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Home > News > April 2004 > 26-Apr-2004

Watching chat shows and drinking coffee boost mental performance

Drinking coffee and meditation are the best ways of improving short-term mental performance according to Kevin Warwick, Professor of Cybernetics at Reading University.

Warwick’s assertions are based on his study of over 200 students at Reading University which shows that short-term performance is actually hindered by orange juice and last-minute revision. Warwick, speaking at the CIPD’s annual training conference, HRD 2004, told the audience of HR and training professionals that these lessons can be applied to similar situations in the workplace such as job interviews.

Warwick comments, "What seems clear but surprising is that many of the so-called ‘bads’ such as coffee and alcohol have a positive effect on short-term performance, whereas many of the ‘goods’ such as listening to classical music and drinking orange juice do not come out of the study so well. It should be stressed however that the effects on long-term performance are reversed - with a good diet being essential to high performance."

Warwick also paints a fascinating picture as to how we will undertake learning and training in the future. Warwick believes that learning will become an automated software exercise; where people download appropriate software to learn skills such as learning languages. His comments follow his participation in a recent experiment which aimed to find out what happens when electrodes are fired into the main nerve fibres of the body. Warwick found that he was able to make coffee and use an alarm system with his neural signals alone - a result which he argues demonstrates the potential for a direct link between the brain and the internet to learn.

Further, Warwick believes that the experiments have more far-reaching ramifications for the way in which we communicate. He comments, “My wife and I became the first humans to communicate directly through the nervous system which was an amazing experience. When my wife moved her fingers three times for example, I felt three corresponding neural pulses in my own nervous system. This wasn’t quite thought communication, but if developments in implant technology continue at their present rate, we will not bother talking but send messages directly to each other. Thought communication could, and I believe will, make speech redundant.”

Warwick also believes that the experiments have implications for the HR profession and indeed all professions. He says, “Employers will no longer select job candidates on the basis of what they know, but on how good people are at accessing the software that will give them new abilities. The interviews of the future will need to consider job candidates’ implants, rather than their skills and aptitudes, and reject those that are incompatible with their own operating system. The message for the future is simple - either implant or exit.”

Martyn Sloman, the CIPD’s Training and Development Adviser comments, "Ideas that challenge orthodox thinking are always welcome. However, technology in training always takes much longer to achieve results than people predict. Further, learner acceptance is always critical. His brave new world is a long way off."

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