Exercising the Mind to Treat Attention Deficits

Cognitive control increases from about 4 to 12 years old, then plateaus, said Betty J. Casey, director of the Sackler Institute for Developmental Psychobiology at Weill Cornell Medical College. Teenagers find it difficult to suppress their impulses, as any parent knows.

But impulsivity peaks around age 16, Dr. Casey noted, and in their 20s most people achieve adult levels of cognitive control. Among healthy adults, it begins to wane noticeably in the 70s or 80s, often manifesting as an inability to remember names or words, because of distractions that the mind once would have suppressed

Ted Nelson: Biostatus

“My theory of human life is best begun with a rhetorical question having to do with morale, i.e., feeling good or fierce or ready, and its relation to our ability to function. Why is it that some days we can seemingly achieve anything, and other times we can hardly get out of bed? Why don’t we perform at peak efficiency all the time? There must be a reason, and it must have to do with gene benefit ..

.. We heed biostatus because we can’t help it: when you are depressed you can hardly function; meaning an inner evaluator says things aren’t working; when you are exhilarated you can accomplish things with ease, for the inner evaluator is saying Go For It.

.. When you’re succeeding, biostatus rises, saying “do more;” when you’re failing, low biostatus is nature’s way of telling you to slow down. This up and down are the biostatus system.

.. The biostatus system is a heuristic that has evolved to reward and facilitate success, and to punish and curtail failure. (Thus the downside of the biostatus mechanism, generalized discouragement in its many forms, is a strategy of avoidance and caution similar to pain and shyness.)

.. But where does this evaluation occur, especially since we are ways making excuses to ourselves (“ego defenses”)? Answer: there is also at least one unbribable Watcher (given various names by Freud and others), who rewards and punishes success and failure according to your true standards, as distinct from your pretexts. (And just finding out your true standards, as applied in Draconian style by such Watchers, can be a lifelong endeavor.)

.. The biostatus mechanism must indeed be administered by some punishing and rewarding superego, operating according to what are often secret standards, inaccessible to consciousness. But this view holds that this entire mechanism must work for long-term benefit in the majority of cases.”

When the boss is a psychopath

The least likely professionals to exhibit psychopathic characteristics? Care workers, nurses, therapists, artists and teachers.

Though these leaders cause misery and mayhem, “those who can curb their tendencies to ignore society’s rules are at a great advantage,” said James. “If you take away the concern with other people that figures in most people’s calculations, you are more free and can think outside the box.”


Processing fluency

Other studies have shown that when presenting people with a factual statement, manipulations that make the statement easier to mentally process—even totally nonsubstantive changes like writing it in a cleaner font or making it rhyme or simply repeating it—can alter judgment of the truth of the statement, along with evaluation of the intelligence of the statement’s author.