2018-10-12T17:46:29

Human beings walk toward, but run away.

Here are my notes from book Your Brain at Work by David Rock.

interview
  • p17: Your prefrontal cortex holds the contents of your mind at any one point," Arnsten explains. "It’s where we hold thoughts that are not being generated from external sources or from the senses. We ourselves are generating them."
  • p17-18: The stage is what you focus on at any one time, and it can hold information from the outside world, information from your inner world, or any combination of the two. Once actors get on the stage of your attention there are lots of interesting things you can do with them. To understand a new idea, you put new actors on the stage and hold them there long enough to see how they connect to audience members—that is, to information already in your brain.
  • p18: To make a decision, you hold actors onstage and compare them to one another, making value judgments.
  • p18: These five functions, understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting, make up the majority of conscious thought.
  • p19: As soon as you repeat an activity even just a few times, the basal ganglia start to take over. The basal ganglia, and many other brain regions, function beneath conscious awareness.
  • p20: You might respect your limitations rather than fight them.
  • p22: Prioritizing is one of the brain's most energy-hungry processes.
  • p23: The brain likes to minimize energy usage because the brain developed at a time when metabolic resources were scarce. So there is a slight discomfort involved in putting effort into thinking, or any other activity that uses metabolic resources.
  • p24: Creating visuals for complex ideas is one way to maximize limited energy resources.
  • p31: There is clear and compelling evidence of one unit being maintained in focal attention and no direct evidence for more than one item of information extended over time. While you can obviously remember more than one thing at a time, your memory degrades for each item when you hold a lot in mind.
  • p33: Circuits compete with one another to form the best internal representation of the external object.
  • p33-34: The ideal number of new ideas to try to comprehend at once seems to be just one. If you have a decision to make, the most efficient number of variables is likely to be two: Should I turn left or right? If you have to hold more information in mind, try to limit ideas to three or four at once."
  • p36: Becoming an expert in any field seems to involve creating large numbers of chunks, which enables you to make faster and better decisions than amateurs. Current thinking is that it takes about ten years of practice to develop sufficient chunks in any new field to achieve "mastery".
  • p37: We all often think about what’s easy to think about, rather than what's right to think about.
  • p39: Memory starts to degrade when you try to hold more than one idea in mind.
  • p42: The main mental processes relevant to getting work done are understanding, deciding, recalling, memorizing, and inhibiting.
  • p42-43: Understanding a new idea involves creating maps in the prefrontal cortex that represent new, incoming information, and connecting these maps to existing maps in the rest of the brain.
  • p43: Making a decision involves activating a series of maps in the prefrontal cortex and making a choice between these maps.
  • p43: Recalling involves searching through the billions of maps involved in memory and bringing just the right ones into the prefrontal cortex.
  • p43: Memorizing involves holding maps in attention in the prefrontal cortex long enough to embed them in long-term memory.
  • p43: Inhibiting involves trying not to activate certain maps.
  • p48: One study showed that only three repetitions of a routine is enough to begin the process of what is termed long-term potentiation, or what I call here hardwiring. The basal ganglia are also quiet eaters: they pick up patterns without conscious awareness.
  • p55: If you are trying to focus on a subtle mental thread, allowing yourself to be distracted is like stopping pain to enjoy a mild pleasure: it’s too hard to resist!
  • p58: The brain region important for detecting novelty is called the anterior cingulated cortex (see diagram, Chapter 4). It’s thought of as your error-detection circuit, because it lights up when you notice something contrary to what is expected, such as when you make a mistake or feel pain. This quirk of nature is harnessed by all forms of marketing and advertising, as well as by people seeking to meet someone of the opposite sex. Novelty gets attention. In small doses, novelty is positive, but if the error-detection circuitry fires too often, it brings on a state of anxiety or fear. This partly explains humanity’s universal resistance to wide-scale change: big changes have too much novelty.
  • p59: One specific region within the prefrontal cortex keeps showing up as being central for all types of inhibition. It’s called the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (VLPFC), and it sits just behind the right and left temples.
  • p60: Self-control is a limited resource.
  • p61: It seems that you may not have much free will, but you do have “free won't” (a term coined by Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz), which is the ability to avoid urges. However, you have only a small window in which to inhibit a response.
  • p71: Where norepinephrine is the chemistry of alertness, dopamine is the chemistry of interest. Good levels of both chemicals are required to generate the right level of arousal, but each chemical has a different impact on its own.
  • p71: Humor is all about creating unexpected connections.
  • p71: Rewards to the brain include food, sex, money, and positive social interactions.
