Episode 24: Zoom and Executive Function

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Zoom and Executive Function

Zoom and executive function




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Full Transcript for Episode 24

Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer Podcast.

I'm Dr. Erica Warren and I'm Darius Namdaran and we're your hosts.  Join us on an adventure to translate the scientific jargon and brain research into simple metaphors and stories for everyday life.  We explore executive functions and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind. Come learn how to steer around the invisible barriers so that you can achieve your goals.  This podcast is ideal for parents, educators, and learners of all ages.

This podcast is brought to you by Bullet Map Academy. We have free dyslexia screener app called dyslexia quiz.  It's a fun, engaging and interactive app.  Try it now.  Just search for dyslexia quiz on the app store and see how your score differs from your friends and family.

This podcast is brought to you by www.goodsensorylearning.com where you can find educational and occupational therapy lessons and remedial materials that bring delight to learning.

Finally, you can find Dr Warren's many courses at www.learningspecialistcourses.com .  Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Hey Erica. Today I want to discuss Zoom.

The online video conference tool, Zoom can impact our executive functioning.  I think it's got some areas where it can really help with our executive function and areas where it really can interfere. I'd really like to talk this over with you because I've got a few ideas. I think we can brainstorm ideas that would be useful for each other and maybe other people who are listening.

What your thoughts on Zoom?  Do you fancy having a talk about Zoom?

I would love to. I'm a huge fan of Zoom for numerous reasons, but as you say, all of these apps or websites or video features have some limitations.

It's going to be a really interesting discussion.

We've been talking about three aspects of executive functioning: working memory, inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility.

What would be interesting is to just look at Zoom within those kinds of paradigms.  How does Zoom affect your working memory? How does it affect your inhibitory control and cognitive flexibility?

I mean just straight off the top of my head, for example inhibitory control.

I have experienced teaching some children mind mapping in person by hand and then doing it immediately on Zoom in the same room.

But I go in another room and start teaching them how to use it and they actually respond better while they're focused in on a moving screen than they are with me in person.

Isn't that an interesting, just an interesting thought to hold that for some Children focusing in on one box within a still room, helps them with their inhibitory control.

Whereas if you're sitting with them in a group, their eyes can be going everywhere and their attention going different places and there's something about that moving screen that really attracts them and focuses them.

Those are just some examples, one off the top of my head.

But there are lots of ways that our attention can be enhanced and also affected and degraded by being on Zoom and so forth.

Yes, it's an interesting thing that you bring up and I notice because I do executive function in coaching and parents will often say to me, is it better to do it online or in person?

And I always have to say I can't tell you until I've met your child because you're right for some people, it almost becomes those blinkers, it creates this little box that they kind of get drawn into for others.

And I suppose the other thing to note is it really depends on the environment.

I mean typically when someone is on Zoom, they're in a quiet distraction free environment.

It may have more to do with the environment for some than really the idea that it's just the box.

But I do think you're right.

I think some people really get drawn into the screen.

I'm going to kick off with what I think is probably my most random off the wall but may be useful is the quality of audio on Zoom.

I've noticed because my, one of my two companies, the coaching company where we coach Children on how to mind map, we do it via Zoom.

I've noticed that if the audio is not really high quality from the coach's point of view, then the child can spend a lot of time just focusing in on trying to cut through the audio that it uses up a lot of cognitive load.

And I actually think a great deal of Zoom fatigue, not all of it, but a great deal of it can be attributed to how much you have to concentrate on processing the audio.

Yeah, I think, I think that's big.

I think you're absolutely right there and it even reminds me of even in the classroom, it's the same concept.

Whereas there those kids that are spending so much time trying to process the audio that is not that clear.

And they use these FM systems as an accommodation.

But the nice thing about Zoom is that it's a pretty easy accommodation.

Hopefully that is if the family, you know, has the financial, whereabouts to be able to afford.

But I think a lot of whether it's a headphone or a good microphone, they're, they're really quite affordable at this point.


Well, I think one of the greatest one of the gifts you can give to someone else who's maybe neuro diverse or just anyone who's really stressed out and having to do a lot of time on Zoom is to check your audio before you go into the Zoom meeting tested every time because it's so often you think it's coming through your microphone, but it ends up coming through your speakers and the person is too polite to say anything about it, etcetera.

And they got to suffer bad audio for a whole half hour an hour and they just feel exhausted after it.

I think even if you're a teacher, a coach, a boss, you know, do the gift to the people you're meeting with to have some decent audio and check it.


