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Our Brain and ‘Wireless’ Neural Connections

 

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We use the term wireless to reference cellular communication pathways around the world. Our brains’ neural pathways are similar, including synapses, also known as chemical bridges, for which neural impulses travel. While recently studying sections of brain tissue from the hippocampus of mice, scientists discovered impulses traversing across gaps void of brain tissue or neurotransmitters. Could we possibly have our own natural wireless network in our brains?

Hippocampus

The hippocampus is responsible for memory consolidation and spatial memory. This amazing part of our brain converts short-term memories to  long-term memories. Not only is it responsible for us remembering our home address but also spatial relationships in everyday life. According to researchers, the hippocampus  apparently is working overtime during our sleep.

Slower periodic brain waves occur while we sleep, yet neural connections and rewiring of trillions of nerve cells also take place. This type of brain activity, including wireless connections, were noted in the hippocampus tissue of mice. Is there a possible correlation between slower brain waves and wireless neural connections? Maybe.

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My personal takeaway and food for thought is perhaps we should take a closer look at mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy. I am the most productive when I am relaxed. No wonder I occasionally wake up while sleeping with a fantastic ah-ha moment. How about you?

What if brain scientists are on the verge of discovering the mystery to accessing more of our brain’s processing capabilities, via wireless connections? Just in case, read on for a healthy mind-body exercise.

Mindfulness

Try this mindfulness technique to place yourself in a more relaxed state and slow down your brain waves. Imagine the clutter of today’s stresses as individually labeled envelopes. See yourself categorizing these labeled envelopes into large boxes, labeled as: Facts, Guesses, Judgements, Past Activities, Present Activities, and Possibilities.

Focus on the context of your thoughts and not the content. By categorizing and organizing your thoughts, you can go through your ‘files’ at your leisure. Don’t allow your mind to inundate you with high priority, high stress content. Remember, our brains combine snippets of information that are not necessarily accurate on all accounts. So, “choose wisely.”

Best,

Dr. Doscher

 

 

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Top 5 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)

Picture of a girl covering her face on a dreary cloudy day
Photo by: Alexandre Croussette

The cool crisp air and colorful leaves dancing in the air are welcoming signs of Fall. Yet, our circadian rhythms also recognize this as the beginning of Seasonal Affective Disorder season, which runs through the onset of Spring. Continue reading “Top 5 Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.)”

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Real Estate Tip #3 – Marketing with P.I.E.

“…believe in your message; make your words smile!”

How-to’s and self-help videos and blogs flood the internet, so why read this one? I am Southern born and bred, a lady who understands that pie is to first impressions like tea is to problem-solving. Continue reading “Real Estate Tip #3 – Marketing with P.I.E.”

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Handwriting Increases Cognition and Coordination

Patient gives thumbs up after wellness checkHandwriting for Brain Health

Start the year off right; focus on improving your mental and physical health, along with occasionally handwriting a note, in cursive or calligraphy. In maintaining our body’s health, our body’s central processing unit (CPU), the brain, is extremely important. Not only does it make conscious and unconscious decisions for you daily but also manipulates incoming and outgoing data.

Therefore, our brains still need neural coaching to remain healthy and active. Like we have heard time and time again, “if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Writing in cursive will do the trick and much better than printing text. Cursive writing requires greater motor skills, eye tracking, concentration, speed, and accuracy. This, in turn, activates areas of the brain, not used when we speak or type messages with our thumbs. Because we collect, process, and retrieve information in snippets, this exercise is especially important.

Handwriting Research

Johns Hopkins University performed a with stroke patients that answered some questions regarding the connection between speaking and writing. The researchers discovered that some of the patients who had trouble writing sentences with correct word endings had no difficulty in speaking the same sentences. In contrast, one patient exhibited no difficulties in handwriting but trouble speaking.Picture of handwriting

The handwriting difficulties  were with word endings, such as -er, ing, and -s (for plurals). The patients used incorrect word endings when writing the same sentences, they spoke without difficulties.

Write Me

Remember, our brains are hunter-gatherers of information and retrieved memories are also snippets that must be pieced back together. So much processing is needed, hence lightening speed neural connections, so what better reason to stay healthy and keep exercising your brains! Send me a handwritten note, PO Box 486, 62864, I would love to read your “cursive” thoughts!

Wishing you much health and happiness,

Michelle Doscher, Ph.D.

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What’s in a D.O.S.E. of Happiness?

Happiness is emotional and physical. Knowing how to hack into the happiness zone may save relationships and your sanity! Knowing how to encourage your body to release these four powerful neurochemicals is key. For easy memory retrieval, use the acronym (DOSE) Dopamine, Oxytocin, Serotonin, & Endorphins.

Dopamine motivates you and gives you that boost of pleasure when goals are met. When your body is lacking in dopamine, you tend to procrastinate more and lack enthusiasm about life in general. Self-doubt kicks in and your confidence levels bottom out.

