Tag Archives: genes

Are you a lark or an owl? 

Are you a lark or an owl? (2nd update) It’s important to know when you are working at your best because it could make a difference to your career success. Some people are bright and breezy first thing in a morning (hard to believe if you are an owl of course) whilst others don’t come to life until later in the day.

Research by biologists in Germany found that people whose performance peaks in the morning are more proactive than people who are at their best in the evening. (There may b … Read More

via EI 4u with permission

Emotional Intelligence and empathy

Guest blog from EI4U

Emotional Intelligence and empathy In an earlier post about Emotional Intelligence and marshmallows I referred to the findings of a Demos think-tank report which reported on an increase in social mobility between the end of WW2 and the 1970s followed by a period of stagnation up to 2000. Amongst the three traits that were most important for children to improve their social lot was empathy – the ability to be sensitive to other people, to read their emotions and understand non-verba … Read More

via EI 4u

Practice makes perfect, probably

So brain training doesn’t actually make you smarter. Some of you may have seen the experiment on a BBC Science Programme  http://www.bbc.co.uk/labuk/results/braintestbritain/6_training_results.html or read about it the newspapers eg http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/7610884/Popular-brain-training-games-do-not-make-users-any-smarter.html and  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article7103288.ece

Basically the Cambridge University study showed that practising on brain training games didn’t improve your cognitive function but only made you better at that game and that it is just as effective to spend the same amount of time surfing the internet. Nintendo, which has sold 35 million games like these, was quick to point out that they never made any claims that such games could improve cognitive function.

In the early part of the same BBC programme there was a case study of a man who, in his childhood, had half his brain effectively disconnected. His brain managed to compensate by transferring functions to the other half of the brain, a good example of the brain’s plasticity. Although an extreme example it shows that the brain is capable of developing new connections every day of our lives and every time we do something new.

So is it a waste of time practising? In Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” he quotes neurologist Daniel Levitin’s research which suggests that to achieve true expertise or mastery in anything, whether to be a musician or a master criminal, you have to practise for 10,000 hours. That’s 3 hours a day, every day, for 10 years! He also believes that cultural demands can make  a difference and says Asians’ excellence in mathematics is because their culture expects and even demands it.  http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/article4969415.ece

Similarly David Schenk, a writer on genetics, claims that the case for genetic predisposition is overstated and that if you practise hard enough you can even become a genius. He challenges the belief that Kenyan marathon runners have a genetic advantage and says that it is cultural with children running 8-10 kilometres a day from the age of 7. He also believes that rather than being a static blueprint DNA is open to influence by external factors and that genes can be turned on or off by environmental influences which we then pass on to our children. So David Beckham’s prowess at free kicks isn’t down to genes so much as practice and more practice.  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article7069310.ece

Dr Yannis Pitsiladis at the University of Glasgow  has concluded after 10 years studying elite athletes – including African distance runners and Jamaican sprinters – that their success is not due to their DNA as he first thought but is: “a socio-economic phenomenon” (Sports Illustrated).

There was one positive finding from the Cambridge study in that brain training games may be useful for elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. But I think I’ll stick to learning a language and doing my Su Doku.

“There is no golden genetic windfall bestowed at birth, but constant interaction between the outside world and our DNA” says David Schenk in The Observer (2 May 2010). Promoting his book, “The genius in all of us”, he accepts that there might be genes that influence our drive and motivation but believes that they are not totally innate. and that resilience, and motivation, can appear at different stages in people’s lives.

He thinks this trait often appears in response to adversity, that some people will find it more difficult to develop intense drive than others, but that is basically a developed trait. He concludes; “Few of us know our true limits and the vast majority of us have not come close to tapping our unactualised potential”.


Updated 13 January 2011: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12140064

This is another story about genetic influences and in particular the idea that we can no longer refer to innate talent – everything is a product of our genes and our interaction with the environment. Amongst interesting research results Carol Dweck, from Stanford University in the US, has demonstrated that students who understand intelligence is malleable rather than fixed are much more intellectually ambitious and successful.

Updated 19 April 2011: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-13128701

Another article about Carol Dweck’s research. Students who are praised for working hard rather than being smart do better!

Erotic Capital – boobs, botox, and making the best of yourself

What do Obama, Jordan, Beyoncé, and Tina Turner have in common but Gordon and Sarah Brown don’t?

Well according to Catherine Hakim a sociologist at the LSE it’s Erotic Capital. Something she believes is 50% innate and 50% learned. She thinks EC is; “sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation”.

If you have it you can earn 10-15% more than your colleagues (but that applies to taller people too).  She thinks women usually have more than men but men are catching up with their use of botox (see my previous posting Body Language and the B problem”) and male moisturisers, whilst both sexes are found spending time at the gym, or under the knife, improving their appearance.

Using EC apparently means anything from flirting subtly with the boss to commercially exploiting a large pair of breasts. She sees Katie Price and Posh Spice as people not endowed with high IQs who make the most of what they have but are looked down on for it – perhaps because of  our Anglo-Saxon puritanism.

I can’t decide whether this is good news or not! Annoying radical feminists can’t be all bad but do we want to see more sexualisation in the work place?

Is this the new “emotional intelligence”? Is there a role for HR and training experts?

Kate Spicer who interviewed her for The Sunday Times was clearly a little confused too. She referred to Hakim’s foxy red hair, expertly applied makeup  with a dash of botox and also her use of some of the EC skills she seems to be endorsing, whilst claiming to be a feminist.

Personnel Today’s Guru has also picked up on this story in his blog this week (27 April), amusingly referring to erotic capitals such as Paris, Amsterdam  or Prague! However like me and my reader TG he suggests a niche market for seminars and consultants as EC becomes a new, sexier, version of Human Capital Management.

Updated 19 January 2011:  Researchers have now found that you can have both brains and beauty! Life can be so cruel.

Studies in America and the UK show that handsome men and beautiful women tend to be cleverer than the norm by about 14 IQ points. The findings suggest that as both beauty and intelligence are inherited the offspring of people with these attributes will inherit both qualities and this will be reinforced in subsequent generations.

Satoshi Kanazawa, the LSE researcher, found that the association between physical attractiveness and general intelligence was stronger for men than for women: 14 points higher than average for men and 12 points for women – so hard to maintain a view about dumb blondes.

This research, published in Intelligence, was based on the Child Development Study of 17,000 British children born in March 1958 which has monitored them ever since, and the American National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health –  a similar study of 35,000 young Americans.

Kanazawa’ argument is that; “if more intelligent men are more likely to attain higher status, and if men of higher status are more likely to marry beautiful women, then, given that both intelligence and physical attractiveness are highly heritable, there should be a positive correlation between intelligence and physical attractiveness in the children’s generation”.

Beauty happens to be Kanazawa’s special research interest and he has also found that middle class girls not only have higher IQs than working class girls but are also more attractive.

The report in the Sunday Times (16/1/11) doesn’t explain how physical attractiveness was measured or rated and the example given, model Lily Cole who is studying at Cambridge, is not, in my opinion, beautiful (but to me neither is Kate Moss or Naomi Campbell, so it shows how subjective beauty can be). To his credit Kanazawa does say that these are purely statistical findings and shouldn’t be applied to individuals or prescribe how to judge people.

Updated 19 August 2011: You’ve read my blog on this topic and now you can buy Carol Hakim’s new book; “Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital”.

The Daily Mail has just published a piece by the author which is bound to upset the feminists and PC brigade (so that’s a plus).

I can’t say I necessarily I agree with some of the celebrities used as examples. I don’t find Posh Spice the least bit attractive nor Renee Zellwegger or Madonna but it just goes to show that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.