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What can reduce the cognitive abilities in a common workplace?

What can reduce the cognitive abilities in a common workplace?

There are many types of work that mainly create benefit by thinking, often called desk jobs.

The output is based on the cognitive abilities of the person.
It typically happens in an environment we call office.

A working person has some amount of cognitive abilities. They are certainly multidimensional, but that has no relevance here.

There are things that can reduce these abilities. Some of them are obvious, but it would be interesting to know all that are important for a common desk job. I assume there are not so many of them that this becomes a list question. Many of them are obvious, but I assume there are others.

Obvious are for example:

  • Tiredness
  • External distraction by unrelated activities of others

Some points or classes where it is not obvious are:

  • Maybe some types of mental illness? Major depression seems likely?
  • Possibly external physical influences like freezing?

There are certainly unusual points applying only to few people, for example a person extremely distracted by harsh light. These are interesting, of course, but I mainly think of common things.


One of the most significant factors impairing cognitive abilities in a typical office environment is the noise. It is well-known that quiet environment is essential for good concentration. For instance, WHO recommends school classrooms should have noise level as low as 35 dB during classes. Yet a typical office environment can be as loud as 70 dB, which is about 30-50 times louder.

There are loads of articles describing the effects of different levels of noise on various cognitive abilities, which inevitably show that noise above 60-65 dB has a significant impact on mental activity, and noise above 75 dB has a lasting effect which can be measured 4 hours after the exposure. For reference, most public transport is louder than that, and a subway can be as loud as 95 dB.

It is well known that private offices (which reduce the noise quite a bit) can boost productivity significantly. Unfortunately, they are too pricey, or at least are seen as such, to become widespread.


Your question can only be answered if asked to the fields of human knowledge that deal with humans and their activities: ergonomics, psychology, social sciences, human-computer interaction, etc… There is no one field that may give you a complete list, in my opinion.

So let's think about it together and start with the intrinsic domains that could affect human cognition in the context of the workplace.

  1. Human physical aspects

    • As you mentioned, tiredness
    • Disabilities (e.g. visual impairment)
    • Physical incompatibility (e.g.: person provided with tools and accessories that don't fit their height or size)
    • Debilitating illnesses (e.g.: headaches, colds, etc… )
  2. Human psychological aspects

    • Bias and faulty heuristics
    • Mental illnesses (affecting either mood, thought process or both)
    • Motivational and attitudinal issues (e.g.: the person just hates their job or their job is run by a dictatorial boss)
    • Attentional issues (e.g.: the person is spread too thin or dividing their attention between personal and professional tasks)
    • Lack of knowledge or experience (e.g.: the person doesn't have much to refer back to when they need to process new information. This can lead to bias.)

Now in the frontier between intrinsic and extrinsic aspects:

  1. Human social aspects

    • Once again, bias and faulty heuristics shared by people in the workplace
    • Beliefs and values (this is actually covered by biases)
    • Authorisation issues (e.g.: the person might know how to do something but doesn't have the privileges or authorisation to do a task)
    • Dependency issues (e.g.: a process might need other people or external requirements to be completed: a worker in an assembly line might not be able to do their part until another worker on a previous line finishes their job)
    • Mis-allocation (e.g.: someone is asked to do a job they are not prepared, trained or don't have the experience to do)
    • Faulty or lack of processes (e.g.: people are asked to do stuff without a certain underlying process or order, or their process lacks the necessary steps or contingency for cognitive processes to occur: a programmer is given a two-line brief to start the creation of a software without time to plan or understand the requirements of such)
    • Negative psychological environment (e.g.: an environment that fosters gossip, blaming, bullying and peer-pressure)
    • Office culture (another one covered by biases but it can also be the resulting environment, both psychological and physical, that contributes to and is made of all the aspects we are discussing in this thread)

And the more extrinsic reasons:

  1. Environmental aspects

    • Climate (e.g.: an office that is too hot or too cold)
    • Workplace layout (e.g.: one needs to walk a lot between buildings to consult with colleagues, colleagues are in another country, the office is not open plan, your desk is too small, etc… )
    • Workplace design (e.g.: the room is painted in bright distracting colours or shabbily painted, signage that is not positioned in a visible location, etc… )
    • Noise and pollution (e.g.: certain activities require masks and ear-guards, sometimes offices are so close to the traffic there is a constant hum, air-conditioning noise, etc… )
    • Wrong tools, equipment, and accessories (e.g.: equipment that hasn't been adapted for disabilities or physical characteristics of worker, etc… )
    • Outdated tools, equipment, and accessories (e.g.: a bit like wrong tools but more like that slow computer you have to wait 5 minutes for every operation to go through)
    • Badly designed interfaces and instructions (e.g.: the software or machines required to get the job done have usability and affordance issues, a coffee machine/photocopier that just a few know how to operate, etc… )
    • Local culture (e.g.: foreign language, local customs and behaviours, etc… )

Feel free to edit and add more to the list.


Cognitive Dissonance Can Be Harmful, Too

Recognizing and reconciling cognitive dissonance is not always a feel-good experience. Spotting dissonance in our own lives can be painful, embarrassing, and anxiety-inducing, too. And it can be troubling and mentally exhausting to deal with, Curry says.

“The tension that gets created when you hold certain beliefs or values but act in a way that conflicts with your belief systems generates an internal discomfort that most people have to subconsciously work very hard to ignore,” Curry says.

Consider if you’re working in a job you hate, suggests Michele Leno, PhD, a Michigan-based licensed psychologist and founder of DML Psychological Services. You have a pit in your stomach every morning, and you’re counting down the hours until it’s time to leave. And yet, you go every day. Living with that dissonance probably means you’re fairly stressed out and angry every day.

And sometimes reducing the dissonance can be as easy as reframing your thinking.

Maybe not feeling so negative about that job is a matter of recognizing its benefits, Leno says. Such as, “earning a salary and a pension is the responsible thing to do” or “I don’t respect my boss, but I’m learning a lot.”


This type of memory involves the storage of information for long periods of time. Retrieving such information depends on how well it was learned in the first place rather than how long it has been stored. If information is stored effectively, an older person may remember facts, events, names and other types of information stored in long-term memory throughout life. The memory of adults of all ages seems to be similar when they are asked to recall names of teachers or classmates. And older adults remember more about their early adulthood and adolescence than about middle adulthood (Berk, 2007). Older adults retain semantic memory or the ability to remember vocabulary.

Younger adults rely more on mental rehearsal strategies to store and retrieve information. Older adults focus rely more on external cues such as familiarity and context to recall information (Berk, 2007). And they are more likely to report the main idea of a story rather than all of the details (Jepson & Labouvie-Vief, in Berk, 2007).

A positive attitude about being able to learn and remember plays an important role in memory. When people are under stress (perhaps feeling stressed about memory loss), they have a more difficult time taking in information because they are preoccupied with anxieties. Many of the laboratory memory tests require compare the performance of older and younger adults on timed memory tests in which older adults do not perform as well. However, few real life situations require speedy responses to memory tasks. Older adults rely on more meaningful cues to remember facts and events without any impairment to everyday living.


6 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Demand When Designing UX

Decision fatigue is a popular term used to describe when people have made too many decisions over a specific period. Research suggests that it mainly occurs as humans’ cognitive resources diminish with time. That’s why after you’ve been surfing Netflix for 30 minutes looking for something new, all you end up watching is ‘The Office’. Your decision-making has started to slip — even if it isn’t a bad show!

In product design, we try to reduce the number of decisions that a user needs to make. We assume that people are using the product to complete a task, and the more smoothly and intuitively it goes, the better. The more small decisions an individual is asked to make over a specific period, even if they’re trivial (like which show to watch on Netflix), the lower their quality of decision-making will be.

When you’re tired, this can significantly impact your ability to make decisions, and UX designers must know how fatigue affects users when they design interfaces for them. This topic is an interesting one because there are many reasons why people might experience cognitive overload when using your product.

This article looks at six ways to reduce the cognitive demand when you take on your next UX project.


