Tag Archives: Cognitive

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.

Daydreaming: what is it, why do we do it, can it be dangerous?

You are now entering Lala land (no, not the one with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, unfortunately) but a land where it’s all about you. We have all had those moment sitting in class, at work and all of a sudden 10 minutes have gone by and you have no idea what actually happened. Your mind has taken over and you were in a haze or maybe even a daydream. Where did your mind go in those 10 minutes? Did you see yourself in a perfect fantasy? What is Daydreaming? Does it happen to everyone? Daydreaming is a part of everyday life! 

daydreaming

What is a daydream?

A daydream is when your mind wanders and your attention shifts from the task at hand whether it be physical or mental, to a place that is entirely your own. Daydreams consist of little videos of yourself in past, future and present events. What you wanted to happen, replaying certain events over and over again, daydream about future events where you see yourself in 10 years and even daydreaming about what you will be doing later tonight. It has been noted that about 30 to 47% of our conscious day is spent spacing out, drifting and daydreaming.

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Men who daydream frequently and women who daydream vividly tend to be less satisfied in their life. But if you daydream about family and friends, people report higher levels of satisfaction in their daily lives. It has been found that there are two types of daydreams: positive-construction daydreams and dysphoric daydreams.

  • Positive-constructive daydreams are usually upbeat and include imaginative thoughts.
  • Dysphoric daydreams include visions of failure and punishment.

These two common themes of the conquering hero and the suffering martyr are experienced differently by men and women. Men are usually daydreaming about the playing the conquering hero while women are daydreaming about being the suffering martyr.  It is human nature for us to daydream more when we are stressed, bored, tired, or in a hectic environment. But on the other hand, the only time where we do not day dream is during sex. All of our attention and focus is at that moment, however, this does not mean you cannot fantasize which is different from daydreaming.

“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” -Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

Why do we daydream?

Daydreams allow your mind to run freely and even increases productivity in some cases. Remember in class there was that one kid who was doodling or staring out the window and the teacher would usually yell at them for not paying attention? Well, it turns out, these kids might have had the right idea. Daydreaming enhances creativity which is why you have an ah-ha moment and sudden insight about a situation. Daydreaming allows your to uncover thoughts and ideas you did not realize you even had and looks underneath the surface thoughts. Your mind in a way becomes unhinged is allowed to roam freely.

Daydreaming is a great exercise because it gives you an outlet to imagine scenarios without risk or any real consequences. When you daydream, you can make new associations and connections from your conscious mind to unconscious thoughts which can help you in a situation that you have been thinking about for a while. When you daydream you escape your reality even if only for a short amount of time. Daydreaming is an essential cognitive tool to help us explore our inner experiences.

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Much like nighttime dreaming, daydreaming can also help the brain consolidate learning. Daydreaming may also help people to sort through problems and achieve success. Researchers found that different brain areas are activated when daydreaming that are compatible with those associated with problem-solving.

Daydreaming Purpose

Daydreaming has been shown that it can serve an evolutionary purpose. The more we replay an event and think about the variables that can affect an event, the more practice and more comfortable we get with the idea of something similar. Daydreaming can be a soothing method to get someone more comfortable with somethingFor example, in Grey’s Anatomy episode, “Magic Moment” the team of doctors practices a very important surgery. This is similar to what happens when we daydream. It is one big dress rehearsal for the real show, your life.

Daydreaming- Grey’s Anatomy

Daydreaming also assists us in making moral decisions. It also gives us an outlet to plan as well as problem-solving in a safe space. A possible explanation as to why we daydream is that we are trying to understand others’ thoughts. We do not know what others are thinking but we can daydream about what we think they are thinking or even about how we want them to this.

The neurological systems behind daydreaming

When you daydream your brain is actually using a different network called the default network. This network includes areas of the brain such as the medial prefrontal cortex which helps to imagine ourselves and the thoughts and feelings of others, the posterior cingulate cortex which shows personal memories from the brain, and the parietal cortex which has connections to the hippocampus that stores episodic memories

The default network is only activated when people switch their conscious mind from an attention-demanding task to wandering or daydreaming. For this reason, this network is considered our default setting, when our brain is not paying attention to the present, it reverts to this setting. This network allows our daydreaming to be an autobiographical mental imagery by generating our own sense of self. The default network is extremely active when we do not notice we have lost focus and our mind wanders on its own. A product from the default system is something called stimulus independent thought. These are thoughts about things other than events that originate from the outside environment, aka they make up the things we daydream about.