And if you have a child that even has some auditory pro processing issues or attentional issues, giving them the headphones, yes, that will help to block some of the unexpected noise as well.

It's so weird.

And that's another aspect of how do you receive the audio?

Do you receive it through speakers, or do you receive it through headphones?

And I'm doing this podcast with a little ear bud in my ear, I must spend about six hours a day on Zoom.

And I've done so for the last five years as part of my business pre pandemic, we just lived on Zoom and the difference for me is huge compared when I compare audio coming through speakers and audio coming through an ear bud in my ear and I just don't understand why.

But for some reason and I don't know how you feel about this.

But if the audio comes straight into my ear or headphones, ear rather than speakers, I feel much more connected to the person I'm listening to because I'm the opposite.

I don't have something in my ear that feels not normal to me, it doesn't feel like a normal conversation anymore.

It feels almost invasive.

This is such a great example of how important it is for us not to push what we prefer on others and really letting them try different options and seeing what works best for them.

Yeah, that is interesting.

Yes, that's so true.

And I think it's why it's useful to just become a bit self-aware within this paradigm of executive function and just functioning well within an online world, you know, working on Zoom or teams or whatever you're using is just not that the next reality of the future of work as part of it.

I'm really hot on with regard to my team as coaches when they're coaching someone on Zoom is how they compose themselves on the screen.

Now, this is my own particular thing.


I ask all of my team to have a neutral, singular colored background with that's very simplistic and I want to be able to see the table that they're working on and what their hands are doing.

I want the Children to see what the coat that the coaches are writing on an iPad or they're typing on something or drawing on paper.

The child connects or the well in this case it's a child watching a coach and the child is also doing it there.

They've also got another camera pointing from the top down to show what the coach is doing.

The child gets as much joined up communication coming to them as possible rather than this disembodied head stuck in your face.

And I mean having lived on Zoom for five years for literally six hours a day, I've now got to the point, and I suspect a lot of other people in the future will get to the point where I want to sit with you.

Like we're sitting at a table together.

We have the table showing like we call it the newsroom composition within the company.

There's a news desk, your desk, there's your tablet in front of you or your keyboard in front of you, you can see their face, you can see their hands moving, there's gestures happening and it's just that little bit more human communication, nonverbal human communication happening as well as the words.

That's really interesting cause they, you know, Zoom now has these new features where you could put your different participants in seats, like they're in a classroom, but I love the idea of and I don't know if they have this, I don't think they do where it really looks like you're sitting across the table where you might even have the same tablecloth, right?

And the same background and I was talking to someone about this the other the other day because I've been in a Zoom group for a number of years now, a couple of years, we've met pretty much every week through the pandemic.

And these are people from all over the world.

And there was an event in New York City where a decent percentage of the people showed up. Some people came from as far as Hawaii. We all met in person, and we'd only ever known each other online.

And it was so bizarre to be with them.

It was it felt uncomfortable to be with them in person because I was so used to being with them online and seeing them up close and it's like, oh wow, you're so much taller, so much shorter than I pictured you.

But it was, it's so interesting because it does, I mean, I feel like I'm sitting across the table from somebody and I feel like I've never met you in person, but I feel like you're one of my dearest friends, I mean some of my dearest friends, I've been Zooming with someone for seven years that I've never met in person and he knows me better than anybody on this planet.

I mean that's crazy stuff.

It's so cool though, but it's so interesting when you meet someone in person, it is a little different, but this is so intimate and the fact that I'm looking into your space while you're looking into my space, we're sharing our spaces with each other, which when you meet somebody, you don't really do that.

You meet in like a different location and they don't get to see quote your space, right?

That's very interesting.

It's true, it's true.

And in many ways in a professional capacity, that's why we're blurring out the background.

That's why we're using the green screen because we're trying to, there is a professional boundary here.

You're not just coming straight into my space.

I think you know, visual, we've talked about auditory, how important it is to really not have too many auditory issues going on so that we can process the information auditory lee.

Now we're talking a little bit about that visual processing and I think you have you talked about the background blurring the visual composition and the visual composition is very interesting because having a background in the fine arts, I really appreciate it when somebody has a lovely visual composition behind them because it's just pleasing and it's nice with the virtual background because you can really pick something that's that creates a mood.

I was Zooming with a friend the other day and she had an ocean scene; a video and it was amazing how it really changed the emotion of our meeting.


She said, you know, I really have been so tense, so I just really needed this background.

I thought that's so cool.