Four Healthy Habits for Seniors to Reduce Cognitive Decline and Prevent Dementia

Many of us know someone who has been affected by a decline in cognitive function (e.g. memory, thinking), dementia, or Alzheimer&rsquos Disease (the most common form of dementia). Cognitive decline and dementia can take a toll on an individual&rsquos ability to perform activities of daily living, or every day activities such as eating and getting dressed, as well as on the individual&rsquos quality of life.

The biggest risk factor associated with cognitive decline and dementia is aging. As the older adult population continues to grow, with one-fifth of the world population projected to consist of older adults (60+) by 2050, the rates of dementia will rise, affecting an estimated 65.7 million people worldwide by 2030, and 115.4 million by 2050. 1 With little advancement in the ability for drugs to treat dementia, many people are left asking:

  • What can I do to help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline and dementia?
  • What can I do to maintain healthy living as I grow older?

Fortunately, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that adopting certain lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising, consuming a healthy diet, and participating in social activity, as well as maintaining heart health and monitoring cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity), can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. 2 In the past, many studies have focused on one lifestyle behavior at a time, but more recently, researchers have found that participating in multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors associated with cognitive decline and dementia may be more beneficial than participating in just one. 3

Tip #1: Participate in weekly physical activity

Studies have shown that a combination of aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening can be beneficial to cognitive function. It is recommended that adults participate in 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity a week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity a week, or a combination of the two. 4

Aerobic physical activity improves cardiovascular fitness and can consist of brisk walking, running, or bicycling. Examples of moderate physical activities include walking briskly, raking the yard, or playing volleyball.

Vigorous physical activities can include running or jogging or taking part in a high intensity work-out class. Several activities can be performed at either moderate or vigorous intensities (e.g. cycling or swimming).

Adults should also participate in muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 days per week. Muscle strengthening exercises increase the strength, power, and endurance of muscles and can include resistance training and weight lifting.

Older adults (65+) should participate in physical activity that combines balance training, aerobic exercise, and muscle-strengthening exercises. Balance training is an important component for older adults to prevent falls and improve quality of life.

Tip #2: Maintain a healthy diet

Diet guidelines that closely follow a &ldquoMediterranean diet&rdquo have long been associated with many health benefits on top of showing evidence to support cognitive health. 5,6 A typical meal is centered around plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans), with moderate amounts of seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy, and only occasional consumption of red meat. The following guidelines should be closely adhered to:

  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables
  • Eat whole grains
  • Eat fish and poultry in place of red meat (eat lean cuts of red meat when it is consumed)
  • Limit sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Eat nuts and legumes
  • Use olive oil or similar monosaturated fat sources in food
  • Limit the amount of trans fat, sodium, and saturated fat in your diet

Tip #3: Engage in social activity

Engagement in social activity may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline and assist in preventing dementia. Adults can participate in a variety of social activities, including ones that combine other lifestyle behaviors (e.g. community exercise classes). There are many ways that adults and older adults can become socially active including joining a club or group, becoming a volunteer, and/or joining a community fitness center.

Tip #4: Monitor cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity) and maintain heart health

Participating in a healthy lifestyle in aging, especially by being physical active and consuming a good diet, can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular risk factors that are associated with cognitive decline and dementia. It is also important to consistently get screening tests to monitor for risk factors associated with heart health (and cognitive function). The following screenings can be helpful to know when and if you need to take more action to reduce your risk:

  • Blood pressure: High blood pressure can show no symptoms, but can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and cognitive decline (especially high blood pressure in mid-life).
  • Blood sugar: High blood sugar increases your risk of developing prediabetes and type II diabetes, which can also lead to stroke, heart disease, and is associated with cognitive decline.
  • Body weight: Measuring waist circumference and body weight can allow you or your provider to identify if you are at a higher risk for developing disorders associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

By following these tips and consistently participating in multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors adults can reap a multitude of benefits, including the potential to reduce cognitive decline associated with aging.

1. World Health Organization., Alzheimer&rsquos Disease International. Dementia : A Public Health Priority. World Health Organization 2012.

2. Norton S, Matthews FE, Barnes DE, Yaffe K, Brayne C. Potential for primary prevention of Alzheimer&rsquos disease: an analysis of population-based data. Lancet Neurol. 201413(8):788-794. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70136-X

3. Ngandu T, Lehtisalo J, Solomon A, et al. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2015385(9984):2255-2263. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5

4. Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, et al. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. JAMA. 2018320(19):2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14854

5. Scarmeas N, Stern Y, Tang M-X, Mayeux R, Luchsinger JA. Mediterranean Diet and Risk for Alzheimer&rsquos Disease. Ann Neurol. 200659(6):912-921. doi:10.1002/ana.20854

6. McEvoy CT, Guyer H, Langa KM, Yaffe K. Neuroprotective Diets Are Associated with Better Cognitive Function: The Health and Retirement Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 201765(8):1857-1862. doi:10.1111/jgs.14922

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How to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance: A Bit Difficult, But Possible

The psychological discomfort that one feels when his actions are not aligned with his beliefs is called cognitive dissonance, which all of us strive to avoid as much as possible. When it does happen, it is reduced in different ways.

The psychological discomfort that one feels when his actions are not aligned with his beliefs is called cognitive dissonance, which all of us strive to avoid as much as possible. When it does happen, it is reduced in different ways.

Did You Know?

Despite all his work in the field of social psychology, Leon Festinger spent the latter part of his life in researching prehistoric archaeological data.

Suggested by Leon Festinger in 1957, the cognitive dissonance theory states that human beings always try their level best to have internal consistency, meaning that their beliefs, thoughts, and opinions match their actions, behavior, and attitude so as to avoid mental tension of any kind. If dissonance, discomfort, or inconsistency of any kind is experienced, we tend to feel psychological discomfort and strive hard to reduce it, or to avoid it altogether.

Cognitive dissonance is experienced to quite an extent in our daily lives without most of us even realizing it. This dissonance varies upon the magnitude of that particular situation― if it is something petty or insignificant, we don’t bother thinking too much about our dissonance, and we quickly reduce it, ignore it, and move on. If the cognitions (thoughts, beliefs) and actions are important for us, then we experience a greater level of psychological discomfort. For instance, something as small as having a wonderful opinion about a particular sweet first and then liking another one better might not cause a lot of cognitive dissonance, as you may change your belief about the one sweet being better than the rest quite easily. On the contrary, when the magnitude of the situation is higher, say, you know your doctor wants you to follow a strict diet to lose weight, but you end up eating a lot of fatty food on the second day of your diet. You may feel very restless, guilty, and psychologically uncomfortable then, until you have reduced the dissonance as much as you can.

As the theory states, we tend to want to have internal consistency all the time, and the slightest imbalance disturbs us. Reducing cognitive dissonance is an important aspect of ensuring internal consistency. Though it is important, it is hard to achieve, and so we try our best to come up with various tactics to please our mind. Festinger provided three basic reduction techniques of cognitive dissonance in his theory, as is explained in the next section.

Altering The Importance Of The Original Cognitions

One of the methods of reducing cognitive dissonance is to alter the importance of the original cognitions so as to reduce the psychological discomfort. Altering the importance of original cognitions could either mean that you increase the attractiveness of the chosen alternative, or decrease the attractiveness of your cognitions.

Example―
A smoker who knows smoking is injurious to health will justify his smoking by saying “Death will take me when it’s supposed to.” or “What’s meant to be will happen.” or “Smoking is recreational for me, it’s not an addiction.” Through this justification, he is decreasing the importance of his original cognitions (of smoking being bad for health) so as to reduce any dissonance that he might feel.

Adding New Cognitions To Support The Conflicting Behavior

Dissonance is experienced when the behavior we practice is conflicting with our beliefs, as is known. Another way of reducing this discomfort is to add new beliefs which support the conflicting behavior. Adding new beliefs helps outweigh the dissonance beliefs, which reduces cognitive dissonance to a great extent.

