways of staying healthy and hydrated. Doctors and nutritionists recommend that;

  1. Men should drink 13 cups of water daily
  2. Women should drink nine cups of water daily
  3. Children and teens must have 6-8 cups of water every day

You don’t need to drink plain water only. You can fulfill your water content by eating a good portion of fresh fruits and vegetables daily. Google out some hydrating food and include them in your diet. You can also make juices and smoothies. You can also add a slice of lemon or lime to your drinking water. Carry a water bottle with you everywhere and drink as much water as you can. Just like your everyday meal schedule, make your water schedule as well and follow it strictly. You will start noticing the wonders of water in no time! 

Reading VS. Television: Why Books Are Better For The Brain

Would you prefer to watch TV or read a book? The vast majority would likely choose the first option as their preferred entertainment. However, my fellow Netflix watchers are about to be sorely disappointment. Binge watching your favorite series may not be as healthy for the brain. Documented research favors reading to watching television, as it encourages brain neuroplasticity, enhances cognitive skills, and even strengthens cardiac function which encourages blood flow to the brain.

Photo by Min An from Pexels

Reading VS. Television: Brain Neuroplasticity

The human brain has over 80 billion brain cells called neurons. Neurons have dendrites, which are branches that leading to synapses that connect them to other neurons.  With these specialized brain cells, the brain is able to communicate signals to the body. The area of the brain dedicated to reading is the cortex.  As we learn new skills like reading, the connection between neurons become stronger. This is especially true for children. Brain imaging research shows exposure to reading and phonics encourage brain plasticity—growth and reorganization of vital neural networks in the brain.

Reading VS. Television:  Sensory Processing

Sensory skills are skills involving the receiving of information. For example, vision, hearing, touch, smell, taste, and proprioception are sensory processing skills. Both watching television and reading are sensory experiences but differ greatly. Reading does not overload visual processing like the flashing colors of a television screen. Along with strengthening brain connection, reading is important for the somatosensory cortex, which is responsible for responding to sensory information such as movement and pain. Readers think about the events depicted in books. Thus, reading a book about riding a bike activates the same brain area as physically riding a bike. Books offer a multitude of experiences causing the reader to deeply contemplate and connect a story.

Reading VS. Television: Verbal Communication

There are many forms of communication: verbal, written, listening, visual, and non-verbal (i.e. gestures, signing, eye contact, etc.). Research correlates lower verbal test scores with increased hours spent watching television. The frontal lobes of individuals who watch television are thicker, which is associated with lower verbal reasoning.  

This is because reading provides all aspects of communication that are not included in books. Through words, readers are exposed to verbal dialogue, writing, interpreting character gestures, and more. Television does not portray as many details. Reading goes further into depth about what characters think, feel, and how they react. Readers must concentrate to think about the themes of the book and make inferences about the material.

Reading VS. Television: Vocabulary and Language

Although television is made of mostly dialogue, reading develops vocabulary. The words written in books are, on average, twice as complex than words spoken through television characters. Reading forces a person to look at unknown words and interpret their meaning through context clues. The increased vocabulary is not only helpful for writing, but for expression in everyday conversation. Books provide repeated exposure to known words, which tests knowledge and understanding.

Even listening to a book via audio or read aloud has better results on vocabulary than watching television. However, experts have found that the effect television has on vocabulary is neutral. As long as the time spent reading is not sacrificed for television watching, it does not reduce vocabulary.

Reading VS. Television: Attention Span

Whether a series or a lengthy movie, television condenses a story. The scenes are rapidly changing with shifts in camera angles. The plot is broken up for advertisement breaks. Most people are preoccupied with other tasks simultaneously such as doing homework, browsing the computer, sending text messages, or are engaged in a craft. The act of watching television does not involve equal levels of thinking in comparison to reading.

Reading requires constant attention. When reading, readers are often engrossed in the story and are not completing other tasks at the same time. They can process the material at their own pace instead of attempting to keep up with rapidly changing television scenes.

Reading VS. Television: Emotional Intelligence

The term emotional intelligence describes the awareness and the ability to control emotions. Expert psychologist’s at York University and Emory University found that literary fiction is related to a greater capacity for empathy, as readers imagine what it would be like if they were in the character’s shoes.

During the process of reading, we are uncovering the emotions of various characters and predicting their actions in response to those emotions. This translates to interactions in daily life. Readers are more apt to understand the actions and intentions of others because they are trained to do so from character perspectives. Readers observe interactions between characters and compare them to their lives. It is a key aspect of functional relationships.

 Reading VS. Television: Imagery

Can you recall a movie or television series that is better than the book in which it is based? Probably not. This is due to imagery. Reading is far superior to television as it pertains to imagery. Television provides complete visual and auditory images. There is little left to viewers to imagine. Reading, however, is up to the discretion of the individual. No two interpretation is identical. One reader’s vision may be entirely different than what another perceives.

Reading VS. Television: Memory

Memory, comprised of short-term, long-term, and working memory, is a cognitive process the brain relies on to store and retrieve information. The mind is a muscle and functions optimally with practice. Reading is an exercise for memory. It presents information that readers can go back and review as many times as necessary to form their conclusions, recall words and their meanings, and processing letters.  It leads to enhanced memory for situations outside of written language like the working memory involved in memorizing a phone number to call a friend.

Cognitive skills such as memory decline with age. Reading is known to prevent cognitive decline with age, as well as that associated with the development of dementia. Studies report that avid readers have lower levels of beta-amyloid—a protein deficient in Alzheimer’s patients.

Reading VS. Television: Behavior

Evidence that excessive TV watching impacts behavior is obvious through studies with child subjects. Children and adolescents are impressionable. They learn by modeling those in their environment. This includes the television and media they are exposed to like the presence of risky behaviors (i.e.  violence, sexual situations, etc.) depicted in their favorite television series. Studies prove the violent behavior persists into adulthood.

Similarly, reading also has an effect on behavior. Readers adopt characters’ experiences. For example, a study including 82 undergraduate college students reading stories about the 2008 presidential election had startling results! The students who read first-person stories were over twice as likely to vote simply because reading influenced their behavior.

Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

Reading VS. Television: Stress Reduction

The hustle and bustle of life is stressful. Juggling work, school, health, and relationships can be overwhelming. When your brain is running one-hundred miles a minute, reading lessens stress by 68 percent. The act is a distraction from stressful events, allowing us to live in the world of characters. It is truly an escape from reality. The brain reroutes energy to concentrating on the story instead of fueling the harsh effects of stress on the body.

Reading VS. Television: Improves Cardiac Function

Just 6 minutes of reading has amazing benefits for physical functioning. As the body relaxes, the muscles are not as tense. In addition to relaxation, reading lowers heart rate and blood pressure. Cardiac function is connected to the brain. Poor heart health is frequently seen with higher cholesterol levels, which causes injury to the brain’s white matter. However, reading improves blood flow and circulation to the brain.

Does Genre Alter the Benefits? 

Similar to how watching an educational television series has an opposite effect on the brain as a drama, different genres of books do change the effect reading has on the brain. A wide variety of genres is optimal, as it broadens the experiences readers submerse themselves into and that strengthens the brain’s neurons. For example, biographies tend to evoke effects on emotions, whereas classic literary fiction focuses on vocabulary and thrillers are an exciting distraction to shift perspective and to reduce stress. To receive all of the benefits of reading, pick books you enjoy!

References

Ennemoser, M. & Schneider, W. (2007). Relations of television viewing and reading: Findings from a 4-year longitudinal study. Journal of Educational Psychology, 99(2):349-368. DOI: 10.1037/0022-0663.99.2.349

Goldman, C. (2012). This is your brain on Jane Austen, and Stanford researchers are taking notes. Retrieved from https://news.stanford.edu/news/2012/september/austen-reading-fmri-090712.html

Psychologist of the Month: Why Elizabeth Loftus is Out to Change Your Mind About What You Remember

Elizabeth Loftus. Photo from Wikipedia

When we think about famous psychologists, we often think of older men from long ago who did experiments with pigeons or who talked about peoples’ relationships with their mothers. But, like any scientific discipline, psychology is a continually evolving field full of dedicated clinicians, researchers, and academics who are searching for new truths to uncover and new ways to prove or disprove the beliefs we have held for so long.

One of the most exciting areas of modern psychologic research is in the field of memory and recall, and there are few psychologists more important to this field than Elizabeth Loftus.

Early Work on Memory & Recall

Dr. Loftus, who currently holds the position of affiliate professor of psychology and law at the University of Washington, has been at the forefront of research on human memory and recall for nearly 50 years, studying how memories are formed and how recall of these memories can be affected over time.

Her research in this area has led to a number of awards and honors, as well as a place as the highest-ranked female on the list of 100 most influential psychological researchers of the 20th century from the Review of General Psychology.

After receiving her Ph.D. from Stanford University in 1970, Loftus went on to begin her first academic appointment at the New School for Social Research in New York City, studying the semantic information in long-term memory.

Dr. Loftus quickly realized that research in memory and recall could have a much more significant social impact in other areas, and in 1973 accepted a position as an assistant professor at the University of Washington and began researching how memory affects real-world situations.

One of her earliest studies focused on understanding whether eyewitness memory can be altered after the fact by information supplied by outside sources. This study built on previous research which had established that memories were constructions created using past experiences and other external manipulations, and not entirely accurate representations of events. These early studies provided clues that the way in which questions are presented, including the wording of questions, can affect how a person recalls events.

Building on these findings, Elizabeth Loftus began looking at what other ways misinformation could be presented to a person, the effect this misinformation has on recall, and how this erroneous recall can have serious, real-world consequences. This research led to the development of the paradigm known as the Misinformation Effect.

The Misinformation Effect & Eyewitness Testimony

Through her research, Elizabeth Loftus has demonstrated the pliability of human memory and recall. She has shown how memories can be affected by exposure to incorrect information, leading questions, or any number of sources of false information.

The Misinformation Effect is an example of what is known as retroactive interference, a phenomenon where the information presented in the present or future can affect the ability of a person to retain previously learned information correctly. An example of retroactive interference is when you have a telephone number for a long time. When you switch to a new number, after memorizing the new number, it becomes much more difficult to remember the older number.

Her research, and that of her colleagues in the field of memory and recall, has changed our understanding of how memory works and how long-term memories are not fixed, unchanging ideas stored forever in a frozen state waiting to be remembered, but are, in fact, mental constructs based not only on what happened at the time, but what we have learned and experienced in the time since the event has passed.

Our memories are affected by what we learn from others who recount their versions, by the expectations of those who want to hear what we remember, and from our own mind filling in gaps in our memory with information we received after the fact.

How Elizabeth Loftus’ Work Continues to Impact the World

Elizabeth Loftus’ work has a huge effect on the legal field. Photo by Saúl Bucio on Unsplash

The Misinformation Effect has powerful and dangerous implications for many areas of society and has generated hundreds of additional studies exploring the phenomenon.

There is likely no area where memory and recall, and the ways in which the Misinformation Effect can alter those memories, play a more critical role than in the legal field in general, and in eyewitness testimony in particular.

Much of how our modern legal systems around the world function is based on the testimony of witnesses who experienced the events. The fact that trials and questioning can happen months or even years after the events occurred can leave witnesses open to significant alterations in how they recall the events. And the fact that there are multiple sides invested in specific outcomes, there is plenty of opportunity for incorrect or incomplete information to seep into the recollections of eyewitnesses, whether they intend to or not.

One way this misinformation can have an unintended effect is when the witness identifies a suspect. When presented with a series of photographs, or a lineup of individuals, an eyewitness may read body language and other subtle clues from the interviewer and select the response the questioner is hoping for. This is similar to Hanz, the horse that could do math. Though the horse could not actually do math, when asked to add two numbers, he would tap his hoof to count, stopping once he reached the correct answer. He did this by reacting to the expressions of the questioner, who would likely show signs of excitement as the horse got close to the correct answer.

In this same way, the eyewitness, who may only remember vague details such as the color of the clothes, the hairstyle, and other generic information, may look at the lineup of potential suspects and unconsciously select the person for whom they receive the strongest body-language reaction from the questioner.

Similarly, the way questions are presented in questioning can affect the recall of witnesses. For example, a neutrally-worded question such as “what was the person who robbed the store wearing that day?” will not get the same information as a leading question such as “Other witnesses have told us that the person robbing the store was wearing a red sweater and blue pants, is that what you remember?” The second of these questions is potentially providing incorrect information, which may lead the witness to misremember the events based on both the expectations of the questioner and the supposed recollections of other witnesses.

Conclusion

Dr. Elizabeth Loftus has spent her entire career studying the way memory and recall works and has been a crusader for ensuring the misinformation effect is understood within the legal community. Her research has changed what we know about memory and continues to play a role in understanding the complex systems humans use to understand and remember their world.

How Does Your Brain Tell Time (And Why Does It Seem to Go So Slow Sometimes)

How does our brain tell time? Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Time flies when you’re having fun…and seems to stand completely still while you’re waiting for your food to cook in the microwave. We know that (complex metaphysical theories aside) time always moves at the same speed. We can look at our watch and see that a minute lasts just as long when you’re out with your friends as it does when you’re sitting in a dull office meeting about the new rules for how to use the printer.

So why is it that our body clock tells time in wildly different ways depending on what we’re doing and how we are feeling?

How Does the Brain Keep Track of Time?

Our brains are actually managing not one, but two separate systems for measuring time.

We have one system which our body uses to track our temporal location throughout the day and night cycle. This clock, which is responsible for controlling our regular daily cycles for things like eating, sleeping, digestion, and even our immune system, is known as our circadian rhythm.

This system—though controlled internally through the continuous production and breaking-down of proteins in our cells in 24-hour-long cycles—is highly reliant on external stimuli such as the light and dark cycles due to the rotation of the earth (which is why looking at the bright screen on your phone right before bed makes it so hard to sleep, because the light is causing your brain to mistakenly think it is morning and time to stay awake). This is the same system that tells nocturnal animals to go out at night and that tells sunflowers to change position throughout the day.

In addition to this internal clock responsible for synchronizing our body’s many systems and functions, our brain also is able to track time in the moment, allowing us to keep track of how much time has passed in a specific moment and to create mental estimates of temporal durations. For example, this tracking clock is what allows us to perform activities in a normal amount of time, it allows us to know whether the amount of time we have been waiting for something to happen is appropriate, and it is what is responsible for allowing us to estimate how quickly to react to something such as when waiting to catching a ball.

This clock processes time in a much different way than our circadian system. Dean Buonomano, associate professor of neurobiology and psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a member of the university’s Brain Research Institute believes that whenever the brain processes sensory information “it triggers a cascade of reactions between brain cells and their connections. Each reaction leaves a signature that enables the brain-cell network to encode time.”

Our brain’s clock for tracking and estimating the passage is a complex system which requires not only that we measure the time as it passes, but also that we are constantly recording the amount of time that has passed.

Why Does it Feel Like Sometimes Time Flies and Others it Seems to Stand Still?

How do you tell time? Photo by Djim Loic on Unsplash

Recent research published in the Journal of Neuroscience may explain what causes the sensation that time sometimes seems to go faster, and other times seems to drag on, and on, and on…

The study found that neurons in a part of the brain called the supramarginal gyrus (SMG) fire at specific intervals in response to external stimuli. When we are exposed to repeated stimuli that cause these neurons to continually fire over long periods of time the supramarginal gyrus becomes fatigued and the firing of neurons begins to slow down slightly. Because the other systems in our brain continue to fire at their normal speed, the relative change between the system that measures time and the other systems makes us experience time as moving more slowly.

How Did Researchers Study Our Perception of Time?

The researchers, Hayashi and Ivry, studied the brain activity of healthy human subjects using fMRI. While the brain activity study participants was being measured, the researchers gave them tasks involving comparing time intervals.

To begin with, the participants we shown a fixed-duration visual stimulus (a grey circle) 30 times in a row. After the patients viewed the repeated stimulus, they were then shown a test stimulus and asked to estimate the duration of the test stimulus.

The researchers found that when the initial stimulus was short, participants tended to overestimate the length of the test stimulus, whereas when the initial stimulus was longer, participants underestimated the length of time.

When viewing the brain activity of the subjects, the researchers found a strong correlation between how accurately a subject perceived time and the activity in the SMG region, as SMG activity decreased participant’s estimates became less accurate.

How Does This Finding Affect Our Understanding of How We Tell Time?

In the past, one prevailing idea was that a region of the brain called the striatum was responsible for nearly all of our body’s inner timekeeping duties. This new study, combined with others showing the importance of the hippocampus in determining and remembering long periods of time, are showing that we may actually use much more of our brain to keep track of time than previously thought.

Emotional Connection to Human Lookalikes: What Is the Uncanny Valley and What Can It Tell Us About How We Connect To Each Other?

What is the Uncanny Valley? Photo by Morning Brew on Unsplash

Pixar, the company behind some of the most successful animated films of all time, released its first film, Toy Story, all the way back in 1995. Toy Story was the first film in the history of cinema to be created entirely using computer-generated graphics. In the time since then, technology has inarguably advanced in leaps and bounds, our ability to develop digitally-animated feature films, Saturday morning cartoons, and even short films has grown exponentially—giving rise to some truly unique stories.

But have you ever wondered why even when these studios are able to create almost lifelike representations of plants and animals and even minute details such as beautifully curly hair, individual blades of grass, and nearly perfect recreations of the real world environments we interact with every day…why do they almost always create the characters as if they were traditional cartoon caricatures? And why when they try to create lifelike human characters, they just look so darn strange?

What is the Uncanny Valley?

The Uncanny Valley is a theory that came from Masahiro Mori, a Japanese roboticist who worked in the fields of robotics and automation. When he came up with the idea in 1970, he had noticed that there is a positive correlation between the way humans develop a greater connection and affinity for artificial humans as they become more realistic, but that at a certain point, when these artificial humans become almost perfect, there is a steep drop in our affinity with them as we begin to see them a human but begin to notice slight differences that cause a disconnect between the realness of the artificial human and our expectation of a true human form.

The Uncanny Valley – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_valley

For example, when we look at an industrial robot that looks nothing like a human, we feel little to no connection to this robot. But when we interact with a cute child’s toy that looks like a humanoid robot, we may feel basic emotions and form shallow bonds with this humanlike toy.

If we were to interact with a robot like the famed C-3PO from the Star Wars films, we may even begin to build what could be described as a friendship with this robot due to its humanlike personality traits and humanlike form.

But if we were to see a robot that looked exactly like a human but who was unable to move their eyebrows or form familiar facial expressions when speaking, we would feel strange interacting with this robot because we would expect a ‘human’ to be able to do these things. When our expectations were not met, we feel a discomforting disconnect.

Examples of Human Lookalikes: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly…

There are plenty of examples of human lookalikes—from movies and television to robots that help provide services such as serving food or patrolling shopping centers alongside other law-enforcement agents—and each one evokes a slightly different reaction from the public.  

Here are some examples of human lookalikes from all across the spectrum, from feel-good friends to utterly cringeworthy.

The Good: Human Lookalikes that Make Us Feel an Emotional Connection

As mentioned above, Pixar has a special way of creating unique animated characters with just enough human traits to help us form strong emotional connections, but cartoony enough to keep them well away from falling into the Uncanny Valley.

One of my favorite examples of this is the animated film Up. The first five to ten minutes of this film create one of the most emotional experiences in all of modern cinema. But, how does Pixar create these characters in a way they makes them so easy to connect to?

Part of what makes them so relatable without becoming off-putting is the over-exaggeration of facial and body features such as large noses and eyes, overly squared or rounded facial structures, or head-to-body ratios that are cartoonishly inaccurate.

By creating these characters in this way, they allow us to view them as non-humans doing humanlike things, which we often find appealing, similar to how we often anthropomorphize animals or objects that look or act in ways we typically understand as ‘human.’

The Bad: Human Lookalikes that Tried Too Hard and Didn’t Quite Make it

But not all examples of human lookalikes are found in film and pop culture. There is a growing trend of trying to create humanlike robots that can be used in offices and other public spaces to interact with humans.

One example of this is the Actroid robot created by the Japanese firm Kokoro Company Ltd.

As you can see, this android is aiming to be humanlike, with typical body ratios, natural-looking facial structure, and clothing that would be appropriate for a human to be wearing in a similar situation.

And while this is obviously aiming to be as humanlike as possible, it is quite evident that it is a robot and doesn’t quite elicit the uncomfortable feelings we might experience from the Uncanny Valley.

The Ugly: Human Lookalikes that Made us Cringe

Actor Tom Hanks is no newbie when it comes to voicing animated characters in films, but not all of his animated films have received the same warm welcome from critics and fans.

One such film is the 2004 animated Christmas movie The Polar Express.

Though this movie was given high praise for its overall visual appeal and unique story, many who saw the film left with an uneasy feeling brought on by the strange, waxy emotions of the human characters.

This is a perfect example of how a human lookalike being too authentic-looking can cause us to feel uncomfortable.

Since we saw what looked like humans, we expected to see human actions and movements, especially those small micro-movements in the eyes and face. When we don’t see those, we feel a disconnect between what we expect and what we actually see.

Why Do We React So Strongly to Human Lookalikes?

When humans interact with each other, we don’t merely interact using spoken words. We also read each other’s body language and facial expressions for additional clues and context about what is being said.

For example, if someone says, “I am so excited,” this could mean several things based on the context. We could understand it as authentic excitement if the person says it with a slightly high-pitched tone and with raised eyebrows and a slight flush in the cheeks. But if the same person says the same thing with a deeper, slower tone, slight downward turn at the corners of the mouth, and a slight slouch in their spine, it might be a sign that what they are saying is sarcastic.

When we interact with human-lookalikes that are cartoonish, we can expect to skip the micro-movements and subtle clues and read into the more obvious things like tone. Still, when we interact with an almost lifelike human lookalike, and we don’t receive these same micro-clues we expect from a human, it seems strange.

Does Everyone Experience the Uncanny Valley Effect the Same?  

As demographics change across the globe and the average age of populations continues to increase, especially in industrialized nations, there is an increasing interest in using robots to provide services and act as caretakers to the older generation, freeing up more of the younger generation to enter into the workforce.

With this push comes interesting questions about how the Uncanny Valley affects people from different age groups.

At least one research project has found that while the Uncanny Valley Effect is prevalent among younger and middle-aged adults, adults in the older cohorts did not show the same negative reaction to humanlike robots—in fact, they actually preferred interacting with robots that appeared more human.

Conclusion

How does the Uncanny Valley Affect How We Connect to Human Lookalikes? Photo by Andy Kelly on Unsplash

The idea of having robots to help us throughout our lives is not a new one. Cartoons such as The Jetsons, which aired for the first time in 1962, were already toying with the idea of robot helpers to do all manner of tasks around the house.

Today we are closer than ever to fulfilling this dream. We have digital assistants in the form of Siri and Alexa, we have cars that can drive themselves (at least under specific circumstances), and we even have robotic security guards.