However, for my little kids have to be very careful because if you give them in a Zoom session, the permission to do all of these crazy features like change their background or they could give themselves bunny ears or a mustache.

It can become a huge distraction talking about that.

It made me think about a book that I was reading recently.

It's called Teaching Walk Throughs by Tom Sherrington and Oliver Cafe Gladioli and they were looking at some of the research for teachers and how often it's really important to have a third person in the conversation they call it.

I don't know what the research was, but I haven't got it straight to hand.

But basically when you do a diagram between the two of you and you've got a piece of paper or some work or visual and the two of you are looking at that and pointing at it and talking through something.

The nature of a conversation changes compared to when you're looking just to each other and talking.

And so the reason I thought about this with what you were saying was the background is that sometimes the background can be a distraction.

But sometimes having a third thing to look at rather than yourself or the other person like you're sharing a screen or using some sort of features to focus in on.

And I think this is really a very useful tool, especially for people who have working memory difficulties.

Now I use this with my team all the time.

We used to do stand ups where the team would explain what they've been up to in about two minutes each we go around the circle or the screen in about 10 minutes and update each other every day on what we've been doing and what we're going to be doing next.

Then we get to our work is called a stand up for agile development.

And what I've learned is that I've asked the team because I'm dyslexic, please show a visual when you're doing your stand up.

I need to see something as well as hear it because I'm very visually orientated and so it helps me maintain my focus.

It helps me if they've mentioned seven items, I can't remember all seven.

But often I do want in my mind to be able to refer back to them.

So, if they're even listed there as words, they're up on the board, they can talk and l I'm not using my working memory and cognitive load to keep up with what they're saying. Because it's on the paper and I can use my higher-level meta cognition functions for my working memory.

That's a really good hack.

In terms of Zoom is to ask the other person, can you please show me your notes, or can you please show me what you're talking about as well and that can transform a conversation in any environment, especially on Zoom.

I love that because what you're doing is you're supporting your working memory, you have the audio, which is really the phonological loop, just to give everybody a little bit of a background.

Working memory is made up of a number of tools.

We've got the phonological loop, which is really your inner voice, and then we've got the visual spatial sketch pad, which is visualization and specialization, and they work in tandem within our working memory so that we can manipulate information and pull information from long term memory and then also encode things into long term memory.

And basically, what you're saying is the phonological loop is not enough.

And in fact, even when people are talking, you're not necessarily able to use your phonological loop because there may not be enough of a pause, but a visual can go along with the audio because what I mean by that is there's not enough of a pause for you to say back what they said to yourself, just hearing things, isn't using the working memory, what's using the working memory is saying back to yourself what they just said, We don't always have that opportunity.

So, having a visual component with it enables you to visualize, which enables you to start to use your working memory so that you can encode it.

Yes, so that's really interesting.

That's a great application to working memory.

As a general rule, I would highly recommend that you get really used to having your iPad connected to your laptop so that whenever you want to share something from your laptop, iPad, you share on your screen or plugging in your phone and sharing scrolling through your phone and showing them a photo or showing them something that you're using and your laptop etcetera.

At the drop of a hat, you can easily share what you're talking about and even what's fascinating. I was listening because we're developing apps now with the other company Dyslexia at Work. The worldwide developers conference for Apple was a week ago and Apple just announced that they're going to create a new whiteboard feature.

I think it's called Free Form that will come out in a year's time, which will be really quite useful.

It's kind of if you've ever used Miro before, are these big white board functions that collaborators use, that you can write in different places and so on.

Well, you know that if Apple does it, they're just going to blow people out of the park with it because they don't invest in doing anything like that unless they're world class at it.

But what they're going to do is you're going to incorporate handwriting and everything all within facetime.

They’re basically making facetime replace Zoom and getting to the point where they've got as much functionality, if not more functionality within facetime as you've got in Zoom.

That whole realm of being able to quickly show what you're thinking as well as say what you're thinking is crucial within Zoom I think, you know, and Zoom’s nice because they've always had this white board that you can share, and you can both use the annotation tool to draw on.

But they just released a whole new collaborative whiteboard.

I haven't explored with it very much, but they do have a collaborative whiteboard right now, so that's another option.

But I think, you know, we were talking about how pictures and visualizations can support your working memory to help you to kind of absorb and encode more of what you're learning about.

But that spatial piece and I know you use it all the time because you're a huge proponent of mind mapping.

But the mind mapping is different, it creates an image but it's also spatial, which is different than visualization.

There's some people that can't visualize but they can specialize really, really well.

