Howard C. Nusbaum: The Impact of Working Memory on Personal Development | Self-improvement Atlas #34

In this episode, host Marie Stella Quek is joined by Howard C. Nusbaum, a Stella M. Rowley Professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago

Becoming your best self through personal growth, whether it’s learning new skills or improving your interaction with others, can be challenging. However, working memory can make a big difference, which is the brain’s toolkit for staying focused and achieving your goals. In this podcast, Howard C. Nusbaum explores how important working memory is for helping you become the people you want to be.

Meet Howard C. Nusbaum

Howard C. Nusbaum is a respected professor of Psychology at the University of Chicago, known as the Stella M. Rowley Professor. He’s also involved in the Committee on Computational Neuroscience. With a rich background, Howard has explored various aspects of human behavior, including speech communication, music perception, and the role of attention and sleep in learning and memory.

Outside academia, Howard also served as the Division Director for Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Foundation. Recently, he’s been leading the Center for Practical Wisdom and has taken on roles as the Master of the Social Sciences Collegiate Division and Deputy Dean for the Social Sciences Division and the College.

Apart from his academic pursuits, Howard finds joy in literature and film. He particularly recommends Allegra Goodman’s Intuition for its insights into the human side of science and the importance of learning from mistakes. Likewise, he draws inspiration from the movie Gandhi, appreciating its portrayal of growth through failure. Howard also enjoys podcasts, highlighting a memorable episode of “This American Life” featuring Adam Gopnik. Howard continues to make meaningful contributions to understanding the human mind through his diverse interests and scholarly achievements.

About the episode

In this episode, Howard describes personal development as a blend of acquiring knowledge and honing essential skills, focusing mainly on interpersonal skills and wise reasoning. As you listen further, you’ll discover Howard’s emphasis on the often-overlooked psychological skills like generosity, honesty, and empathy. He candidly acknowledges the challenges associated with developing these traits, contrasting them with the relatively more straightforward acquisition of physical skills. Through his insights, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the intricate workings of personal growth and the inherent hurdles that come with it.

A central theme in Howard’s discourse is the critical role of working memory in fostering personal development. He explains how this cognitive function enables humans to concentrate on their goals and maintain focus amidst distractions. Moreover, Howard shares practical strategies to enhance working memory, offering examples of activities like playing musical instruments or engaging in meditation.

As the discussion progresses, Howard sheds light on the impact of working memory on problem-solving, cognitive abilities, and even wise decision-making. Through relatable anecdotes and real-world examples, he brings to light the transformative potential of sharpening this cognitive tool. By the end of the conversation, you’ll walk away with newfound insights and actionable steps to cultivate your working memory and propel your personal development journey forward.

In conclusion

This episode sheds light on the complexities woven into your mind as you face the hurdles of personal growth. Through discussions on working memory, you uncover insights into self-improvement challenges. By recognizing these obstacles and embracing focused practice, you’re better equipped to overcome barriers and pursue your journey toward becoming your best self.

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