Some birds and animals, such as western scrub jays and squirrels, cache their food and dig it up later, which means they have to memorize their hiding places. Otherwise, this would be a pretty useless strategy. 🙂
When researchers studied the brains of these animals they found something interesting.
The part of the brain called the hippocampus (which plays important roles in memory and spatial navigation) was much larger in these species compared to animals who don’t hide their grub.
These findings gave neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire of University College in London the idea to study London cab drivers.
To earn their licenses, these cab drivers spend three to four years in training, driving around the city on mopeds and memorizing a labyrinth of 25,000 streets within a 10 kilometer radius of Charing Cross train station, as well as thousands of tourist attractions and hot spots.
Maguire wondered if it was possible that London cab drivers also had a larger-than-average hippocampus.
To find out, she and her colleagues sat out to analyze a group of these taxi drivers and compared them to a control group consisting of people who did not drive taxis (1).
The participants brains were scanned using structural MRI and indeed they did find that the cabbies brains differed quite a bit from the control group. Just like the food-hiding animals, the drivers had a bigger hippocampus.
And the volume of this brain region was correlated with the amount of time spent as a taxi driver. The more time spent driving the taxi, the larger the hippocampus.
At this point you might be thinking ”hippocampus, hipposchmampus, what does this have to do with mindset?”
Here’s the thing, all the way up until the 1960’s researchers believed that changes in the brain were only possible during infancy and childhood. It was believed that by early adulthood the brain’s physical structure was permanent (2).
It’s modern research like this that has proven this view to be wrong and that the brain continues to create new neural pathways and alter existing ones all throughout life.
Why is this important? As it turns out:
“It is not your brain that sets your boundaries, it’s what you think these boundaries are.” (Tweet that)
The idea of a mindset was discovered by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck as a result of decades of research on achievement and success (3). It’s a rather simple idea that makes all the difference. There are two types of mindsets:
A prime example of the power of these mindsets were displayed in a study by Dweck and her colleagues. 373 students were tested at the start of seventh grade to find out whether they had a fixed or growth mindset (4). The researchers then tracked their academic achievement over the next two years.
They found that a student’s mindset began to have an increasingly large effect on math achievement scores as he or she progressed through seventh and eighth grade.
The grade point of students with a fixed theory of intelligence remained flat, while students with a growth mindset experienced an upward trajectory in their GPA – simply, those who believed they could improve, did (5).
So, why is that? The mindset a person has makes a huge difference in how we perceive the world, how we deal with it and how motivated we are:
”If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.”
– Wayne Dyer (Tweet that)
So, can you change? Of course you can change. In fact, you will change because it is the way your brain is designed.
Your brain consists of a 100 billion neurons that in turn have up to 50,000 connections to other cells.
The amount of possible connections between these neurons exceeds the number of atoms in the entire universe.
And these neural pathways are constantly changing to accommodate you.
In other words, you have the most advanced machinery on earth right between your ears just waiting for you to put it into action.
Realize that it’s not your intelligence or talent that’s stopping you – it’s your limiting beliefs about them that do.
So go get started on what you’ve been putting off. Take the first action right now.
And let us know in the comments what you did. We’re routing for you. 🙂
- Navigation-related structural change in the hippocampi of taxi drivers
- What Is Brain Plasticity?
- What is Mindset
- Implicit theories of intelligence predict achievement across an adolescent transition: a longitudinal study and an intervention.
- The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Achor – p. 77.
- Video: Growth vs Fixed Mindset
- Top image courtesy of Ohmega1982 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net