There are a few experiments directly suggested by these ideas.
Embedded Figures Test
Most cognitive flexibility tests have the weakness that they aren’t very repeatable. Once a person has found the mystery word, the test is burned. Their performance with another word will then also depend on vocabulary, and the tests take ingenuity to define, so each one is costly. Embedded figures tests ask the subject to find a given geometrical figure hidden in a noisy background. They have a paradoxical literature where people who complete them quickly both have difficulties “fitting in” with what I’ve argued are stress-addicted groups, and have “natural leadership” and “creative” traits. I think they’re a test of the ability to access what the Beversdorf group calls the “semantic and associative network”. A low level hardware diagnostic of the pattern spotting circuits. That would certainly make sense.
If they are, then they are also massively repeatable per individual and can be automated in a simple applet. It would be good to compare EFT scores with other, lab calibrated tests of cognitive flexibility, and see if EFTs track the other tests well. If so, they could be used in field and industrial psychology situations.
I’ve implemented one on this page. Do please try it and enter your scores - get your friends and relatives to do it too, because there’s no point just collecting values for geeks. There’s Java source code, and a version with variable parameters you can play with.
Cognitive Flexibility in Ranked Organizations.
Yale’s Dr. Amy Arnsten puts it bluntly on this page:
In a psychology lab, it’s easy to show that stress interferes with your working memory, making you temporarily dumb.
The same tests, which have already been calibrated in the labs, could produce interesting results in field situations. Some kinds of organizations are ideally all of equal standard, but are arranged into “league tables”. In the UK, hospitals and schools are arranged like this. Do staff in organizations near the bottom of the tables exhibit less cognitive flexibility than people in organizations near the top? The local stress level seems to homogenize pretty quickly, so it wouldn’t be necessary to test clinical or teaching staff - admin staff would be good indicators - and their jobs should if anything be more exactly comparable. Instead of using artificial psychosocial stressors (people wearing white cots and looking stern), the experimenters could test people who have been in staff meetings.
Cognitive flexibility might be thought of as organizational lubrication. Each persons offers a certain amount to others, and receives a certain amount from others. Even small variations could quickly amplify within a group into smooth running or deadlock. I think there’s an “ozone hole moment” waiting for someone here.
Dopamine Levels in Control Humans.
I guessed right that novelty averse lifestyles would correlate with Early Onset Parkinson’s Disease. My reasoning is that this shows most people are releasing too much dopamine because of background social stress, and in extreme cases this exhausts the physical mechanisms of dopamine release. We know that when people can’t release dopamine at all, they get Parkinson’s. I also guessed that everyone would start off with low dopamine, and a jump would be seen, most noticeably between ages 4 to 6, when “socialization” - addiction to a background level of social stress maintained by policing social conformities - kicks in. I found at http://www.adhb.govt.nz/LabPlusHandbook showing that childhood jump, but it’s disappeared now so I’ve linked to a local copy. Current thinking says that most people have “normal” dopamine levels but some, often associated with a defective dopamine receptor have “low” levels.
I predict that in control humans, everyone will have “low” dopamine, irrespective of their receptors, because the broken receptor protects against addiction. It is difficult to find control humans without addictive background stress these days, but Native Americans, following traditional lifestyles on Reservation and still speaking their traditional languages, would be suitable. The language requirement is because Native American languages are verb based. Hopi has no nouns at all. I argue that nouns are good for sorting objects into categories and associating responses with the categories. Verbs are better for describing processes and relationships. People using verb based languages are very likely to be a population that assumes juxtapositional thinking is available to them, so I reason this shows their lifestyles are sufficiently “control natural” to demonstrate the effect.
Conversely, amongst their close relatives living in towns and speaking English, French, Portuguese or Spanish, the usual relationship between “normal” levels and the working receptor will be found.
I’m told that a Native American chief once said of the newly arrived Europeans:
They come here.
They move their eyes from side to side.
We do not know what they want.
I’ve worked with people like that.