Daydreams are all about you

“I try to maintain a healthy dose of daydreaming to remain sane.”-Florence Welch

You might have mundane daydreams but you are also more than capable of having extravagant fantasies as well. What all daydreams have in common, is that they are always all about you! You tend to daydream in your own little world and you are the main focus. We imagine who we think we are, who we want to be, and how we believe others perceive us. Our daydreams confirm what we already know about situations by presenting information in a new or different way. Daydreams allow us to have a self-to-self channel of communication. In our daydreams, we are the center of the universe because it is our world at that moment in time. In our daydreams, we are the center of the universe because it is our world at that moment in time.

Can daydreaming be dangerous?

If you daydream too much, it can become addictive. When we think about the best versions of ourselves and imagining a perfect world or perfect outcome to a situation it can become dangerous. Ruminate daydreaming are daydreams where you are rehashing and analyzing the past as well as worrying about what can do wrong in the future. This can lead you down a dangerous path. Once people are aware that they are doing this, it is rather difficult for them to turn it off. It can also lead to concentration problems and procrastination. Learn more about overcoming procrastination

Daydreaming can be used as a way to escape from stress and pressures that are going on in our reality and they become a way for us to retreat from reality. We can rather daydream about a more idealized situation. For example, many people in prison can spend much of their days daydreaming about what life would be like if they were out. This can become dangerous because people will use daydreams to avoid the reality of situations rather than dealing with them. The best way to try to break this daydream cycle is to have positive distractions such as social gatherings, exercising and being aware and mindful when you start to daydream too much.

Daydreaming effectively- Tips

The best time for the mind to daydream is when you are engaging in a mildly challenging task. This seems to allow people to access ideas that are usually not readily available on the conscious level. Daydreaming provides a place for the mind to wander off to which can then give insight into the conscious mind. If you daydream about people you know, such as family or friends, they can make you happier.

There are some times when you need to focus at the task at hand. The professor is talking about what will be on the exam next week is maybe not the best time for you to zone out and daydream. Do your best to tune out default network when situations like this occur.

Daydream positively: You are the maker of your daydreams and if you do not like what you are daydreaming about, change it, you have the power to do that!

You can actually help your improve your memory by daydreaming about events as long as they are relatively close to reality. This can actually help enhance your memories of the experience and therefore you will have a better chance of remembering them in the future.

Finally, daydream when you can, it allows you to be more creative. Even though there is a moment in time where you want to be paying attention, everyone needs a break and it is important to allow your mind to daydream.

Hope you enjoyed this article and that you continue to daydream!

References

Dell’Amore, Christine. “Five Surprising Facts About Daydreaming.” National Geographic. National Geographic Society, 14 June 2017. Web. 20 June 2017.

Jones, Lawrence. “What is a Daydream in Psychology? -Definition & Disorder.” Study.com. Study.com, n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.

Lehrer, Jonah. “The Virtues of Daydreaming.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 19 June 2017. Web. 21 June 2017.

Nissan, Colin. “The Science of Daydreams.” The New Yorker. The New Yorker, 19 June 2017. Web. 20 June 2017.

“What your daydreams reveal about you.” Psychologies. N.p., 03 Mar. 2010. Web. 21 June 2017.

Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “Why and How You Daydream.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 08 Jan. 2013. Web. 20 June 2017.

Empathy: Can you put yourself in someone else’s shoes?

You’ve probably talked or heard about it, but do you really know the implications of empathy and its meaning? Empathy is much more than putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.  Find out everything you need to know about empathy: What is empathy, definition, and concept, characteristics of empathetic people, types of empathy, differences between empathy and assertiveness, its benefits, how to improve or practice it and much more. If you want to share your experience or ask us any questions please leave your comment below.

Empathy

What is empathy? Definition and Concept

The term “empathy” comes from the Greek ἐμπάθεια: empátheia. Dictionaries define it as a feeling of identification with something or someone. The Oxford dictionary defines it as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

The first description of empathy is the one we usually use and refers to the emotional aspect. The second is the cause of the first since it would be impossible for us to feel if our cognition and thoughts didn’t allow it.

Therefore, we could say that empathy is the ability to put oneself in the other’s place, both emotionally and intellectually. Thus, the verb “empathize” appeals to the action of understanding other’s reality, including cognitively and emotionally.

The art of understanding emotions is more complex than it may seem. A study done by the University of Amsterdam indicates that empathy is bidirectional. This means that empathic interaction is significant for both individuals, for the one that is empathic and the one who feels comprehended.  It is easy to see that we are not empathic to the same extent everybody in the same way.

