Why your brain always has to be right

Why your brain always has to be right

I’m sure it’s happened to you: You’re in a tense team meeting trying to defend your position on a big project and start to feel yourself losing ground. Your voice gets louder. You talk over one of your colleagues and correct his point of view. He pushes back, so you go into overdrive to convince everyone you’re right. It feels like an out-of-body experience. In terms of its neurochemistry, your brain has been hijacked. Picture: Hey Paul Studios/Flickr The Role of Cortisol In situations of high stress, fear or distrust, the hormone and neurotransmitter cortisol floods the brain. Executive functions that help us with advanced thought processes like strategy, trust building and compassion shut down. The amygdala, our instinctive brain, takes over. The body makes a chemical choice about how best to protect itself — in this case from the shame and loss of power associated with being wrong — and as a result is unable to regulate its emotions or handle the gaps between expectations and reality. So we default to one of four responses: fight (keep arguing the point), flight (revert to and hide behind group consensus), freeze (disengage from the argument by shutting up) or appease (make nice with your adversary by simply agreeing with him). All are harmful because they prevent the honest and productive sharing of information and opinion. But, as a consultant who has spent decades working with executives on their communication skills, I can tell you that the fight response is by far the most damaging to work relationships. It is also, unfortunately, the most common. That’s partly due to another neurochemical process. When you argue...

200 Million Illicit Drug Users Worldwide

Illicit drug usage is practiced by approximately 200 million people globally, Australian researchers reported in the medical journal The Lancet. High-income nations have the highest rates, and disease burdens related to drugs are comparable to the health toll caused by alcohol consumption. The authors explained that expert estimates of global illicit drug usage range from 142 to 271 million people - approximately 1 in every 20 people aged from 15 to 64 years. Authors, Professor Louisa Degenhardt, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, Sydney, and the Burnet Institute, Melbourne, Australia; and Professor Wayne Hall, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Brisbane, Australia, wrote that the disease burden caused by illegal drug usage is very high in rich nations, for example, in Australia it is about the same as the burden caused by alcohol consumption, but significantly less than tobacco. Because of the very nature of illicit drugs - they are illegal - it is difficult to gather accurate and reliable data and statistics. It is a serious challenge for health authorities and services to properly determine how many of their citizens are problem users, dependent, or being harmed by taking cocaine, amphetamines or cannabis. The authors explain that these are some of the unintentional negative consequences of making such drugs illegal. The limitations in gathering accurate and reliable data on the related harms and health burdens attributable to inhalants, non-medical usage of benzodiazepines, or anabolic steroids means that their extents of use have never been properly estimated. According to data the authors managed to collect, there are globally about: 125-203 million cannabis users 14-56...

Cognitive Function Can Start Failing At 45 Years Of Age

A human's ability to remember data, to reason, and understand things properly can start to worsen at the age of 45 years, and not 60 as many had believed, researchers from France and the United Kingdom reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). According to prior studies, cognitive decline, if it does occur, will generally not do so before the age of sixty. Many experts had wondered whether the deterioration might not start sooner. Study leader, Archana Singh-Manoux, at the Centre for Research in Epidemiology and Population Health, France, and researchers from University College London in the UK, believe that..: "..understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century." The authors stress that identifying cognitive decline onset is crucial for effective medical interventions. In other words, the earlier-on cognitive deterioration can be spotted, the better medical treatments tend to be. Singh-Manoux and team observed 2,192 females and 5,198 males from 1997 to 2007. All the subjects were civil servants aged from forty-five to seventy years - they formed part of the Whitehall II cohort study (a UK study), which had started in 1985. Over the ten-year period, all study-participants had their cognitive functions assessed. This included testing for: Memory Vocabulary Aural comprehension skills (listening skills) Visual comprehension skills. The journal cites as examples, remembering as many words as possible that started with the letter "S" (phonemic fluency), or recalling as many animal names as possible (semantic fluency). Factors which might impact on their findings were taken into account, such as the participant's level of education. They found that cognitive scores dropped in all categories, except for vocabulary. The older...

Gargling Sugar Water Can Boost Your Self-Control

In order to have better self-control, all you have to do is gargle sugar water. The finding came from a study at the University of Georgia, led by professor of psychology Leonard Martin and Matthew Sanders, a doctoral candidate also in the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and was published in Psychological Science. Fifty-one students were involved in the study and were asked to perform two assignments so that the team could test self-control. In the first assignment, the subjects were asked to cross out the Es on a page from a statistics book, which has been known to diminish self-control. In the second task, they were asked to identify the color of different words, which actually spell out the names of other colors, that were flashed on a monitor. This is called the Stroop test, in which the aim is to turn off a person's inclination to read the word instead of see the color. The participants were divided into two groups - half rinsed their mouths with lemonade sweetened with sugar while they completed the Stroop test and the other group with Splenda-sweetened lemonade. According to the results, students who rinsed with sugar responded to the color rather than the word significantly faster than those in the artificial sweetener group. Martin explained: "Researchers used to think you had to drink the glucose and get it into your body to give you the energy to (have) self control. After this trial, it seems that glucose stimulates the simple carbohydrate sensors on the tongue. This, in turn, signals the motivational centers of the brain where our self-related goals are represented. These...

The Upside Of “Gossip”: Maintaining Social Order

Gossip is often considered an undesirable, unattractive feature of society, amounting to idle chatter that undermines trust and damages reputations, but now a new study suggests it has an upside, it helps maintain social order by keeping bad behavior in check, and preventing exploitation. And it also lowers stress. You can read how researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, arrived at these findings in January's online issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Co-author and social psychologist Robb Willer said they had found evidence that gossip plays a vital role in maintaining social order: "Spreading information about the person whom they had seen behave badly tended to make people feel better, quieting the frustration that drove their gossip." Willer and colleagues found gossip has a therapeutic effect: volunteer's heart rates rose when they observed someone behaving badly, but then the heart rates lessened somewhat when they warned others about what they had witnessed. For the study, the researchers focused on "prosocial" gossip, which is intended to warn others about untrustworthy or dishonest people. This is in contrast to other forms of gossip, such as voyeuristic rumor-mongering about a celebrity's latest exploits. To study prosocial gossip, the researchers carried out four experiments where they monitored volunteers as they watched people playing an "economic trust game" against each other and where players' generosity was measured according to how many dollars or points they shared. In the first experiment, 51 volunteers agreed to have their heart rate monitored as they watched two people play the game and observed their scores. After two rounds it was obvious from the score that one...
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