Psychologist and Emotional Intelligence expert examines causes of recent public outbursts of Wilson, Williams and West in regards to losses of IQ and Emotional Intelligence. Take EI and Derailer Assessments at www.truenorthleadership.com
Santa Barbara, CA (PRWEB) September 28, 2009 -- In front of millions of viewers Joe Wilson shouts "you lie' to the president, Serena Williams calls out line judge with profanity over a foot fault and Kanye West takes the mike from Taylor Swift to express his unwanted comments about who should get the award. What were they thinking? In reality their thinking was severely impaired to the tune of 10-15 less IQ points.
The "amygdala hijack" is a term coined in Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence, his first book on the subject. The amygdala is the emotional part of the brain, which regulates the fight or flight response. When agitated or threatened, it can respond irrationally. A rush of stress hormones floods the body before the prefrontal lobes, which regulate executive function, can mediate this reaction.
These three surprising reactions and aggressive responses by public figures demonstrate the three signs of the "amygdala hijack": 1) strong emotional reaction, 2) sudden onset, and 3) regret for your actions when you reflect later.Dr. Relly Nadler, a psychologist, executive coach and Emotional Intelligence training and tools expert, suggests their logic was suppressed by the powerful tunnel vision survival reaction of the amygdala. No one can make you do something against your better judgment, but the amygdala always can."
Brain Neuroscience: How the Hijack happens. We now know there are two minds one that thinks and one that feels. The research by Joseph Le Doux reported by Goleman, states "...the architecture of the brain gives the amygdala a privileged position as the emotional sentinel, able to hijack the brain." The stimuli comes in from the eyes or ears and goes immediately to thalamus and it then goes right to amygdala before a signal reaches the neocortex. This survival mechanism lets us react to things before the rational brain has time to mull things over. The hair trigger amygdala though can be sloppy and distort things in this quick reaction.
Where did my IQ Go? Any strong emotion, anxiety, anger, joy, or betrayal trips off the amygdala and impairs the prefrontal cortex's working memory. The power of emotions overwhelms rationality. That is why when we are emotionally upset or stressed we can't think straight.
Matthew Lieberman, a neuroscientist has found an inverse relationship between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex, the brain's executive function where rational thought and judgment sit.
When the amygdala is active with blood and oxygen, there is less activation in the prefrontal cortex. Our thinking power is disrupted and there are deficits in our problem solving, because the blood and oxygen are in the amygdala versus the prefrontal cortex. It is like losing 10 to 15 IQ points temporarily, which explains "what was I thinking?" So we are thinking but with less capacity and brain power.
Here are the Fiery Factors. Dr. Nadler in his work with corporate executives and star performers sees a set of common factors that lead to the hijack. These can be seen in the three "W Wipeouts" of Wilson, Williams and West. These factors can be learned and then reinforced which create easy neuropathways for the behavior to be repeated.
1) A sense of entitlement:" I am right, I am important, I worked hard to be here, I matter."
2) A sense of unfairness or unjustness: "This is not right, this is unfair, I don't deserve this, What is happening is wrong, I am better than this and feeling rightful indignation"
3) Then the tirade or explosion: The amygdala instinctively reacts like this is a survival fight or flight. Once it is aroused conscious judgment or thought is overpowered and temporarily suspended.
What were needed for Wilson, Williams and West to prevent their outburst and career derailments were more emotional self awareness, accurate self-assessment and self-control. These characteristics represent three of the 18-20 competencies of Emotional Intelligence (EI). Dr. Nadler states you have to catch the amygdala's arousal early and do something different, before it builds and explodes.
EI is essentially understanding and managing yourself and understanding and managing others. It has been demonstrated to account for 80-90% of the attributes of star performers - someone who consistently performs in the top 10%. Dr. Nadler, the author of the Leaders' Playbook states, "EI helps inoculate performers from derailing, where they can quickly fall off their hero pedestal. EI can be learned with a series of tools and training."
Only time will tell to what extent the hijack or outburst tarnishes Wilson, Williams and West's careers. They are not alone in highly visible "amygdala hijacks", where careers are derailed and sunk with momentary emotional reactions. Lack of impulse control is one of 18 key Derailers for executives, leaders and managers. "We all do these behaviors at some point, but the greater the frequency the more trouble you bring to yourself and your organization," said Nadler.
Dr. Nadler has the top 5 hijacks of all time and the best 5 questions to light up parts of the brain to divert the hijacks on his website for free in an article at:
www.truenorthleadership.com or http://budurl.com/4fvfs
To see if you or your employees are at risk for Derailing, take the free assessments at: www.truenorthleadership.com.
Relly Nadler, Psy.D.
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