In Learning, every moment counts

Psychologists have uncovered strong variability in motivation in learning situations.

Psychologist at University of Jena uncovers strong variability in motivation in learning situations: In the current issue of the journal ‘Learning & Instruction’ Dr Julia Dietrich of Friedrich Schiller University (FSU) published her findings together with Jaana Viljaranta (University of Eastern Finland), Julia Moeller (Yale University) and Bärbel Kracke (FSU) on students’ expectations and efforts.

Motivation can be a fickle thing — if we are motivated, we can achieve a great deal, but if motivation is lacking, we are easily overwhelmed. And we all know people who give the impression of being highly motivated all the time, while others seem to be chronically lacking in drive.

Read

Posted in Learning, Situated learning | Tagged ,

How Learning in the Present Shapes Future Learning

A new study reveals how neurons in the prefrontal cortex and hippocampal neurons work together to help guide future learning.

Neurons in the prefrontal cortex “teach” neurons in the hippocampus to “learn” rules that distinguish memory-based predictions in otherwise identical situations, suggesting that learning in the present helps guide learning in the future, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published April 5 in the journal Neuron.

The study, led by Matthew Shapiro, PhD, Professor of Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, investigated memory flexibility and interference, the mechanisms by which the brain interprets events and anticipates their likely outcomes. The hippocampus is a temporal lobe brain structure needed for remembering recent events: for example, where you ate your last meal. The prefrontal cortex is where the brain uses context to switch flexibility between remembered rules, such as knowing to look left before crossing a street in North America but right before crossing in Britain. Without such rules, memories interfere with one another and predictions based on memory are inaccurate.

Read

Read also: Research

Posted in Brains, Learning | Tagged ,

The Cultural Context of Cognition

This article employs evidence from a literature within social psychology on the malleability of scores on the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a measure that is widely used to assess implicit attitudes, and other implicit cognition measures, to provide a theoretical framework for incorporating implicit processes into sociological accounts of culture. Studies from this literature demonstrate the fundamentally contextual and interactional nature of implicit cognition; that is, how the cultural environment shapes the activation of cognitive associations. Understanding how culture works to influence behavior requires attention to the interaction between the cultural environment — including symbols and media, place, situations, and networks—and cognitive representations. Using this theoretical framework, I discuss how evidence from the sociology of culture regarding the nature of this cultural environment can inform our understanding of culture in action.

Read

Posted in Cognition, Cultural cognition, Culture | Tagged , ,

A Natural History of Human Thinking

Tool-making or culture, language or religious belief: ever since Darwin, thinkers have struggled to identify what fundamentally differentiates human beings from other animals. Michael Tomasello weaves his twenty years of comparative studies of humans and great apes into a compelling argument that cooperative social interaction is the key to our cognitive uniqueness. Tomasello maintains that our prehuman ancestors, like today’s great apes, were social beings who could solve problems by thinking. But they were almost entirely competitive, aiming only at their individual goals. As ecological changes forced them into more cooperative living arrangements, early humans had to coordinate their actions and communicate their thoughts with collaborative partners. Tomasello’s “shared intentionality hypothesis” captures how these more socially complex forms of life led to more conceptually complex forms of thinking. In order to survive, humans had to learn to see the world from multiple social perspectives, to draw socially recursive inferences, and to monitor their own thinking via the normative standards of the group. Even language and culture arose from the preexisting need to work together and coordinate thoughts. A Natural History of Human Thinking is the most detailed scientific analysis to date of the connection between human sociality and cognition.

Read

Posted in Human thinking, Humans, Natural, Thinking | Tagged , , ,

Origins of Human Communication

Human communication is grounded in fundamentally cooperative, even shared, intentions. In this original and provocative account of the evolutionary origins of human communication, Michael Tomasello connects the fundamentally cooperative structure of human communication (initially discovered by Paul Grice) to the especially cooperative structure of human (as opposed to other primate) social interaction. Tomasello argues that human cooperative communication rests on a psychological infrastructure of shared intentionality (joint attention, common ground), evolved originally for collaboration and culture more generally. The basic motives of the infrastructure are helping and sharing: humans communicate to request help, inform others of things helpfully, and share attitudes as a way of bonding within the cultural group. These cooperative motives each created different functional pressures for conventionalizing grammatical constructions. Requesting help in the immediate you-and-me and here-and-now, for example, required very little grammar, but informing and sharing required increasingly complex grammatical devices. Drawing on empirical research into gestural and vocal communication by great apes and human infants (much of it conducted by his own research team), Tomasello argues further that humans’ cooperative communication emerged first in the natural gestures of pointing and pantomiming. Conventional communication, first gestural and then vocal, evolved only after humans already possessed these natural gestures and their shared intentionality infrastructure along with skills of cultural learning for creating and passing along jointly understood communicative conventions. Challenging the Chomskian view that linguistic knowledge is innate, Tomasello proposes instead that the most fundamental aspects of uniquely human communication are biological adaptations for cooperative social interaction in general and that the purely linguistic dimensions of human communication are cultural conventions and constructions created by and passed along within particular cultural groups.