  • p72-73: One study showed that new lovers’ brains have a lot in common with people on cocaine. Dopamine is sometimes called the "drug of desire."
  • p75: You can consciously manipulate your levels of norepinephrine and dopamine in many ways, to improve your alertness or interest.
  • p79: Walt Disney is reported to have said that if he tested a new idea out and people were unanimously against it, he knew he might be on to something.
  • p79: Most creativity isn't of the Fantasia type, but rather slight changes on existing themes.
  • p82: The ability to stop oneself from thinking something is central to creativity.
  • p86: ARIA stands for Awareness, Reflection, Insight, and Action.
  • p89: It's astonishingly easy to get stuck on the same small set of solutions to a problem, called the impasse phenomenon. Resolving an impasse requires letting the brain idle, reducing activation of the wrong answers. Having insights involves hearing subtle signals and allowing loose connections to be made. This requires a quiet mind, with minimal electrical activity.
  • p90: My proposition so far has been that understanding your brain increases your effectiveness at work. This happens because with knowledge of your brain, you make different decisions moment to moment.
  • p90: Peak mental performance requires a combination of the two—knowing your brain, and being able to observe your brain processes occurring.
  • p92: Without a director [awareness] you are a mere automaton, driven by greed, fear, or habit.
  • p94: You were born with the capacity to create internal representations of the outside world in your brain, called "maps." (These maps are sometimes called networks or circuits. Maps develop based on what you pay attention to over time.
  • p97: Noticing more real-time information makes you more flexible in how you respond to the world. You also become less imprisoned by the past, your habits, expectations or assumptions, and more able to respond to events as they unfold.
  • p98: Instead of becoming more self-aware by meditating on a mountain, you can do so while you work.
  • p105: Minimize danger, maximize reward’ is the organizing principle of the brain.
  • p107: Human beings walk toward, but run away.
  • p112-113: The observer is expecting to see an emotion but gets nothing. This is odd, and in this way, suppression literally makes other people uncomfortable. “A bit like secondhand smoke, suppression has a real impact on others.
  • p117: Once an emotion kicks in, trying to suppress it either doesn’t work or makes it worse. Suppressing an emotion reduces your memory of events significantly. Suppressing an emotion makes other people feel uncomfortable.
  • p117: The away response is stronger, faster, and longer lasting than the toward response.
  • p117: When you sense a strong emotion coming on, refocus your attention quickly on another stimulus, before the emotion takes over. Practice assigning words to emotional states to reduce arousal once it kicks in.
  • p120: The brain craves certainty. A sense of uncertainty about the future and feeling out of control both generate strong limbic system responses.
  • p120: The only certainty is more uncertainty.
  • p121: The ability to predict, and then obtain data that meets those predictions, generates an overall toward response.
  • p121: The one thing that’s certain is that people will always pay lots of money at least to feel less uncertain. That’s because uncertainty feels, to the brain, like a threat to your life.
  • p121: When you can’t predict the outcome of a situation, an alert goes to the brain to pay more attention. An overall away response occurs.
  • p124: It's the "perception" of choice that matters to the brain.
  • p124: Studies of teenage behavior shows that the terrible teens is not a biological necessity, as a number of cultures don't experience this phenomenon. A study of teenagers in Western cultures found that these teenagers have fewer choices than a felon in prison.
  • p127: The brain keeps information in nested hierarchies.
  • p127: This cognitive change tends to come with a big release of energy, perhaps due to the amount of reconfiguration going on. Reordering how you value the world changes the hierarchical structure of how your brain stores information, which changes how your brain interacts with the world.
  • p128: Each of these four types of reappraisal—reinterpreting, normalizing, reordering, and repositioning—are techniques people use all the time.
  • p128-129: If our emotional responses fundamentally flow out of interpretations, or appraisals, of the world, and we can change those appraisals, then we have to try and do so.
  • p129: Going back to Gross’s list of emotion-regulation options, she could try situation selection, by sending someone else to sell the conference idea, but that might not go down so well. She could do situation modification, perhaps by holding the meeting out in the sun in a park, but she might still get anxious there. She could try shifting her attention by not focusing on her anxiety, but her arousal might be too strong for that. She could try to express her emotions, but you can imagine how well that would go down. She could try suppressing her feelings, but she would still be anxious, perhaps even more so, and her colleagues would feel anxious, too. The best options for Emily involve cognitive change. Labeling her emotions doesn't seem to be enough. Which leaves her with reappraisal.
  • p130: To me, reappraisal is one of the most important skills needed for success in life, the other being the ability to observe your mental processes.
