|New index detects early signs of deviation from normal brain development
||Researchers generated a brain development index from MRI scans that captures the complex patterns of maturation during normal brain development. This index will allow clinicians and researchers for the first time to detect subtle, yet potentially critical early signs of deviation from normal development during late childhood to early adult.
|The brain's RAM: Rats, like humans, have a 'working memory'
||Thousands of times a day, the brain stores sensory information for very short periods of time in a working memory, to be able to use it later. A research study has shown, for the first time, that this function also exists in the brain of rodents, a finding that sheds light on the evolutionary origins of this cognitive mechanism.
|Night work 'throws body into chaos'
||Doing the night shift throws the body into chaos and could be causing long-term damage, warn researchers.
|Happiness may slow aging, improve health
||Being healthy can make a person happy, but happiness itself may also lead to better health, according to a new study.
|Why Leaders Need a Triple Focus
||Directing attention toward where it needs to go is a primal task of leadership. Talent here lies in the ability to shift attention to the right place at the right time, sensing trends, emerging realities, and opportunities.
A leader’s field of attention—that is, the particular issues and goals she focuses on—guides the attention of those who follow her, whether or not the leader explicitly articulates it. People make their choices about where to focus based on their perception of what matters to leaders.
This ripple effect gives leaders an extra load of responsibility: They are guiding not just their own attention but, to a large extent, everyone else’s. When we say a leader has “focus” we typically are referring to one-pointedness on business results, or on a particular strategy.
But is such single-pointedness enough? What about the rest of the repertoire of attention? Leaders need strengths in three areas of focus: self (inner), people (other), and system (outer) awareness. Inner focus attunes us to our emotions and intuitions, guiding values and better decisions. Other focus smoothes our connections to the people in our lives. And outer focus lets us navigate the larger world.
But the challenge goes beyond that. The key is finding balance, and knowing when to use the right kind of focus at the right time. Combining data on attention with that on emotional intelligence and performance, this triple focus emerges as a hidden driver of excellence.
Blinded by the prize
To see where single-point focus can go wrong, take this example: The partner at a huge law firm drove her team crazy. She micromanaged, constantly second-guessing them, rewriting reports that didn’t meet her standards even though they were perfectly fine. She could always find something to criticize but nothing to praise. Her steadfast focus on the negative demoralized her team—a star member quit and others were looking to move laterally in the firm.
Those who, like that too-critical lawyer, have this high-achieving, single-focused style are called “pacesetters,” meaning they like to lead by example, setting a fast pace they assume others will imitate. Pacesetters tend to rely on a “command and coerce” leadership strategy where they simply give orders and expect obedience.
Leaders who display just the pacesetting or command style—or both—but not any others create a toxic climate, one that dispirits those they lead. Such leaders may get short-term results through personal heroics, like going out and getting a deal themselves, but do so at the expense of building their organizations.
“Leadership Run Amok” was Harvard Business Review’s title for an article about the dark side of pacesetting, written by Scott Spreier and his colleagues at Hay Group. “They’re so focused on the prize,” Spreier told me, “they’re blinded to their impact on the people around them in the room.”
Spreier’s article offered up that hard-driving law partner as a prime example of pacesetting at its worst. Such leaders don’t listen, let alone make decisions by consensus. They don’t spend time getting to know the people they work with day in and out but relate to them in their one-dimensional roles. They don’t help people develop new strengths or refine their abilities but simply dismiss their need to learn as a failing. They come off as arrogant and impatient.
And they are spreading. One tracking study finds that the number of people in organizations of all kinds who are overachievers has been climbing steadily among those in leadership positions since the 1990s. That was a period when economic growth created an atmosphere where raise-the-bar-at-any-cost heroics were lionized. The downsides of this style—for example, lapses in ethics, cutting corners, and running roughshod over people—were too often winked at.
Then came a series of flameouts and burst bubbles, from the collapse of Enron and the dot-com debacle on. This more sober business reality put a spotlight on the underside of pacesetters’ single-minded focus on fiscal results at the expense of other leadership basics. During the financial crisis of 2008 and onward, “many companies promoted strong, top-down leaders, who are good for handling emergencies,” Georg Vielmetter, a consultant in Berlin, told me. “But it changes the heart of the organization. Two years later those same leaders have created a climate where trust and loyalty evaporate.”
The failure here is not in reaching the goal, but in connecting with people. The just-get-it-done mode runs roughshod over human concerns.
What drives you?
