Tag Archives: Neuropsychology

Neuropsychology

How Much Does Appearance Matter?

Linda A. Jackson

Perceived attractiveness was correlated with perceived competence and likability in a meta-analysis by Michigan State University’s Linda A. Jackson, John E. Hunter, and Carole N. Hodge.
Physically attractive people were seen as more intellectually competent.

Nancy Etcoff

Similarly, women who wore cosmetics were rated more highly on attractiveness, competence, likability and trustworthiness when viewed for as little as 250 milliseconds, found Harvard’s Nancy L. Etcoff, Lauren E. Haley, and David M. House, with Shannon Stock of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Proctor & Gamble’s Sarah A. Vickery.

Models without makeup, with natural, professional, “glamorous” makeup

However, when participants looked at the faces for a longer time, ratings for competence and attractiveness remained the same, but ratings for likability and trustworthiness changed based on specific makeup looks.

Trustworthiness was differentiated from attractiveness, which was seen as linked to competence, but not consistently with social warmth.

Etcoff’s team concluded that cosmetics could influence automatic judgments because attractiveness “rivets attention, and impels actions that help ensure the survival of our genes.”

Most people recognize the bias in assuming that attractive people are competent and that unattractive people are not, yet impression management remains crucial in the workplace and in the political arena.

-*Where have you seen appearance exert an influence in workplace credibility, decision-making and role advancement?

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Squeeze a Ball, Improve Performance under Pressure

Jürgen Beckmann

Improve performance under pressure by squeezing a ball or clenching the non-dominant hand before competition to activate specific motor regions of the brain, according to Jürgen Beckmann and his research team, who studied experienced soccer players, tae kwon do experts and badminton players.

The Journal of Experimental Psychology: General reported that right-handed athletes who squeezed a ball in their left hand before competing were less like to “choke under pressure” than right-handed players who squeeze a ball in their right hand.

Beckmann and collaborators Peter Gröpel and Felix Ehrlenspiel noted that when athletes don’t perform well “under pressure,” they may be focusing on their own movements rather than relying on automatic motor skills developed through repeated practice – or “muscle memory.”

They explained, “Rumination can interfere with concentration and performance on motor tasks … Many movements…can be impaired by attempts at consciously controlling them. This technique can be helpful for many situations and tasks.”

Iris Hung

Iris Hung

Other applications include business situations like presentations or negotiations, or helping elderly people improve balance by clenching a ball before walking or climbing stairs.
Iris Hung the National University of Singapore found additional applications: Avoiding the temptation of sugary snacks in a cafeteria, enduring physical pain, and disturbing information.

Hendrie Weisinger

Hendrie Weisinger, whose best-seller Nobody’s Perfect was the first of 8 books, integrates this finding with other research-based recommendations to manage performance pressure with “Nerves of Steel.” His new book is scheduled for release by Random House in 2013.

His other books, including Emotional Intelligence at Work and Anger at Work, along with video excerpts are available on his website.

-*How do you maintain performance when experiencing pressure?

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How Gaming Can Help You Live Better and Longer

Jane McGonigal

Jane McGonigal

Game designer Jane McGonigal’s TED Talk that gaming fulfills the basic human wishes expressed by dying hospice patients:

• Work less hard
• Stay in touch with friends
• Let myself be happier
• Have the courage to express my true self
• Live a life true to my dreams

She discussed a practical game, Superbetter, she developed following her own experience of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which left her bedridden, in persistent pain, and suicidal for more than a year.

Based on her love of “Special Missions and Secret Objectives”, she developed four research-based challenges to increase her resilience and capabilities:

• Physical
• Mental
• Emotional
• Social

She asserts that these tasks help players strengthen abilities to remain motivated and optimistic even in the face of difficulty challenge, and boost physical and emotional well-being.
McGonigal links these capabilities to strengthening social support, increasing stamina and willpower.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that McGonigal’s twin sister and fellow Ph.D., Kelly McGonigal, conducts research at Stanford University on methods to increase willpower and compassion, and to reduce stress and pain.

Her recent book is The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do To Get More of It

Jane McGonigal seems to triumph in this Jane vs. Colbert face-off …though he may have tried to distract her by mentioning that she is “a girl, and an attractive one at that…with that Big Hair…”

Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert

Six-time Stephen Colbert guest, Hayden Planetarium astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s commented that “you’re lucky to come away with your skin when you appear on Colbert’s show.”  Jane seemed to come away with her skin intact.

