Crisis, determination, forbearance: lessons from Japan

I lived in very close proximity to the tsunami-affected area of Japan for twelve months last year, so upon news of the earthquake and tsunami tragedies, I anxiously awaited any type of correspondence from friends in my Japanese community. Emails slowly began to filter through, and read alongside news reports and footage, it was clear that the response echoed across the nation to their devastating situation was the underlying ethos of “determination and perseverance” and “strength and courage”. These idiomatic expressions are typical in the Japanese culture but perhaps are not dissimilar to our own Australian cultural sentiments of mates helping mates – getting in there, and having a go.

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Making good decisions in ‘an information tsunami’

From the Acting Dean of Students “Trying to drink from a fire hose of information has harmful cognitive effects and nowhere are those effects clearer, and more worrying, than in our ability to make smart, creative, successful decisions.”  (Begley, 2011) The area of the human brain responsible for decision making is the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is located in the anterior part of the frontal lobes of the brain. The basic activity of this brain region is considered to be the orchestration of thoughts and actions in accordance with internal goals. The PFC contributes to the executive control of information and specifically selects, maintains, updates and reroutes information. It has been proposed that ultimately the PFC acts as a selective gating or filtering mechanism that controls how the brain processes the information it receives. Teenagers do not have a well-developed prefrontal cortex. The adolescent brain is in a state of developmental transition. It differs structurally and…

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