Ep. 1: It's the Brain Stupid

ByJoanne

Ep. 1: It's the Brain Stupid

 
 
Recorded on Recorded Wed 05.Feb.2020 -  Published on Published Sun 09.Feb.2020
Duration 1:01:50 duration - Downloads 114 downloads
 
 
 
 
Title: Ep.1 It's the Brain Stupid
Subtitle: A chat with Dr Lynda Shaw about how our brains are not as reliable as we think..!
 
Summary: For this episode, I am joined by Dr Lynda Shaw, who holds a doctorate in cognitive neuroscience, and specialises in unconscious processing of emotion and behavioural change. We discuss how our brains fool us, create biases through heuristics. We discover how some of our previously held beliefs are now being re-written by advances in our understanding of neuroscience. Nothing is out of bounds; gender identity, stereotyping, and how we create in and out groups which leads to discrimination and exclusion. Please join in the conversation and leave your comments below.
 
 
Joanne Lockwood
Hello everybody, and welcome to the very first podcast in my new show called inclusion bites. In this series I'll be interviewing a number of amazing people that simply having a conversation around the subject of inclusion, belonging, and generally making the world a better place for everyone to thrive in. If you'd like to join me in the future, then please do drop me a line to jo.lockwood@seechangehappen.co.uk you'll be able to catch up with all of the shows on iTunes, Spotify, and all the usual places. So plug in your headphones grab a decaf and let's get going. But today I have the absolute honour and privilege to be joined by Dr. Lynda Shaw. I first met Lynda at a meeting of the Professional Speaking Association, and was recently amused by her entertaining the audience in a musical comedy sketch playing the triangle in a dinner jacket no less and I asked Linda to describe her superpower. As she said her superpower is “always loving change while the rest of us try to resist change.” This is something Lynda does to great effect. And today we're going to tackle the topic entitled, it's the brain stupid. So Dr. Lynda Shaw. Good morning. How are you?
Dr Lynda Shaw
Good morning, Joanne. Really good. Thank you. How are you?
Joanne Lockwood
I'm Fantastic. Thank you really looking forward. We planned this a couple of months ago and I'm really, really excited to finally have the opportunity to catch up. So do you want tell me and the listeners a bit more about yourself. So who is Dr. Lynda Shaw.
Dr Lynda Shaw
Yeah, I've got a doctorate in neuroscience. my speciality is unconscious processing of emotion and it's morphed into other things as well, basically, because I had three businesses before I went back to academia. And I've got a psychology in my background. So my biggest business I had to 20 staff and 2000 members of a health club. So I sort of get what it's like to manage people to understand how to motivate them how to how to create decent decision making processes, how judgments, all of those things that the cognitive brain does. So, my discipline is cognitive neuroscience. So I basically am a specialist in how the brain changes behaviour and behaviour changes the brain. And because of that, what people don't realise is just how much control they really have. And they can control their behaviour to a certain extent not completely, but to a certain extent more than they realise if they just were aware of it, and understood how to do it how to how to change willingly. So that's what I bang on about when I go around to companies and senior people in the city and such like.
Joanne Lockwood
So it's almost like saying to yourself, before some it comes out your mouth before thought becomes locked in. How can I change that thought, How can I reframe that? How can I nudge it into a different orbit, maybe
Dr Lynda Shaw
Yeah, I mean, as soon as you create a different way of thinking on a particular topic or a particular person or particular subject, you actually rewire the brain. You lay down new neural pathways and new connections, new synapses, new dendrites, new everything. So in then if you keep rolling that thought, you will strengthen it, and it will become your default thought instead of the more destructive one. So if we say, you know, we are we can do that. And we do it all the time. But what people don't realise is they can do it deliberately. And while doing it deliberately you have it, you're in more in control of your destiny, which is really cool.
Joanne Lockwood
So I heard recently that most of the biases we have and are learned. Okay, we do have some protection type biases, some subliminal reptilian type biases, but we do learn a lot of biases over the course of our lifetime, don't we?
Dr Lynda Shaw
Well, biases come from heuristics. heuristics is a method the brain uses to create shortcuts to lay down information, because we are bombarded with this cacophony of stimuli all the time and the brain can't cope with it. So it relegates everything to unconscious processing, automatic processing that does not take attention as quickly as possible. So we're locking away all of this huge amounts of data. Now, if I said to you, if this was this A4 sheet of paper here was the brain. And um, part of its conscious processing and part of it is unconscious processing. How much would you say that sheet of paper is conscious processing?
