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Top 7 Brainteasers for Job Interviews and Brain Challenge

A recent CNN arti­cle explains well why a grow­ing num­ber of com­pa­nies use brain­teasers and log­ic puz­zles of a type called “guessti­ma­tions” dur­ing job inter­views:

- “Seem­ing­ly ran­dom ques­tions like these have become com­mon­place in Sil­i­con Val­ley and oth­er tech out­posts, where com­pa­nies aren’t as inter­est­ed in the cor­rect answer to a tough ques­tion as they are in how a prospec­tive employ­ee might try to solve it. Since busi­ness­es today have to be able to react quick­ly to shift­ing mar­ket dynam­ics, they want more than engi­neers with high IQs and good col­lege tran­scripts. They want peo­ple who can think on their feet.”

What are tech­nol­o­gy com­pa­nies (Google, Microsoft, Ama­zon) and con­sult­ing com­pa­nies (McK­in­sey, Boston Con­sult­ing Group, Accen­ture…) look­ing for? They want employ­ees withbrain teasers job interview good so-called Exec­u­tive Func­tions: prob­lem-solv­ing, cog­ni­tive flex­i­bil­i­ty, plan­ning, work­ing mem­o­ry, deci­sion-mak­ing, even emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion (don’t try to solve one of these puz­zles while being angry, or stressed out).

Want to try a few? Below you have our Top 7 Guesstimations/ Log­ic Puz­zles for Brain Chal­lenge:

Please try to GUESS the answers to the ques­tions below based on your own log­i­cal approach. The goal is not to find out (or Google) the right answer, but to Read the rest of this entry »

Information Overload? Seven Learning and Productivity Tips

We often talk in this blog about how to expand fun­da­men­tal abil­i­ties or cog­ni­tive func­tions, like atten­tion, or mem­o­ry, or emo­tion­al self-reg­u­la­tion. Think of them as mus­cles one can train. Now, it is also impor­tant to think of ways one can use our exist­ing mus­cles more effi­cient­ly.

Let’s talk about how to man­age bet­ter the over­whelm­ing amount of infor­ma­tion avail­able these days.

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of new books, ana­lyst reports, sci­en­tif­ic papers pub­lished every year. Mil­lions of web­sites at our googletips. The flow of data, infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge is grow­ing expo­nen­tial­ly, stretch­ing the capac­i­ty of our not-so-evolved brains. We can com­plain all day that we can­not process ALL this flow. Now, let me ask, should we even try?

Prob­a­bly not. Why engage in a los­ing propo­si­tion. Instead, let me offer a few strate­gies that can help man­age this flow of infor­ma­tion bet­ter.

1. Pri­or­i­tize: strate­gic con­sult­ing firms such as McK­in­sey and BCG train their staff in the so-called 80/20 rule: 80% of effects are caused by the top 20% of caus­es. In a com­pa­ny, 80% sales may come from 20% of the accounts. Impli­ca­tion: focus on that top 20%; don’t spend too much time on the 80% that only account for 20%.

2. Lever­age a sci­en­tif­ic mind­set. Sci­en­tists shift through tons of data in effi­cient, goal-ori­ent­ed ways. How do they do it? By first stat­ing a hypoth­e­sis and then look­ing for data. For exam­ple, an untrained per­son could spend weeks “boil­ing the ocean”, try­ing to read as much as pos­si­ble, in a very frag­men­tary way, about how phys­i­cal exer­cise affects our brain. A trained sci­en­tist would first define clear hypothe­ses and pre­lim­i­nary assump­tions, such as “Phys­i­cal exer­cise can enhance the brain’s abil­i­ty to gen­er­ate new neu­rons” or “Those new neu­rons appear in the hip­pocam­pus”, and then look specif­i­cal­ly for data that cor­rob­o­rates or refutes those sen­tences, enabling him or her to refine the hypothe­ses fur­ther, based on accu­mu­lat­ed knowl­edge, in a vir­tu­ous learn­ing cycle.

