72. Paul Zak: Immersion neuroscience – measuring what the brain loves

Sue Stockdale talks to Dr Paul J. Zak about how neuroscience can help podcasters, entertainment companies and employers to measure what the brain loves, and why that’s important.  Paul is a professor of economics, psychology and management at Claremont Graduate University and is ranked in the top 0.3% of most cited scientists with over 170 published papers and more than 18,000 citations. Paul’s two decades of research have taken him from the Pentagon to Fortune 50 boardrooms to the rainforest of Papua New Guinea.

Along the way he helped start several interdisciplinary fields such as neuroeconomics, neuromanagement, and neuromarketing.  He is a regular TED speaker and is author of a number of books including forthcoming title Immersion: the science of the extraordinary and the source of happiness, due for release in summer 2022.

A four-time tech entrepreneur, his most recent company Immersion Neuroscience is a software platform that allows anyone to measure what the brain loves in real-time to improve outcomes in entertainment, education and training, advertising and live events.  Paul frequently appears in the media in such places as Good Morning America, Dr. Phil, Fox & Friends, ABC Evening News, and his work has been reported in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Time, The Economist, Scientific American, Fast Company, Forbes, and various podcasts.

Find out more at www.getimmersion.com : https://pauljzak.com : Twitter : LinkedIn

Key Quotes:

‘Your brain is a super lazy organ because it takes so much energy to run that it really just wants to idle most of the time.’

‘Immersion is this neurologic state in which people have extraordinary experiences.’

‘The brain is modulating energy flow all the time. And so, it’s never just on 100%.’

‘People actually learn better in groups than they do singly, whether that’s in-person one-to-one or in asynchronous remote settings.’

‘Psychological safety basically means – am I relaxed enough in this setting that I have enough space in my brain to be immersed? If I’m not, I’m not ready to learn.’

‘I think of immersion as a kind of neural prosthetic. It gives me this sort of superpower where I can be more effective as a social creature.’

‘In the animal literature there was a very rich vein of growing neuroscience, identifying oxytocin as a signal that a member of your species is safe or familiar.’

‘Employees who have stronger social connections at work are more productive. They enjoy their jobs more and we’ve shown, they shed the stress of work more rapidly when the workday’s over.’

‘We’ve shown in experiments when leaders articulate the social purpose of work, people put in so much more discretionary effort, because we’re helping the world. And that’s what social creatures generally want to do.’

“The arc of all my professional work has been creating knowledge and technologies to increase happiness in the world at the individual level, at the organizational level, the societal level.’

This series is supported by Squadcast –the remote recording platform which empowers podcasters by capturing high-quality audio and video conversations. Find out more at squadcast.fm

Connect with Access to Inspiration on Twitter : Facebook : Instagram : LinkedIn : Read our Impact Report

Paul Zak transcription

[00:00:00] Sue: Hello, I’m Sue Stockdale and welcome to the access to inspiration podcast. The show where you can be inspired by people who may be unlike you. We hope their experiences cause you to reflect on your own perspectives about the world and make you think. Well, I’m delighted to welcome as our guest for this opening episode in series 10, Dr. Paul J. Zak. Paul is a professor of economics, psychology and management, a five time TED speaker and a tech founder. In fact, his latest venture is called immersion neuroscience, a software platform that allows anyone to measure what the brain loves in real time to improve outcomes in entertainment, training, and advertising. And he’s putting this to the test whilst we are recording this podcast to discover if there are any moments of immersion during our conversation. Welcome to the podcast, Paul,

[00:01:09] Paul: thank you, Sue.

[00:01:10] Sue: Now as a neuroscientist, you research extraordinary experiences. Paul, what one stands out for you in your life so far?

[00:01:18] Paul: I would say speaking at Ted was absolutely a peak experience. And to be on the stage in Edinburgh to speak on the last full day, the last session in American baseball, it’s called batting cleanup. Like you gotta bring it home because everyone’s tired. They have been a bunch of days. And so to have the organizers have that faith in me and you have 19 months to practice and workshop it.

[00:01:41] Sue: So. Oh, wonderful. Well, Edinburgh is my home city, so I certainly have a familiarity for that part of the world. What do you think is your sort of special skill?

