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New Unified Theory of Performance reflects higher mind-brain development seen in world-class performers
by Harald S Harung and Frederick Travis
Cognitive Processing Translate This Article
18 June 2012
The most recent in a series of four studies on world-class performers by American and Norwegian researchers—published in May in Cognitive Processing—presents a new Unified Theory of Performance.
See Parts I, II, and III of this news release:
∙ Research breakthrough: High brain integration underlies winning performances
∙ Brain Integration Scale: Delineating the qualities of world-class performance
∙ 'Peak experiences' accompany high brain integration in world-class performers.
The release concludes:
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Presenting a New Theory
The researchers have developed a new theory, a Unified Theory of Performance, which suggests that higher levels of mind-brain development form a platform for higher performance, regardless of profession or activity.
''It seems like these mind-brain variables represent a fundamental potential for being good, really good, in the particular activity one has decided to carry out,'' says Harung.*
For all three recent studies the researchers also found that top-level performers outscored the control groups in a test of moral development. Higher moral development implies an expanded awareness where one is able to satisfy the interests of other people and not just one's own needs. Harung finds it remarkable that high levels of performance, in a wide spectrum of activities, are connected to high moral standards.
''This should give an extra push to act morally, in addition to a better self-image, fewer sleepless nights and a good reputation,'' Dr. Harung says. ''The key to top-level performance, therefore, seems to be that we make more use of our inherent capabilities.''
Implications of the Research
The discovery that the brains of world-class performers have similar characteristics raises some important questions, such as:
1. Is there a way one can develop one's brain to have more of these characteristics and thereby perform at a higher level?
2. Can measuring a person's brain predict the potential for someone to be a world-class performer?
These and other researchers have actively explored whether meditation techniques, for example, can help to actively cultivate one's brain. Research by Dr. Travis** and others has found that Transcendental Meditation practitioners do have greater EEG coherence, greater presence of alpha waves, and, in some advanced practitioners, a very efficiently functioning brain. A coherent brain is a high-performing brain.
In addition, researchers have been exploring possible applications to predict performance ability in general and leadership ability in particular. For example, if a corporation has preliminarily selected five candidates for its CEO position, the above measures could be administered to aid in the final decision. Or these measures can be used to assess the effectiveness of training or education in increasing an individual's performance capacity.
* Harald Harung of the Oslo and Akershus University College of Applied Sciences in Norway.
** Fred Travis, director of the Center for Brain, Consciousness, and Cognition at Maharishi University of Management in Fairfield, Iowa, USA.
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Contact: Ken Chawkin
Maharishi University of Management
1. Harung, H. S., Travis, F., (2012) Higher mind-brain development in successful leaders: testing a unified theory of performance. Cognitive Processing Vol 13, Number 2, 171-181, DOI: 10.1007/s10339-011-0432-x
2. Harung, H. S. (2012). Illustrations of Peak Experiences during Optimal Performance in World-class Performers: Integratimg Eastern and Western Insights. Journal of Human Values, 18(1), 33-52, doi:10.1177/097168581101800104
3. Travis, F., Harung, H. S., & Lagrosen, Y. (2011). Moral Development, Executive Functioning, Peak Experiences and Brain Patterns in Professional and Amateur Classical Musicians: Interpreted in Light of a Unified Theory of Performance. Consciousness and Cognition, 20(4), 1256-1264
4. Harung, H.S., Travis, F., Pensgaard, A. M., Boes, R., Cook-Greuter, S., Daley, K. (2011). Higher psycho-physiological refinement in world-class Norwegian athletes: brain measures of performance capacity. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, Vol 21, Issue 1, pages 32, February 2011, doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.01007.x
5. Harung, H. S., Heaton, D. P., Graff, W. W., & Alexander, C. N. (1996). Peak performance and higher states of consciousness: A study of world-class performers. Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 3-23
© Copyright 2012 AAAS, the science society.
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