Tag Archives: fMRI

Spreading Good News Feels Good, Especially When It’s About You

Christian Science Monitor has long provided a counterpoint to mainstream media’s “If it bleeds, it leads” approach to providing shocking, scandalous, depressing, or scary news.

Jonah Berger

Jonah Berger

Wharton’s Jonah Berger and Katharine Milkman found that the Christian Science Monitor might have a savvy business model:  they found that good news spreads more widely than bad.

Word of Mouth Marketing AssociationMembers of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Take note…

Katherine Milkman

Katherine Milkman

Berger and Milkman evaluated a random sample of 3,000 of more than 7,500 articles published in the New York Times online from August 2008 to February 2009.

They judged each article’s “popularity” based on number of times it was forwarded to others, after controlling for online publication time, section, and degree of promotion on the home page.
Independent readers rated each article for practical value or surprise, and ratio of positive vs negative emotion words in each news item.

Most-forwarded posts were positive, funny, exciting and featuring intellectually challenging topics, like science, that “inspire awe” (“admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self”).

Readers shared articles that typically provoke negative emotions like anger and anxiety, but not sadness.
-*Why this bias against sending “downer” messages?

Emily Falk

Emily Falk

Michigan’s Emily Falk, with UCLA colleagues Sylvia Morelli, B. Locke Welborn, Karl Dambacher,and Matthew Lieberman found that people consider what appeals to others, possibly as a means of building relationships, indicated by increased activation in brain regions (temporoparietal junction, or TPJ and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) associated with “social cognition,” or thoughts about other people, measured by fMRI.

When those regions were activated, people were more likely to talk about the idea with enthusiasm, and the idea would spread by word-of-mouth.

Falk noted that the team mapped  brain regions “associated with ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good ‘idea salesperson.'”
She plans to use these brain maps “to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them.”

Diana Tamir

Diana Tamir

People also like to spread good news about themselves.
Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell, then of Harvard, illustrated that brain regions associated with reward (mesolimbic dopamine system, including the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental area) are activated when people share information about themselves.

Jason Mitchell

Jason Mitchell

Self-disclosure is so pleasurable that people will sacrifice monetary rewards for this opportunity.

Mor Naaman

Mor Naaman

In fact, Rutgers’ Mor Naaman with Jeffrey Boase, now at Ryerson University and Chih-Hui Lai, now of University of Akron found that 80 percent of Twitter users tweet primarily about themselves.
One reason may be that people say more positive things when they’re talking to a bigger audience, like Twitter followers, according to Berger’s research suggests. As a result, social media users are likely to convey positive information about themselves.

Jeffrey Boase

Jeffrey Boase

However, this positive self-presentation may not result in a positive mood if communicators spend longer on social media platforms like Facebook.
Hui-Tzu Grace Chou and Nicholas Edge of Utah Valley University found that those with longer visits to Facebook say they are less happy than their Facebook Friends.

They found that Facebook users tend to form biased judgment based on easily-recalled examples (availability heuristic) and erroneously attribute positive Facebook content to others’ personality, rather than situational factors (correspondence bias), especially for those they do not know personally.

Hanna Krasnova

Hanna Krasnova

Corroborated by Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin’s Hanna Krasnova and her team from Technische Universität Darmstadt, these researchers observed “invidious emotions” and “envy” among people who spend longer time on Facebook.

These findings have relevance to members of the Word of Mouth Marketing Organization: Spread the good word – or at least the emotional word – and spend less time on Facebook and other social media that might invite social comparison and the potential for envious dissatisfaction.

-*How you build “buzz” via “Word of Mouth”?

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Cognitive Value of Handwriting in the Digital Era

-*Is handwriting passé in the Digital Era?
-*Has keyboarding eclipsed pen and paper?

Virginia Berninger

Virginia Berninger

University of Washington’s Virginia Berninger with Robert Abbott, Amy Augsburger, and Noelia Garcia argue that handwriting provides valuable cognitive training, and advantages in expressive speed, fluency, and productivity.