The best way to keep a steady flow of dopamine in your bloodstream is to set daily mini-goals and celebrate each accomplishment. Just a “woohoo” is not celebrating; do something fun; splurge. It may be as small as eating your favorite candy bar or as significant as planning a vacation.

Either way, what goes up, must come down. Ouch, sorry for the downer. However, you can avoid these dopamine hangovers by creating new goals before achieving existing goals.

Oxytocin is released by the posterior pituitary gland (located behind your nose near the underside of your brain) when the hypothalamus, which controls the body’s emotional responses, is excited. Oxytocin encourages a feeling of intimacy, trust, and fidelity. No wonder it is referred to as the “relationship” hormone.

­Serotonin flows through your body when you feel significant or important. Everybody wants to feel needed at one time or another. Without these feelings, loneliness and depression rear their ugly heads.

Did you know that just 20 minutes a day of sunshine will promote vitamin D and serotonin production? Take a lunch break or coffee break outside when possible. Too much U.V. rays can be harmful, so wear a light sunscreen.

Since our brain cannot distinguish fact from fiction, reflect on past achievements and re-live positive experiences. This will trick your brain into producing a dose of serotonin.

Endorphins was a term coined from endogenous (created within the body) + morphine (pain reliever). Endorphins are released in response to pain or stress, and they help alleviate anxiety and depression. Endorphins stimulate the opioid receptors in our brain to act as an analgesic and sedative.

To keep these neurochemicals flowing, consider a daily dose of laughter, or at least the thought or anticipation of laughter. If you are more of a sensory-perception person, keep some dark chocolate nearby or the number for a restaurant serving spicy food. Aromatherapy has also been linked to endorphins production. Lavender and vanilla seem to be the favorites. Looks like our ancestors did their research; many flower gardens and talcum powders contained lavender, and vanilla was a culinary necessity and preferred perfume scent.

A little D.O.S.E. of happiness is as simple as sharing a positive attitude, along with reflecting and planning worthwhile and rewarding tasks. Have a happy day!

~ Dr. Doscher

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Sales Tip #2 – Supercharge Your Brain

A career in sales requires high energy, along with logic, imagination and passion. I refer to the later as L.I.P. service! Your perception of opportunities and potential clients fuels your ability to think logically and creatively during any sales process.

Regardless of your daily sales routine, focus on supercharging your brain. Any deficit in your cognitive abilities will affect your sales numbers; that’s a “no brainer”. However, more importantly, a perception problem may cause a processing problem, which can lead to a sales slump and eventually an empty pipeline!

Supercharging your brain is a continuous process. The brain responds to activity AND lack of activity. Our brains are plastic; they adapt to our needs and repetitive activities. Therefore, you CAN teach an old dog new tricks!

Physical and mental exercise bathes the brain in glucose (sugar), which promotes neural connections. Neurons that fire together, wire together. Concentrating on changing the brain’s firing patterns results in changes in logic, imagination, and passion (L.I.P.). Repeated actions (daily sales calls, website updates, and social media entries) and repeated thoughts (visualizing goals, positive mindset, and understanding customer needs) initiate a driving mental force, along with feeding neural pathways and triggering firing patterns.

A supercharged brain stores actions as memories and scripts in the subconscious mind. With repetition, the brain hard-wires the memories in the unconscious mind. Less energy is then needed for daily sales tasks, leaving more brain power to think creatively and sell with passion!

~ Dr. Doscher

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Profanity is Mindless

That’s right. Curse words are not processed in the same area of the brain as other language. Speaking requires language processing of units of sound, whereas curse words are stored as whole data chunks. Cussing requires less mental processing, and is primarily a function of the amygdala, a part of the brain’s limbic system which processes negative emotions.

The limbic system is in the center depths of the brain and composed of several organs responsible for memory and processing of emotions and behaviors. This area is also responsible for vocalizations in primates and animals. Yep, even animals use profanity, or at least it sounds like it!

Piecing the smallest units of sound (phonemes) together is slower and occurs in the cerebral cortex. This area of higher functioning is home to our abilities to reason and write, in addition to speaking. The formation of non-curse words seems to take longer and involves less spontaneous emotion. The formation of words is not only based on literal meanings but also feelings and emotions the words evoke. Since adult speech perception is somewhat automatic, words with strong negative connotations are easily retrieved and spoken almost spontaneously

Here are a few questions I’ve been asked recently: Why does profanity seem to slip out when our emotions are negative and spontaneous? Why is it so hard to complete a sentence when I’m angry or frustrated?

Since the amygdala is correlated with negative emotional associations; stimulating the amygdala can cause panic attacks and aggressive behaviors, while destroying the amygdala causes unusual calmness or fearlessness. Therefore, it makes sense that the amygdala would be activated in association with unpleasant words such as swear words.

Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) studies indicate verbal working memory tasks’ performances increase during positive emotional states but decrease during negative emotional states. Aha! “That’s why we can’t remember ‘sh_t’ when we are upset and frustrated.”

