Simi Agarwal, DDS – Brain Blogger http://brainblogger.com Health and Science Blog Covering Brain Topics Wed, 30 May 2018 15:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Social Interaction at the Work Place – A Case Study Analysis http://brainblogger.com/2010/08/05/social-interaction-at-the-work-place-a-case-study-analysis/ http://brainblogger.com/2010/08/05/social-interaction-at-the-work-place-a-case-study-analysis/#respond Thu, 05 Aug 2010 12:00:23 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=5188 Social interaction at the work place promotes enhanced collaboration, higher metacognition, richer sensory experience by way of emotion, better planning where each member feels included, and better understanding of common values and purpose. Those leaders which promote social interaction within their organization are able to engage wider range of human intelligence which includes physiological, social, emotional, constructive, reflective and dispositional. In this manner, a wider range of human intelligence is integrated in a natural manner to achieve the individual and organizational goal.

There are some people in leadership positions who, either due to deliberate intention or out of blissful ignorance, allow a culture to pervade in their organization where workers feel cut off or isolated from their colleagues. Adequate opportunities for social interaction and collaboration between working colleagues is not provided. There is no transparent flow of information from senior management to the middle and lower management executives, leaving the majority of working executives to feel confused about what the ultimate purpose of the company is for any given project. More often than not, the senior management makes plans behind closed doors. Any participation in planning on important projects of the company is denied and not discussed with middle and lower management executives. Even when the senior management executives know that their decisions will impact the working lives of middle and lower management executives the most, these senior executives hand out directives for what and how the middle and lower management executives should take next action. The middle and lower management executives are not allowed to question the senior authority. They are not allowed to provide any input based on the challenges they face at the workplace and they are expected to carry out the same repetitive and monotonous tasks.

People working under such leaders often find themselves full of frustration with feelings of being limited in human capacity to achieve organizational and individual goals. People working in such organizational culture often find themselves redundant and complacent.

Let us understand the value of social interaction at work place in achieving organizational success by the following case study analysis:

There were smartphone manufacturing companies trying to capture a larger market share and were in stiff competition with each other. Consequently, there was tremendous pressure on CEOs of both companies to devise new marketing strategies to promote the existing brand and if necessary, to launch a new smartphone with fancy texting features, to achieve organizational objectives.

Michael, the CEO of the first company, was well aware that if he launched a new smartphone under the existing brand of his company and his sales volume failed to reach the estimated target levels he predicted, there would be waves of discontent among his company’s senior management. There would certainly be a long term damaging impact on his career prospects. However, since the senior management of his company was very keen to launch the new product in the market, Michael approved the plan rather reluctantly. He then delegated the whole responsibility to launch the product and achieve the sales targets to his product development manager. Michael thought that it was his smart move because if the smartphone was successfully launched by his product development manager, then he would take all the credit as CEO. If something went wrong with the sales, then Michael would put all the blame on his product development manager. Michael distanced himself from the whole process of new product development, the launch, and marketing strategy, and did not participate in any meetings or corporate social interaction involved with it.

When the product development manager of Michael’s company organized a meeting with his assistants to plan for the smartphone development, the response of his assistants were cold and complacent. Everybody in the meeting was aware that there was no support or interaction from the CEO in the whole process. Accordingly, not a single assistant was willing to be accountable if things did not go as planned. There was no coherent social interaction from top management down to the assistants to make them understand what the original intention of the senior management was and why this new product launch was necessary. The meeting between assistants of this company failed to raise any enthusiasm between the executing team and nobody wanted to be a scapegoat. Orders were issued from the office of the product development manager down to assistant’s level, giving directions to everybody what they were expected to do. After a few days of disorganized and mismanaged actions, the new product launch of this first company failed miserably. Middle management and junior assistants were quick to point fingers at each other and CEO finally fired the product development manager.

Gary, the CEO of the second company, was very curious and excited when he came to know that his senior management was desirous of launching a new smartphone to capture a larger percentage of the market share. Such a new product launch had not happened in this company during his tenure. He called for a meeting with his product development manager, diverse group of assistant managers, and marketing experts. Several meetings were held to brainstorm and discuss the best creative solutions for the new product launch. The meetings were held in an atmosphere of enthusiastic social interaction where the group was able to exchange diverse ideas for and against various strategies. Finally the group was able to reach the best solution by consensus and to own collective responsibility for the outcome. Each member in the meeting felt included and heard in the social interaction and this helped to engage various dimensions of human intelligence of the whole group in the meeting to achieve the company’s goal.