Example―
A woman who is overweight has been advised by her doctor to follow a certain diet, exercise, and lose weight so as to reduce any possible health risks. Her diet has been carefully discussed and designed, and it completely does away with junk food that poses a threat to her health. The woman knows why dieting is important, and that it is for her health, and not for any silly reason. Yet, she gorges on cakes, donuts, burgers, and other fatty food that is strictly taboo for her. The woman tells herself that, “It’s okay, cheating once in a while is allowed!” or “I’ll just exercise extra tomorrow and work this off.” or “The doctor is being unfair, my diet doesn’t really have to be this strict.” or “He didn’t say when I was to start following this diet. It could be from next week, for all I know! Why not enjoy now?” By telling herself this, she reduces the dissonance which she feels when cheating on her diet, as she has added new cognitions which support her conflicting behavior, which will outweigh her original belief about the need for a diet.

Changing Behavior Completely

Changing behavior completely means that we stick to our original cognitions, and change the conflicting behavior completely so as to act according to our beliefs. Here, importance is given to the original cognitions over the conflicting ones, and thus, cognitive dissonance is reduced. However, it can be really difficult for human beings to adopt this method of reducing dissonance, especially when both conflicting cognitions seem equally attractive.

Example―
An intelligent, highly ambitious woman values men who are similar to her, and despises those who lack determination and ambitions. Yet, her new boyfriend is a laid-back man who does not seem very interested in working or making anything of his life. The woman’s behavior of dating this man is conflicting with her original belief of despising such men. To reduce the dissonance she is feeling, the woman gets clear about what she wants from her ideal partner, and decides that she can no longer date this guy, and that she has to be with someone who matches her mindset. The woman reduces her psychological discomfort by breaking up with her boyfriend, and thus, changing her behavior completely so that her internal consistency is managed.

Broadly, all the reduction techniques and strategies are a part of the three basic methods to lessen cognitive dissonance. This concept has several practical applications in various fields.

Please note: The examples offered in this article are not meant to offend anybody or to hurt anyone’s sentiments.


10 Proven Methods for Fixing Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions have a way of playing havoc with our lives if we let them. A cognitive distortion takes place in our minds when we experience an upsetting event in our lives — a disagreement at work, an argument with a partner, a poor result in school — and we think about it in a way that reinforces negativity and feeling bad. While some may believe that “feeling bad’ is a necessary component of learning from our mistakes, many get stuck in a repetitive, reinforcing pattern of feeling bad about themselves. This can lead to lower self-esteem and a self-fulfilling prophecy in future interactions.

Cognitive distortions — also known as “stinkin’ thinkin’” — can be undone, but it takes effort and lots of practice, every day. If you want to stop the irrational thinking, you can start by trying out the exercises below.

You can use any one or a combination of the methods described below to combat irrational, automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions. Try a few of them out and look for the one that seems to work best for you, because different people respond to different ways of fixing their irrational thoughts.

1. Identify the Cognitive Distortion

The most important step of fixing any problem in your life is identifying exactly what the problem is and how extensive it is in your life. An auto mechanic starts with a diagnostic assessment of your car when it has a problem.

In this same manner, you need to identify and track the cognitive distortions in your daily thinking first, before you start working to change them. You do this by creating a list of the troublesome thoughts throughout the day, as you’re having them. This will allow you to examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions.

An examination of your cognitive distortions allows you to see which distortions that you prefer. Additionally, this process allows you to think about each problem or predicament in a more natural or realistic manner. David Burns called this exercise keeping a daily mood log, but nowadays you can use an app or anything that’s convenient to record your cognitive distortions.

2. Examine the Evidence

Much like a judge overseeing a trial, the next step is to remove yourself from the emotionality of the upsetting event or episode of irrational thinking in order to examine the evidence more objectively. A thorough examination of an experience allows you to identify the basis for your distorted thoughts. If you are overly self-critical, you should identify a number of experiences and situations where you had success.

One effective method for examining the evidence is to look at individual thoughts connected to the event, and objectively decide whether those statements reflect an opinion or stone cold fact. For example, statements such as “I’m selfish” and “There’s something wrong with me” are opinions. “My co-worker spoke in angry voice toward me” and “I forgot to take out the trash” are facts. Segregating facts from opinions can help you determine which are likely to be a component of a cognitive distortion (the opinions) and therefore need your focus and efforts to undo.

3. Double Standard Method

An alternative to “self-talk” that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation. We are frequently much harder on ourselves than the people we care about in our lives, whether it be a friend or family member. We would never think of speaking to a close friend in the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind.

Instead of treating yourself with a different standard than what you hold everyone else to, why not use one single standard for everyone including yourself? Isn’t that more fair than using a double-standard? Give yourself the same encouragement that you would a trusted friend.

Imagine studying for an exam and telling a friend, “You’re going to screw this up, just like you screw everything else up!” Yet these are the same kinds of thoughts that run through many students’ minds before an exam. Can you answer such automatic, negative thoughts back with a rational response? For example, “You’re going to do well on this exam, I just know it. You studied hard for it and did your best to memorize the material. I believe in you.”

4. Thinking in Shades of Gray

Learning to undo black-and-white (or polarized) thinking can be challenging, because our minds take cognitive shortcuts to simplify processing of stimuli in order to hurry our ability to make a decision or choose a response. Black-and-white thinking can sometimes serve a good purpose, but it often leads a person down a path of irrational belief too.

Instead of thinking about a problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, thinking in shades of gray requires us to evaluate things on a scale of 0 through 100. When a plan or goal is not fully realized, think about and evaluate the experience as a partial success on this kind of scale.

For example, someone might think, “You can’t do anything right. You just blew your diet by having that second bite of ice cream.” What is the likelihood that a person’s entire dieting routine — that they’ve been following rigorously for months — is now made worthless by a single additional bite of ice cream? On our scale of 0 through 100, it might be about 1 percent likelihood.

5. Experimental Method

Can you test whether your irrational thoughts have any basis in fact outside of a trial? You sure can, by using the same kinds of methods that science uses in order to test a hypothesis.

For example, let’s say you’ve been putting off organizing your digital photos because it’ll be “too hard” or “I just can’t do it.” What if the task was broken down into smaller parts, such as tackling just a single month at a time in one sitting? Is the thought that it’s just “too hard” still true, now that you’ve broken the task into smaller, attainable components?

In another example, imagine a person who believes over time that she is no longer liked by her friends because they never connect with her on social media or call. Could that person test whether it was true that her friends no longer like her? What if she reached out to them and asked them out to lunch or for drinks one day? While it’s not likely all of her friends will accept an invitation, it’s likely at least one or two of them will, providing clear evidence in support of the fact that her friends still like her.

6. Survey Method

Similar to the experimental method, the survey method is focused on asking others in a similar situation about their experiences to determine how irrational our thoughts might be. Using this method, a person seeks the opinions of others regarding whether their thoughts and attitudes are realistic.

For example, a person might believe, “Romantic partners should never fight. And if they do fight, they should never go to bed angry at one another.” Who could they survey to see whether this is true or not? A few friends who appear to be in happy relationships might be a good start. That person would soon realize that all couples fight, and while it may be a good idea not to go to bed angry, plenty of people do and their relationship is just fine despite that.

If you want to double-check on the rationality of your thought, check in with a few trusted friends to see what their opinions and experiences are.

7. The Semantic Method

When a person engages in a series of should statements (“I should do this” or “I shouldn’t do that”), they are applying a set of unwritten rules to their behavior that may make little sense to others. Should statements imply a judgment about your or another person’s behavior — one that may be unhelpful and even hurtful.

Every time you find yourself using a should statement, try substituting “It would be nice if…” instead. This semantic difference can work wonders in your own mind, as you stop “should-ing” yourself to death and start looking at the world in a different, more positive manner. Shoulds make a person feel bad and guilty about themselves. “Wouldn’t it be nice and more healthy if I started watching what I ate more?” puts the thought into a more curious, inquisitive phrasing — one where the answer might be yes, but might also be no (for instance, if you’ve just started cancer treatment, now’s not a good time to change your eating habits).