But as these digital helpers become more advanced, we are starting to enter into the realm of the Uncanny Valley, and we must tread carefully if we want people to feel comfortable with these new additions to public life.

B. F. Skinner: 4 Interesting Experiments from the Father of Operant Conditioning

B. F. Skinner Sure Did Love His Pigeons Photo by sanjiv nayak on Unsplash

There are few names in psychology more well-known than B. F. Skinner. First-year psychology students scribble notes as their professors introduce him and his work to the class, and doctoral candidates cite his work in their dissertations as they test whether rat’s behavior can be used to predict behavior in humans.

Skinner is one of the most well-known psychologists of our time. Still, like many larger-than-life figures, for many, he has become little more than a meme of himself, reduced to the two-paragraphs of notes dedicated to him in the notebooks of those bright-eyed freshmen. “Oh, yes. The father of operant conditioning!” we say at dinner parties, hoping the topic changes before our limited knowledge becomes apparent.

But how did he become such a central figure of these Intro to Psych courses, and how did he develop the theories and methodologies cited by those sleep-deprived Ph.D. students?

B. F. Skinner’s Famous Works & Contributions to Psychology

Skinner, born in Pennsylvania in 1904, spent his life studying the way we behave and act, and how this behavior can be modified.

Viewing the classical model of behavioral conditioning championed by Ivan Pavlov, another mainstay of modern psychological study, as being too simplistic a solution to fully explain the complexities of human (and animal) behavior and learning, B. F. Skinner began looking for a better way to explain why we do what we do.

Basing his early work on Edward Thorndike’s 1989 Law of Effect, Skinner went on to expand on the idea that the prevalence of a given behavior is directly related to the consequences which follow said behavior. His expanded model of behavioral learning, known as operant conditioning, is centered around the concepts of behaviors, the actions an organism exhibits, and operants, the environmental response directly following the behavior.

These responses, often referred to as consequences—though this is somewhat misleading due in part to the fact that there need not be a causal relationship between the behavior and the operant—can either come in three forms. The first is reinforcers, which present the organism with a desirable stimulus and serve to increase the frequency of the behavior. On the other end of the spectrum are punishers or environmental responses that present an undesirable stimulus and serve to reduce the frequency of the behavior. Finally, there are neutral operants which, as the name suggests, present stimuli that neither increase nor decrease the prevalence of the behavior in question.

Throughout his long and storied career, Skinner performed a number of strange experiments trying to test the limits of how punishment and reinforcement affect behavior.

4 Interesting Experiments from B. F. Skinner

Though Skinner was a professional through and through, he was also quite a quirky person… and his unique ways of thinking are readily apparent in the strange and interesting experiments he performed while researching the properties of operant conditioning.

Here are four of the most famous experiments from throughout his career:

Experiment #1: The Operant Conditioning Chamber

The Operant Conditioning Chamber, better known as the Skinner Box, is a device that B.F. Skinner used in many of his experiments. At its most basic, the Skinner Box is a chamber where a test subject, such as a rat or a pigeon, can be placed and must ‘learn’ the desired behavior through trial and error.

B.F. Skinner used this device for several different experiments. One such experiment involves placing a hungry rat into a chamber with a lever and a slot where food is dispensed when the lever is pressed. Another variation involves placing a rat into an enclosure, which is wired with a slight electric current in the floor. When the current is turned on, the rat must turn a wheel in order to turn off the current.  

Though this is the most basic experiment in operant conditioning research, there is an infinite number of variations that can be created based on this simple idea.


Experiment #2: A Pigeon That Can Read

Building on the basic ideas from his work with the Operant Conditioning Chamber, B. F. Skinner eventually began designing more and more complex experiments.

One of these experiments involved teaching a pigeon to read words presented to it in order to receive food. Skinner began by teaching the pigeon a simple task, namely, pecking a colored disk, in order to receive a reward. He then began adding additional environmental cues (in this case, they were words), which were paired with a specific behavior that was required in order to receive the reward.

Through this evolving process, Skinner was able to teach the pigeon to ‘read’ and respond to several unique commands.

Though the pigeon can’t actually read English, the fact that he was able to teach a bird multiple behaviors, each one linked to a specific stimulus, by using operant conditioning shows us that this form of behavioral learning can be a powerful tool for teaching both animals and humans complex behaviors based on environmental cues.


Experiment #3: Pigeon Ping-Pong

But Skinner wasn’t only concerned with teaching pigeons how to read. It seems he also made sure they had time to play games as well. In one of his more whimsical experiments, B. F. Skinner taught a pair of common pigeons how to play a simplified version of table tennis.

The pigeons in this experiment were placed on either side of a box and were taught to peck the ball to the other bird’s side. If a pigeon was able to peck the ball across the table and past their opponent, they were rewarded with a small amount of food. This reward served to reinforce the behavior of pecking the ball past their opponent.

Though this may seem like a silly task to teach a bird, the ping-pong experiment shows that operant conditioning can be used not only for a specific, robot-like action but also to teach dynamic, goal-based behaviors.


Experiment #4: Pigeon-Guided Missiles

Thought pigeons playing ping-pong was as strange as things could get? Skinner pushed the envelope even further with his work on pigeon-guided missiles.

While this may sound like the crazy experiment of a deluded mad scientist, B. F. Skinner did actually do work to train pigeons to control the flight paths of missiles for the U.S. Army during the second world war.

Skinner began by training the pigeons to peck at shapes on a screen. Once the pigeons reliably tracked these shapes, Skinner was able to use sensors to track whether the pigeon’s beak was in the center of the screen, to one side or the other, or towards the top or bottom of the screen. Based on the relative location of the pigeon’s beak, the tracking system could direct the missile towards the target location.

Though the system was never used in the field due in part to advances in other scientific areas, it highlights the unique applications that can be created using operant training for animal behaviors.


How B. F. Skinner’s Work Continues to Impact Psychology and Beyond

B. F. Skinner is one of the most recognizable names in modern psychology, and with good reason. Though many of his experiments seem outlandish, the science behind them continues to impact us in ways we rarely think about.

The most prominent example is in the way we train animals for tasks such as search and rescue, companion services for the blind and disabled, and even how  we train our furry friends at home—but the benefits of his research go far beyond teaching Fido how to roll over.

Operant conditioning research has found its way into the way schools motivate and discipline students, how prisons rehabilitate inmates, and even in how governments handle geopolitical relationships.

Talking to yourself: is it good for you?

Have you ever been caught absent-mindedly talking to yourself in public? It can be really embarrassing. Unless you have the quick wits to pretend that you’re wearing an ear-piece and talking to someone on the phone, people will probably assume that you’re crazy. But don’t worry, talking to yourself is quite normal. What’s more, it can even be good for you. Let’s take a look at some of the surprising benefits of self-talk

Is talking to yourself normal?

There is nothing strange about talking to yourself. It’s actually very common. We all do it, although most of the time, instead of saying things out loud, we talk to ourselves in our heads. 

There are two kinds of self-talk that people regularly engage in: internal and external self-talk. 

Internal self-talk refers to your internal monologue, your inner voice, which provides a constant flow of thought whenever you are awake. This type of self-talk is very healthy and plays an important role in organizing your thoughts, planning, consolidating memories and processing emotions. Our inner discourse – sometimes referred to metaphorically as a stream of consciousness – is vital because it improves our ability to control our actions and behavior. 

External self-talk, on the other hand, can be a vocal manifestation of this inner voice. When we talk to ourselves out loud, it’s usually because we’re experiencing an intense emotion like surprise, anger, sadness, nervousness, or heightened focus. This is what happens when you stub your toe and exclaim out loud even though no one else is around, or when you mutter under your breath before an important public speaking engagement.  

We also engage in self-talk when we’re facing a stressful decision, or trying to cope with difficult emotions. 

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Benefits of talking to yourself

Not only is talking to yourself perfectly normal, but it can also have a whole host of benefits. Research suggests that both inner speech and having a conversation with yourself out loud can have a positive effect on your cognitive performance.

Talking to ourselves isn’t just something that we do occasionally when we let our guard down – it actually plays an important role in human development. Children learn by repeating things they hear to themselves, and one study has shown that pre-schoolers do better on motor tasks when talking to themselves. (1)

 Here are some of the scientifically proven ways that self-talk can be beneficial for the brain

Talking to yourself boosts confidence

Feeling nervous about a test or an important meeting? Maybe you just need a motivational pep talk – from yourself. Talking to yourself has been linked to increased confidence – but only when it’s done in a specific way. 

In a compelling study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers found that it makes a difference what pronouns you use when talking to yourself in your head. (2)

Subjects were asked to participate in a public speaking challenge. When they referred to themselves in the second or third person during introspection, they experienced less anxiety attacks and performed better.

According to the researchers, this is because self-distancing – thinking about yourself as though you were someone else, from an observer’s point of view – increases self-regulation. When you change the language that you use to refer to yourself and move away from the egocentric, first-person point of view, you can look at your situation from a more objective, emotionally neutral place. This way, you are able to better control your thoughts, feelings and behavior, even in stressful situations. 

These findings are important because they confirm that motivational self-talk, if done right, can be an effective tool to boost confidence, personal growth and performance.

Can talking to yourself help you perform better at sports?

Motivational self-talk has been extensively studied in sports psychology. Research on the connection between sports performance and talking to yourself shows that self-talk can be intentionally used to focus attention, increase confidence, regulate effort, self-control emotions and ultimately enhance performance. (3)

Both overt and covert (external and internal) self-talk have been found to use similar brain structures, and they are thought to serve the same self-regulatory functions. 

Positive self-talk, in particular, appears to have benefits for sports performance (although it may not work for everyone, especially some people with low-self esteem). 

Self-talk is so powerful that it can have an impact on an athlete’s motor skills. A study conducted among basketball players with the aim of evaluating the effects of instructional and motivational self-talk on speed and accuracy found that participants who engaged in self-talk performed better at passing and shooting. (4)

So next time you take part in a sporting event, why not try to give yourself a verbal pat on the back? 

Talking to yourself improves control over goal-oriented tasks

In certain cases, saying something out loud works better than thinking the same thing to yourself. 

A study published in Acta Psychologica showed that verbal instructions improve control over goal-oriented tasks more than inner speech. (5) Participants were given a set of written instructions and asked to read them either silently or out loud. When the subjects read the instructions out loud, both their concentration and their performance improved. 

Much of this benefit appears to come from simply hearing oneself, as auditory commands seem to be better controllers of behaviour than written ones,” says Paloma Mari-Beffa, one of the study’s authors in an article published on The Conversation. (6)

Talking to yourself may seem strange, but as this study proves, it can help you focus on tasks and carry them out more efficiently

Talking to yourself improves search performance

So, if you were to deliberately use self-talk as a tool to focus your attention and make your brain work more efficiently, what else could you use it for?

Surprisingly, talking to yourself out loud can be very helpful when trying to find something, for example, your favorite shirt in a pile of other clothes or a specific fruit at the supermarket. As long as you can visualize what you’re looking for, saying the name of the object out loud may help you find it quicker. 

A study published in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology showed increased visual search performance when subjects said the name of the object they were searching for out loud. (7) 

The participants were asked to find a picture of a specific object (the target) – an airplane, a butterfly, an umbrella – among pictures of other objects (the distractors), and they were able to pinpoint it faster when they said the name of the object out loud. The researchers concluded that instructional self-talk appears to speed up cognitive processes and helps to improve search performance.

Talking to yourself: mental illness

In rare cases, talking to yourself may be associated with mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. However, this type of self-talk is very different from the healthy internal or external speech that everyone experiences. 

What disorder causes someone to talk to themselves?

Schizophrenic auditory hallucinations cause patients to perceive their self-talk as if it were coming from an external source, from a different person. This may lead them to engage in conversations with people who are not there. In reality, they are talking to the voices inside their heads. This is a sign of a very serious mental disorder that requires medical treatment. 

Mindfulness and talking to yourself

Positive thinking and positive self-talk are often associated with mindfulness, the psychological process of bringing awareness to our thoughts and focusing on the present moment through techniques such as meditation. 

Mindfulness coaches often hail positive self-talk as the key to reducing stress. (8)

According to them, paying attention to your inner monologue can help you discern forms of negative self-talk, such as magnifying the negative aspects of a situation, blaming yourself for things you can’t control, anticipating the worst and seeing everything as either good or bad, with no middle ground. These negative thought patterns may lead to unnecessary stress. 

On the other hand, practicing positive self-talk and gratefulness may lead to better psychological wellbeing.

So is it OK to talk to yourself out loud?

Talking to yourself out loud is perfectly fine. You may get a few glances from strangers, but the truth is, it can help you rev up your brain and give your confidence a boost.

As we’ve seen above, there’s research to suggest that the language you use to speak to yourself in your head can influence your feelings, your behavior and your anxiety levels. Saying things out loud can help you perform better at certain tasks, like finding what you’re looking for in an assortment of objects. For athletes, self-directed verbal cues are especially beneficial, as they can boost sports performance. 

So, if you want to reap the cognitive benefits, don’t shy away from talking to yourself. 

References

https://www.sciencedaily.com/
https://www.doi.org/
https://oxfordre.com/
https://theconversation.com/
https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/

(1) George Mason University (2008, March 29). Preschool Kids Do Better When They Talk To Themselves, Research Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 9, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080328124554.htm
(2) Kross, E., Bruehlman-Senecal, E., Park, J., Burson, A., Dougherty, A., Shablack, H., Bremner, R., Moser, J., & Ayduk, O. (2014). Self-talk as a regulatory mechanism: How you do it matters. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 106(2), 304–324. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035173
(3) Judy L. Van Raalte, Andrew Vincent (2017). Self-Talk in Sport and Performance. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. Retrieved March 9, 2020 from https://oxfordre.com/psychology/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190236557.001.0001/acrefore-9780190236557-e-157
(4) Shahzad Tahmasebi, Boroujeni Mehdi Shahbazi (2011). The Effect of Instructional and Motivational Self-Talk on Performance of Basketball’s Motor Skill. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15, 3113-3117. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.04.255
(5) Alexander James Kirkham, Julian Michael Breeze, Paloma Marί-Beffa (2012). The impact of verbal instructions on goal-directed behaviour. Acta Psychologica, 139(1), 212-219. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2011.09.016
(6) Paloma Marί-Beffa (2017, May 3). Is talking to yourself a sign of mental illness? An expert delivers her verdict. The Conversation. Retrieved March 9, 2020 from https://theconversation.com/is-talking-to-yourself-a-sign-of-mental-illness-an-expert-delivers-her-verdict-77058
(7) Gary Lupyan, Daniel Swingley (2011). Self-directed speech affects visual search performance. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 65(6), 1068-1085. https://doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2011.647039
(8) Dana Sparks (2018, September 26). Mayo Mindfulness: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress. Mayo Clinic News Network. Retrieved March 9, 2020 from https://newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org/discussion/mayo-mindfulness-stop-negative-self-talk-to-reduce-stress/

Affective Forecasting: Predicting your emotions

“Will I be chosen for the job interview?” “If I accept the offer, what is the likelihood I will enjoy my new position better than my old?” We all wish we could predict the future, as well as the feelings that accompany those predications. With affective forecasting, such an endeavor is possible! Affective forecasting allows us to predict our future emotional states. It is a critical asset to the decision-making process in day-to-day life and reveals both the positive and negative attributes of personality.

Photo by Gantas Vaičiulėnas from Pexels

What is Affective Forecasting?

Affective forecasting is the process of predicting a future emotional state or how you will feel in the future. In psychology, the term is derived from predicting one’s “affect,” which refers to the experience of feelings and mood. Affective forecasting involves our reactions to certain events, as well as how we feel if we were to finally obtain something we want. This type of predicting differs from anticipating the weather or whether you will win the next lottery. Instead, affective forecasting focuses on the feelings of such events. For example, you may believe winning the lottery may impact your happiness. The process of affective forecasting is relevant to guiding decision making, behavior, and preferences because we are constantly forming expectations regarding our emotional states.

History of Affective Forecasting

In the 1990s, social psychologists Daniel Gilbert and Timothy Wilson founded the concept of affective forecasting, which also took on the name of hedonic forecasting. Both Gilbert and Wilson studied the accuracy of affective forecasting. In the beginning, they did not focus as much on people’s responses. Their main concerns were the emotions underlying said responses.

Components of Affective Forecasting

Affective forecasting is a multi-faceted concept. According to Wilson and Gilbert (2003), there are four distinct components:

  1. Valence—Will the emotion be positive or negative?
  2. Specific emotion(s) experienced—Do you feel happy, sad, anxious, etc.?
  3. Emotional Intensity—How strongly do you feel the specific emotion(s)?
  4. Duration of the emotions—How long do the emotions last?

Investigating these components, researchers conducted studies starting with the ways participants forecasted their specific emotions based on winning or losing a simulated dating game. Further studies by Woodzicka and LaFrance used with female participants who predicted they would feel angry and frightened if they were asked sexually harassing questions during a job interview. These studies each revealed that people tend to accurately predict what emotions they will feel about future events. However, they are often inaccurate in predicting which emotion will be felt most intensely. For example, in the Woodzicka and LaFrance study, the women were actually more frightened than angry.

Affective Forecasting Errors

Wilson and Gilbert proposed that people are prone to errors in predicting their future emotions about an event. Although they expect their general emotions about something occurring in the future (i.e. happy, sad, anxious, etc.), the following affective forecasting errors can potentially skew these predications.  

Projection Bias or “Mental Contamination”

Projection bias is the most common affective forecasting error. It is when current emotions impact the prediction of future emotions. For example, spilling coffee on your favorite blouse provokes a bad mood, and if you later forecast how you will feel about an upcoming work function, your negative emotional state can affect your prediction. This creates a biased view. We must be cognizant of our projection biases—or “mental contamination”—to have an accurate affective forecast.

Empathy gaps are the leading cause of projection bias, which is a cognitive bias characterizing the physiological arousal influencing one’s attitudes, preferences, and behaviors that the forecaster fails to consider.

False Consensus

Also a form of cognitive bias, false consensus is the overestimation of the extent to which personal opinions, preferences, values, and habits are normal. Someone displaying false consensus believes people generally feel the same way they do. False consensus involves the availability heuristic—a concept that, when attempting to determine how common something is, we notice the examples that easily come to mind. False consensus occurs because we surround ourselves with others who are similar in beliefs and values. Thus, our beliefs are most familiar and we are more likely to notice people who have mutual opinions.

Expectation Effects

Expectation effects are significant in affective forecasting. This forecasting error stems from expecting one outcome but experiencing another. Expectation effects influence perception, as well as behavior. There is a range of expectation effects that help explain how expectations can interfere with forecasting in situations pertaining to work productivity, education, medical treatment, and more. The placebo effect demonstrates this. Solely because they believe the treatment will be successful, a patient experiences positive treatment effects.

Focalism

Focalism includes the cognitive skill of attention. This describes the tendency for people to hyperfocus on specific details of an event or emotion while ignoring others. Focalism is an illusion that creates biased judgments, as it leads to an exaggeration of the factors receiving the most focused attention. As an example, considering the negative ways a disability impacts one’s life, an able-bodied individual may believe the disabled are not as happy and content as their healthy counterparts. Focalism also plays a role in social comparison. People focus on their own futures, abilities, and traits while underestimating their peers.

Temporal Discounting

Temporal discounting goes by the names of time discounting or time preferences. The forecasting error is the capacity for people to weigh future events with their present desires. A great number of the population prefers immediate gratification versus delayed gratification. If not cautious, emotions centered around the desire for obtaining what we want immediately obscure accurate predictions of how we will feel in the future.

Affective Forecasting and Personality

Researchers have extended much effort into studying how personality connects to affective forecasting. Various personality types do have an impact on the accuracy of future predictions. While forecasting, personality should be accounted for to accurately predict future emotions. Traits like optimism lead to generally positive forecasts. The chronically optimistic might diminish the negative feelings they will feel after receiving bad news. The inverse is also true. Those who are pessimistic may underestimate their happiness for good events.

Recent studies of the association between affective forecasting and the Big Five personality traits (i.e. openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism) reflect that personalities high in introversion and neuroticism had more accurate predictions for negative emotions, whereas those who are extroverted and less neurotic predicted positive emotions more accurately (Hoerger, Chapman, and Duberstein, 2016).

Affective Forecasting: Happiness Versus Negativity

Related to personality, affective forecasting has lasting implications on happiness. We cope with negative emotions through affective forecasting, because the process assists us in maintaining realistic expectations of life events. As we anticipate positive future events and manage expectations, we are content in recognizing the value of happiness. We cherish the happy emotions rather than taking them for granted.

Photo by Just Name from Pexels

Individuals who underestimate their positive feelings of a future event during affective forecasting are happier than those who overestimate how happiness. Overestimating happiness progresses to disappointment. However, underestimating boosts feelings of happiness because of increased positive emotions.

Affective Forecasting in Day-to-Day Life

Affective forecasting is not a foreign psychological topic that people rarely apply. It is relevant in many aspects of day-to-day life. In fact, it is so prevalent we do not even realize we are forecasting the future.

Social Relationships

Affective forecasting is applied while interacting in our social groups. Forecasting begins with our first impression judgments of another person, especially in those we do not already know. From there, we decide whether we are interested in spending time with that person. A favorable first impression leads to positive forecasts, as we predict we will benefit from that particular relationship. An unfavorable impression leads to negative emotions, and consequently, avoidance of that relationship.

Studies by Wilson and Gilbert (2008) demonstrate that differences influence affective forecasting. With students as participants, they overestimated their negative emotions when told they would be interacting with students from a different racial group.

Setting Goals

Setting goals are how we reach accomplishments in life. Affective forecasting, when appropriately utilized, optimizes goal setting. We set goals based on our predictions of the future. Affective forecasting encourages us to cultivate goals from the view of what we want instead of what will please others. Through affective forecasting, we predict how we will feel about a potential future accomplishment. For example, a career with a higher salary does not necessarily produce the same satisfaction as a job we are passionate about but earns less. This fosters hard work to achieve good outcomes consistent with our goals.

Decision Making and Self-Regulation

Affective forecasting is crucial to the processes of decision making and self-regulation. Similar to goal setting, other decisions are determined through the predictions of future emotions. This can range from expecting fulfillment from an evening outing for dessert because you have been craving vanilla ice cream all day to serious decisions such as planning which college you wish to attend out of the excitement of finally moving forward with a new life milestone. We are likely to make decisions forecasted to have good outcomes, yet inaccurate affective forecasting by not accounting for errors and bias drives negative outcomes. Along with decision making comes our behaviors. When affective forecasting is done effectively, we are better equipped at self-regulation—the ability to better handle emotions surrounding both positive and negative outcomes. We are also able to adjust our behaviors to prepare for a future event. Our lives are brimming with possibilities because of affective forecasting!