Read

Posted in Communication, Evolution, Human communication, Humans | Tagged , , ,

Why We Cooperate

Drop something in front of a two-year-old, and she’s likely to pick it up for you. This is not a learned behavior, psychologist Michael Tomasello argues. Through observations of young children in experiments he himself has designed, Tomasello shows that children are naturally–and uniquely–cooperative. Put through similar experiments, for example, apes demonstrate the ability to work together and share, but choose not to. As children grow, their almost reflexive desire to help–without expectation of reward–becomes shaped by culture. They become more aware of being a member of a group. Groups convey mutual expectations, and thus may either encourage or discourage altruism and collaboration. Either way, cooperation emerges as a distinctly human combination of innate and learned behavior.In Why We Cooperate, Tomasello’s studies of young children and great apes help identify the underlying psychological processes that very likely supported humans’ earliest forms of complex collaboration and, ultimately, our unique forms of cultural organization, from the evolution of tolerance and trust to the creation of such group-level structures as cultural norms and institutions.Scholars Carol Dweck, Joan Silk, Brian Skyrms, and Elizabeth Spelke respond to Tomasello’s findings and explore the implications.

Read

Posted in Cooperation, Evolution | Tagged ,

The Power of Positive Emotions

In order for human beings to flourish, Dr. Barbara Fredrickson argues, we need to get essential daily nutrients—not only from food, but also from a laugh, a hug or even a smaller moment of positive emotion, especially with someone with whom we click.

Some key elements arise from the psychology subspecialties of relationship science and emotion science, Fredrickson said. The first science adds caring, or investment in another person for his or her own sake rather than for selfish ends, and “perceived responsiveness,” or the feeling that the other person understands, validates and cares for us- The second adds biobehavioral components (“emotions are embodied thoughts, equally affecting mind and body at the same time”); a view of caring as a series of moments, “not something you turn on and off like a toggle switch”; and a theory called “broaden and build,” which Fredrickson has developed. It holds that positive emotions serve to broaden people’s awareness; this, over time, builds enduring resources for living such as relationships and resilience.

Read

Read also: Positivity

Turning Negative Thinkers Into Positive Ones

Posted in Emotions, Positive psychology, Social emotions | Tagged , ,

Workplace surveillance: an overview

This article attempts to review the proliferation of research findings about surveillance in the workplace and the issues surrounding it. It establishes a number of points of departure when considering the issue of workplace surveillance, before reviewing some of the more critical issues. First, it establishes that organizations and surveillance go hand in hand; and that workplace surveillance can take social and technological forms. Personal data gathering, Internet and email monitoring, location tracking, biometrics and covert surveillance are all areas of development. There is also evidence that groups of employees are appropriating information and communication technologies to stare back at their employers, exposing unsavoury practices and organizing collectively, prompting new thinking about resistance. Organizations watch employees primarily to protect their assets, although the nature and intensity of surveillance says much about how a company views its employees. Workplace surveillance has consequences for employees, affecting employee well-being, work culture, productivity, creativity and motivation. If no alternative can be found, managerial attention to task design, supervisory processes, employees’ expectations about monitoring, and an appraisal of the company’s operating e vironment can mediate its downsides. It is argued that in many ways the normality of workplace surveillance, and the prevalence of arguments about how to ‘do it better’, make it difficult to radicalize. As part of what is seen as ‘good’ management practice, it can confer benefits on the employee if conducted in a humane, balanced way, and is considered on a case-by-case – organization-by-organization – basis. However, the introduction of broader debates around information use, rights, power and social structure highlights how surveillance in the workplace may serve to perpetuate existing inequalities and create new ones

Read

Posted in Surveillance, Workplace | Tagged ,

Reasons why Poverty Reduces Self-Control

When considering poverty, our national conversation often turns to its origins. It is natural for us to look for attributes of a person that led him or her to poverty, such as poor self-control. David Brooks of The New York Times, for instance, placed the blame on poor people’s lack of virtue. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Congressman Paul Ryan argues that poor people’s individual choices are at fault. Bad choices can certainly be a factor in poverty. But just because someone makes bad choices doesn’t mean they lack virtue or have no self-control. To the contrary, psychology research has discovered a variety of perfectly good reasons why poor people make the choices they do. These reasons explains how a smart, moral person can become trapped in a cycle of poverty.

Together, these reasons are enough for anyone to give up. But the point of this article is not to say that poverty is hopeless. Science has identified lots of ways to teach people how to become better at self-control. The key to helping people is not to blame them but instead to address the underlying factors that perpetuate poverty, especially early in life.

Read

Posted in Decision making, Poverty | Tagged ,

Recent Theories of Civil Disobedience

A significant shift appears underway in contemporary thinking about civil disobedience. While liberal Anglophone philosophers in the 1960s and 1970s regularly underscored how politically motivated law-breaking could be interpreted as supportive of the rule of law, present-day scholarly accounts frequently depict conscientious illegality as potentially expressing what Martin Luther King, a key political inspiration behind much of the academic debate, dubbed the “very highest respect for the law.” The initially paradoxical intuition that nonviolent law-breaking is sometimes necessary to preserve the law, that it constitutes what John Rawls aptly described as “disobedience to law within the limits of fidelity to law,” tends to vanish from the purview of recent theorists of civil disobedience. For a surprising range of thinkers, it is now anachronistic. For radical critics, it is time to move beyond the “hairsplitting legalistic” orientation of the standard liberal model, which forecloses possibilities for creative protest and stands in the way of far-reaching change.4 For many others, it is simply a matter of recognizing that civil disobedience is best understood primarily as a conscientious moral challenge to the law. The final result, in an event, obscures civil disobedience’s identifiably legal contours.

Read

Posted in Civil disobedience | Tagged