[00:01:54] Paul: Maybe none. I think my special skill is curiosity and having a technical background where I can take my curiosity and creativity and apply it to creating solutions. But I think a lot of that has been also building teams of people who can collaborate with me. And do things that I’m either not able to do or don’t have time to do. So I don’t know if I have special skills. I think I’m a good generalist. One of my mentors who has a Nobel prize in economics, Vernon Smith told me early on read narrowly in your own field and widely in other fields. And I’ve taken that to heart. I think it’s great advice for everybody.

[00:02:29] Sue: And you reminded me of David Epstein’s book Range which brings this principle alive as well. There’s so much to talk to you about today, Paul and why I was particularly interested to talk to you is we were looking at our access to inspiration podcast and thinking we haven’t really done anything on the neuroscience of inspiration and what’s actually going on in our brains when we’re experiencing listening to somebody that’s inspiring. And that my curiosity led me to you. So I’m really fascinated to know what is it about researching extraordinary [00:03:00] experiences? How did you get into that in the first place? I guess.

[00:03:02] Paul: You know, like most things in life kind of ass backwards. So we were doing work originally funded by the us military and other agencies. The us government asked us to identify signals in the brain that would predict what people would do after a message or an experience. And so for listeners, it turns out your brain’s a super lazy organ. Because it takes so much energy to run that it really just wants to idle most of the time. And so these signals that we identify these set of signals, which have called neurologic immersion, tell us that the experience you’re having is extraordinary.

So we see that in behavior, not on self-report as when you have this experience, something happens that we can see. You post on social media, you email your Congress person about the environment. You buy a product, you remember information from training or a class. So, you know, all those things tell us that something extraordinary happened because the brain devoted the metabolic resources necessary to take in this experience and tag it as valuable emotionally tag it as valuable.

So an experience that you and I have both had Sue, which is crying at the end of a movie. So I’m a terrible movie crier. I hate to tell you, so that’s a sort of experience where you’ve transported yourself into a new world, but it’s so powerful. You have this emotional response. And even though we’re crying, most people find that experience as valuable, as memorable as generating a sense of positive feeling enjoyment, right?

Even though crying is a super weird thing in humans, like we’re almost the only ones who cry without being in pain. We cry for emotional reasons. Sometimes happy, sometimes sad. So that’s just a physical manifestation of an extraordinary experience.

[00:04:43] Sue: And in terms of the work that you’ve done, you’ve taken that neuroscience and applied it in different ways. Your latest work is all about immersion. So tell us about what immersion is?

[00:04:53] Paul: So immersions I said is this neurologic state in which people have extraordinary experiences. So nobody wants to have a blah customer service experience. Someone wants to see a bad movie. Watch a bad ad. And so we took the research we did in the laboratory with expensive machines and all kinds of weird PhDs like me and basically wrote algorithms that allow anybody to measure how much the brain values and experience in real time using just a smart watch and then algorithms in the cloud.

And so this allows people to create entertainment, customer experiences. Advertising training education. We have so many applications to measure whether the impact is great for the receiver of that experience. Sometimes when we’re craving experiences like a class, you know, a sales experience for a customer, we’re kind of guessing that my experience is like your experience, but often it isn’t and right.

So we, we can get out of a self-referential approach and really capture second by second in real time, how effective that experience is for the person that we’re creating it for that we [00:06:00] want this experience to be. So I live outside Los Angeles for the past 30 years, 80% of Hollywood movies have lost money.

It just blows my mind, all this money, all these data analysts, and nobody knows a good movie from a bad movie. How is that possible at this stage of life? And I think it’s because we’re doing the wrong kind of data collection. We’re asking you to articulate consciously what is an unconscious emotional state?

So immersion has two key components. The first is attention. If you’re not attending to what’s going on, it can’t be a great experience if I’m doing something else. And that just kind of opens door. The second is most of the variation immersion over second by second has to do with, I call emotional resonance how much your brain says, oh, this is so valuable to me.

This is really important. And that emotional resonance is something that can be structured and created. So that the experience for the person having it is as good as possible. And anyway, there’s more to it, but why don’t we have this technology? And this is that, first of all, we had to find what these signals were in the brain.

