If you need to boost your brain power for an important task that demands working memory, self-monitoring, and the ability to suppress external and internal distractions, you now have an excuse to procrastinate by engaging in a pleasant chat with friends. A recent University of Michigan study indicates that friendly conversations boost executive function while competitive interactions don’t.
Psychologist Oscar Ybarra, a researcher at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and the lead author of the study, tested 192 undergraduates to determine which types of social interactions helped the brain power – and which didn’t. After brief, 10-minute conversations in which participants were simply instructed to get to know another person, the subjects improved their performance on a variety of cognitive tasks. Conversations that were more competitive in nature didn’t result in similar performance boosts. Ybarra explained:
“We believe that performance boosts come about because some social interactions induce people to try to read others’ minds and take their perspectives on things. And we also find that when we structure even competitive interactions to have an element of taking the other person’s perspective, or trying to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, there is a boost in executive functioning as a result.”
It sounds like trying to understand other people boosts brain power, and empathy may even give your executive function a competitive edge.
Much discussion around personal brands focuses on the story and messages we want to communicate to our audience. Such intentional strategy is important and necessary, but it is equally important to accept that it’s not your intentions that form your personal brand, it’s the perceptions you create in the minds of others. These perceptions are formed in part by what you say and how you act, but also by how people experience you and how you make them feel. Do you feel like your brand supporters are part of your tribe? Do you take time to get to know and understand them better?
A recent study on how the brain processes social interactions indicates that the brain responds stronger to close friends than to strangers who share our interests, views and beliefs. Study participants who were asked to make judgments about themselves and their friends experienced increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain area associated with the perception of value and the regulation of social behavior, regardless of whether the friends shared similar views as the participants. Judgments about unfamiliar others with common interests did not result in the same brain activation pattern. In other words, social closeness trumps similarity when it comes to evaluating people and assessing personal relevancy of social interactions.
Your personal brand is relevant as long as others perceive you as socially and personally relevant. The implication from the study is that if you want to strengthen your personal brand, perhaps, you are better off if you focus on nurturing the closeness of your human connections than on the perfection of your message. It sounds contrary to the traditional wisdom but may be more in tune with how the brain evaluates social relevance.
What do you think?