Episode 59: Understanding EF and Processing Speed Part Two

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Erica: Welcome to the Personal Brain Trainer podcast. I'm Dr. Erica Warren.

Darius: 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 explanations for everyday life. We explore executive function and learning strategies that help turbocharge the mind.

Erica: Come learn 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 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, learningspecialistcourses.com. Come check out our newest course on developing executive functions and study strategies.

Darius: This podcast is sponsored by dyslexiaproductivitycoaching.com. We give you a simple productivity system for your Apple devices that harnesses the creativity that comes with your dyslexia.

Erica: Hey, Darius, I'm excited about the second part of our processing speed discussion.

Darius: Well, it's been quite nice because we've had time to go away and process what we said last time and come back and think through it. And the second part, yes. So what we're going to focus in on this final session, I think.

Erica: Let me give you a little bit of an overview. What I would like to do is a little bit of a deep dive into how executive functioning skills impact processing speeds. And that way we can look at working memory, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and higher-level executive functioning. But I would also like to explore a few other areas. One is what happens when your processing speed is too fast? And then once we've talked about that, I would like to explore with your ways that we can change your processing speed by either increasing it if you need to increase it or decreasing it if you need to decrease it.

Darius: Yeah, well, I think as a recap of last week, what really left me was that we've got these two systems in our brain that are working concurrently. You've got processing, and we described all sorts of different kinds of processing, visual processing, auditory movement processing, kinesthetic, all sorts of different types of processing which translate into, if you've got difficulty with it, translate into dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, dys whatever, and other challenges in processing. And then on top of that, you've got executive functions, working memory, habitual control, and cognitive flexibility. And they interrelate. And that's really what we're talking about in this session how, one can affect the other. And often the realm of executive functions is thought of within the realm of ADHD and so on. But everyone has executive functions and I think strengths and weaknesses within their executive functions. And they can be impacted by processing as well.

Erica: Yeah. And just to also go back and reflect upon a couple of other things that we talked about in our first exploration of processing speed was that we also uncovered that there's almost a sequence of steps that you go through that impact processing speed. And one is the information intake. So you could process either too slowly or too fast the intake of information. But then, once your intake the information, processing speed also impacts how quickly you process that information that you've then gleaned in from the information intake. And then also processing speed can be impacted in your responsive generation. So how quickly you respond to that information that you took in and processed. So processing speed can be impacted in any one of those three stages.

Darius: And we ended up with that analogy of digesting food. How the digestion starts even in your mouth the moment it comes in, and then it continues in your stomach. And then you've got the third section, big section in your intestine, for example. And that very much mirrors this sort of something coming in, something being processed, inside. And then something that comes out as an output. And that doesn't necessarily mean out at the bottom, but actually into your body. And then you make something of it. And I think that's exactly what's happening with processing and executive functions. You've got the materials coming in that you're processing of thoughts, ideas, plans, insights, relationships, senses, everything that's coming in towards you. And they become digested and then assimilated by your executive function. You know, the conductor of your life who is deciding, what are we going to do with this? What are we going to make out of this? And in the physical sense, we're going to make a body out of it. We're going to grow our head, our organs, and we're going to go and do exercise or whatever. It's a really interesting kind of analogy to compare those two systems and visualize those two systems going on inside of our brain.

Erica: Yeah, I think it's very interesting. Well, and interestingly enough, the brain itself, when you sleep, has that same process of where we take in information during the day, and we process. And then at night there is this opportunity for the system to clean itself, to expel any of the debris from the day.

Darius: And it reorganizes there's a really useful example that I experienced with one of my students where what we did was, we drew a mind map as a doodle, as something very visual, and I got her to redraw the mind map really quickly. We call it a flash map. Two minutes to draw all out nice and neatly would take twelve minutes, say, but quick, flash map. And then you mark the flash map, okay? You mark how many of the items of the original map you remembered. And so you could say the original map had 30 items on it, you remembered 15. And then I got her to flash map it again. She got, it up to 18. Okay. I met her the next day, after one day, and I said, flash map it again. She got 20 of the things. She'd had a whole day to forget it, but she had a whole night to process it. And what the brain had done is it cleaned it up, and she'd actually got a higher score the third time, forgetting it for a whole day and coming back to it, she got a higher remembrance score. So actually, her memory of it had increased because she had slept on it a night. So that's another example of this digestion process being assimilated into something as well. Not just cleaned out, which definitely happens, but also, it's kind of reorganized your brain and your memories and your experiences.

Erica: Yeah, I think you're right. So let's jump into how executive functioning skills impact processing speed, and let's explore working memory first. So how can working memory impact processing speed? And I guess that's where interesting. We get into that input. Right. So how quickly we can pull in all that sensory information, and then it's a matter of manipulating it, which is the digestion. Right.