Joanne Lockwood
I'd have to say with I’d like to think I'm slightly educated. I just say that probably 80% was probably unconscious and 20% conscious.
Dr Lynda Shaw
20% conscious is what you're reckon yeah? when an actual fact, it's probably that much
Joanne Lockwood
A couple of percent
Dr Lynda Shaw
so that all the rest is unconscious processing. So what we do with heuristics is we think, okay, that person has, has a green skin with things sticking out of his head must be a Martian put them in the Martian box, that person has that that thing has four legs or tail and ears, it must be a dog in the dog box, that unconscious processing it gets it gets. So it's speed of efficiency for the brain to operate. But then we get these biases because they were thinking, well, that means that all green people are Martians, when it could be the Grinch. Or it could be you know, that dog is actually a cat. And so we start to get it wrong biases are are not very, very helpful in terms of being accurate because we stereotype people immediately into because they've got that accent, that must means they're ABC, in a box stereotypical. And so it's not helpful because we get that wrong. But equally, it's helpful because it enables us to process so much information so quickly. So the heuristics are great, but a side effect of the biases and the size of the biases of the things that we're trying to tackle so much in commerce now, which is a very difficult thing to tackle. And it's, it's, it's a conundrum is it is actually a really big problem.
Joanne Lockwood
I had somewhere that the if you like this unconscious brain is really fast, whereas the conscious brain is quite slow and expensive in terms of brain cycles. It costs more to process things consciously than unconsciously. Is that a truism? Or is that just
Dr Lynda Shaw
it's fairly true. Gotta be careful of these grand statements in neuroscience, the popular press get hold of this stuff. I mean, may I give you an example of what it's like to be a neuroscientist to give you give you a context. Okay, so we have an idea. And we've got our little idea. And we think, Okay, this is a really good idea. I want to research this. I wonder if anybody else has researched it and what's been said before. So our little idea becomes this great big piece of work where we're doing a massive literature review, and we're reading up on it. We realised I'm good, okay, my dear sound, I can do that. So we break it right the way down to our hypotheses. And then we think, right, I'm going to design my experiment now. So we open it up, we design the experiment, we run the experiment, we get the results, and then we finally take off quite finally they will, what gets down to those tiny results in about half a page. And then we open it up again, in our discussion, looking back at the literature review. So we now look so we've now got our discussion. We've opened it up, and we're trying to make sense of the results and then we close it down again, down and down and down and to our conclusion, nice and neat, saying what needs to be done next. And then with a bit of luck and affair wind, we are published in a peer review paper. And it goes out there to the, to the enlightened ones, and then the popular press get hold of it. And then all hell breaks loose, because it goes wrong. So, so you get this lovely neuroscientific explanations and ideas and what is going on in the brain, then popular press get hold of it, then somebody says, All that's going to fit my business model. I'm going to say I can make that fit because of what I'm selling, or what my products or my services and then it goes really wrong. So my, I'm, I'm on a mission to stop this and it's not i'm not going to stop it, but I will enlighten everybody I possibly can. So we have to be very careful of grand statements when it comes to neuroscience is a very serious science but it's an embryonic science is brand new in science speak So we're learning new stuff all the time. So I believe that when we get the next generation of neuro imaging equipment, we will probably unlearn and discover things, again that we have no idea about. That's what's exciting about neuroscience.
Joanne Lockwood
Okay, so so we've been living in a world of kind of fake news, is it in terms of what we believe about the brain and we've had all these? Yeah. You hear that Myers Briggs is as interesting as horoscopes and you hear the introvert extrovert aren’t the binary parallels that we thought they were before and that the brain is far more complex. So I mean, even now saying that men aren't from Mars and women are from Venus any more, is there no male brain female brain or is that another myth?
I worry about this. This this labelling like this brain isn't that simple. We're simplifying it too much. And we are products of our of our chemicals in our biology, but we're Also
Dr Lynda Shaw