I'm one of those people that I'm much better at specializing than visualizing.

In other words, I can imagine myself moving through space.

I may not have a strong image, but I can give you the layout of my house with great detail, but I'm not really seeing it.

I can kind of feel it, it's you know, it's blind people that's how they get around because they can't see but they can specialize, they know how to move around in space.

It's very, very interesting.

So and I think, you know, you are one and I've become one to really use that in interventions and helping people to learn better.

But I don't think it's as common of course, you know, memory champions use it all the time.

We've talked about this.

They use it in Memory Palace. Another name for that is the method of loci but it's an amazing memory tool to help improve your capacity as well.

So basically when you're using your executive functioning skills, well, you know, this is a great way to improve your working memory, develop your specialization skills, your visualization skills and your inner voice.

And that's what I do in a lot of the courses that I teach; we're dropping a lot of these links into the show notes.

So if you swipe up and scroll down, you'll see lots of these links in the show notes referring to the Zoom features, working memory free form, the method of lo chi bullet map Academy, good sensory learning etcetera.

You know, all of these different links that we're referring to are there.

So, we talked a lot about working memory.

We've talked a lot quite a bit about inhibitory control, you know how to maintain focus because maintaining focus and so on, that's helpful having the visuals not only helps your working memory but it helps your inhibitory control as well, doesn't it?

Because you're looking at something it does and the other piece of inhibitory control that we've tapped into, but we haven't made this connection is the emotional regulation.

So, for example, that parent that that popped into a meeting with me, and she had the background of a beach.

She said I picked that on purpose because I'm having a very stressful day and I had such a great reaction to it like oh thank you for picking that.

I feel so it feels so cool to have that background and that movement, it really is affecting me as well.

So interestingly enough.

So even on Zoom you can't have an impact on that piece of inhibitory control which is that emotional regulation by just creating an environment around you that produces a physiological reaction in the body.


Oh let's go.

What about this inhibitory control?

A huge part of emotional regulation is eye contact.

You know how a person looks at you and so forth.

And one of the biggest challenges, I'd say with all of these video setups and so on is how much are you actually looking the person in the eye or how much does the person feel like you're looking at them in the eye and seeing them and talking to them and that it's really hard to do on this.


The only way you can do it is really take their image and put it as close to the camera as possible.

Yes, but I rarely do that.

But perhaps I should have gotten used to the fact that somebody's looking at first it made me really anxious, and I was like, it felt really awkward to be speaking to someone that looked like they were looking somewhere else.

But I've adjusted to it.


Well, I do it intentionally.


I and I asked the team to do it as well, make that picture small, put it up at the top, make your camera really close to the top of your screen and then look at them, you know?

But it's really hard.

It's easy to slip away and you're, you know, looking at this screen down here, looking over here, looking and you're like, you're paying attention to me and it's hard wired into us.

You know, it's not an interesting thing.

But the other thing that's interesting about it is that in a way when you're in one of these really big groups, you're able to really look at people, whereas like socially it's not really appropriate to stare at somebody, you know what I mean?

I can remember when I was a kid, I used to be teased because people are like, why are you staring at me?

And I'm like, I'm just looking at you.

And when we moved to New York city, my father's like, you can't do that, you don't look at people in the eye, it's not appropriate because like when you're on the streets Yeah, it's just not appropriate to like stare at people.

So, but the fun thing about being on Zoom and when you're in this gallery view with a whole bunch of people is you can really look at them, you can study them and it's not going to make them uneasy.

Which I love.

I love that piece of it.

But of course, you know, the gallery view makes it very difficult because you just have to know that you have to trust that someone's looking at you because you don't know where you are on their screen.


Well my trick to this and I do with my team now is first of all, we get a la gee capture HD 10 80 P camera which is slightly wider angle than even a really good Apple laptop and I place it on a tripod just above my screen so that even the movements on my desk don't move my camera and then it's far enough away that you can see the desk, my hands my whole, what would you call it from my waist, My elbows out as it were torso.


And what that means is your eyes are far enough away so that even if you're not looking exactly at them, it's more like you are looking at them because you've got a slightly a longer distance.

Does that make sense?

You know, I really appreciate how much time and attention you put into all of these little features.

I'm going to I'm going to have to explore that with you personally a little bit more because it's that's really thoughtful of you.

Well, I think it makes a huge difference to the students.

First of all the students see a coach speaking with their hands, they feel like they're looking at them in the eye, it's a nice calm background etcetera.

