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RISK

  • Research has shown that teenagers perceive and process risk differently than adults. When risk is known, they tend to overestimate it, yet they are more likely to engage in activities that have unknown risks, where adults may be more hesitant in those situations.

  • The part of the brain that deals with analyzing risk is called the neocortex. It is extremely complex, and exists solely in mammals. This more modern, advanced analytical system can often contradict with our more primitive part of the brain that assesses risk: the amygdala.  

  • Many CEOs and successful businesspeople credit their success to risk-taking, and overcoming a fear of failure.  

  • Risk-taking behavior may be linked to a very different characteristic – boredom. Studies have shown that people who report being regularly bored may be more prone to taking risks, but unfortunately these risks may include indulging in drugs or alcohol.

  • Studies have shown that stockbrokers may have a psychological profile that is more prone to risk-taking than that of psychopaths.

  • MRI scans have shown that the brain responds to an expectation of an experience in the same way that it responds to an experience that’s already happened – a factor that may encourage us to take a risk. 

  • Studies have shown that people who take more risks have fewer receptors that inhibit dopamine, the brain's feel-good chemical. 

  • Many people think of risk-takers as "adrenaline junkies", when in fact the neurotransmitter, adrenaline, is meant to help us escape danger, not pursue it. When the brain detects a threat, it releases adrenaline into the bloodstream in order to help us flee or fight. This chemical rush can create a feeling of exhilaration, which the so-called "adrenaline-junkies" then may continue to seek out.

  • We all acclimate to risk over time in our day to day lives. When activities such as learning to drive a car become more familiar to us, our brains adapt to the risk and learn to manage fear.

  • Due to the hormone testosterone, and the need to compete, men may be more likely to take physical risks than women. However, women are risk takers as well, and may be more likely than men to take social risks, such as changing careers later in life.

ADDICTION

  • Approximately 98% of Americans consume double the amount of sodium than is needed to maintain a healthy diet. Herbs, spices, lemon juice, and vinegar are often used as substitutes for seasoning bland dishes and can help decrease a person’s addiction to salt.

  • Casinos have adapted slot machines to work with credit cards instead of coins, and are replacing slot machine handles with electronic buttons in order to create a distraction-free atmosphere and speed up time between games.

  • According to research, the trick to eliminating earworms from your brain is to solve challenging anagram puzzles, which re-focuses your short-term memory on more controlled thoughts.

  • A study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago found that using media and social networking sites were more difficult for participants to resist than cigarettes and alcohol.

  • Practicing seatbelt use in vehicles at an early age has been found to be a primary prevention technique that might help counteract unhealthy addictions later in life, such as indoor tanning, smoking, and recreational drug use.

  • Studies indicate that pagophagia, or the craving and chewing of ice, is strongly linked to iron-deficiency anemia and is commonly seen in children and pregnant women.

  • Scientists have found that cotton candy, while known for its desirable sugar content, contains fibers that may be useful in the study of tissue engineering and reconstruction in the human body.

  • Research suggests that physical exercise can decrease cravings for high-calorie food in the appetite and reward processing centers of your brain.

  • People may become addicted to the physical intensity of eating spicy foods due to the release of endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers, in response to the burning sensation caused by the trigeminal nerve system in your face.

  • Researchers at Stanford University have discovered that approximately 6% of women and 5.5% of men are compulsive shoppers, a condition that typically begins in the late teens to early 20’s.

LANGUAGE

  • Roughly one quarter of the world’s population has some knowledge of English. 

  • Mandarin is spoken as a first language by 12.44% of the world’s population.

  • Mandarin is the most widely spoken language in the world with over 850 million speakers.

  • The Bible is available in 2,454 languages. 

  • Agatha Christie, Jules Verne, and William Shakespeare are the world’s most translated authors. 

  • Being a bilingual speaker has many benefits. It’s a workout for your brain…bilinguals have denser gray matter in their language centers, allowing them to focus more easily on two tasks one after the other quickly, think more analytically, and it may even delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. 

  • Recent research analyzing the sounds in languages spoken around the world points to southern Africa as the place where modern human language originated. Using phonemes, the consonants, vowels, and tones, Dr. Quentin Atkinson found a pattern in some 500 languages spoken throughout the world. He found the further language areas are from South Africa, the fewer phonemes they have. Some of the click-languages of Africa have more than 100 phonemes, English has about 45 phonemes, and Hawaiian only has 13.

  • Fewer than a thousand people speak a quarter of the world’s languages. If these languages are not passed down through the generations they will disappear. For instance, some three-thousand languages may already disappear by the end of the century.

  • The most widely used system of writing in the world is Latin. The roots for Latin go back to Phoenicia around 1100 BC. 

  • Over a thousand people in Alaska speak the Samoan language.

  • New York City is the most linguistically diverse city in the world. There is no precise count, but some experts believe New York residents speak to up to 800 languages.