References

Hoerger, M., Chapman, B., & Duberstein, P. (2016). Realistic affective forecasting: The role of personality. Cognitive Emotion, 30, 1304-1316. doi:10.1080/02699931.2015.1061481

Kurtz, J. L. (2018). Affective forecasting. In E. Diener, S. Oishi, & L. Tay (Eds.), Handbook of wellbeing. Salt Lake City, UT: DEF Publishers. DOI:nobascholar.com

Wilson, T. D., & Gilbert, D. T. (2003). Affective forecasting. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 35, 345-411.

Woodzicka, J. A., & LaFrance, M. (2001). Real versus imagined gender harassment. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 15-30. doi:10.1111/0022-4537.00199

Discover What are Cognitive Learning Styles

Consider a problem you recently encountered. How did you solve it? Did you need to visualize the solution or were you likely to verbalize your thought process aloud? These questions all pertain to cognitive learning styles—a term used to describe the way an individual processes information from the world around them. Cognitive learning style is influenced by personality, environment, culture, and social interactions. Read further to understand more about your cognitive learning style, as well as how to develop your learning habits.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

What Is Cognitive Learning Style?

Thoughts, experiences, the five senses (i.e. sight, touch, smell, hear, and taste)—they are all ways in which we take in information from our environment and interactions with others. The mental action of acquiring that information is known as cognition. It is related to a term called cognitive learning style.

Cognitive learning style describes an individual’s habits of processing environmental stimuli (information). Cognitive learning style simply indicates the tendencies of certain behaviors that occur during thinking and learning.

Learning Style and Personality

Cognitive learning style is, in essence, a personality component. Leading institutions have used the Myers Briggs personality testing to connect specific personality types with learning processes. For example, someone who is extraverted and outgoing may not learn best through auditory learning where they are required to listen for long periods. Instead, hands-on-learning with plenty of social interaction is optimal. These variances in learning styles amongst people influence their attitudes, values, and relationships.

Why is Cognitive Learning Style Important?

Knowing an individual’s cognitive learning style is critical to learn at one’s full potential. The concept is applied to many settings, especially in education. Cognitive learning develops the capacity to think abstractly, which is important in a classroom. Rather than memorization, students who are aware of their cognitive learning style are able to fully comprehend the information they have learned. They understand the reasons behind complex topics and are more likely to retain information to further build on that knowledge. Training our cognitive skills can also help our cognitive learning styles. CogniFit trains up to 23 different cognitive skills.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Visual

As the name suggests, the visual learning style encompasses learning through the sense of sight. To effectively learn, a visual learner needs to visualize the information. They learn best by visualizing images, pictures, maps, and diagrams to organize and process learning material. This occurs by various visual attributes: spatial awareness, photographic memory, color or tone, and brightness or contrast. Visual learners can easily imagine their ideas to bring them to life, as they are skilled with imagery.

Personality habits of visual learners include being focused and well organized in planning. Many are not very talkative, yet are prone to frequent daydreaming. They have a good memory for faces and facts that are conveyed in images but tend to forget faces and verbalized information.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Auditory

Auditory learning is a type of cognitive learning style in which the individual learns by hearing or listening. They are very successful in the typical classroom lecture setting and excel at oral presentations, following verbal directions, and explaining topics aloud. Most auditory learners are talkative. In conversation, they are intuitive to changes in tone that underlie the meaning of speech.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Kinesthetic

The kinesthetic learning style is a tactile, hands-on approach to learning. It is an active form of learning based on physical activities rather than reading text or listening to a lecture/presentation. To learn through the sense of touch, incorporating motions into teaching new information increases understanding. Kinesthetic learners possess energetic, creative personalities. They are skilled in physical activities like sports and have developed coordination.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Reading/Writing

The cognitive learning style reading and writing refers to a preference for learning through words. It emphasizes the importance of understanding the words used in what the individual is expected to know. Reading and writing learners best process information by utilizing glossaries, reading notes, and arranging lists of words into questions. They often enjoy reading and demonstrating comprehension of abstract topics expressed in their writing.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Field Dependent Versus Independent Model

Developed by psychologist Herman Witkin in 1962, field-independent versus independent model is a concept in cognitive learning styles. Field independence is marked by the ability to separate details from context. Field independent learners are independent. They are highly focused, working best individually while relying less on peer groups to process information. Reading and writing are two skills field-independent learners excel in because they can be performed alone without intervention from others.

Contrarily, field-dependent learning is characterized by the inability to separate details from context. In field-dependent learning, information is one “big picture.” Field dependent learners struggle to isolate the details that form the whole. These learners work most effectively in groups or with teacher support. They have strong interpersonal relationships and function well as part of a team. Although not as focused on field-independent learners, they exceed in processing information orally.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Reflection Versus Impulsivity

The cognitive learning model of reflection versus impulsivity was created by psychologist Jerome Kagan in 1958. This cognitive style can be determined by the ways someone approaches a problem. Those who display reflectivity in their learning consider alternative solutions, whereas impulsivity is spontaneously responding to a problem with little thought of the various possible solutions and their outcomes.

Studies show these differences in learning begin in pre-school years. In a classroom setting, reflective learners are conscientious. They do not rush to complete their assignments, taking time to ensure its accuracy. Impulsive learners make more mistakes and turn in their assignments quickly.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Leveling Versus Sharpening 

Leveling versus sharpening pertains to the cognitive skill of memory. The two learning variances differ in how an individual uses memories to process information. Those who apply to level to their learning apply numerous memories and prior knowledge to organize the new information. However, learners who lean towards sharpening depend on fewer memories to assimilate information. Studies reveal that sharpeners are more accurate in the information they are learning at present. This is because levelers blend so many pieces of their memories with the information they are expected to learn that some may be inaccurate.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Scanning

The learning style known as scanning refers to individual differences in a cognitive skill known as attention. Whether relevant or irrelevant to the information to be learned, scanners direct their attention to all features of their environment. They have a broader view of a problem.

Types of Cognitive Learning Styles: Serialist Versus Holist 

Serialist versus holist is a cognitive learning style stemming from Gordon Pask’s conversation theory. Serialist learners learn linearly in a sequential manner. Learning tasks are worked systematically one at a time. These learners are overwhelmed by excessive details, as it distracts from the task at hand. They prefer structured teaching.

Holists learn top-down, hierarchical fashion. They approach learning as a whole without breaking it down into sub-tasks. Overall, they work spontaneously. To process information, holists do not need structure and are able to think broadly about a subject.

How to Develop Your Cognitive Learning Style

While cognitive learning style differs from person to person, there are basic skills and techniques to develop your cognitive learning style:

  • Explore new ideas—Learning involves comprehending ideas taken in from the world around you. One idea inevitably leads to another. Do not be afraid to investigate those resulting ideas, as they provide the opportunity to practice applying your unique learning style.
  • Explain patterns of thinking—After learning occurs, explaining patterns of thinking displays a complete understanding of the subject. Being able to explain how you learn develops your potential to learn additional information.
  • Refine cognitive skills—Cognitive skills entail attention, memory, logic, reasoning, and auditory and visual processing. Regardless of one’s learning style, these skills are necessary for you to take in information and apply it to daily life.
  • Reflect on your learning experiences—Learning through your cognitive learning style means you must be intuitive about your learning habits. Reflect on instances when learning was successful as well as unsuccessful. What did you do? Is there something you could do differently in the future?
  • Reduce stress—Excessive stress distracts the brain from processing other stimuli in the environment. Keep stress levels low for optimal learning.
  • Sleep—The brain requires rest to heal and regenerate neurons (i.e. brain cells). Without proper rest at night, the brain cannot form the pathways for learning. Experts recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep for the average adult.
  • Exercise the brain—Play brain training games, solve puzzles, play board games, or read books. Activities that stimulate the brain build the brain pathways for learning.

References

Messick, S. (1989). Cognitive Style and Personality: Scanning and Orientation Affect. Princeton, New Jersey: Educational Testing Service.

Sternberg, R. (1997). Thinking Styles. Boston: Cambridge University Press.

Positivity: 11 tips to change your negative mindset

If we believe that we are going to be successful in our work, it is much more likely that we will be than if we think the opposite. This is something that is well known by almost everyone, but that almost nobody applies in a conscious and rational way. In fact, the mindset that prevails is thinking that things will go wrong as if that were some kind of protective charm against bad luck. In this article, we encourage you to change your mindset in order to be a positive person!

Photo by Franciele Cunha on Unsplash

What is positivity?

I often meet people who are looking to make their lives full of positivity. However, positivism is formally a philosophical movement whose main idea is based on the definition of arguments that seek to determine whether a certain concept is true or false.

Positivity is basically related to seeing each activity in a beneficial way, seeing the world with winning eyes. Positivity is closely related to faith and self-confidence. Believing that everything will turn out well for us is not a simple matter, nor does it guarantee that it will, but it fills us with conviction and inner strength to try.

Basically, positivity is about putting aside the negative, isolating all feelings of failure and turning them into success and joy.

How can you include positivity in your life?

Positivity is a state of mind, it is nothing more than a way of seeing things, and therefore, it can be modified and transformed into a habit. Being positive is not achieved overnight, but it is easier than many people think.

If you spend a few hours of your day analyzing your thoughts, you will discover that you are actually more negative than you think, so there is indeed a way to improve and eliminate all the negativity, in order to increase positivity and its effects on your life.

Just with phrases like: “I hope everything goes well”, “I might win”, “I don’t think I did as well as I expected, etc.”, people condition themselves under a negative mental state, which does not allow them to visualize success within the possibilities.

Modifying such thoughts for others such as: “I know I will do very well”, “of course I will win”, “I did better than I expected, etc.” you will fill your mind with positive thoughts, and therefore, the results will also be positive.

Fear keeps positivity away

Fear makes us insecure, it restricts us, and it alienates us. Fear is something natural, it is that alarm that tells us, beware, something might happen. However, what will happen? There are only two options, broadly speaking. Something we feel as good, or something bad. Probably a fifty-fifty chance.

Does fear make sense then? Can’t we turn our fearful ideas, our fears, into hopeful, positive, and more enriching ideas?

It has been shown that people with a positive mind live longer and better than people with a negative mindset.

A positive mindset makes our day better and less stressful. We can wake up in the morning and think: “wow, it’s cloudy, it’s going to rain today, what a day, there will be traffic jams, I won’t make it into work, my boss will take it out on me, I won’t have time to finish everything I have to do, it’ s too much, it’s going to be a lousy day”.

Or: “wow, it’s a cloudy day, well its winter it makes sense. I’ll take my car but leave earlier so I can avoid traffic jams since I have a few things to finish today. Everything will be great!”

Those are two alternatives. One makes you go to work upset and predisposed to the negative aspects of your day, including maybe even arguing with your colleagues and family, and the other makes you smile, which activates in the brain substances that favor that state, allowing you to feel a positive mindset.

Being positive is almost synonymous with being happy

A day-to-day reality is that positive people relate better and have more friends and acquaintances because they give off positive energy and good vibes. You know that if you approach them you will have good feelings, and that is something we all like. You know that you will have fun, and maybe even feel that positivity they portray.

First impressions are a perfect example of this. When we see a person we don’t know smile, we “like” them better than someone who is next to them, serious and grumpy. This does not mean that we have to go around smiling at everyone laughing like crazy, however, being a positive mindset can make you more approachable.

Positivity is almost synonymous with happiness. Thinking about the future in a positive way can lead us to better decisions and get us closer to our hopes and dreams.

Positivity: Tips for being a positive person

It’s up to you.

You set your mindset: positive or negative. According to psychiatrists and psychologists, 50% of our character is determined by genetic factors; and 10% by our environment, but there is a 40% that depends only on us and our attitude towards life. It is this 40% that we must work on to keep a positive mindset and that this will help us to be happier and even to live more years in better health.

The happier, the healthier

It may surprise you, but being positive not only helps you reduce stress and anxiety, it also protects your health. According to a study from University College London, maintaining a positive attitude is linked to having a strong immune system and therefore fewer neuroendocrine, inflammatory and cardiovascular problems.

Changing your thoughts is possible

Having positive thoughts and facing life in an optimistic way is essential to be happy. It is something that our brain can learn. You can change your way of thinking and improve your life. To achieve this we propose some tips and tricks that will help you see the world with more optimism.

Look for the bright side

In everything that happens to us, there are both positive and negative aspects. The trick is to look for the bright side even in the negative. Even the worst criticism can be constructive.

Focus on finding something good in adversity. For example, there is no doubt that receiving negative criticism does not please anyone. But in the face of criticism you can choose to think that you didn’t deserve it and that they just wanted to hurt you, or reflect on what you’ve been told and, if you think there might be some truth in it, see how you can improve.

Focus on the solution

Whenever you find yourself in a difficult situation, instead of dwelling on the problem, which will lead you nowhere but to despair, concentrate on finding a solution and trying to define the steps that will allow you to reach it. This will help you to abandon the negative mindset. In general, setting goals (as long as they are realistic) gives us a more positive outlook on life and encourages us to move forward. If the problem or concern is something you can’t change, try to accept it and accept that life is sometimes “unfair”. It doesn’t make sense to waste your energy worrying. Constantly thinking about it will only make you more frustrated.

Pay attention to the subtleties

Avoid polarized thinking, it’s never all or nothing. Things are not just black or white; between the two extremes, there are many shades of gray. Instead of thinking about only two outcomes (one positive and one negative), make a list of all the possible outcomes that can happen between the two options. This will help you realize that the situation is not so dramatic.

Don’t blame yourself.

Don’t think you are responsible for everything that goes wrong. If your neighbor doesn’t greet you in the elevator doesn’t mean she’s upset with you, she’s probably having a bad day.

Runaway from the complaining

Constant complaining strengthens the chain of harmful thoughts. If we think in destructive or negative terms we end up making them happen. Your goal should be to replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and that should be noted in your language as well. Substitute expressions like “I’ve made a mistake” with “I’ve learned that” or “If I don’t make it through the job interview, I won’t be able to pay for the house” with “I’m confident in my abilities to get this job. Everything can be formulated in a positive way; the more you practice the easier it will be.

Visualize future achievements

The simple fact of imagining yourself getting what you want (making it to the end of the month, passing an exam, etc.) makes you feel more positive about the effort it takes to achieve those goals and unconsciously increases your self-confidence. Let your imagination run wild and visualize those scenes.

Nourish yourself with positive emotions

Positive thinking is certainly easier if you are also feeling positive. To encourage this, the best thing is to do activities that you like and that brings you joy, satisfaction, happiness, etc. Watching a funny movie, having a coffee with a friend or playing with your children are simple, everyday things that boost your positivity. The problem is that sometimes they go unnoticed or we get used to them, and when we consider them normal we stop appreciating them. To prevent this from happening, reflect at night on all the good things that the day brought you and write down in a notebook five things that made you happy that day.

Surround yourself with positive people!

Like smiles or yawns, optimism and pessimism are also contagious. Try to surround yourself with positive people, as this will be very beneficial for your mood. Likewise, avoid pessimists as much as possible. And if you can’t avoid the buzzkill try to counteract their negativity.

This article is originally in Spanish, it was translated to English.

Keys To Success: Use cognitive skills to reach your goals

What is success? Is it a college degree? Getting hired for your dream job? Finally, securing financial stability? Or is success about thriving relationships, connecting with your inner self, or finding happiness? Success is something we all strive for, but do not always know the best way to obtain it. Keep reading to discover the keys to success, as well as the underlying cognitive skills you can apply to reach your version of success!

Photo by bruce mars from Pexels

What is Success?

Success is the achievement of set goals and desired objectives. The term “success” is ambiguous—open to more than one interpretation—being that each individual possesses unique aspirations. While some endeavor to earn a six-figure salary and rank high in social status, others are content with a few strong relationships and a meager salary at a job they are passionate about. Neither version of success is wrong. Defining the concept of success simply depends if you meet your personal goals.

Why is Success Important?

Success is important because if done properly, it contributes a sense of well-being. Reaching your view of success brings happiness, fulfillment, and increases confidence. You know that if you were successful in achieving your goals despite the obstacles, you are equally capable of tackling whatever you set your mind to in the future. However, following another’s version of success is counterproductive. You cannot feel satisfied aspiring towards goals that are not your own expectations. Still, success can facilitate outside success. Accomplishing your aspired intentions benefits the productivity of businesses and the economy, which can inspire others to seek their own keys to success.

Keys To Success: Have Goals

The beginning key to success is to formulate realistic goals. Having a goal provides you with direction. You cannot “achieve” your desired outcome unless you know what it is you wish for in the first place.

Outline your goal(s). Write them down. Visualizing your goals on paper allows you to brainstorm how to go about achieving them. From there, you can divide the main goal into smaller, short-term goals, to increase your chance of success.

When mapping your goals:

  • Ask yourself, What are your values and priorities?”—Your inner beliefs are a guide through the decision-making process.
  • Consider your skills—What are you good at? What skills have proven beneficial in previous jobs?
  • Keep your goals realistic—While it’s important to aim high, you will eventually become burned out or discouraged if you create unrealistic goals.
  • Research—Have others been successful at your goal? How did they accomplish this? Learning from their mistakes may make reaching your goal easier.

Keys To Success: Strengthen Cognitive Skills

Now that you have a goal, you must framework each step necessary to successfully meet that goal. The complex thinking involved in doing requires cognitive skills. Cognitive skills are a set of higher-order thinking processes that allow us to reason, pay attention, learn, and remember. They are the skills we use to make sense of the world around us and to complete tasks with problem-solving. Cognitive skills are the keys to success because being successful entails overcoming problems and analyzing our environment.

Memory

There are multiple types of memory, but working memory is the most crucial key to success. Working memory is a form of short-term memory designed to temporarily hold the information we see and hear for our brain to work with it. Only a few pieces of information are stored in working memory at any given time. Remembering the digits of a phone number long enough to make a call is a prime example. Working memory is comparable to a mental sticky note. The process of working memory also assists in organizing information for long-term use if deemed important.

To be successful, working memory is imperative. You must recall information to meet your goals. Brain training games, like those offered by CogniFit, are great resources to strengthen working memory.

Attention

Attention describes the ability to selectively choose to focus on relevant stimuli in the environment and respond to it, while intentionally ignoring irrelevant stimuli. The cognitive skill of attention relied on our level of alertness, the amount of time we can attend to a stimulus, and the ability to alternate attention between multiple stimuli. Success demands attention because you need to focus in order to create and attain your goals. A tip to improve your attention span is to limit distractions in the room when working. This includes a cell phone or television.

Logic and Reasoning

Logic is the step-by-step method of problem-solving, whereas reasoning is abstract thought in which we deduct conclusions from premises. Together, logic and reasoning lead to using information for concept formation and problem-solving. These two cognitive skills are strengthened through stimulating the mind by trying new activities and hobbies. Because of logic and reasoning, you can think innovatively about your goals to become successful.

Processing

You easily visualize vivid representations as you conjure your inner thoughts, right? That is visual processing—the ability to think in images. Processing occurs with sound too. Auditory processing is blending and segmenting sound. Processing is also how we respond to the information we receive. Arriving at success calls for imagining what goals you seek to be successful at, along with the actions required (i.e. the response).

Keys To Success: Possess Confidence

Confidence is believing in your power to succeed. It really is the key to success because of the belief in your own abilities drives your actions. Ruminating on the ways in which you may fail or putting yourself down is a form of self-sabotage that confidence counteracts. If you possess confidence, you are more likely to pursue opportunities for success out of your comfort zone. Recent Princeton University research on mathematicians revealed that those who were confident in their numeric abilities had better financial outcomes and fewer instances of disease.

Keys To Success: Mindfulness 

Mindfulness is maintaining awareness of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the present. It is the state of accepting current experiences without judging them as good or bad. Mindfulness is developed through meditation training. During mindfulness meditation, the intention is to focus on breathing. As distracting thoughts enter your mind, you simply reroute your thoughts back to your breathing and do not attend to them. Mindfulness is important for success because it cultivates self-awareness, which is crucial to prevent biases and opinions from impacting decision-making.

Keys To Success: Connect with Values and Spirituality

Values are fundamental beliefs that motivate behavior. They are how we establish what is desirable so that we can generate a vision of how we want to be successful and what we have to do to get there without compromising our standards. Your values are sourced from your inner-core and spirit—who you are as a person. Studies of college studies indicate that spirituality provided students with a life purpose, thereby reassuring students of their academic plans and provided an ability to overcome barriers (Wood & Hilton, 2012). As you connect with your values and spirituality, you live an authentically honest life and are more likely to take responsibility for your thoughts and behavior, as well as having a matured sense of self-esteem.

Values and spirituality differ from individual to individual. For some, values are rooted in their religion (i.e. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.). But religion is not the sole form of spirituality. Prayer and are great, yet practicing environmentalism, humanism, or volunteering for social justice issues are also means of increasing spirituality for success.   

Keys To Success: Creativity

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

Creativity is characterized as the ability to think abstractly, discover possibilities, produce innovative ideas, and then apply those ideas to real-world situations. Creativity sets people apart and makes them unique. It is beneficial for success because it adds to the available resources we need to reach our goals. While art and creative writing are obvious examples of creativity, the result of creativity is not always tangible. Successful creativity is:

  • Organization—Clearly state your goals and your plan of action to reach your goals.
  • Communication—You will notice success requires effective communication skills in both writing and in speaking orally. Communication also includes knowing which questions to ask regarding your goals and to whom.
  • Open-mindedness—The willingness to consider unconventional concepts or produce ideas others have not thought of is a key to success.
  • Physical activity—Exercise is a mode of expression. The endorphins released during exercise have a positive effect on the brain, which increases the use of complex thinking skills.
  • Mathematics—Connecting math for real-life situations is creatively thinking about numbers.

Keys To Success: Build Strong Relationships

Humans are social creatures. Although we may be content being alone for brief periods, friendships and interactions with others have many benefits to success. Firstly, relationships promote feelings of happiness. When we are happy, we are motivated to be productive.

Next, healthy relationships offer you the increased freedom to focus on your goals. You are less likely to have disputes with the people surrounding you (i.e. coworkers, classmates, etc.) if you have strong relationships. The attributes of a strong relationship include trust, respect, communication, integrity, and openness.

Further, nobody can be successful alone. Those people are available to help you reach your goals. Relationships offer a surplus of resources you would not have connections to otherwise.

Keys To Success: Use Effective Communication

Communication is how we exchange information between groups of people. Whether at work, school or in your personal life, effective communication is a key to success. Communicate may take the form of speaking orally, a written language like in a letter or email, and through bodily gestures. Communicating incorrectly leads to misunderstandings and controversy. While communicating for success, be specific about your goal. Say exactly what you mean. Ensure the information you are delivering is accurate and concise. To practice effective communication:

  • Listen—Engage in active listening. Truly hear the other person out before responding with your perspective. Do not interrupt them in the middle of their conversation.
  • Be constructive—Constructive feedback gives each party a central point to focus on, whereas destructive comments create tension and defensiveness.
  • Control your emotions—Communicating in an emotional state is not advised. If angry or upset, you are more likely to say something you regret or give inaccurate information without thinking thoroughly about your decisions.
  • Speak with purpose—Know what you are going to say and why. You cannot achieve your overall goal without a purpose.