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Empathy: Characteristics of empathic people

People who feel empathy share a number of personality traits or behavioral patterns among themselves that foster the development of empathic capacity. Take a look at the following list to know the main characteristics of empathic people:

  • They are highly sensitive. Empathetic men and women are good listeners, open-minded to new experiences, kind and selfless. They are usually attentive to the needs of others and do not hesitate to lend a hand. It is not surprising, then, that they have a fascinating ability to transmit good feelings while interacting with others. However, the negative side of being highly sensitive is that people are more susceptible to feeling more empathy, more than they can handle. Therefore, any offense or ugly gesture they may receive hurts them more.
  • They capture people’s emotionality. As if it were a sponge, someone empathic is capable of absorbing the emotions of others. The mood of the other person has a significant influence on that of a person with a high level of empathy so that their emotionality is intensely adapted to both negative and positive feelings. Thus, it is difficult for them not to feel overwhelmed if they meet someone who is going through a time of anxiety and stress, or not to catch the joy of a happy person.
  • Your kindness can affect your own well-being. Having a big heart and caring sincerely for others are indisputable virtues. The disadvantage of this is that empathic people become more dedicated to other people’s problems than to their own, which often leads to frustration, stress, and difficulties in managing their lives.
  • They are careful with their language. Communication is essential to demonstrate empathic skills. When we empathize with others, we review our words twice before we say them because we are aware of the impact language can have on the other person’s well-being, for better or for worse.
  • They avoid extremes. People with empathy prefer the middle ground. They avoid extreme thinking. Therefore, when they surround themselves with someone who is extremist, they are able to teach them that not everything is black or white, but that there are many colors from which to perceive things and the most appropriate thing is to be open to that diversity that life offers us.
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Types of empathy

There are different types of empathy among which are:

Affective empathy: also called emotional empathy, it consists of three differentiated elements. To begin with, you need to feel the same emotion as the other person. Then, a distressing component appears as a natural reaction to vividly perceiving the feelings of the other. Finally, this leads to compassion.

Cognitive empathy: refers to the intellectual potential to perceive and understand the emotions of others. It could be said that cognitive empathy is the previous step to feeling affective empathy. It is necessary to learn to recognize emotions and then to understand their repercussion on one’s state of mind.

Unconscious empathy: Unconscious empathy implies a high level of involvement. Excessive involvement can lead to confusion caused by emotional contagion. Unconsciously empathetic people become so involved in others’ emotions they end up making them theirs. Consequently, controlling, and managing one’s emotions becomes tremendously complex.

Conscious empathy: This kind of empathy involves less emotional involvement. Conscious empathy allows you to observe the other person from an objective perspective and distance, which is essential to encourage emotional self-regulation and allow for a better understanding of the other person’s needs. A person who consciously empathizes is more effective in helping others because they support others without being overwhelmed with their feelings. This is the healthiest way to empathize because in this way you don’t carry the weight of the emotions that don’t correspond to yours and you can offer your best self.

Intercultural empathy

From empathy, one learns to respect and value the decisions of others, and also to understand the concerns and aspirations of others. And this process occurs in the same way across cultures. To empathize with other cultures means to know and understand the importance that each person gives to their customs, traditions and artistic productions.

To recognize multiculturalism is to accept human diversity because not all people are equal and have not grown up in the same environment. There are many cultures, languages, religions, professions, ways of thinking, skin tones, etc. and they are all equally valid.

Intercultural Empathy

It is essential to teach this kind of empathy in school, as children educated in the diversity of ethnic groups will develop a much healthier and more open way of thinking. Moreover, learning to accept the differences and not confront them will avoid numerous social problems in the future.

Empathy and assertiveness

It is important to make the distinction between empathy and assertiveness, given the confusion that both terms can cause.

To begin with, the similarities observed indicate that both empathy and assertiveness are considered to be potentially developable social skills in all human beings, since both can be learned in different contexts intentionally, by chance or due to daily life experiences.

Both skills need respect to be put into practice: respect for others (because the last thing you want is to hurt others’ feelings or hurt them) and respect for yourself (because you are defending the rights of another human being). In addition, other qualities such as honesty, integrity, and consistency are important.

The differences are more noticeable. While assertiveness implies a more personal aspect where there is a concern for not attacking others with words while allowing others to express their thoughts and opinions. Empathy doesn’t restrict or concern itself about feelings or others opinions when it needs to be expressed. Assertiveness defends the words that are pronounced, and empathy understands the words that others pronounce.

In conclusion, when we have the capacity to say what we think without hurting someone else’s feelings, and we also have the capacity to understand others by giving them the opportunity to speak, and express what they think, an enriching dialogue is established. This allows both parties to learn from each other, and communication flows clearly towards the goal that has been established.

These are two very useful skills for learning and communicating that complement each other. Both of these skills need to be learned to develop excellent communication and listening abilities.

Benefits of empathy

Empathy has many benefits. Let’s look at some examples:

1 – Helps emotional harmony:

Empathic people connect quickly with others, making the vast majority feel comfortable and making interpersonal relationships seem easier.

