Are you using the newest science to achieve great performance?

My colleague Rick Grbavac, vice president at Cerebyte, and I were in a meeting  recently and were showing the latest enhancements on Sofia, our neuroscience-based cloud and mobile application that captures and organizes your experts’ knowledge at extraordinary speed. One of the people made a comment that Sofia’s use of the text seemed “old” and that everything was more graphical now. I almost laughed out loud because they so have it backwards.

I understand that graphical interfaces are the conventional wisdom for technology, particularly if millennials are using the technology. However, this is really lagging the scientific understanding of how people process language in general and, more specifically conceptually rich language in the form of written text or spoken language into visual images. The neuroscience research on how we as humans process certain types of images shows that when people read rich text or hear conceptually rich language their visual cortex gets activated. That is, they “see” themselves and others in particular ways stimulated by the language that they read or hear.

As an illustration of how this works, I attended a lecture several years ago by a neuroscientist specializing in the brain’s visual imagery. He did an interesting thing at this lecture. He stood at the podium and with a blank screen projected behind him – the projection was white but with nothing on it.

He said: “As I talk, I want you to create the images you see on the screen. “ which we were all able to do quite easily. The neuroscientist then pointed out that by us creating our own images, our retention was vastly higher than having an external image that we need to comprehend and somehow internalize.

It was OUR image that we created. Creating our own images was utilizing incredibly powerful, often under-utilized neural functions.  Similarly, think of when you we read a great book. Your brain processes the text into visual images as you read descriptions of characters and places. These images are far more powerful for retention than externally created images because they are already integrated into your cognitive map.

Now, let’s apply these models to the Sofia interface with a little enhancement, the role model of a great mentor. Keeping in mind that the single best way to improve human capabilities is by giving everyone a great mentor.

Great mentors use rich language when they interact with their mentees that is far more provocative than an externally provided image.

The model we use in Sofia  is based on the language great mentors use with their mentee.

They ask questions and share their perspective asking things like: “Why do you think this is so important?” and “Here is why I think it is important. What do you think?” They do NOT use graphics or games, but just very rich language. The latest science shows that people respond to this language by generating their own intensely personal and powerful self-images.

In the Purpose section, Sofia users picture themselves as achieving greatness through their own self-image of great purpose. Because these images are self-generated they are deeply internalized faster and more completely than externally provided images.  It is just a classic distinction between intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation – and intrinsic is much better.

In contrast to this perspective, providing too graphical an interface, particularly if there is gamification associated with it, undermines performance. Creating such externalized content and extrinsic motivation moves people away from comprehension and internalization. If you want internalization, you are much better off having people generate their own images, through the stimulus of expert language, than providing them with something external.

Along the lines of this topic, I often get asked, How is Cerebyte’s Sofia different from Artificial Intelligence (AI) and/or Machine Learning (ML). My response is that AI and ML are trying to replace humans. But Neuroscience is showing that human information processing capability has developed as much as AI and ML and is in many ways better. The use of the expert’s rich language displayed as text in Sofia is leveraging this huge jump in our neural abilities — far beyond the discussion of graphical interfaces and millennials learning.

The simple question is: do you want to achieve great performance improvement by taking advantage of the newest science or are you stuck in old and out-of-date conventional wisdoms?

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