~ Dr. Doscher

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Power Pose – Hijack Your Mental Focus

Feeling a little down? Hangin’ a bit from the weekend? Just can’t get motivated?

What if I could tell you how to instantly change your behavior and feel more alive? The next time you walk into a meeting or present a sales pitch, you will be on fire!!

Competitive athletes learn to go into their “zone”, so why not you. It’s all a matter of state change. Watch how athletes stand on the sidelines; shoulders back, feet shoulder-width apart, and arms crossed or hands on their hips. Gymnasts strike a strong pose prior to starting a routine. Why is this important to note? These athletes are controlling their breathing and changing their mental state. They are psyching themselves to W-I-N!

Unfortunately, posture alone cannot accomplish this change of behavior, but it can encourage an increase in testosterone (power hormone) and a decrease in cortisol (stress hormone) in both men and women. When you start feeling more powerful and less anxious, you can think and be more productive.

You try it! Stand with your arms over your head in a “V” or on your hips. If you prefer, recline with your arms over your head and legs and toes extended. These are examples of power poses, feel free to create your own. (I would love to hear your suggestions) While you are in your power pose, look around and take note and concentrate on the positives; ignore the negatives. Think of prior successful meetings or sales transactions. This will jump-start your hippocampus to retrieve chunks of related memories to encourage your productive thoughts and confidence.

Congratulations! You just hijacked your brain to think like a winner, no power tie needed.

~ Dr. Doscher

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Getting the Most Mileage from Your Mental Fuel

Years ago, I heard the metaphor, mental fuel, used to refer to attention. I found it appropriate because like gas tanks, our cognitive thought processes hold a limited amount of fuel, and we can determine how quickly we use the fuel, depending on our driving habits. Research has proven that

  • we can determine which mental tasks receive the most fuel (attention)
  • rehearsed or learned tasks will require less fuel resources (attention).

Research has not confirmed, although highly speculative, multiple tasks can be performed in parallel versus flipping back-and-forth between tasks, and some tasks require a consistent amount of attention, regardless of the situation or other tasks involved (Willingham, 2007).

What about driving and talking? The question remains does our attention flip flop, yet go unnoticed, especially with experienced drivers? Probably so, since the experienced driver may not be giving 100% of their attention to either task. Don’t forget, memory also plays a part. We have practiced certain scripts to the point they no longer present much cognitive load (mental strain).

Research in the mid-1990’s demonstrated that auditory and visual tasks were interlinked and that one could not be compromised without affecting the other. Nevertheless, it was found that two auditory tasks caused more interference than an auditory and visual task. Perhaps, this helps explain why we can drive down a familiar road and chat with a friend, but incessantly get frustrated when talking on the phone, while someone is asking questions in our other ear! Remember, differences attract, and likenesses repel, or at least for attention mileage.

~ Dr. Michelle Doscher

For more information on cognitive processes, check out Daniel Willingham, along with Willingham, D. B. (2001). Cognition: The thinking animal. New York: Prentice Hall. 2nd edition (2004). 3rd edition (2007).

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Transparency, Good or Bad?

Human behavior is unique, so generalizing veracity cues is erroneous, if knowing the difference between truth and fiction is important. Think of a few instances when you would want to know the truth. Job interview? First date? Reading of a will? You get the idea…

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Unlike jellyfish, humans do not clone themselves, but our words can sting. What we say and do are unique. Our verbal and nonverbal communication skills cannot be duplicated. Humans are one-of-a-kind communicators. We also like short-cuts. Not only were our brains created to process and store large amounts of information but also to retrieve information about the past, present, and future! Yes, the future. Speculation is the result of gathering past information to predict a future situation.

I say this jokingly, but I think my brain is constantly saying “Keep it simple, stupid.” (K.I.S.S.) I will admit, there have been days when brain overload seemed imminent. Cognitive load (brain stress) occurs, because of mental conflict, a mass input of information, or new and different surroundings, to name a few. As I mentioned before, our brain likes to take short-cuts, and our brain also likes to avoid cognitive load. The result is sometimes deceptive or incomplete answers. For example, what is the best way to avoid conflict? Answer: Don’t mention details that would initiate or result in conflict. This is also known as omission. What if you need to be convincing to save face or prevent someone’s feelings from getting hurt? Answer: Fabricate a convincing scenario based on the truth, or simply embellish the truth a bit.

Although I am not encouraging deceptive practices, white lies do sometimes serve a purpose. But what if knowing the TRUTH is paramount? Then do not seek to identify universal lie detection cues. Although many people exhibit similar behavioral traits, these cues do not always represent the same trait in each person. For more information on indirect methods to quantitative deception detection, visit https://MindSleuth.us Transparency may disclose information that should be kept secret, or disclose valuable information for the greater good. Either way, a noninvasive indirect method now exists allowing a glimpse into the mind’s cognitive processing.

Stay true to yourself!

~Dr. Doscher

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Mothers Who Murder Their Children

Mothers murder their children for many reasons, which typically fall into one of three classes: accidental, purposeful, and abuse-related filicide. Research points to differences between maternal behavioral characteristics when committing neonaticide and filicide.

