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- IELTS Reading Yes/No/Not given.
- IELTS Reading Complete Sentences.
- IELTS Reading Matching Features.
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IELTS reading passage – Mental Gymnastics
In the headquarters of Barclays Bank in London, the work has just begun. A young psychologist, Sebastian Bailey, entered the room to start the morning framing session while 17 employees had breakfast from the buffet available. Sebastian was not there to polish their management or financial skills but to exercise their brains.
The workout for that day, titled “having a presence,” was arranged by a London-based organisation – Mind Gym. It was a highly thorough session of 90 minutes, having a rather unique concept, gradually broken down into a set of behaviours, feelings and mental tricks. At one stage during the procedure, the staff members were asked to close their eyes and imagine themselves filling up the room as well as the building thereafter. To conclude the session for the day, they were asked to walk around the room while acting out the various levels of presence. Some showcased understated acts, while some showed excessive performances.
Making a joke about exercise is very easy. However, around the world, in various seminar rooms of corporate companies, identical mind exercises are happening. Approximately 70 workouts, abstract in nature, comprise sessions on mental stamina, zoom learning as well as creativity for logical thinkers. Other establishments focus more on the analogies of the exercises, offering “neurobics” workouts titled “brain sets” and “cerebral fitness”. There are books available, such as Pumping Ions, which contains various brain teasers that claim to enable flexing of the mind, also software applications which offer games for boosting one’s memory and spatial awareness.
No matter what the organisation’s style and methods are, all companies have the same marketing propaganda, that is, exercising your brain by following their routines just like we follow sessions to shape and sculpt our bodies. It also declared almost all of them that their sessions are created after critical scientific research and thought processes on how the brain works.
One such institute, Brainergy of Cambridge, Massachusetts, has a motto stating, “Because your grey matter matters.” They explain further that it is proven by studies that mental exercises can help in changing the analogies and chemistry of the brain, which encourages an increase in mental efficiency and clarity. Neuroscience is at the forefront and developing constantly. On the official webpage of Mind Gym, it states the quote of a famous neuroscientist from Britain, Susan Greenfield: “It’s a bit like going to the gym, if you exercise your brain it will grow.”
Mind Gym initially planned to organise their routine workouts in local health clubs, till the founders recognised the potential heights they could achieve in their business. Modern companies require and demand flexible and fast thinkers and they will grab any opportunity that aids them, especially if it is a quick remedy supported by the findings of science. Though the question is if these routines are really backed by scientific research? Or if we, humans, actually require them?
The recommendations of Lawrence Katz, co-author of Keep Your Brain Alive, were not extraordinary or technologically advanced. Lawrence Katz, a neurobiologist at Duke University Medical School, located in North Carolina, quoted that just as many citizens in the country do not have the availability to do physical exercises, they also lack enough mentally stimulating exercises that help to keep the brain sharp. People are busy juggling between their families, profession and household chores, creating a monotonous and repetitive routine. And any leisure time available is spent idling in front of the television.
Try to read a book using a different method, such as upside-down, or attempt to write or brush your teeth with the other hand. Try to find your way around the room with your eyes closed and feeling around. Try sniffing vanilla essence while listening to orchestral music. Katz suggests that anything that interrupts the everyday routine will help stimulate and rejuvenate the mind. It then encourages the cells to make new connections and release enzymes that feed and sustain the brain circuits.
Up to a point, it does work. Katz adds, “What I am talking about is brain maintenance rather than bulking up your IQ.” When we talk about neurobics, it refers to letting the brain fulfill its potential, although it can not create super-brains. Could it achieve that though? Indeed, the brain is a promising organ that adapts to all situations and demands we put on it. For instance, tests on animal tissues have shown repetitively that stimulating the synapses that connect the nerve cells(which are vital for learning and reasoning) electrically can make them sharper and more responsive. Brain scans also specify how we tend to use up our brain while doing an unusual, unique or intriguing task as compared to when we do while undertaking regular tasks. Rats bred in cages with bright interiors and suitable toys had more neural connections as compared to ones bred in bare cages, indicating how variety and novelty encourage better development of the brain. Neurologists have demonstrated time and again how people who suddenly lose brain cells during a stroke make up for the loss by creating new connections, especially if they are going through extensive amounts of therapy for overcoming any type of paralysis.