And then second, we had to develop a technology in which anybody could measure them. So I believe that our platform neuroscience is the first neuroscience as a service platform that gives people this superpower, if you will, which is actually measur. People’s brains in real time, which is so much fun, by the way, I’ve done a lot of laboratory research as you know, but to see the number of applications that our clients think of to subscribers that software use. So again, it’s software, anybody can subscribe and use this. Like they are doing the coolest things. I would never have thought of

[00:07:37] Sue: Paul. I’m thinking about in business, people that are operating at peak performance levels all the time, eventually burnout, because they need time to rest and recover. When do we ever get rest? when does our brain ever have the down and recovery time? If it’s got the potential to have more extraordinary experiences.

[00:07:57] Paul: So that is such a good neuroscience question. So when we look at this immersion data, and by the way, I’m measuring my own immersion right now, which I can show you because we’re on video. Although the, listeners can’t see, it is basically this kind of sine wave pattern. So the brain is modulating that energy flow all the time. And so it’s never just on a hundred percent. In fact, as you said or suggested it would just be exhausting to do that. So that’s a sense in which when you have these data, you can begin to curate an experience.

So that, for example, in a class, the most important information is presented during a peak immersion moment because immersion correlates with information recall weeks later, So I want to have. Here’s the introduction. And then I can begin to create the most powerful, the most important part of this with high immersion.

And again, without measurement, you’re sort of guessing maybe you can listen for people. Here’s my sound effect, listening for people, wrestling their papers. If you’ve ever you’ve given talks many times like I have. And you know, sometimes when people get, I don’t know, tuned out. You hear a little shuffling, a [00:09:00] little movement, they doing something else.

Maybe the phone comes on. That’s awful, isn’t it? But that’s an imperfect measurement technology, right? So really having a real powerful technology that lets you even adjust in real time. So one of our largest clients, which is public knowledge, so I can tell you is Accenture, Accenture produces $1 billion of training annually for their employees.

In order to upskill them to be more successful. It’s great value for the company and the company’s clients and all they had to assess that $1 billion annual investment was that post event survey that we’ve all taken. How’d you like? The keynote speaker was the lunch. Okay. I don’t care about that. What I really wanna know is.

Did your brain get shooken up so much that information stuck in your brain and now you can use it in the future to, to create value for the company. That’s where the ROI comes from. And so that’s what immersion captures. And so they’ve used our data, for example, to really radically change the way they produce training for their employees.

Just based on that measure. And real time measurement. I mean, real time neuroscience is really hard. Now we can talk about why that’s hard, but they can pivot, right. People are tuned out and go, okay, you guys, we need a break. And so they’ve actually put in, as you suggested to much longer breaks. So training in shorter, more intensive modules and with longer breaks for recovery.

So if I’m asking your brain to devote the metabolic resources to really be fully immersed, then I need to get, have you come. And have you not do a two minute break or a five minute break? Really they’re finding 15 or 20 minutes between sessions is really important. So

[00:10:36] Sue: you’re describing something that some might say is obvious as in, we don’t need any tech to measure that, that if we were fully immersed and engaged in a meaningful conversation, maybe we would pick up on that. So what are your thoughts about our ability as human beings? Take away all the tech and for us to come back to the basics of conversation and understanding when somebody is engaged or not.

[00:11:03] Paul: So a very good question. So what the data show from, so we’ve got about 50,000 brains we’ve measured on the site and it grows by, I don’t know, couple hundred every day. So we have really good norms to really kind derive insights, absent measurement. And one of those is that people actually learn better in groups than they do singly, whether that’s in person one to one or in the asynchronous, you know, remote setting. So the first thing is that we’re social creatures and we’re better in groups but that’s the statement about averages. And I think what’s missing from one to many kinds of interactions is knowing that distribution. So again, for Accenture, they may say, Hey, this course that we give we’ve changed it. So the average immersion has gone up creating more value for the company. But what about the super fans who love it?

They’re your leverage points, right? They’re the people who really understand the material and they can be peer mentors for those who don’t understand it. So well, what about those individuals who are just [00:12:00] not understanding it very well? And this may be very important. Things like compliance. Hey, we gotta make sure you don’t fail the exam or fail your guidance to a client.

