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- A former clandestine operative reveals a CIA method for reading an adversary's mind.
- Game theory exposes the two best tactics for winning a negotiation.
- If you're not a subscriber yet, join Big Think Edge today. Boost your analytical intelligence with our 7-day free trial.
This week, Big Think Edge is releasing three videos about getting inside the heads of people you need to understand better. Jamie Notter clears up what many people don't understand about millennials, Amaryllis Fox shares a great CIA technique for predicting an adversary's behavior, and Kevin Zollman puts you on top in negotiations.
Preparing for the millennial takeover: Understand the four trends that shaped a generation, with Jamie Notter
Maybe you're a millennial. Maybe you've been baffled by them. In either case, there's no denying the friction that often arises in the workplace between millennials and those who came before them. The insights of Jamie Notter, author of When Millennials Take Over, should resolve confusion and friction on all sides. Why are millennials the way they are? Notter's astute, eye-opening analysis of the world millennials know explains everything.
Available September 3 in Become a Better Manager
Win with red teaming: A case study in strategic empathy from inside the CIA, with Amaryllis Fox
To win in a conflict, it's imperative to see your adversary clearly. It's not always easy to do, especially when dealing with entrenched opposing mindsets, and in the 1980s the CIA developed "red teaming" to address this. Former clandestine CIA operative Amaryllis Fox explains how a "red cell" of CIA operatives were charged with getting inside the minds of Soviet leadership as deeply as possible, non-judgmentally assuming both their tactical and emotional perspectives. It proved to be an invaluable means of predicting their behavior. Stepping outside yourself to spend some time in an opponent's skin, explains Fox, is not only a great way to accomplish your goals — it's also a powerful personal-growth experience. Learn how to do it this week, at Big Think Edge.
"THE TRUTH IS, YOU ACTUALLY ARE FAR BETTER EQUIPPED TO GO AFTER THE PRAGMATIC, STRATEGIC WIN WHEN YOU KNOW HOW TO EXERCISE EMPATHY, AND CLIMB INTO THE PERSPECTIVE OF ANOTHER PERSON, PARTICULARLY YOUR ADVERSARY."
– AMARYLLIS FOX
Available September 4 in Boost Your Emotional Intelligence
The science of strategic thinking: Improve negotiation outcomes with 2 central principles from game theory, with Kevin Zollman
Game theorist and author of The Game Theorist's Guide to Parenting Kevin Zollman talks about how game theory tries to explain negotiations. It identifies simple principles that underlie what seems on the surface to be complex interaction. Two of these principles just happen to be the ones that typically determine whether you or the other person is going to win. Hint: They both involve positioning yourself to seem like the person who has the least to lose. Time to level-up your negotiating skills. Start your 7-day free trial of Big Think Edge to watch this lesson.
Available September 4 in Boost Your Analytical Intelligence
Big Think Edge releases Deep Dives!
This week marks a brand-new offering on the Big Think Edge platform: Deep Dives! Big Think Edge Deep Dives are four-step educational experiences that are made up of articles, videos, and activities. We'll be releasing three Deep Dives every week so there's more than ever to learn on Big Think Edge.
Our first three Deep Dives explain why Donald Trump, the "Disruptor in Chief", might be onto something when it comes to so-called dark emotional intelligence in negotiations; we look at how to welcome Gen Z into your strong intergenerational team; and you'll also learn how to use practical framework for making life's toughest decisions.
Partisanship can be seen in brain scans now.
- A new study shows brain activity differs between liberals and conservatives when they watch political videos.
- Brain activity differed between partisans when words tied to emotions, morality, or threats were used.
- The findings could help us understand how partisans process information, perhaps leading to new ways to bridging the divide.