After the meeting ended, Gary, the CEO of the second company, carefully selected a team for launching a new smartphone which comprised of people, who were committed to achieving the company’s goals and who were talented at networking. Gary’s team knew that they had the support of the CEO and hence were willing to take more risk to try new strategies and programs which were not tried before. Gary made sure that team leaders working on this new product launch had frequent meetings and social interactions so that the team would have common understanding of the mission and work to achieve this mission, even in face of ambiguity. Within two years of constant efforts and spirited team work, the new smartphone launch from second company was a huge success! The second company was finally able to achieve a bigger market share.

By this case study analysis, we can understand very well how the social interaction and social relationships at work place helps to achieve organizational success.

Reference

Dickmann, M. H. & Blair, N.S. (2001). Connecting Leadership to the Brain. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

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Achieving Enlightened Competence http://brainblogger.com/2010/06/29/achieving-enlightened-competence/ http://brainblogger.com/2010/06/29/achieving-enlightened-competence/#comments Tue, 29 Jun 2010 16:08:23 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=5055 Have you ever noticed that whether you are learning to drive your new car or learning to speak a new language or even when you are learning to apply a new behavior, it challenges many parts of your brain? While learning new skills or modified behaviors, your brain experiences progressive stages of development of competence. As your brain follows step-by-step instructions, your body learns new muscle movements and thought processes on how to apply them in practice. The new skill now becomes more like second nature. You no longer have to think while enacting your newly learnt skill or behavior. If the human brain could understand the stages of competence development, it may acquire the infinite power to tweak and adjust the application of new skills.

In 1940s, the renowned psychologist Abraham Maslow postulated his theory of “Four Stages of Learning.” Later, Noel Burch from US Gordon Training International played a key role in defining and further developing the “Four Stages of Conscious Competence Theory.” It was published in the early 70’s in the Teacher Effectiveness Training Instructor Guide that learning of any new skill involved four progressive stages: 1) unconsciously unskilled, 2) consciously unskilled, 3) consciously skilled, and 4) unconsciously skilled. In 1982, Madeline Hunter referred to these stages of development of competence as the ways of knowing.

In order to help one analyze at which stage he is at, we must discuss in detail what these progressive stages of development of competence are:

1. Unconscious Incompetence

This is the stage where the human brain is blissfully unaware of what it does not know. At this stage, the human brain does not understand its blind spot or what deficiency it has in particular skill sectors. Since the human brain is not aware of its own deficiency, it is also not aware of the need to develop that skill or competence or what benefit that skill can bring to the being to enhance his personal effectiveness. Any person can make an effort to learn a new skill only if he becomes conscious of what competence he lacks. It is very unlikely that any person in this stage of competence can apply any thought processes to acquire the skill to achieve desired outcomes. People in this stage are not high achievers.

2. Conscious Incompetence

This is the stage in which the human brain knows that it has a deficiency in certain skills which it needs to develop if the being has to perform more effectively. 

There is a painful realization in this stage and the mind is in a state of controlled floundering about where the being is and where he ought to be in future. In this stage, the brain makes attempts to assess the extent of its deficiency and level of commitment that will be required to develop the new competency. 

It is necessary for the human brain to pass through this stage before moving to the next stage of conscious competence when the human brain begins to form new neural networks.

2. Conscious Competence

This is stage where the being consciously tries to practice the new skill with concentration and intense focus. The being gradually learns to perform the skill without guidance or help, but after conscious thinking only.  The human brain needs to practice the new skill continuously to establish such habits over the time, which will help the brain to implement the skill at an unconscious competence level.

4. Unconscious Competence

When the human brain is at this stage, the being has already developed competence at such levels where the desired actions to execute the skill have become internalized by constant practice as second nature.  The being is able to perform the skill effortlessly without having to think about his actions or what he has to do next. When the being has achieved such competence, he is able to multitask and perform the skill while doing something else. For example, someone who has acquired competence in driving at >unconscious competence level may now be able to hold business negotiations with person sitting next to him in the car while driving at the same time. He no longer needs to drive with conscious attention on driving alone.