2- Helps to be objective and fair:

The best way to gain the respect of others is to show it to ourselves, even if we may differ in opinions.

3- It improves self-esteem and stimulates our learning:

Feeling that we have a positive effect on others works as a powerful personal enhancer. Furthermore, the empathic exercise allows us to learn from other’s, enriching the prism of reality with different perspectives.

4- It transmits generosity:

Those who demonstrate empathy are collaborative and more successful. It helps them act as brilliant catalysts for change by influencing others to achieve common goals

5- Strengthens professional relationships and maintains them over time:

Working empathically increases the strength of the bonds. This aspect is great in negotiation as well as in those cases in which it is necessary to seal agreements based on trust.

6- It helps show our most peaceful and constructive side:

There is numerous scientific evidence to corroborate that empathy and violence are, neuropsychologically, incompatible with each other. As our understanding increases, our inclination to belligerence decreases and the way we are perceived socially improves.

Keys to practicing empathy

Like all skills, empathy can be trained. Here are some tips for practicing empathy:

  • Listen with an open mind and without prejudice. Be respectful of others.
  • Pay attention and show interest in what they are telling you because it is not enough to know what the other person feels, but we have to show them you care.
  • Do not interrupt while being talked to and avoid becoming experts at giving advice, rather than trying to feel what the other person feels.
  • Learn to discover, recognize and reward the qualities and achievements of others. This will not only contribute to building their capacities but will also reveal our concern and interest in them.
  • When we have to give our opinion on what we are being told, it is very important to do so constructively, to be honest, and not to hurt anyone.
  • Be willing to accept differences with others, be tolerant and patient with those around you and with yourself.

Cognitive Psychology: Inquiring in Mental Processes

What is cognitive psychology? Who are its main authors? What are its characteristics?  In this article, we will talk about the study of cognitive processes. Discover everything you need to know about cognitive psychology.

Cognitive Psychology

Cognitive Psychology: Definition and Importance

Psychology is a heterogeneous science that explores various issues related to our mind and our behavior. This discipline examines us both socially and individually and involves an immensity of challenges.

These issues are often influenced by the subjectivity that inevitably leads people to study other people. In fact, psychology professionals often have trouble reaching an agreement. Its object of study is complex and changing. Also, their discipline is not an exact science. Psychology is still taking its first steps.

The main objective of psychologists is to make us understand ourselves better and to improve our quality of life. However, they are also influenced by their interests and their way of looking at the world. There are different currents that seek an approach to find the truth from different perspectives. However, we are all different and each person is biased from their own experiences. 

For example, there are different perspectives on what is mental illness. Some experts focus on the observable aspects of behavior, others look for biological causes and some think society is responsible. These dilemmas may confuse us.

Should we worry about this uncertainty?

We shouldn’t take these dilemmas as nonconclusive problems. In fact, it is possible to combine several perspectives and to elaborate new and more explanatory models. These discussions (in the most scientific sense of the word) drive the growth of psychology and bring us closer to the discoveries that allow us to know how cognitive processes work.

Cognitive psychology studies the mental processes related to knowledge. It is linked to artificial intelligence and analyzes psychological processes such as perception, memory, attention, cognitive distortions or learning. 

Cognitive Psychology: Features

Although heterogeneous theories coexist within cognitive psychology, we can observe its main distinctive features.

1. Emphasizes in cognitive processes

Behavior can’t be explained without naming our cognitive processes. These procedures cover a myriad of tasks that we perform in our day to day. For example, memorize the birthdays of our relatives or perceive the typical optical illusions that become viral.

2. The field of study is very complex

It is not easy to study cognitive processes since they are not tangible. In fact, this field has been rejected for years because of its complexity. Nowadays neuroscience allows us to approach cognitive processes in a more scientific and tangible way. Thanks to neuroimaging techniques such as fMRI (Functional MRI) we can see how our brain performs certain tasks such as deciding whether if you prefer coffee or tea. This field has also made it possible for company’s such as CogniFit to measure and train your cognitive skills through specific brain games. 

3. Their sources are scattered and varied

Psychologists focused on emotions, processing information, Gestalt or social psychology all dive into cognitive processes with different goals. This makes their sources very scattered and varied, however, they are enriching for psychology. 

4. Processing capacity is limited

Our ability to pay attention and process information is affected by several factors. It requires a lot of effort to select the most relevant data at any given time. For example, if we go to the supermarket, we can’t see all the boxes of cereal at a time. Therefore, our brain chooses the most visually striking and we focus on that. 

