Faking Sleep Affects Performance

By Anupum Pant

A couple of days back I talked about how standing for a few seconds in a superman position could increase your level of confidence and could help you ace interviews. Today it’s time again to look at a technique to increase performance by fooling your body.

First of all, you need to stop thinking you didn’t sleep well today. That is because the mere act of thinking you slept well makes you perform well. It’s been proven.

In a group where everyone got equal sleep, half of the people were just told by “experts” that they had 29% REM sleep (which is better) and the other half were told that they had only 16% REM sleep (that actually decreases performance). The catch was, they all had slept for equal times and everyone would have had more or less equal percentages of REM cycles. Only, they were told wrong things by “experts”.

This word of mouth coming from the “experts” actually affected the performance of these two groups. The group that was told they had a greater percentage of REM sleep performed well. And the group that was told they did sleep as well as the first group didn’t perform as good. I’m assuming both the groups were first informed about how the percentage of REM sleep affects performance.

So, stop cribbing about how tired and sleepy you  are.

Cockroaches and Activation Theory

By Anupum Pant

Robert Zajonc, a Polish-born American social psychologist proposed an activation Theory for social facilitation. Sounds tough, but read on. His first theory, in simple words, tried to explain the way our performance at some tasks increases in the presence of others, while the performance at some other tasks decreases.

According to him, the presence of other individuals around you serves as a source of “arousal” and affects performance (in good ways some times and bad ways the other times).

When this happens, he said, humans tend to do well at tasks which they are inherently good at, or tasks which they’ve practised well, or easy tasks which involve very little conscious cognitive effort. While the performance at other complex tasks, which aren’t well-learned is affected negatively, when there are other people watching you.

More interestingly, he also pointed that this change in performance isn’t only seen among humans.  An experiment that involved several cockroaches effectively proved this.

In two different cases, a cockroach was put in an easy maze to run around and find an exit. The first case had just the one cockroach running around in the maze. It did fine. But in the second case when there were other cockroaches watching the cockroach who was running in the maze, it ran faster. A clear increase in performance was noted in this easy maze.

Interestingly, when the difficulty of this maze was increased (it was a complex task now), as Robert had predicted, the cockroach’s performance decreased when other cockroaches were watching.

The Art of Forgetting

By Anupum Pant

At school we were expected to remember things. Every single piece of misplaced information in your brain costed you points  in tests. You couldn’t afford to forget – The very mental pressure which caused panic and made you forget things!

Turns out, there is a forgetting protein in our brains called Musashi. It messes with the way nerve cells in the brain communicate with each other – basically makes you forget stuff.

Scientists have, genetically modified ringworms to clear Musashi off their brains. As expected, the Musashi free ringworms remembered things much better and were far less forgetful. [read more]

So, can’t we just do the same to our brains and never ever forget?  No, we can’t. If we did, we’d have our brains filled with information and there’d be no space to learn new things. We forget for a reason and it is totally normal. It’s probably high time that the educations system at schools be modified to embrace what is only natural – in fact, like  Vanessa Hill says in this new video from the BrainCraft channel, forgetting actually helps you remember!