3. Beat your ene­mies-like exces­sive TV watch­ing. Watch­ing TV five hours a day has an effect on your brain: it trains one’s brain to become a visu­al, usu­al­ly unre­flec­tive, pas­sive recip­i­ent of infor­ma­tion. You may have heard the expres­sion “Cells that fire togeth­er wire togeth­er”. Our brains are com­posed of bil­lions of neu­rons, each of which can have thou­sand of con­nec­tions to oth­er neu­rons. Any thing we do in life is going to acti­vate a spe­cif­ic net­works of neu­rons. Visu­al­ize a mil­lion neu­rons fir­ing at the same time when you watch a TV pro­gram. Now, the more TV you watch, the more those neu­rons will fire togeth­er, and there­fore the more they will wire togeth­er (mean­ing that the con­nec­tions between them become, phys­i­cal­ly, stronger), which then cre­ates auto­mat­ic-like reac­tions. A heavy TV-watch­er is mak­ing him­self or her­self more pas­sive, unre­flec­tive, per­son. Exact­ly the oppo­site of what one needs to apply the oth­er tips described here. Con­tin­ue Read­ing

Heart Rate Variability as an Index of Regulated Emotional Responding

Con­tin­u­ing with the theme of a Week of Sci­ence spon­sored by Just Sci­ence, we will high­light some of the key points in: Appel­hans BM, Lueck­en LJ. Heart Rate Vari­abil­i­ty as an Index of Reg­u­lat­ed Emo­tion­al Respond­ing. Review of Gen­er­al Psy­chol­o­gy. 2006;10:229–240.

Defin­ing Heart Rate Vari­abil­i­ty
Effec­tive emo­tion­al reg­u­la­tion depends on being able to flex­i­bly adjust your phys­i­o­log­i­cal response to a chang­ing envi­ron­ment.

… heart rate vari­abil­i­ty (HRV) is a mea­sure of the con­tin­u­ous inter­play between sym­pa­thet­ic and parasym­pa­thet­ic influ­ences on heart rate that yields infor­ma­tion about auto­nom­ic flex­i­bil­i­ty and there­by rep­re­sents the capac­i­ty for reg­u­lat­ed emo­tion­al respond­ing.”

HRV reflects the degree to which car­diac activ­i­ty can be mod­u­lat­ed to meet chang­ing sit­u­a­tion­al demands.”

The sym­pa­thet­ic (SNS) and parasym­pa­thet­ic (PNS) branch­es of the auto­nom­ic ner­vous sys­tem (ANS) antag­o­nis­ti­cal­ly influ­ence the lengths of time between con­sec­u­tive heart­beats. Faster heart rates, which can be due to increased SNS and/or low­er PNS activ­i­ty, cor­re­spond to a short­er inter­beat inter­val while slow­er heart rates have a longer inter­beat inter­val, which can be attrib­uted to increased PNS and/or decreased SNS activ­i­ty.

The fre­quen­cy-based HRV analy­ses are based on the fact that the vari­a­tions in heart rate pro­duced by SNS and PNS activ­i­ty occur at dif­fer­ent speeds, or fre­quen­cies. SNS is slow act­ing and medi­at­ed by nor­ep­i­neph­rine while PNS influ­ence is fast act­ing and medi­at­ed by acetyl­choline.

Read the rest of this entry »

Memory training and attention deficits: interview with Notre Dame’s Bradley Gibson

Bradley S. Gibson, Ph.D.Pro­fes­sor Bradley Gib­son is an Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor in the Depart­ment of Psy­chol­o­gy at Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame, and Direc­tor of the Per­cep­tion and Atten­tion Lab there. He is a cog­ni­tive psy­chol­o­gist with research inter­ests in per­cep­tion, atten­tion, and visu­al cog­ni­tion. Gibson’s research has been pub­lished in a vari­ety of jour­nals, includ­ing Jour­nal of Exper­i­men­tal Psy­chol­o­gy, Human Per­cep­tion and Per­for­mance, Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, and Per­cep­tion & Psy­chophysics.

In 2006 he con­duct­ed the first inde­pen­dent repli­ca­tion study based on the Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing pro­gram we dis­cussed with Dr. Torkel Kling­berg.