SUPERSTITIONS

  • It is believed that the superstition that opening an umbrella indoors will bring you bad luck originated from the days of early Egypt.  There was a fear that opening an umbrella inside would offend the God of the Sun.

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder is not derived from being superstitious.

  • It is estimated that there have been millions of UFO sightings.

  • Tennis star Serena Williams is rumored to be quite superstitious when it comes to her sport.  She wears the same pair of socks for the duration of tournaments, brings her shower sandals to the court and ties her shoelaces in a specific way.  If she doesn’t perform well, she sometimes blames the loss on an error in her superstitious routine.

  • NBA star Michael Jordan wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his uniform in every NBA game he played.  He believed that his UNC shorts were good luck.

  • Approximately 50,000 suspected witches were executed in the 16th and 17th centuries.  

  • It is estimated that financial losses on any given Friday the 13th amount to 700—900 million dollars.  This is attributed to the reticence for some to travel, make purchases and conduct business during this day.

  • Knocking on wood comes from the time when it was commonly believed that spirits could be found in the trees.  A knock on wood would be a call on the spirits for protection.

  • It takes longer for a black cat to be adopted than a non-black cat.

  • Triskaidekaphobia is a phobia in which someone has an extreme fear of the number 13. When people with a severe case of this phobia come in contact with the number 13, they experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, rapid heartbeat and feelings of panic.

  • Chinese people do not wash their hair on Chinese New Year’s Day because they believe that doing so would eliminate luck from the body.

PATTERNS

  • Regular exercise can be one of the best ways to break out of a rut. Research shows that even moderate activity can lead to increased mental and emotional health. 

  • Without forming habits, humans wouldn’t be able to master communication or specialized skills, like singing. 

  • Amazingly, the brain both developed out of the body(’s)?? habits and shape what they are. 
 
  • If you’ve ever gotten attached to a favorite outfit, dish or song, you’ve fallen victim to the basal ganglia. It’s the part of the brain that embraces life’s creature comforts and keeps you coming back for more of the same… again.  

  • If you’re often cranky, it may be from stressful situations that cause your brain to cope with elevated doses of the hormone known as cortisol. 

  • The brain regulates pleasure—inducing habits may dull the amount of hormones it releases if a person becomes indulgent or addicted to one particular activity. 

  • One of the most important ways to create healthy sleeping patterns is by waking up and going to bed on a consistent schedule. 

  • Sustaining the willpower to change is key to breaking bad habits, but it’s a limited resource. Research suggests that people were less likely to complete the task when given specific restrictions.  

  • Rest is an important habit for helping the brain integrate experiences that can increase general mental health. 

  • Making slow, gradual changes to behavior can keep the amygdala from activating with a stress response. 

  • Research suggests that rather than being just an illusion, the human “mind” has the power to shape our brain’s destiny. 

COMPASSION

  • George R. Price was a pioneer in altruism research, developing what came to be known as the Price equation—a mathematical expression of altruism.

  • British biologist J.B.S. Haldane pioneered the concept that is known today as “kin selection.” This stipulates that one is more likely to engage in self-sacrificial acts for those interpreted as having similar genetic expressions.

  • Psychologists David DeSteno and Paul Condon executed the original version of the “hot sauce” test. Instead of using a friendly test proctor to elicit compassion from their test subjects, they planted a fellow test subject who had just received traumatic news.

  • Studies show that the ability to empathize varies across different portions of the population—women in their 50s were found to be the most empathetic.

  • There appears to be a relationship between a child’s empathy and their ability to understand sarcasm. This is because the attitude and emotions of the person projecting sarcasm need to be understood by the observers.

  • Psychopaths demonstrate a host of negative traits and behaviors, one of the most significant of which is a lack of empathy. It is believed that 1% of the adult population can be accurately classified as “psychopathic.” That number jumps to 15-20% within the prison population.

  • The rate of psychopathy within the financial industry may be at least ten times higher than that of the general population.

  • We featured M.C. Escher’s illustration, “Circle Limit IV” at the beginning of this episode. It features interlocking angels and demons and abides by the principles of “hyperbolic geometry.”

  • Altruistic behavior is not unique to humans – examples from the animal kingdom include: some bats “donate” their blood and give it to other members of their group and some bird species help raise young that are not their own.

  • The part of your nervous system known as the “vagus nerve” starts at the top of the spinal cord and reaches throughout your body. When test subjects are shown images of suffering or distress, this nerve flares with activity. This has led scientists to believe there is a strong connection between this nerve and a person’s capacity for compassion.

  • While we might be willing to engage in selfless acts for both friends and relatives, our motives for doing so are distinct. One study has found that we help our friends due to empathy and our family due to an expectation of reciprocity.

ANGER

  • One study found that people are less likely to express anger-related aggression after receiving insults while lying on their back versus sitting in an upright position. 

