Posted in learning

A Glimmer of Hope in the Inexperienced​

Just outside the open house, looking into what different event that is happening on the track and in the gym, are hundreds of potential students with their parents or guardians. They look like they are eager little children ready for their first day of school. It’s probably the first time they are going to be adulating in the big bad real world. Around the event are brilliant marketing material: the blue and yellow balloons, Luxie the mascot, experienced volunteers wearing t-shirts that say “Shine”; from a business perspective, it’s brilliant, way to go ULeth for marketing to inexperienced high school students who have no idea that most of them are about to receive their very own piece of paper (degree) for an average cost of $50,000. As I look around there is not on a piece of advertising that mention how to shine or anything about critical thinking or learning. This is an example of post-secondary Eductaion— a successful BUSINESS.

I wonder if it is a good idea to have inexperienced students making a life decision like a career, and accepting the obligation of lifelong debt of around $50,000 (if not more), choosing their post-secondary school from a catalog (like you would when shopping for a new outfit), just after they finish puberty? This is our education system at work (or a lack of work), but at least the ULeth business is doing good. I just wish students knew more of what I know about post secondary campuses, learning, and education BEFORE they go into lifelong debt.

Posted in Psychology

Can Failure Lead to Success?

For this post, I’m going to start off with a relevant story, so here it goes. I a few years ago I took an art history class, studying European art. I was studying for an where I had to provide the name, and artist and date for a couple hundred pieces of art.  Before the exam, I had difficulty remembering a few different artwork, thus I got them wrong. so after the exam,  I reviewed my test and the artworks that I could wrong or unfished I could remember better than the answers I got right or finished; and to this day, a few years later (and going into a completely different discipline, I can still remember those couple artworks that I got wrong and are still unfinished in my mind.

This is one of the artworks that I got wrong. The greek statue Doryphoros was sculpted by Polykleitos (poly= polysporin). So why I can remember this and other artworks I got wrong or didn’t finish after all these years, but I can’t remember the artworks I answered correctly? This is because of the Zeigarnik effect.

The Zeigarnik effect was discovered by Bluma Zeigarnik (power to the females). Bluma was a Soviet Psychologist who discovered that better memory occurs for interrupted or unfished tasks, by an experience she had at a restaurant with a waiter. The effect is described as “people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks”. Bluma Zeigarnik states in her paper that by interrupting a task or having an unfinished task, we remember it better by 90% on average.


So why do we remember unfished tasks better than finished tasks?  There have been many theories as to why this happens. Two theories by Seifert and Patalano in 1991 hypothesized that there is more time spent on the unfished task than the finished task, hence why it is still unfinished. This theory is debunked because, in reality, we spend more time completing the task, which is why is it finished.  Seifert and Patalano’s second theory is that by having an unfinished task, it is easier to recall because of the smaller amount of information that needs to be recalled, in other words, chunking; where you can better remember information divided into manageable chunks of information.  This theory was tested and proven to be false as experimenters manipulate the size of each task and then there was no change; people remembered the unfinished task better than the finished one.

So with these false theories out of the way, why does this effect occur? The most explanatory theory is that as a society and a stubborn human race, we have an innate drive for perfection, leading to the observation that we fear failure. With this being said, having an unfinished task drives us crazy, resulting in a quasi-need (a need based on intent or purpose) for completion and perfectionism. Because of this need, we spend more time thinking about it or recalling it into our working memory, thus it is better encoded into our long-term memory.

So now that we have explained how the Zeigarnik effect occurs, how can we harness it into learning? The Zeigarnik effect can be used in a couple different way. The first is that by having this innate drive for completion, it motivates us to complete a task with achievement; so with this effect in mind, we strive for completion and perfection in tasks. So later down the road, we remember the task better because we strived to complete the task and failed to, the encoding it into our long-term memory.

Another way to harness the power of the Zeigarnik effect is to use it as a memory aid in learning. This is seen in the Pomodoro Technique, where you study for a certain time say 25 minutes, then interrupt yourself with a break for a few minutes, and when you return to studying or learning, you have encoded the information better than if you were studying for 2 hours with no break in between.

