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July 8, 2013
by Ashley Marie

Wednesday Wisdom: Unlock the Genius in You: Part 1

July 8, 2013 04:00 by Ashley Marie  [About the Author]



"What size? Extra large, please...

At least that’s what I would order when buying my first thinking cap – if only increasing my brainpower was that simple."

Good brains are prized commodities, as they can enhance the quality of our lives.  As the most intelligent species on the planet,[1] we can think, analyze, problem-solve, invent, reflect, and create.

Most of us were not endowed with as much artistic talent as Mozart or mathematical skill as Albert Einstein. But we still have the potential to increase our brainpower.

The Obstacles

1. Culture of Ignorance

Despite our thinking potential, we are plagued by obstacles.

As pointed out by Albrecht, much of North America suffers from a culture of ignorance.[2] Critics claim the quality of education has generally decreased.

I recall the day my political science professor delivered an angry speech that shook the speakers of our lecture hall. To his dismay, our undergraduate class could barely spell, write in full sentences, form coherent thoughts, or recall notable historical moments – not to mention think critically about political events. On top of that, oversized classes and lack of funding only made matters worse.   

Our generation is also blessed and cursed by advances in technology. [3] Though admirable in many respects, the Information Age is characterized by mental laziness. It is much easier to pull out my calculator than to recall my multiplication tables from grade school.

2. Instant Impatience  

We live in an instant society, where we expect instant results when addressing our problems.[4] If my bike breaks down, I can easily take it to a repair shop – rather than try to fix it myself. 

Expectations for instant results have made us into a highly impatient society. I recall the day when my sister and I went to Ikea, and the cash registers stopped working. People waiting in line were fuming with anger because the computer technicians took 20 minutes to solve the issue. 

Working out solutions takes time, and we need to give our brains and those of others breathing room to think clearly.

3. Passive Versus Active Thinking

In our search for instant gratification, we also tend to prefer passive versus active thinking.

Since the 1960s, television has become a dominant component of North American life. But this medium encourages passive thinking. Studies have shown that after watching more than 30 minutes of television, your thinking begins to resemble a state of hypnosis.[5]

Though some television is more knowledge-based – such as current affairs programs, the news, or documentaries – most people prefer pure entertainment. In the US, the most-watched shows comprise largely of comedies, dramas, thrillers, and reality television.[6] In the 2012-2013 TV season, Sunday Night Football, The Big Bang Theory, and American Idol were some of the most popular shows.  

4. Thinking With Emotion

Emotions also blur our capacity to think rationally and reasonably.

In a fascinating study, Westen combined psychology and cognitive neuroscience to analyze how Democrats and Republicans interpret political candidates’ speeches, campaign ads, and arguments in debates.[7] His research reveals that we are wired to think with our guts more than sound logic. This means politicians are able to manipulate our emotions without us realizing that our votes are often irrational.

Note that the power of emotion to trump logic is not a recent phenomenon. Even in Ancient Greece, Plato noted an imbalance between emotion and reason. [8]

The Potential

Despite these obstacles to enhancing our brainpower, our minds have great potential.

According to Minirth, we typically use only 5% of our mental capacity.[9] However, we can wire our brains to access the other 95%.

We can learn to solve complex mathematical problems, envision social change, create artistic masterpieces, communicate profound wisdom, and, most importantly for readers of this blog, provide state of the art therapy to those seeking counseling.  

There are tools and tips on how to unlock the genius in you. And this is what this series of articles will explore.

[1] 2010. Mammal Anatomy: An Illustrated Guide. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish.

[2] Albrecht, K. 1980. Brain Power: Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills. New York: Firseide, pp. 1-2.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Albrecht, K. 1980. Brain Power: Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills. New York: Firseide, pp. 5.

[6] Schneider, M. 2013. “America’s Most Watched: The Top 25 Shows of the 2012-2013 TV Season.” TV Guide. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 7 July 2013].

[7] Westen, D. 2007. Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. New York: Perseus Books.

[8] Ibid, pp. 63.

[9] Minirth, F.B. 2007. A Brilliant Mind: Proven Ways to Increase Your Brainpower. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, pp. 1

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