On why less is more… Psychologist Barry Schwartz (the one wearing the shorts) takes aim at a central tenet of western societies: freedom of choice. In Schwartz’s estimation, choice has made us not freer but more paralyzed, not happier but more dissatisfied. Try this great TED talk:
Do one thing at a time (well!) or multi-task, that’s the question. Watch this interesting CNBC video clip in which Tony Swartz talks about how to get stuff done whilst balancing your energy needs.
If you want to know the latest on the way in which the hemispheres of the brain go about their business watch this fantastic RSA animation. Psychiatrist and writer Iain McGilchrist explains how our ‘divided brain’ (but probably not divided in the way you think!) has profoundly altered human behaviour, culture and society.
It’s the time of year for making lists. And then losing them. And then making more lists and ignoring them. And it’s almost the time of year for making resolutions. So what are you going to decide to do, or to undo in 2012? As a starter here’s a list from Dorie Clark in a seasonal article in the Harvard Business Review.
- Responding like a trained monkey.
- Mindless traditions.
- Reading annoying things.
- Work that’s not worth it.
- Making things more complicated than they should be.
I’m particularly attracted to her first point. She’s talking about emails and the way in which we get continually sidetracked by waves of incoming nonsense. What are we doing? I spent many a happy hour at university messing about with different sorts of ‘reinforcement’ schedules and fooling various rats (and the occasional pigeon) into behaving like a complete turkey! Yep, variable reinforcement schedules (read: emails of varying degrees of urgency plopping into your inbox at unpredictable intervals) make us all behave like Pavlov’s pet dog.
So let’s get a grip and stop it. If you must, check your email every 90 minutes or so. Strangely things will proceed as normal: the sun will rise, the Earth will rotate, politicians will continue to irritate you etc. There, I feel better already. Happy Christmas and a less monkey (rat, pigeon and dog-like) New Year!
Photo credit: Michael Elliott/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
I was amused to read at the weekend that Prince William and Mrs Prince William-to-be have been ‘allowed’ to invite more than 1000 of their friends to the forthcoming royal wedding. Good thing too! I think these events should be kept small and intimate and priority be given to people you know and like, and if absolutely necessary, your relatives. Of course it’s physically impossible to have 1000 friends (see my post on the Dunbar number: Some of my best friends are monkeys), so I would be interested to know what constitutes a royal confidant…
The brain is an amazing thing and can do amazing stuff. However, and I hate to disappoint you, we do know what all the bits do. There isn’t some hidden part, which if only you could activate it, would give you super powers: super memory, super intelligence, or indeed super anything. This is of course in direct contradiction to the common belief that we only use a fraction of our brains, maybe only 10%. So where did the myth come from? One of the main suspects is the great American psychologist William James who believed that we all had ‘reserve energy’ – a bit of extra brain oomph that we could tap into if only we knew how. The other, and perhaps more credible explanation, is that early on researchers discovered that just 10% of neurons were firing at any given time. Thus it seemed that only 10% were in use, which of course isn’t the case. Even when you’re asleep or day dreaming the brain is busily and actively doing its thing. Whatever the explanation, and of course it is possible to increase the efficiency of the brain, New Age hopes of tapping a great reserve of potential, and coming over all super human, appear to be unfounded.