  • neonaticide (children less than 24 hours old). Limited statistics exists for neonaticides, since many go unreported. The majority of the mothers are young and unmarried. Their self-image appears to be important and the homicides result to save face and social status.
  • infanticide (children less than one year old) There is a clear distinction between mothers who commit neonaticide vs infanticide. Michelle Oberman, law professor/author suggests reviewing societal norms which may be causing undo stress to mothers or harm to children. Infanticide is not random and is not committed by only the mentally ill.
  • filicide (children 18 years and younger). The U.S. statistics are the highest for infanticide followed by pre-school and school-age children. 30%-45% percent of parents committing filicide commit suicide.

The following are 5 recurring motives for maternal filicide based on Phillip Resnick’s worldwide review of psychiatric research: (Altruistic)-These mothers feel they are protecting their children from worse harm. (Psychotic)-Psychotic or delirious mothers have no motive other than reacting to hallucinations. (Fatal maltreatment)-These mothers’ intentions are usually not homicide, but residual effects of years of abuse and neglect or Munchausen syndrome by proxy are often culprits. (Unwanted child)-The child is seen as a hindrance or burden. Lastly, (Spouse revenge)-Although rare, the mother kills the child to torture the child’s father or seek revenge.

The following podcast was taped by death investigator Darren Dake of Coroner Talk™ with myself, discussing the psychology of mom’s who kill.

 

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How Does Color Affect Our Mood?

Companies around the world research the best colors for their logos. Google tested 40 shades of blue before deciding which blue to use in their logo. The psychology of color plays a role in most of these decisions, such as red signifies warmth, passion, and sales! Blue is calming and trustworthy, while green signifies health. Chanel, coined “the little black dress” and continues to use black in their logo symbolizing classic and sophisticated designs.

We see images via the visual cortex portion of the brain. However, the retinal ganglion cells are the first responder neurons, sending signals to the hypothalamus, part of our brain’s limbic system. The hypothalamus helps maintain balance with our body’s internal environment (hunger, thirst, temperature, and sleep). It also triggers secretion of hormones that affect our mood, emotions, and need for reward. Here lies the key to how different wavelengths of color affect our mood.

Blue/green wavelengths, such as in morning light stimulate the hormone cortisol, which stimulates us to awaken. Therefore, it is hard to go to sleep after working on the computer for hours, unless you wear blue blocking glasses, such as EyeYee. I discovered this secret after experiencing many sleepless nights and eye strain while writing my dissertation. Keep in mind, too much cortisol released in our body causes stress and anxiety. (Could that be the reason why people tend to be more anxious after hours of computer gaming? Don’t go there! LOL.) Whereas, soft oranges/yellows in sunsets encourage melatonin production and help keep our sleep cycles on schedule; that why I recommend using warm lights in the bedroom to encourage restful sleep.

One Tokyo railway line installed blue lights at the end of their platforms and claimed they had a 74% reduction in suicide at these platforms. However, Nicholas Ciccone, PhD found inconclusive evidence regarding the effects of blue light on impulsivity. Correlations can be a bit misleading, but they do sell headlines! Two of the world’s largest restaurant food chains rely on color science for their marketing. McDonald’s has maintained their golden arches and red accents, while Subway adds a pop of yellow and green. Volkswagen maintains their image as “the car of the people” while encourage trustworthiness with the blue background in their logo.

As a researcher in interpersonal communications, I would love to hear your feedback regarding your choice of colors for clothes and possible effects on conversation.

Best to you all,

Dr. Michelle Doscher

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Real Estate Tip #1: The Science of Showing Property

Most clients want to see multiple properties, despite forgetting the minute details of one property when going to the next. So, should you only show two or three properties? Preferably not, unless requested by your client.

Science is your friend; remember these statistics and become a top-selling agent!

Your client will remember…

90% of what they saw when they walk through the property with a listing sheet.
50% of what they saw when they discuss the details with someone.
30% of what they saw when you only show the listing on a website or listing sheet.
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading an ad.
5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from listening to you!

Prior to showing property, email your clients the listing sheets and links to property websites of the properties they want to see, in addition to others similar in price, structure, and location. On the day of showings, have extra copies of the listing sheets when showing each property. Next, spend a few minutes discussing each property after viewing. Take the time to take notes on the listing sheets and encourage your client to do the same. After viewing all the preferred listings for that day, spend some time recapping the highlights of each listing.  This simple but effective process allows the brain to retrieve, process and encode information for easier recall.

So, what about order?  Group the properties and rank them according to your client’s needs and wants in a property.  The first few properties will be memorable because of the Primacy Effect and the last property will be most memorable due to the Recency Effect. Unfortunately, the middle listings will suffer the Intermediate Effect and possibly be lost in the shuffle, especially regarding specific details.  Obviously, your rankings will be based on your client’s feedback prior to showing the listings. By grouping properties, you can tweak the order of showings if necessary, based on your client’s most recent feedback during the showings.