WIth this being said, it seems like there is a link between the Zeigarnik effect and learning, in more ways that the Pomodoro technique. if we break down learning, it occurs through trial and error that occurs over a period of time. With trial and error, it is often the case that we fail, take a break and the reexamine the problem, to find a better solution (sound familiar?) This trial and error of learning seems to be a mirrored definition of the Zeigarnik effect. where we attempt, fail or not finish, take a break and then reattempt the task or problem, thus it is better remembered later. With this being said, it could be the case that the Zeigarnik effect is a huge motivator as well as a key part of why failure is a part of learning, to which learning is more remembered in the long run. One final thought to this female inspired and motivated blog post, can it be said that our failure is the key to success in learning? I think so. Thanks, Bluma.

Since I gave you the key to success with thanks the Zeigarnik effect, I decided that for this week’s featured photo, I would give you a keychain. Free of charge, so enjoy.


Atkinson, J. (1953). The achievement motive and recall of interrupted and completed tasks. Journal Of Experimental Psychology46(6), 381-390.

No Interruptions? How The Zeigarnik Effect Could Help You To Study Better. (2017). Retrieved 29 September 2017, from

Pomodoro Technique. (2017). Retrieved 29 September 2017, from

Seifert, C., & Patalano, A. (1991). Memory for Incomplete Tasks: A Re-examination of the Zeigarnik Effect. Thirteenth Annual Conference Of The Cognitive Science Society, 114-119.

Wikipedia. (2017). Zeigarnik Retrieved 29 September 2017, from




Posted in Psychology

Grades Now or Learning Later?

What is the purpose of grades? To increase motivation, to reflect what you have learned, or to provide a point of reference for future learning— all of the above are incorrect (you fail this exam). The true purpose of grades is accountability, for educational institutes to show how well students perform on assignments and tests. As humans, we have an innate, evolutionary impulse to categorize, to which education has become one of our victims.

William Farish invented the GPA system in 1792 at the University of Cambridge.  He created this system (inspired by factory workings “grading” the quality of the products that were being made) as a way to process more students and their work in a shorter amount of time while increasing his income, dubbing him the “world’s most famous lazy teacher” (Soh, 2011). When people heard this idea about how you could increase production within education, many schools adopted the same method— thus you have the grading system.

The result of this grading system is that not only does it extinguish the desire to learn, but students are afraid to take a risk of learning something because of the possible cost of not receiving an A or A+, so they constrain their learning (and the mistakes that come with it). I was helping out in a class, and when the teaching assistant explained a self-concept exercise (only worth a small percent), all the student questions were about formatting, references, and criteria in order to receive the highest grade possible; they completely missed the whole point of the assignment. To students, it is all about the performance and rewards, rather than the process and knowledge obtained.

To the students, grades all about the performance and rewards, rather than the learning and knowledge that can be obtained. We see this all the time, where report cards in primary school are of utter importance. Most children strive for gold stars and a report card with all A’s, while parents demand them so that they can judge their children’s performance in school. In contrast, what happens when parents ask the child what they learned in school today— and the child struggles to think of an answer.


We see this all the time, where report cards in primary school are of utter importance. Most children strive for gold stars and a report card with all A’s, while parents demand them so that they can judge their children’s performance in school. In contrast, what happens when parents ask the child what they learned in school today— and the child struggles to think of an answer. With this said, I can think of a few psychological explanations for why is there so much emphasis on grades, especially in higher education.

The Focusing Effect. This is a cognitive bias, where people put too much emphasis, focus, and importance on one aspect of the event, resulting in the inability to think about the value of future events, consider other possibilities, see the bigger picture, and think about how it could be useful in the future. As students, we focus on the grades, rather than the larger concept of how will this class and knowledge help me in the future. This bias can also relate to education; how it is more about performance than learning and knowledge. We focus more on the small details like grades, thinking that they are of utmost importance, but we lose sight of the purpose of education and learning, and only institute structure and change in the small details of lecture rooms and teaching, rather than consider how these changes and the system as a whole impact student learning. Grades do not dictate our success (as we think they do). For example, when you get out of school, it is highly unlikely that anybody will ask you your GPA, and use that as a factor to evaluate you. Nevertheless, we lose sight of this notion because of the focusing effect. In other words, we cannot see the forest through the trees.


