Why are we not always at the top of our abilities?

Why aren't we always at the top of our abilities? < /p> UPDATE DAY

Our mental capacities fluctuate a lot, because they depend on our attention, our motivation and our emotions.

There are times when we find ourselves less brilliant than usual: you hesitate more, you can't think clearly, words or ideas don't come as quickly as they should. Most of the time it can be attributed to our lack of sleep or stress, but sometimes it seems to come out of nowhere.

Our intelligence is not just a general ability to process information like that of a microprocessor. It is an amalgamation of several distinct cognitive functions. Some are good at making sentences, others are good at finding their way. Some big brains have trouble putting IKEA furniture together or reading between the lines.

In addition, different cognitive functions must coordinate to tap into our knowledge and come up with coherent ideas. Our brain functions are often coordinated by automatic processes such as our habits and learning (e.g. turning right in the garage). 

However, certain essential cognitive functions such as paying attention to understand information or retrieving knowledge must be coordinated by more elaborate processes, our cerebral search engines which illuminate knowledge or scenarios by filtering them according to their relevance (eg: new neighborhood, let's look for the store). Our search engines are easier to disrupt than our habits and they fluctuate depending on our state. When we are asked a question, the answer can stay on the tip of our tongue if our brain search engines are affected.

Level of arousal

< p>Our cognitive functions are, among other things, sensitive to our level of arousal. When we are drowsy, we are often slower and have less clear ideas. To switch on and coordinate optimally, our brain circuits need an alert level that is neither too high nor too low.

Many people need a walk or a nap after lunch to regain their mental fitness. Some even show difficulty speaking while awake, because their language circuits wake up more slowly than the rest of their brain. In several diseases like Alzheimer's, fluctuations in the alert level during the day can even cause a person to go from a near-normal state to a confused and amnesiac state or vice versa.

Exertion mental support also affects our cognitive functions, among other things because the slight stress it generates disrupts our motivation circuits, it produces mental fatigue and sometimes confusion. 

Breaks restore our motivation, the efficiency of our cerebral search engines and the quality of the intuitions that guide our thoughts and decisions.

Finally, our cognitive functions often fluctuate because of our emotions. When we are anxious, angry or depressed, we may misplace our belongings, not remember what we said to whom we said it or lack judgment. Our cerebral search engines become less efficient. 

In an elderly person, even moderate stress (conflicts, emergencies…) can disturb memory. 

< strong>Emotions

In addition, our emotions influence our intuitions. They bias the information we take into account, the points of view we adopt and the quality of our reasoning. When we are angry, we think less of compromise solutions than of ways to win, which can make us less brilliant.

It is important to pay attention to our cognitive fluctuations to prevent mistakes , oversights and accidents. To reduce them, we must take care of ourselves, for example by improving our sleep as well as our physical and psychological health.