Posts Tagged ‘growth mindsets’

Mindfulness Against Stress and Racism

July 30, 2017

This post is inspired by an article titled “Stress of poverty, racism raise risk of Alzheimer’s for African Americans, new research suggests” by Frederick Kunkle in the 17 July 2017 Issue of the Washington Post.

Recent research into racial disparities among people with Alzheimer’s disease suggests that social conditions, including stress of poverty and racism, substantially raise risks of dementia for Africa Americans. Four independent studies found that conditions that affect blacks disproportionately compared with other groups—such as poor living conditions and stressful events such as the loss of a sibling, the divorce of one’s parents or chronic unemployment—have severe consequences for brain health later on.

A study at the University of Wisconsin found that stress literally takes years off a person’s life in terms of brain function—an average of four years for African Americans, compared with 1.5 years for whites. A different Wisconsin study showed that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood is associated with later decline in cognitive function and even the biomarkers linked to Alzheimer’s disease.

One of the best, if not the best, means of coping with stress is meditation. Meditation places the mind and its worries at rest. It increases the ability of the mind not to focus on stress and opens up the possibilities of ideas for overcoming stress.

If mindfulness were taught universally in schools, people would already have these coping skills. Mindfulness, universally taught, has the potential for mitigating, if not defeating, racism. Research has also found that mindfulness taught in the schools can propagate up to the parents and siblings of the students. So the benefits go beyond the students themselves.

Growth mindsets, in addition to fostering healthy memories, also have the prospect of enhancing economic outcomes. To understand how, consider Scott Adams book “How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big.” Entering “Scott Adams” into the search block of the healthy memory blog will yield healthy memory blog posts based on this book.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Passing 71

May 6, 2017

Meaning that today I am entering my 72nd year.  Time appears to be flying by at an increasingly faster rate.  Unfortunately, this is the best time of my life, so I really wish it were not flying by so fast.  When I retired I told people that it was the happiest time of my life since I was five years old.  I am eternally grateful to my parents for keeping me out of organized activities until I entered school in the first grade.  But from then on, I was continuously occupied with education, the military, more education, and then professional activities.

Now I am a free man.  I sleep until I wake up and find that my time is my own.  If I did not have growth activities, along with meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet, dementia would likely be setting it.  But I stay cognitively active.  I do a great deal of reading and some writing.  Unfortunately, there is not enough time to read all the interesting and important things to read.  I do indeed have a growth mindset.

I also do a great deal of walking, much of it with my wife.  And at times I do engage in the walking meditations in nature I wrote about in the preceding post.

I stay in touch with friends.

I meditate daily; sometimes several times a day.  And I tend to slip into a meditative state when I am forced to wait.  I try to spend as much time as I can fostering a healthy memory.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be attending the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science in Boston.  Shortly after we return we’ll be off again on a tour of National Parks.  In August we’ll be taking a cruise out of Amsterdam, with port calls in Scotland, Norway, and Iceland.  This is an Insight Cruise with lectures in physics and anthropology.

I engage in ikigai, the Japanese term for the activities in Victor Stretcher’s book, “Life on Purpose.”  My purpose, in addition to living a fulfilling life with my wife, is to learn and share my thoughts and knowledge with others.  That is the purpose of this blog, and at some time in the future a book or books might be in the offing.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy Thanksgiving 2016!

November 23, 2016

HM would argue that what we have most to be thankful for is our marvelous memory.  Without our memory, we would not even know who we are.  Our memory is a devices for time travel.  They use data from our senses to develop models of the external world, and we use these models to interact with the external world.  Memory is the mechanism for personal growth.

Thanksgiving is the day to be dedicated to giving thanks.  The best way we can show thanks for our memory is to develop it by employing growth mindsets.  The activity generated by growth mindsets promotes memory health and builds cognitive reserves to ward of dementia and Alzheimer’s.  They also provide for an enjoyable and fulfilling life.

Mindfulness is also essential to healthy memories.  Meditation not only relaxes, but also gives us greater control over attention, which has a tendency to wander.  Mindfulness also increases our empathy with others.

Where’s the Passion?