Keys To Success: Establish A Healthy Routine

Routines are often viewed as boring or monotonous. However, when it comes to success, a healthy routine is anything but! Adopt a routine that incorporates all of the keys to success into your day. For example, setting aside twenty minutes to free-write daily fosters creativity and encourages a routine for success.

Ideas for a healthy routine include abiding by a sleep schedule, consuming healthy foods, exercising daily, and meditation. Eventually, these actions form consistent habits to more efficiently track your progress.

Keys To Success: Learn

Knowledge is power. The more you learn, the more successful you potentially become. Learning combines all of the keys to the success mentioned above. It gives you the skills to adapt to unexpected obstacles interfering with your end goal. The learning process initiates new ideas, and in turn, alters your perspective. Almost anything can be a potential learning experience. Yes, what you read in books imparts knowledge, but discovering information via technology, directly applying experiences from past situations, and observing others are additional opportunities for learning.

References

Peters, E., Tompkins, M., Knoll, M.A.Z., Ardoin, S.P. (2019). Despite high objective numeracy, lower numeric confidence relates to worse financial and medical outcomes. PNAS, 116(39), 19386-1939. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1903126116

Wood, J.L., & Hilton, A.A. (2012). Spirituality and Academic Success: Perceptions of African American Males in the Community College. Religion and Education, 39(1):28-47. DOI: 10.1080/15507394.2012.648576

Consciousness: Find out about a variety of mental states

Consciousness is a highly contested subject within a variety of different fields, so it’s no surprise that there are multiple accepted definitions. Some consider consciousness as one simply being awake and aware of their surroundings, while others consider it an individualized awareness of one’s own, unique mind. Depending on the context it’s being used in, it can range from being limited to internal volition and introspection, to including all types of experiences and perceptions. It’s also hard to separate consciousness into respective types or forms, because consciousness is used in describing such a large variety of mental states, and the interdisciplinary debate has yet to reach any conclusion.

In psychology, Sigmund Freud is regarded highly in academia for his base theory of divided human consciousness, where it separates into three levels of awareness: the conscious, the preconscious, and the unconscious.

  • The conscious level consists of what we are aware of, our internal understanding of ourselves and our external understanding of our surroundings.
  • The preconscious consists of things that are below of threshold of immediate conscious awareness but are able to focus in on at our own will.
  • The unconscious consists of things that are outside of all conscious awareness and are unable to be achieved. The unconscious is typically concerned with memories, thoughts, and urges that we repress, but still influence our behavior outside of our own understanding. The preconscious is considered unconscious when it is not being recalled, but it differs with the unconscious because it can be easily retrieved and understood. 

Altered States of Consciousness 

Now more than ever, mindfulness practices are becoming staples in peoples’ wellness routines. Mindfulness as a concept is rooted in Buddhist meditative practices and includes maintaining full awareness of one’s thoughts and feelings with full acceptance. The goal is to be fully immersed in the present moment and separated from thoughts related to the past or the future. In addition to its use in meditation, mindfulness is often used therapeutically, in order to confront latent emotions without judging oneself for them. Mindfulness is often achieved through practice in relaxed environments, breathing techniques, and sensory exercises. 

Metacognition, also known as “cognition about cognition”, “thinking about thinking”, or “awareness of one’s awareness” is known as a higher-order cognitive function. Metacognitive behaviors are used most commonly by those in school and higher academia as a tool to revise and understand their own learning behaviors. It is divided into two types: metacognitive knowledge and metacognitive regulation. Metacognitive knowledge includes what learners know about their own preferred styles of learning, methods available for said learning, and the subjective ability to determine how best to approach a task. Metacognitive regulation involves planning, monitoring, evaluating, and reflecting upon a certain task. Those utilizing metacognitive regulation are able to recognize the task at hand, how it should be deliberately approached, and whether or not changes need to be made to optimize learning efficiency.

Many people report achieving spiritual awakenings or enlightenment, whether by religious practices, such as meditation and/or prayer, drug use, such as high doses of a psychoactive substance, or peak life experiences, such as a close brush with death or a thrilling rock climb. This is typically described as opening up one’s conscious awareness beyond the confines of their subjective reality, or their ego, and becoming aware of a higher sense of self. Humans are always driven by some sort of egoistic desire, whether it be hunger, thirst, success, self-confidence, etc… The mark of this higher state of being is that one is no longer driven by these basic human instincts but are instead able to simply exist. 

Freud, in conjunction with his consciousness studies, posits that the human psyche is divided into three essential components: the id, the ego, and the superego. The id is primitive and instinctive and includes biological aspects, like libido and the need to eat, and is selfish and irrational in fulfilling their needs. Babies are said to be born with only their id, and the ego and superego are said to develop later on. The ego is developed to mediate the irrational requests of the id and reality.

The ego is rational, working out the objectively reasonable and unselfish way, willing to compromise to avoid societal consequences; however, is still concerned with pleasure-seeking. The superego incorporates values learned directly from one’s parents of society. Instead of simply realistic, the superego strives to become moralistic in goal setting. The superego exists between two stages: conscience and ideal self. The conscience encourages us, through guilt and other methods, to achieve our ideal self, or the version of self that meets our ultimate goal. When the ego dissipates, there is no concern outside of being, and letting the rest work itself out. 

Deep and dreamless sleep is considered an unconscious state, but the dream world opens an entirely new conscious reality, separate from any kind of wakeful consciousness. For the most part, we cannot control our dreams, but we are not entirely passive within them; we are most often the main actors. The idea of dreams contributes new evidence to resolve the mind-body problem since the brain initiates consciousness in the absence of any other external stimuli. Scientists are still looking to fully answer the question of how and why the brain creates dreams, aside from its strong association with REM sleep and contributions from the audiovisual region within the junction between the parietal and occipital lobe. 

We do know that there a variety of different dream states, however. Lucid dreaming, for example, is where one can control their dreams and have a conscious awareness that they are, in fact, in a dream. Essentially, the mind is awake when the body is asleep while in REM sleep, and while it can be accidental, it is oftentimes purposefully induced to meditate or practice mindfulness. An extension of this is a phenomenon called astral projection, an esoteric, intentional out-of-body experiences wherein users claim their consciousness is separated from their physical body and capable of traveling on its own. However, there are minimal scientific studies that prove the existence of astral projection as an objective experience, out of body, consciousness separating experiences are known to be induced by dissociative and psychoactive drugs, deliberate spiritual practice and suspension of belief, sensory deprivation, and more.

Disordered States of Consciousness 

Following severe brain injuries, such as those following a vegetative state or coma, it is common for people in healing to have a slow recovery of consciousness, and this period is known as being in a minimally conscious state. They are inconsistent in their abilities to be self-aware and aware of the world around them. It is common for these people to falter when trying to follow simple instructions, can only sometimes speak in a manner that is understandable, and change in their ability to focus on a specific thing for a sustained period of time. Since these actions are so inconsistent, it can be hard to distinguish a minimally conscious person from a vegetative person.

The main difference is that the vegetative person has no level of conscious awareness, while the minimally conscious person can fluctuate between not having conscious awareness and having some level. Further along in the recovery process than a minimally conscious person, is a person in a confusional state. They are much more adept in paying attention, recalling memories, and following instructions. However, it is common for them to regularly become disoriented, hallucinate or become delusional, and experience severely impaired responsiveness and cognition. From this state, it is extremely likely that the person will make a full recovery and one day achieve normal levels of consciousness.

Dissociative disorders are the involuntary disconnection between one’s identity, memory, and consciousness. There are multiple different types of dissociative disorders, most commonly considered as dissociative identity disorder (DID), depersonalization and derealization, and dissociative amnesia and/or dissociative fugue. DID is characterized by a person that has a lack of connection between their consciousness and true identity, which often results as the person appearing as though they take on different personalities. It is most likely caused by severe, repetitive physical, sexual, or emotional trauma in early childhood. In rare cases, certain dissociated states can be concurrently conscious and understand themselves as distinct identity. Some philosophers theorize that evidence of operationally different, yet concurrent consciousness experiences in the brain, suggests a universal consciousness that gives rise to these dissociated personalities. However, it is most common for the alternate states to exist entirely separated from the primary consciousness that exists in accord with the body. 

Depersonalization disorder is characterized by periods of feeling disconnected from or foreign to one’s body or thoughts. It is frequently described as feeling like you are an outside observer to your own body, and the distorted consciousness state is often referred to as being dreamlike. Derealization is a feeling that one’s perception of reality is false, and a fear that their external reality is fabricated by their own mind.  Derealization is similar to depersonalization in that there is a detached consciousness, but in derealization, the idea is that one’s bodily-influenced consciousness is deceiving them, and depersonalization is more thought of like the disconnect of one’s body and mind. Both depersonalization and derealization are often brought on by heavy substance abuse, more severe personality disorders, seizure disorders, and trauma.

Dissociative amnesia results in an inability to recall important information. It is different from basic memory loss, since it includes gaps in memory for extended periods of time and often erase memories associated with the traumatic event, and it is not typical amnesia, since it does not result from any physical brain injury or disease, but rather, the result of a deeply repressed traumatic event. Dissociative fugue is extreme dissociative amnesia, where a person completely loses their sense of identity and all past memories. These people may wander aimlessly away from their homes, or even take on a new identity, with no recollection of their previous one. This, like many other dissociative disorders, is linked to severe stress and/or prolonged trauma. 

Theories & Research

The Ancient Mayans are credited as being some of the first groups to formulate some form of hierarchical consciousness structure. Understanding consciousness incorporates both internal and external stimuli, they regarded it as the most basic form of existence. In the 17th century, John Locke was one of the first philosophers to begin to ponder the mystifying world of consciousness. He was the first to say that our identity is tied to our consciousness, but it is not tied to our physical bodies and can sustain once the physical body dies. Rene Descartes, another 17th-century philosopher, hypothesized Cartesian dualism, or the idea that the mind and body exist in different domains. 

Modern-day psychologists have evolved a lot, but not without expounding upon, as well as criticizing these past theories. Development psychologists see consciousness as exactly that: a developmental process with the potential for reaching higher levels. Social psychologists view consciousness as a product cultural influence, and not something that is necessarily intrinsic to an individual. 

Neuropsychologists see consciousness as being highly ingrained in our neural pathways and structures. They believe there is a correlation to be found through subjective experiences as reported by an individual, and brain activity. There is not a definitive neural correlates for consciousness states, but rather, it is possible that all subjective and perpetually changing states of consciousness have specific neural correlates. While this may seem impossible to derive useful data from, neuropsychologists believe that inducing activity in particular regions and/or networks will allow them to find common causes among these different correlates. Neurobiology takes a different approach, evaluating the body in greater detail than the mind, considering neural results of consciousness as the cause of certain bodily responses, where consciousness is regarded as a state-dependent portion of a different biological system. 

Brain imaging has also been a recent tool in consciousness studies. Researchers believe that different patterns in brain waves, recorded by an electroencephalograph (EEG) could indicate the production of different states of consciousness. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI scans) are also commonly used to measure physical activity in the brain, and how this activity may correlate with various consciousness states.

Additionally, there are multiple areas of the brain implicated in consciousness, the prefrontal cortex and temporal lobe being the primary candidates for more in-depth study. The prefrontal cortex is considered pertinent in triggering visual awareness throughout other areas of the brain, and the temporal lobe is essential in auditory processing, object and facial recognition, and the ability to utilize language. Damage to the prefrontal cortex can lessen one’s capacity of compassion, guilt, and other social emotions, which is a massive component of consciousness. Damage to the temporal lobe can result is a disturbance in auditory, visual, and language perception, comprehension, and output, as well as a disturbance in selective attention abilities.

Conflict Resolution: How to manage conflict

Conflict Resolution. Do we all experience conflict? Yes, we do. Whether interacting with family, friends, or co-workers, we are bound to face disagreements. However, not seeing eye to eye does not have to mean the end of a relationship. Keep reading to learn about conflict resolution—a set of skills intended to manage conflict healthily.

Photo by Belle Co from Pexels

What Causes Conflict?

Conflict is described as disputes or disagreements between two parties. The presence of conflict can arise at home, in schools, at work, and in community organizations—any place where there are social interactions.

The main cause of conflict stems from poor communication. One individual is unable to adequately convey their complete message to another. This causes them to make assumptions about their thoughts, feelings, or stance on a particular issue.

Outside of poor communication, conflict is also caused by:

  • Stress
  • Manipulation
  • Differing Viewpoints
  • Conflicting Roles
  • Improper Planning
  • Resource Allocation
  • Incompatible personalities
  • Unmet Needs

Effects of Unresolved Conflict 

When poorly managed, conflict is detrimental to both the individual and their relationships. Firstly, unresolved conflict poses the risk of severing ties with important people in our lives. With constant arguing, ignoring the person completely, or tension, a relationship is unlikely to possess the trust and harmony to prosper.

On an individual level, the unresolved conflict has detrimental effects on physical health. Studies show the resulting psychological stress weakens the immune system, increasing susceptibility to developing illnesses. Research from Northwestern University also confirms that 80% if males involved in arguments suffered high blood pressure and chest pain.

Overall work productivity steadily declines in the presence of unresolved conflict. Rather than the job at hand, time is dedicated to reducing avoidable problems arising from the conflict. This causes poor decision making.

What is Conflict Resolution?

Conflict is inevitable, and can even be a healthy aspect of social interactions only if it is managed through conflict resolution. Conflict resolution is the process in which individuals peacefully arrive at a solution to their disagreement. It is essential for maintaining effective, rewarding relationships for both parties.

The goal of conflict resolution is to avoid damaging relationships. Through compromise, conflict resolution preserves limited resources, fosters understanding, explores possibilities, and creating a foundation for forming new interactions.

Conflict Resolution and The Brain

The brain perceives conflict as a stressor. As the body recognizes a threat, a portion of the brain known as the amygdala triggers the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to provoke the fight or flight response designed for survival mechanisms. The brain becomes equipped to identify objects, make a judgment, and carry out the appropriate reaction. Our bodies, however, have elevations in heart rate, flushed skin, sweating, and tense muscles.

Attention focuses solely on surviving the problem at occurring. To do so, the amygdala deactivates other brain regions such as the pre-frontal cortex. An inactive pre-frontal cortex narrows complex thought processes needed for decision making, along with memory function. This is a protective mechanism. While conflict is not typically the same life-or-death situations experienced by our ancient ancestors, these physiological responses shape how we interact in conflict resolution.   

Common Conflict Resolution Styles

Humans are diverse creatures—each possessing unique qualities, personality characteristics, and environments. The qualities we display the impact on how we approach conflict, ultimately leading to our preferred conflict resolution styles.

Conflict Resolution: Avoiding

As the name implies, the conflict resolution style of avoidance involves withdrawing from conflict entirely. Rather than confronting the problem, those who avoid conflict pretend it does not exist or shut down. Fear is a common motivator for avoidance. However, avoidance of a conflict not necessarily negative. Ignoring the problem gives additional time to think of the ideal response to resolve the conflict without harming either party.

Conflict Resolution: Accommodating

Accommodating is a style of low assertiveness. When accommodating for conflict resolution, there is no compromise to establish a middle-ground solution. Instead, one sacrifices their wishes for that of the other party. It is best used in situations of low importance.

An example of accommodating is the following:

“Where do you want to go out for dinner?”

“I don’t care. Wherever you want.”

Conflict Resolution: Competing

Conflict resolution through competing is characterized by dominance and a sense of power. It is taking a firm, unwavering position against the opposing party. This style is optimal for moral issues and situations in which a quick decision is required. The downfall of competing is that the other person may feel disregarded or unheard, potentially adding to the tension of conflict.

Conflict Resolution: Compromising

Comprising is establishing a middle-ground solution that pacifies every party. Each person has a different viewpoint, and compromise seeks to partially satisfy them all. The effectiveness of compromise varies on the original conflict. It is optimal for temporary decisions such as an approaching deadline or if a decision must be reached, yet the quality of that decision is not as important.

Conflict Resolution: Collaborating

Collaborating uncovers a win-win solution that is pleasing to all parties. It entails cohesive teamwork to arrive at a pleasing solution for everyone. This conflict resolution style entails cohesive teamwork where no individual is dissatisfied and attempts to preserve important relationships.

Effective Conflict Resolution Strategies

Regardless of the conflict resolution style one instinctively employs during a disagreement, developing a conflict resolution plan is vital to positively diffusing controversy.

The below conflict resolution strategies transform conflict from a problem that is toxic to relationships to a productive interaction that motivates change, breaks down barriers, and increases understanding. Communication is at the center of resolving any and all of the conflict resolution strategies.

Acknowledge Conflict

The initial step of conflict resolution should be recognizing the conflict that exists. Acknowledging conflict is the mutual agreement to address the problem and to find a solution that eliminates harm from either party.

Acknowledgment also involves:

  • Distinguishing the conflict’s source
  • Assessing the risk of addressing the conflict
  • Identifying the needs of both parties
  • Declaring your intention to actively resolve the conflict

Emotional Awareness

Emotions run high in conflict. The stress response conflict triggers can lead to a lack of emotional control. We must know how we feel to understand the problem, your own needs, and the needs of others. Emotional awareness is the conscious awareness of your emotional state. Do you feel sad? Are you angry? Fearful? These feelings are normal during the conflict. How we choose to handle our feelings determines the effectiveness of conflict resolution.

Active Listening

We all wish to have our opinions, thoughts, and feelings heard. Listen to the other person’s view. Despite disagreeing with their perspective, understanding their stance on the conflict is necessary to effectively communicate. However, listening goes beyond hearing another’s words. Active listening ensures you truly comprehend the other party’s meaning.

Clarify what the person is saying. Rephrase their dialogue as a question:

  • “From my understanding, you meant….”
  • “You’re saying that…?”  
  • “Am I correct in thinking you said…?”
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Validate Concerns

Validation is a significant part of feeling heard. Encourage the other person to share their stance. Express your eagerness to understand the cause of conflict and what is upsetting them. Ask to know their interest in resolving conflict. What do they have to lose? What do they wish to gain from this exchange? What are their concerns? Validation communicates that you care enough to resolve the conflict.

Assertive Communication

Assertiveness is often assumed to be rude, confrontational, or domineering. However, being assertive differs from aggression. In conflict resolution, assertive communication is expressing your position using respectful open dialogue. It is not an attempt to gain power, nor is it passively complying with the other party in a way that does not meet your needs. Assertive communication is straightforward, communicating your needs, attitudes, and intentions. It maintains confidence and builds self-esteem while standing up for your rights and the rights of others.

Avoid Accusations

Accusations lead others to feel judged, which precipitates defensive behavior to defend their position. That causes the conflict to be counterproductive, as it delays arriving at a solution. Accept your fault in the conflict without blaming the other person.

I-messages are helpful to state the problem without accusations of blame. I-messages or I-statements describe the conflict and the feeling the conflict creates. They begin with “I” and focus on your feelings without implying causation. Instead of a You-statement (i.e. “You make me mad,) an I-statement (i.e. “I feel upset…) is effective.

Utah State University outlines the general format for I-messages:

  • I think ____________ (your thoughts about the situation).
  • I feel ____________ (be sure to state an emotion rather than a thought. For example: excited, frustrated, concerned, etc.)
  • because ____________ (provide the specific reason you are feeling this way, preferably with an example).

Manage Nonverbal Communication

Although verbal communication is the most prevalent mode of communication, we are constantly conveying messages nonverbally through body language such as:

  • Eye Contact
  • Tone of Voice
  • Posture
  • Touch
  • Gestures
  • Facial Expressions (i.e. frown, smile, etc.)

Speaking the words to diffuse conflict is great, but if unsupported by appropriate gestures and facial expressions, the message is easily disregarded. For example, wildly waving your arms does not communicate trust and respect during a heated exchange, but a reassuring touch is a welcoming sign to proceed with amicable conflict resolution.

Be Polite

Approaching someone with rudeness is almost a guarantee that conflict will escalate. The person will feel attacked and defensive rather than valued and understood. To address a conflict, be respectful. Treat the other as an equal deserving of understanding. A positive way to convey politeness is to pay them a compliment before conveying anything negative. If you are respectful, the other party will likely treat you with the same respect to optimize conflict resolution.

Reference

Darrington, J. & Brower, N. (2012). Effective Communication Skills: “I” Messages and Beyond. Retrieved from https://articles.extension.org/sites/default/files/I%20messages%20and%20beyond%20Utah.pdf

Hamilton, D.M. (2015). Calming Your Brain During Conflict. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2015/12/calming-your-brain-during-conflict

Fear of Change: What to Do When You’re Afraid

What is the fear of change ? What are the signs? Why do humans fear change? Do humans enjoy any type of change? How do you know if you need to make a change? How do you make a change?

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Metathesiophobia, or what’s more commonly known as the fear of change, originates from the Greek word “meta”, meaning changes and “phobos” meaning fear. Most people worry about the future and question themselves, but for some, this fear of change can be much more debilitating. It is intense anxiety over confronting change. “A marked or persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others.”

Someone with a fear of change is likely uncomfortable with that which is unfamiliar to them. If some sort of change is on the horizon, it is likely that their fear is continuous. “Exposure to the feared social situation almost invariably provokes anxiety.”

Someone that fears change will definitely experience some form of anxiety when confronted with said change. Most people who fear change are able to recognize that their fear isn’t completely rational. This rationality, though, may not be enough to assuage anxiety. 

“The feared social situations are avoided or else they are endured with intense anxiety or distress.”

If one fears change, it is extremely likely that they avoid it. If they are not able to avoid change, they would likely experience a major increase in stress

If one fears change, it will commonly interfere with their life. It may cause them to remain in situations that make them unhappy, leave a lot of potential untapped, and even cause a strain in their relationships. 

Fear of Change: Manifestation

Having a fear this severe is relatively rare and would almost certainly coincide with some other type of social phobia. However, most people still fear change to some degree. Even if one is not experiencing blatant effects from this fear, like avoiding important opportunities or having obsessive thoughts, this fear could be causing someone to miss out on a lot of chances.

Could a fear of change be disguising itself as complacency in one’s current life? Maybe one’s choice to stick with certain people, certain activities, certain jobs, etc doesn’t only stem from preference. Fear of change can manifest itself in ways that aren’t explicit but could potentially have a massive impact. It’s possible your fear of change is impacting you or someone you know negatively if they:

  • Are staying in an unhappy marriage/relationship, where emotional or physical manipulation is not part of the influence. 
  • Are staying in a job where they are underemployed or unfulfilled, despite having the ability to seek employment elsewhere.
  • Have a very distinct set of interests and do not usually like trying new things.
  • Have a very distinct set of friends and has no desire to meet new people. 
  • Have a very distinct list of places where they like to go and do not like to deviate from them.
  • Turn down opportunities that have the potential to be beneficial for them.
  • Become upset and irritable when their daily routine becomes mixed up.
  • Become very defensive when someone suggests they make a change in their life. 