Oh, a study on how the brains of people on the left and right are different! This shouldn't be controversial at all.<p> The <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/10/19/2008530117" target="_blank">study</a>, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, compared the stated political opinions of three dozen test subjects to their brain wave patterns while they watched videos about immigration policy. <br> <br> The researchers, led by <a href="https://ycleong.github.io/" target="_blank">Dr. Yuan Chang Leong</a>, determined the participants' ideologies by asking them how much they agreed or disagreed with proposed legislation. Each response was given a score, with lower values attached to stances considered liberal in the United States. </p><p>One such question was, "Would you support legislation that funds a wall along the US-Mexico border to reduce illegal immigration?" Those strongly agreeing were given a high score while those strongly disagreeing got a low score. The scores earned over six questions were used to place the participants on a scale from left to right. The questions had previously been tested on 300 people who identified as liberals, conservatives, or centrists to assure their accuracy. <br> <br> The test subjects then watched the previously mentioned videos.<br></p><p> While the parts of the brain dedicated to collecting sensory information reacted similarly for all of the test subjects, the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorsomedial_prefrontal_cortex" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">dorsomedial prefrontal cortex</a>, a part of the prefrontal cortex that deals with matters of identity, narratives, and morality, of liberals and conservatives reacted at different times. </p><p>Using an fMRI, the researchers saw that neural responses differed between liberals and conservatives as the videos' messages changed. More specifically, the brain's activity was stimulated by its response to messages concerning morality, emotions, or threats. The reactions to these terms were the points of greatest divergence. </p><p>A morality based message might be something like, "What are the fundamental ethical principles that are the basis of our society? Do no harm, and be compassionate, and this federal policy violates both of these principles." A threat-based statement might resemble, "I think it's very dangerous, because what we want is cooperation amongst the cities and the federal government to ensure that we have safety in our communities, and to ensure that our citizens are protected."<br> <br> Participants were asked to rate how much they agreed with each video and how likely it was to make them change their mind on anything after watching them. Curiously, the closer the subject's brain activity was to that of the "average" liberal or conservative of the study, the more likely they were to report that a video supporting those policies could make them change their <a href="https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/10/20/hot-button-words-trigger-conservatives-and-liberals-differently/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mind</a>. </p>
What does this all mean?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hg6XUYWj-pk" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Dr. Leong summarized the findings by <a href="https://news.berkeley.edu/2020/10/20/hot-button-words-trigger-conservatives-and-liberals-differently/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">saying</a>:<br> <br> "Our study suggests that there is a neural basis to partisan biases, and some language especially drives polarization. In particular, the greatest differences in neural activity across ideology occurred when people heard messages that highlight threat, morality and emotions."</p><p>This study suggests that partisanship impacts how our brains process specific terms and that political messaging relying on threat-based or ethics-based language cause partisans to interpret the message in very different ways. This processing also means that people with similar brains to other partisans are likely to be convinced by similar messages. <br><strong></strong></p><p><strong> </strong>The location of the differences in brain function, in the later, higher-level processing department of the brain rather than in the earlier, sensory detecting department, implies that polarization does not affect sensory processing. Additionally, the results do not imply that these effects are hardwired in our brains. </p>
How does it interact with what we already know?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/3RsCp-sVl20" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> These findings can be added to the list of studies that show that our political alignments might have something to do with how our brains process information. Non-partisans, often suggested to not be a real group of people, have measurably different brain activity than <a href="https://bigthink.com/mind-brain/non-partisan-brain" target="_self">partisans</a>. Brain scans show Democrats and Republicans used different parts of their brains when playing a gambling <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27213-brain-scans-predict-political-party.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">game</a>. <br></p><p>Dr. Leong hopes to use this information to build better models of how the brain processes political information. Perhaps someday, these models can help us understand how to talk to each other without using these trigger words. <br> </p><p>Politics is becoming increasingly polarized in several countries all around the world. The causes for it are still up for debate, and ways to help narrow the gaps between people are still being investigated. An increasing number of studies suggest that some of it comes down to how our brains function. </p><p> While the idea of polarization being tied to how our brains work probably won't come as a comfort to most people, the ability to identify precisely what is happening when people have polarized reactions is a step forward, as it offers a chance to understand what the other side is doing when we disagree. Perhaps someday soon, this will translate to better ways to reach across the aisle and more productive conversations informed by neuroscience. </p>
Tea and coffee have known health benefits, but now we know they can work together.
Credit: NIKOLAY OSMACHKO from Pexels
- A new study finds drinking large amounts of coffee and tea lowers the risk of death in some adults by nearly two thirds.
- This is the first study to suggest the known benefits of these drinks are additive.
- The findings are great, but only directly apply to certain people.
