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Why minds escape, slow reading, schmoozing at work Add to ...

Why minds escape

"Mind wandering, as psychologists define it," John Tierney writes for The New York Times, "is a subcategory of daydreaming, which is the broad term for all stray thoughts and fantasies. … During waking hours, people's minds seem to wander about 30 per cent of the time, according to estimates by psychologists who have interrupted people throughout the day to ask what they're thinking. If you're driving down a straight, empty highway, your mind might be wandering three-quarters of the time, according to two of the leading researchers, Jonathan Schooler and Jonathan Smallwood of the University of California, Santa Barbara. 'People assume mind wandering is a bad thing, but if we couldn't do it during a boring task, life would be horrible,' Dr. Smallwood says. 'Imagine if you couldn't escape mentally from a traffic jam.' "

Slow reading

"Thomas Newkirk, a professor of English at the University of New Hampshire, is one of a growing number of educators concerned that - in the rush to race through more [reading]material - something essential is being lost," Marjorie Kehe reports for The Christian Science Monitor. " 'You see schools where reading is turned into a race, you see kids on the stopwatch to see how many words they can read in a minute,' he told Associated Press. 'That tells students a story about what reading is. It tells students to be fast is to be good.' Like the slow-eating movement, the slow-reading movement is focused on enhancing the elements of pleasure and discovery. Among other techniques, Newkirk favours a return to practices like reading aloud and memorization to help students 'taste' - rather than fly by - the words that they read. Although the Slow Book Movement was officially founded just last year in Lebanon Springs, N.Y., by novelist I. Alexander Olchowski, the concept of slow reading is not new. Nietzsche makes a reference to slow reading in the preface to his 1887 work Daybreak."

We had a hunch

"New research shows that the aging process does not diminish intuition," Psych Central News reports. "The study by North Carolina State University researchers refutes some of the belief that aging leads to poor decision-making. In fact, the new study shows that when it comes to making intuitive decisions - using your 'gut instincts' - older adults fare as well as their juniors. … Many people believe that getting older leads to poor decision-making. Research shows that it is not that simple. Education and the complexity of the decision play important roles." The study was published in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.

Falstaff pleases cows

Performing Shakespeare to cows helps them produce more milk, an English theatre group says it has discovered. Renditions of the Bard's prose were found to "relax" dairy herds and boosted production by as much as 4 per cent. The Changeling Theatre Co. selected scenes from The Merry Wives of Windsor for their audience of Friesians in Maidstone, Kent, The Daily Telegraph reports.

Schmoozing at work

"The ideal employee is supposed to be singularly focused on his or her job. Taking breaks or socializing at work is generally considered a sign of inefficiency," Kevin Lewis writes for The Boston Globe. "Nevertheless, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are finding evidence that, to some extent, the opposite may be true. Workers in a large call centre at a major bank were asked to wear special badges designed by the researchers to track social interaction. Two teams of workers were allowed to take breaks together as a group, while two other teams had to take staggered breaks (the status quo for workers in the call centre). Teams with a simultaneous break developed a stronger social bond, and this social bond was associated with higher productivity."

Baby steps

Japan's government has set a new charter on balancing work and life among the public, in line with Prime Minister Naoto Kan's goal of realizing a "decent" working environment, Kyodo News agency reports. The new guidelines, adopted last week, seek to increase the share of men taking paternity leave from 1.23 per cent in 2008 to 13 per cent by 2020.

Thought du jour

"The very minute a thought is threatened with publicity it seems to shrink toward mediocrity."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. (1809-94)

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