Darius: Well, one area we can learn about working memory from is we can learn a lot about a system when it goes wrong compared to when it goes well. And we can see when you delete that system out, stop using that system, what are the consequences? And we can see that often with people who have got smaller working memories and what consequence it produces. And you can measure working memory. People with dyslexia, get their working memories tested. People with, ADHD, get their working memories tested. I know a lot of people with dyslexia often have smaller working memories. Not everyone, but it's concurrent. Most, I would say, is around about 60% to 80% of people with dyslexia have also got some slower processing of working memory and. No, sorry, I'm using my language wrong. Okay. Because they've got a processing difficulty difference with regard to dyslexia in terms of phonological or other processes as well. And often we test for working memory as well, which is not connected to processing, but is very closely related to processing. And that's where it's really interesting to watch. So you can see this in this example where someone with a smaller working memory can get their mind blocked by trying to hold on to important information in their working memory. It stops new information coming. And if it gets too full, emptying that working memory is really useful, and we've talked about that, emptying it as quickly as possible, putting it somewhere in your memory, if you can, and if you can, writing down a note of some sort. So it's, out your working memory. Now, that relates to processing, because if you don't do any of that, your working memory gets blocked, and you get fixated on a particular thing. We've all experienced it. I've got to remember to talk about this to such and such, and you don't hear the next bit that they're saying because you're thinking so much about that important thing that you don't listen to the next part. And so that affects processing because if you're blocking that information coming in, you can't process it.

Erica: That's right. Well, it's funny, because what is the thing that blocks it is our inner voice. Many times it could be our inner voice. It could be an inner visualization; it could be an inner thought. But ultimately, yeah, I guess if we want to increase our speed of processing, we, have to reduce our cognitive load, because when our cognitive load is too high, it slows our processing.

Darius: Well, using our analogy, if you hold something in your mouth, you're, processing some food or. No, this is a better analogy. Okay. If you think about your working memory as your hands, you got two hands, two units of memory. Let's say a better analogy would say most people have got, like, seven hands. No, it would be a tray that could hold seven items. Okay, that you've got a tray, and then you lift it up with your hand and you put it somewhere. But, if you block that tray, that working memory, and fill it up with stuff, and you say, I don't know where to put it, you're not sure what to do with it. It's got to go somewhere. It's like nothing goes in your mouth because you're not eating anything. And I've seen that with clients, for example, so they're in work often when you're stressed, you get less working memory because you're thinking about those items that you're worrying about or talking about, it creates a block, and you've got less to digest, as it were, into yourself. So, sorry, I'm going off on one here. But basically, working memory is that process that feeds you information. And if you get that working memory blocked, you don't get fed.

Erica: Right. It's a combination of feeding and processing. Well, and if you can use the mouth, because part of digestion happens in the mouth. If, you want to think about it that way. Yes. But we also have to understand that if you're processing too slowly.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: Or you're processing too fast or you're.

Darius: Chewing too slow, you can't take the next mouthful. So if more working memory comes at you, you're chewing too much. And so it's like, sorry, I can't take any more in. So that's the interplay of these two systems, processing, and executive function.

Erica: And if you're eating too fast. Right. Some people just kind of almost swallow things whole without starting the digestive process properly. And you can miss all sorts of things if you're processing too fast. And if you're processing too slow, you can miss all sorts of things because you're not able to take in at the speed of time, so to speak.

Darius: Well, a lot of people think about processing too slow, and you bring this processing too fast. We'll talk about it later. But I'm intrigued by that. What are the consequences of processing too fast?

Erica: It's really interesting.

Darius: Natural instinct is, well, you want to be able to process as fast as possible, don't you? That's the ultimate, isn't it?

Erica: No. I know of people that process so quickly that they get completely overwhelmed. And it's almost like, well, use the mouth analogy. You're swallowing before you've started the digestive process. So you can miss a lot.

Darius: Yes.

Erica: if you process too fast, you can miss a lot. If you process too slow. What you want to do is process at the right rate so that you're able to be present in the moment and gather the information. But you could see it's like skipping a stone. If you're processing too fast, you might miss some of the content.

Darius: Yeah, I like that. It works with the analogy as well. Gosh, this analogy is holding up because you can eat too fast, and you get the indigestion. And it's not properly chewed. Chew your food, your parents are saying, because it's better for you otherwise, it doesn't digest properly.