8. Definitions

For people who are more intellectual and like to argue about minutiae, this method of arguing with your cognitive distortions might come in handy. What does it mean to define ourselves as “inferior,” “a loser,” “a fool,” or “abnormal.” An examination of these and other global labels may reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern, instead of the total person.

When a person starts delving into the definition of a label and asking questions about those definitions, the results can be surprising. For instance, what it does it mean to think of yourself as “inferior”? Inferior to who? Others at your workplace? What are their specific work experiences and backgrounds? Aren’t they all inferior to someone else too? The more questions you ask when challenging a definition or label, the more you may come to realize the uselessness of such labels — especially when applied to ourselves.

9. Re-attribution

In personalization and blaming cognitive distortions, a person will point the finger to themselves for all of the negative things they experience, no matter what the actual cause.

In re-attribution, a person identifies external factors and other individuals that contributed to the problem or event. Regardless of the degree of responsibility a person assumes, a person’s energy is best utilized in the pursuit of resolutions to problems or identifying ways to cope with predicaments. By assigning responsibility accordingly, you’re not trying to deflect blame, but ensure you’re not blaming yourself entirely for something that wasn’t entirely your fault.

For example, if a project at work failed to get done on time and you were one of the members of the 5-member team, you’re one-fifth to blame for the project missing its deadline. From an objective perspective, you are not entirely to blame for the missed deadline.

10. Cost-Benefit Analysis

This method for answering an irrational belief relies on motivation rather than facts to help a person undo the cognitive distortion. In this technique, it is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help to figure out what a person is gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior.

“How will it help me to believe this negative, irrational thought, and how will it hurt me?” If you find the disadvantages of believing a thought outweigh the advantages, you’ll find it easier to talk back and refute the irrational belief.


The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off.

AUSTIN, Texas — Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

The findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.

“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

In another experiment, researchers looked at how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence — or how strongly a person feels he or she needs to have a smartphone in order to get through a typical day — affected cognitive capacity. Participants performed the same series of computer-based tests as the first group and were randomly assigned to keep their smartphones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. In this experiment, some participants were also instructed to turn off their phones.

The researchers found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”


What can reduce the cognitive abilities in a common workplace? - Psychology

Cognitive Impairment and Recovery From Alcoholism

Brain damage is a common and potentially severe consequence of long-term, heavy alcohol consumption. Even mild-to-moderate drinking can adversely affect cognitive functioning (i.e., mental activities that involve acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using information) (1). Persistent cognitive impairment can contribute to poor job performance in adult alcoholics, and can interfere with learning and academic achievement in adolescents with an established pattern of chronic heavy drinking (2). A small but significant proportion of the heaviest drinkers may develop devastating, irreversible brain-damage syndromes, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a disorder in which the patient is incapable of remembering new information for more than a few seconds (3).

It stands to reason that cognitive impairment also may impede recovery from alcoholism, although evidence has not conclusively shown this to be the case. For example, Morgenstern and Bates (4) studied whether deficits in a patient's learning and planning abilities-core aspects of many treatment strategies-affected recovery from alcoholism. They found that impairment was not a significant predictor of poor treatment response. On the other hand, evidence does support the possibility that brain damage, whether resulting from or predating alcohol use, may contribute to the development and progression of alcoholism (5).

Designing practical strategies to cope with the complex combination of alcoholism and cognitive impairment requires an understanding of the nature of cognitive functions and their interactions with structural and functional brain abnormalities. This issue of Alcohol Alert describes the nature and consequences of common alcohol-associated cognitive defects, explores the extent to which some cognitive abilities recover with abstinence, and summarizes recent research on the effects of cognitive deficits on alcoholism treatment outcome.

Cognition and Alcohol

Most alcoholics exhibit mild-to-moderate deficiencies in intellectual functioning (6), along with diminished brain size and regional changes in brain-cell activity. The most prevalent alcohol-associated brain impairments affect visuospatial abilities and higher cognitive functioning (7). Visuospatial abilities include perceiving and remembering the relative locations of objects in 2- and 3-dimensional space. Examples include driving a car or assembling a piece of furniture based on instructions contained in a line drawing. Higher cognitive functioning includes the abstract-thinking capabilities needed to organize a plan, set it in motion, and change it as needed (2).

Most alcoholics entering treatment perform as well as nonalcoholics on tests of overall intelligence. However, alcoholics perform poorly on neuropsychological tests that measure specific cognitive abilities (8). For example, an alcoholic who has remained abstinent after treatment may have no apparent difficulty filing office documents correctly, a task that engages multiple brain regions. However, that same person might be unable to devise a completely different filing system, a task closely associated with higher cognitive functioning.

How Much Is Too Much?

The link between duration and lifetime quantity of drinking and the development of cognitive problems is unclear. Some investigators have proposed that cognitive performance worsens in direct proportion to the severity and duration of alcoholism (6,9). Studies suggest that social drinkers who consume more than 21 drinks per week also fit into this category (6). Other investigators have suggested that cognitive deficits may be detectable only in those alcoholics who have been drinking regularly for 10 years or more (8,10). Long-term, light-to-moderate social drinkers have been found to fall into this category as well, showing cognitive deficits equivalent to those found in detoxified alcoholics (8). Although further research is needed to determine how a person's pattern of drinking is related to cognitive impairment, some deficits are possible even in people who are not heavy drinkers.

Tracking Structural and Functional Brain Abnormalities

Structural and functional brain abnormalities generally are measured by noninvasive imaging techniques that provide a picture of the living brain with minimal risk to the individual. Structural imaging techniques, such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, are used to generate computerized pictures of living tissue. Functional imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, permit scientists to study cell activity by tracking blood flow and energy metabolism. For more information about imaging, see Alcohol Alert No. 47, "Imaging and Alcoholism: A Window on the Brain."

Structural imaging consistently reveals that compared with nonalcoholics, most alcoholics' brains are smaller and less dense (11,12). Loss of brain volume is most noticeable in two areas: the outer layer (i.e., the cortex) of the frontal lobe, which is considered a major center of higher mental functions (7,12,13) and the cerebellum, which is responsible largely for gait and balance as well as certain aspects of learning (14). Support for these results is provided by functional imaging studies, which reveal altered brain activity throughout the cortex and cerebellum of heavy drinkers (15). In addition, functional imaging often is sufficiently sensitive to detect these irregularities before they can be observed by structural imaging techniques, and even before major cognitive problems themselves become manifest. This suggests that functional imaging may be particularly useful for detecting the early stages of cognitive decline (15).

Understanding the Basis of Cognitive Impairment

Accurate measurement of cognitive abilities is challenging, and relating those abilities to a specific brain irregularity simply may not be possible with the current technology (16). Discrepancies among research findings have led scientists to develop improved cognitive-measuring techniques. Using a battery of tests, Beatty and colleagues (9) have suggested that widespread (i.e., diffuse) cognitive impairment could arise from damage to multiple brain areas, each of which regulates distinct but related abilities. Likewise, damaging the network of brain cells that synchronizes the overall activity of those multiple areas may produce the same cognitive impairments previously attributed to localized damage (9).

Is Impairment Reversible?

Certain alcohol-related cognitive impairment is reversible with abstinence (17). Newly detoxified adult alcoholics often exhibit mild yet significant deficits in some cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving, short-term memory, and visuospatial abilities (18). By remaining abstinent, however, the recovering alcoholic will continue to recover brain function over a period of several months to 1 year (19)-with improvements in working memory, visuospatial functioning, and attention-accompanied by significant increases in brain volume, compared with treated alcoholics who have subsequently relapsed to drinking (18).