This is the stage where most people want to be. However, most people who acquire this stage of unconscious competence are not able to teach others how they have performed a given skillful act. The thought patterns involved in performing such skillful act become so much internalized at the intuitive level of the being that it becomes difficult for the performer to recognize and explain these thought processes to others in sequential manner how he did it.

Furthermore, people in the leadership positions and the high achievers may not be happy in this state of being because when the skillful actions are performed at intuitive level without thinking, repeated performance of the same skill in a different situation is not guaranteed. 

5. Enlightened Competence

This stage was not explained originally in the Four Stages of Conscious Competence Theory proposed by US Gordon Training International and was added by Lorgene A Mata, PhD, in 2004.

This is the stage higher and above unconscious competence and has been achieved only by a few skillful people, thus far. With the passage of time, the norms and standards of skillful behavior or desirable outcomes are redefined by evolving human society. The human brain which has acquired unconscious competence to perform skills at intuitive level in previous situations may find itself unable to replicate the same skill on sustained and successful basis when confronted with the new situations or new environment.

In order to acquire the state of enlightened competence, the human brain needs to reach a mindful state where it can reflect and think while performing the skill to direct the knowledge acquired by past experience. Then brain has to use this knowledge to modify and tweak the actions and behavior of the being to achieve the desired outcomes in new situations.

When the being has acquired enlightened competence, then the human brain has reached a stage where it can reapply what it knows to get the desired outcome each time, without any doubt or fear!

References

Dickmann MH, Blair NS (2001). Connecting Leadership to the Brain. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

Hunter M. (1982). Mastery teaching: Increasing instructional effectiveness in elementary and secondary schools. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

Hunter R. (2004). Madeline Hunter’s mastery teaching. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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Why Some Human Brains Become Leaders, While Others Followers? http://brainblogger.com/2010/03/06/why-some-human-brains-become-leaders-while-others-followers/ http://brainblogger.com/2010/03/06/why-some-human-brains-become-leaders-while-others-followers/#comments Sat, 06 Mar 2010 12:00:59 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=3845 The human brain is a biological pattern making machine. At birth, a baby’s brain contains 100 billion neurons, roughly as many nerve cells as there are stars in the Milky Way. These billions of neurons in human brain have extraordinary capacity to construct and weave strings of useful information patterns which gets ever more complex as cognitive thought process increases. These neural patterns help the brain to recognize, organize, store and retrieve information patterns when needed. It has been noticed that leaders engage in activities which provide the time, space and structure to facilitate the construction of such neural patterns. People who are open minded to experience new concepts or procedures and who are exposed to more rich information sources such as print, television, news media, internet, seminars and interactive conferences — are able to build more rich and dense neural networks and hence reveal themselves as natural leaders. On the other hand, people who are averse to new models, metaphors, information, concepts or interactive discussions, remain as followers.

Human intelligence is reflective in nature. Reflection is the ability of the brain to consciously manipulate the given information and rehearse options prior to action. When guessing well is the game and pressure is on the brain, people who display reflective intelligence and foresight in thought and action, have distinct advantage as leaders. Such people have higher survival instinct and more mindful disposition. The brain of such people spontaneously responds to problems and obstacles by retrieving and contemplating information which is relevant to action options. Journal writing, meditation, case study analysis and investigative learning enhance reflective intelligence by many folds. People with leadership qualities have been found to be doing these activities more often than others who remain followers.

Reflective intelligence of human brain has also been found to increase by provoking deliberate critical and creative thinking. Provoking critical analysis and creative thinking engages natural ability of the human brain to detect relationships between seemingly unrelated objects, link seemingly unrelated information into useful revelation, and create innovative products with new information. While people with leadership tendencies have been extensively found to be in indulging in lateral & critical thinking, innovative inventions, and analyzing errors in positions by interactive discussions, followers have often been found to tread the beaten path and avoiding social interacting on controversial positions.

