Post of the month
Mapping out feelings
- Researchers have drawn up a physiological map of emotions
- Do you agree with their findings?
Wondering where emotions live? Then look at the pictures in the Finnish study (see below) that drew up a colourful map of the body zones activated when we’re in the throes of specific feelings. The researchers asked over 700 subjects to identify the areas of the body that were reacting while looking at certain images, films and facial expressions, or listening to certain words. They noticed that the responses transcended cultures and languages. Love and joy, for example, tend to pervade most of the body, while anger only spreads from the head to the lungs.
Speaker of the month
Beware the 93%!
- We’re experts in reading others
- How do we use our expertise?
According to Albert Mehrabian, whenever we try and assess a speaker’s intentions, we do so mostly unconsciously and rely up to 93% on cues other than words. While we listen, part of our brain focuses on vocal cues (tone, pace, flow etc.) and body cues (gestures, posture, clothes and the rest), leaving only a 7% impact for the words themselves. To put it another way, if we were to listen to someone speaking in an unknown language, we would still be able to form an extremely accurate opinion about the mood and the intentions of the person in question… This has proved rather useful for the survival of the species!
How come this amazing ability seems to fail us at times, for example at election time? Well, this has to do with a phenomenon called cognitive dissonance. When we encounter something that conflicts with our beliefs, we get extremely uncomfortable and endeavour to ignore or rationalise it. So when our party’s candidate speaks, research shows that we literally switch off our ‘radar’. Social scientist Drew Westen put voters in an MRI machine and found that their brain closed off information contradicting their beliefs about their chosen candidate!
– Mehrabian, Albert (1971). Silent Messages (1st Ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
– Westen, Drew (2008). The Political Brain: the role of emotion in deciding the political fate of the nation. PublicAffairs, Perseus Group.
What’s in it for you?
- We’re equipped to develop
- We’re equipped to vegetate
In this video (see link below), Carol Dweck, Psychology Professor at Stanford University, explains the guiding thread for her lifelong research on motivation and social development. According to her, the extent to which we succeed in life corresponds essentially to the extent to which we think we’re able to… or not. If we believe implicitly that we’re born with certain assets, as well as shortcomings, we’ll tend to shy away from difficulty and see failure as evidence of not being good enough – that’s the “fixed” mindset. Alternatively, if we believe we’re work in progress, with no limits on what we can achieve, we’ll see failure as simply a step in our development – that’s the “growth” mindset.
Her fascinating studies demonstrate how beliefs we’re not even aware we hold, or apparently innocuous choice of words about our colleagues or our children’s efforts can alter their lives…
– (*) Dweck, C.S. (2017). Mindset – Updated Edition: how to change the way you think to fulfil your potential, Robinson.
Food for thought
January-April: the baby athlete’s window
The following article explains how birthdays – and therefore conception dates – determine sporting success. What potential is being wasted by recruiting sports trainees on the basis of age?
And what else?
Learning from ignorance
- Ignorance is not simply a state of affairs
- It can be a political weapon
Agnotology is “the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data” (Wikipedia). Lurking in the nooks and crannies of the mind, ignorance is to mankind as black holes are to astronomy: vast and complex. In addition to known unknowns and unknown unknowns, there are half knowns, which can be worse than total unknowns.
But ignorance is also a formidable power when it’s shaped by a few individuals in order to manipulate or control others. When Robert Proctor established the foundations of agnotology (the word was created in 1992), he described phenomena such as the tobacco industry financing studies designed to cast doubt on the dangers of smoking, and pharmaceutical lobbies deliberately dragging their feet about proving the safety of this or that drug. Paradoxically, swamping the public with a deluge of information can be a way of increasing ignorance. Clearly, the powers that be have long been masters at creating, spreading and preserving ignorance.
– Proctor, Robert (1995). The Cancer Wars: How Politics Shapes What We Know and Don’t Know About Cancer. New York: Basic Books.
Najberg Milne news
Forthcoming open course dates in London, Paris and Brussels
London – Winning Hearts & Minds: 28 & 29 June, 7 & 8 September, 29 & 30 November. For more information and to book, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Paris – Captiver & Convaincre: 2 & 3 May. For more information and to book, please contact us at: email@example.com.
Bruxelles – Captiver & Convaincre: 6 & 7 June. For more information and to book, please contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Link of the month
- Courage and gentleness.
- Determination and dignity.
Our gift to you, this month: a piece by Maya Angelou, from an anthology in which “extraordinary women share the wisdom they wish they’d had when they were younger”, edited by Ellyn Spragins.
You’re itching to be on your own. You don’t want anybody telling you what time you have to be in at night or how to raise your baby. You’re going to leave your mother’s big comfortable house and she won’t stop you, because she knows you too well.
But listen to what she says:
When you walk out of my door, don’t let anybody raise you — you’ve been raised.
You know right from wrong.
In every relationship you make, you’ll have to show readiness to adjust and make adaptations.
Remember, you can always come home.
You will go home again when the world knocks you down — or when you fall down in full view of the world. But only for two or three weeks at a time. Your mother will pamper you and feed you your favourite meal of red beans and rice. You’ll make a practice of going home so she can liberate you again — one of the greatest gifts, along with nurturing your courage, that she will give you.
Be courageous, but not foolhardy.
Walk proud as you are,
– Spragins, Ellyn (2008). What I know Now: Letters to my Younger Self. Broadway Books.