These symptoms can be indicative of a lot of things, like an antisocial personality disorder or a generalized anxiety disorder. However, these often occur in the absence of any mental disorder. Fear of change is likely to underlie these disorders, implying that it could be the root of a lot of anxiety-related issues. 

“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy is when men are afraid of the light.”

Plato

Fearing change is not only the root of many anxiety-related issues but a root of humanity. Infants experience inborn stranger anxiety, and soon after, experience separation anxiety in toddlerhood. In fact, evolutionary psychologists theorize that this fear of change could be embedded into our DNA from thousands and thousands of years ago when people were hunter-gatherers. Compared to the other creatures that lived in the wild, humans were extremely vulnerable, lacking the natural strength and resilience that allowed other species to be more suited to hunt all day and withstand difficult weather conditions. Before humans had a full grasp of their intellectual capacity and technology developed into the marvel that it is today, we were prey.

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Being the most successful predator on the planet due to our intellectual advantages in the present day, most of us no longer have to fear being killed by hungry animals. We now have the means to avoid starving to death because its winter and our only source of sustenance is in hibernation and we have nearly no protection against the brutal elements. These external issues don’t remain, but these fundamental survival responses do persist for humans internally. The explosion of human knowledge through periods like the Age of Enlightenment and the Renaissance and the eruption of technological advancements like in the Industrial Revolution happened much quicker than our genes could possibly mutate. Because of the inconsistency between the speeds of society’s evolution and humans’ evolution, we are left with an intrinsic fear of change in a new world that changes constantly. 

This inconsistency doesn’t necessarily code for undeniable tragedy, however. Society is propelled only by the people within it. It would not have been possible to make the strides we’ve made as a human race without a lot of people working towards, pushing for, and desiring change. This seems like it doesn’t align at all with our DNA. Why would we as humans catalyze the most rapid and influential changes ever conceived if we’re scared of it? It seems that this fear of change has some stipulations.

We may resist change in most cases, in general, but when we can foresee a change improving our life or the lives of others, this aversion to change will sometimes dissipate. In school, students study the genius inventions of scientists before them. People almost always encourage their friends to take that new job opportunity; it’s rarely the other way around. It seems as though people applaud change when they are not the ones having to take the risk. When there is minimal risk involved, our attitudes are generally different. People fear and abhor the unknown, possibly more than anything else.

“Time isn’t the enemy. Fear of change is.”

Oprah Winfrey

Fear of Change and the Brain

It was discovered that our cerebellum, the part of our brain responsible for muscle memory and certain fine-motor controls, has a neural substrate that plays a big role in anticipatory anxiety, a more specified fear of change categorized by its ambiguity. These substrates, which come from a periaqueductal grey-cerebellar (a part of the cerebellum that contributes to our defense-arousal system) link, underlie fear-evoked freezing. This is contrary to the response more commonly associated with fear in general, our fight-or-flight response. Scientists have found that threats that can be predicted will more likely to produce this fight-or-flight response, while more vague stimuli seem to trigger something closer to this freezing response. The reason behind this distinction is still unknown, but one prediction is that it occurs because, in the face of a vague threat, there is not much you can do to combat it. 

Our fear of change, when we know what’s ahead of us, produces this fight-or-flight response in people. Since we are less afraid when we know what we are confronting, most people choose to fight or face the change. We still may have underlying anxiety, but our attitudes are naturally going to be more open when we believe something positive will come of it. Humans generally enjoy this type of change.

The reason why it’s a more acceptable statement to say that humans resist change is that most change that we encounter is going to be wracked with uncertainty. One may know what their new job is going to entail and where it is and who their boss is, but they are still likely to feel uneasy about their new coworkers and worry about messing up. When you truly don’t know what’s to come, though, it’s impossible to choose between fight-or-flight, so freezing is the most likely response. This may explain why having “brain-freezes” and engaging in those awkward, “drawing a blank” conversations are such common occurrences when confronting first day jitters. 

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.”

H.P. Lovecraft

Humans also have a tendency to resist change because we are creatures of habit. Studies have connected the acquisition of habits with the basal ganglia, a part in brain focused around reinforcement and procedural learning. When we begin to create a routine, our brain maps our reality around these new habits, which can be useful when trying to reach a goal, but inhibitive when trying to create new ones. When thinking and acting with intention, people have to make a conscious effort. In order to achieve this, the prefrontal cortex becomes highly engaged, which creates hard work for the brain. It’s made even harder due to the fact that the fear processing center of our brain, the amygdala, restricts risky and exploratory behavior when it’s activated. Even if we don’t explicitly fear change, we’re inclined to avoid it merely because it’s hard to overcome old patterns of thought. 

However, just because we’re wired to dislike change doesn’t mean we can’t rewire our brains. Change is important to embrace because we often to don’t have a choice. Still, we do have the ability to make a change at our own discretion. Staying in your comfort zone forever will not allow you to gain new perspectives, experience the world around you, or find your authentic self. Feeling content does not always equate to feeling entirely fulfilled and happy. 

Symptoms

You may need to consider making a change if:

  • You dwell on the past, especially a past that you cannot return to.
  • You are caught up in the future that you are not taking initiative to get to.
  • You feel like you don’t know yourself, or that you don’t like yourself.  
  • You lack a passion or strong emotion that you once had.
  • You crave more direction and sense of purpose.
  • You feel like you are trapped or held down in your daily routine. 
  • You believe that you are settling for less than you deserve or can attain.
  • You have regrets about where you are or feel “burnt out”.
  • You are jealous of the lives of others and have low self-confidence.
  • You’re consistently irritated and “making mountains out of molehills.”
  • You experience regular fatigue that can’t be attributed to anything else.
  • You dread going through your daily routine and feel bored for most of the day.
  • You feel like you can’t be your authentic self in your current setting.
  • You don’t like sharing details about your life with others.
  • The things you stress over never seem to amount to anything worthwhile. 

Tips on how to get over the fear of change

Experiencing the symptoms on the above list may not force you to make a change, but it’s not living a life that most people would consider ideal. Here are some ways you can slowly start conquering your fear and initiating change for yourself:

  • Try to create certainty where you can. When you can ensure certain things, like your own approach to the change, it becomes easier to tackle. 
  • Expect and prepare for the worst. Repressing the idea of a bad outcome may only worsen underlying anxieties.  When you are ready to address even the worst-case scenarios, not knowing what is going to happen becomes more manageable. 
  • Learn to create goals that are realistic but challenging. Challenge your own critiques but adjust as necessary. Overcoming perfectionism and opening up to the idea of failure is hard but setting yourself up for “trying again” can be easier to stomach. 
  • Become aware of all the choices you truly have. Open yourself up to possibilities that may not be achievable now but could be later. Setting small goals can make these choices more attainable in the long run and acknowledging all the choices you have means you aren’t limited if something doesn’t go as planned.
  • Make sure old business is completed before you move onto new business. You cannot fully embrace a new way of living if you are caught up in the very thing you were trying to change.
  • Be deliberate. When breaking past habits and forming new ones, existing on autopilot makes it difficult. Think about what you’re doing and especially why you’re doing it while you’re doing it. When we go about our lives with intention, we can more easily find meaning and reason to continue our efforts. 
  • On the same note, be proud. Remind yourself that you should feel good about yourself, and that what you’re doing is to improve your life. Be excited about your successes, no matter how big or how small, and give yourself incentives to continue stepping outside your comfort zone. 
  • Create a rock-solid support system. Gather a group of people that will not allow you to give up, even when you may feel like you want to. It is a lot harder to go back when you have people encouraging you to move forward. It’s also difficult to tell those closest to you that you are giving up, giving you even more of a reason to persevere. 
  • Work on overcoming less significant fears that don’t necessarily have to do with the change you’re working on. It will gradually desensitize you to your primary fear, making it easier to deal with overtime.
  • Get out of the echo chamber! Being around people that think exactly like you can be peaceful, but you won’t be exposed to doing things in new ways. Surround yourself with people who think differently and adopt new strategies and outlooks.

Convergent Thinking: The key to problem-solving

Imagine sitting in class shading the bubble on a multiple-choice test. You would not think that simple action has a whole lot to do with creativity, but when combined with divergent thinking, convergent thinking is an integral component of problem-solving. The thought process that goes into answering standard questions opens up a world of possibilities known as convergent thinking.

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What is Convergent Thinking?

While studying human creativity, psychologist Joy Paul Guilford first created the term as the opposite of divergent thinking.

When presented with a problem, it allows someone to arrive at a solution by analyzing the information available to them and later applying established rules and reasoning. It relies heavily on logic. Its purpose is to decrease the chance of ambiguity—seeking to bridge the gap between multiple interpretations. Ideally, it leads to one correct answer or method to solve a problem. Examples are IQ tests, standardized tests, math quizzes, and spelling tests.

Convergent VS. Divergent Thinking

Being linear and systematic, convergent thinking is straightforward. It filters ideas to a single solution. The process focuses on the questions, “why?” and “what’s best?”

Contrarily, divergent thinking is web-like—creating connections between ideas. Divergent thinking generates multiple ideas that are original, open to more than one solution, and unconcerned with the risks or limitations.

While different concepts, convergent and divergent thinking go hand-in-hand. Typically, we use divergent thinking to generate multiple ideas followed by convergent thinking to analyze and narrow down those ideas.  

Convergent Thinking and Brain Activity

Brain activity in convergent thinkers is unique. Such activity is measured by a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG). Electrodes on the scalp measure a person’s brain waves. It causes a distinct increase in Theta bands, which is a type of brain wave linked to learning, memory, and intuition.

Studies of patients with hippocampal damage suggest that the ability to apply convergent thinking is associated with the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for memory (Warren et al., 2016). Neurotransmitter systems that carry signals to brain cells are also involved. Convergent thinking function is greater when lower levels of dopamine—the chemical for arousal, thinking, and planning—are present in the nervous system.

Convergent Thinking and Personality

Thinking processes affect personality. Personality traits are categorized into 5 basic dimensions. This is known as the Big Five method.

The Big Five personality traits are:

  • Openness—Curious, imaginative, sensitive to inner feelings
  • Conscientiousness—Efficient, organized, and diligently hardworking
  • Extraversion—Enjoys interacting with the world, talkative, energetic
  • Agreeableness—Considerate and kind to others, optimistic of human nature
  • Neuroticism—Sensitive and nervous, likely to be moody, anxious, or depressed, easily angered

After assessing brain activity studies, researchers conclude that divergent thinking, with its emphasis on creativity, is specifically linked to the traits of openness and extraversion. It was not found to be affected by any of the core personality traits. However, cognition does affect mood. Convergent thinkers tend to display more negative moods than their divergent thinking counterparts.

Executive Function Skills For Convergent Thinking

Executive functions are cognitive skills that assist in goal formation and achievement. There are three main areas: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control. Like this type of thinking, we practice executive function skills in daily life. These skills have a predominant role in creativity.

Executive function skills include but are not limited to:

Attention and Initiation

Attention is an executive function characterized by staying focused on a task. Attention is especially important for it because narrowing down one best solution requires focus. Additionally, attention helps sustain initiation—the executive function responsible for beginning a task and finishing it to completion.

Inhibition

Inhibition is an executive function that utilizes attention and reasoning to control impulsive, automatic responses. To put it simply, inhibition is part of self-control. A lack of inhibition prevents the ability to discard partial or incorrect solutions. When a person does not have inhibition, it also impacts their attention. They cannot remain focused enough to stay on task. Thus, poor inhibitory control is a disadvantage for convergent thinking.

Shifting

Although divergent thinking is unconcerned with limitations, the ‘best’ solution determined by convergent thinking tasks cannot be deterred by extensive limitations. Shifting is the executive function that allows us to adjust to these situations as they change or as limitations arise. In it, focus must shift to narrow down the ideas that were generated during divergent thinking.

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Regulating Emotions

Depending on the task, the thinking process can be stressful. Studies conclude that both convergent and divergent thinking tasks induce mood swings (Chermahini et al., 2011). Regulating emotions is the ability to deal with feelings, which is essential in times of stress. With its focus on filtering ideas, convergent thinking demands the managing of emotions. One has to acknowledge what they are feeling and address those feelings to overcome barriers to the most suitable solution.

Organizing

Convergent thinking is structured. The executive function, organizing, provides that much-needed structure. Organizing entails planning and prioritizing—each of which is relevant in convergent thinking. It is the point in the thinking process when ideas come to life. One has to identify key priorities to achieve their goals.  

IQ Tests and Convergent Thinking

Intelligence is a major component of cognition and thinking. IQ, which stands for intelligence quotient, measures convergent thinking. Questions on standard IQ tests are a prime example of this type of thinking. They measure logic, reasoning, basic knowledge, and thought flow. Intelligence does not depend on creativity, but they do have a relationship. Indicative of intelligence, higher IQ scores provide a starting point to it carry out. Problem-solving increases in difficulty if intelligence is low. However, intelligence does not guarantee creativity. Arriving at a correct textbook answer to a problem does not guarantee the capacity to generate original ideas before delving into the convergent thinking process.

How To Explore Creativity with Convergent Thinking

Most assume only divergent thinking is associated with creativity, but that is incorrect. It is necessary for creativity too. According to the Geneplore model, creativity is a cycle consisting of the generation stage and the exploration stage. Divergent thinking is the generation of ideas and convergent thinking explores ideas to put them in motion.

These general guidelines are beneficial to enhance creativity with convergent thinking:

Be Original

Do not dismiss novelty ideas. While divergent thinking is the stage in which original ideas are generated, convergent thinking involves actually working with ideas. Creative ideas may initially seem impossible due to limitations but think deeper. They may be able to be revised or modified. Step out of the ‘norm’ to courageously approach new ideas others do not understand.

Ask Questions

Questions beginning with “what,” who,” “when,” or “where” are typically convergent thinking questions. Convergent questions are less complex, easy to formulate, and strategic in nature. Asking questions creates goals to strive towards. The questions structure the thinking process. They also determine which information is no longer relevant and should be discarded.

Practice Objectivity

Convergent thinking is an objective experience. After establishing clear goals, those goals become the basis for the thought process. Objectiveness is focal for the organization and planning. Guide all questions around the objectives. This ensures the overall solution is met competently and without excessive distraction.

Take Time

Although we all appreciate situations of instant gratification, arriving at the single best solution to a problem is not instantaneous. Be deliberate when practicing convergent thinking. Hasty decisions prematurely eliminate ideas that could have potentially been successful. If overwhelmed, take a break from the process and return later with a fresh perspective.   

Convergent Thinking In Education

As previously stated, convergent thinking is implemented throughout the tasks of daily life. It has been put to practical use in educational settings. When convergent thinking is implemented for educational purposes, it requires information to be provided from numerous sources. Teachers are wise to deliver rigid, well-defined information for convergent thinking—not unfocused, open-ended ideas subjected to change. Concepts and materials are then combined to conclude the correct answer.

Examples of convergent thinking in school are study materials like flashcards, rote memorization, and drill learning. Class discussions between students and the teacher also contribute to convergent learning, as it is an opportunity to filter out incorrect ideas.

Photo by Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

Techniques of convergent thinking in the classroom are:

Grouping

Problem-solving processes originate with many ideas generated during divergent thinking. In contrast, those ideas must be organized into groups for convergent thinking. Some of the ideas are likely to be similar. By combining like-ideas, grouping makes the data easier to find the most accurate solution to the problem. The like-ideas can be merged into a single comprehensive solution.

Outlining

Students benefit from outlining because it offers structure. Facts and information in excess get disorganized, so outlining prevents useful data from getting lost amongst what is non-useful. Outlining techniques ensure the gathered research is easier retrieved from working memory. This is similar to grouping, except with more structure. Examples of outlining include step by step lists, web maps, or reframing questions with multiple choice answers.

Filtering

Both outlining and grouping are vital to the technique known as filtering. Outlining and grouping present the information in an organized manner to filter or weed out ideas that offer no solution to the problem at hand. Students cannot ‘choose the best answer’ on their exam without methodically eliminate the incorrect answers first.

As with anything, practice makes perfect. Convergent thinking does not come effortlessly. It requires repetition to refine the process.

References

Akbari Chermahini, S., & Hommel, B. (2012). Creative mood swings: divergent and convergent thinking affect mood in opposite ways. Psychological research, 76(5), 634–640. doi:10.1007/s00426-011-0358-z

Warren, D. E., Kurczek, J., and Duff, M. C. 2016. What relates newspaper, definite, and clothing? An article describing deficits in convergent problem solving and creativity following hippocampal damage. Hippocampus 26(7):835–40. doi:10.1002/hipo.22591

Resiliency: Overcoming negative experiences

Throughout our lives, most of us will encounter trauma—an incident that inflicts physical, emotional, spiritual, or psychological harm. While we all endure misfortune, how we respond to trauma is what’s important. Resiliency provides the ability to cope mentally and emotionally. The mental processes and behaviors applied by resilient individuals are a huge aspect of overcoming negative experiences.  

Resiliency- Photo by Zoltan Tasi taken from Unsplash

What is Resiliency?

Resiliency is the thoughts, behaviors, and actions that promote the ability to cope during times of stress. This includes adversities such as trauma, threats, death, physical disability, financial difficulties, or family and relationship problems. Someone possessing resiliency copes both mentally and emotionally with their stressors or trauma—quickly returning to baseline. The term resiliency is the psychological equivalent to “getting up and dusting yourself off” after getting knocked down by life’s tragedies.

People with resiliency still experience significant emotional pain and distress. However, they apply key behaviors that allow them to experience their sadness, accept the events occurring, and then continue moving forward. They manage to avoid psychological consequences under extreme stress.

Why is Resiliency Important?

Resiliency is important because it makes overwhelming experiences easier to handle without negative repercussions. For example, it protects against the development of mental health issues like increased depression and anxiety. Those with high levels of resiliency have stable relationships, are less likely to engage in substance abuse behaviors, and have improved academic and job achievement.

Risk Factors For Poor Psychological Resiliency

Poor psychological resiliency is a struggle for many. Studies in clinical neuroscience (Levine, 2003) proved there are certain risk factors for low levels of resiliency:

  • Poverty
  • Childhood abuse
  • Lack of nurturing adults during childhood
  • Family conflict or divorce
  • Parenting style—excessively severe or inconsistent punishment
  • Substance abuse
  • Academic failure or inadequate education
  • Community disorganization
  • Exposure to violence
  • Delinquent peer culture or community environment

Protective Factors For Resiliency

Someone encountering adversity can potentially respond in three ways. They may exhibit sudden, extreme anger, go numb—failing to express their overwhelming emotions, or they become reasonably upset. The former two reactions do not respond to the situation. Instead, they do not cope with the negative experience, do not accept their feelings, and blame others. These individuals do either not have protective factors or do not have the skills to utilize them.

Contrarily, those with resiliency tend to respond to adversity with the latter. They accept unsettling emotions (i.e. fear, anxiety, hopelessness, etc.) and overcome them through coping methods. Protective factors in the environment like family support, competent schools, and interactive communities strengthen their resiliency. The resilient response is best for an individual’s wellbeing.

Neurobiology of Resiliency

Resilience is directly linked to the nervous system. Numerous brain structures stimulate resilience. Firstly, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis initiates the hormonal and physiological response to stress. Recent research suggests that dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a steroid hormone, counteracts the harmful effects of cortisol released in times of stress. Studies (Russo et al., 2012) on PTSD reflect that higher levels of DHEA are related to symptom improvement. The hippocampus and medial prefrontal cortex control these processes.

What Promotes Resiliency?

With the knowledge of the risk factors against resiliency comes the determinants that promote it! Multiple traits, characteristics, and behaviors are associated with resiliency. These factors occur over a range of dimensions from the self to the culture in which an individual ascribes to.

Self

  • Self-esteem
  • Self-awareness
  • Self-efficacy
  • Independence
  • Positive outlook
  • Having goals
  • Abstaining from substances (i.e. drugs, alcohol, etc.)
  • Ability to solve problems
  • Responsibility

Community

  • Safety and security
  • Social equity
  • Quality education
  • Access to learning resources
  • Work and career opportunities
  • No exposure to violence
  • Housing
  • Healthy environment with sustainable resources

Relationships

  • Age-appropriate emotional expression
  • Peer acceptance
  • Family monitoring
  • Positive role models
  • Getting along with others
  • Social support at school, work, home, or community

Culture

  • Cultural identification
  • Sense of duty
  • Affiliation with a religious organization
  • Tolerant of contrasting beliefs
  • Preserving values
  • Knowledge of history and cultural traditions

How To Build Resiliency

We are not born with a fixed, innate capacity for resiliency. Creating and refining the skills takes practice. Anyone can build upon the necessary thoughts, behaviors, and actions that begin to construct resiliency.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on recognizing unproductive thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors and challenging those cognitive distortions to regulate emotions and cope with current problems. In cognitive-behavioral therapy, the therapist works with the client to change thought patterns. While the therapy treats depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions, it is useful in building psychological resilience.

A way cognitive behavioral therapy is particularly conducive for building resiliency is that clients are taught coping skills such as meditation, socialization, and behavioral experiments, and they can practice these techniques in a safe setting. Studies advocate for the “four steps to resilience” protocol that entails the steps: (1) search for strengths, (2) construct a personal model of resilience, (3) apply the personal model of resilience to life difficulty, and (4) practice resilience (Padesky & Mooney, 2012).

Develop Goals

Developing attainable goals cultivates resiliency. It is a sign that the person is willing and equipped to move forward regardless of the stress they are currently experiencing. Goals must be realistic and reachable to incite feelings of accomplishment.

Enhance Executive Function Skills

Executive functions are cognitive skills that control behavior and facilitate the attainment of goals. They are important to manage all of life’s tasks. Executive function skills include:

  • Working memory—Being able to retain information and put it to use when needed
  • Cognitive flexibility—Thinking about something from multiple angles
  • Inhibitory control—The voluntary inhibition of impulses which is the ability to have self-control over thoughts and actions  
  • Attention—Selectively focusing on a stimulus while ignoring irrelevant stimuli
  • Organization—Manipulating memory to plan and prioritize information

Developed executive function skills promote healthy relationships, academic success, and appropriate behavior. Additionally, they are responsible for regulating emotions, self-monitoring, and understanding points of view. The effects of executive function skills combined lead to resiliency.

Healthy Lifestyle

Preserving a healthy mind is imperative to managing stress. Lifestyle adjustments are often beneficial. Consume a diet of proper nutrition; the body needs healthy fats, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to combat mental and physical illness. In combination with dietary changes, exercise releases endorphins that boost mood. Getting enough sleep at night provides a period of rest and healing for the brain. The aim is to keep the brain healthy to boost the thinking skills and mental energy necessary for resilience.