Erica: Right. And process all the data in the environment, or you might m miss something vital. So, very interesting. So let's move on to inhibitory control. So how does inhibitory control, how could that be impacted by processing speed? Let's think of focus. If you are processing too quickly, you could miss some vital pieces in your environment. Right? Because you might miss some cues if you're processing too fast. If you're processing too slow, you can also miss cues because you're too busy processing something from the past and you're not staying up with the progression of time.

Darius: Well, it's interesting about inhibitory control. Inhibitory control is a lot about sustained attention. Your focus, emotional regulation. We've talked about that. Focus and emotional regulation. Don't get dysregulated. Yeah, don't get dysregulated and set off track and don't get distracted. That's strong inhibitory control. How does processing relate to that, that sense of focus and emotional dysregulation?

Erica: If you're processing too slowly, yes. Then you're not keeping up with time. You're kind of stuck in the past. If you're processing too fast, then it's again that skipping stone analogy. You might be missing some important content because your kind of jumping ahead. Interesting. But when it comes to emotional regulation. Yeah. What does that have to do with processing too slowly or processing too fast? I guess again, it's the same kind of concept. You may be reacting to something in the past and you're not keeping up with time, or you might be thinking too far ahead. And it's interesting whether you are thinking to getting stuck in the past or you're moving too quickly into the future, you're missing the moment. Yeah, well, the moment is where you can do metacognition, which is thinking about your thinking, which is what really helps you to process. So. Right. If you're processing too fast, you may miss that digestive process. If you're processing too slow, then, yeah, you could also miss the digestive process. So you're missing digestion either way.

Darius: So I'm always trying to distill these sorts of things down into practical things that we can take away and apply into our everyday life rather than just, it, being theory or science. Lego comes to mind here.

Darius: And in many ways, the executive function side of things is the building side of things, building stuff. The processing side is like the breaking things up into component pieces and getting the materials together for something. So for example, you're processing, reading, processing sounds, processing experiences. These are all ways of gathering the raw materials, the digesting the materials into the building blocks of something you are going to do with it. And in a way, the strong inhibitory control in the Lego analogy would be, right, I am going to build this house, and I expected to do this. And it's like the building blocks aren't coming fast enough to build the house. And so you get distracted from building the house. You're like, when's that next building block coming? All right, okay. In 30 seconds, it'll be ready or whatever. And then you get distracted. So if it's too slow, you get the building block, but it's too slow, and it affects your inhibitory control. But the other analogy would be, if you've digested it too fast, you've broken down the previous building too fast, and it's in chunks and blocks that don't really help you because it's not been broken down enough. So that could be another analogy to use here to understand what's going on.

Erica: If you were going to use that analogy, I would say the person that's processing too slowly might get caught up in the directions. So they've pulled out the manual, they're stuck in the directions, and they're like, oh, my God. I don't even know how to get beyond these directions because I'm having trouble making sense of them. The person that's processing too fast, they don't even read the directions. They just start saying, oh, I can do it. I don't need the directions. I'm going to just jump in and figure it out. And so they might be impulsive, and they might create something that falls down because they just did it too quickly, and they didn't follow the directions, so to speak. But anyone that processes too slowly, they could get stuck in the directions, or they might skip the directions, but they're doing it so slowly that they kind of lose the big picture. Right.

Darius: Fascinating.

Erica: And they can't get it done in time because maybe they only have an hour to create something, and now they're only a quarter of the way there. Whereas the other person may have created three things, but nothing was really what they wanted.

Darius: So a practical example of this would be a child who's being asked to write from the blackboard a set of instructions and then to write an essay. And they're processing the information of the words on the blackboard, and then writing them down slowly and backwards and forwards and so on. And then it's taken them half an hour to write down the instructions from the board onto their paper. And then they've got to write the essay. By the time they've started to do that, everyone's finished their paragraph that the teacher asked them to do, and they've only just started the first sentence. That would be an example of this slow processing speed getting in the way of the result.

Erica: And an example of processing too fast is when the teacher was going over all the details of what they needed to do, they were already starting the paper, and they missed the details of what they had to include in their paper. And so they didn't do well in the paper because they missed some of the most important key points that they were supposed to focus on because they weren't listening to that. They were jumping ahead.

Darius: Yeah.

Erica: So either way, whether you process too slow or you process too fast, we come right back to the issue. You're missing the moment.

Darius: So when you say process too fast, are there not some people who process fast and they actually break it down into the component parts really quite quickly, and they're not skipping over? You're presuming that if they process fast, they will skip over. But are there not some people who still process fast, and they aren't skipping over?

