Politics- How does your brain work?

ScreenHunter_01 Jul. 04 07.24

As we enter the closing phases of this presidential election cycle, A question kept popping into my head that I’ve been trying to understand.

Why is it that people cling to certain political views even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?

During some recent research on child abuse, I stumbled across something that may have shed some light on the topic.

This study was conducted during the 2004 presidential election cycle.  The group which contained people who identified themselves either as committed Democrats or committed Republicans.  They showed these subjects contradictory statements from both ends of the political spectrum.

As I would have expected, those that identified themselves as Republicans were quick to point out the contradictions of the Democrats and glossed over or diminished the contractions of the Republicans.  Similar results were found with the Democrat subjects.

What I found very interesting was the imaging results, which revealed that the part of the brain most associating with reasoning was dormant.  The most active areas were involved in processing emotions, conflict resolution and making judgments about moral accountability.

Most fascinating to me was the fact that once subjects had arrived at the conclusion that made them emotionally comfortable the part of the brain which is related to reward and pleasure was stimulated.

Not only did people fail to use reason, they suppressed contradictory information and then actively sought a resolution to the information that created pleasure.

This explains a lot!

It’s amazing how insights to certain questions can be found right in front of us at times.

I will work hard to fight off the urge to process information based on emotions and will strive to use reason and evidence.  Better insights and better decisions can almost certainly be the result.

As a society, I wonder when we will be able to come to a point where we can use reason in how we can discuss and think through difficult issues?

The sooner the better.

Be well.

Study – Neural basis of motivated reasoning








5 suggestions for youth to help stand out in a crowd

cell phone meme

Recently I was asked by a much younger colleague what advice I would give to someone like him to help him stand out and be noticed.

My first reaction was to try to shy away from this kind of thing.

Who the heck am I to be giving anyone advice?

I’m still trying to figure things out myself.

The more I’ve been learning, the more I’m realizing how little I really know.

Plus, in my past, I struggled with listening to someone who was trying to provide helpful advice. (Who were they anyway to give me advice?).

Nevertheless, I figured I’d step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.

Here are five that came to mind.

There are probably dozens of others that deeper and more complex.

However, I figured why overcomplicate things?

Let’s keep it simple to start.

  1. Try looking up from your device more often.

Devices are here to stay. Eliminating them doesn’t seem practical or helpful.

Yet, we are spending a lot of time looking down at them these days aren’t we?

Your improved posture will stand out. You will be just a little taller and in likely better health over the long term.

You get the benefit of enjoying your surroundings.

Not only will you bump into things less often, but you will be different than most.

  1. Try getting comfortable having more face to face conversations.

Interpersonal connections can be greatly enhanced when you are looking directly at the other person. There seems to be something special and unique about seeing facial expressions, experiencing the body language, the style of the clothes and smell of the perfume/cologne.

Opportunities to do this form of communication seem to happen less often now (and they will increase when you look up from your device more often).

Developing this capability further will not only help someone be more distinct, it will allow the opportunity for more in-depth relationships and a more fulfilling life experience.

  1. Try starting sentences with a word other than “So..”

My preference would be to drop the vocal pause altogether.

Given that you absolutely must have one, try another one.

Any other one.

It will at least be different.

  1. Try ending sentences with a word other than “… Right”

See #3 above.

  1. Try listening a little more, with higher quality

Our world is more and more interconnected at an increasing rate.

There seems to be a lot of exchanges (talking and writing) going on.

Communication? Perhaps not as much.

Communication to me requires an engaged exchange where each is connected with an interpersonal rapport.

Here is where listening can help make the difference between an exchange and communication.

I remember the Epictetus quote “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Improving the quantity of listening is helpful most of the time.

Improving the quality of listening, though, can really help up the engagement to a whole new level.

Are you really committed to the conversation?

Have you eliminated distractions?

Are you making an effort to make the discussion meaningful?

If so, you are distinguishing yourself.

Listening to advice that others are trying to convey. Hmm. There’s an idea.

Come to think of it, these are all good things for me to work on as well.

Have an extraordinary year!

Sometimes simple = powerful

Tie shoes

One primitive lesson I learned over twenty five years ago still sticks with me to this day.

It was the way I was tying my shoes.

I was doing it wrong.

What an “aha!” moment it was.  After I learned the better way, the quality of my life went up (albeit small) and I had one less thing to worry about.

If I were asked to provide a tip to others, the topic would not have entered my mind.

Perhaps I thought it was so simple that everyone knew this already.

Perhaps I thought it was too short and sweet.  Not “meaty” enough.

Perhaps it would be just too embarrassing for someone so educated to share something so uncomplicated.

Or perhaps I thought this should be left to others (e.g. parents, elementary school teachers).  Someone else should do it.

Yet, we all tie our shoes.

Most of us (certainly me) have experienced the frustration of having them untie on us or look disheveled.

Back in 2005, Terry Moore decided to share this in a presentation at a TED conference.

The length of the presentation?  Only about 3 minutes.

It now has over 4.5 million views.

Sometimes the simplest advice can have a powerful impact.

Going forward, I will be less afraid to share what I’ve learned.  I won’t assume that others have or should have done this already.

If I get criticized for being too basic or obvious, I’ll look down and see how they tie their shoes.

Be well.


Fundamentals. Lessons from the past that still apply today.


I used to love playing basketball. I still do (although I don’t play as much nowadays).

I was never really that great at it. I barely made the team as a Freshman in high school and was cut as a Sophomore trying out for Junior Varsity.  But that was ok. I enjoyed the overall experience.  It’s a great game.

Back when I was in grade school, I remember convincing my mother to sign me up for a basketball camp.  It was there I met the high school basketball coach, Vaughn Stapleton.

That week of camp, he drilled one word into our heads so often that it was almost annoying.


His message was basically that in order to be a really good basketball player, you have to acquire and master the basic skills.  Advanced skills are nearly useless (and can be a liability) if the basics aren’t sound.  And, it’s almost impossible to spend too much time honing your core skills.

This was a bit of a shock to me.  You see, I was enamored with wanting to acquire the advanced skills.  That’s why I was going to camp wasn’t it?  This is what really impresses others right?  The basic skills are straightforward, boring, tedious and time consuming.  Sure, we can work on them a little; but let’s move on shall we?

But we didn’t.

Day after day, drill after drill, we worked on the basics, then we played games.  When critiquing performance, more often than not, it came down to the fact that I needed to get better at my fundamentals to improve.

Guess what happened?  After a week at camp, I became a much better basketball player.

More importantly, I listened and remembered the messages.

Even to this day, I still use these basic lessons.

If the fundamentals aren’t solid, there isn’t much to build on.  If something isn’t working the way I’d expect or like, I first do a check to make sure that the basic structure and assumptions are sound.  In many cases, that not only helps but it prevents major problems down the road. It applies for at work as well life.

Sounds pretty simple right?  (duh!)

Well, in the sophisticated business world of global insurance/reinsurance & risk management, you would be shocked to see how many products, processes, teams, systems, etc. either have problems or fail due to the lack of sound fundamentals.

I’m not sure I really understand why.  Perhaps the basics are boring and require tedious hard work?  Perhaps they are “obvious” and taken for granted?  Regardless, when they aren’t sound, trouble always eventually results.

I will try to always keep working the basics and ensuring that the fundamentals are sound.  If I can figure out a way to pass this on to my sons, they may benefit was well.

And hopefully I’ll be able to shoot some hoops with my sons when they get back from scout camp later!

Be well.