There's a clear audio, clear visual and we choose that camera as well so that when we do the green screen, we don't get the rippling around the hair and all that jazz.

It's a clear green screen. I put backgrounds on, and people go, wow that's an amazing room I’m, like, actually it's background.

They're like really?

And because we take the care even to the point of putting a small back light on the green screen behind where we're seated so that it shines a little bit of extra light around the back of your chair.

So because that's often the part of the green screen that goes darker and starts to ripple things like that just so that there's as little friction in that communication as possible.

And I think that's the bottom line the more friction there is in the communication, the harder it is for neuro diverse people to use extra cognitive load to deal with processing that extra information whether you're ADHD

Whether you're dyslexic autism.

Each one of them have got one different little aspect of that setup that will either help them or hinder them.

For example autism, same background all the time.

Same setup, reliable, consistent, simple focused.

They can I know what I'm going to get every time.

Dyslexic okay phonological processing you know often affects your phonological processing.

That listening ear, that reading ear of your mind is also listening as well.

And if the audio is not so great, you're spending a lot of cognitive loan processing the sounds, the phonemes and so on which you don't need to if you have decent sound and then A.

That attention and the simplicity.

You've got the extra information being communicated which is not just the words but it's the hand gestures, the body movements, the device in front of you.

There's more to capture their attention and keep them engaged and that's just the neuro diverse folk.

Everyone in between is also affected by that as well.

Maybe not to such an extreme level.

So, that's why I'm really quite passionate about being very intentional about executive function and Zoom.

That's really cool.

You know the other thing I would love to do is talk about a few of the Zoom features because some of them are just profoundly helpful like I just can't imagine how I could ever do without the annotation tool.

So this annotation tool allows you to how the way I use it is.

I will share my screen and I may share one of my workbooks with a student.

Then either one of us can use this annotation tool to write on top of the image so that they can actually I've never used that.

Tell me more.

I've never used it.

I know.

Isn't that crazy?

I'm so obsessive about Zoom and there's certain features I don't know but it just shows how much you learn from one another.

I can't live without it.

So, on the annotation tool is yeah, you can any shared screen, you can draw upon it, you can they have like little icons like a heart or a check.

You can also draw lines you can highlight.

But so sometimes I'll even give my students an inventory to take or an assessment.

I put it on the screen, they tell me what their answers are.

I circle them, then I do a screenshot of it and then I have the assessment done.

And um so they were able to do it together, we're able to discuss the items together.

But it's just great for when I'm in a session and say I want to work on visual processing or auditory processing.

I have all these workbooks or working memory.

I have all these workbooks that I publish and place on good sensory learning and the students can develop these cognitive skills and we can play these games and do all of these things and interact there is that future where they can take control of my computer, but I rarely use that because they have their own annotation tool, and we can both draw on top of the same image.

Erica, please share.

We're on Doom right now.

Could you just verbally describe to me and the listeners how you would go through that?


The first thing I would do is I would share my screen and then the second thing I would do is I would open up the annotation tool.

Well it's different for different people.

So for you should have a little thing on the top that says view options and there's a little down arrow and if you click on that you can you'll see.

It opens up and it says annotate, it comes naturally with Zoom accounts, so you would have had to have disabled it.

But um yeah, it's wonderful.

I use it all the time.

We draw on things but some of my activities are drawing activities, but the kids absolutely love it and it's very, very engaging.

And yeah, you can take any pdf workbook and they can complete it together.

They can draw, they can also, right, so there has a text option, you can pick the colors, you can pick the font, you can pick the size.

Uh it's lovely and I use it all the time.

So, the annotation tool is just everything for me and in fact, you know, I'm always I'm always looking for other options of other annotation type tools, they keep making it better.

Like they now have an annotation tool where you can draw a line and it disappears.

So, it's a great way to capture someone's attention.

If you're saying what look over here and you can draw a little circle around it and then it disappears slowly.

It's a great way to draw attention to certain things.

Or sometimes when I'm working with students and we're working on math, they have their math assignment shared on the screen, then I can demonstrate how to do the problem.

I'm not actually writing on the document, I'm writing on top of the document and at any point I can believe it, I feel I feel deprived.

I've not been living with this for the last two years.

You and I, you and I are going to play with it a little bit when we're done with this, I'm going to share my screen and we're going to play with it.

Another feature that I love are these breakout rooms.

So when you're in a large group, you can actually create breakout rooms where people can be broken down into two or three or four people in a group where you can discuss something, you can go in deep, which is really fun because if you're teaching a number of students and you want them to process something or do an activity.

