Home Research Neurosciences: Brain & Behavior To Reach Your Goal, Take a NeuroStroll™: A Neuroscience Based Approach to Goal Achievement

To Reach Your Goal, Take a NeuroStroll™: A Neuroscience Based Approach to Goal Achievement

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Use of Acronym and Other Memory Boosters

We used the acronym STROLL to create stickiness. Stickiness is a marketing term that measures customer retention (Hanssens et al., 2014; Khalifa et al., 2002). The learning field also uses the term “stickiness” in reference to memory retention (Robinson & Cook, 2018). Acronyms help with limited brain capacity. Early cognitive scientists suggested that we could retain seven items (Miller, 1956). Later studies (Cowan, 2000) reinforce the efficacy of chunking and indicate that we can retain three to five items in our memory. It has long been known that creating acronyms facilitates memory retention (Bower, 1972; Thalmann et al., 2019) because it reduces the load on the prefrontal cortex.

Davis et al. (Davis et al., 2014) introduced the AGES (Attention, Generation, Emotion, and Spacing) model as an acronym that describes the necessary ingredients for learning based on neuroscience findings. One of their conclusions is that learning sticks with repetition and what they call spacing. Our main themes were introduced in the opening, referred to in each activity, and presented in a workbook. Thus, we provided repetition and broke up the experience into short chunks, using the STROLL acronym, allowing for maximum attention. We walked people through an integrated review as the final activity, and participants left with customized workbooks. Throughout the process, we asked participants to generate their own learning by taking notes in the workbook provided. We tapped into positive emotion by asking participants to choose an important goal to which they were committed. We also asked them to compare their future undesired state in one specific activity, which generated a negative emotion, with a future positive state, which generated a positive emotion.

Neuroplasticity and Goal Achievement

A foundational premise guiding this study was the notion of neuroplasticity, and specifically that adults can change well-worn patterns of behavior. Important research that has contributed significantly to our understanding of learning and change includes findings that some form of brain change, or neuroplasticity, continues throughout our lives (Hebb, 1949). Donald Hebb and others observed that neurons that fire together repeatedly become wired together and often survive together. We are born with much of our brain’s connectivity still in development, and though the rate slows over our life span, some form of brain changes or neural plasticity continues throughout our lives. Change happens in various ways; many involve focusing our attention and then repeating a pattern of behavior over and over until new neural patterns are formed.

Fuchs and Flügg (2014), summarizing 40 years of research, suggested that neurons in our prefrontal cortex are the most plastic – meaning the most subject to change. They cited numerous studies that indicated that stress and especially chronic stress inhibits this plasticity, so managing stress well should support neuroplasticity. Putting ourselves in environments rich in novelty or challenges that require focused attention encourages plasticity (Kempermann et al., 2002; Vemuri et al., 2014). A regular physical fitness regimen and adequate sleep (Shaffer, 2016) also help support new neural connections in the brain. Ironically, some of the habits that support goal achievement are often those that people pick as part of their development goals.

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