Robert Abbott

Robert Abbott

Berninger’s team conducted brain scans and found that the brain’s thinking, language, and “working memory” regions are more activated when handwriting letters than when typing.

This change in brain activation occurs because handwriting letters generally requires more than one sequential stroke, rather than selecting a letter key during typing, according to Berninger.

Berninger’s studies demonstrated students in grades two, four and six wrote more words more quickly and expressed more ideas when writing essays by hand versus with a keyboard.

Karin James

Karin James

Karin Harman James’s research using an fMRI at Indiana University confirms the benefits of handwriting.

Isabel Gauthier

Isabel Gauthier

With Isabel Gauthier of Vanderbilt University, she showed alphabet letters to children before and after they received letter-learning instruction.

Participants who practiced printing by hand showed more enhanced and “adult-like” the neural activity than those who had simply looked at letters.
James suggested that adults may show similar neural activity benefits when learning a new graphically-different language, such as Mandarin, or symbol systems for mathematics, music and chemistry.

Marieke Longcamp

Marieke Longcamp

Université de la Méditerranée’s Marieke Longcamp,  Céline Boucard, Jean-Claude Gilhodes and Jean-Luc Velay  with Jean-Luc Anton, Muriel Roth, and Bruno Nazarian of Hôpital de La Timone, Marseille, France demonstrated other neural benefits of handwriting: Movements memorized when learning how to handwrite enabled adults to more effectively recognize graphic shapes and letters.

Steve Graham

Steve Graham

Steve Graham, now of Arizona State University, with Michael Hebert, now of University of Nebraska, demonstrated that handwriting is still associated with improved classroom performance, even when most classrooms and students type on computers.

Sian Beilock

Sian Beilock

Besides enhancing academic achievement, writing can be a coping tool, according to University of Chicago’s Sian Beilock.
She reported that bright students managed test anxiety by writing about their anxieties to “off-load” them.

Jill Mateo

Jill Mateo

Beilock collaborated with Andrew Mattarella-Micke, Jill Mateo, Neil Albert and Katherine Foster of University of Chicago, and Vanderbilt University’s Marci DeCaro, Robin Thomas of Miami University, and Megan Kozak of Pace University to study students as they derived solutions to challenging math problems.

Robin Thomas

Robin Thomas

The team confirmed that those who performed well on the math problems said that they did not have math anxiety, whereas low performers said they were anxious about math performance.
A less expected finding was that both high performers and low performers had the stress hormone, cortisol, in their saliva.

Although both groups experienced measurable stress, the performance outcome was mediated by the calm or anxious “mindset,” suggesting that performance can be enhanced through managing anxiety and expectations.
Writing by hand helped participants boost performance by reducing anxiety and freeing  working memory to focus on the math problems.

P. Murali Doraiswamy

P. Murali Doraiswamy

Handwriting practice may be valuable for adults as well as children, according to P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University, who suggested that handwriting practice may be a useful treatment to stabilize cognitive losses in aging.

 -*How often do you use handwriting and printing instead of typing on a keyboard?

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Interpersonal Envy in Competitive Organizations and the “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) Antidote

Workplace envy is rarely discussed, although it is a logical outcome of competition for scarce resources:  Recognition, advancement, power, reputation, compensation in explicit or implicit organizational “tournaments.”

Jayanth Narayanan

Jayanth Narayanan

National University of Singapore’s Jayanth Narayanan, Kenneth Tai, and Daniel McAllister broached the near-taboo of workplace envy as an inevitable outgrowth of social comparison and related “cognitive dissonance” in attempting to self-regulate or return to emotional and equity “homeostasis.”

Daniel McAllister

Daniel McAllister

They differentiated malicious envy from benign envy and argue that the latter can drive performance through emulating admired outcomes.

This process, called firgun in Hebrew, is characterized by happiness, envy, and support of others, and is positively related to organizational success.
Mudita in Buddhist texts, refers to similar feelings of vicarious joy at another’s success and good fortune.

Hidehiko Takahashi

Hidehiko Takahashi

Narayan and team posit that envy is pain at another’s good fortune, and Hidehiko Takahashi’s team at Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences demonstrated that the social-emotional pain of envy is a variation of the physical pain experience.