-*How have you seen gaming improve lives?
-*To what extent do you concur with the hospice patients’ wishes – and implied advice to younger people?

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Kept Up at Night by Intrusive Thoughts of Work: Elusive Sleep

According to the US Center for Disease Control, about 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder, and I noticed this when colleagues in three different meetings discussed their variations of disrupted sleep.
One person described waking up in the middle of the night with “brain whirlies,” whereas others reported waking up with anxiety about Excel spreadsheet accuracy.

William Dement

William Dement

Many people are familiar with William Dement’s ground-breaking studies of REM and NREM sleep, sleep “architecture”, sleep disorders as the Director of Stanford University Sleep Research Center, and many may know of his research on sleep deprivation’s impact on mood, immune system functioning, work productivity and even public safety.

In fact, he asserts that 33% of traffic accidents and most all major industrial accidents are related to human error based on sleep deprivation.
Dement also shows the relationship between sleep apnea and heart disease and stroke.

He outlined his research and advocacy in The Promise of Sleep: A Pioneer in Sleep Medicine Explores the Vital Connection Between Health, Happiness, and a Good Night’s Sleep 

Test your Sleep Savvy with his questionnaire by answering the following statements with “true” or “false”:

  1. Depriving people of dreams causes mental illness.
  2. Drowsiness, that feeling when the eyelids are trying to close and we cannot keep them open, is the first step and not the last step before we fall asleep.
  3. Generally, people need to sleep one hour for every two hours awake.
  4. Insomnia is a disease.
  5. The purpose of sleep is to rest the body, especially the muscles.
  6. Although sleep needs vary, people who sleep about eight hours, on average, tend to live longer.
  7. If you are well rested, it should take about five to ten minutes to fall asleep.
  8. The single symptom most frequently found in all severe sleep disorders is daytime fatigue.
  9. Sleep gets lighter and more fragmented as we age.
  10. We know what sleep is for, how it works, and how it affects us on a cellular level.

1,2,4,5,7,10 are false
3,6,8,9 are true

Rosalind Cartwright

Rosalind Cartwright

Fewer people may be aware of Dement’s mentor, Rosalind Cartwright, who founded the first accredited Sleep Disorder Service in Illinois in 1978 and wrote The Twenty-four Hour Mind: The Role of Sleep and Dreaming in Our Emotional Lives 

She amplified Dement’s linkage of sleep hygiene with normal mood when she noted that sleep dampens negative emotions “so the next day begins with a calmer frame of mind with which to face the waking world.”

Cartwright recommends behavior modifications to “reclaim healthy sleep” and suggests a three-week “sleep camp” including:

  • Evaluating  risk of sleep disorders
  • Managing sleep “crises”
  • Keeping a sleep diary
  • Measuring  sleep debt

Echoing  the encouragement that “there’s an app for that,” technologists have summarized the most highly-rated Sleep Apps to measure sleep architecture , quality, and duration, and  recommend possible behavioral changes to improve sleep quality and related daily experience:

-*What helps you optimize your sleep experience?
-*Which “sleep myths” do you think are NOT myths?

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Positive to Negative Feedback Ratios – 3:1 @ work, 5:1: @ home

Sandra Mashihi

Sandra Mashihi

Envisia’s Kenneth Nowack and Sandra Mashihi provided “evidence-based answers” to 15 questions about leveraging 360-degree feedback.

Kenneth Nowack

Kenneth Nowack

Their first question was “Does 360-degree feedback do more harm than good”?
Nowack and Mashihi concluded that found “poorly-designed 360-degree feedback assessments and interventions can increase disengagement and contribute to poor individual and team performance.”

Specifically, individuals can “experience strong discouragement and frustration” when feedback is not as affirming as anticipated.
In addition, negatively-perceived information may be discounted and disregarded.

John Gottman’s studies of positive-to-negative interaction ratios in marriage suggest that intact and well-functioning marriages have a a 5:1 ratio, and research by his colleagues, Schwartz and team, found a similar effect for 360-feedback sessions, though the ratio was closer to 3:1 to encourage  enhanced individual and team performance, individual workplace engagement, effectiveness, and emotional “flourishing,” according to Frederickson and Losada.

Proportions of negative feedback and interactions that exceed these ratios can interfere with insight and motivation and diminish willingness to engage in work-related practice and performance effectiveness.