Let’s make sure that that information really stuck in your brain. If it didn’t Hey, redo the course. And particularly when you’re in the asynchronous world, let let’s retake this course. We actually know this. Wasn’t great for you and we can figure out why. And one of the key precursors to immersion is a physiologic measure I developed, I call psychological safety that most people have heard of now. And basically it means am I relaxed enough in this setting? That I have enough space in my brain to be immersed. If I’m not, I’m not ready to learn, right. Or I’m not ready to have customer service experience or to have a phone call to a prospect.

So measuring my own psychological safety, measuring psychological safety in a room of individuals tells me whether I have created the pre-conditions. To have an extraordinary experience and that knowledge again, maybe you can get it from people shuffling around. Why not just measure directly. So I agree with you that one on one, we should be able to do it, but also quite varied.

So, sorry, you asked a short question, but I’m giving you a long answer, but we find that individuals who by personality are highly empathic are better at reading those signs where I tend to be lower on empathy and higher on other factors by personality. So I’m less good at reading people. Then someone like my wife who can size someone up in two seconds.

So I think of emergent as a kind of neural prosthetic. It gives me again the sort of superpower where I can be more effective as a social creature, interacting with others by either looking at my data in real time, or at least reviewing ex post. What was the experience like for that person? And isn’t that what we really want?

I think all business is about service. So if I wanna be of service to other people, I actually have to know how I’m interacting with them.

I think that’s really an important thing. It’s increasing the capability for the whole population, not just for those who have a natural predisposition to be able to read people.

[00:13:58] Sue: You talked a bit about psychological safety there, Paul, and that of course immediately takes my brain into thinking about trust. And I know you’ve done a lot of research about oxytocin. So why is that brain chemical so important? And how did you discover it was such an important brain chemical.

[00:14:14] Paul: Ah, what a nice question I had done work in the late nineties, showing that at the level of countries, interpersonal trust was among the strongest predictors of which countries would grow or not grow that economist that have ever, as you know, my work kind of overlaps a bunch of different fields.

And this measure of trust was just so compelling. And so the world bank has me out for a talk and I always get this very basic question. Why do two people who don’t know each other ever trust each other? I said, well, my work is about the environment and then you think, man, I’m so full of crap. If I can’t answer that most fundamental question.

And so I began reading a lot in every ology. I could think of psychology, sociology, and no one knew actually. And yet in the animal literature, there [00:15:00] was a very rich vein of growing neuroscience, identifying oxytocin as a signal. That a member of your species was safe or familiar. And I thought, oh, that’s interesting.

Maybe I can apply that to humans. And the problem was in animals that drill into the skull to get a sample. I don’t know a lot about humans, but I’m just guessing that was gonna be so cool for most people. So I developed a protocol to measure. The brain’s acute production of oxytocin. And once we have this tool, then we can ask so many interesting different questions.

So, so just to say that people are social creatures, we wanna socialize. We normally get along again. There’s not enough ooph there not enough leverage to really use this. So once we identify oxytocin as a key neurochemical signal that tells us that not only am I likely to be trustworthy when I’ve been shown some kind of positive interaction, trust, kindness.

We know a lot about what it does objectively and subjectively what promotes our inhibits. So oxytocin for example, increases our sense of empathy. So now, if you are nice to me now, I understand your emotional state better. Number one, number two, it increases our desire to work on someone else’s behalf.

Well, that’s counter to the standard view in economics and a lot of evolutionary biology. Why should I help you if I don’t share that many genes with you? First of all, I have no idea how many genes I share with you. So that’s kind of bogus statement number one, but number two, as social creatures, we need to be embedded in social groups and by helping you again, a reputation for helping others.

And so now I’m a better cooperative people will embrace me in community, not reject me. If I’m taking advantage of others. And then last thing, as I said, we know about inhibitors and promoters. So I can now understand why you Sue, who are I’m sure, a wonderful human being every once in a while. You’re cranky to people around you because everybody is what’s that about.