Erica: There are some people that are very successful at processing quickly. Now, the interesting thing about it is for some of these people, I have to teach them how to speed up reality to keep up with their processing. So, for example, a great example of that is using something like speechify or voice stream reader, which is where it's reading back to you, whether it's an audiobook or whatever. But you can increase the speed of the output to match your processing speed. So I do have students that process very quickly. One of the best ways to accommodate them when they're reading is actually to let them listen to an audiobook, and they can speed it to whatever their comfort zone is, their processing speed. Comfort zone. But unfortunately for those people, if they're in a class with a teacher who speaks quite slowly because they process slowly, it can be absolutely torturous for them because they get incredibly bored. And if the person is processing their speech too slowly, they will just out of boredom, their brain will go somewhere else because they cannot handle the slow speech. It's incredibly annoying. And they feel that they have to fill in all those little blank spaces with something because they're just not. Yeah, they can't handle the open space. They have to fill it.

Darius: Absolutely. Those are perfect examples of processing affecting executive function in the realm of inhibitory control. And it's fascinating to watch certain people like our brains, I don't know where I heard it. Our brains process at around about 430 words a minute.

Erica: that's the average brain.

Darius: That's the average.

Erica: Some process much slower, and that's a problem. And some process much faster. And that can be. But there are environments where if you process slowly, that can be incredibly beneficial, and there are environments where if you process incredibly quickly, that can be extraordinarily beneficial. So although it can be considered a deficit, it can also be considered a genius quality, because there are those situations where we need to process slowly, and there are those situations where we must process quickly.

Darius: And, to give an example of that is you could read a novel quite quickly. And so there's a speed that you want to read a novel, and there's a speed you need to read the essay question for your law exam. So you've got to do some slow reading, deep, slow, focused reading for a core question for your dissertation or essay. You've got to read that really slowly and, really in depth, close reading.

Erica: And it's interesting because processing speed can also affect cognitive flexibility, because you can think about it this way. How quickly can you shift from one perspective to another? How quickly can you shift between one task and another? And if you're processing too quickly, you could shift too quickly. If you're processing too slowly, you could shift too slowly. So, for example, someone that processes too slowly might have a hard time shifting from one task to another. They can, but it's going to take them too long. So they might be ten minutes into science class before they're really there, so to speak. Yeah, because they're still processing the last class.

Darius: Yes. And that could be that they've been so wrapped up and really enjoyed that class, and it's still living in their mind and they're still digesting it. They've had a really good meal, and they're full up.

Erica: And for them, that's so important. It's important that they're able to fully process. And it's a shame that we rush kids from one class to the next. I mean, sometimes my students say, oh, I've got two minutes to get from one class to the next. And that's a shame. They really should be given 15 minutes because it would enable them to fully process. And we know that that actually helps with the learning. So there's a little lesson we can learn from those slower processors because we often expect them all to process a little bit too quickly between classes in transition. But I think where we really are going to see, the profound impact of processing speed is on higher level executive functioning, and that's where we're looking at planning, time management and organization. Well, that seems quite obvious, right? If you're organizing too slowly, or you're planning your time too slowly, or you're just not managing your time because you're a little bit too slow, that's a big impact, and same with being too fast. And I guess it really comes back, I keep coming back to this, in this discussion. Is that really in order to process, the best way is you want to be able to process the moment?

Darius: Yeah, I think one example that sums up all of this is, business meeting. Okay? So if you've got a business meeting, all of these factors of processing, working memory, inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, higher level task management come into play, and you often need strategies to maximize each one of them, so everyone is optimized. So, for example, for working memory, if somebody's sending lots of information at you and you’re juggling all these different facts and so on, it can overwhelm your working memory and just stop. Any new information coming in, any more information coming to the mouth and getting digested, your plate is full. Yeah. so then an example for that would be create a whiteboard to dump the ideas down onto so you don't have to hold them in your working memory so that you can take in more information or revert back to them. So that's a working memory strategy that helps people get information in, then inhibitory control in a meeting, maintaining people's focus. Processing speeds and inhibitory control, how people talk, how fast people talk, how, much of the floor time they get given. Cognitive flexibility also ties in with processing. My wife, for example, doesn't want to decide during a meeting. She wants to have a night to think about it and process the information, come back to it. And her decisions are often better digested, more finely nuanced, because she's done that. I think team meetings need to do that, too. And then task management. I know that if I sit down with someone in a meeting and everything is just verbal, I will remember absolutely everything, that will understand everything they say. But once I get overloaded with too many facts and so on, my brain will start deciding what are the top seven facts. And there could be ten or twelve important things. But I'm not going to hold more than three to seven facts. But if I had a visual or if it was written down in an agenda point and minutes and so on, then I can make much better task management decisions, and so can everyone else. So all of these are super practical and super real. I think sometimes when we talk about this, it really seems a bit abstract, but the reality is, once you really do deal with working memory, do things that help inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility. I mean, for example, inhibitory control in a meeting, sometimes some people might have something written, a report. Everyone, could you please just read this report? And then we'll discuss it. We'll just spend five minutes reading it. I read twice as slow as everyone else. But if someone said, look, I'm going to read out this report, and those people who prefer reading it for themselves can just tune into reading it, and those people who don't read so well and keep it secret and prefer listening, hear it, and they're up to speed. Both types of processing are being fulfilled by being aware. That is a need, and that affects inhibitory control because somebody might be slowed down by their processing, and someone else is talking because the reading time is over. We've all experienced it in school. Well, I certainly have. And you're then playing catch up all the way along, and so you can lose attention because you're left behind.

