Archives for category: Workplace brains

My boyfriend and I can sit here for hours… surfing, scrolling, tapping, searching… and suddenly it’s midnight.

I feel completely disorientated, drained, and utterly empty “upstairs”.

Why does my brain literally feel rubbery? Thoughts slide slowly around but not coherently… it’s like someone’s vacuumed my head empty. It’s black, it’s a void. It’s dead space.

This is the feeling of the “internet hole”.

What I would give for a nifty little self-reading EEG at these times. I just desperately want to prove what the I know electric impulses are doing: Nothing.

If you read the reports out of China this month, teenagers who surf the net for 13 hours a day have significantly reduced grey matter.

“Our study reflects the long-term Internet addiction can lead to deterioration in brain structure,” said the researchers.

The brain cortex functions to process memory, emotion, speech, sight and hearing as well as control the movement of people.

This is coupled with the Washington Post reports this month that search engines like Google are effectively changing our brain structures:

“We remember less through knowing information itself than by knowing where the information can be found,” says Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow.

This is scary.

I’m logging off right now.

Right after I take this nifty little memory quiz


The first ever mind-controlled bike has arrived!  The ‘PXP’, from Toyota, Saatchi & Saatchi LADeeplocal, and Parlee Cycles reads your thoughts via a specially built helmet to change gears as you ride.

The bike helmet, designed by Deeplocal, incorporates a built-in EEG array that lets you shift gears just by thinking about it!

The helmet learns to read your thoughts after a ten-minute “training” session to distinguish your “shift up” thoughts from your “shift down” thoughts.

“When you see the bike shift for the first time, it’s kind of like magic,” Matthew Pegula, Deeplocal Lead Engineer, tells Co.Design.

“…we’re not too far off from this being commercially viable.”

Cadel Evans, you have to get this new toy.

COOOOL.

Read more at Fast Code Design and John Watson’s blog.

This is your brain on winning - Newsweek

Illustration by Bryan Christie for Newsweek

Newsweek published this awesome graphic last week’s looking at the neurological activities and sequences that happen in the brain when you play sport. Pretty cool huh? If you need a new reason to get off the couch – look at what a workout it gives your grey matter!

I’ve been meaning to explore brain activity during sport in this blog what with Wimbeldon, the cricket season kicking off at Lord’s today, and of course Olympics 2012. With all those competitors slogging it out, you wonder what makes them tick?

The Newsweek article ‘The New Science of Triumph’ by Nick Summers (featuring the above pic) looked at the burgeoning area of neuroeconomics – that is, the new links being forged between winning, brain chemistry, social theory and economics of winners.

It has been discovered recently that the traditional hormone of ‘dominance’ (or winning), testosterone, has a close relationship with cortisol, a stress hormone. When balanced in the right levels this directly can affect winning – good stress can motivate, and alert you. But too much cortisol/stress is not a winning combination.

“Testosterone is helpful only when regulated by small amounts of another hormone called cortisol. What’s more, for those with a lot of cortisol in their blood, high levels of testosterone may actually impede winning.”

Also the dopamine system of the brain, which is involved with rewards and anticipating rewards, also affects winning because it affects your expectations to win:

“People’s brains are constantly comparing what happened with what could have happened,” says Scott Huettel, the director of Duke University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies.

“A bronze medalist might say, ‘Wow, I almost didn’t get a medal. It’s great to be on the stand!’ And the silver medalist is just thinking about all the mistakes he made that prevented him from winning gold.”

Read the full article here – The New Science of Triumph – Newsweek.

MRI of a monocultured workplace

If you think about your workplace and the types of people in it, what would you say about it? Are the people very results-driven or people-focused? Is it competitive and stressed, or relaxed and collaborative? What are the people like themselves? Do you find you have a lot in common?

In the top tiers of Fortune 500 companies, the hiring process tends to focus strongly on finding the ‘right types’ of employee using psychometric tests. These are designed to assess an individual’s cognitive abilities relative to others in a population.

Modern day intelligence tests were originally developed in 1905 by Frenchman Albert Binet to ascertain the intellectual incapacities of children using a mental age (or MA). This concept was further developed by Lewis Terman from Stanford University in 1916 where he created a formula for Intelligence Quota (IQ), which he felt indicated a wider intelligence capacity:

IQ = mental age divided by chronological age, x 100

Major corporations are fairly renowned for their hiring processes using various forms of psychometric testing during rounds of interviews which include character assessments, cognitive ability tests and general knowledge questions designed to whittle you down/test your mettle.

But once inside,  the discoveries can be quite surreal; people like you are everywhere with the same level of education, range of life experiences, tastes in culture, same number of extra-curricular activities… subtle similarities that you can’t quite put a finger on except to say ‘I feel like I’ve known you for a long time!’

There are obvious benefits to a cohesive workplace and having a lot in common; some major corporations favour social equality and champion environmental issues.

But then there are other kinds of powerful companies (talking here about a specific, household name, global investment bank) who looks for, and only looks for, the type ‘A’ employee: the ones who when asked ‘would you do whatever it takes to win at the cost of others?’ answers, unhesitatingly, ‘yes’. Unsurprisingly, the culture created is aggressive, ego-driven and, dare it be said, male-dominated.

There is also some concern that psychometric tests can be prone to cultural and racial biases. Indeed it is a practice of exclusion. The tests tend to favour the white, middle class; not only do white people tend to outperform most other ethnic groups, but also IQ is associated with social class (Williams & Ceci in ‘Psychology’, Burton, Westen and Kowlaski, 2009).

So are the modern hiring machine at these top corporations creating types of monocultures? And how do we feel if these companies seek to create workforces who think alike, breathe alike, act like. In line with company policy. Together.

A super race? Or super, super boring?

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