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6 lessons to supercharge your communication and collaboration skills
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- Big Think Edge videos this week focus on optimizing your effectiveness with other individuals, one-on-one and in a group setting.
- Three complementary Deep Dives offer more insights to help you get along with others, and to help them feel empowered interacting with you.
- If you're not a subscriber yet, join Big Think Edge today. Take our 7-day free trial — test it out. You can cancel any time.
At Big Think Edge this week, Reza Aslan explains the frustrating fact that facts don't change people's minds. Luckily, he also reveals what you can do about it. Shane Snow explains how to unlock the hidden genius of collaboration in diverse teams, and Charles Duhigg presents emotionally intelligent methods for fully empowering team members.
Constructing powerful arguments: Wield your data in an emotional way, with Reza Aslan
Facts alone don't change people's minds, says religious scholar and author Reza Aslan. We respond more readily to emotion. It's the reason that your most persuasive facts may be of frustratingly little use in winning an argument. Your opponent isn't fact-averse—you're just not connecting. Azlan explains how to wrap your facts in emotion if you want to change someone's point of view.
"PEOPLE ARE MUCH MORE IMPACTED BY EMOTION THAN THEY ARE BY DATA."
— REZA ASLAN
Available September 23 in Boost Your Analytical Intelligence
Harness your team's mental toolkit, with Shane Snow
It turns out, says Shane Snow, two heads aren't actually better than one. Groups are slower than individuals, and only as smart as their smartest member. Still, collaboration is often essential for large, difficult tasks. So if it's not speed or sheer brainpower that teams deliver, what's the point? Snow explains that collaborations develop a unique capacity for devising outstanding solutions when they utilize the diversity of members' individual perspectives and skills.
Available September 25 in Become a Better Leader
The science of productivity: Create psychological safety, with Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg, author of Smarter Faster Better, recalls how the millions of dollars Google spent analyzing the precise makeup of their most successful teams wound up revealing another, more important factor than their composition: Creating a safe emotional space in which each team member—not just the star performers—can do their best work. Duhigg lays out how to build the requisite social sensitivity into a team's norms, and offers a compelling example of what can happen when it's done right.
"PSYCHOLOGICAL SAFETY IS THE SINGLE GREATEST DETERMINANT IN WHETHER A TEAM COMES TOGETHER OR WHETHER IT FALLS APART."
— CHARLES DUHIGG
Available September 26 in Become a Better Leader
This week's Big Think Edge Deep DivesSaturday Night Live
In this week's Big Think Edge Deep Dives, we explore group dynamics. We talk about how great decision-making requires the ability to first to sort out the facts, what to do to break creative logjams in groups that lack a diversity of perspectives, and take a look at how producer Lorne Micheals' emotional intelligence has been the behind-the-scenes secret to Saturday Night Live's success.
Viewing art that doesn't look like anything makes your brain take extra steps to try and get it.
- A new study finds that viewing modern art causes real cognitive changes in the viewer.
- Abstract art causes to viewer to place more psychological distance between themselves and the art than with more typical works.
- Exactly how this works is not yet known
Abstract art alters your cognitive state? Kandinsky would be proud to hear it.<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="SlxuWYpH" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6729aae7d0a5a84ff0da7d8a99104a1"> <div id="botr_SlxuWYpH_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SlxuWYpH-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/SlxuWYpH-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/SlxuWYpH-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p><a href="https://link.springer.com/referenceworkentry/10.1007%2F978-94-007-0753-5_2306#:~:text=Psychological%20distance%20is%20a%20cognitive,persons%2C%20events%2C%20or%20times." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Psychological distance</a> is the mental distance you place between yourself and other people, things, times, and events. We tend to view abstract notions as very distant and concrete thoughts as very close. Likewise, events that are occurring tomorrow are often more "real" to us than things happening next <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Construal_level_theory" target="_blank">year</a>.</p><p>As an example of how we all use this, imagine that you've made plans to spend the day go-karting with your friends. If it is a month away, you might focus on the general details like how much fun you'll have. If it is tomorrow, your focus might be on small details like the logistics of getting there. The first event is psychologically and temporally distant, so we tend to view it abstractly; the second case is the opposite.</p><p>For this <a href="https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/abstract-art-mindset-study" target="_blank">experiment</a>, the researchers gathered 840 test subjects to test how the viewing of abstract art related to how psychologically closely or distantly they viewed it. </p><p>The test subjects were asked to view artworks defined as purely abstract, having a clearly defined object, or partly abstract with a definable object. They were then asked to imagine that they were going to decide where to place the painting on display. They could either put it in a gallery "around the corner" or "in another state." The date of the showing could either be "tomorrow" or "in a year."</p><p>The subjects were substantially more likely to choose to place the abstract works in a distant gallery in the future than to do the same with the more grounded works. This tendency to associate abstract art with faraway places or times, even after controlling for how much people liked the artwork in question, indicates that we tend to place psychological distance between ourselves and abstract art. </p><p>Study Co-Author Daphna Shohamy generalized these findings for <a href="https://cosmosmagazine.com/people/behaviour/evocations-of-abstract-art/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Cosmos</a>:</p><p>"This means that art has an effect on our general cognitive state that goes beyond how much we enjoy it, to change the way we perceive events and make decisions."</p><p>This study, published in the <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/07/29/2001772117" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, points in the same direction as previous investigations into how we interact with abstract art. One <a href="https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21734876/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer dofollow">2011 study</a> tracked the eye movements of people viewing representational art and those considering the work of Jackson Pollack and found that people tend to view all of an abstract work as they scour it for meaning as opposed to focusing on small details in a more representational painting. </p><p>Exactly how abstract art causes our brain to take a step back when considering it is a subject for further research.</p><p>The notion that a work of art must evoke a particular reaction from the viewer is the subject of some debate, though it is unlikely that many of the people advocating for that idea had the findings of this study in mind. While this study won't settle any debates in aesthetics or make a modern art lover out of everybody, it might lead to new understandings of how art affects the viewer and serve as a reminder of how much artwork and beauty influence the mind. </p>
A clever new study definitively measures how long it takes for quantum particles to pass through a barrier.
