Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Synthesis​

Learning is an effortful process, as demonstrated in the last three blogs. This synthesis will reinforce the notion of effortful learning, with the goal of inspiring other individuals to reflect on their learning and question the current system of education.

As mentioned in the post about desirable difficulties, the brain and memory are less of a filing cabinet, but more of a muscle. When novel information has entered the mind, the information must be rehearsed for it to be encoded within long-term memory, much like working out the muscle to keep fit; if the memory is not repeated or muscle is not worked out, both slowly diminish.

In the case of desirable difficulties, the information obtained must be continuously reviewed over a more considerable amount of time (testing and spacing effects) to maintain the information both time and energy must be applied.

Unfortunately, teachers do a lot of the work of learning for us. By organizing the material onto slides (organizational effect) that allows for easier comprehension of the material in a way that diminished attention (disfluency effect), so that little effort is needed by the student to understand the material. Not only do teachers do the work for us, but the traditional structure of education and standardized testing assist students with fast-tracking of information so that they can obtain a high grade through a multiple choice exam. With the goal of the education system to achieve A high GPA and test results; which is pursued by both students and teachers. It appears that teachers and post-secondary institutes want students to succeed only in the form of grades as that is how they measure success. Providing students with effort-less learning contradicts how learning is acquired: through effort, time, persistence, and difficulty, not through the ability to fill in a bubble on a scantron sheet.

The current study techniques as illustrated in my prior post consist of cramming, lecture slides, highlighters, flashcards, and the list of ineffective study techniques goes on and on. But for learning to be meaningful and active, students cannot merely rely on surface level strategies such as rereading the textbook or highlighting their notes. Unfortunately, these methods achieve decent if not exceptional results within grading, but the function of the current education is to make learning easy, but learning should not be easy, as emphasized in previous posts.

In conjunction with the effort-less student strategies, learning is individualized. By this I mean, that unless students form a study group, studying and learning is done as an individualized activity.  For example, in our Camus library, there are more isolated cubicles than study rooms or work tables, which promotes secluded studying. In individualistic societies, collective learning and test taking in the classroom are frowned upon; many call it cheating.

By not giving students the opportunity to see different perspectives, discuss, reflect on and challenge the information with each other, students become used to learning in one manner which is lecture halls and isolated. Resulting in a lack of effort because students are habituated to the same environment, and less attention is needed to succeed, so studying becomes subjective. This is because of this set structure of individualized learning and lecture halls, other forms of learning or feedback never occur (differentiated instruction delayed feedback). To illustrate this lack of effort and individualization for students, a news article recently came out that states that millennials would give up their right to vote for the next two elections to have their student loan debt forgiven. To some, this may be an acceptable choice, but to a majority of people, this is shocking. This example shows how millennials and a portion of society think individualistically rather than thinking of the collective. Now whether this choice is due to an overabundance of debt, the lack of effort it takes to vote, or that their vote doesn’t matter, it still reflects the focus of individualized effort rather than collective effort.

At this state, it appears that studying and learning are done without any scientific evidence, even go against psychology and how we actually learn; education and learning have become subjective, in the way that their methods are based upon tradition and opinion. But as we have seen in the SAFMEDS post, learning should not be subjective, and that there is a significant amount of psychology within learning, to make learning more effective in the long run. With this being said, I end this synthesis with one question: Do C’s really get degrees? I believe so.

The featured image, although disturbing, is an accurate portrayal of the learning, knowledge, and effort within the education system.