July 11, 2016

(10th Post on GRIT)

The two ingredients of GRIT are perseverance and passion.  Absent passion, there can be no GRIT.  So how can passion be fostered?  Dr. Duckworth does offer suggestions  on how parents can offer opportunities from which passion can result.  To return to the writings of the founder of American Psychology, William James from the “Energies of Men.”  “Compared with what we ought be, we are only half awake.  Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.  We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”James continued, “Of course there are limits.  The trees don’t grow into the sky.  But these boundaries of where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us:  “The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only ver exceptional individuals push to their extreme of use.”

HM knows very few people with passion.  His experience teaching in college was that although he had passion, he was quite unable to pass on his passion to students.  Students were taking the class to fulfill requirements to enter a good job and a middle class lifestyle.  Questions regarding the class rarely went beyond, “Are all the tests multiple choice?  Will a paper or a project be required?  Occasionally  students with a genuine intellectual interest would come along and these students were enjoyed and highly prized.    A friend of mine during graduate school, and this was before PCs, could not stand visiting his relatives because they did not have a dictionary.  He used one several times every day and was incredulous that people could live without one,

But this lack of passion goes considerably beyond the frustrations of HM’s students.  Serious problems of substance abuse among middle class youth stem from a lack of not just passion, but also of even the slightest interest in a panoply of interesting subjects and projects to pursue.  So their default mode is to follow their peers into substance abuse, which is not only a problem for the individual, but for the population at large.

It is important to distinguish between people who are intelligent and people with intellectual interests.  HM knows many people who, although they are highly intelligent, have virtually no intellectual interests.  Intellectual interests involve ideas.  Many intelligent people only use their brains for subjects of immediate interest to them.  Sports are usually included here because we enjoy vicarious pleasure when our teams win.  Moreover, sports are frequently they only topic for conversation as religion and politics are usually not safe.  Unless people have the same beliefs, people talk past each other and this talk often becomes violent.  But these talks rarely go beyond beliefs.  Rarely are data discussed, or the way that different countries deal with the same issue.

A colleague of mine, who is a college graduate, was entranced with a TV program that showed how different products were produced.  However, when I tried to speak with him about medical issues confronting the country, he drew a complaint blank.  He did not know that medical costs were the highest in the United States among all countries, with relatively poor results.  As a citizen he should have had some knowledge about this topic.

But topics are most frequently based on beliefs, beliefs that were learned growing up and reinforced by interacting with people of the same beliefs.  So none of these people need to think.  Unfortunately, democracies need people who think, rather than believe.  Ideologies and principles can be the bane of democracies.  Topics need to be discussed using data and logic, with the exclusion of the statement, “I believe.”

Unfortunately, thinking is painful, and not only intellectuals, but also citizens need to think.  To use Kahneman’s terms, thinking involves System 2 processes and requires mental effort.  However, cruising along with only System 1 processes and one’s beliefs is much easier.

As you should know, HM is big on growth mindsets.  We need to grow our minds, which will be beneficial to our brains.  Grit can assist in this. Look around for your passion.  When you think you’ve found one, try to stick with it and persevere.  Don’t abandon your effort once you encounter difficulty.  Try to work your way through it.  However, should your  passion wane, look for another.  Even if you become a chronic passion pursuer, keep trying.  From HM’s  perspective, the goal is to train our minds to benefit our brains.  It is better to have a little knowledge about many topics than to know virtually nothing about any topic

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Growth Mindsets and Grit

July 6, 2016

(3rd Post on GRIT)

The mention of Growth Mindsets is fairly frequent in healthy memory blog posts.  And having a Growth Mindset is touted as being key to a healthy memory.  So to appreciate how much Grit and Growth Mindsets have in common, statements that undermine growth mindsets and grit will be compared with statements that promote growth mindsets and grit.  When speaking with children teammates, friends or anyone about whom you care, make sure to use statements that promote Growth Mindsets and Grit

In the following comparisons the first statement undermines Growth Mindsets and Grit, whereas the second statement promotes Growth Mindsets and Grit.

“You’re  a natural!  I love that.” versus “You’re a learner I love that.”

