What caught my attention – week of 2 December 2019

Below are last week’s topics of interest: HeartMath research, using behavioural tools to reduce domestic violence, savants and closing with Alan Watts. Enjoy.


1. HeartMath

Title: Effects of Heart Rate Variability Biofeedback on EEG Alpha Asymmetry and Anxiety Symptoms in Male Athletes: A Pilot Study

Link: NCBI

I’ve been meditating for 10+ years and recently picked up a heart rate variability (HRV) monitor from HeartMath to receive feedback on my sessions. It’s a very powerful tool to analyse and improve meditations. Below is the abstract of a paper which tested the effect of biofeedback on athletes.

Heart rate variability biofeedback (HRV-BFB) has been shown as useful tool to manage stress in various populations. The present study was designed to investigate whether the biofeedback-based stress management tool consisting of rhythmic breathing, actively self-generated positive emotions and a portable biofeedback device induce changes in athletes’ HRV, EEG patterns, and self-reported anxiety and self-esteem.

The study involved 41 healthy male athletes, aged 16-21 (mean 18.34 ± 1.36) years. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: biofeedback and control. Athletes in the biofeedback group received HRV biofeedback training, athletes in the control group didn’t receive any intervention.

During the randomized controlled trial (days 0-21), the mean anxiety score declined significantly for the intervention group (change-4 p < 0.001) but not for the control group (p = 0.817). In addition, as compared to the control, athletes in biofeedback group showed substantial and statistically significant improvement in heart rate variability indices and changes in power spectra of both theta and alpha brain waves, and alpha asymmetry. These changes suggest better self-control in the central nervous system and better flexibility of the autonomic nervous system in the group that received biofeedback training.

2. Domestic violence

Title: What can we do to combat Intimate Partner Violence?

Link: Behavioural Intelligence Team

To mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we are launching our new report, written in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The report seeks to leverage insights from behavioral science to expand policymakers’ toolkits, improve the design of survivor services and, ultimately, lead to better life outcomes for women.

According to regional estimates, 30% of women in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have been physically or sexually abused by a partner and approximately 40% of women have been emotionally abused.

Although the journey of IPV survivors may differ considerably across the region, our report is structured around three critical stages of interaction between survivors and service providers: 1. Seeking: supporting survivors to seek help; 2. Responding: Improving service providers’ response to survivors; 3. Sustaining: Sustaining engagement between survivors and service providers.

We aim to provide policymakers and service providers with: 1. A diagnosis of potential behavioural barriers faced by IPV survivors and service providers (including helplines, the criminal justice system, healthcare services and shelters); 2. Proposed intervention ideas, informed by behavioural science, that can be tailored to existing services.

3. Savants

Title: Derek Amato: I Am Savant

Link: YouTube

There are only 50 known prodigious savants in the world. Derek Amato is one of them. After sustaining a concussion after falling in a pool, Derek suddenly discovered he had extraordinary piano playing abilities. This is his story.

4. Colonisation

Title: Lessons for capitalism from the East India Company

Link: FT

How a motley City gathering morphed into history’s most rapacious corporation — and why its story matters today.

The East India Company was also the ultimate model and prototype for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. No blue plaque or memorial today marks the site of its former headquarters on Leadenhall Street in the City of London, which lies buried beneath the foundations of Richard Rogers’s glass-and-steel Lloyd’s building. But anyone seeking a monument to its legacy need only look around. For the EIC remains history’s most ominous warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power — and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders can seemingly become those of the state.

5. Luxury industry

Title: LVMH: on a luxury shopping spree

Link: FT

At the end of October, luxury tycoon Bernard Arnault travelled to Seoul to unveil a new Louis Vuitton store designed by architect Frank Gehry. During the short trip, Europe’s richest man also popped into a branch of Tiffany & Co, the US jeweller that his LVMH group had made an offer for earlier that month. Nothing escaped Mr Arnault’s critical eye. Stuck on an empty display case was a Post-it note, with “not available” scribbled on it; on another display case, a bottle of cleaning fluid still lingered. Mr Arnault sent photographs by WhatsApp to the team back in Paris, with his feedback: “There’s work to do.” On Monday, LVMH announced that it had clinched Tiffany for $16.6bn and Mr Arnault hailed the addition of “an American icon” to his sprawling luxury goods empire. It represents the 70-year-old’s boldest investment to date in the US, where he spent several years as a real estate developer in the 1980s in self-imposed exile from France’s socialist government.

+1 Book of the week

Author and title: Alan Watts – Out of your mind

If you haven’t read or listened to too much of this self described spiritual entertainer’s material either this book or one called The Book are a great introduction. This in particular is a wonderful collection of 12 of his teaching sessions. The core message of the book is that we are all living in an illusion (call it the Matrix if you are a Neo fan or water if you are a DFW fan) but the premise is not to make you stop participating in it rather to help to wake you up. He often said that in order to come to our senses we sometimes need to go out of our minds. This book helps you do just that.

“As long as we can be taunted by death we can be ruled. We can be ruled via the fear of death.”

“Zen is spiritual ophthalmology, so that you can see clearly.”

“When the wrong man uses the right means, the right means work in the wrong way.”

“On hierarchy: one cannot be the teacher if there are no students.”

“So long as there’s a certain uncertain outcome in a game, that is a good game. Chaos never completely wins it just gives order a good run for its money.”