products of our environmental and social upbringing. So therefore, we can't just say a male I mean, I, I know little girls who are little tomboy is in the playground, and other boys who would rather play with a pram or a pushchair you know, or dolls, it's how do we talk about the so called male and female brain like that, especially when you consider how we treat our boys and girls differently. And there's been some really good documentaries on mainstream television here in the UK, about this and how, you know, boys we push a little bit to be more physical, because we're a little bit more protected with we don't mean to be but it's the way we're programmed as parents and as teachers and carers. And so I think to talk about a male and female brain is really misleading.
Joanne Lockwood
It's almost I think it's quite demeaning often to women to say, well actually, the female brain is different to the male brain, therefore you can't be as effective as a man It's almost like creating a second class citizen by by using this male female brain thing and man are strong, women are weak. men, men don't cry women do cry. And then that's the kind of the label we're given as women that we have to perform to our stereotype.
Dr Lynda Shaw
Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, we have this, this idea of the masculine, you know, engineers are men, mathematicians are men, what nonsense. There's plenty of female mathematicians and plenty of female engineers out there, but it's this, you know, and one of my kids so when they were at university, one of their friends was on an engineering course she was the only girl in the auditorium. In the lecture theatre, everyone else was a guy and I just feel so sad. You know, that's it. And I did some covert research in a senior school not far from here, and I was looking at year nine, so they were 14 to 15 year olds. And I said, Okay, let's look at the jobs of Nurse, Doctor, Secretary, la, la, la, and she was a nurse, he was a doctor. And I'm thinking really, still, we're doing this. And it still goes on it perpetuates it.
Joanne Lockwood
I think I remember one of the BBC TV programmes where they talked about boys and girls. And they kind of identified around about the age of six and seven is where we start locking in these identities within us. And a lot that is socialised. And those been great examples about if you dressed a baby in girl clothes at the age of six months to 18 months, people treated them in a different way than if you dress them in boy clothes, regardless of their actual sex/gender. And yeah, I was talking to some people the other day, so I work in the recruitment HR space. And one of the challenges is trying to attract more young girls, women into STEM subjects into into subjects where traditionally has been dominated by men. I think I was actually speaking it to a an organisation and the said, well, it's not our problem so much, it's society's problems. I said, well hang on a minute. If you're running a business, you've got to take some responsibility to invest in the future and go out into schools go out into the, into the workplace, beyond your workplace, to make your subjects aspirational, and to try and overcome those biases. But having great female role models have great role models from underprivileged or underrepresented communities. Not just sit back and go, Well, we can't do anything in society. And that's a challenge I see. And I, I want most of the mind where we have to start maybe into antenatal classes. We start trying to educate parents on how to de bias and how to de gender a lot of the stuff that and the message of the children, the schools are now doing a fantastic job. I see a lot of parents and the schools are putting a lot of effort into making sure that boys and girls feel equally aspirational. Of course you come home, you then get socialised back into the boy/girl and then the friends and all of your peers kick in, and they just reinforces the sterotypes. All the great work that schools are doing is being deprogrammed by the parents and society around them. And that's, that's I think we've got to tackle pre parents and change the generation always we're never gonna make a difference.
Dr Lynda Shaw
I'm looking forward to the day when we do not discuss gender at all.
Joanne Lockwood
Yes, amen.
Dr Lynda Shaw
Yeah, I'm really I'm looking forward to that day, I'm looking forward to the day when somebody gets a job on their merit, on their capability and their experiences so far. I'm looking forward to that they've got I'm a mother of a son and a daughter. I don't want to either of them to have a problem because of their gender. So I worry about us saying we need more women in on the board or we need more women somewhere. Yes, we do. But surely, we are doing the same as we did with the with the opposite gender, but just change the label. It's a labelling thing. I would rather just say let's ignore gender. Did you know I did a documentary with Karen Brady on Channel 5 news, you know, We sorry I'm crap tell me if you want me to be quiet Jo.
Joanne Lockwood
15 minutes of fame, an hour of fame go for it, yeah.