“Well, at least you tried!”   versus    “That didn’t work.  Let’s talk about how you                                   approached it and what might work better.”

“Great job!  you’re so talented”  versus    “Great job!  What’s one thing that could have                             been even better?”

“This is hard.  Don’t feel bad if you can’t do it”  versus “This is hard.  Don’t feel bad if                                        you can[t do it yet.”

“Maybe this just isn’t your strength.  Don’t worry—you have other things to contribute”


“I have high standards.  I’m holding you to them because I know we can reach them together.”

The first statements in eacb comparison are examples of fixed mindsets.

So Growth Mindsets and Grit and excellent concepts.  How do they differ?  Grit adds passion.  Although passion is important, it entails additional considerations that should be become evident in subsequent posts.  However, Growth Mindsets are always commendable.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Wise Psychological Interventions

April 29, 2016

Wise Psychological Interventions (WPIs) were the subject of an article titled “A mind trick that can break down your brain’s barrier to success” by Dan Jones in the March 12 2016 edition of the New Scientist.  “Mental unblocking” is at the heart of WPIs.  Entering “Wilson” into the health memory blog search block will take you to many examples of WPIs.  Entering “REDIRECT” into the search block will take you to many more.

Wilson is a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and here is an example of one of his WPIs.  His goal was to help new college students cope better with worries about their academic performance.  His solution was inspired by attribution theory, which describes how people accept for events.  For example whether they blame failures and setbacks on enduring facts about themselves, or on external factors.  His goal was to get students think about the external situation, rather than to facts about themselves.  He presented the students with statistics tat showed the majority of new students start with disappointing grades but do better over time.  He also showed them videos of older students talking about their improving academic performance.   Students he received these presentations grades got better more quickly that those of students who did not receive these messages.  They were also less likely to have dropped out by the end of the second year.

The concept of growth mindsets is central to the message of the healthy memory blog.  The distinctions  between fixed and growth mindsets were well articulated by Carol Dweck in her best selling book “MIndset.”  People with fixed mindsets believe that their intelligence is fixed as to whether they are smart, stupid, or average.  People with growth mindsets believe that it is up to themselves to grow and improve.  The notion of growth mindsets is central to the basic message of the healthy memory blog.  We need to continue to grown our mindsets throughout our entire lifespan.  Enter “Dweck” and “growth mindsets” to read more posts on this topic.  Deck has found that when students were told about how the brain changes and learns, and that intelligence can be boosted. showed increased motivation in class and better test scores as compared to a control group.

Stanford psychologist Geoffrey Cohen has developed WPIs aimed at reducing the achievement gap between white and black university students.  An effective strategy  against stereotype threat is to get people to write about values that are important to the, which is a process called self affirmation.  He found that even a short session improve the grades of black students relative to controls.  I closed the achievement gap by 40%.  Two years later, after a few top-up sessions, the intervention was still having a clear effect.  Cohen has applied this same approach to the achievement gap between men and women in university science courses.

New students frequently feel alienated  and out of place when they arrive in a University setting.  Cohen and a colleague got first-year students to read a report summarizing a survey of older students experience at a university.  They report described how they felt out of place, at first, but that these feelings passed as they settled in and made new friends.  Reading this report not only improved the grades of black students, but also increased their self-reported happiness and health.  These effects persisted three years on, and they have been replicated by much larger studies.

WPIs go way beyond academic performance.  Iran Halperin of the Interdisciplinary Center in e Herizliya, Israel have been developing WPIs to reduce tensions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  He has demonstrated that nurturing a growth mindsets makes people on both sides more open to listening, more willing to compromise for peace, and more likely to forgive.

The Behavioral Insights Team (BIT) in the United Kingdom is a partly government owned firm exploring the potential of WPIs.  President Obama launched the US Social and Behavioral Sciences Team to develop WPIs in the U.S.  Similar unites have been established in Germany, Australia, Singapore, Finland, and the Netherlands.

So it appears that WPIs are catching on.

