Monday, January 25, 2021

Rest versus Sleep

I do a lot of intense mental work. Periodically, I take a break and listen to part of an audiobook or watch something on TV or play a game. Under the doctrine of “a change is as good as a rest,” that should mean that a change is as good as a sleep right? 

 A report on a study led by Christoph Nissen, MD, PhD, and his team at the Medical Center, University of Freiburg, was published recently in the journal SLEEP. Sleep has a dual function for the brain: Unused connections are weakened and relevant connections are strengthened. Sleep after training improves performance on various tasks in comparison to equal periods of active wakefulness. Sleep is more than rest for improving performance. Resting does not substitute for deep sleep when it comes to keeping up with the intensive performance demands of daily life. Einstein posited that when you are working on a project or problem and take a break to do something else, that is a “rest” of sorts, although the brain may continue to work in the background on the original project or problem. In that type of scenario, a change may be as good as a rest. Sleep is different from rest, however. More tomorrow.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Time Perception Alteration

Can you do anything about how your brain perceives time, especially as you get older and/or when in a situation of lock-down?

Some say, “Yes.” Try including more unexpected and/or spontaneous activities in your routine life. This does not require leaving your home. Listen to a book on tape that is not necessarily a genre that you typically look for. Include more unpredictable experiences. For example, when you go to the zoo or an animal park you never know exactly what a creature will do and how it will behave. Enjoy the unpredictability of such experiences. There are “zoo” TV experiences that show the “back story” for many of the animals in the zoo. Programs about animal rescue, how Vets identify problems in creatures. You can vicariously enjoy that. Rotate the TV programs you watch so you include more genres. Some National Geographic, some travel, some games, some History, some Ancestry. You get the idea. The brain loves variety. Virtual is not quite the same as actual participation but it can beat boredom by a country mile. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Brain Tracks Time

According to Michael N. Shadlen, principal investigator at Columbia University’s Zuckerman Institute, has pointed out that portions of the brain that involve thought and cognitive function (e.g., planning, and executive control) can keep track and control of time. “Everything we do has to be controlled in time, otherwise we’d be simple creatures that react in the moment.” When it comes to time perception, emotions play a part. “People assign an emotional valence to every experience, including the passage of time. We color our experiences in ways that reflect our enjoyment or repulsion,” Shadlen said. For example, if you enjoy going to a concert or playing in a basketball game, you might wish they had lasted longer. On the flip side, if you dislike these events, you might feel like they took too long, or that time dragged by if not stood still altogether.
 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

EAI & Time

According to Pierce J. Howard, PhD, extroverted brains (estimated by some as 14-15 percent of the general population) use physically active strategies with more people, thriving on stimulation and activity. Without it, they tend either to get into trouble as they search for something to do or fall asleep until something stimulating comes by. Introverted brains (also estimated to be 14-15 percent of the general population) use more sedentary strategies with fewer people. They tend to become stressed and even ill with too much stimulation and need protection. The remaining 68-70 percent of the population represent the ambiverted brains who try to find a happy medium. They tend to gravitate toward environments with moderate amounts of stimulation. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that in some surveys extroverted brains tended to experience the most stress during lockdown; introverted brains the least stress, all things being equal; and ambiverts moderate amounts of stress based on what was happening in their environment. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Happiness & TIme

When you are doing something that you enjoy or that gives you satisfaction because you are providing a service to others time usually goes by quite quickly. First responders have reported that some days a shift just zoomed by, even if their duties often involved sadness. Children playing a game they absolutely love—in person or electronically—may lose all sense of the passing of time and be stunned, if not outright upset, when it is time for meals or bedtime. Although you may not have control over the environment or over every task you must do, attempting to approach it with joy and satisfaction may help the time pass more quickly. Hating what you must do likely will make time seem like it is creeping by and the shift or tasks will never be over. This may be a good time to work on one’s mindset. Aim for a positive, can-do mindset. While it may not speed up time, I may not slow it down, either. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Fear & Time

According to Ruth S Ogden, PhD, and Catharine Montgomery, Liverpool John Moores University: “When we experience fear, we experience a sensation of more time passing than normal. This is because our perception of time is affected by our level of arousal.” Increases in activity in the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), which prepares the body for the fight-or-flight response, are associated with a perception of lengthening of time. Imagine a time when you felt fear, perhaps listening to an unknown person banging on your front door or ringing the bell. You held your breath, and it seemed like forever before the banging stopped. Or you are waiting for someone and keep checking your watch because it seems an hour has gone by when it is only 10 minutes. Conversely, increases in the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which calms the body down, are associated with a slowing or shortening of time. That can be a benefit of implementing solid stress-management strategies. 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Stress, Emotions, and Time