Their fMRI study found that the emotional pain of workplace envy is physically manifested in activation of the brain’s anterior cingulate cortex.

Nathan DeWall

Nathan DeWall

As such, Nathan DeWall of University of Kentucky and colleagues reported that Tylenol™ reduces behavioral and neural responses associated with social pain in two fMRI studies.

Narayanan argues that envy exerts its differential effect on workplace behavior through each individual’s specific:

  • Core self-evaluations (self-esteem, self-efficacy, locus of control, and neuroticism),
  • Referent cognitions” regarding warmth, likeability, and competence of the envied  person
  • Perceived organizational support

Workplace envy, they argue, can affect:

  • Social undermining
  • Prosocial behavior
  • Job performance

Narayanan and team proposed that those with higher self-esteem are less prone to negative workplace behaviors when experiencing on-the-job envy.

They propose that people are less likely to socially undermine the envied individual when the envied person is viewed as both warm-likeable and competent.

Similarly, they suggest that people who think their organization values them and their work, and supports their work and career development efforts are less likely to decrease job performance when envious at work.

Chade-Meng Tan

Chade-Meng Tan

Search Inside YourselfGoogle’s Jolly Good Fellow ChadeMeng Tan proposes the mindfulness-based program “Search Inside Yourself” (SIY) as a way to self-manage workplace envy and other painful social experiences, by developing skills in:

  • Trained attention
  • Self-knowledge and self-mastery
  • Creating useful mental habits.

-*How do you manage workplace envy when you notice it in yourself or others?

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Genes and Neurotransmitters Influence Investment Risk-Taking: Implications for Taking Career Risks?

Camelia Kuhnen

Camelia Kuhnen

Brian Knutson

Brian Knutson

Camelia Kuhnen, then of Stanford with her Stanford colleague Brian Knutson and Vanderbilt’s Gregory Samanez-Larkin posit a small but meaningful genetic basis to risk-averse financial investing, providing a biological basis for findings that women hedge fund managers outperformed male counterparts.

Volunteers with two short serotonin transporter genes (5-HTTLPR) reported that they tend to worry, and this pattern was associated with chosing less risky investment choices.

Gregory Samanez-Larkin

Gregory Samanez-Larkin

“Short allele carriers” also showed higher levels of the personality trait “neuroticism,” but no significant difference in cognitive skills, education, or financial status.
Kuhnen estimates that less than 30 percent of variance in risk-taking is attributable to short 5-HTTLPR, and the remaining difference is derived from experience, culture, education, and social environment.

Kuhnen and Knutson reported the neural basis of financial risk taking using event-related fMRI.
They observed that the nucleus accumbens was activated before volunteers made risky choices and made risk-seeking mistakes.
In contrast, they found that the anterior insula was activated before risk-free choices and risk-aversion mistakes.

They proposed that different neural circuits are associated with differing emotions as volunteers anticipate gain or loss associated with financial choices.
This emotional activation “signature” can lead to specific investment choices, favoring or avoiding risk, and may lead to investing mistakes.

In unpublished research, Kuhnen found that short-allele carriers showed increased anxiety before making a decision in a trial-and-error risk discovery task, but reacted no differently than long-allele carriers when they observed a negative outcome.

She noted that volunteers differ in how they anticipate and react to a potential decision before they make it rather that in their reactions to actual outcomes of investment decisions.

Joan Chiao

Joan Chiao

Kuhnen, now at Northwestern collaborated with Northwestern colleague Joan Chiao to investigate the impact of both the 5-HTTLPR gene and the DRD4, gene, which regulates dopamine transmission.
These genes and their related neurotransmitters have been linked to emotional behavior, anxiety and addiction.

Their research replicated Kuhnen’s earlier finding that individuals with two short 5-HTTLPR alleles take 28% less risk than people with other combinations, and they demonstrated that the double DRD4 7 allele carriers took 25% more risk than people with other combinations.
They conclude that serotonin is associated with risk-averse investment choices, whereas dopamine is associated with riskier choices.