Healthy Memory Revisited

April 21, 2016

As the healthy memory blog is coming back from a hiatus, it might be a good time to review its themes.  The first theme is the importance of having a growth mindset.  There are many healthy memory posts on this topic.  Basically it is a matter of wanting to learn and in believing that you can learn.  So a positive attitude is essential along with a desire to learn.  Having a growth mindset is important not only to having a healthy memory,  but also to living a fulfilling life.

Currently there is much concern about the ravages and costs of Alzheimer’s Disease.  An enormous amount of research is going on to develop drugs that will prevent or cure the disease.  These drugs target the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles that provide the signatures for an accurate diagnosis of this disease.  To this point, the few drugs that have been approved only slow the progression of the disease.  And some knowledgeable people believe that drugs will never be developed that actually prevent or cure the disease (se the healthy memory blog, “The Myth of Alzheimer’s).

A common assertion is that Alzheimer’s cannot be  prevented.  This statement is true if it is referring to the amyloid plaque or neurofibrillary tangles that are needed for a definitive diagnosis.  What is not usually mentioned is that many autopsies have been done on deceased individuals whose brains are wreaked with these neurofibrillary tangles and amyloid plaques, but who never had any of the behavioral or cognitive manifestations of Alzheimer’s.  Whether these people would have ever exhibited any of the behavioral of cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s if they had lived longer will never be known.  The explanation offered for these people is that they had built up a cognitive reserve that prevented the cognitive and behavioral symptoms.  So even though they had the defining neurological substrates of the disease, there were no behavioral of cognitive manifestations.

The healthy memory blog asserts that having and using a growth mindset is key to developing this cognitive reserve.  Of course, exercise and a healthy lifestyle is important.  I find it ironic that physical exercise is always cited as beneficial, but rarely, if ever, the exercise of the most relevant organ, the brain.  Using a growth mindset exercises the brain.  I believe that certain computer games can be useful, along with playing bridge or doing crossword puzzles.  But a healthy memory mindset involves continuing to learn as long as one lives.  Be aware that new neurons continue to be created throughout one’s lifespan. but these new neurons quickly die unless they are engaged.  Engaging with one’s fellow humans as well as with technology (this is transactive memory ) is also essential.

An important part of a growth mindset is understanding how cognition works.  This is the second theme of the healthy memory blog, Human Memory:  Theory and Data. It is important to understand that we have no direct knowledge of the external world, as naive realists believe.  Rather we develop mental models of the external world.  The role of memory is more that one of storing information.  Memory takes in information and constructs models.  The purpose of memory is actually one of time travel.  It is using information from the past and models constructed from that information to predict the future.  Sometimes mental simulations are run to decide among different courses of action.

Another important concept is that of Noble Prize winning psychologist, Daniel Kahenman.  He has identified two processing systems.  System 1 is named Intuition. System 1 is very fast, employs parallel processing, and appears to be automatic and effortless. They are so fast that they are executed, for the most part, outside conscious awareness. Emotions and feelings are also part of System 1.  System 2 is named Reasoning. It is controlled processing that is slow, serial, and effortful. It is also flexible. This is what we commonly think of as conscious thought. One of the roles of System 2 is to monitor System 1 for processing errors, but System 2 is slow and System 1 is fast, so errors to slip through. System 2 can be thought of as thinking.Kahneman

When new information is encountered, by default, it is believed.  Without this default, our learning would be dangerously slow.  However, whenever the brain encounters information that contradicts what we know, the brain responds and System 2 is activated.  System 2 requires attention and mental effort.  The easiest route is to discard or ignore discordant information.  This is the route chosen by the cognitive miser, who is not willing to expend the effort.  In the long run, the cognitive miser route leads to hardening of the categories, where we do not challenge and remain constant to our beliefs.  Of course, questioning everything would be maladaptive, so this must be done selectively.  But growth mindsets require heavy System 2 processing and the selective reexamination of prevailing beliefs.

Kahneman has identified biases that develop to help us better deal with processing limitations, but which are biases nevertheless.  Our memories also are highly fallible.  Unfortunately, the confidence we exhibit is usually unreliable.  We are flawed information processors and need to always be aware of these flaws and limitations

The mind is constrained by a limited attentional capacity.  The brain remains active 24 hours a day, even when we sleep.  The vast majority of the brain’s processing is unconscious.  Once we try fail to recall something or fail to solve a problem, our unconscious mind will keep working on it, and the solution can pop into our minds unsummoned at a later time.

