Saturday, February 07, 2009

NeuroMagic , The Zone , Sports and Exams.

NeuroMagic , The Zone , Sports and Exams.
Andre Willers
7 Feb 2009

NeuroMagic is a hot new science .
It is the fusion of NeuroScience and Stage Magic .
The exact neurological mechanisms of effective stage magic tricks are explored . The process is synergistic . Both sides benefit to an quite an extraordinary degree .

The Synergy :
Stage Magic exploits processes (flaws , weaknesses , or just the way it is done) in the perception and cognitive processes . It has a repertoire of tricks built up over thousands of years . Tried and tested in the real world .

Neuroscience explains them and suggests new approaches .

An explosion of applications is only now starting .

"Watch the ball ! "
"Pay attention!"
Heartfelt imprecations from generations of coaches .

But how do these mechanisms work ? More importantly for competitive sports , how to take advantage of them .

NeuroMagic manipulates the mechanics of the visual system , as well as the more important attention and concentration mechanisms at the neural level .

1.Mental lapses :
Change blindness , inattentional blindness , choice blindness .
The cognitive system is manipulated at a neural level .
2.Visual lapses
Curved and straight motions activate different neural systems at sub-retinal level and cognitive level .

The details can be found in the works of S Martinez-Conde , SL Macknik et al .
A good summary is in ScientificAmerican Dec 2008 p44 "Magic and the Brain" .
NewScientist has also run a good article .

Misdirection in sport .
This old standby of stage magicians is allowed (feints) .

The Zone .
Being "In Form" .
Well known in sport . Usually described as a state of relaxed concentration .
The meta-feedback processes in the brain are confident that they can handle anything because the processes they monitor are functioning well .
You can be in the Zone and still get wiped . It is an internal state .
But it is fragile .
Neuromagic techniques will be aimed at usable techniques to induce , maintain and recover it , while disrupting the opponent's Zone .

Is the Zone delineated ?
Yes .
It is a whole mess of feedback-systems coming together in a system recognized internally by the meta-monitoring systems as distinct .
So , yes , you do wake up in the morning knowing that everything is tip-top .
But it varies .
If you don't , neuromagic is supposed to develop techniques to kick-back into the Zone-state .
If all else fails , try rebooting . Go back to sleep thinking positive thoughts . Waking up is a fairly random initiation process of feedback loops .
This is where being part of a Team helps . The team acts as a flywheel , kickstarting the process if possible .

Zone Collapse .
If you are in the Zone , and it is then collapsed , a whole host of feedback processes are initiated that reduces effectiveness drastically . This is a neurological effect . Like dropping a spanner in watch-gears . The player's game collapses .

Disrupting Teams .
This is possible by inducing false narratives .
Eg in soccer:
This is done using misdirection and visual-system cues to make a ball disappear and reappear somewhere else from the opposing player's viewpoint . This induces a false narrative , collapsing their Zone .

Building teams can and is being done using similar techniques ,
but on an ad hoc basis , without a deep neurological-level theoretical background .
A quantum-physicist would be handy . The Zone-state is very much like a fragile quantum state generated from a number of players .

Virtualities .
Does anybody train in SecondLife?
It seems the obvious mechanism .

It is not physical responses that need training , but mental ones . A virtuality is better than real life , because plays can be replicated exactly and repeatedly , identifying and correcting mistakes . Levels of difficulty can be adjusted . Opposing teams can be modeled using agents . Tie it to Wii .

It can even generate revenue . Fancy yourself playing against Rinaldo ?
For $100 you can play against his model avatar . For $10 000 you can train against/with him in a real training exercise in SecondLife . This might even be advisable , to add randomness to the training regimen .

In effect , a player can play the opponent repeatedly before the actual tournament .

Of course , both sides will be forced to do this . SecondLife tournaments will grow in importance . Maybe even old , obese , cocaine-addicted brilliant players will make a come-back . (Or their avatars will . )

Business Team Building
This can be done cheaply , interchanging same company or a competitor's personel .
Headhunters can employ it to get a dreamteam .

