An environmental approach to creativity

Where good ideas come from – and what happens when ideas have sex!

What’s relevant to a society is how well people are communicating their ideas, and how well they’re cooperating, not how clever the individuals are.
Matt Ridley

An idea is a network at the most elemental level. An idea — a new idea — is a new network of neurons firing in sync with each other inside your brain. It’s a new configuration that has never formed before. And the question is: how do you get your brain into environments where these new networks are going to be more likely to form? And it turns out that, in fact, the kind of network patterns of the outside world mimic a lot of the network patterns of the internal world of the human brain.
Steven Johnson

Watch these TED Talks which propose some interesting ideas about the environmental influences on ideas, creativity, and innovation – one of which is a good reason for having a coffee – one of my other favourite activities! Author Steven Johnson takes us on a tour past some historic events to explain how the environments that we create and surround ourselves with are very important in forming the ideas and innovations that we come up with.


I’m not sure whether I think Steven Johnson puts enough emphasis on the interaction between people and their environments yet, but it is an enjoyable and interesting watch nonetheless. One person who does emphasise interaction and in particular ‘exchange’ is Matt Ridley. He explains how cultural evolution, innovation and creativity are like biological evolution in the sense that they share exchange – in short, ideas have sex! To my liking his focus very much emphasises interaction in the social environment and, again, like Steven Johnson, not enough yet on the interaction between people and their environments in general.


Anyway, I’m off to the coffeehouse now!

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Posted in Ecological Psychology, My own research, Science General

Emotions In Sports Are Expressed By Whole Bodies, Not Only By Facial Expressions

If you think that you can judge by examining someone’s facial expressions if he has just hit the jackpot in the lottery or lost everything in the stock market — think again. Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at New York University and Princeton University have discovered that — despite what leading theoretical models and conventional wisdom might indicate — it just doesn’t work that way.


Rather, they found that body language provides a better cue in trying to judge whether an observed subject has undergone strong positive or negative experiences.

Examples of original images of players (1) losing or (2) winning a point. The same faces combined with incongruent-valence bodies such as (3) a losing face on a winning body and (4) a winning face on a losing body. [All photos credited to a.s.a.p. Creative/Reuters]

Examples of original images of players (1) losing or (2) winning a point. The same faces combined with incongruent-valence bodies such as (3) a losing face on a winning body and (4) a winning face on a losing body. [All photos credited to a.s.a.p. Creative/Reuters]

In a study published this week in the journal Science, the researchers present data showing that viewers in test groups were baffled when shown photographs of people who were undergoing real-life, highly intense positive and negative experiences. When the viewers were asked to judge the emotional valences of the faces they were shown (that is, the positivity or negativity of the faces), their guesses fell within the realm of chance.

The study was led by Dr. Hillel Aviezer of the Psychology Department of the Hebrew University, together with Dr. Yaacov Trope of New York University and Dr. Alexander Todorov of Princeton University.

For the popular science (SciencesDaily) read here:
For the article in Science Magazine read here:

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Posted in Science General, Sport Science

Oxytocin as Sports Enhancer

Is playing football like falling in love? That question, which would perhaps not occur to most of us watching hours of the bruising game this holiday season, is the focus of a provocative and growing body of new science examining the role of oxytocin in competitive sports.

Italy’s Daniele De Rossi, right, celebrates after scoring a goal against Denmark during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Milan in October.

Until recently, though, scientists had not considered whether a substance that promotes cuddliness and warm, intimate bonding might also play a role in competitive sports.

But the idea makes sense, says Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the Center for Human Movement Sciences at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and the author of a new review of oxytocin and competition. “Being part of a team involves emotions, as for instance when a team scores, and these emotions are associated with brain chemicals.”

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS for the New York Times.

Read more here: and

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Posted in Football, Joint Action, My own research, Science General, Sport Science

Does Empathy Score in Football?

When you need to perform, emotions either help you, or they throw a spanner in the works. Just ask Arjen Robben who missed a penalty in the final of the Champions League in May. Dr. Gert-Jan Pepping, a researcher at the Australian Catholic University in Brisbane Australia, explores how emotions influence our perceptions and actions. How relevant is empathy in sport?

Pre-match huddle

A pre-match huddle of the Ireland team in their game against Spain during Euro 2012.

By Margriet Bos. For the whole article (in Dutch) click here.

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Posted in Football, My own research, Science General, Sport Science

How to end England’s (or anyone else’s) shootout nightmare

For the 6th time since 1990, the British football team has been knocked out of a major tournament by losing the decisive penalty shootout. In the quarter-finals of Euro 2012 against Italy last Sunday, England seemed to finally put an end to a long line of shootout woe after the Italian Riccardo Montolivo was the first to miss. But in the end, Sunday’s match only validated their misery as they were defeated by Italy with a 4-2 final score.