The technique is simple. Show and tell them what you are going to show them. Show them what you told them you were going to show them. Lastly, Tell them again what you just showed them.  Sound familiar? Why reinvent the wheel, this memory technique has been around for ages?  Happy house hunting!

~ Michelle Doscher, PhD

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The Power of Suggestion

Although amazing, our hippocampus and amygdala have their limitations.  Both are a part of our brain’s limbic system, and both play roles in our memory systems. The synergy between the two are suspected to play a significant role in the long-term storage of emotional memories.  Yet, according to J.E. LeDoux, “Emotions are conscious products of unconscious processes.” Here is the kicker and reason for this post.

Emotions influence our declarative memories, and leave remnants of consequences from our emotional responses. These neural transmissions sometimes bypass the usual (longer) route for memory storage and recollection. Hence, this explains why a particular sound or smell may evoke a feeling of anxiousness, without you completely understanding or remembering the event responsible for the behavioral response.  Without corroboration of physical evidence, verifying reported memories can be difficult.  However, this does not mean  they are not true.

Unfortunately, research studies have demonstrated guided retrieval of memories can appear genuine to participants, especially when the participant feels pressured to remember a difficult-to-recall event.  A suggestion as simple as, “imagine this event and the sights and sounds around you, but don’t worry about the accuracy of your memories”, has been shown to elicit completely false memories or disassociated memories.

False memories of events never occurred, whereas disassociated memories are truthful and guided components of memories that meld into one memory. Previous truthful components of memories and guided components become indistinguishable.  The power of suggestion is noteworthy.

~ Dr. Michelle Doscher

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Handwriting in a Digital World

Handwriting is more than written information on paper. It is a tangible piece of our mental processes. I’m not referring to your deepest darkest secrets; only you know those. I am talking about how you choose to communicate your thoughts. Some people rehearse their words in their brain prior to putting pen to paper, others just write freely and worry about editing later. Perhaps, this is why we use digital formatting for most everything; it is easy to edit without leaving smudges or lined-out words in the wake of our emerging discourse. Aesthetically, typed information is easier on the eye and void of unnecessary distractions. So why do law enforcement officials insist on taking written statements with pen and paper? Some may jokingly profess it is the lack of funds for 21st century technology, or others may just shrug and say “that’s the way we have always done it.”. Despite the reason, the unique identifying characteristics of handwriting should not be discounted.

Handwriting, like your DNA, identifies you yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Your handwriting changes with your moods and faculties. Handwriting is a time-stamped view of you! So, what does that say about comparative handwriting analysis? The overall appearance of your handwriting remains fairly consistent, but your writing slant, pressure, and spacing will vary. Something as simple as different widths of pen tips or writing surfaces will affect your handwriting; however, the information directed by your brain will not be altered. All of the typical who, what, when, where, how, and why questions cannot remain locked in our subconscious forever. While writing, we consistently pass along clues to our thought processes. For example, does a handwritten note “sound” like the person who wrote it? Hmm, not so much. Listen to a recorded version of the writer reading their handwritten note. All of a sudden you hear voice inflection and purposeful pauses. Have you ever wondered why movie producers use the author’s voice when showing a person reading a note from another? The effect is more powerful and speaks to our emotions.

Some say handwriting analysis is an art, a subjective science. I agree and disagree. Handwriting analysis can also be a measurable insight into mental processes. My research has shown and continues to show us areas where our brain writing consistently speaks to us with real-time data. Let me show you how this works. Intrigued? Fantastic! Click here, and grab a pen and paper.

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Call for Research Participants

How well do you mask lies?

Single or multiple submissions welcome. Make it a contest! Get your office involved. Assign yourself a 5-digit code to be placed on your writing sample. No identifying information please.

 

Instructions: Please write 4 paragraphs per the below instructions. You may print or write cursive on lined or unlined paper, and it does not matter if you write with a pen or pencil. Scan or photograph your completed statements and email or text them (with your 5-digit code) to: Michelle@MindSleuth.us or (800) 910-0270s.  Results with 5-digit codes will be published on Facebook and in the Spring issue of eliteinvestigativejournal.com

PARAGRAPH #1– Copy the following paragraph.
I was asked to write an article about bitcoins. The editor will contact me with needed edits prior to publishing my article. The compensation will be in virtual dollars.
PARAGRAPH #2
In 3 or more sentences, state your sex, age, your favorite pastime, and why you enjoy this pastime.
PARAGRAPH #3
In 3 or more sentences, write about your dream vacation, as if you just returned from a week of rest and relaxation. Be creative! But, remember, you must have never experienced this vacation.
PARAGRAPH #4
In 3 or more sentences, write about an incident which never occurred.

Thank you for your participation!

Dr. Michelle Doscher

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Time for a mind and body detox?

The holidays are my favorite time of the year, when I am not stressed to meet deadlines, fighting a wicked cold, trying to outsmart even the savviest professional shopper, and appearing jovial throughout the gloomiest of frigid days!  Woohoo, that was cathartic.  So, how should we prepare for the holidays?