We need to learn to focus and control this attentional capacity.  This is where mindfulness and meditation become important and they constitute the third theme of the healthy memory blog.  .  There are many posts on mindfulness and meditation, some of which can be found under the category of mnemonic techniques.  Mindfulness and meditation are essential not only to a healthy memory, but also to a heathy body.  Meditation has even be shown to have beneficial epigenetic effects (see the healthy memory blog, “The Genetic Breakthrough—Your Ultimate Mind Body Connection”).

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Relevance of Consciousness and the Brain to a Healthy Memory

April 9, 2016

I hope it is already clear why the previous eight posts have been devoted to Stanislas Dehaene’s “Consciousness and the Brain:  Deciphering How the Brain Codes our Thoughts,” but, nevertheless, I shall briefly elaborate here.  Simply put, using our conscious mind effectively is key to a healthy memory.  One of the primary goals of meditation (for example, the relaxation response), is to gain control of our attention rather than either ignoring our brains’s potential, or letting our brains run wild.

Growth mindsets encourage us to use the global workspace of our brains, to think and to learn new information and skills.  This activates those neurons in the prefrontal cortex with the long axons reaching far into different parts of the brains.  I strongly believe that this activity strongly promotes brain health.  It is likely that it is largely responsible for the cognitive reserve that is cited as the reason that the autopsies of many individuals reveal the neurillary fibers and amyloid plaques that provide a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, yet these individuals never indicated any of the behavioral or cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s.

It is clear that there is enormous activity of the brain, but we can gain access to only a small percentage of this activity.  So how can we increase the probability that our unconscious minds are functioning productively?  A good way of thinking about this is that our conscious mind is, or should be, the chief executive of our brain.  Think of the brain as an enormous enterprise that we supervise.  The unconscious mind uses what we think about consciously as a guide to at least some of its unconscious activity.  A good example of this is when we try to remember a name  or a word, but successful retrieval fails (remember the distinction between available and accessible memories).  It is not unusual that many hours, sometimes even a day a more later, the desired item pops into consciousness.  So even though you gave up trying to remember, your unconscious brain kept working on this task.  My favorite problem solving technique is incubation.  This is done when you give your mind a rest and stop working on the problem.  Although your conscious mind has stopped working, your unconscious mind perseveres, and the solution seems to pop into your mind unsummoned.  There are documented cases of important discoveries that have been made in this manner.  Thee are probably many more that have not been discovered or articulated.

So meditate to achieve better control over your consciousness.  Also pursue a growth mindset.  Review previously acquired knowledge and continue to pursue new knowledge.  Also give your unconscious mind something to mull over, such as a problem to solve, or an apparently lost memory to recover.  As was mentioned in a previous healthy memory blog post, with the exception of the most trivial decisions, it is best to allow time for your conscious mind to run simulations and reveal unrecognized problems (see the healthy memory blog post, “Let Me Think it Over).

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking

January 30, 2016

As I mentioned in the post “We’re Back”, there were many interesting symposia presented during our Scientific American Insight Cruise, and it would take some mulling in deciding which ones to write healthy memory blogs.  The very first presentation was by Dr MIchael Starboard is a University Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Texas in Austin, whose presentation was one of the highlights of the entire cruise.  As his talk was on the five elements of effective thinking, and given that this is the healthy memory blog and that one of our mantras is growth mindsets, this talk is of special relevance.    However, I wanted to read his book “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking,” which he co-authored with Dr. Edward B. Burger before drafting a blog post.  Now having read the book, I think that multiple posts will be necessary.  Even then, I’ll only be scratching the surface.  I strongly recommend that you read the entire book.  It is available on Amazon, including a Kindle version.  This first post provides a general overview of the book.  The book begins with the following quote from Albert Einstein:

“I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent.  Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas.”

