Author Archives: Pedro

Drawing better than writing for memory retention (for older people for sure)

This study doesn’t surprise me that much. Everybody who read about dual coding knows how drawing can help retention. This study adds to this knowledge by showing that older adults who take up drawing could enhance their memory. Do note while the 3 experiments are interesting and relevant, they only used 3 times 2 groups of 24 participants (24 students, 24 older people).

From the press release:

Researchers from the University of Waterloo found that even if people weren’t good at it, drawing, as a method to help retain new information, was better than re-writing notes, visualization exercises or passively looking at images.

“We found that drawing enhanced memory in older adults more than other known study techniques,” said Melissa Meade, PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience at Waterloo. “We’re really encouraged by these results and are looking into ways that it can be used to help people with dementia, who experience rapid declines in memory and language function.”

As part of a series of studies, the researchers asked both young people and older adults to do a variety of memory-encoding techniques and then tested their recall. Meade conducted this study with Myra Fernandes a Psychology professor in cognitive neuroscience at Waterloo and recent UW PhD graduate Jeffrey Wammes.

The researchers believe that drawing led to better memory when compared with other study techniques because it incorporated multiple ways of representing the information–visual, spatial, verbal, semantic and motoric.

“Drawing improves memory across a variety of tasks and populations, and the simplicity of the strategy means that it can be used in many settings,” said Myra Fernandes.

As part of the studies, the researchers compared different types of memory techniques in aiding retention of a set of words, in a group of undergraduate students and a group of senior citizens. Participants would either encode each word by writing it out, by drawing it, or by listing physical attributes related to each item. Later on after performing each task, memory was assessed. Both groups showed better retention when they used drawing rather than writing to encode the new information, and this effect was especially large in older adults.

Retention of new information typically declines as people age, due to deterioration of critical brain structures involved in memory such as the hippocampus and frontal lobes. In contrast, we know that visuospatial processing regions of the brain, involved in representing images and pictures, are mostly intact in normal aging, and in dementia. “We think that drawing is particularly relevant for people with dementia because it makes better use of brain regions that are still preserved, and could help people experiencing cognitive impairment with memory function,” said Meade. “Our findings have exciting implications for therapeutic interventions to help dementia patients hold on to valuable episodic memories throughout the progression of their disease”

Abstract of the study:

Background/Study Context. In a recent study, drawing pictures relative to writing words at encoding has been shown to benefit later memory performance in young adults. In the current study, we sought to test whether older adults’ memory might also benefit from drawing as an encoding strategy. Our prediction was that drawing would serve as a particularly effective form of environmental support at encoding as it encourages a more detailed perceptual representation.

Methods. Participants were presented 30 nouns, one at a time, and asked to either draw a picture or repeatedly write out the word, which was followed by a free recall test for all words (Experiment 1). In Experiment 2, we added an elaborative processing task in which we asked participants to list physical characteristics of the objects. In Experiment 3, we probed recognition memory for the words.

Results. Of the words recalled in Experiment 1, a larger proportion had been drawn than written at encoding, and this effect was larger in older relative to younger adults. In Experiment 2, we demonstrated that drawing improves memory in both younger and older adults more than does an elaborative encoding task consisting of listing descriptive characteristics of the target nouns. In Experiment 3, older and younger adults drew or wrote out words at encoding, and subsequently provided Remember-Know-New recognition memory decisions. We showed that drawing reduced age-related differences in Remember responses.

Conclusions. We suggest that incorporating visuo-perceptual information into the memory trace, by drawing pictures at study, increases reliance of the memory trace on visual sensory regions, which are relatively intact in normal aging, relative to simply writing out or elaborately encoding words. Overall, results indicate that drawing is a highly valuable form of environmental support that can significantly enhance memory performance in older adults.

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Do students benefit from longer school days? (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief with among others, this study:

A study published in Economics of Education Review looks at the evidence from the extended school day (ESD) program in Florida to determine whether students benefit from longer school days.
In 2012, Florida introduced the ESD program, increasing the length of the school day by an hour in the lowest-performing elementary schools in order to provide additional reading lessons. The lessons had to be based on research, adapted for student ability, and include phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension. Schools were selected using school-level reading accountability measures. For this study, David Figlio and colleagues looked at reading scores for all students in Florida between grades 3 and 10 using school administrative data from 2005-06 and 2012-13, and employed a regression discontinuity design to estimate the effect of lengthening the school day, looking at the different performance of schools either side of the cut-off point.
Results indicated that the additional one hour of reading lessons had a positive effect on students’ reading achievement. ESD schools showed an improvement of +0.05 standard deviations on reading test scores in the first year. The annual cost of the ESD program was $300,000-$400,000 per school, or $800 per student.