Erica: Processing speed impacts learning. It impacts everything on such a profound level. So, you know, I mean, ideally, you want to have kind of that average processing speed so that you're not too fast, not too slow, and in that sweet spot, right? But with that said, and you started going here a little bit, is, how can we change the processing speed? And you can, there are ways to speed up your processing, and there are ways to slow down your processing, and there are activities that you can do. Now, for example, a very common reason why people have a slow processing speed is because they may have something called dysnomia, or they can't think of the name of something, and so it slows down their processing. So I might be in the middle of talking about something, and I can't access a word. And when I can't access that word, it just stops my processing. Everything just comes to a halt, and I have to think of, oh, what was his name? What was that called? Oh, what was that? And then you're going down this rabbit hole of trying to think of something, and it stops all processing. So one thing that you can do is try to increase what they call rapid automatic naming or ran. And there are ways that you can do that. And part of it is just teaching the brain to be able to access that information faster. So, for example, if you can't remember the names of flowers, like me, one of the things that I can do to improve, particularly if I am talking to people about flowers a lot. So I want to increase my ability to name flowers, then I want to integrate things like memory strategies and hooking. And I think I've used this example before. I had trouble remembering the name impatience, which is a type of flower that I love to have in my garden. And as soon as I associate it with the fact that I get impatient, that I can't think of the word impatience. I was fine as soon as I associated geraniums as looking like a cranium. So it was cranium, geranium. I became mindful. I mindfully tried to learn the things that were slowing me down to a point of automaticity. So what you have to do is think about what are the things that are slowing me down. If its names get better at encoding names and coming up with memory strategies for that. So one way to improve your processing speed is to be cognizant of what is slowing me down and then addressing that issue. It could be visual processing. Maybe it just takes you longer to make sense of the things that you're seeing, but whatever it is, you just want to exercise that skill and bring it up to a level where it's happening at a faster rate. And if it can happen to the point of automaticity, meaning that you don't have to think about it and it becomes subconscious, then you're really doing good work.

Darius: Yeah, I think we're both dyslexic, and we both know dyslexia affects processing speed in multiple different ways for different people. The challenge here is to realize that some processes are absolutely essential and that you have to learn them. And other processes are a nice to have. And, when I'm working with adult clients in the workplace, I'm like, there are certain processes and procedures that if you mess up on it, will have a significant impact on your work. And you need to identify what those processes are and have enough self-awareness that you have difficulty with processing and then become automatic at those areas. And I use the phrase slow is smooth, smooth is fast, which the military use to teach people how to do things fast. You have to often slow something down until the point where you hit that glitch. And instead of just doing the usual thing, oh, I'll just fumble that bit and then move on to the bit that's easy and carry on like playing a bit of music, getting to a hard bit, and fumbling it a bit. But you've got 90% good on it, but you can't really play the song well. You need to slow it right down until you become smooth. And then once you're smooth, you can become fast. There is no way of becoming fast until every element, every step in that process becomes smooth. If any particular part of that process has a bit of friction in it, you need to slow down enough and figure out a way like you're talking about, oh, I keep fumbling this particular name in biology or in my work, and I need to find a memory way to smooth that off. So the key, I think, is slow as smooth, smooth as fast with processing.