A capacity for reflective intelligence does not translate into intelligent behavior and thought automatically. The constructive and reflective dimensions of human intelligence need to be consciously cultivated and continuously exercised if its true potential is to be realized. The constructive and reflective intelligence have to developed and refined to a degree where the person is naturally inclined to use it every time, in his every action and thought. Leaders have a natural disposition to cultivate and maximize such constructive and reflective intelligence by indulging in meta-cognition, reflection on specific thinking strategies, seeking social opportunities for sharing of challenging ideas and optimizing physiological intelligence by choosing to exercise, eat only healthy food, and live in conducive environment which allows adequate light, fresh air and no distractions.

Followers don’t care what their thinking strategies or general disposition is. They do not feel the need to acquire the knowledge about nurturing intelligence. They react to situations in their environment by spontaneous reaction, without applying critical thinking and without analyzing their position. They would more often indulge in gossip, rather than meaningful exchange of ideas on challenging topics. They have less tolerance for views of others which are divergent from their own. They give a damn to what they eat or space where they live, they live only for sensory pleasures which provide immediate gratification.

Emotion involves the processing of sensory information through neural and glandular systems that alter mind and body states while arousing the prefrontal cortex to what is worth thinking about. Emotion is closely connected to arousal and operation of physiological, social and reflective capacity of the human brain. The brain of humans with leadership qualities are conscious of their emotions and are able to control and mediate their responses to their own emotions. This is an essential quality which differentiates leaders from followers. This is also called Emotional Intelligence.

The brain of leaders is able to harness the power of emotion which helps the leaders to make judgments after receiving stimuli from environment and get motivated by challenges. The leader’s brain is continuously screening sensory information, guided by emotions, to understand which task is worthy of attention and commitment of its infinite resources. In other words, when the human brain of people with leadership qualities gets emotionally excited about some task, it helps the leader to efficiently engage in accumulation of knowledge about that task, to engage in meaningful social interaction to find other human brains with common goals, and to engage in reflective reasoning to solve problems encountered in accomplishing that task — all this leads to enhanced physiological growth and refinement of neural networks in human brain. Thus, it can be inferred that brain of humans with leadership traits have more refined neural networks.

References

Gardner, H. (1997). Leading Minds – An Anatomy of Leadership. London: Harpers Collins.

Dickmann, M. H. & Blair, N.S. (2001). Connecting Leadership to the Brain. Thousand Oaks: Corwin Press.

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The Child Brain and the Playing Teacher http://brainblogger.com/2010/02/22/the-child-brain-and-the-playing-teacher/ http://brainblogger.com/2010/02/22/the-child-brain-and-the-playing-teacher/#comments Mon, 22 Feb 2010 12:00:41 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=3849 Scientific research has established that the major part of the development of human brain happens in a child’s first three years of life. These first three years of pre-school life is the most impressionable period of human brain during which new neural networks are being formed in certain parts of the brain. A child who is one year old has the maximum number of brain cells the human brain can have in its entire life span. Neurobiologists believe that about 10 billion nerve cells in the infant brain are constantly making the synapses that promote thought, emotion, and physical movement. The capacity to form such neural connections depends on whether the infant brain receives proper stimulation.

Sensory stimulation such as listening to speech or watching colors or emotional stimulation by getting hugs or eye contact can change the physiological development of infant brain by changing the quality and quantity of the electrical wiring between brain cells. This promotes the growth of dendrites in the brain making stronger and richer neural connections.

Different parts of infant brain get stimulated in different ways when infant brain experiences different emotions leading to connections between different synapses. Infants who experienced playful teaching by happy adults or teachers in a fun environment showed considerable neural activity in areas of brain which specialized for positive emotion. When such infants grow up into adulthood, they are more like to feel positive and stay positive even when they experience a negative or stressful event in their environment. Such stimulation of the infant brain can determine whether the infant will grow into peaceful & happy adult or a violent antisocial troublemaker.

Therefore it is prime responsibility of the adult teachers to stimulate the infant brains in various playful ways to bring about the optimum physiological, emotional, social and mental development of the infant’s brain and body. Playful teaching is a dynamic and constructive behavior which is essential for infant’s healthy growth, development, and learning, especially during the first three years of life.