5. Mental processes are organized in a hierarchical way

We face an incredible amount of stimuli (for example the television is on, the telephone rings, the neighbors scream, smoke comes out of the kitchen, we feel like going to the bathroom, our arm itches, etc.) Our brain learns to make priorities and be as efficient as possible. Our brain organizes and controls all the activities we do consciously and much more all at the same time. In fact, we perform activities automatically (walking) and others in a controlled way (adding an event on our agenda). There are tasks that we can carry out simultaneously (detect different elements in the street) and others in serial form (to figure out a mathematical problem). This can only be achieved hierarchically.

6. People understand reality in different ways

We all carry out complex actions through our mental processes. That is, we can memorize data, organize information, have expectations about what we want in the future and countless activities that happen in our brain to adapt to the environment.

However, we are not mechanical robots. The environment and other people influence us. Nonetheless, we make our own decisions, defend our ideology and come to different conclusions while maintaining our own arguments. We make complex judgments and comparisons that are reflected in the great interindividual variability.

For example, a football fan will tend to focus more on any fact related to his team, especially if it is positive. We act based on the information that is accessible to us, our goals, feelings, prejudices and a long list of contents that pass through our mind.

Cognitive Psychology: A Little History

Early thinkers such as William James or Wilhelm Wundt, already theorized about cognitive processes such as consciousness. Nonetheless, cognitive psychology emerged in the middle of the last century.

In the 1950s, behaviorism was the main paradigm in this science. This approach is based on observable behavior, often extrapolating results obtained with animals to people and neglecting cognitive processes. Its main goal was to study human behavior in labs where scientific rigor was at its highest. However, it failed to explain human thought process. 

On the other hand, psychoanalysis was the other mainstream perspective. It focused on the subconscious and childhood development. Both perspectives set aside mental processes. 

The cognitive revolution

The cognitive revolution brought the fact that the black box, which was the gap between stimuli and behavior could now be opened and explored. Cognitive psychology began to imagine the mind as a computer that processes information through different programs and with certain capacities. This computer metaphor allows us to establish parallels that help us to better visualize the human mind.

However, they do not study all content well, beliefs or expectations are concepts more abstract than the number of elements that we are able to retain. Great strides are now being made from the cognitive perspective and it seems to remain a fundamental approach for psychology to progress.

Cognitive psychology: 10 essential authors and their contributions

Since the last century, there have been several celebrities in this field. Here are a few of the most important authors in the field. 

1. Bartlett

He studied types of memory and memory itself. He observed it in everyday situations and analyzed how we modify it ourselves.

2. Bruner

He was a great developmental psychologist. He focused on how we treat information and learning as a process rather than conceiving it as a final product.

3. Turing

He is the creator of the “Turing machine”, which is an abstract device that simulates human thinking. It serves to create representations that allow investigating cognitive processes.

4. Miller

According to this psychologist, the working memory may contain more or less seven information sequences. However, we can group the data to retain more elements. He wrote the cognitive manifesto called Plans and the Structure of Behavior (1960).

5. Festinger

He is the author of the theory of cognitive dissonance, which describes how important it is for us to maintain our beliefs, the processes we carry out to preserve them and how complex it is to change them.

6. Broadbent

This cognitive psychologist maintained that our attention processes data serially. 

7. Neisser

He coined the term “cognitive psychology”.

8. Gestalt Psychologists

“The whole is more than the sum of its parts.”

That is, our mind perceives reality through our senses and gives rise to a new interpretation through perception.

9. Shannon and Weaver

They developed a famous mathematical model that collects the main elements of the communicative process.

10. Chomsky

His main contribution to the field of cognitive psychology was through linguistics. 

Cognitive Psychology Applications

We apply cognitive psychology in almost every aspect of our lives. 

Basic research

Basic psychological processes, such as motivation and perception, are the main area cognitive psychology is applied to. Subsequently, the data obtained is integrated into programs to improve our quality of life.

Psychopathology

According to this approach, our thoughts and emotions have a significant impact on our mental health. For example, interpreting negatively every comment they make how we look could lead to an eating disorder.

Cognitive Therapy

Making our thoughts more positive or reducing our cognitive distortions or cognitive biases is the main contribution of this perspective. 

Developmental psychology

Through the study of topics such as the theory of mind, we come to better understand interpersonal relationships and our progress as we grow.

Social psychology

Cognitive psychology helps us to understand how our prejudices (however harmful they may be at times) enable us to reduce the amount of data we have to process since we take information for granted and do not analyze it.

Education

All basic psychological processes are elementary when it comes to talking about training. Cognitive psychology has given us Bandura’s theory of social learning, which contrasts with the mechanical explanations of behaviorists. Understanding how we assimilate knowledge or how we perceive external stimuli is dispensable to provide an education to society.

