Monday, October 21, 2019

The Road to Peak Cognitive Performance

A little context please. As a rule our delicate sensitive snowflake generation believes that the least discouraging word, the least trigger, the least traumatizing intervention will cause them to crumble into ineffective inefficiency.

We must be nice. We must offer constant encouragement and good feelings, because low self-esteem will diminish your performance.

On last night’s episode of The Affair, always a compelling television show, a woman who had been a student in Noah Solloway’s writing seminar declaims against him for discouraging her, for telling her that she had no inner life. Apparently, the experience was so traumatic that she has suffered for years. Now, she is fighting back by denouncing him publicly for his misogyny.

Of course, it could be that she lacks talent, but that, in itself, is not considered relevant to the discussions. In any event we now know that we are not allowed to take anyone to task, because if they fail, then the fault will immediately become ours.

I offer this backdrop to the latest piece of scientific research. For those who are touting the virtues of self-esteem, of showering students with unearned praise, it will come as something of a shock. As well it should.

The research shows that if you want to improve your cognitive performance-- which of us does not?-- you should hire a humanoid robot, sit it down next to you, and have it offer you a stream of insults. No kidding. It’s not The Onion. Or at least I hope it’s not.

From Zero Hedge:

A study performed by the American Association for the Advancement of science found that the presence of a "threatening humanoid robot" nearby can actually help improve human cognitive performance.

In one experiment robots offered positive emotions, like empathy. In another it offered negative emotions, like contempt or disrespect. Of course, the individual was also tested in the presence of no one.

The conclusion: cognitive performance only improved when the subject was in the presence of a mean nasty robot. It remained the same when the robot was empathetic or when there was no robot around at all.

Feeling threatened makes you more attentive… to issues outside of the realm of the threat.

The study concludes:

Therefore, not only can the behavior of robots change humans’ perception of robots during HRI (10), but these attributions are susceptible to making the simple presence of robots likely to affect human cognition as a function of the interaction type. Thus, the present findings constitute evidence that the presence of social robots may energize attentional control, especially when the emotional valence and anthropomorphic inferences associated with the robot being present require a heightened state of alertness.

And you thought that empathy would solve all of our problems. You probably thought that higher self-esteem will make you a dynamo. Haven’t you noticed that some sports coaches are truly mean and threatening… and that they incite athletes to improve their performance?

So,  thought for today.

1 comment:

Sam L. said...

Where are our strong, empowered people? And how did those few escape from the nice-nice, fully empathetic teachers who kept telling us how SMART we are, how CLEVER we are, etc. and son on and so forth...