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Thursday Complexity PostJuly 11, 2013

Things We'll Share Light Up Our Minds 



What's the difference between ideas that bomb and ideas that go viral?


It may be that we're hard wired for sharing, and the ideas we spread are the ones we think will be interesting and useful to others, not just the ones we like ourselves. This potential communal pleasure actually sparks a measurable response in our brains.


Researchers at the University of California Los Angeles have for the first time identified regions of the brain associated with the successful spread of ideas, a finding that could have broad implications for public health campaigns, advertising, and better ways for teachers to communicate with learners.


The UCLA News describes work by Matthew Lieberman, a professor of psychology, psychiatry and behavioral science, and colleagues, who say brain data shows we are always alert for ideas and stories we think will amuse and engage others. "At our first encounter with information we are already using the brain network involved in how this can be interesting to other people," Lieberman told UCLA News writer Stuart Wolpert. "I think that is a profound statement about the social nature of our minds."


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Nineteen UCLA students had functional magnetic imaging (fMRI) brain scans while being presented with ideas for 24 fictitious TV pilots. They then made video taped evaluations of each pilot, and decided which ones they would recommend for production. Another group of 79 students played the role of producers, who watched the student assessment videos and came up with their own ratings. When students first saw the pilots they would later recommend, activity in the brain region known as the temporopareital junction, TPJ, markedly increased. Activity in the TPJ region was also higher in the brains of students who were most persuasive in pitching their favored pilots to the producers. The findings are reported in the online edition of the journal Psychological Science.


Lieberman explains that when we enter the minds of fictional characters in a book or a movie, or when we try to figure out what another real person is thinking or feeling, we're activating the brain's "mentalizing network." That network includes the TPJ, located on the outer surface of the brain, and the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, located in the middle of the brain.


"Before this study, we didn't know what brain regions were associated with ideas that become contagious, and we didn't know what regions were associated with being an effective communicator of ideas," said Emily Falk, lead author of the journal article who was a researcher in Lieberman's lab and is now at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication. "Now we have mapped the brain regions associated with the ideas that are likely to be contagious and are associated with being a good idea salesperson. In the future we would like to be able to use these brain maps to forecast what ideas are likely to be successful and who is likely to be effective at spreading them." Interestingly, predictions based on neuroimaging may provide faster and more accurate indications of real-world outcomes than self-reporting by individuals.


Remember PlexusCalls!

Friday, July 12, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Ecology of Leadership    
Guests: David K. Hurst and Felix Ankel 

In his book The New Ecology of Leadership: Business Mastery in a Chaotic World, David K. Hurst weaves together proven managerial concepts with insights from other fields-cognitive science, psychology, philosophy, history, and our natural environment. He argues that the human mind is rational in an ecological rather than logical sense. In other words, it takes cues to action from the situations in which it finds itself. As a result, contexts matter and reason, passion and power can be used to change organizations for good or ill. He integrates management thought and practice from a systems perspective. 
Dr. Felix Ankel is Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency at Regions Hospital, St. Paul, Minnesota and Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Minnesota.

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Healthcare PlexusCalls 
Wednesday July 17, 2013 - 1-2 PM ET  
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Research Worlds in Health Care 
Guests: Ellen Raboin, Paul Uhlig, Sheila McNamee and Jeff Cohn   

Healthcare today faces many challenges, including rising costs, inconsistent quality and safety, and a need to reengage the human side of healthcare. It may be that improvements can be made within existing frameworks. But it may be that we need to go beyond improvements in practice to reexamine the education, research methods and assumptions on which current practice is based.

Paul, Ellen, Sheila and Jeff will join the call to talk about the concept of relational research and Research Worlds, a new framework for understanding and developing standards of rigor that are appropriate for different types of research. Please bring your experience and your questions to this important conversation. Read their complete bios.


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