Categories
Creativity Science

‘Grab a leash and take your thoughts for a walk.’

Said Henry David Thoreau, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.”

Walking boosts creativity. If you ever get stuck in a creative rut, science shows that you should go for a stroll to get your endorphins moving.

As learning scientist Marily Oppezzo notes in her TED presentation below, walking generates twice the ideas. Even if you walk and then sit, your mind will continue to generate novelty.

But you can’t just walk forever, nor should you run. You should discuss your ideas out loud; the good ones will stick around. If you really want to remember everything discussed, record the thinking session on your phone.

So, how do you walk and brainstorm?

Says Oppezzo:

  1. Pick a problem/topic for brainstorm
  2. Walk at a comfortable pace WHILE you are brainstorming
  3. Generate as many ideas a you can
  4. Speak and record your ideas
  5. Cap your time

The chair-based lifestyle is not only killing us, but it’s also stifling good ideas. Go for a walk to freshen up your pattern of thinking.

Categories
Psychology

The happiness curve

Behavioral economists explain why the mid-life crisis is only temporary. Happiness increases with old age.

“Life satisfaction tends to decline gradually after early adulthood, bottom out in middle age [or 40s], then gradually rebound after.”

Study: Is well-being U-shaped over the life cycle?

In short, life gets better after 50.

Categories
Science

Dozing off into the brief unconscious 😴

When the sleepy participants’ eyes closed in “microsleep,” a.k.a. dozing, the researchers saw reduced activity in the thalamus, the part of the brain responsible for relaying sensory and motor signals to other parts of the brain. The thalamus is also responsible for regulating sleep (and the same effect was found in the scans of rested participants) so this part isn’t very surprising.

But more surprisingly, the researchers saw increased activity in the parts of the brain associated with sensory processing, which could account for the vivid images that seem to spring up when you first drop off to sleep. The researchers also observed more activity in the frontal parietal lobe, responsible for helping you pay attention, likely as a result of the brain’s attempt (and failure) to obey the “stay awake” command.

Read Parts Of Your Brain Go Berzerk On Microsleep

Categories
Photography Psychology Social Media Tech

When sharing is forgetting

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We are not only taking too many photographs and spending little time looking at them, but we’re also inhibiting in our memory in the act.

In a recent study done by the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, those who document and Instagram their images are consistently less likely to remember their experience compared to the camera-less participants.

Across three studies, participants without media consistently remembered their experience more precisely than participants who used media. There is no conclusive evidence that media use impacted subjective measures of experience. Together, these findings suggest that using media may prevent people from remembering the very events they are attempting to preserve.

Just as we outsource our memory to Google — knowing it’s all too accessible with just a click — so to do we our experiential minds.

While we know our digital images will be archived in iPhoto or Google Photo libraries for eternity, we’ll be unlikely to recall vivid details of the event when we return to look at them.

Writes Susan Sontag in her book On Photography (Amazon):

“A way of certifying experience, taking photographs is also a way of refusing it—by limiting experience to a search for the photogenic, by converting experience into an image, a souvenir. Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”

Externalizing events is not just limited to the camera. We can impair our memories with a notebook in hand.  Similarly, if we take down every note the teacher repeated in class we are less likely to remember the most important takeaways. If we want to better remember the things we experience, we have to remember to look up every once in a while.

We must compel ourselves our see in order to notice the interesting things in the world around us. Perhaps our inner eye cameras are all we need to remember what we want.

Categories
Culture Productivity & Work Science Writing

To single-space or double-space after a period? Here’s what the science says…

The rules of spacing have been wildly inconsistent going back to the invention of the printing press. The original printing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence used extra long spaces between sentences. John Baskerville’s 1763 Bible used a single space. WhoevenknowswhateffectPietroBembowasgoingforhere.Single spaces. Double spaces. Em spaces. Trends went back and forth between continents and eras for hundreds of years, Felici wrote.It’s not a good look.

We learned in typing class growing up to put two spaces after a period. No questions asked. Some professors even deducted points for anything more or less than two spaces.

Even work in the 20th century trained us to adopt a two-spaced etiquette on word processors. The double taps on the spacebar mimicked the typewriter which needed the extra spaces after a period to be more pleasing on the eyes.

But then Twitter and mobile phones came along.

Tweets required no more than 140 characters. We texted and emailed rapid exchanges to friends, family, and coworkers. One space felt plenty, especially since the font appeared clutter-free. Using two-spaces in text message looked like you were trying too hard!

To single-space or double-space after a period? Here's what the science says...

What does modern science say about the two-space rule?

The Washington Post reports that three psychology researchers from Skidmore college tested 60 students to test out their spacing inclinations. The majority of the students typed one space after the period. But, when the same students examined text, they read better with two-spaces after the text.

Reading speed only improved marginally, the paper found, and only for the 21 “two-spacers,” who naturally typed with two spaces between sentences. The majority of one-spacers, on the other hand, read at pretty much the same speed either way. And reading comprehension was unaffected for everyone, regardless of how many spaces followed a period.

The major reason to use two spaces, the researchers wrote, was to make the reading process smoother, not faster. Everyone tended to spend fewer milliseconds staring at periods when a little extra blank space followed it.