And you gotta go back the next day to your family or to your work colleagues and go, man, I was so cranky. I’m sorry. I just didn’t sleep well. That’ll do it. I hadn’t eaten at 12 hours. I was super cranky. So we all understand that that one or two, you know, be some bad behavior. Doesn’t mean you’re a bad person.

Just means you’re having a bad day. And so what I’ve learned from this 20 plus years of research oxytocin is that the majority of people, about 95% of people we’ve measured around the world, that this system is largely intact in almost everybody. So when you see bad behavior at work with your family, it’s generally good people having a bad day.

And often we see bad behavior go, oh, that’s a terrible person, but usually it’s not this connection, empathy, caring, loving system. These are all very similar pathways in the brain seems to be intact in almost everybody. And it’s so evolutionarily old that it’s actually highly protected. So you really have to abuse, neglect, abandoned someone particularly early in childhood before the system really starts to right down.

And there are some, you know, psychiatric disorders in that this carries system. So severe forms of autism. For example, [00:18:00] I’ve studied criminal psychopaths and most of those do not have this intact empathy or care system, which tells you why they’ve hurt people, get into trouble by the way, psychopaths are completely overconfident by the, they never think they’re gonna get caught.

So anyway, I think it’s really building up this sense of tolerance that we’re all kind of weird and we’re gonna be inconsistent. We sort of think, Hey, people should be themselves all the time. There’s no ourselves. Our brain is adapting in millisecond frequency and we’re gonna see good and bad behavior.

And most of the time, in most situations we see lots of good behavior.

[00:18:32] Sue: Well, I can hear in your voice, Paul, the enthusiasm and passion you have for this subject that you’ve been studying. I’m curious to know what is it that got you interested in studying neuroscience in the first place?

[00:18:45] Paul: I’m a Martian. So I don’t know how I got here on the earth, but I think I really don’t understand people looking back and, you know, being able to create experiments, create technologies, to help me understand humans and humans also don’t understand themselves.

So we run experiments, say, why’d you do this and people? Oh, I don’t know. I can’t build a theory of human behavior around. I don’t know. It’s so humbling and insightful to measure brain activity and see how absolutely variable humans are. So. Again, it has this creative and technical component that I really enjoy.

And then for me, I’m a super practical person. So I always wanna bring it back to when possible, taking the knowledge we’ve created and turn that into a solution that other people can use.

[00:19:27] Sue: You’re following your own curiosity to answer that question about understanding human beings.

[00:19:32] Paul: Yes, and no, I mean, I’m honored to have been a professor at Claremont Graduate university for 26 years and they give me a lot of freedom. I still have to bring in grant money. I gotta convince someone to help support these experiments. Neuroscience is expensive, but I’ve always also been out in the world. And so I’m very curious about humans again, because I’m a Martian. And so I love to have people either come to my lab or visit their organizations.

And have them tell me about what they do and you get so many ideas by just actually interacting with humans. So most academics stay in their or lab and re journals and they don’t wanna actually interact with the things I’m gonna study. So I’m a big believer in doing field studies and just spending time in interesting places.

And now with the software company, we see people doing the most interesting things with our technology and we’re software. So I don’t always know what people are doing, but I’ve had many, many conversations with subscribers to the immersion neuroscience platform. And they said, you know, we thought we knew this thing, but we measured and we found something completely different, man.

That’s interesting. And now you have an interesting convers. What does that data mean? What are you gonna do about it? You know, have you really convince yourself, maybe you did one measurement or two. How about doing more? How about varying these situations? And so I really think that applying the scientific method to human behavior broadly understood can really help us only understand those around us, but be better at what we do. Broadly in our families, in our work lives. So to be [00:21:00]able to help create solutions, to bring that to the forefront, that’s a mission. That’s more than just the work I love doing that.

[00:21:06] Sue: That sounds like that’s what gets you up in the morning?

[00:21:08] Paul: Certainly. Absolutely. I love it.

[00:21:11] Sue: So we are on the access to inspiration podcast. And our mission is to inspire listeners to reflect on their lives and the stories they’re hearing from our guests who are from many different countries, from many different backgrounds. So that range and diversity that you’re bringing into your laboratory. We’re in a way, trying to replicate that in the world of the, or a podcast, how would you apply neuroscience to a podcast? To be able to make that an enriching and even more enjoyable experience for the listener.