Artificial intelligence

Knowing how the human mind works is the key to developing the technology of the future. Amazing discoveries are being made in this field. The advance of artificial intelligence requires that its professionals work with a great responsibility, but also its technological advances have the capacity of improving our lives.

Daily life

Their contributions allow us to control better our thoughts and cognitive processes as well as infer the causes of other’s behavior. We can use cognitive psychology to simplify our day to day. For example, after learning that we retain approximately seven elements in our working memory (Miller) and that we can memorize more when grouping, we can take this data into account to draw more effective studying strategies.

Thank you very much for reading this article. What do you think about cognitive psychology? We invite you to comment below.

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

Rote Learning: Retaining Information Without Deepening Its Meaning

Do you remember when you learned to multiply? You repeat the same multiplication tables over and over. This is a technique called rote learning. Do you think this is a good learning method? In what cases do you think it can work? Do you often use rote learning? In this article we will delve into the characteristics of rote learning, its advantages and disadvantages, examples and also contrast with other types of learning. In addition, we will give you five tips to memorize.

Rote Learning

What is rote learning?

Learning is based on relatively stable changes in behavior or mind that take place through experience. There are several learning theories dedicated to exploring how our brain learns.

Rote learning is based on mentally retaining data through repetition without processing it carefully. The memorized contents are not understood and no attempt is made to analyze their meaning. It is just mere repetition, enough times until they are retained in our memory.

Memory is one of our basic cognitive processes. It helps us to encode, consolidate and retrieve data later. The interaction between memory and learning is essential both in our education and in all areas of our lives. However, it is also relevant that their relationship helps us process the data properly and progress in our development.

Rote Learning – Features

  • It is the most basic type of learning.
  • It’s mechanical.
  • The contents are arbitrarily related.
  • Retention data are usually stored in short-term memory.
  • The information is easily forgotten.
  • This type of learning is usually discouraged.

Rote learning – Examples

Rote learning in education

Rote learning is used quite a lot in school.  Generally, we remember repeating multiplication tables without understanding what we would do later with this information.

We also learned simple mathematical formulas and as many data related to numbers. However, it is not only used in math but also in other subjects. We used rote learning to learn the countries and their capitals, states, rivers, musical notes, elements of the periodic table, etc.

At university and even in working life, data are still retained without processing them in depth. This type of learning accompanies us throughout all the stages of our life.

Rote learning in everyday life

How did you learn your phone number, your partner’s birthday, your job address, social security number?

Rote learning helps us get throughout life without having to process everything we need at a certain point.

Rote learning

Rote Learning – Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages of rote learning:

  • It helps us to retain important data like dates.
  • It’s a quick procedure.
  • It is relatively simple.

Disadvantages of rote learning:

  • It is easily forgotten.
  • It doesn’t allow us to examine the information in depth.
  • It doesn’t motivate us to continue learning data related to what we memorize.

Among students, it is quite common to take an exam relying on rote learning. However, when the question is relatively ambiguous or critical thinking is asked, the security of memorized information begins to fade.

Rote learning Vs Other Learning Types

Every situation requires different types of learning and each person uses their own learning methods.

1. Meaningful learning

Rote learning is closely linked to meaningful learning. David Ausubel was influenced by Piaget and developed the theory of meaningful learning. This theory maintains that we add content to the information we had previously. We adapt the data so that we can rank it and it can make sense for us.

Ausubel was a constructivist, this implies that he considered we are responsible for building our own reality and for our learning process. Meaningful learning contrasts sharply with memory, as it encourages people to learn, analyze and transform information to get new ideas.

Are rote learning and meaningful learning compatible?

We can imagine learning as a continuum at the ends of which are rote learning and meaningful learning on opposite sides. That is, it is possible to retain data using strategies relating to both types of procedures.

We can also consider rote learning as part of meaningful learning. In fact, both procedures can be complementary. Memory plays a vital role in learning. Even so, it is advisable to memorize the contents while trying to understand them.

For example, if we are trying to study US History, we are conscientiously reviewing each chapter and connecting it with experiences of our daily life, however, we will also need to memorize relevant dates to understand the historical context of the facts.

2. Associative learning

When this process occurs, we establish connections between two distinct stimuli. For example, it happens when we associate a certain smell with a certain person and we remember them every time we perceive a similar aroma.

3. Observational learning

Bandura’s theory of social learning explains how we acquire certain knowledge or behaviors through the situations we see. Still, he insists we are not robots. For example, if we live with people who speak very loudly, it is likely that we will also raise our voice.