Every organization needs people with a keen focus on goals that matter, the talent to continually learn how to do even better, and the ability to tune out distractions. Innovation, productivity, and growth depend on such high-performers.
But only to a point. Ambitious revenue targets or growth goals are not the only gauge of an organization’s health—and if they are achieved at a cost to other basics, the long-term downsides, like losing star employees, can outweigh short-term successes as those costs lead to later failures.
When we’re fixated on a goal, whatever is relevant to that point of focus gets priority. Focus is not just selecting the right thing but also saying no to the wrong ones; focus goes too far when it says no to the right things, too. Single-pointed fixation on a goal morphs into overachievement when the category of “distractions” expands to include other people’s valid concerns, their smart ideas, and their crucial information. Not to mention their morale, loyalty, and motivation.
“Two years ago, I got some sobering performance feedback,” confides the CEO of a global office real estate firm. “I was great on business expertise, but lacking when it came to inspirational leadership and empathy. I had thought I was fine, so at first I denied it. Then I reflected and realized I often was empathetic but shut down the moment people were not doing their job well. I get very cool, even mean. … I realized my biggest fear is of failure. That’s what’s driving me. So when someone on my team disappoints me, that fear kicks in.”
When fear hijacks him that CEO falls back on pacesetting. “If you don’t have self-awareness when you get hooked by the drive to achieve a goal,” says Scott Spreier, who coaches senior leaders, “that’s when you lose empathy and go on autopilot.”
The antidote: realizing the need to listen, motivate, influence, cooperate—an interpersonal skill set that pacesetting leaders are typically not familiar with using.
“At their worst, pacesetters lack empathy,” George Kohlrieser, a leadership maven at IMD, a Swiss business school, told me. Kohlrieser teaches leaders from around the world to become “secure base” leaders, whose emotionally supportive and empathic style encourages the people they lead to work at their best.
How to develop a triple focus
What stops leaders from growing beyond pacesetting?
One hurdle is the implicit attitude at work that professionalism demands we ignore our emotions. Some trace this emotional blind spot to the “Protestant” work ethic, embedded in the norms of workplaces in the West, which sees work as a moral obligation that demands suppressing attention to our relationships and what we feel. In this all-too-common view, paying attention to these human dimensions undermines business effectiveness.
But organizational research over the last decades provides ample evidence that this is a misguided assumption, and that the most adept team members or leaders use a wide aperture to gather the emotional information they need to deal well with their teammates’ or employee’s emotional needs.
When Accenture interviewed 100 CEOs about the skills they needed to run a company successfully, a set of 14 abilities emerged, from thinking globally and creating an inspiring shared vision, to embracing change and tech savvy. No one person could have them all. But there is one “meta” ability that emerges from research on leadership: self-awareness. Chief executives need self-awareness to assess their own strengths and weaknesses, and so surround themselves with a team of people whose strengths in those core abilities complement their own. This means inner focus.
Companies also need leaders who have an other-focus—who understand the motivations of their employees and want to help other people be successful, too. For instance, they realize that if someone lacks a given strength today, they can work to develop it. Such leaders take the time to mentor and advise. In practical terms this means:
Listening within, to articulate an authentic vision of overall direction—from the heart and to the heart—that energizes others even as it sets clear expectations.
Paying attention to people’s feelings and needs, and showing concern.
Listening to advice and expertise; being collaborative and making decisions by consensus.
Coaching, based on listening to what the person wants from their life, career, and current job.
These leadership styles, used in tandem or as appropriate to the moment, widen a leader’s focus to draw on inner, other, and outer inputs. That maximal bandwidth, and the wider understanding and flexibility of response it affords, can pay dividends.
Research by the McClelland Center shows that more adept leaders draw on these as appropriate. The wider a leader’s repertoire of styles, the more energized the organization’s climate and the better the results.
Of course that doesn’t mean that leaders can ignore other concerns, like market trends or innovation, to meet changing demands. But the same attention skills that can help manage one’s own emotions and work relationships can help leaders stay more flexible and allow for better outer focus.
For example, two of the main mental ruts that threaten the ability to focus well on systems and trends are unquestioned assumptions and overly relied on rules-of-thumb. These need to be tested and refined time and again against changing realities. One way to do that is by practicing what Harvard psychologist Ellen Langer calls “environmental mindfulness”: constant questioning and listening; inquiry, probing, and reflecting—gathering insights and perspectives from other people. This active engagement leads to smarter questions, better learning, and a more sensitive early warning radar to coming changes.