References

Blumberg, J. (2017). 50% of millennials would give up this fundamental American right to have their student loans forgivenCNBC. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/29/millennials-would-give-up-this-right-to-wipe-out-their-student-loans.html

Dangel, H. (2017). Effortful Retrieval | Center for Excellence in Teaching and LearningSites.gsu.edu. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from http://sites.gsu.edu/scholarlyteaching/effortful-retrieval/

Davis, M. (2017). How Collaborative Learning Leads to Student SuccessEdutopia. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://www.edutopia.org/stw-collaborative-learning-college-prep

Hopper, E. (2017). Individualist or Collectivist? How Culture Influences BehaviorHealthyPsych.com. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://healthypsych.com/individualist-or-collectivist-how-culture-influences-behavior/

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_cooperative_learning

Introduction to cooperative learning. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_cooperative_learning

Learning Myths vs. Learning Facts – The Effortful Educator. (2017). The Effortful Educator. Retrieved 24 November 2017, from https://theeffortfuleducator.com/2017/07/17/learning-myths-vs-learning-facts/

McFeeters, F. (2017). The Effects of Individualism Vs. Collectivism on Learner’s Recall, Transfer, and Attitudes Toward Collaboration and Individualized Learning (PH’D). Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

McGarry, K. (2017). effortful learning: desirable difficulty. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/10/27/effortful-learning-desirable-difficulty/

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: ineffective Pedagogy and Academia. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/11/10/ineffective-pedagogy-and-academia/

McGarry, K. (2017). Effortful Learning: SAFMEDS. Cognitive Mindset. Retrieved from https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/11/03/effortful-learning-application-of-safmeds-2/

No authorship indicated. (1987). Learning Together and Alone: Cooperative, Competitive, and Individualistic Learning (2nd ed.). Psyccritiques32(6). http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/027279

 

Posted in learning, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Application of SAFMEDS

For the second part of this three-part series, we will examine different methods of effective learning that use desirable difficulties. Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Learning is typically viewed in a subjective manner, especially learning strategies; but this post will apply psychology and cognition to learning.

Differentiated instruction, is about varying the way material is presented, and there are a few effective ways of doing this. The first as we know is having discussions rather than a lecture because every discussion is different in how it is presented and the information that is discussed. another way is to have student participation in class, rather than having a single professor give the same speech (that she/he has probably given multiple times) invite student involvement. Unfortunately, there is a lack of student participation, and some time to get students to interact in class is quite difficult. This is because we are uncomfortable talking to 200 students, we are unsure of our understanding, it could be embarrassing, or (just like teachers) we have an image that we don’t want to risk, so maybe we should start a social movement to take control of our class and learning (but that is a different blog).

The organizational effect is about organizing your own material, and by doing so it is better understood and remembered. I use this technique myself, where I collect all the information from lecture slides, notes, textbook and additional resources, and organize them into what I call the “golden notebook” where I organize and rewrite my material in a way that makes sense to me. By doing so, I am not just memorizing, but understanding the material in a more comprehensive way. With lectures and slides, most professors organize material so that we can easily understand it, but by doing so, they professors are learning more than we are in the long run, as they are organizing the material is a way that makes sense to them and teaches it to us, even though we are the one taking the exams. For example, one of my professors begins every set of slides with a detailed outline of talking points, which he sticks to religiously: outline

The nice thing about desirable difficulties is that a variety of components can be exploited in the same learning technique, which leads us to a highly effective tool.

Say-All-Fast-Minute-Every-Day-Shuffled aka SAFMEDS is a type of learning system (Lindsley, 1996) that stems from B.F. Skinner and his free operant learning, which is that the learner is free to make as many responses to each stimulus without interference, but there is varying of the environment or stimuli, resulting in development and learning occurs, to which these same principles are used in the SAFMEDS technique.

Index cards are used, where on one side you have a definition or explanation, while on the other side features a term, a statistic, or a name that is short to read.  The goal of SAFMEDS card is to promote fluency with novel stimuli.

With this task, the learner has freedom in a few different portions that positively impact their learning. Freedom to present the stimuli, pertains positively that they earn can control the fluency of how the cards are presented, resulting in a rhythmical pattern that contributes to their performance of fluency. The learner also controls the pace of when they go through the shuffled deck. if the learner is struggling with the material, then they have the freedom to review the SAFMEDS deck the next day, but if a learner is performing well, then they might wait 2 days before going through the shuffled deck again. with this freedom, it seems quite like one of the desirable difficulties of spaced repetition or the spacing effect. each time the learner goes through their deck active recall is enacted.

