Don’t think about red apples.

Plus, a better way to argue

“Purpose is not synonymous with what the world sees in front of you. It is entirely internally driven. The answer to the question, ‘what is your purpose?’ is not something you can crowdsource... It's an internal quest.” — Anthony Burrow

BRAIN WAVES

  • Don’t even think about it. When you tell yourself not to think about something, it’s hard to think about anything else. Even when we think we’re successful at suppressing a thought, it still lingers in our minds. Researchers at the University of New South Wales Future Minds Lab conducted an experiment. They showed people one of six phrases: “red apple,” “red chili,” “red tomato”, “green broccoli,” “green cucumber,” or “green lime.” Some participants were instructed to avoid imagining that item over a short period of time. They had to press a key to report when the item popped into their head. From there, the researchers showed them a red and green image, and the participants had to report which color was the dominant one. The results? When participants had to avoid thinking about a red apple, chili, or tomato, they were more likely to report red as the dominant color. Even when they thought they weren't actively thinking about the item, it was apparently still on their minds. “This discovery changes the way we think about thoughts of desire and suggests unconscious thoughts can emerge and drive our decisions and behavior,” said lab director Joel Pearson. He added, “using brute force to not think about something — that cigarette or that drink — simply won’t work because the thought is actually there in our brains.”

  • For the sake of argument. From pundits yelling at each other on TV to folks screaming into the void on Twitter, it seems public discourse is broken. “In everyday life, probably because everyone else is yelling, we are so scared to get in an argument, that we’re willing to not engage at all,” says Julia Dhar of Boston Consulting Group. In a TED Talk, Dhar makes the case for disagreement and offers ways to do it respectfully and productively. “The way that you reach people is by finding common ground,” she explains. “It's by separating ideas from identity and being genuinely open to persuasion.” Being able to engage in discourse isn’t just how we learn from others — it’s also how we connect with each other.

  • Some people are good at putting themselves in another person’s shoes. Others may struggle to relate. But psychologist Jamil Zaki argues that empathy isn’t a fixed trait — it’s one that can be strengthened, like a muscle. Listen to learn more.

ON THE PODCAST

Some news: Our annual You 2.0 series is back! Every week in August, we’ll bring you stories about how we can approach the chaos of our lives with wisdom. 

Aug 2: Purpose is essential to our well-being. It buffers us against the challenges we confront at various stages of our lives. It provides a sense of stability in uncertain times. Purpose is also something we can cultivate. This week, how a sense of purpose can help us weather life’s biggest storms.

Aug 9: In a fit of anger or in the grip of fear, many of us make decisions that we never would have anticipated. We look at situations that make us strangers to ourselves — and why it’s so difficult to remember what these “hot states” feel like once the moment is over.

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MIND GAMES

What is so special about this phrase below?

Never odd or even.

LAST WEEK’S PUZZLE

What 5 letter English word does not change in pronunciation even when you take away 4 of its letters?

The Answer:  Queue

FROM THE TWITTERATI…

A MOMENT OF JOY

A lesson in sharing...

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