The first element is to ground our thoughts by understanding deeply.  One of the examples he provided regarded a workshop he attended for virtuoso trumpeters.  The workshop was led by a world famous trumpeter.  He invited the participants to play a virtuoso  piece, which they did. He completed them all, but then asked them to play some basic exercises.  Then he played the basic exercises.  There was a clear difference in the quality he played these exercises as compared to the participants.  Then he played a virtuoso piece, which was clearly well beyond anything played by the participants.  The workshop participants admitted that they devoted little time to playing basic exercises, and they saw that the continuing practice of these exercises was reflected not only in the quality with which the exercises were played, but more importantly were evident in virtue performances.  This example was particularly informative for me.  My wife  has a Master of Fine Arts degree, and is a superb artist.  I had been puzzled as to why she continued to practice her drawing.  Now I understand why she is such a superb artist.   This particular example deals with performance.  Drs. Burger and  Starbird go into much detail as how this is done and is important in any knowledge domain.

The second element involves igniting insights through mistakes, what he calls falling to succeed.  He provided an example from a class he conducts on effective thinking.  He asked the class to prove a theorem regarding infinity.  He informed them that this was well beyond their abilities, but to try anyone, even though he knew what they did would be wrong.  He asked them to work in groups and after three minutes he called upon a woman to show what her group had produced.  She was reluctant and embarrassed, but eventually did so.  Dr. Starbird said to find just one think wrong and to fix it.  She did and the process was repeated nine more times.  Dr. Starbird was amazed to find that after ten interactions a new, ingenious proof had been produced.  His warning is never to stare at a blank screen.  Produce something even if you know it is wrong.  Consider that you are 10% done and continue to iterate.  Continue chipping away at the problem until you have produced a satisfactory answer.

His third element involves creating answers out of thin air.  This is what he calls being our own Socrates.  Creating questions enlivens our curiosity.  Answers to these questions can lead to new questions.  Very often the problem involves no formulating the correct question.  This element leads to our addressing the correct question.

The fourth element involves seeing the flow of ideas, by looking backward to understand how the current idea developed, and by looking forward to try to predict where the current idea will go.   At one time in human history, this flow of ideas was excruciatingly slow.  But in our current age of rapidly developing ideas advance quickly.  Consider the flow of ideas from the first personal computer to where we are today and try to predict where these ideas will go in the future.

The fifth element is to engage change and transform  yourself.  Ready about these ideas is a stimulating academic exercise, but the objective should be to transform ourselves by engaging personal change by using these ideas to transform ourselves.

Happy New Years 2016! Now What About Those Resolutions?

December 31, 2015

If you are not already growing a growth mindset or meditating (for example, the relaxation response), the recommendation is to start.  Should your already be growing a growth mindset or meditating, then please give consideration to pursuing those activities with greater vigor.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

One’s Negative View of Aging Increases Alzheimer’s Risk

December 11, 2015

An Article by Tara Bahrampour in the December 8 Washington Post summarizes two articles in the Journal Psychology and Aging.  This research shows that people who have negative beliefs about aging are more likely to have brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s.  They found that the volume of the hippocampus, measured by an MRI exam declined by three times as much among those who hold negative stereotypes about aging when compared with those who do not.  The hippocampus is a structure in the brain which is critical for memory.

The research participants were interviewed about their views on aging long  before the onset of dementia.  Here are some of the examples of the stereotypes believed by these individuals:
Old people are absent minded.
Old people are grouchy.
Old people can’t learn new things.

Readers of the healthy memory blog should be well aware that these stereotypes are false.  Readers of the healthy memory blog should also be well aware that one’s attitude is key in thwarting Alzheimer’s.  Remember the distinction between fixed and growth mindsets.  People having the above beliefs obviously have fixed mindsets.  However, those with growth mindsets would strongly disagree with these sentiments.  And those who are growing their growth mindsets would be even less prone to Alzheimer’s.

These articles also indicated that individuals holding these views showed symptoms of stress.  Stress can be reduced by practicing the Relaxation Response.

So beware of and debunk these negative views of aging.

You might want to read or reread the following healthy memory blogs:

The Myth of Alzheimer’s

The Myth of Cognitive Decline

I’m also reminded of a remark I overheard at work.  A man, who was apparently about to retire said, “When I retire I am going to to nothing—absolutely nothing.   If there are nothing but Lucy reruns on TV, then I’ll watch I Love Lucy.