Prayer or meditation opens your mind and allows you to release and shrug off the weight of daily doldrums.  Walking to and from a neighbor’s house to say “hello”, stimulates endorphin production to help ease bodily aches and elevate your mood.  By reducing cortisol levels, you are making your heart healthier and reducing your risk for osteoporosis.  Your body thanks you!

Did you know the above tips also help reduce adrenaline levels, which tend to be over the top, in us high energy, anxious Type A personalities?  If you know a child or adult who is battling attention deficit disorder (ADD)or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), share these tidbits with them as well.

On to detoxing our bodies… you are what you eat and [drink]!  Some of you may remember the elephant posters in school cafeterias back in the 1970’s with this slogan.  I, of course, took it to mean I had the potential to become an elephant.  Not the intention of the American Dietary Association.  I believe they were thinking more along the lines of not replacing molasses for motor oil in your car’s engine.

Although the intentions of the “healthier” fast-food establishments are to provide daily nutritional meals, fresh vegetables are rarely on their menus.  Hence, too many of us are lacking in our daily magnesium intake.  Why magnesium?   Your heart, bones, and brain will thank you.  A time-released high-absorbency magnesium vitamin is best, which I have found at Jigsaw Health.com.  Of course, consult with a medical professional before taking my advice.

Here’s to a happier and healthier you! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you all!

Michelle Doscher, PhD

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Your Brain, a Microcosm of a City

All major cities have infrastructure which is needed for operation and maintenance of its society.  Your brain is no different.  Information and essential elements are transported efficiently.  Permanent structures are erected and restructured to meet needs and demands.  Lastly, operations are ever-changing, including changes in function.  As brain scientist Lara Boyd noted, everything we do and encounter changes our brains, for better or for worse.  Are these changes permanent? Yes and no.

We shape the way our microcosm presents itself and functions.  We determine whether certain structures expand or are allowed to diminish.  “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”  Our brains exhibit neuroplasticity; that is why our experiences and gained knowledge affect our perspectives, hence personalities.  Nutritionists often say, “You are what you eat.”  Well, from a psycho-social perspective, “We are what we experience.”  Fill your brain with positive, thought-provoking thoughts and diminish the effects of negative life experiences. These fluctuations will result in behavioral changes, along with awakened brain regions and the opportunity for amplified learning capabilities!

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Top Reasons to Perform a Psychological Autopsy

CoronerTalk.com podcast with Darren Dake & Michelle Doscher, PhD, Psychological Autopsy, Dead or Alive

Initially, psychological autopsies were developed to assist death investigators in determining the manner of death for a known individual. This investigative tool is still used to determine questionable or possibly staged deaths. Psychological autopsies are sometimes performed on suicide victims to try to understand their thought processes, prior to their death. The thoughts, behaviors, moods, and events leading up to the suicide are important in establishing a deceased person’s mental state, prior to his/her demise (Bartol and Bartol, 2012). Odd behaviors, as well as dismissed routine behaviors, should be noted, since they may play an intrinsic role in the trigger or events leading up to the suicide.

There is no standard for conducting psychological autopsies, but a proposed protocol has been published along with a list of 13 suggested documents to collect, when theorizing a person’s mental state (Snider, Hane, and Berman, 2006). These documents are intended to paint a clearer picture of who the deceased was and how he was functioning in society. Not only mental and physical health is considered, but also the person’s family history, their demeanor, social circles, and habits are noted.

No amount of information will ever completely explain why a person acts in a manner that warrants investigation. As humans it is natural to want all questions answered, not just for curiosity but also for purposes of healing. So, why do people react differently, even with similar profiles? Human behavior is unique; we each have different triggers, along with different levels of tolerance and reasoning capabilities. No one person is in the same mental state each second of the day; hence, there is no guaranteed procedure that will predict a person’s mood or actions.

Lastly, psychological autopsies are learning tools to teach others about possible correlations between certain physical and mental states which have led to detrimental outcomes. Profiles are theories and not infallible. However, the quantity and quality of data collected is key to any investigative work.

Bartol, C., & Bartol, A. (2012). Introduction to Forensic Psychology: Research and Application. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Snider, J., Hane, S., & Berman, A. (2006). Standardizing the psychological autopsy: Addressing the Daubert standard. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, 36, 511-518.

In remembrance of the lives lost and lives changed forever at the hand of violence, may we never forget why we continue to search for the truth. ~Michelle Doscher

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What’s in Your Playbook?

How do you get out of an uncomfortable situation without telling a bold-faced lie?  You commit the act of paltering, deceiving while making truthful statements.  Interrogators refer to paltering as acts of omission.  Damaging information is not mentioned.  Only truthful statements are produced; therefore, avoiding the act of fabricating a cover-up story.

