science | July 22, 2013

Are We Lazy In The Summer? Maria Konnikova, The New Yorker

It's summertime: The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and you're sitting at your desk—wishing you were anywhere else. Maria Konnikova, author of Mastermind, says you aren't the only one whose brain metaphorically wilts in warm weather. In fact, the science speaker points to new research that shows most of us experience decreased productivity in the summer. When temperatures rise, productivity seems to fall.

"One of the key issues is motivation," Konnikova wrote in The New Yorker. "[W]hen the weather is unpleasant, no one wants to go outside, but when the sun is shining, the air is warm, and the sky is blue, leisure calls." People tend to daydream about what they wish they were doing in the summer, rather than concentrating on their work. There's also some evidence to suggest that our brains are just more sluggish overall when it's nice outside, she says. We experience decreased attention and lowered energy levels and we're either too happy from all that sunshine to think deeply, or, too hot to keep ourselves from falling asleep.

Konnikova notes that not all of the effects of heat on our brains are negative. "Our cognitive abilities seem to improve up to a certain temperature, and then, as the temperature continues to rise, quickly diminish," she explains. When the temperature is too low or too high, people can't concentrate, nor do they think as critically.  In fact, "pleasant weather led people to embrace more heuristic-based thinking—that is, they relied heavily on mental shortcuts at the expense of actual analysis." But give those same people a bite of ice cream, as blood glucose levels have been proven to be tied to cognitive performance and willpower, and watch their thought process change.

As the foremost expert on Sherlock Holmes at our speakers bureau, Konnikova has honed the sleuth's signature methods of observation, logical deduction, and ever-present mindfulness and presents them in both Mastermind and her keynote speeches. She also shows us how to apply these techniques in our everyday lives. Hire speaker Maria Konnikova by contacting The Lavin Agency.

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