Language shapes thinking, pitfalls in public speaking, how to argue, ditching Google Maps and the futility of looking for happiness
World wide wanderings, in batches of five … or, “Cultural Learnings of the Internet for Make Benefit Glorious Readers of Medium” (with profound thanks and apologies to Sacha Baron Cohen and Borat)
1: How language shapes the way we think
What’s up? There are about 7,000 languages spoken around the world — and they all have different sounds, vocabularies and structures. But do they shape the way we think?
What’s new? In this video, cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky shares examples of language that suggest the answer is a resounding yes. The beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is.
So what? Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000.
2: 7 Habits to avoid while speaking in public
What’s up? Every speaker needs to be credible. Sometimes your credibility has as much to do with your behaviour as it does with the message itself.
What’s new? Here’s a list of 7 common bad habits to watch out for.
3: The best and the worst ways to argue: 7 levels
What’s up? Disagreement is a far more common form of response to statements and arguments. Agreeing tends to motivate people less than disagreeing; when you agree there’s less to say.
What’s new? When we disagree, we should be careful to do it well. Most of us can tell the difference between crude name-calling and a carefully reasoned refutation, but it would help to put labels on the intermediate stages. Here’s an outline for a disagreement hierarchy based on 2 elements: the quality of the statement(s) used and the underlying emotion that accompanies the disagreement.
4: Ditching Google Maps et al: the lost secrets of natural navigation
What’s up? We had thousands of years of wanting to get from A to B in the most expedient way possible. But now we can get between places incredibly efficiently without actually noticing what we are doing.
What’s new? There are potentially 11 million pieces of information hitting our brain every second but our brain filters out 99.9% of it. Simply by being more attuned to this information, we can put together an almanac of tricks and tips that we’ve lost over the years.
So what? We can regain the “sixth sense”: our innate ability to scan the landscape and anticipate what might happen next.
5: The futility of looking for happiness — in the brain
What’s up? Can we use MRI scanners to see where happiness comes from in the brain? When fMRI was developed, back in the ’90s, there was a lot of what was called “Blobology”: putting people in scanners and hunting around for “Blobs” of activity in the brain. It’s viewing the brain like a car engine; the idea that each brain region must do one thing and one thing only.
What’s new? The question is not ‘Where is happiness in the brain?’ The better question is ‘How does the brain support happiness? What networks and processes are used to give rise to it?’” All parts of the brain are active, all the time. That’s how the brain works. The question is how much more active are these certain regions, and is it significantly more active than it usually is?.
So what? If we are hoping to use some high-tech wizardry to locate where happiness was coming from in the brain, we will be left reeling with the myriad problems of advanced science, and feeling distinctly unhappy about it.