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10 Myths About the Human Brain

10 Myths About the Human Brain

Recently, an infographic from journl.com was published illustrating the inaccuracy of the 10 most common myths about the human brain. It’s interesting to know that in an age where it’s important to understand the mechanics of success, we still embrace these myths. After all, learning how to utilize our brain power effectively is essential to attaining goals. The following myths are addressed in the infographic briefly. This articles goes a little more in depth.

It is time to stop believing false myths about our brains. Some can make a big difference in the way we perceive things and our overall success.

Myth #1: We Only Use 10% of Our Brains

This myth is the most commonly believed one so we will begin with it.

The myth most likely came from William James, an American psychologist in the early 1900s. When James was quoted while saying, “the average person rarely achieves but a small portion of his or her overall potential,” the quote was altered. First altered to,”10 percent of our capacity”, then further modified to “10 percent of our brains”. Even though we can scientifically prove that humans use more than 10 percent of their brains, this myth is believed true by many.

Myth #2: The Brain Declines as We Get Older

Some mental skills improve with age. Vocabulary, language comprehension, critical thinking, and emotional control are a few of the areas that continue to develop.

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Recent studies suggest that mindfulness is another way to increase brain function. Studies suggest that brain function improved in certain areas for study participants after an eight-week mindful based stress reduction program. Participants showed an increase in gray matter clusters controlling functions of emotion and social cognition. Studies suggest mindfulness may be useful in treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorders.

Myth #3: Brain Damage is Always Permanent

Although it is true that severe brain damages may never heal completely, functions enabled by the damaged portions can improve, and connections lost between neurons can reconnect.

The bottom line is that damaged neurons cannot grow back. However, damaged connections between the neurons eventually reconnect, reversing damage. When neurons are damaged, the brain can rewire to use other portions in performing the lost function. Functions such as speech may be handled by another part of the brain once that part can learn the function through therapeutic repetition.

Myth #4: The Brain is Hard-Wired

The truth is that brains can be re-wired. Therapy encourages new parts of the brain, not associated with a skill, to take over the performance when the associated part is unable. For example, the hearing of a blind person is enhanced when sight is not available. A stroke victim can speak by teaching an area not usually associated with performing the task to control speech.

Re-wiring your brain is also possible to change habits. Brains learn through repetitive actions. If you want to stop smoking, you can train your brain to stop sending the signals that make cravings unbearable. It just takes time and repetition to retrain your brain.

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Myth #5: Left-Brained People are Organized Right-Brained People are Creative

Division of brain hemispheres is another great example of a myth that was altered by others and then gained popularity until it was believed to be true.

The reality is that both sides of your brain control most activities. For example, when performing math, both the right and left hemispheres of your brain are utilized. If we were to believe that the left hemisphere controls logic and the right hemisphere controls creativity, it wouldn’t make sense to use the right side. After all, math is all logic, right?

Myth #6: Your Memory is an Exact Account of What You See and Experience

We recall memories from the brain. They are not an actual account of what took place. When we recall a memory it takes on the form of the last time we recalled that memory. That means we enhance certain portions of the memory and allow other parts to fade into the background.

If we remember a traumatic experience, our brains may block certain parts as a protection. It is also important to know that psychologists have successfully been able to implant false memories. All of this better explains why several people can witness the same event, but everyone recalls it differently.

Myth #7: Listening to Classical Music Will Make a Baby Smarter

In the 1950’s, physician Albert Tomatis claimed success in treating auditory disorders with classical music. He based his findings on a theory formed after 36 college students were asked to listen to 10 minutes of a Mozart sonata before taking an IQ test. The students were found by an overseeing psychologist, Dr. Gordon Shaw, to have improved their IQ points by eight. With the findings, the “Mozart effect” came to life.

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No physician has been able to duplicate the results of the study since the original findings. Dr. Frances Rauscher, involved in the initial study, advises the results never claimed listening to Mozart made the group smarter. Instead, they found it increased performance on certain spatial-temporal tasks. However, the myth was born and still lives today.

Myth #8: Brain Games Improve Your Memory and Reasoning Skills

In theory, it seems to make sense that brain games would improve your memory and reasoning by exercising the portions of the brain that control those functions. However, research has proven this not to be true.

The BBC took initiative to look into this theory. In a study of over 8,600 people, ages 18-60, brain function in memory and reasoning skills did not improve after participating three times per week, ten minutes per day, in games designed to improve these skills. Myth busted.

Myth #9: Your IQ Stays the Same Throughout Life

Do you believe some people are born smarter than others and IQs will not change? If so, you’re not alone. Although it is true that the standardized IQ test will show little increase in intelligence over a lifetime, it is not publicized that a learning curve is built into the test.

The test factors in the amount of learning expected to take place over time, and then discounts it, making scores appear to stay the same when we are actually getting smarter.

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Myth #10: Your Brain Works Better Under Pressure

The theory is a widely popular one, but in reality your mind is not working better under pressure, you are just more focused on the task.