You can break them into these groups and then they come back to the big group and can share the experience and that's I love breakout groups.

If I'm in a group, I'm always craving breakouts because it gives that intimacy that a large group often misses.

It's good for all ages and I know that I've been in meetings where we've had 100 people in the Zoom meeting for example and the coordinator says right, we're going to have a breakout room, here's a question, we're just going to give you three minutes just chat over this quick question, and it just automatically sends people to the breakout room.

You can also choose your breakout room so you can have different topics.

That's quite clever.

You just get put into groups round tables or you can choose around the topic, and you go to a breakout room like in a conference.

So that functionality is really helpful as well - just to stay on topic with regard to executive function.

Okay, this is a great feature, but give us a little bit of insight of how that might be assisting with executive function.

I feel like for anybody that gets a little overwhelmed, visual overwhelmed by a large group where you've got all these people and you are looking at all these different people moving - it's not always great for attention because maybe one person is speaking and you're looking at somebody else - where something is going on in their background and that can distract you.

So when you get into the breakouts, it's more intimate and it's more focused.

So I think it definitely helps with inhibitory control.


An interesting thing.

We haven't talked about cognitive flexibility.

It requires some cognitive flexibility because you're having to shift from being with a group to being individual.

But I also have to step back for a moment and say that even if you are in a large group, you have the choice of doing gallery view or individual view.

I love gallery view because I really enjoy looking at all the individual people and seeing the group reaction and feeling the group.

But if that's hugely distracting to you can always go into an individual view which will only focus on the person that is speaking.


That is so helpful.

And I switch between the two because I'm ADD

And I want to help my concentration and I intentionally switch from gallery view to speak of you and so forth.

Another thing is that dividing line in Zoom has changed now and instead of it being fixed and you have when someone is sharing it's either super big or small.

Pick faces.

You can slide it to make what's sharing into small and the faces into big and you've got that sliding. Have you ever used that?

I haven't have to check that out.

So that's really useful.

You just press on the middle toggle, and you slide it backwards and forwards and so sometimes the faces are just too small to hold your attention and they stop talking about the visual and so it's no longer useful to you but instead of completely switching away you can slide it backwards and forwards so there's a lot of tools that can help with that inhibitory control.



You know the other interesting thing is you know what Zoom has done for me has been profound because I never really knew what I looked like because how often before Zoom.

When did we ever get to see ourselves interacting with other people?

And it's funny, I can think of people when we first started going on to Zoom, I'm thinking of a friend of mine, I could not even talk to him on Zoom because he was looking at himself the whole time and I could tell, and it was like annoying.

I was like stop looking at yourself, but he used to looking at himself Oh yeah, I mean it's so funny what now people are used to seeing and they don't really focus on themselves anymore, but I noticed that I had some mannerisms I was not even aware of that were really awkward.

Like I used to make a funny face when I was listening.

I was like oh that's so awkward but so you're able to see things that you were never able to see before.

And I've been able to even see subconsciously I changed those things without even consciously making a choice to change them because I was never able to evaluate what I look like, how I interact.

And it takes me back to a very funny story of when I was in college and I might have told you this story before, but it's such a good one.

I said to my boyfriend at the time I said I think there's something that I do that upsets people.

I said do you know what I'm talking about?

He said I absolutely I do know what you're talking about.

I was like so there is something I do that upsets people and he said yes.

I was like why didn't you tell me?

He's like, I don't know.

I thought you knew; I was like no, what is it?

He said, every time you speak you put your finger in people's faces.

I was like I said I do not.

And as soon as I did that my finger came up and went in his face and I was like oh my God, what is this?

I can't believe it.

And every time I spoke, I noticed that my finger was like in my lap ready to go and every time my hand came up, I was like whoa I had no idea.

So it was something I was able to change very quickly but I was never even aware of it.

But because we have like these social customs of if someone does something awkward you don't say something wow.

How many people that are doing these awkward things have no idea that they're doing them and would change them gladly.

I was mortified that I did that.

I had no idea.

So, Zoom has been wonderful for making me aware.

Not only of my visual but of my voice.

Of the odds in the arms.


That's an example of cognitive flexibility, isn't it?

You're accepting feedback from the world and from other people and adapting.

And so cognitive flexibility in terms of observing yourself on the screen and how are you reacting?

And then cognitive flexibility in terms of with your boyfriend, they're asking for feedback now that that's quite a bold statement to ask. Have you noticed there's something that I do that upsets people - that could be a big list that you didn't realize there's lots of different things.