Concentration .
The techniques of concentration developed for sport are applicable to scholastic pursuits .

Exams .
The scholastic equivalent of the sports tournament .
There is definitely a Zone for writing exams (personal experience) .
When there is no hesitation . An optimal utilization of known resources . Data flows unimpeded from memory .
The opposite , alas , also happens . The individual usually knows that he is not in top-notch shape (not in the zone , not in form) , but has no choice but to take part .
The results are then also well below expectation .

The scholastic Zone uses the same neurological mechanisms as the sports Zone .
Training mechanisms developed for sports can be used for academic purposes .

The Team and Zones .
At first sight , it would seem more difficult to induce a Zone state in a number of individuals than in one individual . But it is paradoxically easier , and is used on industrial scale all over the world .

This is the highest-paid skill in the world .
What coaches and CEO's are extravagantly rewarded for . The ability to use a team to induce the Zone state in the most talented members of the team .
Note the emphasis on the most talented members of the team . The team is a tool to get the best out the most talented . It also induces Virtual Teams in them .
Think of it as a Socratic method involving mirror-neuron networks .
("What will my team think" , etc)

The traditional tools are well-known : entrainment under mild stress , mimetic emulation , isolation , exposure to carefully vetted social influences , etc .

Neuromagic has expanded on this toolkit , and will enhance it further in the normal competitive manner .

Note that Learned Helplessness is most emphatically not included . The idea is not to crush the most talented members of the team , but to induce them into the Zone , thus also dragging along many in the team not so talented .

Most Universities , especially in South Africa , (Stellenbosch in particular) , still crushes the best students under the misapprehension that they are building teams . They are just creating mediocrity . The talented are supposed to uplift the others , not join them .

Study Teams .
An interesting adaptation of the sports team idea . Widely used in US universities . Note that by pruning , the talented surround themselves with a supporting mimetic pool . This helps to maintain them in the Zone , and also drag along the many others who would not make it on their own .
A natural outflow is FaceBookism , now gathering momentum (see previous posts)

Virtual Teams .
Humans have the neurological means to form Virtual Teams .
Mirror-neuron networks .

Mild Asperger's persons are rich in Mirror Networks . They are also most prone to being crushed by social learned-helplessness techniques forced on them . The few that do survive this process do so via Virtual Teams . Usually characters they read from history .
It is no accident that Napoleon , Hitler , Stalin , Mao to name a few were avid readers of history . It was not primarily to learn from it (since they did not) , but to fuel their virtual teams . (One of the major reasons why spectacles fueled social change)

A Virtual Dream Team composed of Alexander , Caesar , Genghis , etc will result in a Supernerd of a different ilk than a Virtual Dream Team composed of Buddha , Jesus , Mohamed , etc .

From an overview , supernerds like these are useful to give the whole system a shake-up now and then .
Those who can't keep up , will have to learn to run a bit faster . Is that not what was drummed into them ?

Choosing your Virtual Team .
As you can see from above , choosing a well-balanced virtual team is essential to anybody's successful and happy functioning as a composite entity .

Techniques for doing this has been known for a long time (meditation , study , role-playing , getting married , etc)

But we now have drugs (eg Ritalin) , electronics (biofeedback , fMRI) , neuromagic that give us easy-to-use methods of precisely forming a Virtual Team .

For a sportsman , this means he can be in the Zone on demand . But it is addictive .
Ditto for academics .

Zone-Addiction .
Remember , being in the Zone is only in internal optimal state (Feel-good . Endorphin release .) . If this conflicts with external events , then depression or mania or both will result . (Eg Hitler when reality and the model in his mind parted company.)

The definition of addiction is that it freezes out other behaviours .
Like sleep , non-zonal states might be necessary for other behaviour-states to have a look-in . Research is needed .

Off-hand , from reserve considerations ,
(see "New Tools: Reserves")
I would estimate that about of 1/3 of waking time is needed for non-Zonal activity . About 2-3 hours . The trick is to use neuromagic techniques to be in a Zonal state when the tournament occurs .

Toujours !

Andre .

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