- Quantum particles can tunnel through seemingly impassable barriers, popping up on the other side.
- Quantum tunneling is not a new discovery, but there's a lot that's unknown about it.
- By super-cooling rubidium particles, researchers use their spinning as a magnetic timer.
When it comes to weird behavior, there's nothing quite like the quantum world. On top of that world-class head scratcher entanglement, there's also quantum tunneling — the mysterious process in which particles somehow find their way through what should be impenetrable barriers.
Exactly why or even how quantum tunneling happens is unknown: Do particles just pop over to the other side instantaneously in the same way entangled particles interact? Or do they progressively tunnel through? Previous research has been conflicting.
That quantum tunneling occurs has not been a matter of debate since it was discovered in the 1920s. When IBM famously wrote their name on a nickel substrate using 35 xenon atoms, they used a scanning tunneling microscope to see what they were doing. And tunnel diodes are fast-switching semiconductors that derive their negative resistance from quantum tunneling.
Nonetheless, "Quantum tunneling is one of the most puzzling of quantum phenomena," says Aephraim Steinberg of the Quantum Information Science Program at Canadian Institute for Advanced Research in Toronto to Live Science. Speaking with Scientific American he explains, "It's as though the particle dug a tunnel under the hill and appeared on the other."
Steinberg is a co-author of a study just published in the journal Nature that presents a series of clever experiments that allowed researchers to measure the amount of time it takes tunneling particles to find their way through a barrier. "And it is fantastic that we're now able to actually study it in this way."
Frozen rubidium atoms
Image source: Viktoriia Debopre/Shutterstock/Big Think
One of the difficulties in ascertaining the time it takes for tunneling to occur is knowing precisely when it's begun and when it's finished. The authors of the new study solved this by devising a system based on particles' precession.
Subatomic particles all have magnetic qualities, and they spin, or "precess," like a top when they encounter an external magnetic field. With this in mind, the authors of the study decided to construct a barrier with a magnetic field, causing any particles passing through it to precess as they did so. They wouldn't precess before entering the field or after, so by observing and timing the duration of the particles' precession, the researchers could definitively identify the length of time it took them to tunnel through the barrier.
To construct their barrier, the scientists cooled about 8,000 rubidium atoms to a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. In this state, they form a Bose-Einstein condensate, AKA the fifth-known form of matter. When in this state, atoms slow down and can be clumped together rather than flying around independently at high speeds. (We've written before about a Bose-Einstein experiment in space.)
Using a laser, the researchers pusehd about 2,000 rubidium atoms together in a barrier about 1.3 micrometers thick, endowing it with a pseudo-magnetic field. Compared to a single rubidium atom, this is a very thick wall, comparable to a half a mile deep if you yourself were a foot thick.
With the wall prepared, a second laser nudged individual rubidium atoms toward it. Most of the atoms simply bounced off the barrier, but about 3% of them went right through as hoped. Precise measurement of their precession produced the result: It took them 0.61 milliseconds to get through.
Reactions to the study
Scientists not involved in the research find its results compelling.
"This is a beautiful experiment," according to Igor Litvinyuk of Griffith University in Australia. "Just to do it is a heroic effort." Drew Alton of Augustana University, in South Dakota tells Live Science, "The experiment is a breathtaking technical achievement."
What makes the researchers' results so exceptional is their unambiguity. Says Chad Orzel at Union College in New York, "Their experiment is ingeniously constructed to make it difficult to interpret as anything other than what they say." He calls the research, "one of the best examples you'll see of a thought experiment made real." Litvinyuk agrees: "I see no holes in this."
As for the researchers themselves, enhancements to their experimental apparatus are underway to help them learn more. "We're working on a new measurement where we make the barrier thicker," Steinberg said. In addition, there's also the interesting question of whether or not that 0.61-millisecond trip occurs at a steady rate: "It will be very interesting to see if the atoms' speed is constant or not."
Ready to see the future? Nanotronics CEO Matthew Putman talks innovation and the solutions that are right under our noses.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
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