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About nature versus nurture: the four laws of behavioural genetics

This tweet by Steve Stewart-Williams is so relevant I wanted to share it here on this blog as I know a lot of people who follow my posts aren’t on Twitter.

If you feel angry after reading the first two laws, do read on. Both articles mentioned in the tweet are also must reads.

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Funny on Sunday: The Dorrie Decimal System

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A lecture by and a conversation with Steven Pinker: why we should be happier with the world today

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the new digital divide on college campuses

scatterplot

It’s easy to look around a college campus and think – there’s no digital divide here. While waiting for class (or even walking to class) students pass the time by scrolling through Instagram or checking email on their phones. After class, students retreat to the library or to their dorm rooms to do homework on their laptops. These devices are ubiquitous to the point where some college professors have opted to ban them or relegate them to certain corners of the classroom.

And yet, despite that ubiquity, today’s college students are still very much divided along digital lines. In a new article published in the journal Communication Research, my co-authors—University of California Santa Barbara Communications Professor Amy Gonzales and Ohio State Communications Professor Teresa Lynch—and I argue that the digital divide on college campuses has shifted from one of technology access to one of technology maintenance. In a survey…

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What if a failed replication… somehow fails to replicate?

Have I told you already that science can be messy? If not, welcome to this blog! 2 years ago I posted this replication of the infamous pencil in the mouth study. It has become one of the more well known examples of the replication crisis. But it also spurred a lot of debate. Was the replication really a true replication of the original research?

A new study adds fuel to this debate as it failed to replicate the failed replication. Ok, just kidding, the study is actually showing the original study might have been correct! But we can’t be really sure, as it’s actually even more complicated:

The paradigm diverged from the original facial feedback experiment in several respects. They include the classroom setting in which testing was conducted; the fact that each participant rated two cartoons rather than four; the fact that it featured a within-subjects rather than between- subjects design; the absence of a cover story about piloting a study for future research regarding populations with disabilities to explain the manipulation; the use of a 7-point scale rather than a 10-point scale; the fact that the experiment was part of a classroom lecture about learning (specifically, about the acquisition of conditioned associations) rather than following a line- drawing task; the fact that correct positioning of pens could be monitored only within the limits of a group setting; the fact that participants selected but did not write down their ratings with their pens in their mouths; and the lack of individualized follow-up with participants regarding their beliefs about the experiment, precluding exclusion of participants for suspicions regarding the study goals. (It is notable, however, that when the instructor presented students with their results in the ensuing class, the most commonly verbalized reaction was surprise or disbelief that the manipulation could have possibly affected their ratings.)

It seems the only thing that we seem to know for sure is that more research is needed…

Abstract of this new study:

The facial feedback effect refers to the influence of unobtrusive manipulations of facial behavior on emotional outcomes. That manipulations inducing or inhibiting smiling can shape positive affect and evaluations is a staple of undergraduate psychology curricula and supports theories of embodied emotion. Thus, the results of a Registered Replication Report indicating minimal evidence to support the facial feedback effect were widely viewed as cause for concern regarding the reliability of this effect. However, it has been suggested that features of the design of the replication studies may have influenced the study results. Relevant to these concerns are experimental facial feedback data collected from over 400 undergraduates over the course of 9 semesters. Circumstances of data collection met several criteria broadly recommended for testing the effect, including limited prior exposure to the facial feedback hypothesis, conditions minimally likely to induce self-focused attention, and the use of moderately funny contemporary cartoons as stimuli. Results yielded robust evidence in favor of the facial feedback hypothesis. Cartoons that participants evaluated while holding a pen or pencil in their teeth (smiling induction) were rated as funnier than cartoons they evaluated while holding a pen or pencil in their lips (smiling inhibition). The magnitude of the effect overlapped with original reports. Findings demonstrate that the facial feedback effect can be successfully replicated in a classroom setting and are in line with theories of emotional embodiment, according to which internal emotional states and relevant external emotional behaviors exert mutual influence on one another. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved).