Free to form responses is when the learner can adapt the material in their favor, to suit their responses while learning. In other words, learners made their own SAFMEDS deck that contained their own abbreviations and organized the material on each card that made sense to each of them. This again sounds quite like the Organizational effect of desirable difficulties.

Freedom to repeat responses is described as the learner can repeat and go through their SAFMEDS deck as much as they need to learn, which means that repeated responses will occur. But each time they go through their self-made deck is shuffled to help promote fluency and prevent serial learning effect and memorization, by exploiting disfluency through shuffling. so, by varying the material, the learners learn the material better through random repetition. This is like the disfluency effect, where the same material is presented in a novel form that enhances learning through attention.

The final freedom is the Freedom to speed. This is described as establishing a time limit when going through the SAFMEDS deck to motivate the learn and promote more fluent responses that had to better learning. by adding a time limit of one minute, is it able to show the progress and feedback of improvement.  when the learner can only answer 10 cards within 1 minute, it shows to them that they need to improve by going through their deck tomorrow.  In addition to the progression, measurable feedback is provided, through the tracking of their progress. This tracking is done by another tool known as the Standard Celebration Chart: filled+in+chart

With this chart, the learner can track their progress and improvement that extend past days, weeks, into months and years. With the time limit and the Celebration chart, a learner is provided delayed feedback as part of desirable difficulties, by showing their progression and improvement that extend back by weeks, months and years.

This learning system not only applies to four of the desirable difficulties, but it applies to ALL the desirable difficulties that were discussed the last blog. differentiated instruction pertains to the learner’s requirement to shuffle the deck before each use, in which by doing so they vary the content or order of the material. Promoting alertness and fluency. The final desirable difficulty that SAFMEDS applied to is the obvious one of the testing effect. by using novel terms and definitions, where the learner self-tests with their material, by actively retrieving information each time they go through their SAFMEDS deck.

Here is an example of what the SAFMEDS cards look like:Figure-1-Example-of-the-front-and-back-of-two-of-the-SAFMEDS-cards-from-Pack-1

For this weeks featured photo, it is a lithograph print of mine, that I believe relates quite well to one of the desirable difficulties: disfluency effect. Most people when they see this, they assume it is a typical five-fingered hand, but with careful counting, they realize that an extra hand member is added. Did you notice it?

 

References

Calkin, A. (2005). Precision teaching: The Standard Celeration Charts. The Behavior Analyst Today, 6(4), pp.207-215.

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Precision teaching. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Precision_teaching#Instructional_tools [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Gibson, V. (2017). Differentiating Instruction and Practice: Practical Steps for Implementation | Center for Development and Learning. [online] Cdl.org. Available at: http://www.cdl.org/articles/differentiating-instruction-and-practice/ [Accessed 3 Nov. 2017].

Johnston, J. and Pennypacker, H. (1971). A behavioral approach to college teaching. American Psychologist, 26(3), pp.219-244.

Lindsley, O. (1996). The Four Free-Operant Freedoms. The Behavior Analyst, 19(2), pp.199-210.

Potts, L., Eshleman, J. and Cooper, J. (1993). Ogden R. Lindsley and the Historical Development of Precision Teaching. The Behavior Analyst, 16(2), pp.177-189.

Quigley, S., Peterson, S., Frieder, J. and Peck, K. (2017). A Review of SAFMEDS: Evidence for Procedures, Outcomes and Directions for Future Research. The Behavior Analyst.

 

 

 

Posted in learning, Photography, Psychology

Effortful Learning: Desirable Difficulties

This post is the beginning of a set of blogs that focus on one topic, analyzing effortful learning. It will be divided into three sections; this first post will examine the components of desirable difficulty.