Rewiring Brain Networks

Reversibility of alcohol-related cognitive function also may be the result of a reorganization of key brain-cell networks. Some researchers have proposed that such reorganization may contribute to the success of alcoholism treatment. Using advanced imaging techniques, Pfefferbaum and colleagues (20) examined the brain activity of cognitively impaired alcoholic participants during a series of tests designed to assess cognitive function. They found that although the alcoholic subjects had abnormal patterns of brain activation, compared with control subjects, they were able to complete the tasks equally well, suggesting that the brain systems in alcoholics can be functionally reorganized so that tasks formerly performed by alcohol-damaged brain systems are shunted to alternative brain systems. This finding-that cognitively impaired alcoholic patients use different brain pathways than unimpaired patients to achieve equivalent outcome-also was suggested in a study of patients in 12-step treatment programs (4). Functional brain reorganization may be particularly advantageous for adolescent alcohol abusers in treatment, because their developing brains are still in the process of establishing nerve-cell networks (21).

Cognitive Function and Alcoholism Treatment


What can reduce the cognitive abilities in a common workplace? - Psychology

Cognitive Impairment and Recovery From Alcoholism

Brain damage is a common and potentially severe consequence of long-term, heavy alcohol consumption. Even mild-to-moderate drinking can adversely affect cognitive functioning (i.e., mental activities that involve acquiring, storing, retrieving, and using information) (1). Persistent cognitive impairment can contribute to poor job performance in adult alcoholics, and can interfere with learning and academic achievement in adolescents with an established pattern of chronic heavy drinking (2). A small but significant proportion of the heaviest drinkers may develop devastating, irreversible brain-damage syndromes, such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a disorder in which the patient is incapable of remembering new information for more than a few seconds (3).

It stands to reason that cognitive impairment also may impede recovery from alcoholism, although evidence has not conclusively shown this to be the case. For example, Morgenstern and Bates (4) studied whether deficits in a patient's learning and planning abilities-core aspects of many treatment strategies-affected recovery from alcoholism. They found that impairment was not a significant predictor of poor treatment response. On the other hand, evidence does support the possibility that brain damage, whether resulting from or predating alcohol use, may contribute to the development and progression of alcoholism (5).

Designing practical strategies to cope with the complex combination of alcoholism and cognitive impairment requires an understanding of the nature of cognitive functions and their interactions with structural and functional brain abnormalities. This issue of Alcohol Alert describes the nature and consequences of common alcohol-associated cognitive defects, explores the extent to which some cognitive abilities recover with abstinence, and summarizes recent research on the effects of cognitive deficits on alcoholism treatment outcome.

Cognition and Alcohol

Most alcoholics exhibit mild-to-moderate deficiencies in intellectual functioning (6), along with diminished brain size and regional changes in brain-cell activity. The most prevalent alcohol-associated brain impairments affect visuospatial abilities and higher cognitive functioning (7). Visuospatial abilities include perceiving and remembering the relative locations of objects in 2- and 3-dimensional space. Examples include driving a car or assembling a piece of furniture based on instructions contained in a line drawing. Higher cognitive functioning includes the abstract-thinking capabilities needed to organize a plan, set it in motion, and change it as needed (2).

Most alcoholics entering treatment perform as well as nonalcoholics on tests of overall intelligence. However, alcoholics perform poorly on neuropsychological tests that measure specific cognitive abilities (8). For example, an alcoholic who has remained abstinent after treatment may have no apparent difficulty filing office documents correctly, a task that engages multiple brain regions. However, that same person might be unable to devise a completely different filing system, a task closely associated with higher cognitive functioning.

How Much Is Too Much?

The link between duration and lifetime quantity of drinking and the development of cognitive problems is unclear. Some investigators have proposed that cognitive performance worsens in direct proportion to the severity and duration of alcoholism (6,9). Studies suggest that social drinkers who consume more than 21 drinks per week also fit into this category (6). Other investigators have suggested that cognitive deficits may be detectable only in those alcoholics who have been drinking regularly for 10 years or more (8,10). Long-term, light-to-moderate social drinkers have been found to fall into this category as well, showing cognitive deficits equivalent to those found in detoxified alcoholics (8). Although further research is needed to determine how a person's pattern of drinking is related to cognitive impairment, some deficits are possible even in people who are not heavy drinkers.

Tracking Structural and Functional Brain Abnormalities

Structural and functional brain abnormalities generally are measured by noninvasive imaging techniques that provide a picture of the living brain with minimal risk to the individual. Structural imaging techniques, such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging, are used to generate computerized pictures of living tissue. Functional imaging techniques, such as positron emission tomography and magnetic resonance spectroscopy, permit scientists to study cell activity by tracking blood flow and energy metabolism. For more information about imaging, see Alcohol Alert No. 47, "Imaging and Alcoholism: A Window on the Brain."

Structural imaging consistently reveals that compared with nonalcoholics, most alcoholics' brains are smaller and less dense (11,12). Loss of brain volume is most noticeable in two areas: the outer layer (i.e., the cortex) of the frontal lobe, which is considered a major center of higher mental functions (7,12,13) and the cerebellum, which is responsible largely for gait and balance as well as certain aspects of learning (14). Support for these results is provided by functional imaging studies, which reveal altered brain activity throughout the cortex and cerebellum of heavy drinkers (15). In addition, functional imaging often is sufficiently sensitive to detect these irregularities before they can be observed by structural imaging techniques, and even before major cognitive problems themselves become manifest. This suggests that functional imaging may be particularly useful for detecting the early stages of cognitive decline (15).

Understanding the Basis of Cognitive Impairment

Accurate measurement of cognitive abilities is challenging, and relating those abilities to a specific brain irregularity simply may not be possible with the current technology (16). Discrepancies among research findings have led scientists to develop improved cognitive-measuring techniques. Using a battery of tests, Beatty and colleagues (9) have suggested that widespread (i.e., diffuse) cognitive impairment could arise from damage to multiple brain areas, each of which regulates distinct but related abilities. Likewise, damaging the network of brain cells that synchronizes the overall activity of those multiple areas may produce the same cognitive impairments previously attributed to localized damage (9).

Is Impairment Reversible?

Certain alcohol-related cognitive impairment is reversible with abstinence (17). Newly detoxified adult alcoholics often exhibit mild yet significant deficits in some cognitive abilities, especially problem-solving, short-term memory, and visuospatial abilities (18). By remaining abstinent, however, the recovering alcoholic will continue to recover brain function over a period of several months to 1 year (19)-with improvements in working memory, visuospatial functioning, and attention-accompanied by significant increases in brain volume, compared with treated alcoholics who have subsequently relapsed to drinking (18).

Rewiring Brain Networks

Reversibility of alcohol-related cognitive function also may be the result of a reorganization of key brain-cell networks. Some researchers have proposed that such reorganization may contribute to the success of alcoholism treatment. Using advanced imaging techniques, Pfefferbaum and colleagues (20) examined the brain activity of cognitively impaired alcoholic participants during a series of tests designed to assess cognitive function. They found that although the alcoholic subjects had abnormal patterns of brain activation, compared with control subjects, they were able to complete the tasks equally well, suggesting that the brain systems in alcoholics can be functionally reorganized so that tasks formerly performed by alcohol-damaged brain systems are shunted to alternative brain systems. This finding-that cognitively impaired alcoholic patients use different brain pathways than unimpaired patients to achieve equivalent outcome-also was suggested in a study of patients in 12-step treatment programs (4). Functional brain reorganization may be particularly advantageous for adolescent alcohol abusers in treatment, because their developing brains are still in the process of establishing nerve-cell networks (21).

Cognitive Function and Alcoholism Treatment


This type of memory involves the storage of information for long periods of time. Retrieving such information depends on how well it was learned in the first place rather than how long it has been stored. If information is stored effectively, an older person may remember facts, events, names and other types of information stored in long-term memory throughout life. The memory of adults of all ages seems to be similar when they are asked to recall names of teachers or classmates. And older adults remember more about their early adulthood and adolescence than about middle adulthood (Berk, 2007). Older adults retain semantic memory or the ability to remember vocabulary.

Younger adults rely more on mental rehearsal strategies to store and retrieve information. Older adults focus rely more on external cues such as familiarity and context to recall information (Berk, 2007). And they are more likely to report the main idea of a story rather than all of the details (Jepson & Labouvie-Vief, in Berk, 2007).

