Cogni Chai Tea

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Creative Problem Solving: Think More Abstract

If you’re faced with a problem that you can’t seem to solve, sometimes what you need to do is step back and look at it in a different way.

Now you could step closer and look at more details. But for the purpose of this article, we’re going to step back and look at it from a more distant POV. This can often help you to come up with creative problem solving methods which are hidden from your eye when you’re looking at the details.

Read this post to find out more about it.

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The Downsides of Open Office Spaces

Open Offices do have benefits, but for most workers they aren’t the best work environment. Read this interesting article: Workplace Woes: The ‘Open’ Office Is a Hotbed of Stress

several decades of research have confirmed that open-plan offices are generally associated with greater employee stress, poorer co-worker relations and reduced satisfaction with the physical environment.

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Sleeping problems can be a real danger, particularly if it’s the pilot of a Boing 737 who is suffering from them – as a 2010 Air India plane crash demonstrated, which killed all but 8 of the 166 passengers on board. Even this year, 2012, sleepy pilots have almost caused two accidents in the air.

And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention around 20% of automobile accidents are caused by drowsy drivers.

U.S. military researchers have concluded that sleeplessness is one of the leading causes of friendly fire.

What’s The Cause Of Sleeping Disorders?

Many. But one big reason: artificial lighting.

A. Roger Ekirch spent nearly 20 years in the 1980s and ’90s investigating the history of the night.

He claims humans once slept like this:

go to sleep after sunset, wake up around midnight. Have an hour of praying, or sex, or whatever. And then go back to sleep again.

This segmented sleep reappears when people stop using artificial lighting. And can also be seen in primitive cultures.

Effects of Sleep Problems

Higher risk of: heart disease. obesity. Stroke. Certain cancers.

Theory: our bodies repair themselves on a cellular level during sleep.

Sleep also important for mental performance, learning & happiness.

Sleeping Pills

In one meta-analysis of sleeping pill studies sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and published in 2007, patients taking popular prescription sleeping pills fell asleep just 13 minutes faster than those given a sugar pill. They slept for a grand total of 11 minutes longer. People seem to overestimate the effectiveness of sleeping pills, partly because of the placebo effect, and partly because some of these pills cause short-term memory loss that leaves people believing they got better sleep than they actually did—they just don’t remember all their tossing and turning.

How To Get Better Sleep

Go to bed every night at same time.

Avoid the bluish light from computer screens, TVs, smartphones for at least 1h before bed (because brain interprets that light as sunlight).

Relaxation techniques improve sleep quality & quantity.

Source: Decoding the Science of Sleep, Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2012

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Creativity Post has published an interesting article titled Why Thinking Of Others Improves Your Creativity.

Besides perhaps savoring the moment of schadenfreude that comes with locking someone in an imaginary tower, such visualization also yields some insights into how to our own creativity works. It turns out, we’re more creative when we’re solving the problems of others rather than our own.

Professors Evan Polman and Kyle Emich asked 137 undergraduates the following riddle:

“A prisoner was attempting to escape from a tower. He found a rope in his cell that was half as long enough to permit him to reach the ground safely. He divided the rope in half, tied the two parts together, and escaped. How could he have done this?”

To cut a long story short: when we think of others, we’re more creative than we think of ourselves. This can help you to come up with creative problem solving solutions sometimes.

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Why You Can’t Move When You Dream: Paralyzing Chemicals

When you’re in a deep, dream-filled sleep there is something interesting that happens: your muscles become paralyzed.

That’s why you don’t act out what you dream – that’s why you don’t hit your partner in bed when you’re hitting someone in a dream, or why you don’t vividly move your legs when you’re running in a dream.

(Yes, there are occasional exceptions to this mechanism, but these are exceptions that prove the rule, because most of the time we don’t act out what we dream).

Scientists now have found out which chemicals are responsible for paralyzing our muscles during dreams.

University of Toronto researchers Patricia Brooks and John Peever cast a wider net. They focused on two different nerve receptors in the voluntary muscles, one called metabotropic GABAand one called ionotropic GABAA/glycine. The latter receptor responds to both glycine and a different communication chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, while the first responds to GABA and not glycine.

