Standing Desks and Hunter-Gatherers

post by James_Miller · 2010-10-14T00:03:26.507Z · score: 5 (8 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 10 comments

I recently started using a standing desk and found it increases my productivity perhaps because my mostly caveman brain "thinks" that I will usually stand when facing cognitively challenging tasks, but I will sit when I want to relax and save energy.

Are there other ways we can attempt to increase our cognitive powers by taking into account that many of the genes which influence human emotion and cognition were selected for to make our ancestors better hunter-gatherers?

Edited because of Reisqui's comment.

10 comments

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comment by Relsqui · 2010-10-14T07:52:10.556Z · score: 7 (7 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Where did you get the idea that the reason you're more productive when standing is because of that particular bit of your caveman brain? That is, have you read anything about that sort of phenomenon, or is it just a plausible explanation that came to mind?

comment by James_Miller · 2010-10-14T13:20:16.988Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just a plausible explanation that came to mind, although in my defense I'm currently writing a book on how intelligence has and will shape the economy and a small part of the book looks at some academic research on how evolutionary selection pressures have influenced human preferences and cognition.

But I accept the validity of what I take to be your implied criticism of my post and realize that I should use the word "perhaps" rather than "probably" in the first sentence.

comment by Pavitra · 2010-10-14T02:29:18.141Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I'm not yet certain, but I suspect that being a little bit hungry makes me sharper. Not acutely hungry, so as to be a distraction because my brain thinks I need food right now, but a "lean" feeling, like I need to be thinking carefully about where my next meal is coming from.

comment by Cosmos · 2010-10-14T16:10:15.025Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have been eating a high-fat paleo+dairy diet with intermittent fasting, and doing high-intensity interval training. This diet/exercise combination has drastically increased my energy level. I'm also very committed to getting >8 hours of sleep/night.

Unfortunately no standing desk at work, but I want one. I have felt for a long time I think and converse better when walking around.

comment by James_Miller · 2010-10-14T16:41:09.437Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Just buy two footstools, place both on your desk and put your monitor on one and your mouse and keyboard on the other, or use piles of wide books to transform your ordinary desk into a standing desk.

comment by [deleted] · 2010-10-14T17:58:32.421Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I have been eating a high-fat paleo+dairy diet with intermittent fasting, and doing high-intensity interval training.

Can you describe your fasting schedule?

comment by Cosmos · 2010-10-18T16:27:22.953Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

My schedule is basically once daily eating with substantial randomness. Usually I have a large dinner in the evening, with snacking as desired until bedtime, so a ~4 hour daily feeding window. The size of the meal varies quite a bit, some days are in the calorie restriction zone. The content varies too, sometimes I have a low-protein day. Sometimes I eat both lunch and dinner, sometimes I fast the entire day. I have not yet fasted longer than two days, but I plan to try an extended 4+ day fast eventually.

comment by sixes_and_sevens · 2010-10-14T09:26:04.009Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

I seem to mentally perform very well during short but intense periods of stress. A 20-minute disaster will have my brain firing like a gatling gun.

This might just be being given the opportunity to perform with much higher stakes, rather than performing better, though.

comment by CronoDAS · 2010-10-15T04:07:44.109Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Sometimes I get up and pace when thinking hard about something or other, but I do plenty of good concentrating while sitting down, too.

comment by Jonathan_Graehl · 2010-10-14T19:52:51.899Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW(p) · GW(p)

Standing will take more calories. Supposing you eat more to compensate (so you always have plenty of glucose available to the brain), does standing, sitting, or a mix of the two, allow for the most computer work given great motivation and interest over a very long period (say, 12 hours)?

My prior says that eventually standing will become distractingly tiring, and the "caveman brain" excitement (if any) will fade. So all sitting sounds like it gives a better chance of producing over a long period, than all standing. But I haven't tried it.