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Funny on Sunday: about Popper and falsification

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by | December 2, 2018 · 8:46 am

Educator Discussions That Avoid “The Problem”

“Educational leaders long ago worked out adequate techniques for dodging the issue.”

Larry Cuban on School Reform and Classroom Practice

In 1942, Progressive educator Paul Diederich wrote “The Light Touch: 27 Ways to Run Away from an Educational Problem” for Progressive Education. He wrote this piece after being part of intense discussions with hundreds of teachers during summers in the late-1930s when the Eight Year Study was being implemented in 30 high schools across the nation.*

Like Diederich, I have participated in thousands of discussions with teachers, principals, superintendents, board of education members, researchers, and policymakers over my half-century in public school work. I might be able to add one or two but Diederich does a fine job, in my opinion. When I think of (and listen to) current debates about problems like inequality, racism, and poverty as they influence what techers do, how schools operate, and effects on students, I recall many times when I heard and saw school baord members, superintendents, principals, teachers, and parents engage in what…

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A new review study about Collaborative Problem Solving, still a lot to research

I found this new review study via Jeroen Janssen and it’s quite interesting as it tackles Collaborative Problem Solving and how much is already known about how to advance this. Spoiler: not that much, it seems, while it now is being measured e.g. by PISA.

But first what is it? That is already a bit more difficult question to answer, but I do think this description of what is needed makes it more clear:

…team members must be able to define the problem, understand who knows what on the team, identify gaps in what is known and what is required, integrate these to generate candidate solutions, and monitor progress in achieving the group goals. From the social perspective, the success of a team requires that members establish shared understanding, pursue joint and complementary actions, and coordinate their behavior in service of generating and evaluating solutions.

So what is (un)known? This overview at the end of the article with suggestions for further research, makes a lot more clear:

  1. CPS has been identified as an important skill in the international community and workforce, but recent assessments have revealed that students and adults have low CPS proficiency. This calls for an analysis of CPS mechanisms, frequent problems, and methods of solving these problems. Psychological scientists could play a major role in this broad effort by partnering with stakeholders.
  2. CPS is rarely trained in schools and the workforce, and the existing training is not informed by psychological science. This opens the door to the value of psychological scientists’ being part of national and international efforts drawing from their expertise in science, learning and training.
  3. Psychological scientists have developed a body of empirical research and theory of team science over the years, but much of this work has focused on group learning, work, memory, and decision making rather than CPS per se. We need to sort out how much of the existing research in team science applies to CPS. Psychological scientists are encouraged to direct their focus on CPS per se in the team science research landscape.
  4. Intelligent digital technologies have the potential to automatically analyze large samples of group interactions at multiple levels of language, discourse, and interactivity. This is landmark progress because existing research on teams has had small samples and time-consuming annotation of the interactions. There is a need for psychological scientists to partner with the developers of these technologies to recommend psychological characteristics to track and to scrutinize the validity of automated measures.
  5. A curriculum for training CPS competencies has not been developed and adequately tested. There is a need to develop a program of research on CPS curriculum design for both students and instructors. Psychological scientists are an important asset to generate potential curricula and to test their efficacies.

Abstract of the open access review:

Collaborative problem solving (CPS) has been receiving increasing international attention because much of the complex work in the modern world is performed by teams. However, systematic education and training on CPS is lacking for those entering and participating in the workforce. In 2015, the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a global test of educational progress, documented the low levels of proficiency in CPS. This result not only underscores a significant societal need but also presents an important opportunity for psychological scientists to develop, adopt, and implement theory and empirical research on CPS and to work with educators and policy experts to improve training in CPS. This article offers some directions for psychological science to participate in the growing attention to CPS throughout the world. First, it identifies the existing theoretical frameworks and empirical research that focus on CPS. Second, it provides examples of how recent technologies can automate analyses of CPS processes and assessments so that substantially larger data sets can be analyzed and so students can receive immediate feedback on their CPS performance. Third, it identifies some challenges, debates, and uncertainties in creating an infrastructure for research, education, and training in CPS. CPS education and assessment are expected to improve when supported by larger data sets and theoretical frameworks that are informed by psychological science. This will require interdisciplinary efforts that include expertise in psychological science, education, assessment, intelligent digital technologies, and policy.

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