Traditional and most today’s education is composed of teacher-centered methods focusing on mechanical or habitual learning and memorization, and then is applied to standardized testing resulting in grades. Because of this teacher-centered method, teachers stand in front of a class, with a well-organized slideshow, and lecture by reading off the slides, while the students listen, with the hopes of learning. After several lectures, students cram for multiple choice exams, receiving passable grades (ranging from a D to an A). This educational system, works for both most faculty and students, where students get a degree at the end, but how much of the information that they cram, do they learn, and remember a few semesters, months or even years later? Probably not! And what about those few select students who want to do more than passing a class and get a degree, they want to remember, learn, and gain knowledge that will last them for more than a semester, month or a year.

Because “learning is the process of acquiring new or modifying existing knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences,” it requires time and effort, and cannot be done effortlessly. To alleviate this problem of effortless learning, and give those select student’s methods to learn and recall it at any time, desirable difficulties is introduced.

Desirable difficulties is a learning task that requires a large amount of effort and desire for more effective learning, resulting in long-term knowledge. The purpose is to make the individual struggle and have difficulty with learning novel or complex information, resulting in more attention and memory being involved, causing longer retention of that information. Both the desire and difficulty are executed by 6 components: differentiated instruction, disfluency effect, organizational effect, testing effect, spacing effect, and delayed feedback.

Differentiated instruction (AKA Differentiated learning) is where variety is provided within learning and teaching. Variety can be achieved using different methods. Varying the content being taught, how the information is presented, the product or result, or the environment of where the information is being presented to reflect more flexibility; all of which promote alertness, and interactivity and increase learning. An example of differentiated instruction is the notion of classrooms:

 

The lecture hall is a fixed environment that promotes passive learning and listening, while the flexible environment of roundtables invites discussion, interaction and active learning.

The second component: disfluency effect (AKA cognitive disfluency) is purposely making information and material more difficult to comprehend. Typically with familiar and easy to read information, attention is lower, resulting in passive learning.  When information is unfamiliar or difficult to read, more attention provided, resulting in active cognitive processes. Some examples of disfluency could be as simple as making the text a more difficult to read font, as complex as the perception of people towards the familiar or unfamiliar material, resulting in biased and influenced response. One study by Adam Alter involved the perception of names. When names were familiar and simple to the participants, they responded more positively to the people with names like Tom, Jim, Alice. While with names that were unfamiliar and difficult to pronounce, participants responded negatively to names like Latifah, Itzel, and Chadwick.  Often what occurs is that with either fluency or disfluency of material can change the cognitive processes that are typically used on the target, in other words, if it is a difficult task, then a type of meta cognition signal occurs, and more attention occurs. An example of this is the typography style of this paragraph. 

The third component is the organizational effect. This effect (as discussed in a previous blog) is described as organizing, summarizing, and bullet pointing their own material and research; rather than just memorization or relying on the professor to structure the material or lecture. The student as they organize and structure their own material while in the process struggle with difficulty to put a large amount of unorganized material into a clear and readable structure. Resulting in more familiarity with the material, and allowing it to be better ingrained in your Long Term Memory (LTM) for later recall.  An example of this organizational effect is this Chinese Proverb:

Teach Them To Fish Quote Creative Participatory Employment Plans That Work

This proverb (I believe) applies to learn and teaching as well, rather than having the teacher do all the work while the student learns passively for a semester, have the student do all the work so that he can remember the material for a lifetime.

The fourth component, the testing effect is the idea that recalling and self-testing and relating novel information to previously gained knowledge strengthen recall, and resulting in better retrieval, rather than just rereading over reviewing the material. The testing effect is mostly associated with memory processes, relating to the overheard phrase of “practice makes perfect”. To remember something, it must be recalled and strengthened the testing effect, much like memory is often associated with the idea of a file cabinet, where once the information is encoded, it can be accessed at any time. This is not true; it is more like a muscle. Only through practice, and repetition can the muscle (memory or testing effect) be strengthened, and it must be recalled over time, to keep its strength, if not, it slowly gets weaker. To strength the material, students first must struggle with the material causing active learning and long-term retention.

 

Our brain (memory) is not like a filing cabinet, it is like a muscle.

