Sunday, September 27, 2009

Learning Self-Regulation: Building Our Brains

An interesting story in the New York Times reports that, "The ability of young children to control their emotional and cognitive impulses, it turns out, is a remarkably strong indicator of both short-term and long-term success, academic and otherwise. In some studies, self-regulation skills have been shown to predict academic achievement more reliably than I.Q. tests."

Teaching the executive skills of self-control is not easy, the article notes. The key may be extended dramatic play, in which children immerse themselves in realistic scenarios and work at controlling their impulses. Children are taught "private speech"--focused self-talk--to help them focus on tasks and avoid distractions and impulses.

The goal is to create internal behavioral controls, not ones guided by external reinforcement.

When traders engage in real-time trading simulations, they are engaged in a kind of realistic play. It is an opportunity to not only build and test trading skills, but also to hone those executive, self-regulatory skills. This may be one of the most effective ways of teaching new traders the psychological skills necessary for profitable trading. By making successful performance in simulation a requirement for going live, the simulation can take on some of the performance pressure characteristics of having real money on the line.

We build our muscles by using them in challenging situations; perhaps it's not so different when it comes to building our brains.