Dick Swaab at EIM2012 on Brains and Information

Yesterday at EIM2012 the honorable mister Dick Swaab gave a presentation on the Brain and its impact on our character and our behaviour. His message was that we cannot change very much about who we are because this is formed in our brains during pregnancy (he appealed for a ban on smoking, drinking and drug use during pregnancy) and just after birth.

But what does this mean for information processing. I can imagine we actually cannot change very much in our capabilities for information processing. The only real way is to add neurotransmitters, for instance oxitocin to increase trust and reduce fea, to change the way we process information and make decisions.

We can be more aware about the way we present information to our brain. Our senses are wired to our brain differently and our eye’s perform best, this means that listening is slower to supply information to our brain than reading. So an audio book is a great way to ‘read’ a book in your car but will take a lot longer and possibly the listener has a lesser recall.

Another way is for the sender to prime a reader better or avoid priming. For instance in the way we present options. The first option always prime your response to the second and so on. A response to a question primes the answers of others. The sender of information can think of ways to prime the receiver in word choice, options and context in which the information is received. The receiver would want to avoid priming as much as possible the make a more conscious decision.

Evoking the conscious/rational mind to process information instead of the subconscious or system 2 over system 1 if you have read Daniel Kahnemann. Our rational thoughts are lazy and remain dormant as long as possible but can be enabled. One trick is to make text a little fuzzy and therefor harder to read. This requires more attention and turns on your ratio!

Conclusion is that our brains cannot be changed for information processing but the context of information and the information itself can be presented in a smarter way to enable better processing. This requires more understanding of the way our brains work by sender and receiver of information to start using these insights!

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