NIBS (Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation) helps improve motor function in stroke victims. There doesn't seem to be much argument about that. But it also helps people with less tangible 'mindset' difficulties. That is to say, all of us barring the odd bodhisattva.
“Thinking outside the box is difficult. And counter-intuitively, those with the most in-depth knowledge do not have an advantage in this pursuit. In fact, as [Thomas] Kuhn noted, “almost always the men who achieve these fundamental inventions have been either very young or very new to the field whose paradigm they change”. One possible explanation for this paradox is that our mind is hypothesis driven. In other words, our observations of the world are strongly shaped by our preconceptions. For example, information consistent with our expectations or mental templates is often accepted at face value, whereas inconsistent evidence is discounted or hidden from conscious awareness. While this hypothesis driven mechanism helps us in efficiently dealing with the familiar, it can prevent us from seeing better solutions in a different and/or unfamiliar context.
Presumably, it would be beneficial in certain situations if we could temporarily induce a state of mind that is less top-down, in other words, less influenced by mental templates or preconceptions.”
Richard P. Chi and Allan W. Snyder: Facilitate Insight by Non-Invasive Brain Stimulation
Chi and Snyder duly found that this was the case. NIBS 'facilitated performance' for people trying to have bright ideas by overcoming (or interrupting) this well-known tendency: that once humans have learned to solve problems by one method, they often have difficulty generating solutions by another method.
Similarly good results have been achieved by Flöel and others at the University of Münster in using NIBS with languge learning in healthy (as well as stroke-affected) adults.
Incidentally, a different and completely non-invasive approach to mindsets emerges from Dr Carol S. Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The book introduces Alan Wurtzel (who memorably said to Jim Collins, ‘They used to call me the prosecutor, because I would hone in on a question. You know, like a bulldog.’ He should be famous for that, if nothing else.)
Carol Dweck relates our development of a fixed mindset or a growth mindset, in part at least, to our upbringing and the strengths, weaknesses and traits that people attributed to us in childhood.
The characteristics of the fixed mindset include a belief that, ‘I’m good at these things and no good at these things, and nothing much is going to change that.’ The result is that life becomes a series of opportunities to show off what I know or to conceal what I don’t know. I will often resist change and shrink away from challenges in case I get shown up in the process or because I already know that I won’t be able to do what is being asked of me.
The characteristics of the growth mindset include a belief that, ‘I can learn from just about any situation. I may never be the world’s greatest tango dancer, but I can improve.’ The result is that life becomes a series of opportunities to grow and learn and I welcome challenges, problems and change for that reason.
Of course, this is a simplistic summary and Dweck acknowledges that splitting the world into two types of people is always misleading. We all share both characteristics.
Among Dweck’s conclusions, which include the blessed instruction not to teach your child that she is enormously special, or ‘the best’ at this subject or that sport, are some about business. Dweck talks about the learning skills of the most effective CEOs and the most productive teams, about their willingness to surround themselves with people who know more than they do, about their willingness to do what they think is right regardless of how they will be judged, about their readiness to admit mistakes and to apologize and move on, and about their acceptance of the fact that their company’s success or failure does not make them a success or failure.
Incidentally, all this predates Barbara Ehrenreich's rightly praised Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America.
Richard Chi and Allan Snyder
A. Flöel, N. Rösser, O. Michka, S. Knecht and C. Breitenstein