Kuhnen and Chiao argue that risky investment behavior shares commonalities with other risky behaviors like drug use, gambling, unsafe sex, dangerous physical and social pursuits, and more.

-*How do you determine the right amount of risk to undertake in career development and financial investing?

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“Productive Pause”, Intuition for Better Decisions

Everyday wisdom offers familiar advice to curtail impulsivity through slowing down and reflecting:

  • “Go slow to go fast”
  • “Sleep on it”
  • “Wait before sending an emotional email”
  • “Count to 10, think again”
Frank Partnoy

Frank Partnoy

Former investment banker and lawyer Frank Partnoy’s Wait: The Art and Science of Delay provides empirical evidence on the value of delay to increase the quality of decisions and performance across investment, sports, comedy, and other disciplines.Wait

Creativity experts have demonstrated the importance of an “incubation period” in developing innovative solutions, and Partnoy suggests that similar principles provide and advantage: gathering maximum information in uncertain situations, by executing decisions and performance close to the last opportunity.

University of San Diego’s Partnoy recommends a three step approach to decision-making:

1) Determine the maximum time available to gather information and take the decision
2) Consider, reflect, “incubate” on the information as long as possible
3) Act quickly at the last possible moment

Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell

His approach could be summarized by referring to Malcolm Gladwell’s best-seller, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking : “Don’t just blink but think.”

Nalini Ambady

Nalini Ambady

Gladwell argues that people with expert experience and insight are often skilled at using ‘adaptive unconscious’ intuition to “thin-slice” subtle cues to filter relevant information from “noise,” a concept based on Nalini Ambady and Robert Rosenthal’s research at Harvard.

Justin Albrechtsen

Justin Albrechtsen

Christian Meissner

Christian Meissner

Research by Justin Albrechtsen, Christian Meissner, and Kyle Susa  of University of Texas at El Paso demonstrated “thin-slicing” when they found that intuitive processing can lead to more accurate judgments of deception when compared with deliberative processing.

Kyle Susa

Kyle Susa

Gladwell and these researchers acknowledge that non-experts, and even experts, can be make erroneous decisions due to bias and prejudice that comes from automatic thinking and habitual cognitive heuristics like the halo effect.

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson

Gerard Hodgkinson of Leeds University found that biased intuitive judgment may be mitigated by “devil’s advocacy” and applying analytical tools like multi-attribute decision analysis and root cause analysis.

He suggests that informed intuition or ‘intelligent-unconscious’ results from subconscious information storage, processing and retrieval, and has conducted several empirical studies to evaluate its mechanisms applied to developing business strategies.

Intuitive judgment was positively correlated with quality and speed of decisions, organizational financial and non-financial performance in at least five studies.

Hodgkinson’s team summarized recent advances in neuroscience, including functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies to explain complementary intuitive and analytical approaches to decision making  instead of the overly-simplified notion of left brain vs right brain processing  strengths.

He synthesized intuition attributes:

  • Instantaneous insight after incubation period
  • Subjective judgments
  • Based on experience, tacit knowledge, “knowing without knowing
  • Arise through rapid, non-conscious holistic associations
  • Affectively-charged: “feels right”, experienced as ‘‘inklings’’ or ‘‘glimmerings’’
  • Lacking verbalization or conscious awareness of problem solving.

Cognitive neuroscientists have differentiated intuition from instinct and insight using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) techniques.

Instinct refers to hardwired, autonomous reflex actions, whereas insight involves recognizing and articulating a problem’s structure, and may follow from intuition.

Hodgkinson’s research suggests that intuition can be enhanced by increasing:

  • Expertise (“prepared mind” or ‘‘deep smarts’’)
  • Self-awareness (feeling and cognitive style)
  • Reflection
Akio Morita

Akio Morita

His team’s research supports an assertion by Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony and driving force behind its successful Sony Walkman, that ‘‘creativity requires something more than the processing of information. It requires human thought, spontaneous intuition and a lot of courage.’’

-*How have you used pauses or intuition to strengthen decision-making and advance business innovation?

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