A local news­pa­per intro­duced some pre­lim­i­nary results of the study Atten­tion, please: Mem­o­ry exer­cis­es reduce symp­toms of ADHD. Some quotes from the arti­cles:

- “The com­put­er game has been shown to reduce ADHD symp­toms in chil­dren in exper­i­ments con­duct­ed in Swe­den, where it was devel­oped, and more recent­ly in a Granger school, where it was test­ed by psy­chol­o­gists from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Notre Dame.

- Fif­teen stu­dents at Dis­cov­ery Mid­dle School tried RoboMemo dur­ing a five-week peri­od in Feb­ru­ary and March, said lead researcher Brad Gib­son

- As a result of that expe­ri­ence, symp­toms of inat­ten­tion and hyper­ac­tiv­i­ty were both reduced, accord­ing to reports by teach­ers and par­ents, Gib­son said.

- Oth­er tests found sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment in “work­ing mem­o­ry”, a short-term mem­o­ry func­tion that’s con­sid­ered key to focus­ing atten­tion and con­trol­ling impuls­es.

- RoboMemo’s effec­tive­ness is not as well estab­lished as med­ica­tions, and it’s a lot more work than pop­ping a pill.

- Gib­son said Notre Dame’s study is con­sid­ered pre­lim­i­nary because it involved a small num­ber of stu­dents. Anoth­er lim­i­ta­tion is that the study did not have a con­trol group of stu­dents receiv­ing a place­bo treat­ment.

We feel for­tu­nate to inter­view Dr. Gib­son today.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez (AF): Dr. Gib­son, thanks for being with us. Could you first tell us about your over­all research inter­ests?

Dr. Bradley Gib­son (BG): Thanks for giv­ing me this oppor­tu­ni­ty. My pri­ma­ry research Read the rest of this entry »

Brain Training with Cognitive Simulations

Today we will con­tin­ue our review of the ben­e­fits of brain train­ing for spe­cif­ic occu­pa­tions: in this case, pilots and bas­ket­ball play­ers. The lessons can be rel­e­vant not only for cor­po­rate train­ing but also for edu­ca­tion and brain health & well­ness.

To do so, we will select quotes from our inter­view last year with one of the major sci­en­tists in the field of cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions, Pro­fes­sor Daniel Gopher. You can read the full inter­view here.

Prof. Gopher pub­lished an award-win­ning arti­cle in 1994, Gopher, D., Weil, M. and Baraket, T. (1994), Trans­fer of skill from a com­put­er game train­er to flight, Human Fac­tors 36, 1–19., that con­sti­tutes a key mile­stone in the cog­ni­tive engi­neer­ing field.

On Cog­ni­tive Train­ing and Cog­ni­tive Sim­u­la­tions

AF: Tell us a bit about your over­all research inter­ests

DG: My main inter­est has been how to expand the lim­its of human atten­tion, infor­ma­tion pro­cess­ing and response capa­bil­i­ties which are crit­i­cal in com­plex, real-time deci­sion-mak­ing, high-demand tasks such as fly­ing a mil­i­tary jet or play­ing pro­fes­sion­al bas­ket­ball. Using a ten­nis anal­o­gy, my goal has been, and is, how to help devel­op many “Wimbledon”-like cham­pi­ons. Each with their own styles, but per­form­ing to their max­i­mum capac­i­ty to suc­ceed in their envi­ron­ments.

What research over the last 15–20 years has shown is that cog­ni­tion, or what we call think­ing and per­for­mance, is real­ly a set of skills that we can train sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly. And that com­put­er-based cog­ni­tive train­ers or “cog­ni­tive sim­u­la­tions” are the most effec­tive and effi­cient way to do so.

This is an impor­tant point, so let me empha­size it. What we have dis­cov­ered is that a key fac­tor for an effec­tive trans­fer from train­ing envi­ron­ment to real­i­ty is that the train­ing pro­gram ensures “Cog­ni­tive Fideli­ty”, this is, it should faith­ful­ly rep­re­sent the men­tal demands that hap­pen in the real world. Tra­di­tion­al approach­es focus instead on Read the rest of this entry »

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