A positive attitude about being able to learn and remember plays an important role in memory. When people are under stress (perhaps feeling stressed about memory loss), they have a more difficult time taking in information because they are preoccupied with anxieties. Many of the laboratory memory tests require compare the performance of older and younger adults on timed memory tests in which older adults do not perform as well. However, few real life situations require speedy responses to memory tasks. Older adults rely on more meaningful cues to remember facts and events without any impairment to everyday living.


10 Proven Methods for Fixing Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions have a way of playing havoc with our lives if we let them. A cognitive distortion takes place in our minds when we experience an upsetting event in our lives — a disagreement at work, an argument with a partner, a poor result in school — and we think about it in a way that reinforces negativity and feeling bad. While some may believe that “feeling bad’ is a necessary component of learning from our mistakes, many get stuck in a repetitive, reinforcing pattern of feeling bad about themselves. This can lead to lower self-esteem and a self-fulfilling prophecy in future interactions.

Cognitive distortions — also known as “stinkin’ thinkin’” — can be undone, but it takes effort and lots of practice, every day. If you want to stop the irrational thinking, you can start by trying out the exercises below.

You can use any one or a combination of the methods described below to combat irrational, automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions. Try a few of them out and look for the one that seems to work best for you, because different people respond to different ways of fixing their irrational thoughts.

1. Identify the Cognitive Distortion

The most important step of fixing any problem in your life is identifying exactly what the problem is and how extensive it is in your life. An auto mechanic starts with a diagnostic assessment of your car when it has a problem.

In this same manner, you need to identify and track the cognitive distortions in your daily thinking first, before you start working to change them. You do this by creating a list of the troublesome thoughts throughout the day, as you’re having them. This will allow you to examine them later for matches with a list of cognitive distortions.

An examination of your cognitive distortions allows you to see which distortions that you prefer. Additionally, this process allows you to think about each problem or predicament in a more natural or realistic manner. David Burns called this exercise keeping a daily mood log, but nowadays you can use an app or anything that’s convenient to record your cognitive distortions.

2. Examine the Evidence

Much like a judge overseeing a trial, the next step is to remove yourself from the emotionality of the upsetting event or episode of irrational thinking in order to examine the evidence more objectively. A thorough examination of an experience allows you to identify the basis for your distorted thoughts. If you are overly self-critical, you should identify a number of experiences and situations where you had success.

One effective method for examining the evidence is to look at individual thoughts connected to the event, and objectively decide whether those statements reflect an opinion or stone cold fact. For example, statements such as “I’m selfish” and “There’s something wrong with me” are opinions. “My co-worker spoke in angry voice toward me” and “I forgot to take out the trash” are facts. Segregating facts from opinions can help you determine which are likely to be a component of a cognitive distortion (the opinions) and therefore need your focus and efforts to undo.

3. Double Standard Method

An alternative to “self-talk” that is harsh and demeaning is to talk to ourselves in the same compassionate and caring way that we would talk with a friend in a similar situation. We are frequently much harder on ourselves than the people we care about in our lives, whether it be a friend or family member. We would never think of speaking to a close friend in the way we speak to ourselves in our own mind.

Instead of treating yourself with a different standard than what you hold everyone else to, why not use one single standard for everyone including yourself? Isn’t that more fair than using a double-standard? Give yourself the same encouragement that you would a trusted friend.

Imagine studying for an exam and telling a friend, “You’re going to screw this up, just like you screw everything else up!” Yet these are the same kinds of thoughts that run through many students’ minds before an exam. Can you answer such automatic, negative thoughts back with a rational response? For example, “You’re going to do well on this exam, I just know it. You studied hard for it and did your best to memorize the material. I believe in you.”

4. Thinking in Shades of Gray

Learning to undo black-and-white (or polarized) thinking can be challenging, because our minds take cognitive shortcuts to simplify processing of stimuli in order to hurry our ability to make a decision or choose a response. Black-and-white thinking can sometimes serve a good purpose, but it often leads a person down a path of irrational belief too.

Instead of thinking about a problem or predicament in an either-or polarity, thinking in shades of gray requires us to evaluate things on a scale of 0 through 100. When a plan or goal is not fully realized, think about and evaluate the experience as a partial success on this kind of scale.

For example, someone might think, “You can’t do anything right. You just blew your diet by having that second bite of ice cream.” What is the likelihood that a person’s entire dieting routine — that they’ve been following rigorously for months — is now made worthless by a single additional bite of ice cream? On our scale of 0 through 100, it might be about 1 percent likelihood.

5. Experimental Method

Can you test whether your irrational thoughts have any basis in fact outside of a trial? You sure can, by using the same kinds of methods that science uses in order to test a hypothesis.

For example, let’s say you’ve been putting off organizing your digital photos because it’ll be “too hard” or “I just can’t do it.” What if the task was broken down into smaller parts, such as tackling just a single month at a time in one sitting? Is the thought that it’s just “too hard” still true, now that you’ve broken the task into smaller, attainable components?

In another example, imagine a person who believes over time that she is no longer liked by her friends because they never connect with her on social media or call. Could that person test whether it was true that her friends no longer like her? What if she reached out to them and asked them out to lunch or for drinks one day? While it’s not likely all of her friends will accept an invitation, it’s likely at least one or two of them will, providing clear evidence in support of the fact that her friends still like her.

6. Survey Method

Similar to the experimental method, the survey method is focused on asking others in a similar situation about their experiences to determine how irrational our thoughts might be. Using this method, a person seeks the opinions of others regarding whether their thoughts and attitudes are realistic.

For example, a person might believe, “Romantic partners should never fight. And if they do fight, they should never go to bed angry at one another.” Who could they survey to see whether this is true or not? A few friends who appear to be in happy relationships might be a good start. That person would soon realize that all couples fight, and while it may be a good idea not to go to bed angry, plenty of people do and their relationship is just fine despite that.

If you want to double-check on the rationality of your thought, check in with a few trusted friends to see what their opinions and experiences are.

7. The Semantic Method

When a person engages in a series of should statements (“I should do this” or “I shouldn’t do that”), they are applying a set of unwritten rules to their behavior that may make little sense to others. Should statements imply a judgment about your or another person’s behavior — one that may be unhelpful and even hurtful.

Every time you find yourself using a should statement, try substituting “It would be nice if…” instead. This semantic difference can work wonders in your own mind, as you stop “should-ing” yourself to death and start looking at the world in a different, more positive manner. Shoulds make a person feel bad and guilty about themselves. “Wouldn’t it be nice and more healthy if I started watching what I ate more?” puts the thought into a more curious, inquisitive phrasing — one where the answer might be yes, but might also be no (for instance, if you’ve just started cancer treatment, now’s not a good time to change your eating habits).

8. Definitions

For people who are more intellectual and like to argue about minutiae, this method of arguing with your cognitive distortions might come in handy. What does it mean to define ourselves as “inferior,” “a loser,” “a fool,” or “abnormal.” An examination of these and other global labels may reveal that they more closely represent specific behaviors, or an identifiable behavior pattern, instead of the total person.

When a person starts delving into the definition of a label and asking questions about those definitions, the results can be surprising. For instance, what it does it mean to think of yourself as “inferior”? Inferior to who? Others at your workplace? What are their specific work experiences and backgrounds? Aren’t they all inferior to someone else too? The more questions you ask when challenging a definition or label, the more you may come to realize the uselessness of such labels — especially when applied to ourselves.

9. Re-attribution

In personalization and blaming cognitive distortions, a person will point the finger to themselves for all of the negative things they experience, no matter what the actual cause.

In re-attribution, a person identifies external factors and other individuals that contributed to the problem or event. Regardless of the degree of responsibility a person assumes, a person’s energy is best utilized in the pursuit of resolutions to problems or identifying ways to cope with predicaments. By assigning responsibility accordingly, you’re not trying to deflect blame, but ensure you’re not blaming yourself entirely for something that wasn’t entirely your fault.

