Following Instructions

Sometimes, following instructions could mean the difference between life and death - especially now.

Following Instructions


Sometimes, following instructions could mean the difference between life and death - especially now.  

The news media is reporting the Delta variant COVID-19 poses a threat to the reopening of our cities and towns.  Following directives and our intuition, paired with good ole logic, reason and commonsense can keep us safe and our environment (somewhat) peaceful.  

There is a cognitive architecture for following instructions and it sits in the center of the head, influencing working memory and its capacity.  

This structured cognition merges rules of social engagement, ability to self-regulate and the processing of formatted instructions.  The working memory has been dubbed the brain's workbench because it links perception, attention and long-term memory.  However, emotions can preoccupy working memory, making it hard to concentrate and focus on instructions, whether written or verbal.

One way to make sure you follow instructions correctly: take instant action!

The moment you hear instructions you need to carry out, write them down and repeat them back to yourself.  If needed, seek out written or visual instruction - like watching a YouTube tutorial. (Everyone has a preferred learning style.)

Following instructions or carrying out directions has an emotional component to it. Another way to ensure you do it accurately is to add another person into the mix.

The presence of an observer or accountability partner makes you more likely to carry out instructions fully.  

Studies have shown that people who fail to receive feedback or consequences for failing to follow instructions will continue to take a haphazard approach (and make a lot of mistakes.)

Self-regulation or metacognitive monitoring allows regulation of thoughts and behaviors.  This moment of pause can allow the nervous system and the heart to calm down, so clarity and lucidity can become a part of the process.  

Although both forms of instruction - visual and auditory - are essential, the sequence of instructions are also important to working memory.  Humans remember directives in sequence and once directions are given or understood out of sequence, the brain begins to shut down and look for distractions.

Read The Psychology of Following Instructions and its Implications


So the next time you're tasked with following instructions, do yourself a favor and follow these simple instructions ; )

• slow down

• read through directions thoroughly before you begin

• if necessary, follow that up with a YouTube video

• be sure to carry out the instructions in sequence

You can do it!