Psychologists solve mystery of songbird learning : "bird time" feedbackThe researchers' clue to the zebra finch mystery came when they considered that birds see the world at several times the "critical flicker fusion rate" of humans. Simply put, birds can perceive events that happen much too fast for a human to see, and most previous research on social learning has not taken into account such rapid "bird time," in which tiny behaviors can have large social effects. Using slowed-down video, the Cornell researchers were able to identify tiny movements, imperceptible to the human eye, made by the female zebra finches to encourage the baby songbirds. These included wing gestures and "fluff-ups," an arousal behavior in which the bird fluffs up its feathers. "Over time, the female guides the baby's song toward her favorite version. There's nothing imitative about it," said Carouso-Peck.
Newborn babies have inbuilt ability to pick out words -- ScienceDailyThe researchers discovered two mechanisms in three-day-old infants, which give them the skills to pick out words in a stream of sounds. The first mechanism is known as prosody, the melody of language, allow us to recognise when a word starts and stops. The second is called the statistics of language, which describes how we compute the frequency of when sounds in a word come together. The discovery provides a key insight into a first step to learning language.
A little labeling goes a long way: Infants can use a few labeled examples to spark the acquisition of object categories -- ScienceDaily"These results suggest that semi-supervised learning can be quite powerful. Seeing just two labeled examples jump-starts infants' category learning. Once they've heard a few objects receive the same label, infants can learn the rest on their own, with or without labels," said Alexander LaTourrette, the lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in cognitive psychology in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern. Moreover, the timing of the labeling mattered. If the two labeling episodes came at the end of the learning phase, after infants had already seen the unlabeled objects, they failed to learn the category. This tells us that infants can use semi-supervised learning. They use the power of labeling to learn more from subsequent, unlabeled objects.
Great minds may think alike, but all minds look alike -- ScienceDailyThe (skeleton) structure of the brain is like a road map consisting of many narrow streets (i.e., weak links), and a small fraction of highways each containing thousands of lanes (i.e., very strong links). Such a diverse road map could either be a spontaneous outcome of a random brain activity, or alternatively could be directed by a meaningful learning activity, where the "highways" direct the information flow in the brain. "A byproduct of dendritic learning is the wide spectrum of link strengths. The dendritic learning enables us to offer an explanation for an additional universal phenomenon observed in all brains and indicates its important role," said Prof. Kanter, whose research team includes Herut Uzan, Shira Sardi, Amir Goldental and Roni Vardi. The underlying mechanism is a fast response of a neuron to its strong entry compared to a slow response to a weak one. "The mechanism is similar to a pool filled through a wide pipe or through a narrow one. The wide pipe fills the pool faster," explained the research team.
Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning - Scientific AmericanThe research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique human ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.
Google’s DeepMind is using AI to explore dopamine’s role in learningIn animals, dopamine is believed to reinforce behaviors by strengthening synaptic links in the prefrontal cortex. But the consistency of the neural network’s behavior suggests that dopamine also conveys and encodes information about tasks and rule structures, according to the researchers.
Students learn Italian playing Assassin's Creed video game -- ScienceDailyIn a class called Intensive Italian for Gamers, all students made progress equal to two semesters of Italian over the course of a single fall semester. By the final, students were 3 to 5 points ahead of students in a traditional Italian course.
Does dim light make us dumber? -- ScienceDailySpending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain's structure and hurt one's ability to remember and learn, indicates groundbreaking research by Michigan State University neuroscientists. The researchers studied the brains of Nile grass rats (which, like humans, are diurnal and sleep at night) after exposing them to dim and bright light for four weeks. The rodents exposed to dim light lost about 30 percent of capacity in the hippocampus, a critical brain region for learning and memory, and performed poorly on a spatial task they had trained on previously. The rats exposed to bright light, on the other hand, showed significant improvement on the spatial task. Further, when the rodents that had been exposed to dim light were then exposed to bright light for four weeks (after a month-long break), their brain capacity -- and performance on the task -- recovered fully.
Reading on electronic devices may interfere with science reading comprehension -- ScienceDaily"The more time the participants reported on using e-devices per day -- for instance, reading texts on their iPhone, watching TV, playing internet games, texting, or reading an eBook -- the less well they did when they tried to understand scientific texts," said Li. "There are a lot of positive uses for electronic devices and I'm an advocate of digital learning, but when it comes to understanding of science concepts through reading, our take is that it's not helpful." Li said the way people read on electronic devices may encourage them to pick up only bits and pieces of information from the material, while the comprehension of scientific information requires a more holistic approach to reading where the reader incorporates the information in a relational and structured way. "This is sort of speculation, because, so far, this is only a correlation -- When you are writing a text on a smartphone, for example, you use very short sentences and you abbreviate a lot, so it's fragmented," said Li. "When you're reading such a text, you're getting bits of information here and there and not always trying to connect the material. And I think that might be the main difference, when you're reading expository scientific texts you need to be connecting and integrating the information."