Don't we want to be better?

No. And again, no, no, not everyone does.

I feel bad for them. Life will be hard.

You're very open. Not everyone is as open as that and that that's the reality of that's why cognitive flexibility is a thing.

Our strength could be working memory, it could be cognitive inhibitory control, it could be cognitive flexibility.

But there are some people who aren't strong in cognitive flexibility and so they need to be more intentional about it to make it to strength.

And so in a way, you know, these three areas, we have natural strengths and natural weaknesses in them and you either have it or you learn it and the way you learn it is by becoming self-aware of it, learning about it and then starting to take actions, which is why we're doing the podcast really is to become more aware of these things.

And one thing that I'm really noticing because I'm in a group where we are all intentionally trying to be better people and that's what we meet and that's what we do.

And I also run groups called Drop into Your Best self in my home where we're just trying to intentionally be the best that we can be that we can be our true authentic self.

And I'm really starting to realize that that is overlapping with executive functioning training that when we learn how to use our executive functions, it really enables us to be our best selves, which is really surprising, but it makes sense.

It helps you with emotional regulation, it helps you with meta cognition, it helps you to improve your memory, helps you to be more flexible and those are all things that help us to be a better person at large.

It's really exciting but I want to pull back because there are a couple of things, a couple more features that I have to shout out about which is recording Zooms for some people, this is profoundly helpful if you can record a Zoom, then if you get so wrapped up in everything that's going on that you really need to hear it again or see it again than having a recording or you could even turn it into a video podcast.

Like we could turn this into a video podcast technically because we have video recordings of these.

We don't but you can and having that opportunity, I probably wouldn't want to because I tend to be dressed very informally and we're just kind of hanging out.

You always look great because you've got your little perfect background, but which is which I really appreciate, and I really need to pay attention to.

But the other feature that I really like is the chat that chat feature because you can drop in a link which is really, really beautiful and so you can share a lot of things that way.

And then finally is the white board which is being able to kind of draw out ideas and have fun with that and I know that they have apps that you can also, I don't know if you have to purchase them or whether they're free probably it's a combination of that expand the Zoom platform to other features as well.

But all of these technology tools are expanding by leaps and bounds.

You just you can't, it's hard to keep up on all of that stuff.

So I would imagine there's some incredible features that we have not focused on that that that actually already exists right now.

I think the drawbacks of Zoom are significant as well.

I mean when they say that communication is only like what is it?

5-8% verbal and the rest are all non-verbal.

You know between human beings, you know, body language, tone, you know, pitch facial expressions, eye movements, all sorts of different.

You know, it can be smell, it can be also didn't check that box.

No smell on Zoom.

So you're not smelling anyone's beautiful perfume or whatever that you meet in the office or whatever and the energy is different.

It's different.

Like for example, if you met someone that you wanted to date on Zoom, you still don't know for sure if you're going to have in person chemistry or not.

And because I don't think we really know what that is.

I don't know if it's an energy, I don't know if it has to do with the smell but it's really interesting because there's been times something so you can't really tell even on a Zoom where you've got all these senses.

You can tell whether they're going to be, you'd want them as a friend, but you can't tell whether you would want them as a lover.

It's really interesting.

Okay, so we'll just keep Zoom for business.

So what, what are some other limitations to Zoom that you have experienced?

Well, obviously bandwidth is a big deal, isn't it?

I mean does very well with bandwidth, but you know, internet does go down.

It does interrupt the flow of conversations and how you deal with Hello, can you hear me?

I've lost you and all that jazz, all the comedy as well, unexpected noises in the background.


And oh, I've got to tell you something about oh, that's the other reason why I put headphones in my ears.


Is I end up shouting on Zoom if it's just speakers.

My daughter hates me doing business in the house, work on the house because I end up speaking so loudly when I'm on Zoom.

I have turned into my father with the phone going, hello?

Yes, on his phone and he speaks so much louder when he's on the phone and I'm the same when I'm on Zoom with speakers.

But the moment I've got the earbuds in, it just becomes so much more normal.

So interesting.

So yeah, I mean, it does change your behavior.

I mean, people do become more self-conscious, you know, there are people that are just looking at themselves all the time and we are hardwired to kind of look at ourselves if we see ourselves because it's so rare, I mean in nature it's rare to see yourself if you see yourself in water, you look and if you see in yourself in the mirror you look, but we don't do it very often.

And whereas here you're seeing yourself all the time and it draws your eye, so it does change your behavior.

