Overview | Rewiring your brain | Willpower and brain energy | Some General Notes about How the Brain Works
What we do and the decisions we make originates in the brain.
Understanding some of the basics of how the brain works is an important part of using it effectively and living your life the way you would like to. Many people have strong misconceptions about what they or others can do, and this holds them back. The key misconceptions are that ‘your abilities are fixed’ and that ‘your willpower is fixed’. Both of these are wrong.
Your brain is highly malleable. It is rewiring itself all the time, and you can influence this rewiring through conscious thought. The science of this is called neuroplasticity.
And your willpower is variable through the day, dependent upon the particular circumstances of the day, and with deliberate intent and training can be strengthened over time.
There are a number of science fiction stories about robots that are able to continually upgrade themselves and become smarter and stronger. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do that? You can.
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Reminder on taking tests: It’s not about trying to prove you already know it, it’s about learning.
Which of the following is closest to be being true:
a. Our brains are largely fixed at birth and through our life our brain cells slowly die off.
b. Our brains develop and grow when we are young, and we are able to learn lots of new things, but once we are adult are brains have reached their peak and they slowly degrade.
c. Our brains are highly malleable and remain so all our lives.
c. Our brains remain highly malleable for most of our lives, and whilst our ability to learn quickly may slow down when we reach an advanced age, it does so only very gradually.
How long does it take to break a deeply ingrained habit:
a. We can do it instantly if we just had strong enough willpower.
b. Anything from a few weeks to a few months.
c. About 6 months.
d. It will take years, and if very deeply ingrained you won’t break it at all.
The nearest to a correct answer is b. but it is not so simple as this being correct and the other answers wrong.
Clearly you can stop allowing yourself to give in to a habit ‘instantly’ with strong willpower, but this doesn’t mean you have broken the habit. If you are still needing to apply strong willpower then the habit isn’t broken. After a period of about a month, and it could be a bit less or a bit more depending on the nature of the habit and how ingrained it is, your instinct for automatically giving in to the habit should start to considerably weaken, particularly if you are able to substitute an alternative automatic response to the triggers for the habit. Continuing success in avoiding the habit will continue to weaken its hold, but you can remain susceptible to the old habit for some time, possibly 6 months or more, and if you give in to the habit you may need to immediately return to applying strong willpower for a while to ensure you don’t fall back into the habit. For some people it takes years to break a habit, but only because they are only being partially successful. Thus giving up smoking may take years involving short periods of not smoking at all, and maybe a gradual reduction in the number of cigarettes smoked.
Which of the following impact on your motivation and willpower later in the day:
a. What you’ve been eating during the day.
b. How much you been physically exercising.
c. How hard a day it has been from a mental viewpoint.
d. Your mood.
All of these can have some or a significant impact on your motivation later in the day.
What are mirror neurons and what do they do for us?
Mirror neurons are parts of our brain that fire when we are observing or with or thinking about someone else which mirror how we think the other person is feeling.
Mirror neurons enable us to empathize with others. They enable us to potentially predict what they might do. They also help with learning by improving our ability to imitate or mimic others.
Identify which of the descriptions go with each of the listed brain wave states:
1. Gamma wave
2. Beta wave
3. Alpha wave
4. Theta wave
5. Delta wave
A. generated during active conscious thinking and concentrated problem solving;
B. generated during drowsiness, when daydreaming, or during light sleep. Note that unusual ideas can often pop into the head during a theta wave state;
C. generated during situations of extreme stress, leading to our being able to transcend typical activities, such as when people perform incredible feats;
D. generated during deep sleep. Our physical healing is accelerated when in this state.
E. generated during a relaxed alert state;
1C Gamma wave state: generated during situations of extreme stress, leading to our being able to transcend typical activities, such as when people perform incredible feats;
2A Beta wave state: generated during active conscious thinking and concentrated problem solving;
3E Alpha wave state: generated during a relaxed alert state;
4B Theta wave state: generated during drowsiness, when daydreaming, or during light sleep. Note that unusual ideas can often pop into the head during a theta wave state;
5D Delta wave state: generated during deep sleep. Our physical healing is accelerated when in this state.
True or false? Making lots of minor decisions has no impact on your willpower later in the day.
Decision making is mentally draining irrespective of whether it is a minor decision or a major decision. Though if you make the decision or decisions quickly without agonising over it or them, then you will not be using as much mental energy, irrespective of whether they are minor or major decisions.
True or false? Using a hands free phone whilst driving is very different to having someone in the car talking to you, and can be a serious threat to your driving.
Our brains don’t multitask and talking to someone whilst driving can be dangerous. In particular if we are talking to someone and something unexpected happens then our reactions will generally be slower than if we were not talking to someone. The difference between talking to a passenger and talking to some hands phone is that a passenger knows what is going on around you and can and usually will stop talking if they think you need to concentrate. Someone talking to you hands free doesn’t and will continue talking unless you tell them not to, which people are usually reluctant to do.
Is Sour Grapes, whereby someone who is unable to get something they had wanted then claim they never wanted it at all, an example of Cognitive Dissonance or of Cognitive Ease.
It is an example of Cognitive Dissonance, in that we resolve the conflict of wanting something but not being able to have it by pretending we had never wanted it in the first place.