Happy New Year from all of us at QIC! We're all back and ready to make 2018 our best year yet. 2017 was a great year for us. Our crew went from 5 to 10, we graduated from the UCF Business Incubator, and moved into our first real office. We completed our second Phase I SBIR for NAWC-TSD, started our first project for CTTSO, and continued our work for the Army Research Laboratory and ADL Initiative. Our researchers presented papers and posters at conferences like SIOP, ATD, HFES, HCII, and I/ITSEC. I had the opportunity to serve as chair of the I/ITSEC Emerging Concepts and Innovative Technologies subcommittee, which was a great experience. We discovered - and mastered - the greatest VR music game ever developed, Audioshield. And, of course, I got to spend some quality time in Uranus, MO. I'm honored to have such an inspiring team working for me, to collaborate with great technology partners, and to do meaningful work in support of our Service members.
Toward the end of the year, I like to do some self-reflection and take stock of everything I've learned...
A few months ago I had an incredible opportunity to join the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute (BASI) and an interdisciplinary team of social scientists to discuss the future of human-centered research in regards to deep space exploration. Human space travel has become a hot topic once again, but this time it’s beyond orbits around the earth, trips to the International Space Station (ISS), or even lunar surface landings. This time our eyes are set on the fourth rock from the sun…Mars.
You are starting to feel that pang of anxiety again. Situations- a presentation, test, date, or deadline- flood you with unwanted feelings of worry and panic. You are left with a racing mind, sweaty hands, and a pit in your stomach. You are not alone. Nearly everyone has experienced anxiety. For some individuals, these feelings are frequent and linger in every corner. We can blame behavioral learning and genetics for that (thanks, Mom).
As we deal with our anxiousness, we are also reminded about how terrible stress and anxiety are for our health. According to WebMD, it causes a slew of health problems such as high blood pressure and heart disease. Despite occasional anxiety being considered part of normal life, approximately 40 million people in the US are diagnosed with actual anxiety disorders (NIMH), leading stress and worry to be considered an epidemic.
Stress and worry however, can be used to your advantage. I deemed my anxiety as an expression of passion and a form of motivation rather than a debilitating disorder. Of course, people have debilitating anxiety that can wreak havoc, but mine only seemed to make me work harder, think deeper, and push myself as far as possible.
I thought I was the only one feeling this sense of positivity with my spurts of anxiousness until I stumbled upon research by Strack, Lopes, Esteves, and Fernandez-Berrocal (2017). They conducted a three-part study that found a positive correlation between the use of anxiety for self-motivation and performance. An article from Psychology Today also reported research to show that anxiety may be a motivator for those that continuously expose themselves to anxiety-provoking situations. Rather than avoiding the situation, those that confront the discomfort develop and ability to use anxiety to their benefit. Their perception is heightened, focus is narrowed, and emotional agility is increased.
Unfortunately, most people tend to shy away from any level of discomfort. We are so quick to stop talking to someone, pass on giving a presentation, or give up an opportunity that seems to produce short-term negative emotions. This also extends to other "negative" aspects of our character such as sadness or attention deficits. Avoiding our negative states only inhibits us from resolving the causes or tapping into the benefits. As author of "The Upside to Your Dark Side" Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener eloquently states, "when we avoid the problem, we avoid the solution."
We also stunt the positive aspects of our negative emotions by numbing ourselves every time we have a burst of sadness, worry, or inability to concentrate. Rather, we should focus on our emotions that can contribute to performance: anxiety increasing focus, sadness allows us to notice more details, and attention disorders can enhance creativity. We must experience the discomfort in order to reap the benefits within our spectrum of emotions. We must embrace the negatives.
Have you been able to harness uncomfortable experiences to your advantage?
Leave a comment below!