The fifth component is the spacing effect (AKA spaced repetition). This effect occurs when information is retrieved at spaced intervals before or now that is it forgotten, rather than one time, typically right before the information is needed. By doing so, the information is retrieved more regularly, becoming more familiar. This like the previously mentioned components can be difficult to do, but when it is difficult, the information becomes strengthened and can be actively retrieved easier. An analogy of this spacing effect is a yoyo:81jS21RCVRL._SY355_

Like a yoyo, when a novice starts out, it is difficult to throw the yoyo to the end of the string and to catch it successfully, but with practice, and persistence, the novice can throw the yoyo to the end of the string and catch it successfully. With even more practice, the novice becomes an expert and can perform tricks where the yoyo remains at the end of the string in a sleeper position. Information is the same way, with more recall or practice the information can retain its position and strength over time.

The final component is delayed feedback. We all know that feedback is critical to learning, improvement, as well as learning from failures and relishing in success. But like testing and spacing effect, delayed feedback is where a student refrains from immediately reviewing answers, to partially forget them, only to review the feedback at a delayed time. This results in (like the spacing effect) the wrong answers or feedback in more encoded and strengthened over time, because of retrieval.

As you can see with all the different components of desirable difficulty, they are better and more effective when used collectively, rather than individually.

This week featured photo is of a difficult to read typography based mural. that is colorful and pack with detail and imagery that makes many people slow down during their busy days, to admire the graffiti.

References

Alter, A. (2017). DISFLUENCY | Edge.org. [online] Edge.org. Available at: https://www.edge.org/conversation/adam_alter-disfluency [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Caswell, J. and Tomlinson, C. (2003). A Differentiated Way to Think about Teaching. The English Journal, 92(4), p.93.

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Desirable difficulty. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desirable_difficulty [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Learning. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

En.wikipedia.org. (2017). Traditional education. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Traditional_education#cite_note-3r-1 [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

McGarry, K. (2017). Ikea’s Value of Learning.. [online] Cognitive mindset. Available at: https://kassiemcgarry.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/ikeas-value-of-learning/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].

Schmidt, R. and Bjork, R. (1992). New Conceptualizations of Practice: Common Principles in Three Paradigms Suggest New Concepts for Training. Psychological Science, 3(4), pp.207-218.

Tomlinson, C. (2017). Differentiated Instruction. In: C. Callahan and H. Hertberg-Davis, ed., Fundamentals of Gifted Education: Considering Multiple Perspectives. Routledge, pp.287-298.

 

Posted in learning, Psychology

Liquid Networking

Liquid being is an art exhibit currently at the university of Lethbridge. There was one art piece that really struck me (in a psychological way).

associated.jpg

This art piece is like associative learning. Individual cones are interconnected into the next cone, and leads to the next; resulting in a fluid and intricate track. If the cones were used individually, they would hardly hold any water, other than a few droplets on the surface; when the cones are interconnected creating a track which can hold and carry large amounts of water from one location, to another. Thus, being more effective when placed together, rather than individually. Through associative learning, pieces of information that are interconnected to each other become more durable and effective in their function, compared to individual pieces that are separate from one another.

Simply put, associative learning is a learning principle that states that ideas and experiences reinforce each other and can be mentally linked to one another. In a nutshell, it means our brains are not designed to recall information in isolation, so we group information together for better recall. Part of associative learning is associative memory; defined as the ability to learn and remember the relationship between unrelated items. This is typically done by associating a fact or information to you personally, making it more memorable.  By using associative learning and memory, or linking ideas and information together (like the cones), the information is encoded deeper, thus stored in long-term memory.

Typically, with associative memory, having multiple inputs of information or connections during the encoding stage results in deeper storing f information, making the memory stronger and easier to recall later, which as we know can produce more effective learning that is associated with more information than a term or fact or isolated piece of knowledge.