  • p130-131: Walter Freeman: "All the brain can know it knows from inside itself." If you recognize that all interpretations of the world are only that—interpretations your brain has made, and ultimately just yours—then having a choice about which interpretation you might use at any moment makes more sense.
  • p131: Humor may also be a form of reappraisal. John Case, a retired CEO I know, had a phrase he used when people got tense in a meeting: "Did I tell you I just got a great deal on car insurance?" Out of context, this comment made people crack up, which shifted their perspective from serious to funny. From away, to toward.
  • p131: Humor is a type of cheap reappraisal.
  • p133: You can reappraise by reinterpreting an event, or reordering your values, or normalizing an event, or repositioning your perspective.
  • p133: Certainty is a primary reward or threat for the brain. Autonomy, the feeling of control, is another primary reward or threat for the brain.
  • p137: Creating just the right expectations is also an opportunity for your director to write the emotional script of your daily life rather than only reacting to challenges as they arise.
  • p138: Your brain automatically orients toward events, people, and information that connects to what you have valued positively.
  • p138: Because expectations alter perception, this leads people to see what they expect to see, and not see what they are not expecting.
  • p139: Unmet expectations often create a threat response, which I explain further later in this scene. Because the brain is built to avoid threat, people tend to work hard to reinterpret events to meet their expectations.
  • p139: Messing with people’s expectations can have a remarkable effect on their perception.
  • p143: Great leaders carefully manage expectations to avoid not meeting them.
  • p146: Expectations are the experience of the brain paying attention to a possible reward (or threat). Expectations alter the data your brain perceives. It's common to fit incoming data into expectations and to ignore data that don't fit. Expectations can change brain functioning; the right dose of expectations can be similar to a clinical dose of morphine.
  • p154: Mirror neurons seems to be the brain’s mechanisms for understanding other people's intent—their goals and objectives—and, as a result, feeling connected to them.
  • p156-157: You use one set of brain circuits for thinking about people who you believe are like you, who you feel are friends, and a different set for those whom you view as different from you, as foes. When your brain decides someone is a friend, you process your interactions using a similar part of the brain you use for thinking about your own experience.
  • p157: When you interconnect your thoughts, emotions, and goals with other people, you release oxytocin, a pleasurable chemical.
  • p157: Oxytocin is released when two people dance together, play music together, or engage in a collaborative conversation. It’s the neurochemistry of safe connectivity.
  • p157: Research within the positive psychology field shows there is only one experience in life that increases happiness over a long time. It's not money, above a base survival amount. It's not health, nor is it marriage or having children. The one thing that makes people happy is the quality and quantity of their social connections.
  • p163: Social connections are a primary need, as important as food and water at times.
  • p163: Safe connections with others are vital for health, and for healthy collaboration. People are classed as friend or foe quickly, with foe as the default in the absence of positive cues.
  • p166: Fairness is a primary need for the brain. A sense of fairness in and of itself can create a strong reward response, and a sense of unfairness can generate a threat response that lasts for days.
  • p167: We crave fairness, and some people spend their life savings and even their lives to get it.
  • p170: Prefrontal cortex functioning tends to shrink briefly as teens hit puberty, which explains why a ten-year-old may have better emotional control than a fifteen-year-old. Prefrontal functioning recovers in late teens and reaches an adult state only in the early twenties.
  • p172: If, however, you expect someone to be fair with you and they are not, you get a double negative: a significant dopamine low from expectations not being met, and from the unfairness.
  • p175: A sense of fairness can be a primary reward. A sense of unfairness can be a primary threat. Linking fairness and expectations helps explain the delight of the kindness of strangers, as well as the intense emotions of betrayal from people close to you.
  • p175: Watch out for fairness being linked to other issues such as certainty, autonomy, or relatedness, where you can get intense emotional responses.
  • p179: Along with relatedness and fairness, status is another major driver of social behavior. People will go to great lengths to protect or increase their status. A sense of increasing status can be more rewarding than money, and a sense of decreasing status can feel like your life is in danger. Status is another primary reward or threat. Your brain manages status using roughly the same circuits used to manage other basic survival needs.
  • p179: The Doge's palace in Venice is one of the most lavish and ornate centers of power the world has ever seen.
  • p180: Marketing departments use two main levers to engage human emotions through advertising: fear, and the promise of increased status.
  • p181: Drive for status is behind many of society’s greatest achievements and some of its worst examples of needless destruction.
  • p182: Because of the intensity of the status-drop experience, many people go to great lengths to avoid situations that could put their status at risk. This aversion includes staying away from any activity they are not confident in, which, because of the brain's relationship to novelty, can mean avoiding anything new.
