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Learning & The Brain (And The A's)

Worry not, this post is about baseball and the A's, not just basketball and the amygdala (a word which starts and ends with a's -- see how it all comes together?).

But today we start with a challenge that each of you can try. It's very cool. I saw this at the Learning & The Brain conference I attended last week, and we'll be connecting learning, the brain, and athletes later in the post.

In order to participate you need proceed in this order:

INSTRUCTIONS: In a moment, when you follow the link and play the video, you will see basketball players, some in white shirts and some in black shirts, passing a basketball around. Your task is to try to count how many times the players in white shirts pass the ball. Remember to count only passes from the players in the white shirts.

Now you can FOLLOW THE LINK and watch the video (and try to count passes by players in white shirts). When you are done watching the video, then come back and "jump" to the rest of the the post.

OK, now that you've seen the video, the question is: From which side did the gorilla enter?

If your response is "What gorilla?" please answer "a" in the poll. If you noticed the gorilla, please answer "b." (If you have seen or done this experiment before, please don't participate in the poll.)

The best part (for you) is that if your response is, "What gorilla?" now you can go back and watch the video again. Don't worry about the basketballs this time.

Pretty funny, huh?

The human brain selects, omits, fills in, ignores, assumes, and processes in ways that only the most complex thing on the planet could. And in the world of brain research, as in medicine, psychology, and everything else, there are always concepts that becomes areas of focus during any year or era.

Right now I'm hearing a lot about "mindsets," specifically the distinction between a "fixed mindset" and a "growth mindset." A "fixed mindset," also known as a "Bobby Crosby mindset," tends to believe that intelligence/ability is static, that people generally "are the way they are," that the brain/abilities are like clay, molded early on and then the rest played out like a Freudian destiny. A "growth mindset" tends to believe that intelligence can be developed, that the brain/ability is a muscle that is ever developing, that obstacles can be overcome and one's "destiny" changed. {If you're interested in the concept of "mindsets," here's one link to a user-friendly flow chart. Much of the foundational research and writing on mindsets was done by Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol Dweck.}

I thought Ray Ratto had an excellent piece Friday on Kevin Kouzmanoff that illustrates the "growth mindset" and how it might be predictive of an athlete's ability to adjust and improve. (It also highlights the importance of having a good carpenter.) I highly recommend reading the column and I also invite you to consider whether this "mindsets" distinction might be one of the "X factors" that explains why some athletes stagnate while others meet their potential.

Ha ha ha! Gorilla.