The researchers used drugs to “switch off” these receptors in rats and discovered that the only way to prevent sleep paralysis during REM was to shut both types off at the same time. What that means is that glycine alone isn’t enough to paralyze the muscles. You need GABA, too.

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Boost Creativity By Rethinking Labels

A scientifically validated creativity technique? That’s what Scientific American recently wrote about, and it’s not a creativity technique that I ever heard about before:

To become more inventive, new research suggests, we should start thinking about common items in terms of their component parts, decoupling their names from their uses.

When we think of an object—a candle, say—we tend to think of its name, appearance and purpose all at once. We have expectations about how the candle works and what we can do with it. Psychologists call this rigid thinking “functional fixedness.”

Tony McCaffrey, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, developed a two-step “generic parts technique,” which trains people to overcome functional fixedness. First, break down the items at hand into their basic parts, then name each part in a way that does not imply meaning. Using his technique, a candle becomes wax and string. Seeing the wick as a string is key: calling it a “wick” implies that its use is to be lit, but calling it a “string” opens up new possibilities.

Make sure that you pay attention to details like this – I tried it and it really is a very effective technique for thinking out of the box.

Subjects he trained in this technique readily mastered it and solved 67 percent more problems requiring creative insight than subjects who did not learn the technique, according to his study published in March in Psychological Science. For instance, when given metal rings and a candle and asked to connect the rings together, those who named the candle’s generic parts realized the wick could be used to tie up the rings. Another problem asked subjects to build a simple circuit board with a terminal, wires and a screwdriver—but the wires were too short. Those who renamed the shaft of the screwdriver a “four-inch length of metal” realized it could be used to bridge the gap and conduct electricity.

67% increase in creative problem solving? That’s about as awesome as it gets :)

McCaffrey has used his generic-parts technique to help engineers solve real-world industrial problems, and he is adapting it into a software program for professionals who need creative insight at work. But he also says the technique has been particularly useful in his everyday life. He noticed the back of a yard chair was a piece of sturdy, curved plastic, and he used it to shovel piles of leaves. He also realized he could use binder clips to secure a leaning sapling to the edge of his gutter. “Ask yourself the question: Does my description of the part imply a use?” McCaffrey explains. Remove “binder” from the description, and the “clip” suddenly seems limitless.

Even though the article points out how useful this creativity technique is for practical purposes, it can even be applied in artistic fields ranging from painting, to write to storytelling.

What’s your favorite creativity technique?

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One of Worlds Greatest Designers on Discovering Ideas vs. Creating Ideas

Being creative – is that actually about creating or is it about discovering?

According to George Lois it’s about discovering.

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Winners happy no matter what the price, losers happier with larger prices

We always love to learn new things about happiness.

the authors ran two experiments. In the first, 297 people on the Boston streets were given lottery tickets. They were asked to scratch off one side and received cash in the amount printed underneath-$1, $3, $5, or $7. Then they scratched off the other side, revealing either a higher or lower amount. Afterwards, they completed questionnaires rating their happiness, disappointment, or regret.

The “winners” (who got the bigger of two amounts) were, unsurprisingly, happier than the losers — but also equally happy with any prize. The losers’ happiness, by contrast, increased with the prize amounts.

That’s an interesting revelation – people’s brains seem to work their way to happiness one way or another.

In four trials, 31 participants were asked to memorize either a two- or an eight-digit number and choose one of two boxes with prize amounts ($3 or $5) inside, which were displayed on a screen. At the end, they were told, they’d receive the amount in one of their chosen boxes, randomly selected. Then both boxes opened. Unknown to the participants, the design made them all losers — they’d always pick the lesser amount. The combinations of memory difficulty — “cognitive load” — and cash received ($3 or $5) varied. In each trial, participants rated their feelings.

Again, larger prizes made these losers happier — but only when they had enough brainpower to think about it. Under higher cognitive load, they were glad to get either amount.

Source: Association for Psychological Science (2011, April 5). Happiness, comparatively speaking: How we think about life’s rewards. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 27, 2012, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­/releases/2011/04/110405161911.htm

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A New Book On Happiness: The Antidote by Oliver Burkeman

Here’s a booktrailer for a cool new book on happiness and positive psychology:

And here the book:

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