Maintain Positive Relationships

Strong interpersonal relationships with family and friends lend support during a crisis. Unconditional love and support is normally a product of positive relationships. Having relationships around builds resiliency because the individual knows they have others for support in a crisis. This also generates a happier mindset.

Acceptance

Readiness to accept any negative transpiring events is a central aspect of resiliency, but that is solely for unchangeable stressors. While accepting the challenges that cannot change is a characteristic of resiliency, do not view stress as hopelessly undefeatable. Even in instances where an individual is not in control, they can choose how they respond to a given situation.

Self-Discovery

As we learn about ourselves, we are building the foundation for resiliency. Tragedy and trauma cause individuals to analyze who they are. Amid self-discovery, many establish self-esteem, self-acceptance, and self-efficacy. They locate a larger purpose from their crises that bring them comfort in times of stress—anything from charity work to participating in meaningful activities.

Promoting Resiliency in Children

Childhood is a critical stage for developing resiliency. Parents, teachers, and other authority figures play a key role in promoting its development. Children who display resiliency continue to mature mentally and emotionally at normal rates despite adversity. However, without resiliency, children face the risk of sleep disturbances, poor appetite, difficulty concentrating at school, fluctuating mood, headaches or stomachs, and losing interesting in activities they previously enjoyed. The following can promote resilient traits and behaviors.

Resiliency In the Classroom. Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Maintaining A Positive Family Environment

For optimal development, children require a family who is nurturing, sensitive, and present. Parents especially promote resilience through their parenting styles. Resilient children have parents who actively participate in their lives. In their awareness, they ensure the child has their share of independence to grow into their own person. Even when hardships like divorce occur, families must openly communicate their emotions to set the basis for productively expressing emotions and reframing negative experiences. Maintaining a trusting relationship with at least one adult drastically reduces the possibility of poor resiliency.

Supportive Community

Community contains the sectors of businesses, faith-based organizations, first responders, the media, health care professionals, school personnel, and town leaders. A community that promotes resilience is prepared to respond in case of emergencies. Its leaders form connections with the community’s residents, creating a sense of security integral to a child’s resilience. The community also contributes activities (i.e. sports, church groups, etc.) that teach children responsibility, belonging, and other skills great for building resiliency.

Classroom Environment 

Students, which comprise the majority of the population of young people in developed countries, spend most of their time at school. Thus, teachers have the responsibility of promoting resilience. The main focus should be on fostering positive peer relationships, as well as the student-teacher relationship. Implementing a curriculum that includes peer interactions allows students to practice the socialization needed to overcome adversity. Research shows student appreciate a teacher that demonstrates “authority and influence over the class” and that they “trust and have positive regard for the student” (van Uden, 2014). A teacher is meant to provide structure to the classroom to allow students to learn, which undoubtedly enhances resilience by introducing them to problem-solving skills.

Prevent Bullying

Bullying is an intentional act of aggressive physical or verbal behavior directed towards an individual in a lower position of power. Behaviors such as making threats, teasing, spreading rumors, isolating another, or hurting their body or possessions are considered bullying. Being bullied is a type of emotional trauma. Lessening that by preventing the occurrence of bullying promotes resilience.

Regulating one’s emotions is paramount to resilience, yet bullying stems from the inability to express emotions productively. The process of bullying prevention begins in the home and at school. Families and teachers must teach children how to express their emotions in a non-aggressive manner. This reduces the chance of them taking their frustration out on their peers.

References

Levine S. (2003). Psychological and social aspects of resilience: a synthesis of risks and resources. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience, 5(3), 273–280.

Padesky, C.A., & Mooney, K.A. (2012). Strengths-Based Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: A Four‐Step Model to Build Resilience. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 19(4). doi: https://doi.org/10.1002/cpp.1795

Russo, S. J., Murrough, J. W., Han, M. H., Charney, D. S., & Nestler, E. J. (2012). Neurobiology of resilience. Nature neuroscience, 15(11), 1475–1484. doi:10.1038/nn.3234

Van Uden, J.M., Ritzen, H., & Pieters, J.M. (2014). Engaging students: The role of teacher beliefs and interpersonal teacher behavior in fostering student engagement in vocational education. Teaching and Teacher Education, 37, 21-32.

Brain Training: Discover the Benefits of Brain Exercises

Much has been said about physical exercise and the multiple benefits it to your body. However, what about brain exercises? Do we really know what benefits you can get from brain games? Discover what brain training is about and how cognitive stimulation can benefit us throughout our lives.

What is cognitive stimulation and how does it work?

Brain gym and cognitive rehabilitation are synonyms to refer to cognitive stimulation techniques. However, what is brain stimulation?

Cognitive stimulations are actions and activities where the main objective is to improve or maintain brain functions. It is about carrying out different exercises aimed at stimulating cognitive abilities such as attention, memory, language, executive functions, visuospatial functions, perception, etc.

When the brain is not stimulated it tends to get weaker and weaker. Our neurons which are responsible for receiving, processing and transmitting information through chemical signals, are the main engine of our brain. Therefore, when we exercise our brain, what we do is stimulate our neurons so that they regenerate, both anatomically and functionally, and form new connections.

At a scientific level, it has been shown that brain training regularly stimulates brain plasticity. Even if we don’t realize it, in our daily actions whether it’s reading a book, driving to work or cooking we exercise our neurons. However, our brain tends to stimulate the parts that it uses most but we stop stimulating very important parts. That’s why it’s important to do a proper brain training to train all the functions.

In order for brain training to be more effective, it must be adapted to the person who is doing it and look for the ideal moment when the brain is at its maximum level of activity.

To understand well what brain training and cognitive stimulation are about, we must learn and understand concepts such as brain plasticity.

Broadly speaking, according to recent research we can say that brain plasticity (or neuroplasticity) is “the ability of the nervous system to change its structure and functioning throughout its life, as a reaction to the diversity in the environment”.

In other words, brain plasticity allows the brain to adapt to new situations or even sometimes recover after suffering injuries or certain pathologies. In this way, brain training and cognitive stimulation aim to help the brain generate new connections between neurons thus promoting greater brain plasticity.

Brain Training

Brain training can (and should) be performed by everyone. Children in an early intervention during the first years of life, or adults when enhancing the skills required in different jobs, everyone can benefit. In people with cognitive impairments, cognitive stimulation is essential for the deterioration to be slower even though unfortunately, the impairment is irreversible.

People tend to associate cognitive stimulation only for people who have some alteration. It is true that cognitive stimulation is the most supported non-pharmacological intervention applied to people with mild cognitive impairment, mild dementia or even normal aging.

Brain Training- Neuroplasticity

Cognitive stimulation and brain training not only work on cognitive processes but they are perfect for anyone, with or without pathologies.

Brain Training for Children and Teenagers

The brain continues to develop since we are born. Childhood and adolescence are especially critical stages as they form brain crisis periods where the brain undergoes drastic changes. There are many differences between a brain and an adult brain.

Brain plasticity appears every time we learn something new, and it stays that way throughout life. Our brain is prepared to learn over the years, but we have to exercise it.

Neuroeducation or brain-based technology is now part of education. Brain training helps children relax and concentrate. Teachers can use puzzles, reading, crossword puzzles, etc.

Brain training results are visible in children over time. They understand reading better and solve problems and exercise better than children who have not trained. These children tend to develop their creativity and have better study habits which give them a better quality of life.

Among the most relevant cognitive abilities to train in children are planning, working memory, cognitive flexibility, reasoning and creativity among others.

Brain Stimulation in Healthy Adults

If we want our brains to age in a healthy way, we must stay active both physically and mentally.

Wanting is power and neuroscience is helping a lot. When we talk about staying mentally active, we think of spending hours and hours doing additions, subtractions, math problems… Wrong! It is clear that activities like these can help stimulate mental capacities but they are not the only ones, nor are they the best way to activate your brain.

There are traditional board games (cards, bingo, etc.), question and answer games and even digital leisure games (video games) that can bring us benefits. Discover brain games that can help train your mind.

Brain training traditional Games

Traditional games can bring us benefits such as:

  • Social interactions. They are extremely important for brain development and reduce loneliness.
  • Moods improve and motivation and self-esteem increase.
  • It increases self-efficacy, increases levels of satisfaction and coping capacity in stressful situations.
  • Exercising cognitive skills enhances sensory perception and improves the maintenance of healthy habits

the other hand, some video games can improve people’s executive processes.

Some researchers have wondered whether video games benefit brain functions that deteriorate over time and after several studies, they concluded that video games such as “Rise of Nations” improve cognitive abilities.

Brain training with video games

This particular video game (“Rise of Nations”) consists of “conquering the world” by building cities, expanding territories, maintaining armies and caring for citizens. Among the most significant cognitive improvements that have been found in Kramer’s team study are processing speed, updating, shifting, reasoning, spatial memory, etc

There are also pages where you can carry out personalized brain training.

By regular brain training, over time we retain more information and faster. The trick is to perform different activities to relax your mind and get better results.

CogniFit Brain Training: Trains and strengthens essential cognitive abilities in an optimal and professional way.

For example: When Einstein was exhausted he would play the violin to clear his head, thus solving his mathematical problems better. Apply it to yourself!

Among the benefits of cognitive stimulation in healthy adults we find:

  • Increased brain function.
  • Prevention of cognitive deficits.
  • Better brain plasticity and greater potential therefore, you will be more skillful.

Brain Training in Adults with Brain Injury

In people with some kind of impairment, cognitive stimulation is essential. It is the main non-pharmacological treatment used in cognitive impairment and dementias to slow evolution and preserve abilities.

  • Benefits of cognitive stimulation in adults with some impairment are:
  • Keep non-altered cognitive functions healthy.
  • Improve brain plasticity.
  • Increase in the quality of life and delay in the evolution of the disease.
  • The activities must always be adapted to the person and their degree of deterioration.

Some activities that can be carried out in adults with any type of brain injury, deterioration or dementia are:

  • Attention exercises: Counting
  • Language exercises: Ordering letters to form words, crosswords, word searches, completing words, etc.
  • Mobility exercises: You can use everyday tasks to make the person feel entertained and motivated.
  • Time estimation exercises: Keeping a calendar, a clock or anything that they can have as a reference.
  • Number exercises: Math problems, additions, subtractions, etc.
  • Creativity exercises: Drawings can be used to encourage people’s creativity and motivation.
  • Reading exercises: Newspapers, books, magazines adapted to the person’s tastes.

Just as we take care of our bodies, we must remember that it is important to take care of our brain. Brain training is a great resource for strengthening our mental abilities. Remember that it is never too late to train your brain.

And what do you do to train your brain? ????

Taking Responsibility: 3 Simple Tips to Take Control and be more Responsible

A useful guide to responsibility: What it is, what does it mean to be a responsible person, how does it benefits us, how I can be a more responsible person. Discover the difference between responsibility and guilt, and everything you need to know about social responsibility.

Responsibility

What do we mean by responsibility? If you stop to think, this concept, surely, has been hovering over our heads since we’re kids. Almost from the moment, you get to decide whether to follow the rules and obey or “challenge authority” (mom and dad) we have heard the words “You have to be responsible”.

If you ask a child what it means to be responsible, he or she will say something like “do the right thing,””do what Mom and Dad say,””do my homework”. Adults use the term responsibility to make children understand and assume that they must behave well and do the tasks adults request of them.

Do you think the term responsibility involves more than just obligations? What comes to your mind when you think of responsibility?

What does it mean to be responsible?

If we look at the etymological origin, the meaning of responsibility is not so much related to the tasks performed or the obligations, but rather with commitment involved.

Becoming a responsible person means being able to consciously make decisions, conduct behaviors that seek to improve oneself and/or help others. Most importantly, a responsible person accepts the consequences of his or her own actions and decisions.

The word responsibility comes from the Latin “responsum” (the one who is forced to answer to someone else). The verbs “Respondere and Spondere” are closely related and were widely used in the legal field. The first meant defending or justifying a fact in a trial and the second meant swearing, promising or assuming an obligation.

Therefore, we can define a responsible person as one who accepts the results of the decisions he or she makes. Oxford dictionary defines responsibility as:”The state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

This definition of responsibility emphasizes the need for the person to comply with the negative consequences of his or her actions.

From what we can see, it is a term that has different evaluations and can be quite abstract, but we use it regularly in our daily lives.

Why is it important to be responsible?

Being responsible brings us many benefits. It can help you achieve your goals and objectives in any area of your life. Responsibility allows you to create principles, morals and helps you to lead your life. Being a responsible person helps us to:

  • Be more honest: When we tend to tell the truth and keep our promises, the people around us will believe us and see us as an honest person.
  • Be more independent: Assuming the consequences of our actions will help us make better decisions.
  • Be more reliable: By being responsible, we gain other’s trust and we will also gain confidence in ourselves. Doing the right thing will make us feel good. And even if we are wrong, we will be satisfied because we know that we have done our best.

The value of responsibility

Responsibility is taught from childhood. Both in families and in schools, the aim is to educate in values and morals.

It is clear that everyone wants a committed and responsible partner, responsible children who don’t get into trouble, responsible parents and teachers who take care of the children, professionals who do their work responsibly. Why is that?

Because having people like that around us generates confidence, gives us security. We think,”yes, he is a responsible person, he will do it and things will work out. Feeling safe is one of the basic necessities in Maslow’s pyramid.

This is one of the reasons why in our society, responsibility is so positively and highly valued because it gives us security, confidence, and a certain stability.

How can I be more responsible?

There is no magic formula that makes us more responsible. However, responsibility can be trained.

If you want to fulfill your purposes, your obligations, and commitments, what you need is, to a large extent, predisposition and motivation. Now, if you’re still reading this then it’s a sign that you do want to be more responsible so here are some guidelines for you:

  1. Set goals: It’s important to know what we do things for. Having a sense and direction helps us to be consistent and to continue to do our duty. If you think the goal is too long term, set small goals to achieve it. I advise you to write them down. It sounds silly, but putting it on paper makes them real. Writing your goals can help you be more responsible!
  2. Objectivity: What is under my control or up to me and what is not? Make a list of the things that depend on you and you can control them. Your attention must be directed to those aspects, for what does not depend on you is not your responsibility.
  3. Routines: If it takes a lot of effort to “get dressed”, it’s best to get organized. If you have a routine, you’ll know what to do at every moment. But not only that, sometimes, knowing how much time you have to put in the effort also helps. “Come on, it’s only an hour of study before I go to the movies!”
  4. Rewards: Internal attributions come into play here. If you’ve reached what you set out to do, why not admit it? It’s your moment, give yourself a pat on the back.
  5. Be honest with yourself: Have you failed, was it something that you could control? Take responsibility, assume the consequences and analyze what you could have done differently, how would you improve for another time?
  6. Share your plans: I’m not talking about posting on social networks. No, I mean something more intimate. Talk to your partner, your mother or your best friend and tell them what you’re going to do, when and how. This way they will ask and become more involved and there will be no escape, you will have to comply.
  7. Operationalize: This means that the things you can take responsibility for are actions. For example, picking up your room, delivering a job, preparing food, etc. These are concrete behaviors that you can take on as responsibilities and obligations to fulfill, but you cannot assume responsibility for the consequences. For example, the teacher can give you an A, people might like or not the food you prepared or flatter you but this is not up to you. Therefore, specify activities and tasks that you have the resources and willingness to do and get on with it!

I’m not going to trick you, becoming a responsible person will not come overnight. It requires effort and a commitment. Remember, the key to success is consistency. I encourage you to focus and get it.

You can start by writing your final goals in capital letters and their subtypes or sub-objectives with minuscules. It begins little by little, assuming responsibilities and step by step.

Remember the responsibility for your actions (not the arbitrary consequences). If one day you don’t get the result you were expecting or you haven’t found the clues to using your willpower, don’t punish yourself. Analyze, think that you are on the right track because you are realizing the difficulties and accept the challenge again.

Responsibility & guilt

Guilt is not the same as responsibility. Being responsible for something doesn’t mean guilty. This stuff that seems so basic but how many times have you been surprised saying: “It’s not my fault!”

To understand each other, I’m going to tell you a story, which may even look familiar:

“You found a WhatsApp message just as soon as you got up. You have to finish and deliver the project by 13.00h. In addition, it is essential to be on time to the meeting and to do things perfectly, because it is a very important client. You invest all morning in this assignment, all your effort. When you leave the house, you take the subway, but it’s late. “I should’ve left earlier, I’m gonna get caught.” You’re already five minutes late. You leave the subway and there is a rally that crosses the avenue “I can’t believe it! Did it have to be today?” You’re going to the other sidewalk, you’re 15 minutes late. You get to the office, wait for the elevator. When you get upstairs, you look at the clock before you go in but you are 20 minutes late. The client’s gone, your boss is going to kill you.”

  • I told you it was so important that you got here on time! Look at the time! The client’s gone very angry because of your tardiness! It was your responsibility!
  • You think I did it on purpose? It’s not my fault that the subway was late and there was a rally cutting down the avenue!

What’s going on here?

Everything you did was with good intentions, effort, and interest. However, different factors have caused you to fail to deliver the project on time.

  • What is the real responsibility? Deliver the completed project by 13.00h
  • Whose responsibility is it that the client got angry? The client’s own responsibility, because we cannot control the emotions that another person feels.

Guilt carries implicit components that don’t help us at all. For example, it is not the same being responsible for a decision as being guilty of a decision. What does guilt involve?

  • Voluntary Action: To make someone feel guilty of something, you need an active search to get that result.
  • The result will be negative. If you’re guilty of something, that something is going to be negative.
  • It adds up: The fact that we blame someone for an event means that the only way to prevent it from happening would be to eliminate the culprit. However, being responsible means that he or she engaged in certain behaviors that helped produce that outcome.
  • Guilt leads us to think about the cause – consequences: Not everything in life happens because of cause and effect. Most things depend on a multitude of factors, as in the story we’ve seen before. Even sometimes, changing one of them doesn’t give us get a different result.

It is important that we bear this in mind because sometimes we take responsibility for things that we cannot control, that we could not change even if we wanted to change it with all our might. Feeling guilty for events, results or situations that do not depend on us affects our mood, frustrates us and often angers us.

The same thing happens when they make us feel guilty. We see it as unfair because what has happened was not in our plans either. Before blaming someone, ask yourself if the negative results obtained have been intentionally sought by the other person or not. Make sure you have done everything in your power to fulfill your responsibility.

Responsibility: Why do I feel bad when I’m not responsible?

In social psychology, Wiener’s theory, the theory of attributions refers to the explanations given by each one of us to the causes, reasons or results of what happens to us. Attributes have a strong influence on the way we feel, how we relate to others and even how we act. And of course, it influences us when we take on responsibilities.

There are:

  1. External attributions: When the explanation or cause of the facts is transferred to something external. We have no responsibility. For example, when we say that “you get on my nerves” as if we were not in control of them and it was inevitable to feel that way. Most people use this type of attribution to evade responsibility, doing so in the wrong way. Another case could be when we say “it was such bad luck”, implying that we have all the skills and abilities necessary to obtain an optimal result, however, chance has negatively influenced the result= zero responsibility.
  2. Internal attributions: The explanation or cause of the facts is in ourselves. It can be used when you succeed “thanks to me this happened”,”without my effort it wouldn’t have been possible”. Also in a situation where we know that there have been negative consequences for another and we assume that we have been involved. We ask for forgiveness by taking on the responsibility “I’m so sorry”,”Sorry, I didn’t realize”.

Clearly, a person’s attribution style can have a great influence on their self-esteem, their self-concept and, why not, their happiness. For example, someone who does not take responsibility for his or her accomplishments out of excess modesty will have a low self-concept. Giving the impression that his accomplishments never depend on him. On the contrary, a person who always takes credit for his or her merits will give the impression of being a self-righteous, arrogant, and narcissistic person.

What do you think will happen if we use internal attributions for negative and external results for positive ones? Exactly the same.

We must be consistent and objective. It is good to follow our principles and take responsibility for the consequences of the things we do wrong, but for the things we do well. This will give us emotional balance and promote our self-confidence.

3 tips to be more socially responsible

When we speak of social responsibility, we are referring to certain specific guidelines that are set in a given society, with the aim of ensuring that co-existence is correct, peaceful and leads to well-being.

Social responsibility affects relationships with others, but also with oneself:

Tip 1: Commitment

One of the angles of social responsibility is commitment. We commit ourselves continuously. In our work, with family, friends, partners, etc. Commitment means making a promise to someone and keeping it.

It’s funny because on many occasions, we make promises to ourselves and we skip them. “On Monday I will start eating healthy for sure”, ” I’m going to the gym three days a week, no excuses”. I am absolutely sure that one of these promises rings a bell for you, and I am also sure that one of them has not been fulfilled. Don’t you think it’s strange that even though we’re committed to ourselves, we don’t carry out our promises?  Imagine what would happen if you made those promises to someone else:

  • “This Monday, yes or no, grandma, I’m going to take care of you”: But you don’t show up.
  • “Today I have to work, but tomorrow I will help you to study son”: But you don’t help him.
  • “I’m teaching at the gym three days a week.” But you don’t show up.

Why do responsibilities and commitment towards others seem more important than to ourselves?

Tip 2: Obligations

The second angle of social responsibility is obligations. They’re the ones that are taught from childhood. At every age and at every stage of life, it is up to us to learn and incorporate into our repertoire different tasks, in order to adapt ourselves to the society. These are our responsibilities and/or obligations.

Many times, these obligations are not said out loud, they are just assumed. We have certain activities that become a part of our obligations. For example, Mom always puts the washing machine in, Dad always does the shopping, my brother always takes out the dog, I set the table.

What if one day Mommy gets off work late? No clean clothes

What if one day my brother forgets to take the dog out? He pees inside the house

What if dad doesn’t have a car to go shopping that day? No food

They may seem extreme examples, because in general, what happens is that responsibilities rotate. However, sometimes this happens and we find ourselves in situations like “Mom, I don’t have any clothes!” Dad, you haven’t bought me the cookies I like!”,”John is grounded because the dog has peed!”

I invite you to consider examples in which the people around you had implicit obligations and responsibilities, not agreed upon, have failed to fulfill them, and it has become a conflict when it comes to assuming the consequences. Whose responsibility is it? Whose fault is it?

Tip 3: Willpower

Willpower could be defined when we continue to make efforts and sacrifices to achieve a goal or objective, which will bring us great satisfaction in achieving it.

This becomes more relevant when they are short-term goals. It’s easier to maintain willpower. Therefore, it is good to set small goals when the effort has to be very constant over a long period of time.

It also helps to wonder why. Why did I decide to do this? Do I still want that? What do I have to do to get it? Answering these questions will give you strength and make you reaffirm your decision, prompting you to continue forward!

As always, I invite you to comment below, what did you think? What do you do to be responsible? If you have any questions or want to share your opinion, go ahead.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Patricia Sanchez Seisdedos, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Career Coach: The perfect guide for a successful career

From an early age, we all ask, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” The answer inevitably evolves, beginning as youthful longings of becoming an astronaut or princess and later transforming to a more mature occupation. With such a question comes the matter of attainment: What are my career options? Is there special training involved? How do I secure the appropriate connections in my job? Even if already employed, a career coach can be the perfect guide for any successful career.