Lack of play in teaching methods stifles creativity and healthy development. A playful method of teaching allows the child to discover his own strengths, his own body, and his environment by allowing him to experience by experimenting. Opposite of playful method of teaching is the instructional method of teaching in which child is directed how to do things. When the child learns by playful techniques, he develops a head full of knowledge and a heart full of confidence. On the other hand, the instructional method of teaching makes a child feel less confident and less clever because he is given this subtle message by his instructional teacher that he is incapable, he does not know, he needs the teacher to teach him.

As you read below, you will discover how a playful teacher can stimulate the infant brain to result in multifaceted growth of the infant human life.

To develop the gross motor skills and body awareness in an infant, the playful teacher should encourage the child to participate in various physical sports which allow him to walk, climb, kick, jump, climb and catch. This will help the infant to develop higher control of large muscles of the body which coordinate the movement.

To develop higher control of smaller muscles of the body which coordinate fine motor movements, the playful teacher should encourage the infant to indulge in activities such as sketching, painting, sculpting, block building and cutting.

In order to encourage innovation and creative thinking abilities in the child, the playful teacher should allow free reign to fantasy and imagination of the preschool infant. They should encourage the child to playfully re-enact events or take on roles, and use props to replace an original object. They should allow the child to make their own story suiting their personal desires, without putting pressure on them to win any contest and without judging the child. While re-enacting events or playing role of someone else, child learns to visualize and imitate codified rules. While narrating his story as in role playing, child learns creative thinking and learns how to express his story and plan to others more effectively. This helps in building the confidence level of the child.

The playful teacher can develop analytical reasoning and problem solving skills of a child by asking him to arrange and organize what he can see, touch, hear or smell. He should encourage the child to play with another child and help another child in the process to solve the problem which another child may be seemingly facing. By helping another child, the child will learn the skill of problem solving and joy of mastery.

Much before the infant can learn to speak himself any meaningful words, his ears begin to be conditioned by language input of the playful teacher or caring adult. To develop the speech and language skills of the child, the playful teacher should frequently talk to the infants and condition their ears to differentiate between different sounds. By repeated talking to the infant, ability for speech is developed by forming new neural connections which help infant to combine sounds in order to form words. To teach the language skills to older infant, playful teacher should use music and poems to make the child understand comprehension and correct use of those words.

Thus, it can be inferred that a playful teacher can unlock the world for an infant with care. What stimulation the infant brain will get and thus what the child will know, think and feel, will depend on the playful teacher. What playful teacher does not offer, the child will not know.

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The Psychobiology and Psychoanalysis of Dreams http://brainblogger.com/2009/08/06/the-psychobiology-and-psychoanalysis-of-dreams/ http://brainblogger.com/2009/08/06/the-psychobiology-and-psychoanalysis-of-dreams/#comments Thu, 06 Aug 2009 13:00:02 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=2957 Have you ever experienced waking up in the night, sweating and gasping for breath because some strange dream is mystifying you? Most people have experienced dreams of being chased by some alien in the night or missing a train to some unknown destination or falling freely from the height. What causes such dreams in our mind and what is psychoanalytical significance of such dreams in our mental well being?

The human brain’s primary function and activity is maintaining consciousness and interpreting all information and sensory stimulation it receives from external environment. The brain is actively functioning at all times, while we are awake, and even while we are asleep.

According to the research published in the journal Dreaming by researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School, the initial phase of sleep is dream-free and during this phase, measurements of the brain taken by an electroencephalograph (EEG) will record large, slow brain waves. External stimuli from environment such as noise or internal stimuli from within the body such as anxiety, plus periodic spontaneous fluctuation in the depth of sleep, bring the brain into a state where dreaming takes place. During this phase, measurements of the brain show specific EEG signs and rapid movements of the closed eyes.

Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis, analyzed dreams in his famous published work The Interpretation Of Dreams to understand aspects of personality as they relate to pathology and how the subconscious mind communicates with the conscious brain. Freud believed that every action is motivated by the unconscious mind, nothing happens by chance. He categorized the mind into three parts — the id, ego, and superego. The id is the part which deals with basic instincts, primal impulses, unchecked urges and wish fulfillment. The ego is the part of mind which is concerned with conscious, rational thoughts and self awareness. The superego is the part which acts as censor for the id and acts as moral police for the ego. In the waking state, the impulses and unchecked urges of the id are suppressed by the superego. It is during sleep that the guards of the superego are down and this is the time when the id speaks out as dreams. Sometimes the primal desires of the id can reveal as such disturbing symbolic images, that it can lead the person to wake up in shock.

