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Word Association, Brain Function, and Humor | blog.deanland.com

Word Association, Brain Function, and Humor

Word Association, Brain Function, and Humor

Often one can observe the peculiarity of various cycles, which seem to make up our lives. Thoughts or memories seem to be in some sort of rotation, a state of motion or orbit in which they resurface or come to mind. For what reason or due to what trigger, one never knows. Its just ZAP! ñ Synapse association! And then [a] thought comes to mind, recalled either through the apparent cycling of all data and matter of the mind, or cranially hyper-linked and coming to the fore.

Or would that be the phore?

Never one to stop at the opportunity to make a pun, or to mix my metaphors, let me add that coming to the phore is not, in Internet terms, any thing like (or a la) meme chose. A meme is not a phore. Which leads to the question, whatís a Meta phore?

As the dieter said to the environmental scientist, waist (waste?) is a terrible thing to mind.
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A few weeks back I had a discussion with a friend about the existence, and knowledge of actual ìsections of the brainî or locations on the brain, where various areas of the mind are housed, so to speak. She was dating a Brain Surgeon at the time (ìtell him it ainít communications marketing!î), discussed it with him, and the two of them thought I was nuts. I commented that her Brain Surgeon beau wasnít qualified to help her render such diagnoses; a psychiatrist or psychologist might be the more reliable reference.

Despite her surgeon friendís disagreeable opinion, (and to think, this guy cuts open peopleís heads and wields a scalpel around their brains ñ YIKES!), I told her how medical advancements how gotten to the point where identification of where the exact spot or spots exist in the brain for short- and long-term memory, cognitive thinking, color recognition, perception of certain pains, etc. Further, I told her how Iíd read of studies in which emotional [and other such] stimuli could be pinpointed to specific areas of the brain.

Sheís since stopped dating the Brain Surgeon. He apparently had commitment problems.
Thereís a joke in there somewhere, but letís not travel that route.

A Google search on Brain surgery bears out what Iíd mentioned to her. No wonder she stopped dating the Brain Surgeon. It truly sucks that an inquiring mind and voracious reader such as yours truly is more up on brain surgery research than a guy who makes his living in the field.

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Cognitive theory is not necessarily the same domain as that of brain surgeons. One is theoretical and abstract with room for expansion of thought and philosophy; the other quite tangible, physical, and precise. Language, associative analogy of thought and memory, these are not the topics of interest to a brick-and-mortar surgeon.

Which brings us back to the curious convergence of associations and recall. Twice over the past few days Iíve had occasion to tell a great chestnut of a joke. Both times the joke came to mind based on what someone else had said, and the joke itself worked perfectly in the moment. Worked as a funny story, worked in maintaining the stream of thought of the conversation(s), worked in flow. Brought to mind by two very different stimuli, yet so perfect for each very different situation.

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Continuing the Free-Association theme...

Many years ago I was struggling to prepare a brochure on my consulting firm. Although I could describe, promote, and ballyhoo to no end the merits of my clients, and/or of their efforts, doing so for myself proved a might different, and more challenging task. Cobblersí kidsí shoes, Psychiatristsí children, you know the drill.

I asked a friend and colleague who was a writer and communications maven in the industry to offer some feedback, criticism, suggestion, on what Iíd come up with thus far. I was not happy with it, knew it didnít do the job, but also knew I was too close to it to see it with any clarity. She said, yes, sheíd look at it, as would her husband, another friend and colleague, also in the communications end of a large corporate monolith in the biz.

Their comments at a subsequent dinner were eye-opening. Yes, they both said, it certainly extols my abilities as a consultant, a marketer, an analyst with creative skills to boot. They said some other nice things about some specific-to-the-industry elements, which might be like a foreign language to those not in that field of endeavor.

The agreed it was pretty dry reading, and lacked the flair theyíd seen in my work. We all laughed about how hard it is to market oneís self (or oneís own company), as opposed to doing it for others, or as an assignment. They suggested that the graphic layout of the dry reading could improve the end result, and that as a scorecard for career endeavors, with the right design it could be a good document for me to use.

But then the woman of this couple came out with something that floored me. One of the reasons Iíd wanted to run it by her was her unwavering honesty and keen ability to edit and make suggestions which accomplish a great deal. And usually do so with an economy of words or content.

She said, and I quote it nearly verbatim, ìDean! Youíre a funny guy. You always have a joke, a funny story. You are witty. You can make ratings analysis entertaining. One of the benefits you have in selling your services, to make yourself different from the competition out there, is that you have a sense of humor. Nowhere in these documents is there any levity or anything that tells the potential client that they get more than another consultant who says they can get them ratings and sales. Every consultant says that. You need to tell them youíll make it fun, entertaining, and take some joy in the job! Youëve gotta put that in there! Thatís a valuable asset.î

I was shocked into silence (those who know me are stunned, maybe a little skeptical).

First of all, I never saw that as a selling point. Secondly, I thought including such a spin would make my services seem less businesslike, and less goal-oriented. Therefore, less valuable, and that wouldn't be a good impression to make. Further, I do get worried that my humor and irreverence can be taken the wrong way. And as ìa Jew from New Yorkî I get quite sensitive to seeming like anything other than a purposeful, easy-to-work-with kind of guy. In New York I am one of many. You go out of New York, and there are many places where a Jew is an event. On one of the e-mail lists I read, there is a discussion of late about gentiles from outside the New York area looking on Jewsí heads to locate the purported horns.

Truth be told, I was unable to incorporate the humor and personal style into the brochure. If someone else had written it, well, maybe it would have happened. But I was simply not able to accomplish this myself.
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Next time around, I promise to include the joke that came to mind, which both times had the net effect of the listener rolling in laughter.
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For a good reference on Cognitive Theory look at this.