[00:21:43] Paul: Yeah. As I said, I’m actually measuring my immersion right now. So I’m just gonna look in and see how I’m doing so pretty good. Again, it’s always this kind of spiky up and down or, or sign, wave kind of approach. So I think it’s really what we found for again, measuring immersion for thousands and thousands of people is that structure is important.

So I think there’s three levels of which podcast can be improved, cuz based on all the data I’ve seen. What is that structure? So if I structure it around, you know, leading to a high point, as I said, with like training and education, having those key takeaways, being at peak immersion moments that makes it more memorable and more enjoyable for the audience.

But the second and third parts are the content itself. So actually having interesting content or having interesting guests and the third is delivery. And so just for listeners, Pull the curtain back just a little bit. You sent me a list of questions in advance. And so you prepped, you thought about this.

So we actually have a structure that we’re roughly following that you created, and that helps the delivery of this content be more effective for listeners. And then again, I think. As you said, the variation across individuals is really interesting, you know, are there some podcasts that you’ve done that appeal more to women or to men or to older, younger people where the psychographics involved in, who listens to you? I mean, there’s so many good questions that you can ask once you have really rich data.

[00:23:00] Sue: We conducted an impact report this year on what the effect of the podcast was on our listeners, on our guests and the team that work on the podcast. So now you’re making me think about how we can utilize some of the research that you’re providing to the world as well. Paul, to think about how impact could be looked at in a completely different way.

[00:23:19] Paul: Well, I’ll send you the results from my measuring my own immersion from this podcast since you’re so nice. I’ll just shoot ’em to you when we’re done.

[00:23:27] Sue: that’ll be fascinating. If caring and oxytocin and connection is such an important part of how we engage as human beings. How can we do more of that in the workplace, from the research that you’ve uncovered?

[00:23:40] Paul: Yeah, I think it’s really building social connections. So we’re seeing this tension now after the COVID lockdowns of return to work, and there’s some hesitance about people returning to work for, for lots of reasons, but we really do need to be together. We do see between 50 and 80% of the immersion that we see in person that we get from a [00:24:00] video conference. The problem with video conferencing or video working remote working is that we don’t have those random conversations. Even if we start out, Hey, how was your weekend? Whatever that happens much more naturally.

And regularly when we’re in person, I think we need to recognize our social nature and build those social connections. They’re really important because we know that over time there will be stressors. We’re gonna. Deadlines are gonna be looming. We’re gonna lose team members. There’s gonna be some stresses at work.

And those are buffered by having these social connections driven by oxytocin. And so a number of researchers, including myself, have shown that employees at work with stronger social connections. Are actually more productive. They enjoy their jobs more and we’ve shown they in fact shed the stress of work more rapidly when the work day’s over.

So I’m really kind of on I’m immersed in work when I’m there, when I have rich social connections and when I’m done, I’m walking away. So I’m not getting that kind of burnout. I’m not carrying that chronic stress home that can be very damaging physically and emotionally. So I think it’s really understanding that humans as social creature.

We’re very natural as to, to form groups, to work on group projects. This is not counter to our underlying biology. We get a lot of satisfaction from doing that at the same time, we have to modulate that and we’ve gotta be around groups of individuals in which we trust. We can rely on these individuals.

And to also understand the sense of purpose. What we’ve shown in experiments is that when I articulate that social purpose of work, people put in so much more discretionary effort because we’re helping the world. And that’s what social creatures generally want to do. Again, that 5% we find have these psychopathic traits and those people, you gotta get ’em outta your organization.

[00:25:42] Sue: You’re certainly making a compelling argument with the science in terms of why it’s so important for us to have that social interaction with others, because it’s in a way how we’re built as human beings. .

[00:25:52] Paul: I mean, it’s nice that it’s good for employees and good for the organization. There’s a giant win-win space there. I do think again, once you have measurement, then you can manage and improve. So for example, my group has recently worked with police departments, very stressful job, highly variable levels of trust in their team members. And 90% of the time they have to be helpful to the public. And 2% of the time bad things are happening and they gotta engage in you know, very difficult decisions.