Stressful moments can change the way you perceive the passage of time, as can emotions. Physical or social distancing during the pandemic also impacts one’s perception of time. According to Dr. Oden, “When I looked at what made time pass slowly, I found that being older (above 65) and having low levels of satisfaction with current levels of social interaction and high levels of stress were likely to make someone feel like lockdown was passing slowly. Conversely, being young, busy, and socially satisfied made lockdown pass more quickly… People with depression will often report that during periods of depression, the days drag by. This is reflected in lockdown experiences and sheltering in place. Being socially unfulfilled (which is associated with depression) is associated with a perceived slowing of time.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

COVID-19 and Time Perception

Studies by Ruth S Ogden, PhD, and Catharine Montgomery, Liverpool John Moores University found that time rarely feels like it is passing at a constant rate; instead, it expands and contracts from one activity to the next. This is especially true when one is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, and alcohol appear to make time speed up, whereas haloperidol and marijuana appear to slow time down. Drugs alter perceived time by affecting the speed of our internal clock and the amount of attention that we pay to time. Whilst such time-altering effects are generally perceived as pleasant and harmless, there is some evidence to suggest that the effects may be long-lasting. A study of the perception of the passage of time during the Covid-19 during lockdown in the United Kingdom, revealed that perception of time passing was unaltered for about 20 percent of those studied. It was distorted for the other 80 percent. About 40 percent thought time went quickly; the other 40 percent felt like time dragged. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Time Passage & Bias

Most people are familiar with the perception that time can drag or speed up depending upon the activity. Studies suggest this has to do with whether a routine is involved. For example, traveling a familiar route and routine work activities, tend to speed up one’s perception of time. Many people tend to underestimate how long it takes to travel a familiar route. The last few days of a ten-day vacation may seem to go by faster because some type of routine often sets in. Waiting for a special anticipated event that is unique and out of the ordinary, may feel like forever. The other parts of one’s life—often filled with more routine and predictable events—may seem to slip by much more quickly that it did in one’s earlier years. “Would summer vacation NEVER come?” As one person put it, the roads of our lives become well-worn and consequently we take less notice of the landscape. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Time Perception

The speed at which time passes also differs for each brain. according to a report published in the Journal of Attention Disorders, time perception refers to an individual’s subjective experience of event durations and the passage of time.  Researchers found that  perception among children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ( ADHD or ADD) is less accurate and less precise compared to children without ADHD. Perhaps contributors involve the fact that these conditions are marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity that can involve development as well as functioning. Because of the ongoing search for change, time can seem to drag if the switch to something else does not occur “in a timely enough manner” for a given brain. Conversely, when a child is doing a favorite activity he or she may think, “But I just started doing this!” when it is time to change to something else.


 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Bias and Time


Time seems to go by faster and faster as I age. Is there any brain-related expectation for this? My dad thought that this occurred because any time period as one ages is a smaller fraction of the whole lifetime, but that does that cover everything?

I do not know if your dad’s theory covers everything. I doubt it. Some suggest that a person’s bias alters the perception of time. Bias, in case you have not read my previous blogs on the topic of bias, can be defined as prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another; a disproportionate weight in favor of or against an idea or thing, often in a way that is somewhat closed-minded. If you had a bias against the competence of one of your teachers, a lecture period might have seemed to on for half a day. Conversely, you absolutely love a master class you are taking and believe the presenter to be not only smart but humorous in his or her presentation—and are surprised when the class period is over. A study on Routine and the Perception of Time, reported in the Journal of Experimental Psychology, reported that the duration of a task or activity tends to be remembered as being shorter when it occurred in routine conditions as compared with nonroutine ones. More tomorrow.


Friday, January 8, 2021

Can One Do Anything About Bias?

What can one person do about bias besides taking a look at and managing their own biases?

This question reminds me of a quote attributed to Helen Keller. It goes like this: I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do. The question then becomes, “What can I do about biases?” 

Here are comments to consider.

 

“I can strive for open-mindedness—without allowing my brain to fall out of my skull

“I can take time to find out what the data say and not rely on just what another person claims the data say or show

“I can become more knowledgeable about how a person’s behavioral characteristics over time can reveal what that brain is really like (pay attention to history!)

“I can pay attention to those exhibited and identified characteristics and what that means to me and my country

“I can role-model a balanced bias and use my vote (my voice) to help elect those with a similar balanced outlook.”

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Is everyone Biased?

I have learned a lot reading your blogs about bias. My question is whether everyone is biased? I watch the polarization in this country and it appears to me that all members of all political parties are biased so maybe everyone is biased. If so, how can that be fixed?

 

Thank you for a thoughtful question. It is always a bit dicey when talking about all versus none. However, current wisdom seems to be that every human brain is biased—toward a personal safety orientation. The problem arises when that bias is extended due to philosophical reasons rather than to issues of personal safely. This allows people to brush over, ignore, or accept key mental health abnormalities such as malignant narcissism, over-the-top paranoia, and even behaviors that align with antisocial personality disorders. That is how a nation can slowly and even stealthily move from a true democracy to one of a dictatorship style of governance. History is full of such examples.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Explicit Bias

Explicit Bias differs rather dramatically from Implicit Bias. Again, here are three definitions.