Maybe you should enjoy this article with a cup of coffee or tea.<p> The <a href="https://drc.bmj.com/content/8/1/e001252?T=AU" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">study</a> involved 4,923 type 2 diabetics living in Japan. The average participant was 66 years old. All of the participants were taken from the rolls of the Fukuoka Diabetes Registry, a study geared at learning about the effects of new treatments and lifestyle changes on the health of diabetics. <br> <br> The participants filled out questionnaires concerning their health, diet, habits, and other factors. Among the questions were two focused on determining how much green tea or coffee, if any, the participants consumed over the course of a week. The health of the participants was recorded for five years. During this time, 309 of the test subjects died from a variety of causes. <br> <br> Subjects who drank more than one cup of tea or coffee per day demonstrated lower odds of dying than those who had none. Those who consumed the most tea and coffee, more than four and two cups a day, respectively, enjoyed the most significant reductions in their risk of death. This level of consumption was associated with a 40 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/10/201020190129.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p><p>Most interestingly, the effects of drinking tea and coffee appear to combine to reduce risk even further. Those who reported drinking two or three cups of tea a day and two or more cups of coffee were 51 percent less likely to die during the study, while those who drank a whopping four or more cups of tea and two or more cups of coffee had a 63 percent lower risk of <a href="https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/diabetes-coffee-and-green-tea-might-reduce-death-risk" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. </p>
So, should I start swimming in a vat of coffee and green tea?<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/LY0E-JQxeoY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Not quite. </p><p> The primary takeaway from this study is that Japanese adults with type 2 diabetes who drink a lot of green tea and/or coffee die less often than similar people who do not. If this effect is caused by something in the drink, lifestyle choices people who drink that much tea all make, or something else remains unknown. The finding must be considered an association at this point. <br> <br> The eye-popping reductions in mortality rates are compared to the risk of death of others in the study. The people who died reported drinking less tea and coffee than those who lived. Unless you have several demographic and conditional similarities to the subjects of this study, you probably won't suddenly be at a two-thirds lower risk of death than your peers because you drink green tea. </p><p> Like all studies that depend on self-reporting, it is also possible that people misstated how much they consumed any one item. The study also did not look into other factors like socioeconomic status or education level, also known to impact death rates and potentially linked to coffee and tea consumption. </p><p> However, it is yet another study in the pile that suggests that <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-13-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">coffee</a> and <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/top-10-evidence-based-health-benefits-of-green-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">green tea</a> are good for you. That much is increasingly <a href="https://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/health-benefits-linked-to-drinking-tea" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">agreed</a><a href="https://www.rush.edu/health-wellness/discover-health/health-benefits-coffee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> upon</a>. This study also suggests the benefits are additive, which is a new development.</p><p><br> So, while it isn't time to start the IV drip of green tea, a cup or two probably won't <a href="https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20201022/coffee-green-tea-might-extend-life-for-folks-with-type-2-diabetes" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hurt</a>. </p>
Think you can solve it? One mathematician has already offered about $1,000 and a bottle of champagne to whoever cracks it first.
- The puzzle involves a particularly complicated type of magic square.
- Magic squares are square arrays containing distinct numbers, and the sums of the numbers in the columns, rows and diagonals must be equal.
- In 1996, the recreational mathematics writer Martin Gardner offered $100 to whoever could solve a 3x3 magic square — but using squared numbers.
docdroid.net<p>Given that you need each column, row and diagonal to add up to 15, you'd need to fill in the empty squares with a 9, 7 and 8. </p>
docdroid.net<p>That may be easy enough. But magic squares become far more difficult when they use squared numbers, a concept <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/can-you-solve-a-puzzle-unsolved-since-1996/" target="_blank">first exemplified</a> by the 18th-century mathematician Leonhard Euler. </p><p>Since, mathematicians have generated various configurations of 4x4 magic squares of squares, including 5x5, 6x6 and 7x7 versions. But nobody has yet proven that a 3x3 magic square of squares is possible — or impossible, for that matter.</p><p>To date, there have been at least two prizes offered to whoever can solve this longstanding puzzle. Martin Gardner, a science and mathematics writer who was perhaps best known for devising recreational mathematics games that appeared for 25 years in a column published by <em>Scientific American,</em> offered a prize of $100 in 1996 to whoever could crack the code first. </p><ul> <p>"So far no one has come forward with a "square of squares"—but no one has proved its impossibility either," Gardner wrote in 1998 in <em><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/a-quarter-century-of-recreational-m-2010-05-26/" target="_blank">Scientific American</a></em>. "If it exists, its numbers would be huge, perhaps beyond the reach of today's fastest supercomputers."</p></ul>
Melancholia I. (A 4x4 magic square is depicted in the top right of the painting.)
Dürer's<p>In 2005, the mathematician Christian Boyer raised the stakes by offering €1,000 plus a bottle of champagne to anyone who could complete a 3x3 magic square of squares — using seven, eight or nine distinct squared integers. (Boyer also offered a prize for anyone who can show the puzzle is impossible, and he lists smaller prizes for other unsolved puzzles on his <a href="http://multimagie.com/indexengl.htm" target="_blank">website</a>.)</p><p>While both prizes remain unclaimed, some people have come close to solving the 3x3 magic square of squares, like this configuration listed on Christian Boyer's website.</p>
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