So, in your playbook of schema, how does paltering affect behavior?  Mimicking a template or following a social framework is easy if cognitive load is not involved.  Paltering, however, requires the “sender” to plan and project only truthful emotions and messages, creating cognitive dissonance, a.k.a. mental stress.  To the untrained person, paltering is rarely identified as deception, since we typically “want” to hear the truth.

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5 Behaviors to Improve Brain Plasticity

Are you a creature of habit? I am not referring to toilet paper brands. If your closest acquaintances can predict your daily routine, then it is time for some mind limbering.

  1. Break habits, rearrange daily tasks, and create new routines.
  2. Update your mind’s playbook.  Revisit your schema and update your outlook, a.k.a. your book of rules.
  3. Now for the workout…engage your prefrontal cortex.  Participate in new activities, not in your daily routine.
  4. Recognize and accept all of your emotions.  Ride the roller coaster!  According to a Duke University study, denying one’s emotions is a culprit for addictive behaviors.
  5. Change your focus throughout the day.  Allow your mind time to relax and your emotions change.

Mind limbering is stimulating. Go ahead, create some new neural pathways and feel the difference!

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Please Protect Our Vulnerable

“Hello, Grandpa?”
“Yes. _______. Is that you? Are you OK?”
“I’m in New York and I am in a bit of trouble. I need some cash, Grandpa. Can you help me?”….

This is only one of several disturbing phone calls that are circulating. The phone numbers’ area codes always match the area from which the caller is supposedly calling.

How do we protect our vulnerable?  When my boys were toddlers, I assigned them a family password.  The password was our secret code and a quick way of assessing the boys’ safety.  We rehearsed the password until it was second-nature.  The password was fun and easy for a toddler to remember.  Better yet, it was even harder for a teen or young adult to forget!  We never had to use the password while the boys were young.

However, the password was recently used when the boys’ grandfather received a harried phone call and needed reassurance the young men were safe and sound.  A one-word response to a text, email, or phone call is all the peace of mind needed sometimes.

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5 Ways to Identify Contemporary Criminal Behavior

Introductory criminal justice and behavioral sciences courses will often focus on an individualistic approach to defining criminal behavior. Both professionals and scientist spend many man hours searching for clues pointing to the individual’s reason for maladjusted behavior. Ironically, this approach to criminal behavior is the least productive. Sociologists continually stress relationships among and between individuals and society, while looking for answers to the conundrum of behavioral anomalies. Although I do not always agree with their views and interpretations, they have indirectly recognized the right approach to identifying criminal behavior.

Associations, patterns, and relationships are not to be overlooked. What do these have in common? Feedback, it is an integral part to the establishment of successful criminal behavior.
1. Criminal minded individuals conduct research and plan. However simplistic or complex it may be, depends on the person’s cognitive abilities. Criminals do not reinvent the wheel. They look to what others have done while successfully evading or “working” the legal system.
2. Depending on the crime type and circumstances surrounding the crime, criminal minds disassociate themselves from victims and victims’ behaviors. Spontaneous crimes and crimes of passion involve less planning and more compensation during the criminal activity.
3. Criminal minded individuals often exchange and transfer their negative behaviors flawlessly. The results may elude to second guessing and rabbit hole searches by victims and professionals, alike.
4. Most importantly, criminal minded individuals evaluate all actions and responses directed away from and towards them, a.k.a. FEEDBACK. Indirect methods of interrogation and collection of behavioral cues are paramount to identifying and attempting to manipulate this type of behavior.
5. Lastly, successful criminals are proactive with minimal reactive tendencies.

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May I Have Your Attention Please

Cognitive interviews are often preferred because of the explicit information attained. An interviewer will typically focus on temporal and spatial questions to elicit this information. So, once your interviewee’s descriptive verbiage begins, how do you know if you are receiving completely accurate information?
Ramp up the cognitive load and the verbal and nonverbal deceptive cues will emerge! Whoa, not so fast. What if your interviewee is completely comfortable telling tall tales? Requesting temporal and spatial details may not trigger extra cognitive load. They may rely on

established schema or rehearsed scenarios to dilute the effects of extra mental strain.
However, splitting their attention may do the trick. Diverge from maintaining eye contact and flip flop around with questions that do not seem to follow a normal sequence. This split-attention effect will make relying on schema more difficult and “new” scenarios will need to be created, for those interviewees with deceptive tendencies. In turn, cognitive load will be induced and deceptive cues will emerge.
What about interviewees telling the truth? This technique will also induce mental strain, but most truth tellers usually respond to cognitive load with less descriptive and shorter answers. If they receive positive feedback from the interviewer, the cognitive load will also be lessened. Unlike the deceptive interviewee, the truthful interviewee is not pressured to monitor feedback, verbiage, and possible deceptive cues.

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The Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Anyone who has ever testified in court as a witness has sworn to tell the truth and nothing but the truth.  Does this mean all testimonies given in a court of law are 100% truthful?  Well, the intent is usually to tell the truth, but testimonies sometimes turn and go down a slippery slope.  Honorable intentions are not necessarily impervious to deception.  Knowing the difference between deception and a lie is a good place to start.