Unfortunately, this man is a prime candidate for Alzheimer’s.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Keys to a Healthy Memory: Growth Mindsets and Mindfulness

October 22, 2015

The advice from the beginning of this blog has been to continually grow your mind as long as you live.  Even if the term growth mindset was not used, growth mindsets were what was implied.  What also became clear in Carol Dweck’s, Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success was that growth mindsets are key to effective interpersonal relationships, parenting, coaching, and business, virtually in every aspect of living.

MIndfulness provide a means of effectively dealing with life, better health, better interpersonal relations, and effective focus and control of attention.  Attention is key to learning, so it is also key to an effective growth mindset.  There have been many healthy memory posts on Mindfulness and you can anticipate many more in the future.

Similarly, you can anticipate many more posts on growth mindsets, but bear in mind that many previous posts have provided techniques and information for effective growth mindsets.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Finally, Hope on the Prediction Front

October 15, 2015

A previous healthy memory blog post, “Would You Rather Be Popular or Accurate,” summarized Philip Tetlock’s book, Expert Political Judgment.  Tetlock summarized several decades of research on experts’ political predictions.  He found that their predictions were virtually indistinguishable from chance, in other words these experts were not experts.  However, he was able to classify these experts into two categories, which he labeled hedgehogs and foxes.  Hedgehogs were characterized by big ideas.  In other words, they were ideologues.  However, the judgments of foxes were more nuanced with qualifications and conditions.  Even though the judgments of foxes were poor, they were still better than the judgments of hedgehogs.  What it is disturbing is that the hedgehogs get more air and print time, so we are wasting our time listening to these experts.  Nevertheless, these experts make a good living at being wrong.

Tetlock summarized his new research in Superforcasting:  The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner.  This research involved the recruitment of literally thousands of volunteers.  These  volunteers were given tasks such as predicting if and when, North Korea would conduct a nuclear test, if and when peace would break out in Iraq, if and when Iran would agree to a nuclear ban, etc.  The volunteers would research these topics and revise their predictions whenever they thought that new information warranted a revision.  The volunteers reported their predictions using subjective ratings.  Remember that these were volunteers working without pay.  Anyone could volunteer.  I believe that token gift certificates were presented.

This research was sponsored by the Intelligence Advanced Research Project Agency (IARPA).  I imagine that some readers are asking two questions.  One question might be why did IARPA not use expert intelligence experts?  The second question might be, why conduct all this research, why not simply ask the experts how they do their analysis?

With respect to the first question I would remind readers of the previous study, where presumable experts were not found to be experts.  There also  is no means of identifying the experts.  Most reports do not include subjective numerical estimates that are amenable to statistics.  Nor is their a system that tracks the accuracy of these reports.  Moreover, given Tetlock’s previous research where hedgehogs receive the attention and foxes are ignored, it might be that the wrong analysts are being promoted and receiving attention.  The foxes might be laboring ignored in obscurity.

With regard to the second question, the answer is that you could not rely on what they tell you.  The vast majority of cognitive processing occurs below our level of awareness, and research has shown that at times what people report is why they did something is not consistent with the empirical evidence (see the healthy memory blog post, “Strangers to Ourselves”).  To a certain extent it is as useful as asking someone how they ride a bicycle.

It was only a very small percentage of this group who could be classified as “superforecasters.”    Moreover, identifying this group presented statistical challenges.  The question was whether these high performers more knowledgeable or lucky.   After all, lottery winners are lucky individuals who are rewarded for doing something stupid.

What was characteristic of these superforecastors?  Well, first of all I believe that all participants could be regarded as having growth mindsets (see the immediately preceding post).    The supercasters tended to use relatively precise subjective estimates, which the frequently revised.  Moreover, these revisions were done in the spirit of Bayesian analysis (see the healthy memory blog post, “Organizing Information for the Hardest Decisions”), even if they didn’t explicitly use Bayes Theorem.   There are many more results and conclusions, but too many to summarize.  If interested, I recommend reading the book.

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