“Does ‘accommodate’ have one ‘m’ or two?” asked an editor in our open workspace. Almost before I could say “two,” the boss flew at us from her office. “Why aren’t you working?” she demanded. She seemed mollified by my explanation. She stalked back to her office chair, periodically watching us through the glass window in the wall.
None of us focused too well for a while after that. But her whipsaw behavior was only part of the reason. As I now know—and as you will learn from “Cubicle, Sweet Cubicle,” by sociologists S. Alexander Haslam and Craig Knight—the workspace itself already had done most of the productivity damage. We could not put what we wanted atop our desks, lest we ruin the cohesive look. The seating was changed without discussion. The lack of control over our situation interfered with our concentration. It’s not difficult, however, to create better workspaces. Click here to learn how.
We can adjust a physical environment to foster emotional well-being. But what happens when a person lacks emotion? The disturbing consequence: psychopaths, whose behavior ranges in severity from self-interested opportunists to remorseless killers; they may constitute 15 to 35 percent of prisoners in the U.S. They can charm by portraying emotion and empathy, yet they do not experience such feelings, write neuroscientists Kent A. Kiehl and Joshua W. Buckholtz in our cover story, “Inside the Mind of a Psychopath.” Because of a brain abnormality, they have, in effect, a learning disability that impairs emotional development. A new understanding of the mechanisms behind psychopathy ultimately could lead to treatments, perhaps including medicines and effective behavioral therapies.
Another kind of understanding—about how children learn—has the power to enhance cognition in young minds. In our special report, we explore how physical actions influence how kids think. Touch, for instance, is essential to learning. Gestures can help make abstract ideas concrete. And exercise boosts brainpower. In this back-to-school season, click here for an educational experience.