During the art of persuasion, deception may interject by way of fabrications, exaggerations, omission of details, misleading information, or speculation.  Lies, on the other hand, are intentional falsifications.  Think of a mountain with steep north and south sides, and sloping east and west sides.  Denials are deliberate falsifications or lies, located on the opposite, steep side of the mountain, from truthful statements.  Fabricated statements may contain both truthful and false elements; therefore, placing fabrications on the sloping east/west sides of the mountain.

A person can begin a testimony on the truthful side of the mountain and easily move to the steep east or west sides of deception, by using speculation, omission, misleading, and exaggeration (S.O.M.E.) of details or wording.  As an expert witness, be careful not to accidentally slip.

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Memories of the Future

Coined by David Ingvar, memories of the future, refers to our intentions.   As proactive beings, we make plans and follow them to guide our behavior.  While gathering snippets of our past experiences, we try to anticipate outcomes of possible future actions.  Therefore, we depend on these schemas to direct our actions, resulting in desired behavioral outcomes that do not imitate past experiences or present realities.

The general consensus has been that deceptive behavior is more cognitively demanding than truthful behavior.  However, more recent research is pointing to truthful intent as more cognitively demanding than false intent.  How so? You may ask.  Conceptualizing truthful intent requires not only planning for the future but also recalling memories of past actions and their corresponding behaviors and reactions.  Then, our proactive selves digest this information and anticipate possible future actions with desired behavioral outcomes. Whew! Talk about cognitive load!

The prefrontal cortex, which means “at the front of the cortex”, is our corporate executive of the brain.  Its tasks include, but not be limited to, executive control, conflict monitoring, emotion, and working memory.   Hmm…so, maybe the cognitive load approach to interviewing is not the golden ticket, if determining veracity of intent is the interviewer’s objective.

If the above assumptions are correct, a truthful interviewee could exhibit more deceptive behavioral cues, such as pauses or exaggerated details, than a deceptive interviewee.  This might occur as a result of the multi-layer cognitive processing when creating truthful ‘memories of the future’.  Remember, false statements, especially fabricated statements, may contain some truthful content; however, the deceptive person’s goal is not to unintentionally reference past actions, which could associate them to a particular phenomenon in question.  To prevent this from occurring, deceptive persons typically shy away from referencing memories and their associated behavioral responses,  when creating false statements of intent.

 

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5 Common Cues to Deceptive Nonverbal Behavior

  1. Facial expressions
  2. Body language
  3. Psycho-physiological responses
  4. Thought processes
  5. Written communication

Darting eyes, crossed arms, and flushed necks are all signs of deception, right?  That is absolutely, positively not always the case.  Mounds of research pinpoint specific cues to deception, yet most researchers agree multiple cues compared to baseline behaviors are needed to suggest acts of deception.  Behavior is unique to individuals.  Similarities exist, but unique identifiers, combined with content and contextual associations, are key.

Deception detectors often focus on cues for deception, while ignoring the truth bias approach.  Assume everyone is telling the truth unless convinced otherwise.  Know your subject’s truthful nonverbal expressions.  Open-ended conversation with verifiable questions interspersed is a helpful exercise.

Truth-tellers sometimes exhibit deceptive cues in their attempt to convince others of their veracity.  The lack of continuity, when recalling incidents, can be perceived as deceptive when in fact it is often quite the opposite.  Non-spontaneous deceptive behavior is a rehearsal of determined incidents including temporal (time) details. Whereas, truthful comments can be sprinkled with spatial and temporal details, not always mentioned in the correct order.  In other words, backtracking is common in truthful statements, where anxiety and cognitive load are factors.

Lastly, in a world of touch screens and laptops, handwritten communications are sparse.  Recent research points to benefits of tell-all written statements and structured cognitive-behavioral interviews.  Handwriting is brainwriting.  Cognitive dissonance is not just for verbal communication anymore!  Verbal pauses and various types of deception are not only visible but measurable in handwriting.

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Impressions

First impressions are mind imprints which occur within microseconds.  Unfortunate for some, not all impressions elicit a wave of emotions.  Language content, voice speed and inflection, facial expressions, and body language may impact your career or love life, more than you know .  Is this possible when we retain approximately 10-30% of what we see and hear? Oops! Don’t forget about your other senses.

Verbal and nonverbal behaviors are communicated and received consciously and unconsciously.  Our senses never take a coffee break.  Descartes said “I think, therefore I am.”  Not to pick on the great 17th century philosopher and mathematician, but perhaps, “I sense, therefore I am” would have been more accurate.  My first reading teacher told me to use all of my senses to memorize my spelling words.  I laughed when I imagined sniffing my spelling book!  Little did I know, by using both sides of my brain to process and interpret information, I could boost my memory and recall.

Wow your receivers with facts and figures, splashed with sensual cues.  Analytical and creative minds alike depend on the right side of the brain to interpret nonverbal cues, along with feelings and visualizations.  Excite their whole brains and make a lasting impression!