Delay of Gratification. This is the ability to resist the temptation for an immediate reward and wait for a later reward; it is normally associated with resisting a smaller, immediate reward in order to receive a larger or more enduring reward later. The effect is most famously demonstrated in the Marshmallow Experiment done by Stanford University in 1960’s. Children are in a room sitting at a table, with a fluffy marshmallow sitting in front of them; the experimenter tells them that if they can wait until they return (without eating the marshmallow) then they are rewarded with a second one.  As you would expect, most of the children cannot avoid temptation and eat it before the experimenter returns.

This is a somewhat predictable response for children because they tend to lack impulse-control, but can the same be said for adults and students in higher education? I believe so. Because as a society, we are consistently ambushed with instant gratification, the same can be said for our education and grades. We do not want to wait and plan for something that may or may not happen in the future, like applying our newly developed skills and knowledge to real-life situations; students want an instant gratification of a physical reward of their performance and effort now, not later. In addition to this, grades because they are physical and can be measured, serve extrinsic motivators to increase performance, but we shouldn’t be motivated by a letter or number that is completely subjective, we should be motivated intrinsically to gain knowledge and see what we can do with it.


Delay Discounting AKA hyperbolic Discounting. This is the psychological tendency for the subjective value of a reward to decrease as the delay to obtaining that reward increases, in other words, people tend to want small rewards now, than wanting to wait or attempt to try for larger rewards later. Although similar to delay of gratification, Delay Discounting is in reference to time. Nevertheless, how does delay discounting play into education and grades? Throughout our four or five years at a post-secondary institute, the application of learning after those four years, seems meaningless because it is so far into the future, so in the meantime between the present and future, it’s all about grades— tests, assignments, papers, GPA and making the Dean’s Honor list. It is easier to think about the “now” rather than the “later”, hence, we tend to discount future events and not care about them as much. Moreover, frankly, who has time to plan when we are so overwhelmed with acting tests and researching papers? With delay discounting, it can be very difficult to think about non-measurable events or stimuli that seem to occur so far in the future, and grades and learning are no acceptation.  How-to-beat-psychology-and-grow-wealth

After explaining why there is such an emphasis on grades, using three different psychological biases: focusing effect, delay of gratification, and delay discounting AKA hyperbolic discounting. It should be clear that grades are ineffective for learning. As grades are subjective (created by a lazy teacher), remove the ability to take risks, decrease motivation to learn, and do not reflect what have you learned; we need to ask ourselves is there a way that we can measure learning and what does learning actually measure.

For this week’s featured photo, I put one of my artworks up. It provides a good analogy of what we should focus on. Rather than looking at this serigraph as blue horizontal lines, green vertical lines and pick diagonal lines; view it as a cluster of bamboos in a body of blue water. In addition to the abstract concept that is bamboo, I produced this piece, out of pure passion for art making. I did not receive any grade or extrinsic incentive to produce this piece, and we should treat education and learning in the same fashion. Do it because you want to, not for the grade, because your grades will NEVER reflect what you have learned.


Bembenutty, H. (2008). Academic delay of gratification and expectancy–value. Personality And Individual Differences44(1), 193-202.

Bembenutty, H., & Karabenick, S. (2013). Self-Regulation, Culture, and Academic Delay of Gratification. Journal Of Cognitive Education And Psychology12(3), 323-337.

Bower, J. (2017). A Short History of Grading. For the Love of Learning. Retrieved from

Cayubit, R., Cadacio, C., Chua, M., Faeldon, V., Go, W., & Verdan, M. (2016). Academic delay of gratification, academic achievement, and need for affiliation of selected high school students. Educational Measurement And Evaluation Review (2016),7(2).

Cherubini, P., Mazzocco, K., & Rumiati, R. (2003). Rethinking the focusing effect in decision-making. Acta Psychologica113(1), 67-81.

Green, L., & Myerson, J. (2004). A Discounting Framework for Choice With Delayed and Probabilistic Rewards. Psychological Bulletin130(5), 769-792.

Kahneman, D. (2006). Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion. Science312(5782), 1908-1910.