For example, if a project at work failed to get done on time and you were one of the members of the 5-member team, you’re one-fifth to blame for the project missing its deadline. From an objective perspective, you are not entirely to blame for the missed deadline.

10. Cost-Benefit Analysis

This method for answering an irrational belief relies on motivation rather than facts to help a person undo the cognitive distortion. In this technique, it is helpful to list the advantages and disadvantages of feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. A cost-benefit analysis will help to figure out what a person is gaining from feeling bad, distorted thinking, and inappropriate behavior.

“How will it help me to believe this negative, irrational thought, and how will it hurt me?” If you find the disadvantages of believing a thought outweigh the advantages, you’ll find it easier to talk back and refute the irrational belief.


The Mere Presence of Your Smartphone Reduces Brain Power, Study Shows

Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off.

AUSTIN, Texas — Your cognitive capacity is significantly reduced when your smartphone is within reach — even if it’s off. That’s the takeaway finding from a new study from the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.

McCombs Assistant Professor Adrian Ward and co-authors conducted experiments with nearly 800 smartphone users in an attempt to measure, for the first time, how well people can complete tasks when they have their smartphones nearby even when they’re not using them.

In one experiment, the researchers asked study participants to sit at a computer and take a series of tests that required full concentration in order to score well. The tests were geared to measure participants’ available cognitive capacity — that is, the brain’s ability to hold and process data at any given time. Before beginning, participants were randomly instructed to place their smartphones either on the desk face down, in their pocket or personal bag, or in another room. All participants were instructed to turn their phones to silent.

The researchers found that participants with their phones in another room significantly outperformed those with their phones on the desk, and they also slightly outperformed those participants who had kept their phones in a pocket or bag.

The findings suggest that the mere presence of one’s smartphone reduces available cognitive capacity and impairs cognitive functioning, even though people feel they’re giving their full attention and focus to the task at hand.

“We see a linear trend that suggests that as the smartphone becomes more noticeable, participants’ available cognitive capacity decreases,” Ward said. “Your conscious mind isn’t thinking about your smartphone, but that process — the process of requiring yourself to not think about something — uses up some of your limited cognitive resources. It’s a brain drain.”

In another experiment, researchers looked at how a person’s self-reported smartphone dependence — or how strongly a person feels he or she needs to have a smartphone in order to get through a typical day — affected cognitive capacity. Participants performed the same series of computer-based tests as the first group and were randomly assigned to keep their smartphones either in sight on the desk face up, in a pocket or bag, or in another room. In this experiment, some participants were also instructed to turn off their phones.

The researchers found that participants who were the most dependent on their smartphones performed worse compared with their less-dependent peers, but only when they kept their smartphones on the desk or in their pocket or bag.

Ward and his colleagues also found that it didn’t matter whether a person’s smartphone was turned on or off, or whether it was lying face up or face down on a desk. Having a smartphone within sight or within easy reach reduces a person’s ability to focus and perform tasks because part of their brain is actively working to not pick up or use the phone.

“It’s not that participants were distracted because they were getting notifications on their phones,” said Ward. “The mere presence of their smartphone was enough to reduce their cognitive capacity.”


Cognitive Dissonance Can Be Harmful, Too

Recognizing and reconciling cognitive dissonance is not always a feel-good experience. Spotting dissonance in our own lives can be painful, embarrassing, and anxiety-inducing, too. And it can be troubling and mentally exhausting to deal with, Curry says.

“The tension that gets created when you hold certain beliefs or values but act in a way that conflicts with your belief systems generates an internal discomfort that most people have to subconsciously work very hard to ignore,” Curry says.

Consider if you’re working in a job you hate, suggests Michele Leno, PhD, a Michigan-based licensed psychologist and founder of DML Psychological Services. You have a pit in your stomach every morning, and you’re counting down the hours until it’s time to leave. And yet, you go every day. Living with that dissonance probably means you’re fairly stressed out and angry every day.

And sometimes reducing the dissonance can be as easy as reframing your thinking.

Maybe not feeling so negative about that job is a matter of recognizing its benefits, Leno says. Such as, “earning a salary and a pension is the responsible thing to do” or “I don’t respect my boss, but I’m learning a lot.”


6 Ways to Reduce Cognitive Demand When Designing UX

Decision fatigue is a popular term used to describe when people have made too many decisions over a specific period. Research suggests that it mainly occurs as humans’ cognitive resources diminish with time. That’s why after you’ve been surfing Netflix for 30 minutes looking for something new, all you end up watching is ‘The Office’. Your decision-making has started to slip — even if it isn’t a bad show!

In product design, we try to reduce the number of decisions that a user needs to make. We assume that people are using the product to complete a task, and the more smoothly and intuitively it goes, the better. The more small decisions an individual is asked to make over a specific period, even if they’re trivial (like which show to watch on Netflix), the lower their quality of decision-making will be.

When you’re tired, this can significantly impact your ability to make decisions, and UX designers must know how fatigue affects users when they design interfaces for them. This topic is an interesting one because there are many reasons why people might experience cognitive overload when using your product.

This article looks at six ways to reduce the cognitive demand when you take on your next UX project.


Four Healthy Habits for Seniors to Reduce Cognitive Decline and Prevent Dementia

Many of us know someone who has been affected by a decline in cognitive function (e.g. memory, thinking), dementia, or Alzheimer&rsquos Disease (the most common form of dementia). Cognitive decline and dementia can take a toll on an individual&rsquos ability to perform activities of daily living, or every day activities such as eating and getting dressed, as well as on the individual&rsquos quality of life.

The biggest risk factor associated with cognitive decline and dementia is aging. As the older adult population continues to grow, with one-fifth of the world population projected to consist of older adults (60+) by 2050, the rates of dementia will rise, affecting an estimated 65.7 million people worldwide by 2030, and 115.4 million by 2050. 1 With little advancement in the ability for drugs to treat dementia, many people are left asking:

  • What can I do to help prevent or delay the onset of cognitive decline and dementia?
  • What can I do to maintain healthy living as I grow older?

Fortunately, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that adopting certain lifestyle behaviors, such as exercising, consuming a healthy diet, and participating in social activity, as well as maintaining heart health and monitoring cardiovascular risk factors (e.g. high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity), can reduce the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. 2 In the past, many studies have focused on one lifestyle behavior at a time, but more recently, researchers have found that participating in multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors associated with cognitive decline and dementia may be more beneficial than participating in just one. 3

Tip #1: Participate in weekly physical activity

Studies have shown that a combination of aerobic physical activity and muscle strengthening can be beneficial to cognitive function. It is recommended that adults participate in 150-300 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity a week, or 75-150 minutes of vigorous aerobic physical activity a week, or a combination of the two. 4

Aerobic physical activity improves cardiovascular fitness and can consist of brisk walking, running, or bicycling. Examples of moderate physical activities include walking briskly, raking the yard, or playing volleyball.

Vigorous physical activities can include running or jogging or taking part in a high intensity work-out class. Several activities can be performed at either moderate or vigorous intensities (e.g. cycling or swimming).

Adults should also participate in muscle-strengthening exercises at least 2 days per week. Muscle strengthening exercises increase the strength, power, and endurance of muscles and can include resistance training and weight lifting.

Older adults (65+) should participate in physical activity that combines balance training, aerobic exercise, and muscle-strengthening exercises. Balance training is an important component for older adults to prevent falls and improve quality of life.

Tip #2: Maintain a healthy diet

Diet guidelines that closely follow a &ldquoMediterranean diet&rdquo have long been associated with many health benefits on top of showing evidence to support cognitive health. 5,6 A typical meal is centered around plant-based foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, whole grains, and beans), with moderate amounts of seafood, poultry, eggs, and dairy, and only occasional consumption of red meat. The following guidelines should be closely adhered to:

  • Eat a variety of fruit and vegetables
  • Eat whole grains
  • Eat fish and poultry in place of red meat (eat lean cuts of red meat when it is consumed)
  • Limit sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
  • Eat nuts and legumes
  • Use olive oil or similar monosaturated fat sources in food
  • Limit the amount of trans fat, sodium, and saturated fat in your diet

Tip #3: Engage in social activity

Engagement in social activity may also reduce the risk of cognitive decline and assist in preventing dementia. Adults can participate in a variety of social activities, including ones that combine other lifestyle behaviors (e.g. community exercise classes). There are many ways that adults and older adults can become socially active including joining a club or group, becoming a volunteer, and/or joining a community fitness center.

