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Are brain teasers and apps a waste of time?
Recent research shows that brain teasers don't make you smarter and don't belong in job interviews because they don't reflect real-world problems.
- There is little research to prove that brain games improve general cognition or slow cognitive decline. Rather they simply make you better at playing that specific brain game.
- Brain teasers are a useless tool during job interviews as they can't predict how an interviewee will perform in real world tasks relevant to the job role.
- Exercise, nutrition, socialization, and meditation are probably better brain boosters.
Brain training apps and programs have sky-rocketed into a billion-dollar market over the past decade. While the promise of revving up intelligence is certainly alluring, the research as to whether or not they actually do anything for your cognitive abilities is dubious.
Why brain training apps dont boost cognition
A 2017 study conducted by a team of psychologists at Florida State University sought to learn whether brain training games could boost "working memory" in subjects, and consequently the cognitive abilities of reasoning, memory, and processing speed. One group of participants played a brain-training video game called "Mind Frontiers," while another group played crossword games or number puzzles.
"Our findings and previous studies confirm there's very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way," said Wally Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline at FSU who was involved in the study. Another 2017 report monitoring the cognitive skills, brain activity, and decision-making abilities of young adults, concluded that brain-training games "do not boost cognition."
What brain games likely do is make you better at playing that specific brain game. Learning is the result of two potential processes that happen to neuron cells in the brain. One is called "long term potentiation," in which already existing connections between neurons are strengthened by firing together in reaction to incoming signals. The other is called "dendritic spine growth." In this process, neurons form new connections with each other by wiring together through a process in which the surface area of dendrites (antenna-like structures that make up the receiving end of a neuron) increases allowing for more neurons to connect with one another.
In short, "cells that fire together wire together," and when you play brain games, neural connections in the brain network that are engaged while performing the tasks in the game are strengthened. Thus, you may become a genius at solving a particular word puzzle, but there is little evidence to suggest that you will become any better at other puzzles, let alone enhance your cognitive abilities in general. And because those puzzles are so decontextualized from situations you would likely encounter in real life, they are probably useless.
This was backed up by a 2018 study in which neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario, Canada, investigated if the cognitive skills acquired from brain-training tasks could be transferred to other tasks that engage the same brain regions. They found no evidence to support that idea. In fact, video games may do more for your brain.
Brain teasers don't reflect future job performanceGoogle logo
So brain puzzles may not do much to boost IQ, but does the ability to work through brain teasers predict intellect or job performance? Afterall, Google, once notorious for its use of brain teasers in job interviews, decided they were "a complete waste of time" years ago. (A list of some of the tech giant's interview questions can be found here, for those curious.)
"They don't predict anything," Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google, told the New York Times in 2013. "They serve primarily to make the interviewer feel smart."
The reason is that while the brain teasers may measure how fast an individual can generate a smart or accurate solution to an abstract problem under pressure, they have little to do with future problems the employee will encounter in the job. Furthermore, the environment in which the brain teaser is asked favors certain personality traits that may be irrelevant to job performance and which do not necessarily reflect intelligence. For example, an introvert whose nerves may impede his or her ability to communicate a quick and creative solution in the context of a job interview. Or, perhaps, a detail, sensory-oriented individual whose problem-solving strength lies in tangible and immediate situations rather than abstract imaginings.
In short, an employee who can come up with high quality ideas and solutions in situations relevant to a specific job role is far more valuable than one who can come up with a fast idea to a brain teaser that has nothing to do with the company's goals.
Better brain boosters
The science on brain training games and teasers is a mixed bag. However, if you're looking for more effective ways to boost your cognition or prevent cognitive decline, here are some that are better backed by research:
- Run or walk. Several studies have suggested that the parts of the brain that govern thinking and memory are greater in volume in individuals who regularly exercise as opposed to those who don't. What's more, some research has found that engaging in regular exercise of moderate intensity over six months to a year is correlated with an increase in the volume of selected brain regions. Most of this research has focused on aerobic exercise.
- Meditate. Multiple studies have shown that regular mindfulness meditation increases grey matter in the brain, which equates with more neuronal activity and better performance, in certain areas. Research has also found that mindfulness meditation improves cognition.
- Socialize. Frequent social activity may help to delay cognitive decline in old age and boost current cognition. This is because social situations and the development of relationships requires our minds to engage multiple neural networks that are relevant to healthy daily function.
- Prioritize nutrition. "Brain-boosting" foods like fish, dark chocolate, antioxidant-rich berries, and foods with B vitamins like eggs can help build and repair brain cells.
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
Scientists find that bursts of gamma rays may exceed the speed of light and cause time-reversibility.
- Astrophysicists propose that gamma-ray bursts may exceed the speed of light.
- The superluminal jets may also be responsible for time-reversibility.
- The finding doesn't go against Einstein's theory because this effect happens in the jet medium not a vacuum.
Jet bursting out of a blazar. Black-hole-powered galaxies called blazars are the most common sources detected by NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.
Cosmic death beams: Understanding gamma ray bursts<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="cu2knVEk" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="c6cfd20fdf31c82cb206ade8ce21ba3f"> <div id="botr_cu2knVEk_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/cu2knVEk-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/cu2knVEk-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Researchers dramatically improve the accuracy of a number that connects fundamental forces.
- A team of physicists carried out experiments to determine the precise value of the fine-structure constant.
- This pure number describes the strength of the electromagnetic forces between elementary particles.
- The scientists improved the accuracy of this measurement by 2.5 times.
The process for measuring the fine-structure constant involved a beam of light from a laser that caused an atom to recoil. The red and blue colors indicate the light wave's peaks and troughs, respectively.
Scientists at Washington University are patenting a new electrolyzer designed for frigid Martian water.
- Mars explorers will need more oxygen and hydrogen than they can carry to the Red Planet.
- Martian water may be able to provide these elements, but it is extremely salty water.
- The new method can pull oxygen and hydrogen for breathing and fuel from Martian brine.