But in education, associative learning and memory, are subordinate strategies for studying and learning. For example, one of the go-to strategies for studying is flash cards, as it is the opposite of associative learning or dissociative learning (If there was such a thing).  With flashcards, you have a term or cue on one side, and on the other side you have the description, definition or information pertaining to that cue. When using flashcards, you remove the associations that are connected to that information. Flashcards only focus on pure memorization and/or recognition; not associative learning, knowledge or understanding.

So how can students learn more effectively and incorporate associative learning in their studies and education? One way is to build a connection with the information when it is presented. This can be done by students asking questions of “why am I learning this?”, “how does this class or information relate to me on a personal level or my chosen career?”; or by professors informing students not just what they will learn in their class but “why should students learn it”, or more abruptly “why should they [students] care?”. By asking and reflecting on such questions, it takes advantage of the usefulness portion of the MUSIC. Model of Motivation, creating intrinsic motivation. For students forced to take a class to meet a degree requirement, most students just try to pass the tests or assignments and don’t care about the information outside of the class or test. So, by finding parts of the class, information or skills that relate to the students on a more personal note, more associations are formed, and more effective learning occurs.

Another way that students can incorporate associative learning in their education is to relate to the information on a personal level. For students who can only answer the above questions with responses like “It was the only class available”, “it’s an easy A” “It’s a prerequisite”, or the ever popular ” because I have to, but don’t want to” tend not to have any motivation or interest in the information presented. So, with the course information, students can associate the information to personally, for better recall and understanding. For example, students are in an anatomy class, can relate the body parts and their functions to their own body and bodily functions.  Or if students are in a class where the information is dull and difficult to memorize, such techniques like gnomonic devices, made up or real-life stories experiences help remember the dull information better. By using such methods of associative learning, another layer of cues is created resulting in more effective storing of information.

So maybe by students and professors implementing such useful and associative strategies, it could result in more effective learning, to which our minds could metaphorically resemble an interconnected trail of cones that carry information more efficiently than any single, isolated cone, such as flashcards and pure memorization. By having such an intricate track of associated memories and learning, we can construct a beautiful image like the one seen underneath this trail of associated memory pieces (cones), and maybe just maybe, that beautiful image could represent the knowledge and understanding that has developed because of associative learning, like the one seen here:

floor-e1507871335202.jpg

For this week’s featured image is of my interpretation of what our minds could look like after the implementation of associative learning, that has been built up over time to create intricate networking of information that has been understood, collected and stored for future use and critical thinking.

References

Craik, F. and Tulving, E. (1975). Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 104(3), pp.268-294.

Shams, L. and Seitz, A. (2008). Benefits of multisensory learning. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(11), pp.411-417.

Spanella, T. (2017). Associative Learning: Definition, Theory & Examples – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. [online] Study.com. Available at: http://study.com/academy/lesson/associative-learning-definition-theory-examples.html [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

the free encyclopedia, W. (2017). Associative memory (psychology). [online] En.wikipedia.org. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Associative_memory_(psychology) [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Wissman, K., Rawson, K. and Pyc, M. (2012). How and when do students use flashcards?. Memory, 20(6), pp.568-579.

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.

Bluma-Zeigarnik-1921
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.

8acfb44560032afc68dece092fadc0c9_2.png
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.

References

Atkinson, J. (1953). The achievement motive and recall of interrupted and completed tasks. Journal Of Experimental Psychology46(6), 381-390. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0057286

No Interruptions? How The Zeigarnik Effect Could Help You To Study Better. (2017). Psychologistworld.com. Retrieved 29 September 2017, from https://www.psychologistworld.com/memory/zeigarnik-effect-interruptions-memory

Pomodoro Technique. (2017). En.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomodoro_Technique

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 effectEn.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 29 September 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeigarnik_effect

Zeigarnik, B. (1927). ON FINISHED AND UNFINISHED TASKS.

 

 

Posted in Psychology

Barnum Effect: “Something For Everyone”

For this week’s blog post I will talk about the Barnum Effect, its cognitive effects and biases.

“At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved”. If this sentence describes you then you fall victim to the Barnum effect, as does most the population.

