If Your Heart’s Not in it, Neither is Your Brain

If Your Heart’s Not in it, Neither is Your Brain

             The last time you engaged your brain in a challenging task, how willing were you to challenge yourself?  Based on a recent study, if you’re struggling with the willingness to exert what’s called cognitive effort, being open to the challenge is what makes all the difference. When your heart’s not invested, neither is your brain—emotions play a pivotal role in cognitive functioning and decision-making processes. Understanding this connection sheds light on how emotional engagement influences overall brain performance and decision outcomes.

                We’ve witnessed skilled musicians and tech experts, acknowledging their mastery required countless hours of dedicated practice. The secret lies not in continual daily effort, but in the initial cognitive application to try something new.

                Vienna and Dresden researchers studied initial task rewards’ impact on future energy application toward it. Rewarded for initial challenge acceptance, individuals persisted in tasks despite lacking subsequent rewards, fostering skill development and task continuation.

Cognitive Momentum: Initial Encounters

                This reveals that assessing cognitive effort’s worth hinges largely on the initial encounter, with momentum building thereafter. Like the saying goes, an object in motion is likely to stay in motion:  once this initial openness to challenge is rewarded, the person doesn’t perceive the following efforts as being difficult, even when that reward isn’t coming again.

                This also means that people are more likely to seek out more challenging or difficult tasks after that reward has come from applying mental effort, regardless of the opportunity for a reward.  This can help us see how people really become masters of something which we might regard as being extremely hard to do.

                The study found that being open to the challenge in the first place is what allowed that reward to be possible, setting the stage for future attempts which primes the brain for developing more skill.  After that, the phenomenon where onlookers gasp and say, “You make it look so easy!” really begins!

Further Reading

Georgia Clay, Christopher Mlynski, Franziska M. Korb, Thomas Goschke, and Veronika Job. Rewarding cognitive effort increases the intrinsic value of mental laborPNAS, 2022 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2111785119

Also read our blog on What is Alpha-GPC?

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