QIC is thrilled to announce that Dr. Amanda van Lamsweerde has joined our growing team as a Research Psychologist! Dr. van Lamsweerde has 10 years of experience conducting research in human cognition and cognitive neuroscience. She has expertise in perception, attention, and memory and has conducted research in these topics using a variety of methodologies, including: measuring behavior, monitoring eye movements, monitoring brain activity through electroencephalogram (EEG), and non-invasive brain stimulation with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). She has a Ph.D. and M.A. in Cognitive Psychology from Louisiana State University and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine. She has worked on projects investigating visual attention with the Naval Research Laboratory, identified neural markers of knowledge transfer, and developed research to create more efficient materials to improve sleep behaviors. Her research interests include the interaction between perception, attention, working memory, and long-term memory, with the purpose of developing solutions to problems rooted in human cognitive demands and limitations, in order to improve task performance as well as overall health. Dr. van Lamsweerde and her expertise will be a tremendous asset to QIC as we continue to grow and seek out and win new work. Welcome!
Synesthesia. Syne-what? Synesthesia (sinəsˈTHēZHə)! From Dictionary.com, synesthesia is "a sensation produced in one modality when a stimulus is applied to another modality, as when the hearing of a certain sound induces the visualization of a certain color." Go on the synesthesia journey with one of QIC's Research Psychologists, Corinne Novell, as she discusses the visualizations produced by different flavors!
Sr. Human Factors Engineer, Tarah Daly takes on the 30-Day challenge and discusses habit formation in this video. Check it out!
I've recently had several ride-sharing experiences that really got me thinking about efficiency (or lack thereof) not only in my day to day personal life, but also in my professional life and how the desire for efficiency impacts our people, products, and services. In my current position, one of my goals is to ensure that QIC runs efficiently on a daily basis. Therefore, I typically approach my work, with a mindset geared toward efficiency - aiming to achieve desired results with as little wasted time and energy as possible. When thinking about efficiency in automated or machine-related environments, the goal is to reduce friction to the greatest extent possible. In collaborative work environments, the goal is much the same however, we're not dealing with machines, but with groups of people, and the friction we're removing are barriers to success.
Certainly being able to work efficiently in a professional capacity has its benefits, indicated by the countless articles on the "X Things Efficient People Do." Efficient workers tend to get promoted more frequently, tend to be better communicators, and often have less work stress while having more time to do the things they enjoy. Individuals who are efficient tend to not multitask (see my multitasking post from last year, here), are good at delegating, use clear and concise communication, schedule their activities, set aside time for rest, and plan their projects among other things. Sounds good, right?
From a business perspective, entire methodologies such as Lean / Six Sigma are dedicated to improving business processes to ensure efficiency. Recently UPS was in the headlines (for revealing that they use computer software to guide their driver's routes, which helps to eliminate unnecessary left-hand turns. The strategy and software helped the company save 20.4 million miles, which obviously translates to significant time, maintenance, and fuel savings across their fleet. Again, all good stuff.
There are however, countless articles on why working efficiently is bad for the individual and even how to go about shaping management's perception of your workload. Reasons individuals may actually suffer from being too efficient stem from having more work piled on because they finished their assigned work quickly, having fellow employees resent them for setting a higher standard, or being seen as a slacker by management because they may not always have work to do - again, because you finished it quickly. Outside of the workplace, the desire for too much efficiency could actually produce greater anxiety, frustration, and stress.
In terms of business management, while a focus on efficiency may be beneficial from a bottom-line or a work output perspective, there are critical aspects of a business that may actually suffer from too great of a focus on efficiency. In automated and machine-related environments it makes sense to always strive for greater efficiency. However, in our team-based environment too much efficiency could create a climate in which interactions between colleagues become unnecessarily limited and colleagues don’t get to know each other. Additionally, if processes are too efficient it may limit individual's ability actively think about situations, problems, and their context and stymie innovation.
