Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Executive Function’

What do Ostriches and Finance Have in Common?

May 7th, 2017 3 comments

In college it is hard to save money. With the costs of textbooks, late night pizza, and online shopping, I know my bank account is looking a little scary. Often times I find myself avoiding looking at my bank app because I’m afraid to see what my bank statement is, but on payday it is the first thing that I check. Why is that?

This tendency – to avoid checking financial standings when we know that they could be bad – is known as “the ostrich effect,” and is defined as the tendency for people to ignore their problems with the hopes that they will just disappear, similarly to how an ostrich hides their head in the sand when they are hiding from danger, and this tendency is not seen only in broke college students.

Read more…

Brain adaptations to stressful childhood environments

November 24th, 2015 No comments

Childhood_AdversityImagine a boy who grew up never knowing where his next meal would come from or when it would come. Now imagine a boy who had everything handed to him.

Who do you predict will have higher cognitive functioning, which consists of processes such as pattern recognition, memory, attention, and language? If you guessed the second boy, you are correct. Childhood adversity has been shown to negatively impact important cognitive functions, such as language development, sustained attention, and memory, which result in poor reading and math abilities, lower IQs and academic achievement (Fernald, Weber, Galasso & Ratsifandrihamanana, 2011). To figure out why this is the case, we must consider an important characteristic of our brains—their plasticity, or ability to change!

So, why is plasticity an important characteristic of our brains? What are the advantages of our cognitive functioning being susceptible to change? Adaptation! Adaptation got Mittal, Griskevicius, Simpson, Sung, and Young (2015) thinking about the universality of the negative impact on cognitive functions that childhood adversity has been shown to have. If the brains of those who grow up in stressful environments can be negatively affected by their experiences shouldn’t that mean that they could also be positively affected? The work of Mittal et al. (2015) tells us the answer!

Read more…

Under pressure

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Did somebody ever tell you not to be afraid of pressure because after all pressure is what turns coal into a diamond? This saying encourages us to embrace new challenges and to see pressure as a possibility to grow. In other words, if we manage stress well, we can transform ourselves from a lump of coal into a precious diamond. Accordingly, having a certain amount of pressure in our lives can help us to excel. However, if the pressure becomes too much, we freeze and are overwhelmed by a task.

Read more…

Getting Old Doesn’t Need to be Scary!

November 19th, 2015 No comments

Do you worry about what will happen to your body as you get older? Do you envision your brain slowing down and your grandkids speaking realllyy slllowwlyyy so you can understand them?

Cognitive functioning—which includes attention (allotting mental resources to notice something), memory (the process of encoding, storing, and retrieving information), and executive functioning (a broad term for the system that regulates many cognitive processes)—tends to decrease with age. However, one of the many benefits of exercise is that it has been shown to improve cognitive functioning. And for many older adults, general fitness as it relates to health is a primary concern. But some forms of exercise can be harmful or painful for older adults who have joint pain. So what kind of exercise and how much exercise should older adults get in order to stay physically and mentally healthy?

Read more…

Fidget Less, More Success!

November 23rd, 2014 5 comments

You’re sitting in class trying to scratch down notes as your professor drones on and on. In the midst of the monotonous task, you begin to think of the busy day ahead of you. Lost in thought, you shift in your seat, and soon your notes have become little more than a few random words on a page, and you realize you’ve missed the last five minutes of the lecture.

Bored-Britney-Spears-Class-Fidget-Fidgeting-Boring-Nothing-to-do-School-sucks-GIF

We’ve all been there. We all find our minds wandering off from time-to-time, and we’ve all experienced that feeling where your leg starts shaking, fingers start tapping, and you just can’t seem to sit still and focus on the task at hand.

It makes sense that if your mind is elsewhere, your performance on the current task will be largely inhibited, but why is it that the deeper we fall into this trance, the less control we have over bodily movements too? What is the connection between this occurrence of motor and mental restlessness—that is, how do fidgeting and mind wandering relate?

Read more…

The Secret Behind Steve Jobs’ “Walking Meetings”

November 18th, 2014 3 comments

Have you ever taken part in a “walking meeting”? People who work closely with Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, arguably two of the most successful and innovative people of our time, have probably experienced these on a regular basis. Both of these influential people are known for frequently having important business meetings while walking outside. They certainly have enough building space to hold a meeting inside, so why do they do this? Have they noticed something about walking that helps them think differently than if they were sitting in a meeting room? Walking is known to be beneficial for our physical health, but what about its effect on our cognitive functioning?

Read more…

Can Loving-Kindness Meditation Increase Positive Affect and Attentional Control?

May 10th, 2014 2 comments

grumpy cat

Finals period: a time when we question our life choices. “Why didn’t I start studying for this test last week?” “Why did I start writing this essay the day before it is due?” By finals period, most of us are already pretty burnt out from the semester and it can become increasingly difficult to concentrate on work. As Jim Terhune mentioned in his last email to Colby students, we often feel grumpier around this time of year. Recent research in the field of psychology suggests that practicing loving-kindness meditation may actually improve our ability to form positive attitudes and to control attention, a much needed cognitive resource during finals period.

Read more…

Parenting Tips: How Bilingualism Can Save You From the Terrible Twos

May 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Leash child

 

“Look at Mommy!” “Come with Daddy!” Kids in the terrible two’s and even three’s just don’t seem to listen. Their world appears to be full of distractions. One moment they are giving you their undivided attention as you ask them to sit still, the next they are waddling off as fast as possible in the crowded supermarket. Their attention seems almost hopelessly uncontrollable. They dart from one toy to the next, and eventually you wonder how on earth their teacher gets them to focus for even a minute in school. Is there any way to reduce the distractions of these problematic preschoolers? A cure is bilingualism. Being bilingual means that you have the ability to speak in two or even several languages. Now, I’m not saying popular children’s shows teaching simple phrases from another language, such as Dora the Explorer, may have the most influence on your child’s attentional control, but actually being fairly fluent in multiple languages has a positive effect on preschooler’s attention. Read more…

Don’t just do something — sit there! A cognitive perspective on how meditation and mindfulness support mental wellbeing

May 2nd, 2014 4 comments

tumblr_mqvdbzyjxs1s68un8o1_1280

I remember my first time attending one of Jing Ye’s meditation sessions in the Rose Chapel at Colby. The idea of meditation had always been appealing to me; it sounded “new age” and profound. In reality, meditation is a lot different from what most people imagine. During my first attempt, my irritation grew as the dull aching in my lower back intensified and the sensation of pins and needles spread through my crossed legs. Not to mention the frog-like noises coming from the guy sitting next to me as he swallowed down saliva. Couldn’t he just stop that? Sitting there with eyes closed, I resorted to generating a to-do list in my head – no one would know I was cheating. Jing had told us to be present and aware of our body’s sensations and emotions in a nonjudgmental manner, but being asked to sit still left me with no choice but to confront the internal chaos that I was usually too busy to notice.

Read more…

What if you could forget your prom fiasco? The importance of selective forgetting

May 2nd, 2014 6 comments

Everyone has moments in their life that they wish they could forget. It could be that time that you the bridge gave out during your pictures on the water or the inevitable newspaper article written about it. But what if you could forget the whole thing happened and block out that embarrassing moment out of your memory forever?

 

Read more…