Erica: Yeah, I really like that. And then, of course, you can also do things like play games. You have to be careful because some of these fast-paced games also almost encourage impulsivity, which isn't always good. You don't want to speed up your processing so much that you're not present that you miss the moment again. So you want to stop long enough in the moment. But there's some great games that I really like, and I'll give you a list: Blink is an interesting one where it also works really beautifully at enhancing cognitive flexibility as well. But you basically have shapes, colors, numbers, and you're having to process really quickly, and you have to get rid of your cards before the other person. So all those types of card games where you're having to process quickly and then it's gamified, but you are speeding your processing. There's set, which is also another one with all sorts of shapes, which is a little bit more complex than blink. I have a series of games called Mpower, which is all about how quickly you can sort things, and you can sort things in many ways by numbers, colors, categories, but it's all working on kind of executive functioning. But how quickly can you process? So it teaches you to process a little bit faster. Spot It is a very popular visual processing game, which where if you want to improve and speed up your visual processing, and they have lots of different versions, so if you become faster at one, then you can always grab another set of another Spot It game. And then finally I have one called, Hey, What's the Big Idea? Which is how quickly can you process ideas and organize them into categories again? So it's similar to empower, but it's a little bit different. And that's just a few of many, many games that are out there. We'll put a bunch in the show. You know, there are also sites, test prep sites like Quizlet, and they have some activities that can help you with processing speed where how quickly can you answer the questions? And they've turned them into a gravity game and matching games, and they record your time. All right, so you know all the answers to all the questions, but can you do it faster? And so that would be working on processing speed. Now, you talked about mind mapping. Now, you talked about how mind mapping could help you to, or, just having an image in front of you can help you to process. How could that help you process quicker or slower?

Darius: Well, I think mind mapping is such a powerful tool, actually. We're going to do a whole episode on this next, aren't we? all right, mind mapping. Let's hold back for that one. Our next episode is going to be on executive function and mind mapping, and.

Erica: We’ll integrate a little processing speed into that. Good idea.

Darius: Absolutely. So this whole dynamic of processing speed is so important that you somehow become conscious of the process. And I think that's key in all of this. Often what I've seen is people who have difficulty with processing is they're kind of fumbling through a process in the dark. They're like, oh, I know I'm not going to manage this, I'm not very good at this, and I'll just fumble through, and I hope I get there. And these are traits of, ah, dyslexia. When it comes to reading dysgraphia, when it comes to writing dyspraxia and so on, you kind of go, oh, I'm not natural at this, so I'll just kind of fumble and hope for the best. But when you slow it down and you become much more conscious and intentional about it, and you really become conscious of the actual process and not just assume the person's going to get it, whether it's reading or writing beautifully or moving beautifully or doing maths or whatever process there is underlying it, you just slow it down and become really intentional and really aware of the process. And each one of these games, the games you've designed and the others, every one of them is intentionally making you become very conscious of, oh, the circles. I'm looking for the circles. Now I'm looking for the red patches. Now I'm looking for a green color. Now I'm looking for this. And you have to become so intentional and not just hope for the best. And that's when your processing actually gets properly practiced. And what I've noticed is a lot of these processing difficulties are left dormant because they're not being properly practiced. We can become automatic at these things. But these games and these intentional when tutors are sitting down with students and becoming very intentional. Oh, that's what's meant to happen next? Yes. Oh, am I really meant to do that? Yes. Oh, okay, I get it now. And that's the feeling when it comes to processing, I think. And, coming back to mind mapping, which we'll talk about in the next one, is a lot of it's about making things much more obvious, about a process. A mind map breaks down the fundamental structures of things, down into keywords, patterns, images, and so on. A lot of it's about becoming aware of the actual content rather than rote learning or becoming automatic at it. So a lot of this is just about being really aware of a process and finding a way to repeat that process more smoothly. And then you get processing back up to speed.

Erica: Yeah. There are a couple of other strategies I have just to keep us going. Employing a metronome or music is very interesting because I think we have almost, like, this internal rhythm. So if we process slowly, we have a much slower beat that we're comfortable. We're processing at our rate. That's just slower. And if you want to try to speed up that internal rate, you can use a metronome or music. You can find something that matches your rate and that you feel comfortable in. It's the same way with listening to audiobooks. You find the rate where you're most comfortable, and then you slowly speed it, so it's such a small increment that you can barely tell, and it still feels comfortable enough. And then over time, you slowly increase that rate. And then what happens is that you can increase your processing so other things that you can do something on that.

Darius: And that is what a music teacher with a metronome would do, is they would increase your speed with the metronome from what you're comfortable at to what you're a bit more uncomfortable at, and then past uncomfortable to way too fast, and then just bring it back a little bit. And every time you go a little bit past what is comfortable, and you bring it back, you realize you're stretching yourself more. Speechify is very good at doing that, and I think the same happens with lots of things that metronome, effect of going a little bit past what you're comfortable, then pulling it back. YouTube, for example, totally frustrates me because they've only got two times speed, and I listen to audiobooks at about two and a half to three times speed. And that's my only real comfortable level on an audiobook because it's not fast enough information unless it's up at that. So YouTube videos, even at two times speed, are just too slow for me to process.

Erica: Isn't that, you know, you had said earlier that in some ways you felt that your processing speed was slow, and in that way, your processing speed is too fast for YouTube. But there's that frustration of being that person that processes too fast. Now you know what that feels like.

