Tag Archives: Neuropsychology

The Habits of Individuals: The Power of Habit, Part 1

One of the great things about road trips (when you’re not the driver) is that you can read. Of course, presuming you don’t feel sick when you read in the car, it’s a great thing you can do. Several weeks ago, I was able to get through a book that’s been on my desk for too long: The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. I first wrote a little something about the book in May after I saw a post about it on Farnam Street. Let’s call that post Part 1a and this one Part 1b. Over the next three days, I’ll look at the three sections of the book: the individual, the organization, and society.

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Having had training in psychology, I really enjoyed the first section of this book. Duhigg delves into some of the psychological factors of habits and I was pleased that I was still able to remember much of the terminologies and functions from neuropsychology (hippocampus, amygdala, etc.).

Very early on, we learn about how brushing our teeth wasn’t as common 100 years ago as it is today. Thanks to some brilliant executive who, in a sense, tricked us into wanting to brush our teeth. As I was reading through this chapter, I was reminded of Edward Bernays. I kept thinking that Duhigg was going to bring him up, but I guess his work wasn’t exactly having to do with habits, so it would have been unnecessary. Nonetheless, for those of you who read Chapter 2 and find the discussion of toothpaste and Febreze interesting, I suggest doing some reading on Edward Bernays.

In the last chapter of this section, we learn about Tony Dungy and his excellent work with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Indianapolis Colts. I was surprised I hadn’t read about Dungy’s methods prior to this book. I guess it goes to show you just how much there is out there to read and process. Dungy used principles of habits to improve the success of his teams. We also learn a little bit about Alcoholics Anonymous in this chapter. Having never been to a meeting, it was illuminating to hear the story of how AA got started (a story that’s been told many times over). It’s also amazing just how embedded within the 12 steps are principles of habits.

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The main takeaway for me from this first section was Duhigg breaking down the habit loop and explaining how to change a habit. There are important things to remember like the fact that even long after you think you’ve changed your habit, the neural pathways are still there such that you could slip back into your old habit. For a good recap of how to change your habits, I recommend checking out the short video of Duhigg in Part 1a.

In tomorrow’s post, we’ll look at the habits of successful organizations.

There is No Such Thing As “Left-Brain” and “Right-Brain”

Let me just begin by saying that before I knew better, I often referred to the “left-brain” and the “right-brain.” When I got old enough (and studied the brain a little bit), I learned that those are just colloquial terms that referred to the functions most commonly found in the left hemisphere and the functions most commonly found in the right hemisphere. While I understand the importance of using labels to effectively communicate what could be perceived as complicated theories, I think it’s important that we don’t talk about the ‘left-brain’ and the ‘right-brain.’

The primary reason for this — there is only “one” brain, for which there are two hemispheres. When we begin to talk about the ‘left-brain’ and the ‘right-brain,’ it severs us from reality (even slightly). The secondary reason — we’re now learning a great deal about . This is the idea that — essentially — the brain can change. Through environmental, behavioral, or other changes, the actual structure of the brain can change. I recently came across a great RSA talk by on “The Divided Brain.” I’ve included a few quotes that I found worth repeating. Below, you’ll find the video embedded.

On empathy:

“If you can stand back & see that the other individual is an individual like me, who might have interests & values & feelings like mine, then you can make a bond.”

On imagination being in the right hemisphere and reason being in the left hemisphere:

“Let me make it very clear: for imagination you need both hemispheres. Let me make it very clear: for reason you need both hemispheres.”

In case you don’t watch the video the whole way through, he closes with a :

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. The rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant, but has forgotten the gift.”