Barbara Fredrickson suggested in Positivity: Groundbreaking Research Reveals How to Embrace the Hidden Strength of Positive Emotions, Overcome Negativity, and Thrive that this 3:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback is a “tipping point.”

UCLA’s Naomi Eisenberger and Matthew Lieberman collaborated with Kipling Williams of  Macquarie University to demonstrate the physical and emotional impact when people are overloaded of negative feedback:  The same neurophysiologic pathways associated with physical pain are triggered.
Under these circumstances, volunteers reported higher levels of physical pain and demonstrate diminished performance on a cognitively-demanding task, according to Purdue’s Zhansheng Chen, Williams and  Julie Fitness of Macquarie University, and University of New South Wales’s Nicola C. Newton.

 

Anyone providing evaluations or 360-degree feedback may organize and “titrate” negative (“constructive”) feedback to remain within tolerable ratios so that those receiving this coaching can assimilate and execute recommendations.

-*What ratios of positive to negative feedback do you apply in helping others improve performance?

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Oxytocin Increases Empathic Work Relationships, Workplace Trust, Generosity

Paul Zak

Paul Zak

Paul Zak, director of the Center for Neuroeconomic Studies at Claremont Graduate Center, and author of The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity, suggests that the hormone oxytocin empathic understanding, generosity (donating to charities, giving money to others in experimental situations), happiness, and trust/trustworthiness.The Moral Molecule

He verified these laboratory-based findings in real-world situations, like a wedding he attended in southern England, prior to which he drew blood samples from the wedding party.

Zak says that oxytocin can be increased by massage, dance, story-telling, prayer, engaging in social media with a loved one, and hugs.
As a result, he “prescribes 8 hugs a day” for better mood and improved “relationships of all types.”

He says that oxytocin can be inhibited by improper nurturing in childhood, stress, abuse, and by oxytocin’s antagonist, testosterone.
Known as the “selfish hormone,” testosterone is also correlated with expressions of power and leadership in the workplace.

One reason women may have challenges expressing these traits in work situations is that their average testosterone levels are ten times lower than men’s.
Zak’s TED Talk

Amy Cuddy

Amy Cuddy

Related Post:

Thoughts change bodies, bodies change minds, roles shapes hormones: Amy Cuddy on “Faking Until It’s Real”

-*To what extent have you seen “eight hugs a day improve mood and relationships”?

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Thoughts Change Bodies, Bodies Change Minds, Roles Shape Hormones: “Faking Until It’s Real”

Amy Cuddy, Harvard Business School social psychologist, like Deborah Gruenfeld at Stanford Graduate School of Business, studies the impact of non-verbal behavior on perceptions of power.

Deborah Gruenfeld

Deborah Gruenfeld

She, like Gruenfeld, found that people who “occupy space” are viewed as more dominant and powerful by others.

See Related Posts:

Cuddy takes the research further by demonstrating that non-verbal behavior like erect, “space-occupying” postures and selective smiling affect the way the person executing these behavior feels about his or her personal power, competence, and mood.

She also demonstrated that “power postures” affect secretion of hormones associated with dominance (testosterone) and stress (cortisol).

Cuddy noted that effective leaders, as well as those recently promoted into positions of authority and leadership show a hormone profile of high testosterone and low cortisol, indicating high dominance and low stress.

Individuals in low power role, not surprisingly, tend to have low testosterone and high cortisol, and this is more common among women.

She suggested that small changes in behaviors like posture can make a large difference in how people view themselves, how others see them, and their opportunities and outcomes.

Cuddy recommends that before a job interview or stressful interaction, assume a “big power posture” in private for several minutes.

-*What is your reaction to people who assume a “big power posture” at work?
-*How do you feel when you occupy more space in professional settings?

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Online Brain Training For Attention, Memory, Processing Speed, Interpersonal Skills

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich

Michael Merzenich is Chief Scientific Officer of Posit Science and his work has been featured on four PBS specials: The Brain Fitness Program, Brain Fitness 2: Sight and Sound, The New Science of Learning, and Brain Fitness Frontiers.

He asserts that “you can change your brain at any age…You lose your memory because what you hear is not represented clearly in your brain.”
Posit’s online BrainHQ training is designed to help users develop and maintain accurate listening to better remember and speak

This 30-40 hour training uses tasks validated by scientific research to improve the accuracy of receiving information and using it.
Peer-reviewed research studies support the use of systematic brain training to combat the effects of age-related performance decrements, and to assist children with conditions that slow their progress in learning to read.