4. Receptive learning

This type of learning is also passive, but it is not just about memorizing, it involves understanding the new information. A very common example is in classrooms when students simply listen to the teacher. Subsequently, the students reproduce the contents in the exam without internalizing their ideas or analyzing them personally.

5. Emotional learning

It is the one that helps us throughout our lives to understand and manage our own emotions. We practice emotional intelligence in situations such as patiently listening to a friend’s dilemmas or communicating how we feel at a given moment.

Rote Learning: 5 Tips to Memorize

Although it is advisable to acquire the necessary tools to know how to connect later the contents we learn with new ones, we can also benefit from rote learning for tasks such as remembering the names of our new co-workers. Find out five recommendations here to use rote learning effectively.

1. Organize information in blocks

George Miller, a cognitive psychologist, published an article called “The Magic Number Seven Plus Two” that dealt with the breadth of our short-term memory. 

According to Miller, we can retain five to nine data without grouping them together. On the other hand, if we divide them into groups (chunking), our ability to work with these elements will increase. For example, if we want to remember the list of purchases, we will find it useful to divide it into fruits, vegetables, cleaning products, etc.

2. Use mnemonic rules

The Loci Method is the oldest known mnemonic technique. It consists in associating visually the elements that we wish to remember to certain places. For example, if you want to remember what to have to say during a presentation, you can associate each part with a portion of your journey to work, and recite them. This way you will not forget the order and can relate to images you see constantly.

However, there are different modalities of mnemonic rules. It is also possible and useful to invent new words with the initials of the words we want to remember, to associate songs with sentences, etc.

3. Try to repeat out loud without making mistakes

Imagine your goal is to learn your new class schedule. Read the data you want to remember out loud as often as you need to. When you feel ready try to say it calmly.

Take it slowly and repeat them as many times as you need to since this is a matter of practice. 

4. Use color psychology

Each color transmits certain sensations and is commonly associated with very characteristic meanings. For example, red alerts us and reminds us of blood, love or suspense. On the other hand, white evokes tranquility, peace, and perfection (in our culture). You can take advantage of concepts related to colors to link them to the content that interests you.

5. Uses CogniFit

Neuroeducation is allowing amazing strides to be made in the field of learning. We can now benefit from clinical assessment tools and cognitive stimulation with which it is possible to easily detect our strengths and weaknesses at the cognitive level.

In fact, CogniFit is a leader in this field. It is an online platform that allows us to train our memory and other cognitive skills through entertaining and useful mental games. Challenge yourself, improve and train your memory!

Rote Learning

Thank you very much for reading this article. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment below.

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

Sensory Memory: The Motor Behind Your Hidden Abilities

Can you see with your eyes closed? Can you hear someone’s voice, even when you’re alone? Have you ever traveled in time with a smell that reminds you of a certain place? These are just some of the amazing powers of our sensory memory, which uses all five of our senses to capture and remember the world. Find out what sensory memory is, the different types of sensory memory, and how to improve it.

Sensory memory

“…taste and smell alone, more fragile but more enduring, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, remain poised a long time, like souls, remembering, waiting, hoping, amid the ruins of all the rest…” -Marcel Proust

What is sensory memory?

We have the unlimited ability to perceive, register, and store information about our environments, and sensory memory is what makes it possible. Our senses perceive and capture information about objects and ideas around us. The sensory memory system makes the exterior information that we perceive “last” longer, which makes it possible to be captured and understood by other memory systems.

The sensory information that we retain doesn’t only make it possible to recognize our environment (smell someone’s perfume and know who it is, recognize a person’s voice, etc.), it also makes it possible to make sense of the future. For example, when you eat a lemon and perceive the taste of the acidity, your body and brain will remember the sensation. Later, when you see a lemon being cut, your mouth will salivate due to the sensory memory of the flavor. We store sensory information that is linked to a degree of attraction or different sensations that are felt in the moment of their “recording”. The same stimulus that one person sees as an unpleasant experience, another may perceive as a pleasant one.

Sensory memory also plays a role in our other memory systems. It quickly and effectively tells the brain which stimuli should be attended to by short-term memory and saves particular parts of the original memory in long-term memory which can be recognized later on.

Types of sensory memory

Our five senses make up the five types of sensory memory. Each one makes it possible to recognize and remember perceived impressions, along with the value that it was given during perception.

1. Auditory or Echoic Sensory Memory

The main function of auditory sensory memory is to capture sounds and auditory experiences in order to prolong its presence and be captured by other response systems. This type of memory can prolong the presence of a sound for up to 10 seconds after it has ended.

You may find that sometimes you ask someone to repeat what they’ve said, but after they’ve started, you realize that you actually heard them the first time. You didn’t know that you were listening, but your ears did their work and captured the auditory information from the environment.