And so how do you modulate that? How do you not become too aggressive? How do you. Sustain that focus on helping others who need it, and yet be aware that some situations are dangerous. And so what we’ve shown is by increasing trust within police departments, greater job retention, which is a big issue in the us for police departments, but also greater satisfaction.

[00:26:39] Sue: Well, absolutely. So how do you keep challenging yourself then? You’ve done a lot of things. What’s catching your attention for the future.

[00:26:46] Paul: That’s a great question. I think going into areas where I don’t know much about it, and then learning about that and maybe finding people to collaborate with people, probably I trust. So we are currently in my lab, very high frequency data collection, so we can [00:27:00] collect data from the brain up to a thousand times a second. So it’s a lot of richness in that data. And we’re now applying machine learning to these data stream. Very very useful, improving our predictive accuracy to really understand what humans are doing.

And so I think building those technical tools and then also being naive, the police department work, I got sucked into that because I gave some lectures on leadership to police chiefs. And I started talking to these guys. I’m like, man, they don’t even have data. Like they’re just winging it. So let me go hang out with them for a while and spend some time in police depart.

And talk these individuals and see what’s going on. And then, you know, there’s a research perspective to that, but there’s also a helping perspective. And you see, particularly some of the police chiefs, these people are really smart. They’re really helpers. And if I can just add a little bit of technical expertise to what they’re doing, then their department works better.

They work better as chiefs and their communities are functioning better as well. So, you know, I think that that balance between the research side. Creating technologies like immersion neuroscience to make that research available to others and then putting myself into situations that I do not belong.

[00:28:12] Sue: And finally, Paul, to think about that curiosity that you have, if you look at the world’s big problems, where would you love to do your research to believe that you could add value?

[00:28:23] Paul: What a great question. I mean, it’s such a big question. I think it’s really making things simpler and simpler from a sort of a science perspective. I’m certainly communicating. And I try to like, with you try to communicate very clearly. I think also creating technologies that anybody can use. So I think the same thing with a lot of these technologies that are being developed from virtual reality, augmented reality to neuroscience tools as they get easier, cheaper, and have more applications, then hopefully.

These wonderful social creatures called humans can begin to integrate them into our lives in a reasonable way to increase happiness. So really the arc of all my professional work has been creating knowledge and technologies to increase happiness in the world. So at the individual level, at the organizational level, at the societal level. And so that’s really where I’m putting my efforts.

[00:29:14] Sue: Well, that’s such a wonderful mission that guiding your life in terms of where your work goes. Paul, it’s been a real pleasure to talk to you today. I’ve learned a lot about neuroscience that I didn’t know before, and you’ve certainly inspired me to challenge my thinking about how we can create even more extraordinary experiences for our listeners with this podcast in the future. If our listeners do want to find out more about the work that you do, how might they do.

[00:29:37] Paul: They can go to my website, get immersion.com , or just Google me and I’ll pop up somewhere and have a new book out. May I mention that this summer 2022 called Immersion: The Science of the Extraordinary and the Source of Happiness (Lioncrest, 2022).

[00:29:54] Sue: Fantastic. I’ll make sure that we mention that in the show notes as well. Thank you again, Paul, for your time. It’s been wonderful to speak to [00:30:00] you today.

[00:30:00] Paul: Thank you.

[00:30:02] Sue: Well, I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Paul. It was really fascinating. And if you’re interested to know what that result looked like in terms of the printout from his immersion neuroscience data, then drop me a message. I’m happy to share it with you and you can find out how that worked. Well. We have over 70 other episodes that you can listen to, including some others related to the brain. In episode three, I spoke to a neuroscientist, Keith Crutcher on the brain and its ability to adapt. And also more recently in episode 70, I spoke to Sophie Dow on why no mind should be left behind. Remember you can find transcriptions for all the episodes on our website, access to inspiration.org, and you can also download a copy of our impact report there too. Next week, I will speak to Manuel Gil from Columbia. Who took over a family business in the healthcare industry and has transformed it by focusing on harmony. I do hope you can join me then.


Sound Editor: Matias de Ezcurra (he/him)

Producer: Sue Stockdale (she/her)