  • p183: When you decide you are right, the other person must be wrong, which means you don’t listen to what she says, and she experiences you as a threat, too.
  • p183: Being "right" is often more important to people than, well, just about anything else, at the cost of not just money but relationships, health, and sometimes even life itself.
  • p184: These stories involve either ordinary people doing extraordinary things (giving you hope that you could have higher status one day) or extraordinary people doing ordinary things (giving you hope that even though you may be ordinary, you are basically the same as people with high status). Even an increase in hope that your status might go up one day seems to pack a reward.
  • p185: Maintaining high status is something that the brain seems to work on all the time subconsciously. You can elevate your status by finding a way to feel smarter, funnier, healthier, richer, more righteous, more organized, fitter, or stronger, or by beating other people at just about anything at all. The key is to find a "niche" where you feel you are "above" others.
  • p186: So where can you get a nice burst of confidence-inducing, intelligence-boosting, performance-raising status around here, without harming children, animals, work colleagues, or your self?
  • p186: You can harness the power of the thrill of "beating the other guy" by making that other guy (or girl) you, without hurting anyone in the process.
  • p186: To play against yourself gives you the chance to feel ever-increasing status, without threatening others.
  • p187: To play against yourself you have to know yourself.
  • p187: There are five domains of social experience that your brain treats the same as survival issues.
  • p187-188: Social pain comes back when you think about it again, whereas physical pain doesn't.
  • p187: SCARF model, which stands for Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness, and Fairness
  • p192: Shifting other people's attention from a threat state to focusing on what you want them to focus on is the central challenge to creating real change.
  • p196: He tries to understand the source of Eric’s problem, and then makes suggestions. I call this approach the default approach to helping people.
  • p198: The key is to make sure you solve the right problem, which means the most useful problem, not just the most interesting one.
  • p198: The past has lots of certainty; the future, little.
  • p200: However, focusing on solutions is not the natural tendency of the brain. Solutions are generally untested, and thus uncertain. It takes effort to dampen down the threat created that comes with uncertainty. To focus on solutions, sometimes you need to activate your director, veto your attention going to problems, and gently nudge your brain in a direction it would rather not go.
  • p200: Paul's suggestion makes him look smarter, and Eric less smart. This impacts their relative status, which Eric is likely to fight against. The better Paul's answer is, the more likely Eric might resist it.
  • p203: These kinds of questions generate a whole new thread to follow. Instead of your looking for a gap in the form of the source of another person’s problem, the other person is finding a gap in his own thinking process.
  • p204: If you don't practice vetoing your desire to solve other people’s problems, your default approach, it's easy to waste time in unnecessary discussions driven by people protecting their status.
  • p207: Providing suggestions often results in a lot of wasted time.
  • p207: As you have insights, you change your brain, and by changing your brain you change your whole world.
  • p212: The trouble is, the carrot-and-stick approach doesn't work well with adults.
  • p213: The power is in the focus.
  • p215: Sensing someone is trying to change you often creates an automatic threat response, linked to uncertainty, status, and autonomy. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, "I love to learn, but I hate to be taught."
  • p215: External rewards such as holidays or money have limited use. You can't just keep offering these to motivate people, because if people expect this reward it tends to become less valuable, and a reward isn't so rewarding unless it gets bigger each time, which isn't sustainable.
  • p218: On the other hand, ineffective leaders tend to make people feel even less safe, by being too directive, which attacks status. They are not clear with their goals and expectations, which impacts certainty. They micromanage, impacting autonomy, and don't connect on a human level, so there's little relatedness. And they often don't understand the importance of fairness.
  • p218: People will be paying attention either to you or to their fears. The stage isn't big enough for both at once.
  • p220: Problems are more certain than unknown solutions, and the brain naturally steers toward certainty.
  • p226: Focused attention changes the brain. Attention goes all too easily to the threat. Once you focus attention away from threat, you can create new connections with the right questions. Creating long-term change requires paying regular attention to deepen new circuits, especially when they are new.
  • p226: Don't try to influence people when they are in a strong away state. Use elements of the SCARF model to shift people into a toward state. Practice using solution-focused questions that focus people’s attention directly on the specific circuits you want to bring to life.
  • p228: One of the first things to discover upon exploring the brain is just how much it appears to be like a machine. So much of your mental activity is automatic, driven by forces out of your control, often in reaction to predefined goals, such as maintaining status or certainty.
  • p228: However, the only way to be more than just a machine is to deeply understand the machine-like nature of your brain.
  • p230: Huge amount of human behavior is driven, largely unconsciously, by the desire to minimize social dangers and maximize social rewards.

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