An educational psychologist from the University of Bristol, Guy Claxton, brushes off these views as “neuro-babble.” Nevertheless, in his opinion, there are skills that human beings can learn. Some desired characteristics like flexibility, creativity, and motivation are not implanted as people think. They are subconscious thought habits that can be learned over time. According to Claxton, the problem lies in the lack of adequate training for building these habits. People usually tend to create their mental patterns for handling the daily work and do not take initiative to learn any other thing. Even skills like driving a car or brushing start to come out of our conscious mind, as we cannot view the thought habits after a point. Hence, we can not view our mental resources.
Mind Gym’s academic advisor is Claxton. Not so surprisingly, it backs his approach, i.e., human beings should get their thought process to a higher level of consciousness to enable their awareness of the intricate aspects of how we usually think. It is a solution to practise superior thinking processes till they convert into our new habits. If we use different metaphors, it is similar to imagining them as tennis or football coaching sessions instead of gym classes or sessions.
In actual practice, this exercise can be monotonous. For example, Mind Gym offers eight different creativity workouts, one of which is titled “creativity for logical thinkers,” one of the strategies taught to create a pragmatic and sensible proposal and then immediately come up with its opposite. Hence, a group was given five minutes to invent a new pizza. They came up with different types of toppings, sauces, prices as per the day, initial rate and so on.
According to Bailey’s opinion, though, the method is very simple. But it is astonishing how little of these tricks we showcase we asked out of the blue. He states, “ They tend to label themselves as uncreative, without realising there are techniques a creative person employs.” He further adds that the objective is to introduce people to half a dozen or so strategies in a session so that the intimidating task becomes a collection of firm and learnable patterns. He agrees that it is not a shortcut to becoming a genius. Although, neurologically, some people have better and quicker circuits or greater capability of handling things, with the correct type of training we can enhance how we use our brain and more efficiently at that.
It is difficult to prove that the training methods are achieving success. How feasible is it to measure an employee’s memory or creativity level? However, the staff has reverted that these classes have been beneficial for them. So, psychological or neurological training makes a convincing case for itself. People are willing to spend money and learn these tricks. Claxton also believes that educational institutions like universities and schools should focus on teaching these basic thinking habits, instead of having young minds cram figures and excessive information, with the hope that effective and adequate thought habits will form over time or under absorption by osmosis.
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Mental Gymnastics Reading Questions
Do the following statements agree with the information given in the Reading Passage 1? In the boxes 1-4 of your answer sheet, write
YES if the statement is true
NO if the statement is false
NOT GIVEN if the information is not given the passage.
1. Mind Gym uses a similar marketing theory that is used all around.
2. All businesses and industries are using Mind Gym’s sessions globally.
3. According to Mind Gym, extensive scientific background supports their mental training sessions.
4. Susan Greenfield is the founder of Mind Gym.
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Complete the sentences below.
Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer.
5. Sebastian Bailey entered the room for _______ session. 6. __________ initially planned to organise sessions in local health clubs. 7. Claxtons disregards the perspectives as __________. 8. Bailey believes people tag themselves ________ without realising the techniques a creative individual employs.
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Questions 9 – 13
Use the information in the passage to match the people (listed A-D) with opinions or deeds below. Write the appropriate letters A-D in boxes 9-13 on your answer sheet.
A. Guy Claxton
B. Sebastian Bailey
C. Susan Greenfield
D. Lawrence Katz
NB: You may use any letter more than once
9. The majority of people don’t have proper skills training for the brain.
10. We lack enough inspiration to keep our brain fit.
11. An instructor from Mind Gym who instructed the employees to exercise.
12. The more you exercise your brain like you exercise in the gym, the more your brain will grow.
13. It is valuable for schools to teach students about creative skills besides basic known knowledge.
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Mental Gymnastics reading answers
3. Not Given
5. Morning Framing
6. Mind Gym
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