Alfred Adler, the Austrian medical doctor, psychologist and founder of the school of individual psychology, believed that there is a strong correlation between the number of dreams a person experiences in his sleep and number of problems that person encounters in his actual daily life. A person who is experiencing recurring unpleasant dreams, symbols and images in his sleep is certainly grappling with lot of tough real life problems.

So, if disturbing dreams with unpleasant images recur in your mind in the night, despite leading a seemingly normal life in the day, you must ask yourself, what is your subconscious mind trying to tell you?

According to Madhu Tandon, the author of the book Dreams and Beyond: Finding Your Way in the Dark, medical research has shown that dreams of being chased and dreams of falling from height are the two most common dreams which majority of people experience. Let us analyze here some common dreams which many people experience and their psycho-therapeutic significance:

**People, who experience recurring dreams of being chased in the dark, have anxiety over something which they want to hide and forget. It may be something which they may have done against the law or something they may have done against morality which keeps hounding them. These dreams suggest the attempt of mind to run away from certain circumstances or fears.

**Dreams of falling from a tall building or falling from a bridge or freely falling through the sky, suggests feeling of insecurity and inferiority in the mind. People experiencing such dreams have deep inner feeling of having fallen in esteem in the eyes of self or in eyes of others around them.

**If someone sees images of sea storms or hurricanes in his dreams, it suggests that his mind is experiencing overwhelming and turbulent emotions due to his circumstances. It is an indication of restless state of mind due to inability of mind to find immediate solution to the real life circumstances.

**Experiencing dreams of being found naked in public have nothing to do with sexual feelings. This kind of dream signifies a buried feeling in mind of being exposed, embarrassed or ashamed in public. People who are very image conscious or who display a carefully cultivated artificial public persona may experience such dreams.

**Many people see images of death of some of their loved ones in their dreams and this causes immense stress. They think it is a kind of premonition foretelling the happening the similar event in actual life. But meaning of the dreams is often metaphorical and does not need to be taken literally because such dreams may actually signify anxiety over a breaking relationship, or fear of loosing someone about whom one is very possessive.

**Recurring dreams of missing a train is usually symbolic of loosing out an opportunity, about which our subconscious mind is aware but which our conscious awake brain keeps ignoring sometimes.

Many of our anxieties and fears are brought to our notice when we pay attention to such recurring dreams. This becomes the first step towards inner healing and mental peace. If understood correctly, dreams can sometimes, warn us about the impending danger and prevent us from indulging in senseless self-destructive activities.

References

Nair, D. (2009). Tell me your dreams. Hindustan Times Sunday Magazine, pp. 10-11.

Tandan, M. (2008). Dreams and Beyond: Finding Your Way in the Dark. London: Hay House UK Ltd.

Reiser, M.F. (1994). Memory in mind and brain: What dream imagery reveals. Connecticut: Yale University Press.

Mahowald, M., Woods, S., & Schenck, C. (1998). Sleeping Dreams, Waking Hallucinations, and the Central Nervous System Dreaming, 8 (2), 89-102 DOI: 10.1023/B:DREM.0000005899.59224.17

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What is in a Brand Name which Appeals to the Brain? http://brainblogger.com/2009/07/06/what-is-in-a-brand-name-which-appeals-to-the-brain/ http://brainblogger.com/2009/07/06/what-is-in-a-brand-name-which-appeals-to-the-brain/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2009 11:17:07 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=2994 Psychiatry and Psychology CategoryWhy do we shop? Most often, it is because we need something. Sometimes, it is simply because we see something we like and can’t resist buying it. Why do we select one product or service over another that is similar? Depending on the product, it may be because our brain likes the color or smell, the size or shape, the taste or feel. In some instances, price is a factor. But more often than not, our brain makes selections based on recognition of familiar brand names. The Nuancing Group says,”Branding is what transforms the ubiquitous into the coveted, the familiar to the specialized, the mundane to the magical.”