Darius: Absolutely. And I think everyone probably has an area like your processing inventory where you're probably pretty automatic and fast at, and somewhere where you're slow. So I'm really slow at processing sight reading words, and I'm really fast at processing ear reading words. Auditory, listening to books.

Erica: Yeah, it's a really interesting way to speed up processing, but some other things that we can do to help us if we are processing too slowly is to manage distractions. So if we want to speed up our processing, we also want to put ourselves in an environment where there are not too many distractions. So that's another one. And then finally, we want to address anxiety, because anxiety absolutely gets in the way for both processing too slowly and processing too fast. But I said that was final. But it's not the final one. The real final one is learning how to be a unitasker. I call it a unitasker, and that's being able to focus on one thing at a time. And I guess that's similar to the managing distractions. If we're doing too many things at once, we're really taxing our mind. But if we do one thing at a time, then we can probably process in the way that we should be processing so that we are literally in the moment. So, we're not too fast, we're not too slow. We're just doing that one task, and we're doing it thoroughly and completely, you.

Darius: Know, this ties in, surprisingly, with inhibitory control. I recommend students and adults doodle while they're listening, and they try and doodle in relation to what they're listening to. Because if we think there's a person speaks at 120 words a minute and your brain's processing at 400 words a minute, there's a difference. A gap, a capacity gap that needs filled by something. And a bit of it is used by processing the information itself, not just hearing it. But there's often, like you're saying the person speaking slowly, there is another gap on top that needs filled with something. And if it's not filled with something, we fill it with a distraction, and then we're not unitasking, we're multi-tasking. We're thinking about something else while we're listening to them. But if you fill that with doodling and drawing or mind mapping or something like that, and it keeps you processing that information by hand, being absorbed into information. And the amount of talks I've been to where everyone's drifting off halfway through, but I'm still focused because I'm mapping or drawing, what they're saying is amazing. so finding an activity that allows you to stay completely focused on that task is good too.

Erica: That's excellent. And you would think that whether you're processing too slow or too fast, the strategies that we've talked about would suffice, but in fact, they don't, because when you process too fast, you need very different strategies to slow down. And I just wanted to go over a few of those. One is, for those that are processing too fast, you want to actually take the time to reflect and deliberate a little bit more, because sometimes they're going so fast that there isn't enough time for that reflection. So I find that when I work with those individuals that process too quickly, I make them conscious about, okay, when they're processing too quickly to have a mantra actually maybe even. And their mantra could be reflect, for example, and then they're like, oh, right, okay, so let me stop. And before I move on to the next thing, let me reflect on that a little bit. So it's getting them to be conscious about slowing down a little bit. Embracing mindfulness. Right, is another really good one where they just want to be a little bit more mindful of what's going on and dropping into that moment and really thinking about what's happening to them in that particular moment. What are your thoughts on that?

Darius: Yeah, I was thinking about AI. If there's a brain that processes super-fast, it's AI. But actually, if you ask an AI to reflect on its decision or its statement, it increases its performance massively. And they've discovered this. So you ask AI, write this particular thing. It writes it, give me this particular answer to a question, and then afterwards you say, please read your answer and reflect on what you think. And it will then reflect on it and go, well, actually, now that I've reread this, I would also add x, y, and z, or I would change this. So even AI benefits from reflecting.

Erica: Yeah, it's really interesting words like practice patience. Right. Or just staying calm, or, creating calm environments, managing stress. All of these ideas are about slowing down.

Darius: And I think sometimes you're not processing fast. I think there's this misnomer in a way, in the way we're using the language, because there's two types of fast processing. There's the type of fast processing when you're fast, but you're not properly processing, which is really what we're addressing. So it's not actually fully processing, it's not fully digesting. So we're basically saying, look, chew your food. Give your stomach time to rest and digest that food. Don't just be eating all the time. Have these pauses where you've got time.

Erica: To digest and give yourself something to do. Be mindful of. What's the process of thinking through things thoroughly? So if you're thinking too quickly and you're skipping over some things, what are the things that you're skipping over? So really being mindful of, okay, where is it that I'm going too fast and as soon as you have targeted that particular area? Well, I guess I'm a little bit too fast when it comes to organizing my ideas. Aha. Uh-huh. That's where you need to slow down. But you're right, you don't want to encourage someone to slow down if that's not how they process. What if they are processing quickly and thoroughly? Well, then there's no reason to slow them down.

Darius: No.

Erica: What we want to do is we want to figure out if there's an issue, where is it? And then target that issue and come up with a strategy.

