Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Don't try selling that used car to Tibetan monks this way

The BBC gives tips on how to be more charismatic. (HT: Evangelical Outpost).

  • General: Open body posture, hands away from face when talking, stand up straight, relax, hands apart with palms forwards or upwards
  • To an individual: Let people know they matter and you enjoy being around them, develop a genuine smile, nod when they talk, briefly touch them on the upper arm, and maintain eye contact
  • To a group: Be comfortable as leader, move around to appear enthusiastic, lean slightly forward and look at all parts of the group
  • Message: Move beyond status quo and make a difference, be controversial, new, simple to understand, counter-intuitive
  • Speech: Be clear, fluent, forceful and articulate, evoke imagery, use an upbeat tempo, occasionally slow for tension or emphasis
SOURCE: Prof Richard Wiseman

But... (home come they always seem to study Tibetan monks?) ...

In an unusual but fruitful collaboration between Tibetan Buddhist monks and neuroscientists, researchers have uncovered clues to how mental states--and their underlying neural mechanisms--can impact conscious visual experience. In their study, reported in the June 7 issue of Current Biology, the researchers found evidence that the skills developed by Tibetan Buddhist monks in their practice of a certain type of meditation can strongly influence their experience of a phenomenon, termed "perceptual rivalry," that deals with attention and consciousness.

The work is reported by Olivia Carter and Jack Pettigrew of the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues at the University of Queensland and the University of California, Berkeley.

Perceptual rivalry arises normally when two different images are presented to each eye, and it is manifested as a fluctuation--typically, over the course of seconds--in the "dominant" image that is consciously perceived. The neural events underlying perceptual rivalry are not well understood but are thought to involve brain mechanisms that regulate attention and conscious awareness...

With the support of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 76 Tibetan Buddhist monks participated in the study, which was carried out at or near their mountain retreats in the Himalaya, Zanskar, and Ladakhi Ranges of India. The monks possessed meditative training ranging from 5 to 54 years; among the group were three "retreatist" meditators, each with at least 20 years of experience in isolated retreats.

The researchers tested the experience of visual rivalry by monks during the practice of two types of meditation: a "compassion"-oriented meditation, described as a contemplation of suffering within the world combined with an emanation of loving kindness, and "one-point" meditation, described as the maintained focus of attention on a single object or thought, a focus that leads to a stability and clarity of mind.

Whereas no observable change in the rate of "visual switching" during rivalry was seen in monks practicing compassion meditation, major increases in the durations of perceptual dominance were experienced by monks practicing one-point meditation. Within this group, three monks, including two of the retreatists, reported complete visual stability during the entire five-minute meditation period. Increases in duration of perceptual dominance were also seen in monks after a period of one-point meditation.

In a different test of perceptual rivalry, in this case prior to any meditation, the duration of stable perception experienced by monks averaged 4.1 seconds, compared to 2.6 seconds for meditation-naïve control subjects. Remarkably, when instructed to actively maintain the duration, one of the retreatist monks could maintain a constant visual perception during this test for 723 seconds.

The findings suggest that processes particularly associated with one-point meditation--perhaps involving intense attentional focus and the ability to stabilize the mind--contribute to the prolonged rivalry dominance experienced by the monks. The researchers conclude from their study that individuals trained in meditation can considerably alter the normal fluctuations in conscious state that are induced by perceptual rivalry and suggest that, in combination with previous work, the new findings support the idea that perceptual rivalry can be modulated by high-level, top-down neural influences.
Of course, any experienced practitioner of zen would know the same thing.

So, they might not be so amenable to being rolled by a charismatic BS artist.

Which might explain certain political leanings of Buddhists.

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