Tip #4: Monitor cardiovascular risk factors (high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity) and maintain heart health

Participating in a healthy lifestyle in aging, especially by being physical active and consuming a good diet, can also reduce the risk of cardiovascular risk factors that are associated with cognitive decline and dementia. It is also important to consistently get screening tests to monitor for risk factors associated with heart health (and cognitive function). The following screenings can be helpful to know when and if you need to take more action to reduce your risk:

  • Blood pressure: High blood pressure can show no symptoms, but can increase your risk of stroke, heart disease, and cognitive decline (especially high blood pressure in mid-life).
  • Blood sugar: High blood sugar increases your risk of developing prediabetes and type II diabetes, which can also lead to stroke, heart disease, and is associated with cognitive decline.
  • Body weight: Measuring waist circumference and body weight can allow you or your provider to identify if you are at a higher risk for developing disorders associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

By following these tips and consistently participating in multiple healthy lifestyle behaviors adults can reap a multitude of benefits, including the potential to reduce cognitive decline associated with aging.

1. World Health Organization., Alzheimer&rsquos Disease International. Dementia : A Public Health Priority. World Health Organization 2012.

2. Norton S, Matthews FE, Barnes DE, Yaffe K, Brayne C. Potential for primary prevention of Alzheimer&rsquos disease: an analysis of population-based data. Lancet Neurol. 201413(8):788-794. doi:10.1016/S1474-4422(14)70136-X

3. Ngandu T, Lehtisalo J, Solomon A, et al. A 2 year multidomain intervention of diet, exercise, cognitive training, and vascular risk monitoring versus control to prevent cognitive decline in at-risk elderly people (FINGER): a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2015385(9984):2255-2263. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(15)60461-5

4. Piercy KL, Troiano RP, Ballard RM, et al. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. JAMA. 2018320(19):2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.14854

5. Scarmeas N, Stern Y, Tang M-X, Mayeux R, Luchsinger JA. Mediterranean Diet and Risk for Alzheimer&rsquos Disease. Ann Neurol. 200659(6):912-921. doi:10.1002/ana.20854

6. McEvoy CT, Guyer H, Langa KM, Yaffe K. Neuroprotective Diets Are Associated with Better Cognitive Function: The Health and Retirement Study. J Am Geriatr Soc. 201765(8):1857-1862. doi:10.1111/jgs.14922

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How to Reduce Cognitive Dissonance: A Bit Difficult, But Possible

The psychological discomfort that one feels when his actions are not aligned with his beliefs is called cognitive dissonance, which all of us strive to avoid as much as possible. When it does happen, it is reduced in different ways.

The psychological discomfort that one feels when his actions are not aligned with his beliefs is called cognitive dissonance, which all of us strive to avoid as much as possible. When it does happen, it is reduced in different ways.

Did You Know?

Despite all his work in the field of social psychology, Leon Festinger spent the latter part of his life in researching prehistoric archaeological data.

Suggested by Leon Festinger in 1957, the cognitive dissonance theory states that human beings always try their level best to have internal consistency, meaning that their beliefs, thoughts, and opinions match their actions, behavior, and attitude so as to avoid mental tension of any kind. If dissonance, discomfort, or inconsistency of any kind is experienced, we tend to feel psychological discomfort and strive hard to reduce it, or to avoid it altogether.

Cognitive dissonance is experienced to quite an extent in our daily lives without most of us even realizing it. This dissonance varies upon the magnitude of that particular situation― if it is something petty or insignificant, we don’t bother thinking too much about our dissonance, and we quickly reduce it, ignore it, and move on. If the cognitions (thoughts, beliefs) and actions are important for us, then we experience a greater level of psychological discomfort. For instance, something as small as having a wonderful opinion about a particular sweet first and then liking another one better might not cause a lot of cognitive dissonance, as you may change your belief about the one sweet being better than the rest quite easily. On the contrary, when the magnitude of the situation is higher, say, you know your doctor wants you to follow a strict diet to lose weight, but you end up eating a lot of fatty food on the second day of your diet. You may feel very restless, guilty, and psychologically uncomfortable then, until you have reduced the dissonance as much as you can.

As the theory states, we tend to want to have internal consistency all the time, and the slightest imbalance disturbs us. Reducing cognitive dissonance is an important aspect of ensuring internal consistency. Though it is important, it is hard to achieve, and so we try our best to come up with various tactics to please our mind. Festinger provided three basic reduction techniques of cognitive dissonance in his theory, as is explained in the next section.

Altering The Importance Of The Original Cognitions

One of the methods of reducing cognitive dissonance is to alter the importance of the original cognitions so as to reduce the psychological discomfort. Altering the importance of original cognitions could either mean that you increase the attractiveness of the chosen alternative, or decrease the attractiveness of your cognitions.

Example―
A smoker who knows smoking is injurious to health will justify his smoking by saying “Death will take me when it’s supposed to.” or “What’s meant to be will happen.” or “Smoking is recreational for me, it’s not an addiction.” Through this justification, he is decreasing the importance of his original cognitions (of smoking being bad for health) so as to reduce any dissonance that he might feel.

Adding New Cognitions To Support The Conflicting Behavior

Dissonance is experienced when the behavior we practice is conflicting with our beliefs, as is known. Another way of reducing this discomfort is to add new beliefs which support the conflicting behavior. Adding new beliefs helps outweigh the dissonance beliefs, which reduces cognitive dissonance to a great extent.

Example―
A woman who is overweight has been advised by her doctor to follow a certain diet, exercise, and lose weight so as to reduce any possible health risks. Her diet has been carefully discussed and designed, and it completely does away with junk food that poses a threat to her health. The woman knows why dieting is important, and that it is for her health, and not for any silly reason. Yet, she gorges on cakes, donuts, burgers, and other fatty food that is strictly taboo for her. The woman tells herself that, “It’s okay, cheating once in a while is allowed!” or “I’ll just exercise extra tomorrow and work this off.” or “The doctor is being unfair, my diet doesn’t really have to be this strict.” or “He didn’t say when I was to start following this diet. It could be from next week, for all I know! Why not enjoy now?” By telling herself this, she reduces the dissonance which she feels when cheating on her diet, as she has added new cognitions which support her conflicting behavior, which will outweigh her original belief about the need for a diet.

Changing Behavior Completely

Changing behavior completely means that we stick to our original cognitions, and change the conflicting behavior completely so as to act according to our beliefs. Here, importance is given to the original cognitions over the conflicting ones, and thus, cognitive dissonance is reduced. However, it can be really difficult for human beings to adopt this method of reducing dissonance, especially when both conflicting cognitions seem equally attractive.

Example―
An intelligent, highly ambitious woman values men who are similar to her, and despises those who lack determination and ambitions. Yet, her new boyfriend is a laid-back man who does not seem very interested in working or making anything of his life. The woman’s behavior of dating this man is conflicting with her original belief of despising such men. To reduce the dissonance she is feeling, the woman gets clear about what she wants from her ideal partner, and decides that she can no longer date this guy, and that she has to be with someone who matches her mindset. The woman reduces her psychological discomfort by breaking up with her boyfriend, and thus, changing her behavior completely so that her internal consistency is managed.

Broadly, all the reduction techniques and strategies are a part of the three basic methods to lessen cognitive dissonance. This concept has several practical applications in various fields.

Please note: The examples offered in this article are not meant to offend anybody or to hurt anyone’s sentiments.


Watch the video: Μεικτά Σήματα: Με ΘΕΛΕΙ ή ΟΧΙ;. Men of Style (January 2022).