 Perception Institute:  Explicit bias refers to the attitudes and beliefs one has about a person or group on a conscious level. Much of the time, these biases and their expression arise as the direct result of a perceived threat. When people feel threatened, they are more likely to draw boundaries to distinguish themselves from others.

 Dictionary.com:  Explicit bias refers to the attitudes and beliefs you have about a person or group on a conscious level. They can be stated through language, be positive or negative, and may be exhibited through actions and behaviors.

 Kirwan Institute Ohio State University:  Explicit bias refers to a bias that a person knows about but that he or she may choose to conceal for purposes of social and/or political correctness. They can be identified through introspection.

 My brain’s opinion is that explicit biases may be identified through what a person thinks, feels, and says at a conscious level and the behaviors or actions he or she knowingly chooses to exhibit. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Implicit Bias

Implicit Bias is also known as Implicit Social Cognition and a plethora of definitions are available. Here are three.

 Cornell University law school:  Implicit Bias is subconscious and unintentional involving attitudes and stereotypes that can influence how human beings related to their environment. The person does not have direct control or conscious understanding of their perceptions and motivations.

 Dictionary.com:  Implicit bias is the tendency to process information based on unconscious associations and feelings, even when these are contrary to one’s conscious feelings or declared beliefs.

 Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University:  Implicit bias involves unconsciously absorbed attitudes or stereotypes that affect a person’s understanding, actions, and decisions. They are activated involuntarily, without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. Therefore, they are not accessible through introspection.

My brain’s opinion is that implicit biases may be identified through analysis of the actions and behaviors that the person exhibits spontaneously. 

Monday, January 4, 2021

Confirmation Bias

Last year I sent in a question about Confirmation Bias and appreciated your response. It has helped me identify and evaluate some of my long-held biases (that I’ve always called ‘Beliefs’). Recently I heard the term “cognitive shortcuts” in reference to “implicit bias.” Could you help me understand this?

Thank you for your question. Bias certainly is a current topic. The California Board of Nursing recently reminded providers of continuing education that Assembly Bill 241, signed into law in October 2, 2019, added section 2736.5 to the Business and Professions Code (BPC). Beginning January 1, 2022, the CA BRN requires all continuing education courses for Registered Nurse (RN) licensees to contain curriculum that includes the understanding of “implicit bias.” It appears that all human brains have a built-in bias—often related to issues of safety. A bias is simply a strong feeling for or against something that tends to influence one’s actions. It can be positive or negative. I will begin my weekday blogs this year with a more in-depth exploration of this topic, including your question about implicit bias and cognitive shortcuts (or Heuristics, as they are known in the field of psychology). 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 2021

 365 have rolled around,
Many still find themselves homebound.
We get a new start after quite the year—
With floods and fires and air not clear.

Many went early from COVID-19,
It’s tough to remember and stay serene—
We learned for sure there is no guarantee,
Even for those with a pedigree.

Do let go of fear and anxiety,
It certainly won’t change society.
I hope PPE and distance apart,
Will give prevention a needed kickstart.

It is time for another COVID test,
So far, all negative—I feel blest.
Retired is such a wonderful time.
I do what I choose and how sublime!

I find it fun to write from home.
Arranging words in prose and poem.
My latest book was just released,
Ideas abound for four more at least. 

Most days I make time for music I love,
Fingers on keyboard like hand in a glove.
A great deal of fun this playing with sounds,
Something like writing—just follow the hounds.

A blessing my house remains intact
Although a suitcase is always packed.
Evacuations from fire and smoke,
Felled many plans with just one stroke.

Persons persist in ringing the bell,
Another sales pitch—that is just swell.
Apparently, they had tried before—
Some of their comments I ignore.

After all I am not under quarantine,
Or compelled to interrupt my routine.
I should never ever have answered the door,
Of magazines I need zero more.

I close the door and remove my mask,
It does make breathing an easier task.
No steamed up glasses, no smeared lipstick,
No misheard words from blurred acoustic.

I chuckle aloud and smile at myself,
And take my iPhone from the shelf.
Laughter-by-mobile, affirming dialogue—
And now I can write about Croakin the frog.

As we embark on an uncertain year,
To me, all in all, it seems quite clear.
It really is not what happens to us,
As much as how we respond and discuss.

With calm clear vision and less upset,
This could be our very best year yet.
Wherever you are and whatever you do,
I’m sending good wishes from me to you.

PS - One of my dear friends just reminded me that at 12:01 am on January 1st —and for the first time ever—hindsight is actually 2020.