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Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Study finds the limits of putting oneself in another’s shoes (instead, ask and listen)

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I still remem­ber the time I tried to com­fort one of my best friends when her father died. Because I’d lost my own par­ents years before, I thought I under­stood her pain. But, when I offered sym­pa­thy, she balked. Her father’s death had been tran­scen­dent, filled with love and fam­i­ly con­nec­tion. She didn’t feel pain; she felt at peace. Read the rest of this entry »

Did You See the Gorilla? An Interview with Psychologist Daniel Simons

If you’ve spent any time on YouTube over the last few years (and you know you have), you’ve like­ly seen the video of the invis­i­ble goril­la exper­i­ment (if you’ve some­how missed it, catch your­self up here). The researchers who con­duct­ed that study, Dan Simons and Chris Chabris, didn’t real­ize that they were about to cre­ate an instant classic—a psy­chol­o­gy study men­tioned along­side the greats, and known well out­side the slim con­fines of psych wonks. Mil­gram taught us about our sheep­ish obe­di­ence to author­i­ty; Mis­chel used marsh­mal­lows to teach us about delayed grat­i­fi­ca­tion; and Simons and Chabris used a faux goril­la to teach us that we are not the mas­ters of atten­tion we think we are.

The duo’s new book Read the rest of this entry »

Learning about Learning: an Interview with Joshua Waitzkin

In 1993, Para­mount Pic­tures released Search­ing for Bob­by Fis­ch­er, which depicts Joshua Wait­zk­in’s ear­ly chess suc­cess as he embarks on a jour­ney to win his first Nation­al chessJoshua Waitzkin cham­pi­onship. This movie had the effect of weak­en­ing his love for the game as well as the learn­ing process. His pas­sion for learn­ing was reju­ve­nat­ed, how­ev­er, after years of med­i­ta­tion, and read­ing phi­los­o­phy and psy­chol­o­gy. With this rekin­dling of the learn­ing process, Wait­zkin took up the mar­tial art Tai Chi Chuan at the age of 21 and made rapid progress, win­ning the 2004 push hands world cham­pi­onship at the age of 27.

After read­ing Joshua’s most recent book The Art of Learn­ing, I thought of a mil­lion top­ics The Art of LearningI want­ed to dis­cuss with him–topics such as being labelled a “child prodi­gy”, bloom­ing, cre­ativ­i­ty, and the learn­ing process. Thank­ful­ly, since I was pro­fil­ing Wait­zkin for an arti­cle I was for­tu­nate enough to get a chance to have such a con­ver­sa­tion with him. I hope you find this dis­cus­sion just as provoca­tive and illu­mi­nat­ing as I did.

The Child Prodi­gy

S. Why did you leave chess at the top of your game?

J. This is a com­pli­cat­ed ques­tion that I wrote about very open­ly in my book. In short, I had lost the love. My rela­tion­ship to the game had become exter­nal­ized-by pres­sures from the film about my life, by los­ing touch with my nat­ur­al voice as an artist, by mis­takes I made in the growth process. At the very core of my rela­tion­ship to learn­ing is the idea that we should be as organ­ic as pos­si­ble. We need to cul­ti­vate a deeply refined intro­spec­tive sense, and build our rela­tion­ship to learn­ing around our nuance of char­ac­ter. I stopped doing this and fell into cri­sis from a sense of alien­ation from an art I had loved so deeply. This is when I left chess behind, start­ed med­i­tat­ing, study­ing phi­los­o­phy and psy­chol­o­gy, and ulti­mate­ly moved towards Tai Chi Chuan.

S. Do you think being a child prodi­gy hurt your chess career in any way?

J. I have nev­er con­sid­ered myself a prodi­gy. Oth­ers have used that term, but I nev­er bought in to it. From a young age it was always about embrac­ing the bat­tle, lov­ing the game, and over­com­ing adver­si­ty. Grow­ing up as Read the rest of this entry »

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not

Where does our “Feel­ing of Know­ing” come from? Have you ever felt cer­tain that you knew an answer even though you could­n’t think of it right off? Where does that “feel­ing of know­ing” come from? The answer to this ques­tion is the focus of neu­rol­o­gist Robert Bur­ton’s new book On Being Cer­tain: Believ­ing You Are Right Even When You’re Not.

I recent­ly reviewed Dr. Bur­ton’s book on the Brain Sci­ence Pod­cast and last week I had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­view him for the show. He explained that one of the ori­gins for his book was his expe­ri­ence with patients with con­di­tions like Cotard’s syn­drome (where the patient thinks he is dead or does not exist). What Dr. Bur­ton calls the “feel­ing of know­ing” is so strong that peo­ple con­sis­tent­ly trust it even when their beliefs con­tra­dict the evi­dence. At first it might seem sur­pris­ing that this feel­ing is gen­er­at­ed at an uncon­scious lev­el in our brain, yet the same sort of pro­cess­ing cre­ates the world we see and hear. It is well-known that what we see is not what enters our eyes, but Read the rest of this entry »

To Think or to Blink?

(Edi­tor’s Note: Should Ham­let be liv­ing with us now and read­ing best­sellers, he might be won­der­ing: To Blink or not to Blink? To Think or not to Think? We are pleased to present, as part of our ongo­ing Author Speaks Series, an arti­cle by Blind SpotsMadeleine Van Hecke, author of Blind Spots: Why Smart Peo­ple Do Dumb Things. In it, she offers the “on the oth­er hand” to Mal­colm Glad­well’s Blink argu­ment.)

To Think or to Blink?

- By Madeleine Van Hecke, PhD

Is thought­ful reflec­tion nec­es­sar­i­ly bet­ter than hasty judg­ments?

Not accord­ing to Mal­colm Glad­well who argued in his best-sell­ing book, Blink, that the deci­sions peo­ple make in a blink are often not only just as accu­rate, but MORE accu­rate, than the con­clu­sions they draw after painstak­ing analy­sis.

So, should we blink, or think?

When we make judg­ments based on a thin slice of time  a few min­utes talk­ing with some­one in a speed dat­ing sit­u­a­tion, for exam­ple are our judg­ments real­ly as accu­rate as when we ana­lyze end­less reams of data?

Read the rest of this entry »

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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