Soh, K. (2011). Grade point average: what’s wrong and what’s the alternative?. Journal Of Higher Education Policy And Management33(1), 27-36.




Posted in Photography, Psychology

Ikea’s Value of Learning.

For my first post on learning and education, I will discuss effects that examine the value and effort of learning. Have you ever have a professor lay out the material and research in a nice organized fashion: power point slides, bullet points, summaries? What do you remember from that class… probably not a whole lot? Laying out the material for students is like laying out clothes for a child when they have an opportunity to dress themselves… they don’t have a clue and end up putting on a bunch of random clothes, like Julian from Big Daddy.

tumblr_ktwi0rGm3I1qzmuypo1_500 Julian “Frankenstein” from Big Daddy, had the opportunity to dress himself; choosing to wear underwear on the outside of swim trunks, oversized cowboy boots, and a towel as a cape.  The same can be said for learning, hence the organization effect.

The Organization effect is “outlining, integrating, and synthesizing information produces better learning than rereading materials or other more passive strategies” (Hu, 2017), so by organizing materials for others, you inhibit their learning. Part of effective learning is organizing information, in a way that you have associated it with the knowledge that you already know. By organizing, summarizing, and bullet pointing your own material and research; rather than just memorization. You become more familiar with the material, allowing it to be better ingrained in your Long Term memory (LTM) for later recall.

Beyond this acquisition of knowledge through LTM, learning is more effective when students can understand the purpose of learning such material. By organizing their own material, it can help to answer the question of how and why is this information relevant — adding value to their learning.

This line of questioning leads to the larger realm of inquiry: what happens to knowledge and learning when students put in the effort to learn the material rather than the material being presented in a neat and tidy bow in the form of slideshows and bullet points? They remember it better and care about it more– hence the Ikea effect.

The Ikea effect is described as adding a higher automatic value to something because of the effort they put in to create it— a labor of love. I believe this can relate to learning. By using the organization effect to organize our own material, we not only remember it more effectively in our LTM, but we value the knowledge and learning more but because we have put in the effort to organize and understand it. By using the organization effect, students can establish the Ikea effect towards their learning and education.

A real life example of adding effort to learning from students that result in the added value of their knowledge and education is seen in this Ted Talk: “What if students controlled their own learning?”. Students design, and control their learning and education. The result? Students are passionate about their studies and intrinsically motivated to achieve, which is not fueled by grades or physical measures, but by their motivation and passion for learning and knowledge obtainment on topics of interest.



This real life example shows that by having students be active in their learning, by making mistakes, and putting in the effort to earn, it adds higher value to education and learning, thus implementing motivation, and passion. WIth this being said, can we add a higher value to learning and education as a whole beyond the degree and grades? I believe so.

For this week’s feature photo is of my cousin Allyssiah and her son Felix. Felix was a labor of love, that has motivated Allyssiah to go back to school and get her degree so she can provide a great life for Felix. The motivation, passion, and the love doesn’t end as soon as he walks, talks, grows up, graduates, gets married and has kids. The love, passion, and motivation of Felix will always be there for Allyssiah. This is how learning should be. it should stop as soon as the task is done, or the grade is achieved, it should continue throughout the rest of your life, using acquired knowledge to help perpetuate growth and learning. Learning; like Felix; should be valued, promoting motivation, drive, and development.


Bransford, J., Brown, A., & Cocking, R. (2001). How people learn. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.

Donovan, M., Pellegrino, J., & Bransford, J. (1999). How People Learn: Bridging Research and Practice. Committee On Learning Research And Educational Practice, 88.

Hu, X. (2017). Organization Effects – L.T.T.A @ the Retrieved 14 September 2017, from

Martin, J. (2017). The Science of Learning: Organization Effect. ACADEMY FOR THE SCHOLARSHIP OF LEARNING. Retrieved from

Metcalfe, J., & Shimamura, A. (1996). Metacognition: Knowing about Knowing. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Norton, M., Mochon, D., & Ariely, D. (2011). The ‘IKEA Effect’: When Labor Leads to Love. SSRN Electronic Journal.

Ted Talk X. (2017). What if students controlled their own learning? | Peter Hutton | TEDxMelbourneYouTube. Retrieved 14 September 2017, from