I’ve been in the fitness industry for a couple, a few, ok a lot of years. I still love to go to workshops because I love how every time you sort of have a new brain that’s learning. Ok not an actual new brain, but my brain has collected hundreds of pieces of information since the last time I heard that piece of information, so its sort of a different brain. So at any given workshop when I hear similar facts I might process said knowledge differently. The workshop that I just went to with Chip Conrad and Ryan Hurst, the topic of how we teach and learn came up a lot. This was probably because the convened group were avid learners and teachers. One conversation was how we process information differently depending on the space, time, person teaching, or our own physical state.               

Think about when you have been in a conference or class and you are frigidly cold, or miserably hot. How much are you taking in of what the person is telling you? Your physical state has a large impact on how you process information. Author Daniel Pink talks about this in his book “When” about a well known study done in Israel where judges granted less paroles as they got more fatigued and hungry. It took more brain power for them to make a decision of whether not to keep them in jail or not. So they maintained status quo and just kept the prisoners in jail. You will not have great cognitive abilities from a tired or hungry brain. 

We also take in information differently depending on who is giving the information. You hear stories of a fully capable assistant or associate professor giving advice or counsel to a student. This student then goes running to the person above with more “authority” asking the same question. The senior person gives the exact same counsel yet is listened to with reverence. Are we listening all the time? And do we give enough credence to information depending on who is giving it? 

There is a perfect example of judging information differently depending on who is talking, in a story with the neuroscientist Ben Barres. He was transgender and had transitioned mid career, so had given many talks as Barbara Barres. He overheard a colleague talking about one of his classes, “Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s.” He had no sister. Have a think about that one. Same information, same person, unfortunately the lecture was valued very differently by the recipient who was oblivious that it was the same exact person teaching.   


These are just some things to think about the next time you find yourself at a seminar, lecture, or just even hearing information in conversation. Think about how you are processing the information. You may think, Oh humdrum, I’ve heard this before, your brain may be hearing it for the hundredth time, but how your brain works and reworks those thoughts, concepts, and ideas makes all the difference. So this you, in this time and space hasn’t heard this information in this exact way so listen in and leave your thoughts of, Oh I’ve heard this before, at the door. And always carry snacks and a sweater.:-)


Catherine Coweylearning