Because added focus makes people think they work better under pressure, they will wait until the last minute to perform a task. The stress caused to a brain while under pressure increases the release of cortisol. Too much cortisol can hamper learning and memory formation causing long-term adverse effects.

Now that you know the 10 most common myths about the brain are debunked, it’s time to educate the world. Next time someone tells you they are right-brained and cannot do something, you will have an educated answer as to why they can.

Featured photo credit: Andrew Becraft via flickr.com

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Missy Yost

Missy enjoys decorating, capturing the beauty of her surroundings on canvas, and making new friends. She shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on May 22, 2019

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

The Pomodoro Technique: Is It Right for You to Boost Productivity?

If you spend any time at all researching life hacks, you’ve probably heard of the famous Pomodoro Technique.

Created in the 1980s by Francesco Cirillo, the Pomodoro Technique is one of the more popular time management life hacks used today. But this method isn’t for everyone, and for every person who is a passionate adherent of the system, there is another person who is critical of the results.

Is the Pomodoro Technique right for you? It’s a matter of personal preference. But if you are curious about the benefits of using the technique, this article will break down the basic information you will need to decide if this technique is worth trying out.

What is the Pomodoro Technique?

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management philosophy that aims to provide the user with maximum focus and creative freshness, thereby allowing them to complete projects faster with less mental fatigue.

The process is simple:

For every project throughout the day, you budget your time into short increments and take breaks periodically.

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You work for 25 minutes, then take break for five minutes.

Each 25-minute work period is called a “pomodoro”, named after the Italian word for tomato. Francesco Cirillo used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato as his personal timer, and thus the method’s name.

After four “pomodoros” have passed, (100 minutes of work time with 15 minutes of break time) you then take a 15-20 minute break.

Every time you finish a pomodoro, you mark your progress with an “X”, and note the number of times you had the impulse to procrastinate or switch gears to work on another task for each 25-minute chunk of time.

How the Pomodoro Technique boosts your productivity

Frequent breaks keep your mind fresh and focused. According to the official Pomodoro website, the system is easy to use and you will see results very quickly:

“You will probably begin to notice a difference in your work or study process within a day or two. True mastery of the technique takes from seven to twenty days of constant use.”

If you have a large and varied to-do list, using the Pomodoro Technique can help you crank through projects faster by forcing you to adhere to strict timing.

Watching the timer wind down can spur you to wrap up your current task more quickly, and spreading a task over two or three pomodoros can keep you from getting frustrated.

The constant timing of your activities makes you more accountable for your tasks and minimizes the time you spend procrastinating.

You’ll grow to “respect the tomato”, and that can help you to better handle your workload.

Successful people who love it

Steven Sande of The Unofficial Apple Weblog is a fan of the system, and has compiled a great list of Apple-compatible Pomodoro tools.

Before he started using the technique, he said,

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“Sometimes I couldn’t figure out how to organize a single day in my calendar, simply because I would jump around to all sorts of projects and never get even one of them accomplished.”

Another proponent of the Pomodoro Technique is Sue Shellenbarger of the Wall Street Journal. Shellenbarger tried out this system along with several other similar methods for time management, and said,

“It eased my anxiety over the passing of time and also made me more efficient; refreshed by breaks, for example, I halved the total time required to fact-check a column.”

Any cons for the Pomodoro Technique?

Despite the number of Pomodoro-heads out there, the system isn’t without its critics. Colin T. Miller, a Yahoo! employee and blogger, tried using the Pomodoro Technique and had some issues:[1]

“Pomodoros are an all or nothing affair. Either you work for 25 minutes straight to mark your X or you don’t complete a pomodoro. Since marking that X is the measurable sign of progress, you start to shy away from engaging in an activity if it won’t result in an X. For instance…meetings get in the way of pomodoros. Say I have a meeting set for 4:30pm. It is currently 4:10pm, meaning I only have 20 minutes between now and the meeting…In these instances I tend to not start a pomodoro because I won’t have enough time to complete it anyway.”

Another critic is Mario Fusco, who argues that the Pomodoro Technique is…well…sort of ridiculous:[2]

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“Aren’t we really able to keep ourselves concentrated without a timer ticketing on our desk?… Have you ever seen a civil engineer using a timer to keep his concentration while working on his projects?… I think that, like any other serious professional, I can stay concentrated on what I am doing for hours… Bring back your timer to your kitchen and start working in a more professional and effective way.”

Conclusion

One of the best things about the Pomodoro Technique is that it’s free. Yeah, you can fork over some bills to get a tomato-shaped timer if you want… or you can use any timer program on your computer or phone. So even if you try it and hate it, you haven’t lost any cash.

The process isn’t ideal for every person, or in any line of work. But if you need a systematic way to tackle your daily to-do list, the Pomodoro Technique may fit your needs.

If you want to learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, check out this article: How to Make the Pomodoro Technique More Productive

Reference

[1] Aspirations of a Software Developer: A Month of the Pomodoro Technique
[2] InfoQ: A Critique of the Pomodoro Technique

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