2. Visual or Iconic Sensory Memory

Visual or iconic memory plays an important role when recording visual sensory experiences. Our eyes work like a camera that is constantly taking pictures of our surroundings and makes it possible to make each bit of information last longer so that it can be linked to other images. While this ability to capture visual information from the environment makes the information “last” longer, it does not last quite as long as echoic (auditory) memory. If auditory sensory memory can last up to 10 seconds, iconic sensory memory can last up to a maximum of 250 milliseconds after being captured. This short amount of time keeps the system from being overloaded with information. We sometimes unintentionally store this visual information in superior memory systems accidentally.

Imagine that you’re riding the subway for 40 minutes. During this commute, you sit in front of someone who you seemingly pay no attention to. The next day, you run into the same person in the grocery store and you recognize them. The images that you remember from the subway were processed and sent to other memory systems.

3. Tactile Sensory Memory

Tactile sensory memory makes it possible to record information about the characteristics of the objects that we touch and feel. Bliss, Crane, Manfield, and Townsend (1966) found in their studies that this ability differs in people with congenital blindness, late onset blindness, and people with normal vision. These differences reflect the ability for improvement through the practice of the tactile memory system.

Suppose that you need to get something from your closet, but they lights went out in your room and you’re left in the dark. You’ll probably find that you’re able to recognize a good amount of your clothes just by touch, without having to see them visually. While you may have never stopped to intentionally take in this kind of information, your sense of touch did its work and processed the information correctly.

4. Olfactory Sensory Memory

Olfactory sensory memory records information about the smells that different stimuli emit. We have the ability to smell and distinguish between a large number of different scents that arrive at our senses every day. In fact, our olfactory skills are able to detect a wider variety of stimuli than any other sense. We are able to link smells to different stimuli and retain this information for quite a long time.

Imagine that you have dinner at your house with a few friends. The next day, you find a jacket in the hallway that someone must have left. You don’t know whose it is because they took the jacket off before coming in the house so you didn’t see anyone wearing it. Smelling the jacket is one of the best ways to figure out whose it is. It’s possible that although you didn’t realize it at the time, you were subconsciously smelling everyone at the dinner all night so you might recognize whose it is.

5. Gustatory Sensory Memory

Gustatory sensory memory captures flavors and later classifies then and retains them as a memory. The sensations that we experience the first few times that we receive a gustatory stimulus are remembered quite strongly. Gustatory sensory memory, like olfactory memory, tends to create strong ties to feelings and reception of stimuli and keep them in a lasting way. Often, eating a certain food will bring you back to another time or situation. Like tactile memory, gustatory memory also requires quite a bit of practice.

Imagine that you go to live in a different country for a while and get used to a certain type of food. After returning to your home country, you try the same food a few years later and find that you’re transported back to the old country with memories that may not have anything to do with the food itself.

Sensory memory- Brain

How can you improve your sensory memory?

Some people have excellent sensory skills that make it easy for them to perceive and distinguish between stimuli with their skills (or one sense in particular). However, anyone can improve their different types of memory and sensory skills by properly training them. If you are able to develop your senses, you will also be able to improve memory.

Before starting to train and improve your different senses, it’s important to know which are stronger and which are weaker. People with sensory deficits usually compensate their necessities by improving another skill.

Once you have a better idea about each of your sensory memory skills, you’ll know how to best combine them. Imagine that a friend bought a book that you’re interested in reading. You ask them the name of the book and go straight to the bookstore to buy it, but you forget it on the way. However, if you ask the name of the book and look at the cover, noticing what it looks like and the picture it has, you’ll have more sensory data available, thus having a better possibility of remembering the book when you go to the bookstore.

Lastly, in order to complete sensory memory processes, it’s important to develop attention. There are programs available that make it possible to take an online cognitive assessment to help you better understand if your attention and memory processes are working adequately. CogniFit is a professional tool that can help carefully measure attention and other cognitive processes. The program makes it possible to find out your cognitive score with different brain games and activities. CogniFit uses advanced algorithms to find out each user’s cognitive profile and adapt to each person’s cognitive needs. The tasks assigned to the user will be adjusted to their specific needs.

Poor attention affects perception, and without perception, there is no memory. We said earlier that our senses capture information subconsciously, but that’s not always the case. Many people with poor attention also have a poor memory. This is not usually a big problem and is usually caused by missing steps when a memory is perceived. It’s not the same to see passively or watch something, and hearing and listening are two different activities. Being intentional in your actions makes it possible to better manage your memory.

This article was originally written in Spanish and translated into English

References

Bliss, J. C., Crane, H. D., Mansfield, P. K., & Townsend, J. T. (1966). Information available in brief tactile presentations. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 1(4), 273-283.