The 3 Most Powerful Brain Words

Fah Fah Fah.

Yes these 3 simple words (or sounds) are, in fact, amazing. I know that might be a stretch and maybe a bit difficult to absorb at first; but please bear with me. It is not just that I have been away, (although I have just had a brilliant short break, skiing the powder in the French Alps); or that I have been eating some amazing Michelin Star food (at the very brilliant Ferme de Montagne, in Les Gets, France); or even talking to some super bright people about the meaning of life. Oh no.

Nor have I gone completely off the rails (I hope not), not even with the ‘dread’ of a return to work (because I really love my work). However, on arrival back in the UK today, I immediately wanted to go back skiing again. Greedy maybe, but you know that our eyes are often described as bigger than our stomachs; the same may be true of the need for better (and more frequent) hospitality trips, extreme pleasure experiences, conversation and great company. You see we are so completely dependent on our 27 + senses, every moment of the day, that we totally forget how poor and easily mistaken they can be. Yes, read this if you have any remaining thoughts of there being 5 senses.

Our multiple senses aren’t just giving a flawed view of what’s going on in the world; they’re affected by what’s going on elsewhere, by your pre-programming and by complex sensory interactions. Your reality is in fact cobbled together from a bunch of different parts of your brain working in conjunction. It’s a bit like a crazy ski lift queue (or line in the US) full of insane snowboarders, from different countries, all going in different directions: trust me, that is pretty messy. In fact, I am sure your brain does it’s best to convince you that it is working just fine, despite the reality of it being a messy, chaotic place.

Let’s take food as an example of the chaos and confusion that exists in your brain. Many people have experienced the following parental statement: You can’t leave the dinner table until you finish your food (or think of the starving children and other versions exist). That common parental mantra turns out to have left a mark.You may know that if you are offered varying amounts of food on a plate, you will end up eating more if there’s more food on the plate. This can happen regardless of how hungry you are. We eat more ice cream if we use a larger spoon than if we use a smaller spoon. According to new research, adults from many different cultures around the world typically finish almost all of the food that’s on their plates. It may make you a member of of the Clean Plate Club – you eat pretty much everything you put on your plate. The new Cornell University study shows that the average adult eats 92% of whatever he or she puts on his/her plate. Brian Wansink Ph.D., author of the forthcoming book, Slim by Design, says, If you put it on your plate, it’s going into your stomach.

Wansink and co-author Katherine Abowd Johnson analyzed 1179 diners and concluded that we’re a Clean Plate Planet. Although diners were analysed in 7 developed countries, the US, Canada, France, Taiwan, Korea, Finland, and the Netherlands, the results were nearly identical. If we serve it, we’ll eat it regardless of gender or nationality.

A further study finds that hungry people see food-related words more clearly than people who’ve just eaten. The study, published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds that this change in vision happens at the earliest, perceptual stages, before higher parts of the brain have a chance to change the messages coming from the eyes. The research found that when words were flashed very fast on a screen (too fast to read, but slow enough to imprint on the brain), Hungry people saw the food-related words as brighter and were better at identifying [the] food-related words when shown on a list after they were flashed.

Not convinced? Ok, so here comes the most amazing demonstration of how to confused your brain becomes by just 2 of those 27 senses.

Your Eyes Can Make You Hear Different Words.

When you hear someone talk, the whole process is normally pretty straight forward and I am sure you are pretty confident you won’t be fooled.The sound comes out of the other person’s mouth, it travels into your ears and you just heard what they said….this must be so, because you experience it every day. If your hearing works fine, what could possibly go wrong?

The very short answer is your eyes are playing a deep and powerful trick on you. You see, vision is the most dominant sense in humans, and that means that what your eyes are seeing will sometimes override what your ears are hearing. So let me prove it in this extraordinary clip from a brilliant documentary on BBC2 called Horizon: Is Seeing Believing?

You will see (and hear) a guy saying bah bah bah over and over. Afterward, he changes his tune to fah fah fah … or so your eyes would have you believe. In reality, the audio never changed, only the picture did. That is, the voice is still saying bah, but since it’s now dubbed over a picture of the same guy pronouncing fah, your brain actually changes what you’re hearing so that it doesn’t conflict with what you’re seeing. If you close your eyes or look away, fah automatically goes back to being bah. This illusion is called the McGurk effect, and even knowing know full well what’s going on, you can’t get your ears to hear the correct sound. The McGurk effect tends to be minimised when you’re interacting with familiar faces, but it gets worse if you’re dealing with strangers. Things like the way the person is dressed or even what they’re carrying can influence the words you think you hear them say.

So all this research indicates that our perceptions increase toward items that our body wants or needs. But how does this relate to hospitality and my need for another holiday?

Well the simple answer is, it is very complex.

What really motivates people to want to travel, go to a posh restaurants or spend more money on goods and services is driven by internal (old) programmes, powerful external stimuli and by conflicting patterns and hierarchies within the brain.

So if ‘food hunger’ enhances our senses toward food, what does our selection of attractions tell us about what we are lacking, or hungry for, in our day to day lives? Because that is what is guiding our attention to travel magazine, TV shows and advertisements. While I was bashing the new powder snow, what were the things that motivated me to eat at the best restaurant? Why did I seek fine minds to discuss neuroscience with? What do these and many other choices that we make, say about our motivations and needs? What further adds to the improbably hard equation to solve, is why are these so different from one person to the next?

These are the kinds of questions that are getting me (and others) excited. By seeking new clues and answers from a variety of fields we might get closer to the secret of human decision making. If we can understand this powerful mechanism then the following 3 words make perfect sense,

Bah Bah Bah

Be Amazing Every Day.