AquafinaBrands matter to the human brain far more than we realize — even when it comes to something as mundane as water. Water is the most freely available commodity. Somebody came up with the bright idea of bottling it, pasting a label on it, creating an image around it and charging premium prices. Tap water in Johannesburg, for instance, is safe beyond question. But the market for branded water in bottles in Johannesburg is buoyant. And consumers go for their favorite brands. In fact, Aquafina, Pepsi’s main water brand, grew by 56%, while Desanim, Coca-Cola’s main water brand, grew by 189% last year. The attraction is not that the water is “safe to drink,” but that it is “branded.”

A brand is not just a name; it is an emotional promise — a promise of prospective or potential benefits for the customer, which appeals instantly to amygdala of the human brain. For example, over the years, Coca Cola has often used these tag lines: “Refreshing” and “Get a Coke and a smile.” What is Coke’s brand? It’s their emotional promise which appeals to the human brain that you will enjoy a great soft drink each and every time.

When people go out to make a purchase, they are influenced by a myriad of complex factors, which include psychological, emotional, socio-economic, cultural and personal perspectives. These factors never operate in isolation. Let us analyze here from a psychological perspective, the reasons why branded products appeal to the human brain.

In 1951, US advertising educator Dr. Charles Sandage wrote, “We live in an economy which is dependent upon the psychological needs and wants of the consumer.” This still holds true today. What motivates the human brain to purchase a product at a given time? Such motivation is most likely to arise out of a need or desire of some kind. In this context, I would like to discuss briefly a theory which provides a valuable insight to understand the driving forces behind the human brain.

In his research published in the journal Psychological Review, Abraham Maslow explains in detail his theory on hierarchy of needs according to which the human brain seeks to fulfill a set of needs, which occur in a predetermined hierarchy of importance.  Maslow posited a hierarchy of human needs based on two groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met before moving to the next higher level. Once each of these needs has been satisfied, if at some future time a deficiency is detected, the individual will act to remove the deficiency. The first four deficiency needs are:

  • Physiological needs — the need for satisfaction of hunger, thirst, and basic bodily functions.
  • Safety needs — the need to provide shelter and protection for the body and to maintain a comfortable existence.
  • Love and belonging needs — the need for affiliation and affection, be accepted.
  • Esteem needs — the need for recognition, status and prestige, desire for self-respect.

Next come the growth needs. An individual is ready to act upon the growth needs if and only if the deficiency needs are met. These growth needs in the hierarchical order of importance are:

  • Cognitive needs — desire for knowledge and understanding.
  • Aesthetic needs — desire for symmetry, order, and beauty.
  • Self-actualization — the need to find self-fulfillment, self-growth and realize one’s potential.
  • Transcendence — the need to help others find self-fulfillment and realize their potential.

This theory suggests that the human brain turns to products or services to satisfy many of their needs. Companies are using advertising appeals or slogans that activate these needs, to influence and persuade the human brain to go for their brand names. Let us understand this further with an example of E-Mom First-Aid Kits. If we analyze the E-Mom’s advertisements carefully, we will be amazed to see how deftly they have been crafted for maximum appeal to the human brain. The ad says,

Improve yourself and your safety with E-Mom. Get advice specialized just for you and nobody else. Mothers who love their children provide them with the very best safety. Because you never know what may happen next and when it does happen, will you be prepared? You can’t place a price on your health and well being.

Now applying the Maslow’s theory, it is easy to see that the tag line “You can’t place a price on your health and well being” confirms to the basic physiological needs of the targeted human brain. The line “Because you never know what may happen next and when it does happen, will you be prepared?” addresses the security need. The sentence “Mothers who love their children provide them with the very best safety” appeals to Love and Belonging needs. “Get advice specialized just for you and nobody else” confirms to the need for recognition and self-esteem. And, lastly “Improve yourself and your safety with E-Mom” relates to the need for self-actualization as it speaks about the need for self-growth and improvement. After hearing these advertisement lines, the human brain would prefer to go for E-Mom’s First-Aid Kit rather than a generic or local-labeled kit. Such lines make a powerful appeal to the human brain.

References

Maslow AH. (1954). Motivation and Personality. New York: Harper and Row.

Maslow AH (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation Psychological Review, 50, 370-396

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