How our bodies and minds work in tandem.
“In school, in work, and in our relationships, how we act has a big effect on how we think,” writes Beilock (Psychology/Univ. of Chicago; Choke: What the Secrets of the Brain Reveal About Getting It Right When You Have To, 2010). As such, the author rejects the comparison of the human mind to a computer. “[J]ust as most software can run on any platform,” she writes, “seeing the mind as a computer…makes our body and physical experiences inconsequential, like tech support. Thinking is reduced to a programming language, the manipulation of symbols by rules, that are carried out by hardware, not influenced by it.” Supporting her argument with a combination of experimental evidence and homespun anecdotes, the author gives a new twist on the old adage, “Grin and bear it.” Botox, ordinarily injected for cosmetic purposes to obliterate frown marks, can help alleviate persisting depression. Another example is the fad of laughter clubs, where the evening starts with forced laughter that then becomes “spontaneous and contagious.” Forcing a smile or a laugh can actually help to change mood—“our body has a direct line to our mind, telling us how to feel.” Beilock cites experimental evidence on the positive effects of exercise on mood, mental acuity and preserving cognitive function as we age. Research also shows a direct link among perception, cognition and physical experience—e.g. learning to crawl is correlated to increased cognitive capability, but “baby walkers have been linked to delays in hitting cognitive milestones,” associated with learning caution; the child lacks the learning experience involved with failed attempts to walk. Evidence also shows that children enhance their reading skills by printing as well as saying the letters of the alphabet and benefit by using their fingers when mastering arithmetic.
Wide-ranging, informative and entertaining, especially for parents and educators.