Career Coach

What Does a Career Coach Do?

A career coach is a professional who offers expert career advice. They are specially trained to identify a client’s strengths and then build on proficiencies to help people plan a career path. While working together, a career coach is like a personal cheerleader. They provide tips on creating an attractive resume and cover letter, locating job opportunities, and how to optimally respond to interviews. For clients that are already employed, a career coach advises on improving a work environment and earning promotions. The plan is tailored to the exact needs of the client. 

They differ from career counselors. Their focus is not solely on academics, as they consider all aspects of a client’s life. This includes not only strengths, but interests, values, and support system too.

Signs You Need a Career Coach

The backgrounds of those seeking a career coach are diverse. Clients come from numerous employment situations, varying in education level and socioeconomic status. However, the one commonality is they all desire a successful career, yet do not feel empowered with resources to reach their goals. Hiring one is nothing to be ashamed of. Here are signs you should consider one:

  • You’re unemployed
  • You’re anxious about the future
  • You feel unfulfilled
  • You’re tired of job hopping
  • You want a promotion
  • You have job stress
  • You dread going to work
  • You have poor lifestyle habits (i.e. unhealthy diet, lack of exercise, not sleeping)
  • You are unsure how to navigate a new job position
  • You need unbiased advice
  • You’re unprepared for an interview

Average Cost of a Career Coach

Don’t you prefer to get paid for your hard work? Career coaching is someone’s profession, so logically, sessions are not free. The cost varies depending on the needs of the client, the number of sessions scheduled, and the length of each session. The coach’s previous experience and credentials impact the cost as well. On average, a two-hour session can range from $75 to $250.
 
Most cannot accomplish their career goals in a single session. Multiple sessions are optimal to build a lasting relationship with your coach. Some have monthly services instead. Monthly packages are between $450 and $2,500. Group rates are less expensive. Remember, a career coach is an investment. You contribute time, effort, and resources to further your professional career.

How Can a Career Coach Improve Your Career Options?

Maybe you know what you want to do with your life, but you are struggling to execute a plan. Or perhaps your aspirations are undiscovered and necessitate direction. A career coach is helpful in either situation. They can expand your career opportunities through the following tasks:

Goal Formation and Tracking

Goal formation is the crucial to meeting with a career coach. If you are already certain of your goals, a career coach ensures they are specific, attainable, and realistic. They increase your sense of accomplishment by dividing your goals into long-term and short-term. Just because you are not reaching your end goal immediately, you are still showing progress. Career coaches track this progress.

There are clients who are unsure of their goals. A career coach uses a series of vocational tests which determine the client’s interests and skills. The client then chooses career options based on their strengths.

Assisting in the Job Seeking Process

A career coach has a role in the job seeking process. They research the current market for career opportunities and facilitate networking for their clients. Networking creates connections for future occupational promotions or opportunities.

Enhancing Resumes

A career coach understands how imperative an impeccable resume is to establish a career. Essentially, your resume is your first impression with your future employers. While they do not draft the entire resume, they teach clients the skills to do so. They are available for editing and proofreading and for suggestions on additional details that will enhance your resume.

Advising On Employment Related Conflicts

Conflict is part of working with others. Every employee is bound to encounter controversy of one form, but a career coach strives to reduce problems in the workplace—specifically those involving human resources. With an improved work environment, companies can focus on expanding job positions.  

Advocating for Clients with Differences

Clients who suffer from a disability or another adversity benefit from an advocate like a career coach. A career coach promotes the client to the intended employer. By depicting how their client would be an asset, employers see their value. Career coaches with an interest in disability negotiate job positions for their clients who require accommodations.

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Personal Benefits of a Career Coach

The benefits of a career coach are not entirely confined to your professional career. They extend into your personal life too. During your sessions with a career coach, you practice leadership, communication skills, and conflict management. These are the kinds of people skills which carry over into your relationships in daily life. As you grow as a person, you gain emotional intelligence to effectively express your emotions and respond to others with empathy.

How A Career Coach Relieves Anxiety

Lacking direction in your professional life leads to significant anxiety. You fear for the future not knowing your purpose, and each rejection is a blow to your self-esteem. Job stress is hindering you from feeling fulfilled in your current career situation. Career coaches relieve anxiety by providing clarity to your worries. By advising on a plan to reach your goals, you can overcome setbacks of rejection and implement actions to change aspects of discontentment in your job position.  

Career Coaching While Currently Employed

As previously mentioned, a career coach is not solely for the unemployed. For clients interested in pursuing a different career, they counsel clients on how to properly search for a new job while already employed.

Career coaching is advantageous even for those who have a stable job with a reputable company. If you seem to be stagnant in your current position, advice from a career coach can lead to a promotion and/or a raise in salary. A career coach aims to help clients make the most out of developing opportunities in their present career.

Employers ranking high within a company profit from career coaching. They discuss what goals they have for the company, and the career coach proposes which employees have the attributes to contribute to those goals.

Preparing for A Career Coach Session

It is important to note that a career coach does not do the work for you. Their job is to equip you with the resources and guidance to achieve your goals. For career coaching to be successful, you have to be willing to set aside the time, energy, and dedication. Knowing what to expect from a career coaching session makes the process less overwhelming. There are steps you can take to prepare.

Preparing for A Career Coach Session

Tell Your Story

The foundation of a career coach’s work is the client’s story. What is your background? What inspired your passions? Be ready to dive into the nitty-gritty details with complete honesty. Your career coach cannot assist you in your goals if they do not know the real you.

Prepare Your Resume

Arriving at your first session with a completed resume is a good indicator you are seriously committed to furthering your career. Your resume and cover letter are a reasonable starting point for the session because it is a reflection of how you are marketing yourself to employers.

Generate a List of Questions

Initially, meeting with a career coach is overwhelming while contemplating multiple thoughts, ideas, and plans for your career. The main topics you wish to address are easily disorganized. Although your coach is prepared to surmount any beginning obstacles, think about what you want out of your coaching. Generating a list of questions lends structure to the session and guarantees none are accidentally neglected. For example:

  • What are my strengths?
  • What are my weaknesses?
  • Do I have passions and interests?
  • How can I incorporate my interests into a career?
  • What past jobs have I liked the most? The least?
  • What does a successful career look like to me?
  • What are my goals?
  • Which aspects of my current job to I dislike?

Maintain Realistic Expectations

Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so the saying goes. The same applies to your career goals. It’s unlikely your career goals will come to fruition in a day. Do not attend your coaching session with unrealistic expectations. You won’t leave your first session with your dream job, but you can return home with empowering resources and hope of a satisfying future.

Finding a Career Coach

Not every career coach is for you. While searching for a coach, keep your goals at the forefront of your mind. Find a coach that aligns with those goals and meshes with your personality. You must feel comfortable with your coach to have productive coaching sessions.

Contact associations and organizations you are affiliated with to find a career coach. Educational facilities are also equipped for career coaching recommendations because they are trained to assist students in kickstarting their careers. Try college career offices near your area.

Coaches receive certification through the Professional Association of Resume Writers and Career Coaches (PARCC) and the International Coaches Federation (ICF). Browsing the online databases gets you one step closer to the career of your dreams.

Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making

Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making. How is the legal profession changing? What cognitive challenges should modern lawyers meet? How can cognitive psychology help to improve legal decision making? All of these aspects are covered below. The relevance of the study is extremely high because, so far, there are very few that address legal decision making from the cognitive psychology perspective.

Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making Photo by Iñaki del Olmo on Unsplash

Modern lawyers have to work on their cognitive skills to improve legal decision making.

Nowadays, many jobs are facing major changes and legal jobs are no exception. The market demands from lawyers more cognitive abilities compared to the times before the widespread use of computers. With the help of modern search engines, information is becoming more and more available. So, people find answers to most of their legal questions themselves and ask lawyers for help only on the particularly difficult cases.

Analyzing a case is complicated given the number of individual circumstances, it is not an easy task. Especially, when the decisions need to be made at very short notice. Clients usually pay for the number of hours the lawyers have been working on their case. Both to save money and because some business decisions need to be made urgently, the clients prefer to get legal advice as soon as possible. They believe that lawyers can provide the available information in the first meeting and deem it “good enough.”

Perhaps, modern lawyers desperately want to satisfy their clients’ requests. They try to be always available on websites or by cell phones and ready to give online-advice. 

Unfortunately, people’s cognitive abilities impose limits on how fast decisions of high quality can be made. As a result, modern lawyers tend to be in over their head, not taking into account their cognitive abilities.

The process of legal decision making is supposed to be impartial and objective, but in practice,it is not always the case. It is often influenced by subjective judgments resulting from systematic errors in our thinking, known as cognitive biases. All participants of the legal decision-making process can suffer from such cognitive biases. A client, for example, may incorrectly convey the circumstances of the case, on the basis of which the lawyer has to make a legal decision. Another example is when a client overestimates or underestimates the consequences of the legal decision and, hence, forces the lawyer to make a biased decision. Lawyers are also human beings and they are vulnerable to cognitive biases, which can sometimes lead to choosing the wrong strategy and, as a result, losing the case. 

Robot processes and AI are gaining momentum. So, there is a possibility that lawyers will be replaced by unbiased artificial intelligence, which can make quality decisions much quicker than human lawyers and identify clients’ biases.

To summarize, there are two challenges the lawyers should accept:

  • Challenge 1. Modern lawyers have to make quality legal decisions within short time limits.
  • Challenge 2. Lawyers have to eliminate cognitive biases (both clients’ and their own) in order to improve legal decision making.

Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making- Challenge 1

To understand cognitive psychology and legal decision-making we need to know the basics of the decision-making process, in particular, the dual-process theory.

The dual-process theory was developed by several different scientists, including Keith Stanovich, Richard West, and the Noble Prize winner Daniel Kahneman. According to their research, our thinking process is an interplay between two systems, called System 1 and System 2.

System 1 is responsible for quick, almost subconscious decisions. It can be thought of as an automatic brain mode. We use System 1 when we perform simple tasks, such as driving a car on an empty road or inferring a person’s mood from their facial expression.

System 2 is responsible for conscious decisions. It is a slow, thoughtful and thorough process. We use System 2 when System 1 fails to produce quick and accurate results. For example, when we face a non-trivial problem. Nevertheless, System 2 is a “lazy” system, which requires time to turn on and some additional time for the analysis.

When we need to make a quick decision, we are most likely to use System 1. This system has helped us survive as a species: it helps us in emergency situations to make quick decisions.

The modern world requires lawyers to be good System 1 decision-makers without compromising the quality of legal advice. However, the limits of our thinking do not allow us to make decisions that are both as fast as if we were to use System 1 and as quality as if System 2 was engaged. Since lawyers cannot cheat their nature, they are deemed to fail meeting Challenge 1.

Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making- Challenge 2

Cognitive biases can be thought of as errors in our thinking process, which happen due to the interaction between System 1 and System 2. This means that one of the systems take other system’s task and, as a result, the person perceives a distorted view of reality. 

Nowadays, there are at least 175 different types of cognitive biases. According to Buster Benson, cognitive biases are based on four main causes of their origin: (i) the excess of information, (ii) the difficulty of understanding, (iii) the demand for an urgent response, (iv) the limits of our memory and the necessity to remember only important things. All these causes serve the main goal of cognitive biases, which is to reserve energy of our brain. These four causes manifest themselves as follows:

(i) It is safe to assume that cognitive biases are positive consequences of our evolution. We are surrounded by massive amounts of data, which we are not able to process fully.

(ii) The world is too complex and our knowledge can cover only a small piece of it. However, in order to choose the right strategy for survival, we need to have a complete picture of the world. Cognitive biases help our brain to fill all these gaps.

(iii) Our brain is designed to make quick decisions and draw fast conclusions, which are helpful when there is no time to think in danger.

(iv) The abilities of our memory are limited. So, we should select and remember only potentially useful information that can be helpful for us in the future.

Being essential for survival, cognitive biases have become obstacles for effective decision-making.  As a result, in order to simplify the information and save some energy for our brain, we tend to:

  • make judgments on something/someone based on our observations or beliefs;
  • generalize and apply patterns to specific things or events, ignoring their individual properties;
  • perceive changing things in comparison to their previous image in our brain, not examining them on their own merits;
  • believe that we know what everyone is thinking;
  • simplify numbers and probabilities to better understand them;
  • convince ourselves that our judgments are correct to save time that would otherwise be spent on considering other alternatives;
  • avoid changing strategy and finish what has been started in order to make already spent energy worth;
  • make decisions in favor of simple, familiar and safe options that do not need additional analysis and do not lead to irreversible changes;
  • simplify events and remember only their key moments;
  • evaluate past and future events based on our current experience. So, our interpretation of the same things changes with time and sometimes might not coincide with the true situation.

To sum up, even though the evolution creates cognitive biases with the best intentions, they seem to be serious obstacles that prevent us from being rational. Unfortunately, lawyers, as all humans, are prone to cognitive biases and are unable to eliminate them. So, regarding Challenge 2, lawyers are also helpless.

Below you find a description of 10 cognitive biases that occur frequently in legal decision making. For your convenience, all biases are divided into two categories based on whether these biases have a greater impact on lawyers or clients. Please, remember that these biases have been grouped quite broadly for the purposes of the general review. In practice, they should be revised on a case-by-case basis.  

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Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making -Top 5 cognitive biases

Lawyers

  1. Availability Heuristic is a tendency to overestimate/underestimate the frequency or probability of events based solely on the information that quickly comes to mind. For example, when there is not much time to determine a strategic plan for a particular case, a lawyer often makes a decision by recalling the outcomes of the most vivid and memorable cases that he or she remembers. This, in turn, can lead to dismissing important judicial statistics on similar cases and ultimately losing the case. 
  2. Confirmation Biases is a tendency to pay more attention to pieces of evidence that support our own point of view. In legal decision making, this phenomenon manifests itself in situations when a lawyer attributes weight only to the statements of a client that prove the lawyer’s hypothesis about that case. The facts that contradict the lawyer’s ideal version of the events are ignored.  Ambiguous evidence is often interpreted as supportive of the lawyer’s hypothesis.
  3. Anecdotal Fallacy is a tendency to base arguments on someone’s personal experience, which for obvious reasons cannot be generalized to everyone and every circumstance. Professional lawyers often suffer from this bias. They rely on their experience and, as a result, neglect some specific circumstances of the considered case.
  4. Transparency Illusion is a tendency to overestimate how much we know about other people. In legal decision-making practice, it is not uncommon to see lawyers making judgments about their clients after the first meeting. Such first impression judgments lead to lawyers believing that they know exactly what their clients want. And therefore, the lawyers’ perception of the clients’ arguments may be twisted. 
  5. Just-world Fallacy (a.k.a. Blaming the Victim) is a tendency to believe that if someone is punished or under investigation, they must be guilty; while a person who seems to be good all his life has to be innocent. This bias is common among lawyers with conservative views.

Clients

  1. Framing Effect is a tendency to perceive information differently based on its presentation (positive or negative). The proverbial question “is the glass half empty or half full” is a great example of this bias. Since clients are prone to perceive facts as good and bad, the lawyers should be careful when providing legal advice.
  2. Anchoring Biases is a tendency to make key decisions based on the initial piece of information received. In legal decision making, it is particularly important for a lawyer not to make an assessment of the outcome of the case during the first meeting with the client. Otherwise, the client may rely on such preliminary evaluation too heavily. And as new important facts appear, the client may fail to consider them since they contradict the original assessment of the case.
  3. Ambiguity Bias is a tendency to choose options for which the probability of the positive outcome is known over options with poorly defined winning chances. In legal decision making, clients favor low-risk strategies with well-defined probabilities of success. The lawyers should take this effect into account when making recommendations to the clients.
  4. Attentional Bias is a tendency to focus on things that matter for us. In legal decision making, clients may be inclined to present facts that seem important for them and dismiss other information. The lawyers must be aware of this bias, and make their best efforts to receive all facts relevant to the case (regardless of how important the clients considers them to be).
  5. Attribution Bias is a tendency to evaluate differently our own and other people’s behavior. In legal decision making, this can be observed as clients trying to justify their actions by putting the blame on other people or circumstances of their cases. The lawyers need to understand this effect and take it into account when they make the analyses of the clients’ statements. 

Conclusion

To sum up, it seems that lawyers have no chances to meet the main cognitive challenges posed by the modern world: making quality legal decisions within short time limits (Challenge 1) and eliminating cognitive biases for improving legal decision making (Challenge 2). 

Lawyers do not possess superhuman abilities that would allow them to masterly use System 1 and System 2 at their own discretion.  They are prone to a number of cognitive biases that they cannot cope with. On top of that, clients have their own biases too. And not all present-day lawyers can correctly identify their clients’ biases and collect full and accurate information from their statements.

Even though lawyers cannot make quality decisions in a amount of time, they can work on their cognitive skills to improve legal decision making. Also, they should strive to collaborate more with each other because teamwork helps both to save time and reach high-quality legal decisions. Finally, it is better for lawyers to specialize in only one field of law rather than try to be experts in everything.

Although lawyers cannot eliminate all cognitive biases (especially the ones of their clients), they can minimize these biases by reflecting on their judgments and questioning them every time. Regarding clients’ cognitive biases, lawyers can only learn how to ask questions that help their clients to present an objective view of the case.

As the famous proverb says “forewarned is forearmed.” In the context of legal decision making this should be read as follows:

Lawyers who understand human cognitive abilities and their limitations are one step ahead of their colleagues remaining in ignorance of such important things.

References

Benson, Buster. “Cognitive bias cheat sheet.”, https://medium.com/better-humans/cognitive-bias-cheat-sheet-55a472476b18 . 1 Sep. 2016. Accessed 21 Jul. 2019.

Grady, Ken. “Welcome to Your Brain: Cognitive Psychology and Legal Decision-Making.”, https://medium.com/rethink-the-practice/welcome-to-your-brain-cognitive-psychology-and-legal-decision-making-2ccabcebfc17 . 3 Feb. 2016. Accessed 21 Jul. 2019.

Kahneman, Daniel, and Amos Tversky. “Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk.” Handbook of the fundamentals of financial decision making: Part I. 2013. 99-127.

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan, 2011.

Tversky, Amos, and Daniel Kahneman. “Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases.” science 185.4157 (1974): 1124-1131.

Weinstein, Ian. “Don’t Believe Everything You Cognitive Bias in Legal Decision Making.” Clinical L. Rev. 9 (2002): 783.

Effective Communication Skills: 10+ tips for speaking up at work, school, or wherever.

Have you ever wanted to communicate better? Do you feel insecure when speaking in public? Is it hard for you to write? Do you not know what to say sometimes? In this article, we will tell you what are effective communication skills, what types there are and where can you apply them. Furthermore, we will give you tips on how to improve them.

Effective communication skills

Effective communication skills: Definition and purpose

Communication skills can be defined as a set of skills that enable a person to communicate properly. According to Hymes, the creator of this concept, effective communication skills consist of knowing “when to speak, when not, and what to talk about, with whom, when, where, in what form“.

We interact constantly with other people and we can’t stop expressing ourselves. Therefore, mastering these skills is fundamental to our personal and social development. We use them when speaking, listening, reading and writing.

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Nowadays it’s hard to get away from our computer screens and mobile phones. Communication is constantly changing and we have to quickly adapt to it. Even so, no matter with what you communicate, you need to use effective communication skills.

We all know how upsetting misunderstandings are. We also know or can imagine the uncomfortable feeling when someone doesn’t pay attention to us when we speak. Sometimes, it’s inevitable that what we say is not interesting or that there are errors in the communicative process. However, here we will give you some guidelines to encounter those situations as little as possible. Discover how to improve your communication skills.

Effective communication skills: Applications

We can’t stop communicating, even if we try. A single gesture betrays us. In fact, even when we are alone we talk to ourselves. Finding the right words and thoughts comes in handy in all aspects of life. We will mention three main ones.

1. Effective communication skills at work

People who work harder or better don’t always receive all the attention. Sometimes the main thing is how ideas are sold to the boss and the power of persuasion. Effective communication skills allow us to develop influential techniques and reach a greater audience.

At the professional level, it is essential to know how to deal adequately with peers, make good decisions even in stressful situations or under job stress. This is one of the reasons why effective communication skills are increasingly valued.

They are almost as important as mastering other languages or handling various computer programs. A person with good communicative skills stands out above the others in several areas and is the most prominent candidate in job interviews.

Specifically at work, effective communication skills are highly valued as well as assertiveness. Communicating what you need in a polite and respected way is very important in corporation settings.

2. Effective communication skills in education

We can train these skills from childhood, the best and most appropriate way to develop these skills is in our natural environment. Communicating well improves our personal relationships and our well-being. It makes us feel competent.

It is essential to include these skills while teaching. If we make sure that our children are capable of effectively communicating then we will make sure they become resolute and satisfied adults.  Likewise, we will be able to improve our communication with children. In order to educate in communication, we also have to be good communicators. It is impossible to convey this knowledge well if we are not good role models to imitate.

3. Effective communication skills in everyday life

We need these skills to communicate constantly. For example, to tell our roommate to wash the dishes, give bad news to a friend or send a postcard to our relatives. From the smallest to the most complicated interaction, we are in constant demand to effectively communicate ourselves. Communicating well saves time, effort and makes life more enjoyable.

Everyday effective communication skills what us come complex settings. It’s like a trial run for complicated situations for us to see our mistakes and work through so we can communicate effectively in other areas of our daily life.In

4. Effective communication skills in a difficult conversation

We all have conversations that we feel are difficult to tackle, here are some things to keep in mind when dealing with this issue. Miscommunication is very common because even though we might be in a conversation speaking the same language, our interactions are more complex than you could imagine. The next video explains how miscommunication is very easy and how to avoid it.

a) Deliver more positive than negative feedback

Postive statements are those that come across as supportive, appreciative, encouraging, meanwhile negative ones are those that are critical, disapproving and contradictory. Our brain tends to focus on the negative aspects more than the positive, therefore, it’s important to deliver around five to six times as many positive statements to every negative statement. This comes in handy not only for work settings but personal relationships as well.

b) Facial expression

Remember that emotional intelligence is all about reading another person’s emotion and empathizing. For effective communication skills, it’s important to focus on their facial expression. Smiling is important for social interactions when delivering feedback try to keep your facial expression as positive as possible and always looking for cues of how the other person might take it.

c) Stress the importance of working together to solve difficulties

When speaking about a problem always try to describe the situation without any evaluation, identify your feelings regarding the situation (don’t place blame) and suggest solutions that can make it better (avoid arguing about who is right or wrong).

d) Eye contact

Psychologists describe resonance as a person’s ability to read someone else’s emotions. This is mainly done through eye contact, it allows for people to create a connection and helps with feedback.

e) Be authentic 

Even though there are many tips on how to effectively communicate in complicated situations the critical aspect of all is that you should always remain authentic. If you come out as someone other than yourself your efforts will backfire.

f) Be Compassionate

Treat every conversation, regardless of context, as an opportunity to connect with another person who has their own needs and pain. Everyone, at some point, goes through tough times, sad times, etc. By remembering the human experiences we all share, you will find that you are able to bring kindness and compassion into the conversation.

