Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Coaching with compassion can 'light up' human thoughts

18.11.2010
Researchers at Case Western Reserve University use brain images to identify neural signature of achieving 'positive emotional attractor'

Coaching happens just about everywhere, and every day, with learning as the goal.

Effective coaching can lead to smoothly functioning organizations, better productivity and potentially more profit. In classrooms, better student performance can occur. Doctors or nurses can connect more with patients. So, doing coaching right would seem to be a natural goal, and it has been a major topic of research at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management since 1990.

For all the energy and money spent on coaching, there is little understanding about what kind of interactions can contribute to or detract from effectiveness. Ways of coaching can and do vary widely, due to a lack of understanding of the psycho-physiological mechanisms which react to positive or negative stimulus.

Internally funded research at Case Western Reserve has documented reactions in the human brain to compassionate and critical coaching methods. The results start to reveal the mechanisms by which learning can be enhanced through coaching with compassion (a method that emphasizes the coached individual's own goals).

"We're trying to activate the parts of the brain that would lead a person to consider possibilities," said Richard Boyatzis, distinguished university professor, and professor of organizational behavior, cognitive science and psychology. "We believe that would lead to more learning. By considering these possibilities we facilitate learning."

Boyatzis and Anthony Jack, assistant professor of cognitive science, philosophy and psychology, have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to show neural reactions based on different coaching styles. Their research builds on previous knowledge of Intentional Change Theory, which holds that positive and negative emotional attractors create psycho-physiological states that drive a person to think about change.

Boyatzis, a faculty member at Weatherhead School of Management, and Jack, director of the university's Brain, Mind and Consciousness Lab, say coaches should seek to arouse a Positive Emotional Attractor (PEA), which causes positive emotion and arouses neuroendocrine systems that stimulate better cognitive functioning and increased perceptual accuracy and openness in the person being coached, taught or advised. Emphasizing weaknesses, flaws, or other shortcomings, or even trying to "fix" the problem for the coached person, has an opposite effect.

"You would activate the Negative Emotional Attractor (NEA), which causes people to defend themselves, and as a result they close down," Boyatzis says. "One of the major reasons people work is for the chance to learn and grow. So at every managerial relationship, and every boss-subordinate relationship, people are more willing to use their talents if they feel they have an opportunity to learn and grow."

What Boyatzis and Jack set out to do was to observe brain images which reflect coaching tone. Undergraduate volunteers met with two academic coaches, who intentionally used different interviewing methods. One encouraged envisaging a positive future, and the other set a more standard tone by focusing on a person's failings and what he or she ought to do.

About a week after each coaching session, Boyatzis and Jack brought the students to the brain scanner. The students were shown video clips, which were designed to approximate a video conference. The same coaches who met the students previously appeared on video and sought responses. The students in a scanner answered using a keypad. That design meant there was an ongoing interaction between the students and the academic coaches they had met briefly before.

Half the questions offered during the fMRI session had a similar emotional tone to those in the first coaching session, either positively focused on the future, or more negatively focused on the difficulties the student might be experiencing. The other half were neutral in tone -- issues about which the students most likely have ambivalent feelings. The neutral questions allowed Boyatzis and Jack to better see how the interpersonal relationship was affecting the neural response.

"We know that people respond much better to a coach they find inspiring and who shows compassion for them, rather than one who they perceive to be judging them. Sure enough, we found a trend in the same direction even for the neutral questions. Students tended to activate the areas associated with visioning more with the compassionate coach, even when the topics they were thinking about weren't so positive," Jack said.

"We were really struck by one particular finding in the visual cortex, where we saw a lot more activity in the more positive condition than in the more negative condition," Jack explained. The brain areas observed are associated with imagination and operate at the intersection of basic visual processing and emotion. Jack says the fMRI images show the neural signatures of visioning, a critical process for motivating learning and behavioral change.

"By spending 30 minutes talking about a person's desired, personal vision, we could light up (activate) the parts of the brain 5-7 days later that are associated with cognitive, perceptual and emotional openness and better functioning," Boyatzis said. "The major implication is that people typically coach others in higher education, medicine and management with a bias toward the NEA and correcting what the person is doing that is wrong. Our study suggests that this closes down future, sustainable change, as we expected."

Coaching with Compassion: An fMRI Study of Coaching to the Positive or Negative Emotional Attractor was presented at a recent Academy of Management Annual Meeting in Montreal and awarded as a Best Paper.

"Everyone's got to look at weaknesses and take them on," Jack says. "But often the focus is so much on the bottom line that we worry ourselves into the ground. It is more important to focus on what gets you going in the morning and gets you wanting to work hard and stay late."

MULTIMEDIA

A video of Richard Boyatzis and Anthony Jack explaining their research and a brain scan image illustrating the PEA and NEA conditions can be seen at: http://blog.case.edu/think/2010/11/15/coaching_with_compassion_can_alight_upa_human_thoughts

About Case Western Reserve University

Case Western Reserve University, one of the country's leading research institutions, offers a unique combination of forward-thinking educational opportunities in an inspiring cultural setting. We provide learning from leading-edge experts in a collaborative, hands-on environment. Our nationally recognized programs include arts and sciences, dental medicine, engineering, law, management, medicine, nursing and social work. http://www.case.edu.

Marvin Ray Kropko | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.case.edu

More articles from Medical Engineering:

nachricht Biosensor allows real-time oxygen monitoring for 'organs-on-a-chip'
21.08.2018 | North Carolina State University

nachricht Can radar replace stethoscopes?
14.08.2018 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Medical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Air pollution leads to cardiovascular diseases

21.08.2018 | Ecology, The Environment and Conservation

Researchers target protein that protects bacteria's DNA 'recipes'

21.08.2018 | Life Sciences

A paper battery powered by bacteria

21.08.2018 | Power and Electrical Engineering

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>