If I Trust you I may Feel Better

Research from the University of Michigan Health System suggests that individuals who respond to placebos have significantly more dopamine activity in a specific portion of their brains than those who do not. The dopamine activity seems to be proportional to the amount of benefit that the individual anticipates.

This anticipatory aspect is interesting from a coaching perspective. Anticipation of a benefit is based upon trust in the source, which in coaching is based upon relationship. In a coaching relationship the trust factor has significant influence on whether an individual will consider the coach’s advice. In a good relationship he or she will be open to trying the coaching suggestions, even if they seem counter-intuitive to what the individual thinks or feels. This study suggests that in a good coaching relationship, the expectation of a benefit (say, for instance, relief from being ignored due to poor social skills) may cause the release of dopamine and make the coaching recipient feel better as they go about the process of following the advice. And this increases its chances of success.

Link: ScienceDaily

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See also: The Brain, Trust and Free Markets 

Attention is Biased towards Emotion

Events filled with emotion are more likely to capture our attention. The media has known this for a long time of course. And we know that we pay more attention when spouses finally become angry and yell after we’ve found ourselves only half listening to what they say.

We are not passive observers of the world. To some degree we choose what we see (or our brains do it for us), and then we give it significance according to the well-known “ladder of perception” model. We’ve all experienced the heightened awareness that we have of an event when we feel truly emotional about it.

Neuroscientists can now suggest that emotional significance does indeed influence our perceptions – and that the amygdala is the portion of the brain that is responsible. Researchers at Yale and New York University have shown that the amygdala “alters the ease by which events with increased emotional value reach awareness.”

These findings suggest that our perceptual systems are exquisitely tuned to the occurrence of emotionally significant stimulus events, requiring much less attention or effort to reach conscious awareness compared to events of neutral value.

In other words, out attention is biased to pay more attention when emotion is involved. Motivational speakers know it. Preachers know it. Good teachers know it. Coaches need to know it as well. A little bit of passion can go a long way.

I have long remembered something that was said to me some years ago in the midst of an emotional turmoil at the time – “People will forget what you say to them. They will never forget how you make them feel.” I’ve found that to be true over the years.

Link: EurekAlert

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Friday the Thirteenth

20438510.jpgI’m not particularly superstitious, so this day doesn’t cause me undue angst. Nevertheless, I still find myself thinking about it due to the general chatter in the media, at the office water cooler, and so forth. And despite my disbelief, it’s still hard not to think about it, at least momentarily, if something goes wrong. I find that I have to mentally reaffirm that I think it’s just coincidental. That’s my personal mental model.

Now, a University of Oregon study indicates that people on average can retain only four items in active memory at once. Whatever the number, the clarity with which items can be remembered varies from person to person. And even the people who can remember more items do not necessarily remember them more precisely.

Now I have a new reason to forget about this day. If I have to remember that it’s Friday the thirteenth does it follow that I can only keep three other items in my memory? Being that’s it’s hard enough to remember things as it is, this adds fuel to my mental-model fire if you will.

For more on this memory study (without the thirteenth hoopla), check out this link.

Have a Bad Memory?

The brain can suppress emotional memories is the suggestion of a new study by the University of Colorado at Boulder. It takes practice, and the results are quite preliminary, but it has medical implications certainly for people suffering from depression and other disorders. It could also have implications for coaching.

One of the more difficult aspects in coaching is helping a person deal with the resulting worldview “cage” created by the strong impact of negative emotional experiences. The emotion colors the thinking and can make it nearly impossible to think apart from it. It would certainly be useful if techniques could be developed that could be used from more than a clinical standpoint. Whether that is likely remains to be seen.

Link: Science Daily

Use your Heart Rhythms to Help Reduce Stress

Biofeedback is old hat, at least to the HeartMath folks.

In 1995 the American Journal of Cardiology published a study conducted by HeartMath researchers which identified a distinct pattern in the heart rhythms that is characteristic of positive emotions like appreciation, care, love, and compassion.

Based on their work over the last 16 years, HeartMath recently released two revolutionary lifestyle tools designed to help reduce stress and reset one’s inner balance – emWave® PC Stress Relief System and the handheld emWave Personal Stress Reliever®.

Haven’t tried it, don’t work for them and so don’t know, but it might be worth checking out as another potential tech tool in the battle against stress.

To read more – Biofeedback Reinvented . . .