While we strive for efficiency in the work we do - better, faster, less expensive - it's important to always remember who actually makes it possible for us to meet our customer's needs. When working in a collaborative setting, efficiency is one important part of the equation, but we can't forget the people who must interact with our processes to create our products and services. Have you experienced collaborative environments that are too efficient? Have you seen an over-emphasis on efficiency hinder innovation and suppress colleague bonding? Let me know!
Some of you may recall that a few months ago, I was momentarily enchanted with Pokémon GO and then got totally bored and stopped playing it, along with the rest of the world. With the new year, I wanted to give you an update on the game that continues to disappoint, but demonstrates so much about the art of the possible with mobile gaming and augmented reality.
This past November, rumors started to fly about a special Christmas update to the application. Legendary Pokémon! Pokémon trading! Something called a Typhlosion! Hundreds of new Pokémon released into the wild! Having a very limited understanding of the Pokémon universe, I had no idea what any of that meant, but I was interested. Finally, I thought, something to catch that's not a pigeon or a cranky looking rat. In early December, the update hit the streets, and we got…
Pikachu. With a Santa hat.
In addition, Niantic released five of what appear to be baby Pokémon, but there was a catch: You can only hatch them from eggs. Hatching Pokémon eggs is one of the more tedious aspects of the game, because it requires you to walk a certain distance with the app running. Five eggs and 25 km later, I'd only hatched one of the new ones. This is a clever tactic to get players to spend money within the game; you can purchase additional egg incubators which enable you to hatch multiple eggs at once. They did not get my money, as I do not tend to spend money on boring things in order to make them more interesting. I do tend to cheat them, however.
There are many video games I have become bored with and cheated to win. I'm not the only one, either. In her book Cheating: Gaining Advantage in Video Games, Mia Consalvo discusses the reasons people cheat at video games. Reasons include being stuck, wanting to explore expanded boundaries within the game, maliciousness, and just being bored. These findings were corroborated by researchers at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University who found that students self-reported wanting to progress or gain an advantage over others as primary reasons for their cheating behavior (Doherty et al., 2014). In this case, I fell into the "bored" category.
So how do you cheat at Pokémon GO? The primary objective of the game is to "catch them all," however they are not all accessible to you at any one place. Success requires you to travel, as some critters are only available on specific continents. To fill out the Pokedex, a player would have to travel the world…or at least their phone's GPS would have to reflect that. It turns out that in Android's developer mode, it's fairly straightforward to spoof your GPS location and navigate with a virtual joystick. If your phone's GPS thinks it's in Tokyo, Pokémon GO does as well. Cheating is not without its risks. Niantic has banned players from using fake location data, as well as other cheats, but at this point I decided that getting banned from this game was probably not a horrible thing for my productivity anyway, and it was probably worth it.
Over the next few weeks, I went to London to catch Mr. Mime, Tokyo to catch Farfetch'd, and Sydney to catch Kangaskhan. I spent a lot of time in New York's Central Park and Times Square. After a few hours, I realized something interesting: I'm actually pretty familiar with the layout of Central Park just from navigating the map in the game. I know that the zoo is one of the southernmost points in the park, and that Carnegie Hall is a couple of blocks away. I can get from Bryant Park to Times Square by going north and west. And now that all the Starbucks locations are Pokestops, I'm real sure I could get you a cup of coffee in ten minutes if you dropped me anywhere in the middle of Manhattan. This makes sense, given every Pokestop is a labeled landmark, and while not high fidelity, the map provides enough information for me to know where the roads are and the difference between land and water.
Whether this learning transfers to the real world is an empirical question. To find out, I'd have to take a trip to the Big Apple. While the Pokémon people probably never intended it, they may have tapped into a paradigm for incidental spatial learning. For example, an incoming university student could familiarize themselves with a large campus prior to their first day of class through playing a similar game. Soldiers could learn landmarks in a new operational environment before they deploy. Astronauts headed to distant planets could learn a new landscape through a game during the long flight. While other methods might be more effective, this might be a fun avenue to explore!