Research shows that there is an inverse relationship between the amygdala and the pre-frontal cortex. The pre-frontal cortex is where rational thought and executive functioning originate. This shiny new part of our brain fuels the ability to process complex thought, plan, reason, determine right from wrong, predict future outcomes, solve problems, and work towards goals. The pre-frontal cortex is involved in repressing socially inappropriate behavior, too. Good stuff to bring to the office.
Unfortunately, your genius prefrontal cortex gets blocked when the amygdala comes online.
- When the amygdala takes over, intelligence drops. (Even yours.) Some researchers conclude that this is the equivalent of losing 10-15 IQ points!
Why does this happen to us? Neuroscience offers a handy explanation and it’s based on the way the brain is designed to work. A key brain function is the ability to detect “abnormalities” in our surroundings and react quickly to keep us safe. Remember, when much of the brain’s structure was developed, our very survival depended on the brain working in this way.
The thing is, our brains detect and code change of any kind as an abnormality, an error. Notably, this includes the kind of change that is signified when reality doesn’t meet our expectations, which is what’s happening when we are faced with ambiguity or the unknown…or other people whose opinions and ideas differ from our own. In response to these “errors,” a danger signal is rapidly sent to the reptilian part of our brain where the amygdala is located, activating fear, anger, or shutdown and guiding us to a particular course of action (or inaction, as the case may be).
Give some thought to the ways you might be letting your amygdala run wild. What might you miss if you allow your amygdala to drive you up your ladder of inference, short-circuiting reality in your work life?
Let’s hear more about this human instinct from CELA Leader, Rich Sauer.
Essentials from Rich
- If you ain’t crashin’, you ain’t racin’ – consider that crashing might just be part of the process. The only way you can be assured of not failing is to stay at the back of the pack.
- Do the hard work to psych yourself up and overcome that basic human instinct that tells all of us to play it safe. Challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone and resist the urge to hold back from what you’re capable of.
- Don’t worry about failing – we all do it, sometimes quite spectacularly. Just make sure you’re learning from the mistakes.