The neuroscience of too much choice

  • Sometimes faced with too much information, working memory is overloaded and the prefrontal cortex is overwhelmed to the point of not being able to make a simple decision

Intuition (link to research about decision making

  • Research shows that faced with much information, generally our ‘gut’ feeling wins over our purchases made with detailed analysis
  • When faced with an important decision, gather the information you need and then give the brain time to unconsciously process information. Your intuition will assist you in the decision making process.

Limbic response

  • The brain is a social organ
  • Feeling socially connected activates our brain’s reward regions and is associated with health and wellbeing; social isolation activates our brain’s threat regions with research showing perceived threat is as real to the brain as actual threat
  • Social pain is treated in the same way in the brain as physical pain; social isolation activates the brain’s pain regions
  • Visual cues provide a great deal of unconscious information as we socially connect with other people
  • Unconscious visual cues determine whether we are dealing with a friend or a foe; without these visual cues the brain will use other generally, unconscious, cues to try and work this out e.g., tone of voice, ‘sense’ of body language, smell

Trust, social connection

  • Oxytocin is released in the brain and builds feelings of trust, social connection
  • Trust and social connection help us to feel valued
  • Physical contact is one way of triggering the release of oxytocins


  • The brain likes new things and is easily distracted…sometimes known amongst my peers as ‘bright shiny object’ syndrome!
  • It takes effort and energy to remain focused

Attentional intelligence

  • Being aware of the direction of your attention and choosing the direction of your attention


  • Is linked to our fundamental self – willingness to learn and explore more about ourselves, introspection about our perceived selves in our perceived world; who am I and what is my purpose?

Neuroscience…so How?

…so How can you apply some of the neuroscience on a day to day basis at work?

  1. At work, our brains can be overwhelmed quickly with the demand on the prefrontal cortex (working memory). Plan breaks between meetings. If you are faced with an important decision at the end of the day, sleep on it.
  2. Our brain works optimally for about 20 – 25 minutes. Sitting limits blood flow to the brain. Try to take a walk outside or around your office to keep your brain fed with blood.
  3. Prioritise your tasks in the morning to do your important work and thinking. This is when the brain is at its peak. Having breakfast will help nourish your brain and prepare for the day ahead.
  4. If social pain is treated in the same way as physical pain, what implications does this have if you are leading a team who need to work well together?
  5. The brain is easily distracted. Each time you are interrupted in your work, it will take approximately 20 minutes to get back to ‘where you were’…find out how to turn off email notifications, mobile phone notifications. In fact, why don’t you turn everything off and immerse yourself in an interruption free zone?