A penalty shootout is for most soccer fans – and football players – the most nerve-racking part of a football game. After a 120 minute draw, five players of each team get the chance to turn the game into victory.Whichever team scores more goals wins. Some say it’s a matter of chance who wins, and that penalty kicks cannot be practiced. This assumption was confirmed by the coach of the British team Roy Hodgson who said – after losing the shootout – that “it was Italy that took the chance” and that penalties cannot be practiced, because there’s no way to simulate the tiredness, the pressure and the tension of an important match during training.

Source: United Academics Magazine. For the whole article click here.

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Posted in Football, My own research, Science General, Sport Science

Rooney’s take on decision-making in football

“I think, I suppose, when you are younger, you’re always …you’re a bit more advanced than the kids your age, so there are times on the pitch where you can see different things, but they can’t obviously see it.

So then it’s like you get annoyed, but they are not obviously …It’s like you said before. They can’t calculate. I suppose it’s like when you play snooker, you’re always thinking three or four shots down the line. I suppose with football, it’s like that. You’ve got to think three or four passes where the ball is going to come to down the line. And I think the very best footballers, they’re able to see that before … Much quicker than a lot of other footballers. So …”

“When a cross comes into a box, there’s so many things that go through your mind in a split second, like five or six different things you can do with the ball. You’re asking yourself six questions in a split second. Maybe you’ve got time to bring it down on the chest and shoot, or you have to head it first-time. If the defender is there, you’ve obviously got to try and hit it first-time. If he’s farther back, you’ve got space to take a touch. You get the decision made. Then it’s obviously about the execution.”

“What people don’t realize is that it’s obviously a physical game, but after the game, mentally, you’re tired as well. Your mind has been through so much. There’s so many decisions you have to make through your head. And then you’re trying to calculate other people’s decisions as well. It’s probably more mentally tiring than physically, to be honest.”

Wayne Rooney – for the full article see: Beautiful game. Beautiful mind.

Posted in Football

Mental Pressure in Football

As a football player you have to be able to deal with pressure. The worst is the mental pressure in an important match. What exactly is the impact of mental stress on your sports performance – and on the performance of your teammates? Researchers of the University of Groningen and the professional football academy of SC Heerenveen are working on this issue.

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Posted in Experimental Psychology, Football, My own research, Sport Science

Oxytocin, Contagion of Positive Emotions and Performing in Team-Sports

Emotional contagion refers to the tendency to automatically mimic and synchronize expressions, vocalisations, postures and movements with those of another person’s and consequently to converge emotionally. Contagion of positive emotions is thought to play an important role in achieving successful sport performance. Emotions can be converged  during positive social interactions, such as the celebration of a goal. Little is known about the bio-behavioural underpinnings of emotional contagion. In this poster we hypothesized that oxytocin plays an important role in this  phenomenon.

By GJ Pepping and E Timmermans Read more ›

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Posted in Football, My own research, Science General, Sport Science

We all know how grip works, we do it every day

A scientific poster, presented at Mastery of Manual Skill, UMCG, April 2012.

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Posted in Ecological Psychology, Experimental Psychology, My own research

Plan B

Playing his first major final, against Fergal O’Brien in the Masters, Hunter was well down at the interval. In a notorious stunt, his manager Brandon Parker instructed him to revert to “Plan B” – which, as Hunter reiterates with determined precision, is “B for bonk”.

In the 2001 Masters, Hunter beat his close friend and defending champion Matthew Stevens 6–5 in the last 16, Peter Ebdon 6–3 in the quarter-finals and Stephen Hendry 6–4 in the semi-finals. In the final Hunter recovered from a 3–7 deficit against Fergal O’Brien to win 10–9. Hunter compiled four centuries in six frames, and earned the £175,000 first prize. In his post-match interview, Hunter caused a media sensation by admitting he resorted to “Plan B” with Lindsey, then his girlfriend, during the interval while 2–6 down. The ‘B’ in “Plan B” purportedly refers to the word “bonk”, a British slang term for sexual intercourse. Hunter and Fell retired to their hotel room and he recalled: “Sex was the last thing on my mind. I just wasn’t in the mood. But I had to do something to break the tension. It was a quick session – around 10 minutes or so – but I felt great afterwards. She jumped in the bath, I had a kip and then played like a dream. I reeled off four centuries in six frames. I won easily.”

See also and Interview Paul HunterThe Guardian (Monday 12 April 2004).

Posted in Science General, Sport Science