Another antidote is expanding your circle of connection beyond your comfort zone and inoculating against in-group isolation by building an ample circle of no-BS confidants who keep you honest. A smart diversification goes beyond gender and ethnic group balance to include a wide range of ages, clients, or customers, and any others who might offer a fresh perspective.
Leadership builds on the basic mechanics of our mental life. Self-awareness, which fosters self-management, and empathy, the basis for skill in relationship, are fundamentals of emotional intelligence. Beyond these, systems science takes us to wider bands of focus as we regard the world around us, tuning to the complex systems that define and constrain our world. All that can be boiled down to inner, other, and outer focus.
For leaders to get results they need all three kinds of focus. A leader tuned out of his internal world will be rudderless; one blind to the world of others will be clueless; those indifferent to the larger systems within which they operate will be blindsided.
And it’s not just leaders who benefit from a balance in this triple focus. All of us live in daunting environments, rife with tensions and competing goals and lures of modern life. Each of the three varieties of attention can help us find balance where we can be both happy and productive.
|Toddlers' aggression strongly associated with genetic factors
||A new study provides greater understanding of how to address childhood aggression, and suggests that it is strongly associated with genetic factors in the child.
|Cocaine users enjoy social interactions less
||Regular cocaine users have difficulties in feeling empathy for others and they exhibit less prosocial behavior. A study now suggests that cocaine users have social deficits because social contacts are less rewarding for them. Social skills should therefore be trained during the treatment of cocaine addiction.
|Freedom is something to use or lose - we must fight the antisocial behaviour bill | George Monbiot
||Consumerism's petty liberties have made us inhumanly passive. We've forgotten what freedom is, and how easily it is lostThe question has changed a little since Rousseau's day, but the mystery remains. Why, when most of us now possess greater freedom than almost any preceding generation has enjoyed – freedom from tyranny, freedom from slavery, freedom from hunger – do we act as if we don't?I'm prompted to ask by the discovery that the most illiberal and oppressive instrument proposed by any recent government – injunctions to prevent nuisance and annoyance in the antisocial behaviour bill – has been attacked by Labour not because it is draconian but because it is not draconian enough. The measure was decisively rejected by the Lords last week. But if the government tries to restore this monstrous proposal in the Commons next month, Labour is likely to insist only that it is too timid.Why do we tolerate a politics that offers no effective choice? That operates largely at the behest of millionaire funders, corporate power and a bullying media? Why, in an age in which people are no longer tortured and executed for criticising those in power, have we failed to create viable alternatives?In the US Congress this year, for the first time a majority of members are millionaires. As the representatives become richer, the laws they pass ensure that they exercise ever less power over the rich and ever more power over the poor. Yet, as the Center for Responsive Politics notes, "there's been no change in our appetite to elect affluent politicians to represent our concerns in Washington".We appear to possess an almost limitless ability to sit back and watch as political life is seized by plutocrats; as the biosphere is trashed; as public services are killed or given to corporations; as workers are dragooned into zero-hours contracts. Though there are a few wonderful exceptions, on the whole protest is muted and alternatives are shrugged away without examination. How did we acquire this superhuman passivity?The question is not confined to politics. Almost universally we now seem content to lead a proxy life, a counter-life, of vicarious, illusory relationships, of secondhand pleasures, of atomisation without individuation. Those who possess some disposable income are extraordinarily free, by comparison to almost all our great-grandparents, but we tend to act as if we have been placed under house arrest. With the amount most of us spend on home entertainment, we could probably buy a horse and play buzkashi every weekend. But we would rather stare at an illuminated box, watching other people jumping up and down and screaming. Our political constraint is one aspect of a wider inhibition, a wider failure to be free.I'm not talking about thinktank freedoms here: the freedom of billionaires not to pay their taxes, of corporations to pollute the atmosphere or induce children to smoke, of landlords to exploit their tenants. We should respect the prohibitive decencies we owe to others. But there are plenty of freedoms we can exercise without diminishing other people's.Had our ancestors been asked to predict what would happen in an age of widespread prosperity in which most religious and cultural proscriptions had lost their power, how many would have guessed that our favourite activities would not be fiery political meetings, masked orgies, philosophical debates, hunting wild boar or surfing monstrous waves, but shopping and watching other people pretending to enjoy themselves? How many would have foreseen a national conversation – in public and in private – that revolves around the three Rs: renovation, recipes and resorts? How many would have guessed that people possessed of unimaginable wealth and leisure and liberty would spend their time shopping