Everyone needs to know the language of neuroscience
The social media arena of social cognitive neuroscience turns ugly from time to time, with the scientists and academics angry that their research is being simplified, dumbed down and sometimes just misrepresented. That's fair enough, but this sometimes spills over into an "only scientists should be discussing this stuff" attitude which really isn't very..... practical. Millions of people work in organisations around the world - There are obvious commercial reasons for applying brain based research to the workplace, as well as moral and compassionate ones for making our companies places where people can think and perform at their best.
I have always been fascinated by people's behaviour, and I guess that's part of the reason I do the job I do. 20+ years ago when I did my psychology degree, we could only measure behaviour (for example, how motivated someone reports they are) - now due to technological advances we can see exactly what parts of the brain are active during certain actions, and when people are reporting certain feelings and experiences. So, based on my limited research, what do I think are the practical applications of this research, which is very much in its infancy?
We are pretty irrational. Being rational is very tiring and it's a finite resource. Psychologist Daniel Kahnemann set this out in his Nobel prize winning research - he called them system 2 and system 1. In neurological terms system 2 is the pre frontal cortex (the bit behind your forehead which does your cognitive processing) and system 1 is most other parts (senses, bodily regulation, memory, etc). The PFC is "late" in evolutionary terms, and far larger in humans than any other species. It's this part of the brain that does problem solving, prioritisation, working memory and all of your "braking" systems - anything that requires self control from not snapping at your kids to resisting the donuts in a meeting is using this same precious and limited resource - like batteries being drained during the day. It's also rather fussy - it needs just enough stimulation to get going, but too much pressure and it shuts down - the PFC can't operate effectively when threat responses are activated.