The science that supports the double space is thus conclusive but not 100% convincing.

In practice, we should feel free to insert one space or two, but never both. And we should avoid two spaces after a comma at all costs: “Putting two spaces after a comma, if you’re wondering, slowed down reading speed, so don’t do that.”

Categories
Culture Psychology

Human brains are hardwired for rural landscapes

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According to a study done by psychologists at Exeter University, humans are hardwired for rural environments.

An MRI scanner revealed that human brains grow confused at the image of cities. Meanwhile, reviewing photos of the countryside calmed down the mind to a meditative state.

Reports researcher Dr. Ian Frampton:

“When looking at urban environments the brain is doing a lot of processing because it doesn’t know what this environment is. The brain doesn’t have an immediate natural response to it, so it has to get busy. Part of the brain that deals with visual complexity lights up: ‘What is this that I’m looking at?’ Even if you have lived in a city all your life, it seems your brain doesn’t quite know what to do with this information and has to do visual processing.”

Take a walk in the park

We all know the city can make us feel like another rat in a cage. The zoo metaphor isn’t off. Said one Exeter professor: “If you don’t get the conditions right in zoos, the animals start behaving in a wacky way.” To quote novelist John Berger, “the zoo is the epitaph to a relationship.”

Urbanization is not natural, so the brain does its best to adapt to infrastructure and chaos. Catalan artist Arnau Alemany depicts the relationship between the metropolis and the fields. City parks provide an important outlet to human nature.

Despite the chaos, cities work. Like our crazy neurons, there seems to some order in the disorder. The brain is plastic, after all.

Categories
News Social Media Tech

Blame the humans, not the bots, for retweeting false news

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According to research done by data scientists at MIT, it is humans, not bots, which disseminate false news.

The study began with the 2013 Boston bombings when Twitter spread inaccurate rumors about the aftermath of the events.

The three authors of the study then took it upon themselves to dig deeper into the fake news phenomenon by examining tweets of 3 million users from the years 2006 to 2017.

Blame the humans, not the machines

The overarching result is that false news spreads faster than real news because people on Twitter are more likely to retweet novelty. Said MIT professor and researcher Sinan Aral, “We found that, contrary to conventional wisdom, bots accelerate the spread of true and false stories at the same rate. False news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.”

Sensationalism stokes retweets. In fact, “false news stories are 70 percent more likely to be retweeted than true stories are. It also takes true stories about six times as long to reach 1,500 people as it does for false stories to reach the same number of people.”

MIT scientists believe misinformation also runs rampant on Facebook but is harder to detect because it lives in the echo chambers of a walled garden: FB groups, private posts, and direct messages (re: dark social). Because of Russia’s election meddling in 2016, both Facebook and Twitter are finally taking efforts to improve their platforms for better veracity detection. Fact-checking is more vital than ever.

Humans are suckers for captivating but erroneous news. Some people even refuse to let go. As Mark Twain so wisely noted, “It’s easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” The good news is that the truth never expires, even if it takes longer to percolate.

gif via Ryan Seslow

Categories
Apps Culture Tech

Why some children struggle to hold pencils

According to doctors, you can blame tech for children’s inability to hold pencils. Apparently all that screen time is doing nothing to strengthen their thumb, index, and middle fingers which work together to form one’s basic writing technique.

How to hold a pencil correctly for writing, #tech, mobile, students today
Illustration via The Guardian

Generation thumbs

Having grown up with perpetual swiping and speaking in images and emoji, the next generation is obviously going to encounter difficulty with old ways of doing analog things. Do they even teach cursive writing in school anymore?

We speak in images. But at least early cavemen knew how to draw with their version of a stylus.

Read Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Categories
Productivity & Work Psychology Science

The simple technique that boosts your short and long-term memory

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Want to remember more of what you read? Give your brain a 10-15 minute rest. No phones, no distractions, just pure boredom, a quiet room and dimmed lights.

Why do we need to reduce interference?

It takes longer for new information to encode and simply consuming more or squandering time on social media will make it even hard to remember.

When we let the mind wander, the brain works backward and connects the dots, cementing those memories that were previously unlinked.

So stop chasing extra stimulation and let your brain rest in its own presence. Your memory will thank you for it.

Read An effortless way to improve your memory

 

 

Categories
Productivity & Work Science

Guiding a neophyte mathematician to name the biggest number 🔢

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via giphy

People are afraid of big numbers because they have no spatial understanding; the largest numbers are beyond comprehension, as the multitude of chess moves or the unfathomable number of sand grains in the desert. Infinity appears impossible to count!

University of Texas computer science professor Scott Aaronson believes the answer to naming the world’s biggest number lies within the deepest paradigm, some of which is solvable by exponentials, language, and sheer imagination:

“When thinking about 3, 4, or 7, we’re guided by our spatial intuition, honed over millions of years of perceiving 3 gazelles, 4 mates, 7 members of a hostile clan. But when thinking about BB(1000), we have only language, that evolutionary neophyte, to rely upon. The usual neural pathways for representing numbers lead to dead ends. And this, perhaps, is why people are afraid of big numbers.”

Read Who Can Name the Bigger Number?