Posit’s online brain training helps users:
• Focus attention
• Increase brain speed
• Improve memory
• Enhance people skills

Like a gym membership, this series of exercises focuses on increasing strength, stamina, speed, resilience, and capacity.
Exercises include auditory processing, a foundation of accurate memory processing, and useful field of view, imperative in tasks like driving a car safely.

Merzenich discusses the development of brain plasticity from birth
and his TED Talk expands his remarks.

MyBrainSolution offers a different solution based on similar findings in brain plasticity and training studies.
Free trial .

-*What brain development practices have you seen render more benefits?

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Video Games as Cognitive Enhancers

Adam Gazzaley

Neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley of UCSF presents convincing data to suggest that video games can improve cognitive functioning in people of all ages, due to increasing performance based on training and generalization of learning in three limiting areas of:

• Processing speed
• Attention
• Working memory

Training in one skill has been shown in previous research not to generalize to other skills, so Gazzaley’s lab investigated whether training with video games can generalize to improve the brain’s three limitations (above).

His recent work has confirmed this trend, and next studies are intended to monitor generalizability to Activities of Daily Living such as shopping and finding directions.

Training may be strategic, to instruct in “tips” to manage challenging situations, as in occupational therapy or physical therapy or plasticity-based, using repetition, feedback, adaptive adjustment of difficulty based on performance.

Medal of Honor, a first person shooter game, proved more effective than Tetris or crossword puzzles in counteracting the brain’s three limitations (above).

Most effective games are:
• Fast-paced
• Unpredictable
• Engaging, immersive
• Provide feedback
• Adjust difficulty based on performance
• Provide changes to the brain’s three limitations: working memory, attention, processing speed via interference

Cliff Nass

Mastering interference is important because research in Gazzaley’s lab as well as work by Cliff Nass of Stanford, and Daphne Bavelier, University of Rochester, confirm that attention can be impaired by internal intrusions (mind-wandering), intentional multi-tasking (for fun, diversion) or external interference through distraction or interruption (semi-intentional multi-tasking).

Distraction and interruption reduce cognitive performance when people try to multi-task.
These researchers conclude that “multi-tasking is a myth” because “task-switching” occurs instead of simultaneous processing.
They note that task-switching (also important in driving skills) becomes slower with age, but can be improved through training on video games like Neuroracer.

Daphne Bavelier

Bavelier demonstrated that video gamers show improved skills in visual perception (contrast sensitivity, resolve small detail in context of clutter, resolve different levels of threat), attention (retain focus, less distractable).
In addition, these skills can generalize to improvements in other “real-world skills” like spatial cognition.

Skilled gamers’ have efficient neural firings and in different areas of the brain than in less adept individuals, similar to a trend seen among musicians vs non-musicians.
fMRI studies have demonstrated that gamers’ brain structures actually change in brain networks that control attention:

• Parietal cortex – orienting attention
• Frontal lobe – maintaining attention
• Anterior cingulate –allocate, regulate attention, resolve conflicts
Your brains on action games

Games may be recommended for people of all ages to enhance cognition as further research findings add to these trends in the next decade.

Videogames as cognitive neurotherapeutics
Brain – Memory and Multitasking
Exercising Your Brain
Memory and the Aging Brain
The Distracted Mind

-*How have you used game-based training to strengthen your brain functioning?
-*How effective is multi-tasking in your work organization?

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Six Neuropsychologically-Based Emotional Styles

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson

Richard Davidson, professor at University of Wisconsin’s book, The Emotional Life of your Brain: How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way you Think, Feel, and Live–and how You can Change Them suggests that people favor one of six “brain styles.”

• Resilience – speed of recovery from adversity

• Outlook – duration of positive emotion

• Intuition – accuracy of decoding others’ nonverbal signals of emotion

• Self-awareness – accuracy of decoding internal signals of emotional reactions: heart rate, breathing, sweating, muscle tension

• Context – modulate emotional response tailored to environmental demands, constraints, options

• Attention – ability to focus, modulate emotional stimuli

These categories represent interacting elements that form an integrated cognitive-emotional processing pattern, rather than a discrete “style” as Davidson suggests.

He offers a quick assessment of your “brain style” via these surveys and other resources on his website and related locations.
———–
Related Post:
“Contemplative Neuroscience” can transform your mind, change your brain

-*Which Emotional Style is most prevalent is your work organization?
-*Which Style is more effective in your workplace?

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