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It Might be Good to have Mixed Emotions

This excerpt from the University of Washington Business School –

People who experience emotional ambivalence – simultaneously feeling positive and negative emotions – are more creative than those who feel just happy or sad, or lack emotion at all, according to a new study.

“Due to the complexity of many organizations, workplace experiences often elicit mixed emotions from employees, and it’s often assumed that mixed emotions are bad for workers and companies,” said Fong, whose study appears in the October issue of the Academy of Management Journal. “Rather than assuming ambivalence will lead to negative results for the organization, managers should recognize that emotional ambivalence can have positive consequences that can be leveraged for organizational success.”

“Managers who want to increase the creative output of their employees might benefit from following in the footsteps of companies like design firm IDEO or Walt Disney, which pride themselves on maintaining odd working environments. On some level, the bicycles that hang from the ceiling at IDEO and the colorful, casual environment at Disney probably help their employees sharpen their abilities to come up with novel and innovative ideas.” Emotionally ambivalent workers are more creative, innovative

The work environment is mentioned as one applicable venue – what might be others? Team dynamics perhaps – creative tensions fostered within the framework of relationship? What might be the parameters that would keep it from crossing into emotional and mental states that would be self-defeating?

9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

You’re busy. You have a full agenda and yet you’re part of an organization too. Which means that others are going to ask you to do things and unless you’re comfortable with the social consequences of being the person that everyone knows doesn’t ever help anyone else, you’re going to have to know how to say “no” with a bit of tact and grace.

Here are nine good ways to say no in no particular order. Why not ten? No reason. Continue reading 9 Ways to Say “No” with Grace

Paying Taxes Makes me Feel Good?

Under certain circumstances . . . yes. At least according to a recent study by three University of Oregon researchers. In situations where taxes went to help a charitable cause the same pleasure centers in the brain were activated as when eating chocolate or some other favored pleasure.

“The surprising element for us was that in a situation in which your money is simply given to others – where you do not have a free choice – you still get reward-center activity,” said Ulrich Mayr, a professor of psychology. “I don’t think that most economists would have suspected that. It reinforces the idea that there is true altruism – where it’s all about how well the common good is doing. I’ve heard people claim that they don’t mind paying taxes, if it’s for a good cause – and here we showed that you can actually see this going on inside the brain, and even measure it.”

What might this mean for our old friend Ted? His threat level is down because he’s not afraid of being penalized for failure to pay his taxes. And emotionally he’s feeling pretty good as his reward-centers give him good feelings. As to his thoughts, well the idea of giving to a charity, even involuntarily, resonates with his personal ideas about what it means to do “good.” All three of his systems are pretty congruent and Ted’s at peace with the world for the moment . . . whatever his personal feelings on the how, what or when of it all.

There are of course other factors besides reward that play into altruism. A recent Duke University study suggests that worldview might be more significant than individual action in fostering altruistic behavior. (Activation of Brain Region Predicts Altruism). And there are many other points in the continuing research and discussion.

Interesting implications for coaching situations would seem to revolve around motivation and self-interest. To highly altruistic individuals, appeal to the common good could prove a sufficiently motivating force. To the less altruistic, the University of Oregon study suggests that encouragement in terms of personal reward might be a pragmatic motivational tool.

In any case, it seems that an appeal to altruistic behavior through the “it will make you feel good” rationale may have some actual physiological validity.

Link: http://Paying Taxes, According to the Brain, can bring Satisfaction

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Yawning your Way to Alertness

Psychologists Andrew Gallup and Gordon Gallup of the State University of New York at Albany suggest that yawning boosts blood flow to the brain and enhances alertness by cooling it down. And “catching a yawn” in a group setting may actually serve to collectively enhance group attentiveness as it passes from one person to another. It may well be physiologically true. But the next time you’re coaching along and your coachee begins yawning . . . he may maintain that he’s only trying to be more attentive (rather than finding you boring). Yeah, right – and how’s that for a difference in mental models?

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The Brain, Trust and Free Markets

Paul Zak, Director of Claremont Graduate University’s Center for Neuroeconomic Studies, has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to study what happens in the brain when people experience feelings of generosity and compassion. The purpose of the research is to explain the mechanisms of the brain at work during normal economic behavior. Zak will be testing the hypothesis that the actual engine driving the free-market economy is good behavior and trust rather than self-interest alone.

He will be building on earlier work in which he determined that an accurate barometer of the economic health of a nation is the level of trust in the country between people, especially strangers. Countries with higher levels of trust do better economically than countries with low levels.

Link:

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