June 2010
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Why men cannot think straight in the presence of an attractive woman!

I suppose many read the story the other week about research that showed men who spend even a few minutes in the company of a very attractive woman perform less well in cognitive tests designed to measure brain function. Apparently when men are intensely focused on an attractive female such is the extent that cognitive resources are used up that it is almost impossible to think of anything else – in this case one researcher could not remember his address when asked by a particularly impressively built young lady. The effect does not work the other way women I’m afraid – women are more focused on status and potential in a mate and on much more practical matters such as how much dosh she can squeeze out of the hapless jerk when they get to the divorce courts

This effect is well known in fact in the psychology self-regulation area. It is thought that the cognitive resources we have to apply to particular tasks are actually finite and get used up as we carry out tasks – particularly demanding thinking jobs at hand deplete these resources quickly. In this case the young man in question was intensely studying a potential mate and the brain power needed to do this zapped his thinking powers and blood rushed to the head and elsewhere and the thinking power simply was not available to carry out easy declarative tasks like giving her his phone number (yer dummy!). The findings have implications for the performance of men who flirt with women in the workplace or even better using attractive women in negotiating situations. When an attractive female manager is presenting the product plan and talking about market penetration there is a finite chance that her males colleagues are not thinking about marketing strategies at that moment and are thus unable to come to rational judgments about the approach. There we have it – at a stroke (forgive the pun) – the reason for the lack of seriousness given to female presenters is apparently down to innate and unalterable sexual drives due to the reproductive orientation of men when confronted with an attractive potential mate – and is not due to any socialisation process (oh no its not – this is more of your sexist claptrap ed.)

By way of balance I found this up to date picture on the functional MRI breakdown of the cognitive process in male human brain that goes a long way in explaining the key aspects of behaviour described above.


The male brain

England fail again and now the search for the scapegoat is on

I am on my way to the trichologist today to see if there is any chance of sticking my hair back into the bald patches that resulted when I started pulling out my hair in frustration at eleven half-witted over paid Muppets again dismally failing at the World Cup. Yup this is one of those England dismal failure rants again. In passing did you know that a player such as Wayne Rooney is paid five centuries (500 years!!!) worth of the national minimum wage a year for this claptrap.

I feel for those who travelled out to see this debacle – most on benefits or on the national minimum wage – gutted I am sure by what happened but never-the-less I guess they will be back for more next time. Perhaps it’s the identification with the players who if it were not for the ability to kick a ball up against a garage door would also be on benefits and the minimum wage and alongside them in the terraces. Anyhoo that’s not the subject of this half baked rant today.

In period of national crisis our nation pulls together and takes stock before starting to look around for a scapegoat to blame. By way of a slight diversion (again ed.) the actual derivation of the word scapegoat is based on a ritual purification ceremony that actually took place during a king’s wedding in the ancient middle east. In this story a she-goat with a silver bracelet hung from her neck was driven out by the whole community into the wasteland. In such ‘elimination rites’, in which an animal, becomes the vehicle of evils (but not sins) that are chased from the community – and as a result the community can then carry on in the belief that it has expunged itself from all blame and evil.

What will probably happen to poor old Capello now is he will be ritually expunged and sent off into the wilderness with a silver bracelet around his neck (and a big bag of money in his pocket) – and we all think that will solve the problem. Then it will be another search for another leader who can pull this rabble into some sort of shape – which will not solve the problem at all. We call this in consulting ‘faulty diagnosis’ by the client – when they come up with an irrational statement of the problem that avoids any sort of culpability. In this case the faulty diagnosis is that the problem is the question of leadership. The king is dead so long live the (new) king so the story will unfold.

What is surprising is that organisations such as the FA buy into this discredited leadership model that is so prevalent in western management thought. The idea goes that the players must be OK (we pay them enough for gods sake) so it must be a matter of discipline and charismatic leadership – ergo lets buy someone who has apparently had great success elsewhere so he can repeat it here – surely he can take us to glory based on his success from past times. But the answer from evidence is NO – and we are going to start another re-run of history in a few weeks.

There is no evidence that leadership has any real sustained impact on performance. Leadership does not make a great deal of difference to how organisations or teams perform or survive – it is in fact a myth and team dynamics is much more complicated than this. Most reports that extol leadership are attributions – an organisation is a success therefore in western management thought it must be due to something that is good at the top. And nothing to do with how well the people in the organisation work together. Now good stewardship is important for sure but the role of a single person in yielding success (or failure) is over exaggerated and it come to our minds due to a process of recency and selective recall in the way we make sense of the world. We remember only the recent successful outcomes – and block out inconvenient truths.

So in a few weeks another England manager is on his way – the guilt expunged blame allocated and we can get on with another build up to disappointment again. The problem is we have to understand that despite high salaries our players are on average about the same in skill as those across the world – team dynamics vary and what is more important is the drive to success for the players. Perhaps it has been all too easy for the England team – young men with riches beyond their dreams who are simply not hungry enough to play well for the glory of their country.

For them there is no value in it so there is no effort.