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How Not to Make Decisions That You’ll Regret Under Extreme Stress

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How Not to Make Decisions That You’ll Regret Under Extreme Stress

On may 31 2009 Air France Flight 447 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all aboard.[1] Prior to impact, the pilots struggled to correct the plane as faulty readings blared out. In their confusion, they drove the plane ever upwards in an increasingly steep climb. Eventually, the aircraft stalled, and dropped from the sky.

    Analysis of the crash and black box led researches to ascertain that two things led to the tragedy.

    1. Mechanical malfunction (Ice built up in key tubes, which led to the plane giving out false readings). This is easily fixable and quite common.
    2. Cognitive tunneling.[2]

    What Is Cognitive Tunneling and Is It Bad?

    Cognitive tunneling, or inattentional blindness is a common mental state where your brain focuses on things closest to you, instead of trying to evaluate everything around you.[3] It is not without benefits though. Without it, it is possible we could become overwhelmed by all the information around us. It is perfectly normal, and occurs as much in the highly motivated and intelligent as the unmotivated and unintelligent.

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    However, as the above example with Flight 447 shows us, there are times when having a complete understanding on what is going on around us is critical, and in this way, cognitive tunneling can lead to disaster.

    For example, if the pilots of flight 44 took a moment to fully assess what was going on around them, it is perfectly possible they could have corrected their flight, and later landed safely. But instead, through cognitive tunneling, they didn’t become aware of the problem because they weren’t paying attention to what was really going on.

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          Overly Focused Blinds the Brain

          It is as Charles Duhigg says in his book Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business,

          “Cognitive tunneling can cause people to become overly focused on whatever is directly in front of their eyes or become preoccupied with immediate tasks. It’s what causes drivers to slam on their brakes when they see a red light ahead.”

          For most of human history, situations where it was critical to have a complete picture of what was going on around you, instead of a particular point, were pretty rare. If you were out hunting, for example, cognitive tunneling could keep you focused on your pray, and not, at a fly beside you. Cognitive blindness cuts out information our brain considers irrelevant to the task at hand, but due to our current high stakes, high speed world, that isn’t so much the case and sometimes we need to be aware of what is going on around us.

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            Be Attentional to the Inattentional

            What does it mean? Because cognitive tunneling is a natural mental state, it isn’t something that you can really turn off. However, there are two ways to effectively counteract it. All you need to do is be attentional: to anticipate and think.

              Anticipate

              When presented with problems that we have already experienced, it is normal for our minds to turn to the way they were resolved before. This can be effective, however there is no real reason to believe the same solution will work again, or is the perfect one for another time.

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              With cognitive tunneling, our minds will naturally skip over other solutions that may present themselves and refer to our older (possibly inferior system). If it doesn’t work second time around, then the problem stays but this time you are blind to other solutions.

              For example, Bob is driving his car, and his engine breaks down. He remembers how this happened a few months ago and how he resolved it. But this time the solution doesn’t work and his car still refuses to start. If Bob were to have, before driving, thought about his car, and anticipated what problems may arise in the future, then he would be in a better situation to resolve issues as they arise by countering his cognitive tunneling with another solution ready.

              Don’t React, Think!

              It is often unclear when your mind is overwhelmed with information and goes into cognitive tunneling before it is too late.

              No one can predict every single problem or emergency which may arise. But instead of reacting to the issue and robotically going through a checklist, think about the problem, describe exactly what is going on, and try to anticipate the results of everything, then you’ll be able to master any problem you come up against.

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              Featured photo credit: pixabay via pixabay.com

              Reference

              More by this author

              Leon Ho

              Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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              Last Updated on February 11, 2021

              20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

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              20 Amazing Facts About Dreams that You Might Not Know About

              Dreams — Mysterious, bewildering, eye-opening and sometimes a nightmarish living hell. Dreams are all that and much more.

              Here are 20 amazing facts about dreams that you might have never heard about:

              Fact #1: You can’t read while dreaming, or tell the time

                If you are unsure whether you are dreaming or not, try reading something. The vast majority of people are incapable of reading in their dreams.

                The same goes for clocks: each time you look at a clock it will tell a different time and the hands on the clock won’t appear to be moving as reported by lucid dreamers.

                Fact #2: Lucid dreaming

                There is a whole subculture of people practicing what is called lucid or conscious dreaming. Using various techniques, these people have supposedly learned to assume control of their dreams and do amazing things like flying, passing through walls, and traveling to different dimensions or even back in time.

                Want to learn how to control your dreams? You can try these tips:

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                Lucid Dreaming: This Is How You Can Control Your Dreams

                Fact #3: Inventions inspired by dreams

                Dreams are responsible for many of the greatest inventions of mankind. A few examples include:

                • The idea for Google -Larry Page
                • Alternating current generator -Tesla
                • DNA’s double helix spiral form -James Watson
                • The sewing machine -Elias Howe
                • Periodic table -Dimitri Mendeleyev

                …and many, many more.