Other drawbacks of Zoom.

Well, you know what is it?

It almost prevents us from connecting with other people.

And I think I think we as human beings really need community and yes, it gives you access to a certain piece of community on Zoom and sometimes it's a safer access, but you have to be careful that you're not isolating yourself too much and that you do get out.

So when I met all those people from all over the world in New York city that I had only known on Zoom, it was so wonderful to run up to them and give them a big bear hug.

You know, it was so lovely, so lovely to have that that intimacy.

I mean that's the other aspect of communication is touch.

You know, like often when you're in a conversation with someone they might reach out and touch your hands, they might shake your hands and so often you don't realize until you're with people, you know when you're with people how much some people communicate through touch and also some people need to be communicated through touch?

Like what was the five Love languages?

One of them is touch.

Another one is acts of service and another one is kind words, words of encouragement rather.

I don't, I can't remember them all.

I'm just mentioning the ones that I like, my wife's gifts etcetera.

So sometimes, yeah, take gifts for the five Love Languages would be an interesting paradigm to put it through.

It's like, it's harder to bring a gift to someone on Zoom and say, oh, by the way, I brought you a little coffee or I brought you a chocolate or something like that.

That's really kind of you or whatever.

You know what I mean?


Well, I mean, you know, it's funny they have these little when you're on Zoom, you can always give someone a heart or a thumbs up when they're speaking.

So it would be funny to be able to give them a little icon of a steaming coffee.

But actually isn't that interesting because I don't use them very much.

But those reactions emojis are really very important for people and maybe those people who want to be kind of, you do a reaction of thumbs up while you're going through.

And it’s interesting in social groups where your social activists and activists and large groups are organizing.

They have the happy hands symbol when you're instead of clapping while someone's talking, have you heard of that?

So if you're in a big circle and someone's talking, and you want to show your appreciation and say yes, I agree.

One of the actions, the universal symbols is to put your hands up like you're saying hello both of them and waggle them side the ways of it, not like you're waving but just wobble them a little bit.

And that is yes, I agree.

And it's kind of like a visual clap.

So you're not clapping to interrupt the conversation or attract your attention and so you can have a lot of people do this and it's a symbol, just cognitive flexibility.

It's giving you feedback etcetera showing appreciation without interrupting without interrupting.

You know, so we as human beings need these mediums of communication and in effect Zoom is a medium of communication and we are trying to communicate as frictionless and as in as human away as possible within these limitations.

And those limitations are sound, our vision, our distractions within our executive function limitations and also within our emotional limitations.

Like we're talking about the love languages of you know, gifts and acts of service and touch.

So on.

These are little symbols and emojis are kind of like reaching out and a touch as it were, you know, so interesting.


And I have to say Zoom doesn't check all the boxes, but it checks some boxes that have never been checked for me before, which is really that self-evaluation, you know, not that I evaluate my, I did in the beginning.

I really took that seriously and watched videos and evaluated myself.

But and once you have done that then you can focus on the other people.

Yeah, that that was profoundly helpful for me.

Well, I mean we haven't talked about cognitive flexibility hugely within this, but there is one cognitive flexibility feature which is the fact that you're on Zoom is you can connect with people that you wouldn't always naturally connect with and you can get out of your bubble and meet other people that challenge your way of thinking and adjust the way you look at the world, which is what's happened between you and me, you and new York, me and Scotland.

Edinburgh, we were different worlds, different interests.

Looking at the same thing from slightly different perspectives with big overlaps and what we've learnt learned through this over the last few years has been amazing.

And I hope this podcast to those of you that are listening is of similar value that it has been to us to just sort of riff on these ideas and work through these paradigms.

Yeah, it's been profoundly helpful for me for sure.

Yeah, I'm very grateful for Zoom.

It really and I think it helps so many people through the pandemic.

Yeah, well, I I'm glad we had this conversation.

Who would have thought that you could have such a long conversation about Zoom and executive functioning skills.

A Yeah, it was lovely.

It was lovely.

We hit on some beautiful, beautiful topics and that we would ultimately come to the conclusion that that Zoom, and executive functioning can actually help you to be a little bit more of your authentic self.

What a lovely, lovely way to wrap it up.

It is.

Erica, thank you very much.


Until next time.


Thank you for joining our conversation here at the personal brain trainer podcast.

This is Dr. Erica Warren, and this is Darius Namdaran.

You can check out our show notes for links to resources, mention the podcast and please leave us a review and share us on social media.

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