Darius: So another language for this could be rushed processing. so there's slow processing, rushed processing, and fast processing. Because what I've noticed is some people who are actually slow processors rush things, and it looks like they're processes something fast, but they're actually just rushing it. It's fascinating to watch it happen in real life. A visual example of this would be someone learning to drive a manual car, and they rush going from second to third gear, and often they just quickly fumble it, and it feels like it's fast. They've got that emotional speed in it, that energy. I'm m doing it fast, but actually if you looked at it, it's just rushed. It's not any faster, and it's not actually worse than if you went slow and smooth, then you would be really fast. And so sometimes it's that, rushed feeling of processing that is happening as well. What's your thought on that?

Erica: I love that. And I'm going to fill another word into that sequence that you can be rushed or fast and you can be slow or careful. So it's okay to be careful? Yes, it's okay to be careful. And it's okay to be fast, but you don't want to be rushed. I guess. You don't want to be rushed or impulsive, and you don't want to be slow and stuck, but you want to be careful. Careful is good. And I often tell people they love this, that have come to me with scores that say that they have a slow processing speed. The first thing I usually say to them is that I don't like that term. I don't think it's appropriate, particularly if I've spoken to them and I don't perceive the slowness. I'll say, I'm curious. How would you feel if I were to replace that wording with instead of saying that you're a slow processor, can we just say, you're a careful processor? And how does that feel? And nine out of ten times, they're like, oh, that feels so much better. Right? And there are those people that are truly careful processors, and in that case, we don't really necessarily want to be speeding them up unless we can help them to remain careful and move a little bit faster.

Darius: And that's where the slowest, smooth, smoothest fast comes in. They're careful slow, and that carefulness is the smoothness. And if they keep that careful smoothness going, then they can speed up. But if you have rushed processing, you can't become fast processing. You're actually still slow processing. That feels like fast processing, and it's not. You're fooling yourself into thinking, oh, I've processed all this information, and there's countless examples of people reading documents, and they've read through it fast, but they've not got all of the information that's rushed processing. And I actually think sometimes rushed processing is a symptom of being a slow processor that hasn't found a way to be intentional about it. They've not been trained into it.

Erica: it's so uncomfortable to feel rushed.

Darius: Yeah. And you rush yourself. People are rushing themselves through their own expectation of how fast they should be doing it.

Erica: Or a time limit. Right. The teacher saying, you have to go faster, you have to go faster, you have to go faster. And then it increases the anxiety, and it just becomes this impossible.

Darius: And you take it into your adulthood as well. You've still got that teacher's voice, or you don't remember it's your teacher's voice. We've talked about this inner voice stuff, and it's like, oh, I should be doing this faster. I should be doing this faster. And so you try and do it faster, and you fumble, and you rush, and you muddle up, and you keep having to repeat the same thing over and over again.

Erica: And then they call you careless. Yes, careless mistakes.

Darius: And you are making careless mistakes. And the interesting thing is, when I'm teaching a midwife at the moment how to pass her doctorate, what I've asked her to do is find all those silly mistakes that she makes, and you just say, oh, I made a silly mistake. No, you made a processing mistake that you're just brushing off, saying, oh, that's a silly mistake. An implied and silly mistake is I won't make it next time. If you've got any kind of neurodiversity in that, it's probably something to do with a processing issue where you're hitting a hitch and something's dropping, glitching out, and you have to make a bridge between a certain thing and just smooth that off. So finding silly mistakes is your biggest win in life, at school and in work. Oh, that's a silly. I keep making that silly mistake. I'm sorry. Silly mistake. I won't do it next time. Yes, you will, because it's a processing difficulty.

Erica: unless you're conscious.

Darius: yeah. And when you slow down and you go, I made this mistake. Where did I make that silly mistake? And you realize, oh, when I write it like this, I tend to write it slightly to the left and it's not perfectly aligned or something, and I get that muddled up, and then I glitch. So if I just do this or I create a box around it or something to put it in its right place, it all just works. And you're like, oh, my goodness. And so immediately, you could get a boost of 3% in your whole exam from one little silly mistake you keep messing up on. But that always ties back, in my opinion, to a processing mistake. So silly mistakes are processing mistakes and don't brush them off. And that equates to life in the workplace as.

Erica: Absolutely.

Darius: Ah.

Erica: this is a fun episode. Thank you so much, Darius.

Darius: Thank you, Erica. It's great. I'm looking forward to mind mapping next time.

Erica: Sounds good to me. Thank you for joining our conversation here at the Personal Brain trainer podcast. This is Dr. Erica Warren and Darius Namdaran.

Darius: Check out the show notes for links to resources mentioned in the podcast, and please leave us a review and share us on social media until next time. Bye.