                Fact #4: Premonition dreams

                There are some astounding cases where people actually dreamt about things which happened to them later, in the exact same ways they dreamed about.

                You could say they got a glimpse of the future, or it might have just been coincidence. The fact remains that this is some seriously interesting and bizarre phenomena. Some of the most famous premonition dreams include:

                • Abraham Lincoln dreamt of His Assassination
                • Many of the victims of 9/11 had dreams warning them about the catastrophe
                • Mark Twain’s dream of his brother’s demise
                • 19 verified precognitive dreams about the Titanic catastrophe

                Fact #5: Sleep paralysis

                Hell is real and it is called sleep paralysis. It’s the stuff of true nightmares. I’ve been a sleep paralysis sufferer as a kid and I can attest to how truly horrible it is.

                Two characteristics of sleep paralysis are the inability to move (hence paralysis) and a sense of an extremely evil presence in the room with you. It doesn’t feel like a dream, but 100% real. Studies show that during an attack, sleep paralysis sufferers show an overwhelming amygdala activity. The amygdala is responsible for the “fight or flight” instinct and the emotions of fear, terror and anxiety. Enough said!

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                Fact #6: REM sleep disorder

                In the state of REM (rapid-eye-movement) stage of your sleep your body is normally paralyzed. In rare cases, however, people act out their dreams. These have resulted in broken arms, legs, broken furniture, and in at least one reported case, a house burnt down.

                Fact #7: Sexual dreams

                The very scientifically-named “nocturnal penile tumescence” is a very well documented phenomena. In laymen’s term, it simply means that you get a stiffy while you sleep. Actually, studies indicate that men get up to 20 erections per dream.

                Fact #8: Unbelievable sleepwalkers

                  Sleepwalking is a very rare and potentially dangerous sleep disorder. It is an extreme form of REM sleep disorder, and these people don’t just act out their dreams, but go on real adventures at night.

                  Lee Hadwin is a nurse by profession, but in his dreams he is an artist. Literally. He “sleepdraws” gorgeous portraits, of which he has no recollection afterwards. Strange sleepwalking “adventures” include:

                  • A woman having sex with strangers while sleepwalking
                  • A man who drove 22 miles and killed his cousin while sleepwalking
                  • A sleepwalker who walked out of the window from the third floor, and barely survived

                  Fact #9: Dream drug

                  There are actually people who like dreaming and dreams so much that they never want to wake up. They want to continue on dreaming even during the day, so they take an illegal and extremely potent hallucinogenic drug called Dimethyltryptamine. It is actually only an isolated and synthetic form of the chemical our brains produce naturally during dreaming.

                  Fact #10 Dream-catcher

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                    The dream-catcher is one of the most well-known Native American symbols. It is a loose web or webs woven around a hoop and decorated with sacred objects meant to protect against nightmares.

                    Fact #11: Increased brain activity

                    You would associate sleeping with peace and quiet, but actually our brains are more active during sleep than during the day.

                    Fact #12: Creativity and dreams

                    As we mentioned before, dreams are responsible for inventions, great artworks and are generally just incredibly interesting. They are also “recharging” our creativity.

                    Scientists also say that keeping a dream diary helps with creativity.

                    In rare cases of REM disorder, people actually don’t dream at all. These people suffer from significantly decreased creativity and perform badly at tasks requiring creative problem solving.

                    Fact #13: Pets dream too

                      Our animal companions dream as well. Watch a dog or a cat sleep and you can see that they are moving their paws and making noises like they were chasing something. Go get ’em buddy!

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                      Fact #14: You always dream—you just don’t remember it

                      Many people claim that they don’t dream at all, but that’s not true: we all dream, but up to 60% of people don’t remember their dreams at all.

                      Fact #15: Blind people dream too

                      Blind people who were not born blind see images in their dreams but people who were born blind don’t see anything at all. They still dream, and their dreams are just as intense and interesting, but they involve the other senses beside sight.

                      Fact #16: In your dreams, you only see faces that you already know

                        It is proven that in dreams, we can only see faces that we have seen in real life before. So beware: that scary-looking old lady next to you on the bus might as well be in your next nightmare.

                        Fact #17: Dreams tend to be negative

                        Surprisingly, dreams are more often negative than positive. The three most widely reported emotions felt during dreaming are anger, sadness and fear.

                        Fact #18: Multiple dreams per night

                        You can have up to seven different dreams per night depending on how many REM cycles you have. We only dream during the REM period of sleep, and the average person dreams one to two hours every night.

                        Fact #19: Gender differences

                        Interestingly, 70% of all the characters in a man’s dream are other men, but women’s dream contain an equal amount of women and men. Also men’s dreams contain a lot more aggression. Both women and men dream about sexual themes equally often.

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                        Fact #20: Not everyone dreams in color

                        As much as 12% of people only dream in black and white.

                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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