I already know, so don’t flood my inbox with answers.

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Men fold. Women crumble.

While discussing a research project with a friend, she commented, “Did you know that most men fold and most women crumple?” “No. I did not,” snickering. She challenged me to solve that pesky problem. And who doesn’t accept a challenge like that over a pint of beer?

This is when I was working on my doctoral degree. I took several research courses. If you want a PhD, you must do research. One class required the students to perform a complete mock study. While the investigation didn’t need to show rigor or tackle any needy subject, it…

Neuroscience and the Classroom

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Guess what number will turn up if I roll one die.

Predict what number will turn up if I roll a pair of die.

While the difference appears subtle, it produces significant effects.


When you guess what number will appear when I roll a single die, the odds are one in six for each number: 16.67%. No amount of knowledge improves your guess. The answer remains unpredictable; hence, no investment in the outcome. (In case you’re wondering, I rolled a four.)


When you predict what number will turn up if I roll a pair of dice, the odds…

The Neuroscience behind our beliefs and how they influence creativity

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Are you creative? If you believe you are, how did that belief develop?

Maybe it happened incrementally with parents and teachers lauding your efforts and commenting on your brilliant creative efforts. Perhaps your belief erupted suddenly from an unexpected comment.

Sorting this out may surprise you. As a researcher of formative moments, these spontaneous eruptions can be quite revealing.

Take, for example, what graduate student Rylie shared about her love for writing fantasies.

When I was in fifth grade, my teacher often assigned creative and fun projects. …

Gerd Altmann, Pixabay

Do Beliefs Emerge or Erupt?

Ponder this: If you label a behavior, does it become a belief?

Five-year-old Zachary remembers daydreaming for what seemed like an eternity while waiting for his Grandma to get ready for a shopping trip. She said, “Thanks for waiting. Such patience you have Zachary.” Zachary claims that his Grandma’s remark shaped him into a patient person. Since then he prides himself in always entertaining himself while waiting.

In the movie Field of Dreams, an Iowa corn farmer hears voices and interprets them as a command to build a baseball diamond in his cornfield. He does, and the 1919 Chicago White…

We all experience defining moments in our lives. What events shaped your beliefs about yourself? What are your formative moments?

Random events transform us. Beliefs about our abilities, confidence, and self-esteem often arise from unpredictable events. They may appear trivial to others while significant to us.

Are you clever? How did that belief develop? Are you creative? How did that mindset materialize? How and when did your defining features emerge? For example, Samantha felt her shyness was a weakness until her swim coach surprised her by naming her captain. He told the team, “She may be quiet, but when this…

Photo by Kirill Balobanov on Unsplash

To see how our brains construct our interpersonal reality, let’s start with a simple illustration of how our brains continuously predict events in the concrete world.

Concrete Events

Imagine you’re blindfolded in your home and placed sitting at the foot of your bed. I give you a task: Make your way to the living room to turn on the TV. Also, imagine that the people you live with haven’t cluttered your house with potential obstacles and hazards. You might impress yourself by doing this relatively quickly and easily. Relative to what you might ask. How about relative to achieving that…

Avoid empty praise and move toward prescriptive encouragement.

Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

Before you read further, choose from the four options below. What’s the relationship between self-esteem and school success? I define self-esteem as a person’s overall sense of personal value, self-worth.

Option 1: The correlation is positive. When one increases, so does the other. If Dawn feels better about herself, her school success climbs. Or, if her school success improves, her self-esteem rises.

Option 2: The correlation is negative. As one increases, the other decreases. If Dawn’s school success improves, she values herself less, and vice versa.

Option 3: No correlation exists. One…

Support or resign

Many on the left keep hoping that Republican members of Congress will call out President Trump. They shouldn’t, even if they disagree with him. To do so is disingenuous.

If you hold elected office, you swore to uphold those you represent. If your constituents don’t reflect your views/beliefs, resign. Republicans attacking Trump make themselves hypocrites. It’s an act of deceit.

Pundits say that conservatives find themselves between a rock and a hard place. No, no, no. No rock. No hard place. It just is.

Trump received more votes than any Republican hopeful in history. He’s arguably the most popular president in the annals of that party. Liberals expecting conservatives to see the light show their arrogance. This “light” of illumination translates to seeing things my way.

That said, I’m guilty too, and I wish everybody saw the world the way I do.

Image by Philip Friis from Pixabay

Watch for Surprises

When you turn on your Meaning-Making-Moment radar, you become the architect of your belief system.

While working on her poem at the kitchen table, Lauren’s father entered the room and commented, “You work too hard at your schoolwork.” The comment surprised her.

She explained to her father, “This is the first schoolwork I’ve done all day. You just haven’t seen me before now.” Although the reply to her father emerged in a flash, her conscious meaning-making reflection took considerably longer.

Lauren has meaning-making radar; she tunes into what happens during a surprise moment. Here’s what she told me when she…

Just like the Indy racers

(Photo by shen liu on Unsplash)

It’s socialized, not socialism.

I get it. When you look at some failed socialist states, it stirs fear. Caution though, socialized concepts are not socialism any more than playing catch means you’re playing baseball.

Let’s play catch.

If you watch sports, game shows, American Idol, Survivor, you want the players to match up evenly. Level competition makes watching entertaining. Competitors must try their best. Any lax effort by one creates an opportunity for another. Competitors must always stay “on their game.”

Indy racers use identical cars, engines, and even tires. Everything is uniform except the drivers, mechanics, the pit crew…

Michael Rousell, PhD

Michael Rousell PhD is the author of The Power of Surprise: How Your Brain Secretly Changes Your Beliefs. He studies life-changing events.

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