  • Researchers from China’s Beihang University discovered that anger is the most viral emotion among social media posts on the Internet, specifically statuses concerning social and political issues. 

  • Males have been shown to experience a significant decrease in sexual desire and arousal when listening to statements designed to evoke anger. 

  • According to an experiment conducted in the Netherlands, people are more motivated by anger than fear when it comes to obtaining items they desire. 

  • Expressing anger is a more effective way of communicating an initial sense of injustice during a confrontation in personal relationships, while stifling anger can be detrimental and may be seen as an isolated overreaction. 

  • When properly harnessed, anger can be beneficial to athletic performance in certain sports, such as football and boxing, which involve natural movements that reflect “lashing out.” 

  • Although anger and aggression are more strongly correlated with the left frontal area of the brain that controls positive emotions, sympathy towards an insulting person increased activity in the right frontal area of the brain, which is associated with negative emotions. 

  • Studies found that people who consume caffeine tend to have high levels of hostility and anxiety, and are more prone to irritability.   

  • According to researchers, perfectionists may be more predisposed to anger linked with setting impossibly high standards and self-imposed pressure than with the unfair treatment by others. 

  • Swearing, a common reaction to experiencing pain, has been shown to increase tolerance of physical pain by triggering aggression and accelerated heart rate during the body’s natural “fight-or-flight” response.  

BATTLE OF THE SEXES

  • The difference between the male brain and the female brain begins before birth. Using an ultrasound scanner, researchers in a recent study found that the corpus callosum, the bridge of nerve tissue that connects the right and left hemispheres of the brain had a thicker measurement in female fetuses than male fetuses starting at just 26 weeks of pregnancy.

  • Researchers have found that generally, girls outperform boys when it comes to fine motor skills and use of language until puberty. A study of 508 children ages 2 months to 16 years found that cerebral areas that process these skills develop six years earlier for girls. 

  • A recent study of 508 children ages 2 months to 16 years found the areas of the brain that process special rotation and that are involved in math and geometry mature about four years earlier in boys than in girls. 

  • While male brain volumes are overall larger than women, studies have found that women generally have larger volumes in areas of the brain with emotions and language, while men have larger volumes in areas associated with memory, learning, and survival instincts. 

  • Men and women use two entirely different areas of their brain spatial skills, like navigating directions. Women use the cerebral cortex and men use the left hippocampus to solve navigation puzzles. The hippocampus automatically codes where you are in space, but does not activate in women’s brains for tasks requiring navigation. Men tend to navigate through depth reckoning, i.e. “go north, and then west”, and women tend to mark their way with landmarks.

  • A recent study confirmed that men’s and women’s brains are wired differently. The right and left hemispheres have a stronger connection in female brains, and the front and back regions are more highly connected in male brains.

  • Along with different wiring, there are differences in the structure of the male and female brain. Men tend to think with their gray matter, of which their brains have roughly 6.5 times more than female brains. On the other hand, females think with their white matter, of which they have about 10 times more than male brains. 

  • Women’s brains have a more complicated setup than male brains. Recent studies show that this may allow their brains to work more efficiently and more quickly than men’s.  

  • A woman’s pain threshold changes with her estrogen levels. When the brain receives a pain signal, it releases endorphins or enkephalins to help control the pain. When estrogen levels are high, this pain management system works more effectively than when estrogen levels are low. It is part of the reason that women can endure the pain of childbirth.

  • Several studies suggest that men don’t feel acute pain as intensely as their female counterparts, but a recent study shows found that when it comes to chronic pain, there is no difference in both genders’ experience of pain, mood, or quality of life with the pain.

INTUITION

  • Intuitive senses combine all natural senses with each person’s own life experience.  

  • According to one experiment some blind people are able to utilize the phenomenon of blindsight.  Even though they can’t see, their intuitive vision helps them to navigate throughout life and perceive emotion on a person’s face. 

  • According to one controversial study on intuition as it relates to business performance shows that 81% of CEOs with high intuition scores doubled their business in five years.  

  • Intuitive recognition leads people to feel that they recognize someone who they just met for the first time.  

  • Women are generally better at reading facial expressions than men.  Therefore, they are more likely to pick up on subtle emotional messages. 

  • When emotions become involved in decision-making, it is much more difficult for intuition to navigate effectively. 

  • First responders and soldiers in battle must rely on intuition in the heat of the moment to make quick decisions. 

  • Decisions based on intuition are made very quickly.  This is possible in part because of previous experiences.  Recognizing past experiences helps to make quick decisions. 

  • Intuition is also referred to as the ‘sixth sense.’ 

  • Intuitive training is a form of physical training where people listen to their bodies for cues as to how they should work out.  People do not subscribe to an intense fitness program, but rather look to their bodies and intuition for guidance. 

  • Meditation can help you stay more in tune with your intuition.
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