The Barnum effect or as it can be known as the Forer effect is a cognitive effect that is seen in media and social living. The oxford university press defines the Barnum effect as “The tendency to accept certain information as true, such as character assessments or horoscopes, even when the information is so vague as to be worthless”.

This cognitive hoax was created by P.T Barnum who was a 19th century circus showman who coined the term “A sucker born every minute”. This effect although created in the 1800’s still is used in current life as it is used in horoscopes, fortunes, and psychics, mind readers, personality tests and other popular forms of predicting ones’ personality.

The cognition behind the Barnum effect has to do with a few cognitive aspects. One reason for the effectiveness of the Barnum effect has to do with memory specifically one’s internal memory storage, where we tend to have a larger memory about ourselves compared to others and so when given a vague statement, we implicitly scan our long-term memory to find behavioral reasoning to apply to the statement making it appear true.

Another plausible reason for the internal acceptance of vague statements is based on the source of information. People are more likely to believe given information if it comes from a reliable source or a source that has previous experience at being accurate.

This for example can be applied to an experimenter with a professional demeanor, or someone who believes in superstition, good luck, or fortune can believe the statements from a psychic, mind-reader, a newspaper horoscope or a Facebook personality test. The idea behind this theory is motivation or the history or reliability of the source of information. This is more steadily applied when the information is deemed more positive than negative, this I believe is based on the idea that as humans we are optimistic about ourselves, and our future. This is represented by a couple of cognitive biases such as Social desirability bias, which is a tendency to answer questions with answers that would be deemed as favourable to receive praise or the personal validation effect where you internally validate the individual or source of information which then your acceptance of the statement increase. This is seen in the Milgram experiment and Rosenhan experiment where it showed the power of the authority.

Some researchers think that higher acceptance of bogus statements is due to human gullibility, or that we have a biological need as humans to be sociably acceptable to others, and will intrinsically agree with vague statements that tend to be false.

Other cognitive effects or biases that that coincide with the Barnum effect are the self-serving bias which is a belief in more positive traits and statements than in negative ones, which can either inhibit or increase the Barnum effect.  There is also the confirmation bias where people pay less attention to information that doesn’t’t pertain to them, this is in relation to the notion that we agree with more positive information about ourselves, and so we unconsciously pay less attention to negativity especially about one’s self.

Other cognitive biases that can be represented alongside the Barnum effect is the Placebo effect believing something will work like a medication, which creates an actual effect because of the belief, not the supplement.

For this week’s photograph, I have posted a photo that I believe is a metaphor for the Barnum effect, that when you first look at the photo it appears to be a gorgeous mural, but when you look past image you seen that the mural is just covering up an old brick wall in a run down area. This is similar to the Barnum effect where once you look past the face and go deeper into the actual context, you find something different.

References:

http://psychology.iresearchnet.com/social-psychology/social-cognition/barnum-effect/

Allum, N. (2010). What makes some people think astrology is scientific? Science Communication, 33(3), 341–366. doi:10.1177/1075547010389819

David, T. (2014). Top Twelve most agreed with statements magic words. Retrieved from http://www.magicwordsbook.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Top-Twelve-Most-Agreed-With-Statements-Magic-Words.pdf

Marks, D. F. (1988). The psychology of paranormal beliefs. Experiential, 44(4), 332–337. doi:10.1007/bf01961272

Oxford University Press. (2017). Barnum Effect. Retrieved January 21, 2017, from Oxford Dictionary, https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/barnum_effect

Rudowicz, E., & Hui, A. (1997). The creative personality: Hong Kong perspective. JOURNAL OF SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, 12(1), 139–157.

Snook, B., Cullen, R. M., Bennell, C., Taylor, P. J., & Gendreau, P. (2008). The criminal profiling illusion: What’s behind the smoke and mirrors? Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35(10), 1257–1276. doi:10.1177/0093854808321528

Wikipedia (2016a). Social desirability bias. In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_desirability_bias

Wikipedia (2016b). Subjective validation. In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subjective_validation

Wikipedia (2017). Barnum effect. In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnum_effect