for onion goggles and wheatgrass juicers? Man was born free, and he is everywhere in chainstores.A few years ago, a friend explained how depressed he had become while trying to find a stimulating partner through online dating sites. He kept stumbling across the same phrase, used verbatim by dozens of the women he looked up. "I like nothing better than a night in on the sofa with a glass of red and a good DVD." The horror he felt arose not so much from the preference as from its repetition: "the failure to grasp the possibilities of self-differentiation".I wrote to him last week to see if anything had changed. Yes: he has now tumbled into the vortex that dismayed him. He dated 18 women in 2013, seeking "the short sharp hit which keeps you coming back despite the fact that the experience taken as a whole does not add up to anything worth having. My life ... is beginning to dance to the internet rhythm of desire satiated immediately and thinly". In seeking someone who was not trapped on the hedonic treadmill, he became trapped on the hedonic treadmill.Could it be this – the immediate satisfaction of desire, the readiness with which we can find comfort – that deprives us of greater freedoms? Does extreme comfort deaden the will to be free?If so, it is a habit learned early and learned hard. When children are housebound, we cannot expect them to develop an instinct for freedom that is intimately associated with being outdoors. We cannot expect them to reach for more challenging freedoms if they have no experience of fear and cold and hunger and exhaustion. Perhaps freedom from want has paradoxically deprived us of other freedoms. The freedom which makes so many new pleasures available vitiates the desire to enjoy them.De Tocqueville made a similar point about democracy: it threatens to enclose each of us "entirely in the solitude of his own heart". The freedoms it grants us destroy the desire to combine and to organise. To judge by our reluctance to create sustained alternatives, we wish neither to belong nor to deviate.It is not hard to see how our elective impotence leads before long to tyranny. Without coherent popular movements, which are required to prevent opposition parties from falling into the clutches of millionaires and corporate lobbyists, almost any government would be tempted to engineer a nominally democratic police state. Freedom of all kinds is something we must use or lose. But we seem to have forgotten what it means.Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at monbiot.comProtestPsychologyGeorge Monbiottheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
|Electrical Brain Stimulation Can Instantly Improve Self-Control
||Self-control can be boosted using tiny electrical pulses from electrodes placed on the scalp, a new study finds.â†’ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
|Making a Mockery of Religious Freedom
||The notion that corporations need religious freedom raises a myriad of issues. Can a fictional person have faith? What happens if GM converts to Catholicism?read more
|Hydrocephalus: sensors monitor cerebral pressure
||If the pressure in a patient's brain is too high, physicians implant a system in the head that regulates the pressure. A sensor can now measure and individually adjust brain pressure. The sensor
|Forget about forgetting: Elderly know more, use it better
||What happens to our cognitive abilities as we age? If your think our brains go into a steady decline, research reported this week may make you think again. The work takes a critical look at the measures usually thought to show that our cognitive abilities decline across adulthood. Instead of finding evidence of decline, the team discovered that most standard cognitive measures, which date back to the early twentieth century, are flawed.
|Responding to the Adolescent Push for Freedom
||Adolescent growth to independence depends on experiencing more freedom and taking on more responsibility. When the adolescent pushes hard for freedom and parents push hard for responsibility, inevitable (and honorable) conflicts develop because each party is pushing for what is needs to happen. read more
|Girls often continue playing soccer with concussion symptoms
||New study shows young female soccer players may get more concussions than their high school and college counterparts, and many of them continue to play while they have symptoms.
|Guns in home increase suicide, homicide risk
||People may have heightened risks of dying from suicide and murder if they own or have access to a gun, according to a new analysis of previous research.
|Blue Monday, bad science and nonsense PR | Michael Marshall
||Michael Marshall: Blue Monday is just one example of bad science promoted by dodgy PR
|Embracing Our Imperfect Life
||Embracing Our Imperfect Life. Listening to Leonard Cohen and learning to relish defeat.
In my car on a sunny Vermont winter morning, I am listening to Leonard Cohen sing his view of reality: He says you can't be a hero in your own life and, more important, you can't be happy until you know how thoroughly broken life itself is... By Polly Young-Eisendrath, Ph.D.read more
|Mechanism identified in Alzheimer's-related memory loss
||Researchers have identified a protein in the brain that plays a critical role in the memory loss seen in Alzheimer's patients, according to a study.
|Discovery of Quantum Vibrations Inside Brain Neurons Supports Controversial Theory of Consciousness
||Is your brain connected to the universe at a quantum level?â†’ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is
"Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
|Too much sitting raises early death risk for women
||Older women who spend the most time sitting and resting have a higher risk of dying early, according to a new study.