Effective communication skills in everyday life

10 Characteristics of a person with effective communication skills

1. They are observers

In a way empathy allows us to infer the mental states of others. Good communicators know how to anticipate the reactions of others, recognize them, and modify their speech accordingly.

2. Can understand the context

People with effective communication skills are characterized by being curious about the world and adapting to the individual, social and cultural differences. Imagine that you are traveling to an Asian country and you notice that its inhabitants feel uncomfortable talking to you. It is probably because they consider disrespectful to stare into their eyes.

We do not have to go that far to assess the situation. It is important to always take into account your surroundings when assessing the best way to communicate.

3. Have high self-efficacy

They see obstacles as challenges. Believing in our possibilities makes it easier for us to focus on what we have to say without being distracted by our insecurities. It is normal to have certain doubts (and convenient when learning to improve ourselves), but there are appropriate ways to value more the perception that we have about our abilities.

4. They are respectful

A person with effective communication skills is able to talk to people with whom he disagrees and not lose their temper or patience. This is complicated if we argue about politics, religion or football. How many times have we seen people lose their tempers over nonsense? Good communicators accept the other person’s point of view and give their arguments kindly.

5. They are emotionally intelligent

They worry about what their interlocutor feels. They are assertive and empathetic. They know what questions they have to ask, how to address them, and when it is best to keep quiet.

6. They are organized

They order their thoughts before explaining them. They think before they speak and are not afraid to admit that they don’t know something. Both speaking and writing require that we order our ideas consistently. This way we will make it easier for our interlocutor to follow our argument and find our words more attractive.

7. They are creative

They tend to tell stories to generate emotional bonds with their listener, create the right metaphors, look for witty and memorable examples, etc. They are flexible and know what is best for each occasion.

8. Have good references

They examine other’s communication skills and take the best out of each encounter. They learn fast and perfect their techniques. If this is not something you tend to do, put it into practice as an exercise to achieve effective communication skills.  

9. They are not afraid to be wrong

We can’t have everything under control, no matter how effective our communicative skills. Excellent communicators are not great for their perfection. They are great because they learn from their mistakes, they don’t give up and take their mistakes with humor. Failures are inherent in the communicative process.

10. Practice, practice, and practice

It is true that there are people who seem to have a supernatural ability to communicate. However, this potential is wasted if our communicative skills are not exercised. A little rehearsal never hurts. Practice enough to make sure your communicative skills are effective. 

Types of effective communication skills

1. Grammatical or linguistic skills for effective communication

Language knowledge is important for this skill. This consists of integrating every aspect of the language, form, and meaning, maintaining a bidirectional relationship.  It includes the phonetic level (intonation, rhythm, etc.), lexical-semantic (vocabulary) and grammatical (structure of words, how they combine, etc.). It is the basis of communication, without it, we could not even understand ourselves.

2. Sociolinguistic ability 

To use this ability correctly we must be able to understand different expressions depending on the situation. Language is time-based, therefore it’s important to always have context. We can tell the difference between listening to a couple say “silly” affectionately and hear the same term when two people criticize another. Learn more about how we listen.

3. Fluency skill for effective communication

It includes different skills, from interpreting messages and transmitting various types of speeches in different circumstances. The content of the speech must be coherent and cohesive. We put it into practice when we tell (orally or written) a group of friends about our weekend through an orderly and logical structure.

4. Strategic skill for effective communication

It allows communication to be effective and enables mistakes to be repaired without breaking the course of the conversation. It involves a great deal of tactics to fill long silences or correct misinterpretations. It also includes non-verbal language. For example, it consists of redirecting the conversation what the argument gets heated without being too abrupt.

10 Tips for effective communication skills

1. Analyze yourself

Look for people in your environment who broadly convey what you want to say and examine their style. You will be more aware of what you do well and how you can progress. Soon you will carry out this process automatically. Try to not be too severe on your self-evaluation or self-appraisal, because it will only make you more nervous.

2. Be simple

Many times “less is more”. This is no exception. Do not waste time with huge expressions or bombastic terms. They will stifle the communicative process and do not always look good. This does not mean that we have to stop expanding our vocabulary. We simply have to know when to use the exact word and do it naturally.

3. Be natural

Have you ever thought that a person is not being themselves while talking to you? Sometimes we try to look and express ourselves like other people. This does not mean that we are lying but rather adapting. Imagine a person on a first date. You may be unsure and seek acceptance from your companion above all else. You may try to show that you have knowledge or characteristics that please your potential partner. Although we have the best intention in the world, this is forced and unconvincing. It is essential that you trust yourself and feel comfortable communicating well.

4. Be nice

It may seem obvious. However, sometimes with the rush, stress or bad mood, we forget to smile. It is hard for us to speak by transmitting positivity rather than by frowning. Not all circumstances require us to maintain cheerful behavior, but we can try to be as empathetic as possible. Develop your social skills. You will notice the benefits of being kind in both how others relate to you.

5. Adapt to your listening partner

Each person has their own reality. We differ in our sociocultural level, contemplate different points of view or have a different mental representation for the same word. This can lead to misunderstandings.

These mistakes can be avoided if we observe the listeners reactions and act accordingly. If you see that they are not understanding, look for explanatory examples. On the other hand, don’t let anything left unsaid if in doubt ask if your communication is effective. 

6. Try Relaxation Techniques

An important exam, presentation or a person who makes us nervous can dimish our communicative skills. It is normal that we find ourselves restless in these circumstances. Still, there are ways to stay calm in stressful situations. For example, you can count until you feel better. It may seem silly to you, but it serves to focus on something else and get some distance from the problem.

7. Look for inspiration

Search and read more about effective communication skills. You can research topics such as body language, storytelling or neurolinguistic programming (NLP). Search the Internet for experts in your field and see how they communicate. On the other hand, literature can be another source of inspiration, in addition to producing great satisfaction.

8. Remember the power of images 

If you have to make a presentation rely on visual resources. Use photos, illustrations or graphs to boost your ideas. You can rely on color psychology to create a more emotional bond with your audience. You will reinforce your words and the audience will remember them better. Just remember that the power will always rely on words.

9. Enjoy communicating

Communication is not just a medium, it can also be enjoyed.  Not everyone loves to write stories or expose a delicate subject to hundreds of people. However, our communicative skills can also be comforting as telling a joke or giving a hug. Improving them will make these experiences even more satisfying.

By the way, this process will be more gratifying if we are not doing more things at the same time. This can not only be irritating to the other person. It will also diminish our attention and will not let us appreciate the conversation to the fullest.

10. Listen

Practice active listening, be empathic and try to get your interlocutor to feel understood. Knowing how to listen is as important as being grammatically flawless or having a broad vocabulary. That way you will not stop learning and you will enrich your interpersonal relationships.

11. Ask for feedback

Receiving honest feedback from peers, family members and even bosses will help you become an effective communicator and improve your skills. It is the perfect way to discover areas of improvement that might be overlooked.

12. Engage the audience (if its a group setting)

Every person has a different attention span, imagine all of those attentions spans combined. Keep this in mind when applying effective communication skills in group settings. Be sure to make your speech interactive by asking questions, allowing others to speak, etc.

13. Manage you time

Remember you are not giving out a monologue. Effective communication skills are all about time management and giving others the opportunity to speak as well. If you are giving a presentation and need to restrict information into a time frame, remember to always keep in mind your key points in order to communicate them effectively.

14. Be concise

Remember to always be direct, simple and to the point when trying to apply effective communication skills. Focus always on getting your point across keeping in mind all the other variables mentioned.

15. Be curious

Ignite your curiosity! Keep up to date with the news, your interests, etc. This will help you engage people and your effective communication skills will be great!

Watch to see more tips for effective communication skills by Celeste Headlee.

Thank you very much for reading this article. Will you exercise your communicative skills? I invite you to practice and comment if you liked the article or want to know more.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Short term memory: What is it and practical exercises

What is short-term memory? How is it different from long-term memory? In the following article, we will try to answer these and other questions with practical examples and everyday situations.

Short term memory

What is short term memory?

Short term memory is a system that allows us to store a limited amount of information for a short period of time.

For example, short-term memory has made it possible for you to be able to read the previous sentence and understand its meaning. Without short term memory, by the time you had reached the last word of the sentence, you would probably have forgotten the first word you read. We use short-term memory many times in our daily lives. Another example would be when someone gives us their phone number: we need short-term memory to keep the number in our mind for as long as it takes us to write it down or dial it on our phone.

Activities to exercise short-term memory

How much information can we store thanks to short-term memory? And for how long? To answer these questions, we are going to use the following exercise:

1. Remembering numbers

Read aloud the following numbers: 7293 and then cover them with a piece of paper. Can you remember the numbers in the same order? Well, let’s try more numbers. Cover them with a piece of paper as soon as you have read them and try to remember each set of numbers in the same order in which they are written before moving on to the next set. Ready?

  • 40863
  • 785342
  • 7916382
  • 16249067
  • 912308462
  • 6129347320

How many numbers have you been able to remember? This type of task is known as a digit span. It has been used on numerous occasions to study short-term memory. In this task, most people remember about seven digits in the same order.

Therefore, what this task tell us about short-term memory is that a person has a short-term memory capacity of about seven elements. As for the duration of this type of memory, as you have seen, the elements remain in our mind only for a few seconds and then they vanish.

In summary, short-term memory is a fragile type of memory with a limited capacity, very sensitive to interference. The content stored in short-term memory usually disappears within a few seconds unless we repeat it over and over again or use some other strategy. In these cases, the stored information may become part of the long-term memory. Unlike short-term memory, long-term memory is stable, insensitive to interference, and long-lasting.

2. Free recall task

Another way to study short-term memory is through the free recall task. This task consists of repeating a long list of words a certain number of times in order to see the learning process of the person evaluated. Let’s look at an example of this type of task. Next, words will appear in four columns. Read them consecutively, cover them with a piece of paper and try to remember the words you have read. You don’t have to remember the words in the same order they appear.

short term memory list

What words do you remember? Write them down on a piece of paper and repeat the procedure four more times. Have you managed to remember all the words?

When doing this task, it often happens that especially in the first attempts, the people evaluated prefer to remember the first and last words on the list. Remembering the first words on the list is known as the primacy effect and occurs in a stable way throughout repetitions. In this case, “analysis, approach, and area” would be more likely to be remembered than words in the middle columns. On the other hand, remembering the last words in the list is called the recency effect and has particular characteristics. At the end of the list, we are more likely to remember the words “structure, theory, and variable” than the words in the middle columns. Unlike the primacy effect, the recency effect is very sensitive to interference. This means that if we take a break after reading the list or do another task before trying to remember the words in the list, the recency effect will fade away and we will no longer remember which were the last words we had read.

The primacy effect is related to long-term memory or learning, while the recency effect depends on how we use short-term memory.

A trick to train your short-term memory: Chunking

Several studies show that training can improve a person’s performance o short-term memory tasks. One strategy to increase the number of elements we are able to repeat in a digit span task is chunking. A chunk can be defined as a set of elements treated as a unit. For example, the first sequence of digits we saw in the first section was 7293, which is equal to four elements, 7, 2, 9 and 3. However, if instead of reading digit by digit we read that sequence as “7.293”, we will be coding those four digits as a single element, a chunk.

Let’s see another example of chunking, but this time using letters instead of digits. Let’s imagine that we have to memorize a sequence of ten letters: “h”, “a”, “p”, “p”, “i”, “n”, “e”, “s”, “s”. To repeat this sequence of letters, we need to retain ten elements in our short-term memory system. Instead, we can put those ten letters together in the word “happiness” which will count as a single element.

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Studies have shown that the retention capacity of chunks in digit-width tasks is about four or five chunks.

A well-known example of this type of memory training using the chunking technique is the S.F. case, presented by researchers Ericsson, Chase and in 1980. S.F. was a normal person with average intellectual performance who, after more than a year’s training in digit tasks, went from repeating seven digits to repeating 79. How could S.F. achieve this? The researchers stated that S.F. grouped the digits presented in chunks of three and four digits each, and then associated each chunk with mnemonic strategies of time it took runners to complete a race. Thus, the sequence “3, 4, 9, 2” was categorized as “3 minutes and 49.2 seconds”, a world record in one race. In other words, S.F. associated each of the sets of digits retained in his short-term memory with codes that already existed in his long-term memory.

However, the fact that S.F. could repeat up to 79 digits in the digit range task does not mean that he had short-term since as we said in the first section, short-term memory is a system with limited capacity. In fact, when the researchers changed the format of the task and S.F. had to repeat sequences of letters instead of digits, the number of letters he was able to repeat was no longer 79, but about seven elements or four/five chunks.

Curiosities: Clive Wearing

Another highly studied case in psychology in relation to memory is the case of Clive Wearing, a case that has linked memory with consciousness. Clive Wearing was a musician who suffered acquired brain damage as a result of an infection by herpes. The brain damage from this infection caused Wearing to have an important effect on his memory.

In addition to losing most of his memories, Clive Wearing lost his ability to retain information beyond a few seconds or minutes. That is, the information remains in his memory only for a few seconds and then fades away without becoming part of his long-term memory. As a result, Wearing is unable to recognize the people he works with every day or remember what has happened to him.

What Wearing seems to experience is that he recovers his consciousness, as reflected in a diary that he updated every few minutes. During those seconds or minutes, Clive Wearing felt he had woken up and didn’t remember anything he had done minutes before. When his temporary memory store was exhausted, all the information retained during those seconds would fade away and Clive would rewrite that he had regained consciousness.

However, some memories from Clive’s previous life remained, such as his musical ability. This can be seen as evidence that memory is a complex system that includes different independent memory systems.

References

  • Baddeley, A. D. (2014). Essentials of human memory. New York, United States: Psychology Press.
  • Baddeley, A. D., Thomson, N. Buchanan, M. (1975). Word and the structure of short-term memory. Journal of verbal learning and verbal behavior, 14, 575-589.
  • Schwarb, H., Nail, J. and Schumacher, E. H. (2015). Working memory training improves visual short-term memory capacity. Psychological Research, 80(1): 128-148.
  • Ericsson, K. A., Chase, W., and Faloon, S. (1980). Acquisition of a memory skill. Science, 208, 1181-1182.
  • Morgado, I. (2005). Psychobiology of learning and memory. Cuadernos de Información y Comunicación, 10, 221-233.
  • Mathy, F. and Feldman, J. (2012). What’s magic about magic numbers? Chunking and data compression in short term memory. Cognition, 122, 346-362.

Positive Discipline: 23 Techniques

All parents want the best for their children, but sometimes we don’t have the knowledge to act properly. Educating is not an easy task. For this reason, it is essential to have resources to help us act out of understanding and kindness. Positive discipline is that tool for educating children through cooperation and mutual respect between parents and children.

Positive Discipline

What is positive discipline?

Positive discipline was developed by psychotherapist Alfred Alder and his apprentice Rudolf Dreikurs. Later, Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott (founders of the American Association of Positive Discipline) regulated its principles and techniques.

Many times, when we hear the word “discipline” we associate it with negative factors, but the true meaning of this word is “disciple”. We could see our children as disciples who need our help during their development, in order to be free, happy and independent in the future.

Firm & Kind

Several studies have shown that children need to create significant relationships with the people closest to them, such as their parents, friends or teachers. The children who maintain these strong bonds generally behave better. Positive discipline is based on the premise “Firm & Kind” and reinforces these bonds through respect, understanding, self-esteem, communication.

Basic principles of positive discipline

  • Communication and understanding
  • Mutual respect between parents and children
  • Kindness and firmness
  • Strengthening bonds
  • Children’s active participation
  • Emotional and independent development

Positive discipline and why children misbehave

Children are children and sometimes they can make us despair when they don’t do what we expect. Perhaps that is the first mistake: “to expect something from them”. First, we shouldn’t expect their behavior to be one way or the other. We must understand that they don’t communicate like adults communicate, therefore we must the message they are trying to get across.

Positive Discipline To Educate

Rudolf Dreikurs mentioned: “When children don’t behave well, they are trying to say something in a different way than an adult would and therefore, we perceive it as the wrong way, without stopping to think that maybe it is the only way they can/know how to express themselves”. The reasons can be several; to claim our attention, boredom, hunger, etc. This is why important to empathize with our children to know the real reason their behaviors.

Positive discipline is not the same as being permissive

Positive discipline does not mean of it or of permissiveness. Nor does it resemble punitive discipline (based on punishment), since it makes children learn by feeling bad and by feeling afraid. With positive discipline, we are looking for long-term results. The objective is for children to understand why certain things are wrong and why they shouldn’t do them. We don’t impose punishments without knowing if children have really understood why they shouldn’t act in certain ways.

23 positive discipline techniques

Positive Discipline
  1. Self-monitoring
    Many parents lose a lot of energy trying to control their children, but the only behavior we can really control is our own. It’s up to us to adopt an attitude that benefits our mental health and not let difficult situations overwhelm us. We can redirect our children’s behavior and/or tell them what they can do, instead of focusing our attention on what they shouldn’t do. Transmitting safety and calmness will benefit the relationship with our little ones.
  2. Communication
    It’s the basis of every relationship. We must try to look for moments to connect with our children. For example, going for a snack after school, having breakfast together every morning before going to school, or even holding family gatherings. Keeping in touch with our children and up to date on possible problems they may have at school, after-school activities, etc., will help us understand their behavior.
  3. Showing interest
    Ask about our children’s interests, hobbies, and preferences. Making children feel valued strengthens their self-esteem and well-being. Avoid asking “Have you done your homework?” questions. If you know he hasn’t done his homework. We can replace it with phrases like: “I realize you haven’t done your homework”. That way we’ll prevent children from feeling trapped by our questions.
  4. Listening
    No matter how small they may be, they have their own feelings and emotions, listening to what they tell us will help us understand their behaviors. Through them, we have the opportunity to turn the world in a new and surprising way, like when we were children.
  5. Understanding
    Try to understand what is behind a bad behavior; it can be fatigue from school, after-school activities, being hungry, having a bad day, or being uncomfortable with something in particular. Finding out what is really happening to them will help us adopt effective solutions.
  6. Firm & Kind
    Be firm in your decisions but kind at the same time. Show understanding for them but do not give in. For example, the child wants to play video games when they get home but has homework to do. A “Firm & Kind” attitude would be: “I know you want to play video games, but first you have to do your homework and then you can play”.
  7. Be an example
    Children have many ways of learning, one of the best known is by imitation. If we try to keep our children from behaving in certain ways, we should be an example to them and make our words coincide with our actions. That is to say, we can’t tell them not to use their phones when we are eating but then use it ourselves. Being an example is fundamental for them to develop principles and positive values, so it is also important to constantly ask ourselves what mistakes we’re making and try to improve every day.
  8. Pay attention to effort rather than success
    It is very common to focus on success rather than on the efforts made. We all want our children to be the best in school and other activities, but this requires time and effort that must be valued even more than success. Imagine our child fails an exam. We agree that it is not a very high grade, but we must bear in mind that the child has improved, so we have to focus our attention on that.
  9. Seek solutions that involve children
    Let us imagine that our child is playing in the room. When we are going to call them to sit at the table for dinner, we notice that they have painted the wall with colored pencils. One solution that involves the child would be to tell them to clean the wall, or to clean it together.
  10. Taking Responsibility
    Teach them to take responsibility for their own actions. In this way, they learn to relate actions with consequences. We can try phrases like: “As you have done all your homework now we can go to the park”.
  11. Redirect actions
    Redirect actions that are not appropriate in a gentle and subtle way. Imagine that you are in the park and have been swinging for a long time and other children want to get on the swing. We can kindly invite our child to leave the swing and take them to the slide.
  12. Limits
    Limits are necessary to protect our children from danger and help them adapt to the world around us. It is important that children participate in these if they are 4 years and over. The decision should not be unilateral, as in this way we promote power and this can sometimes result in rebellion. For example, decide together when to go to bed or curfew hours.
  13. Natural consequences
    They are those that occur without the intervention of an adult. For example, the child does not want to eat the food and if they don’t eat it later they will be hungry (natural consequence). It is a matter of the child learning them by themselves. Avoid phrases such as “I told you so” or “I warned you”. These kinds of phrases can make a child feel humiliated. Do not forget that the main objective is that children learn and do not repeat the same mistakes, not that they realize that adults know everything.
  14. Logical Consequences
    Logical consequences require adult follow-up. For example: “If you go to bed late, I won’t have time to read you the story. Therefore, we decide a consequence for their actions directly related to unwanted behavior.
  15. Follow-up
    When we apply logical consequences, we must keep them constant. If we deem it appropriate, we can give them a new opportunity to fulfill them later.
  16. Avoiding rewards and punishments
    Prizes and punishments are arbitrary. The consequence is not directly related to the cause and promote authority and power, without regard to mutual respect. Try to replace them by applying logical consequences, as they are based on choice and understanding.
  17. Error = opportunity
    The word crisis in Chinese is composed of two characters, the first means danger and the second opportunity. A mistake is an opportunity to learn. We can let children make mistakes and learn for themselves. When they make mistakes, we will not give them the solution immediately. We can brainstorm and discuss the pros and cons together.
  18. Never use physical violence
    It is not advisable to use physical violence when children misbehave, as this teaches them that violence is okay. When we are very angry, we need to try to calm down and then adopt logical consequences from serenity. We must remember that no one is perfect and that we have all made mistakes.
  19. Time
    Devoting exclusive time to our children is fundamental. This will help to avoid tantrums, focusing too much on electronic devices or even waking up at night in search of our attention. It is advisable to quality invest with them, read them a story before going to bed or take advantage of meals and dinners to share with them.
  20. Tone of voice
    It is beneficial to address them in a friendly and loving tone, that will make it easier for them to pay attention and really listen to what we want to say to them. Perceiving the “sermon tone” will make them want to disconnect and not pay attention to our words. It is important to educate without shouting.
  21. Words
    Choosing the right words accompanied by the right tone of voice is essential for communication between parents and children to reflect respect and affection.
  22. Autonomy
    Although we sometimes have the instinct to protect them, it is not advisable to do so if we want them to grow up safely and independently. Children should be allowed to experience consequences based on their own actions and/or decisions (using common sense, of course). We should not do things that they can already do for themselves, so we will help them to be more autonomous.
  23. Patience
    Accumulated fatigue, stress, or self-demanding can easily cause us to lose patience. We are human and it is normal that sometimes we feel overwhelmed and lose patience with our children. We should not blame ourselves for this, we can look for activities that make us disconnect like sports or simply dedicate time to ourselves.