Novice pilots improve visual responses to simulation by watching experts' eye movements: Eye movements reliably distinguish between novice and expert military pilots -- ScienceDailyThe researchers also explored whether the differences in eye movements between expert and novice pilots could be developed into a training regimen. One group of novices watched a video in which an expert pilot solved a complex emergency procedure in a military flight simulator. Another group watched the same video, but with a representation of the expert pilot's eye movements superimposed onto the video (a dot moved around the screen in real time, indicating eye position). When retested, only the latter group had acquired expert eye movement techniques. This occurred without explicit instructions about what the dot was or how to use it. The results suggest that modeling expert eye movements may benefit pilot training.
mistakes. So much of lived experience is composed of what lies beyond our agency and prediction, beyond our grasp, beyond our imagining. In the perfected landscapes of Second Life, I kept remembering what a friend had once told me about his experience of incarceration: Having his freedom taken from him meant not only losing access to the full range of the world’s possible pleasure, but also losing access to the full range of his own possible mistakes. Maybe the price of a perfected world, or a world where you can ostensibly control everything, is that much of what strikes us as “experience” comes from what we cannot forge ourselves, and what we cannot ultimately abandon.
What Learning Looks Like: Researcher Teaches Fake Words To Watch Learning Happen | KPBSAbel has crafted more than 700 of these sentence sets so she can chart the progression in brain activity as children hear them. In this way, she can actually see learning happening. It starts with a big dip on the line graph during the first sentence, "The boys fought over the shap." That dip means Duncan is confused — his neurons aren't sure what he’s just encountered. The second and third sentences add context. "They played catch with the shap. I like to throw the shap." The dip gets shallower and shallower until it becomes a peak on the line graph. "So the third time they hear the nonsense word, it looks like their brain is processing it like it's a real word," Abel said. "The brain is responding to it the exact same way that the brain responds to a known word."
Midnight munchies mangle memory: Eating at the wrong time impairs learning, memory -- ScienceDailySome genes involved in both the circadian clock and in learning and memory are regulated by a protein called CREB (cAMP response element-binding protein). When CREB is less active, it decreases memory, and may play a role in the onset of Alzheimer's disease. In the mice fed at the wrong time, the total activity of CREB throughout the hippocampus was significantly reduced, with the strongest effects in the day. However, the master pacemaker of the circadian system, the suprachiasmatic nucleus located in the hypothalamus, is unaffected. This leads to desynchrony between the clocks in the different brain regions (misalignment), which the authors suggest underlies the memory impairment. "Modern schedules can lead us to eat around the clock so it is important to understand how the timing of food can impact cogitation" says Professor Christopher Colwell from the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA. "For the first time, we have shown that simply adjusting the time when food is made available alters the molecular clock in the hippocampus and can alter the cognitive performance of mice." Eating at the wrong time also disrupted sleep patterns. The inappropriate feeding schedule resulted in the loss of the normal day/night difference in the amount of sleep although the total time spent asleep over 24 hours was not changed. Sleep became fragmented, with the mice catching up on sleep by grabbing more short naps throughout the day and night.
Social tool box improves autistic social responsivenessIn the study, 22 people aged 18 to 24 and their caregivers were randomly assigned either to receive the PEERS treatment or to be part of a control group in which treatment was delayed. Those in the PEERS group received training on social etiquette related to conversational skills, humor, electronic communication, identifying sources of friends, entering and exiting conversations, organizing successful get-togethers, and handling peer conflict and peer rejection. The young adults in the PEERS group also received four sessions on dating etiquette. The PEERS approach teaches skills using concrete rules and steps of social behavior via lessons, role-play demonstrations, behavioral rehearsal exercises and assignments to practice the skills in natural social settings. Caregivers (including parents and other family members, job and life coaches, and peer mentors) are also provided tips to help participants use their skills in the real world. Among members of the PEERS group, social skills, frequency of social engagement and social skills knowledge improved significantly, and autism symptoms related to social responsiveness diminished. In addition, 16 weeks after the treatment ended, most of the gains were still evident, and the researchers observed new improvements in social communication, assertion, responsibility and empathy -- a result the scientists attributed to the involvement of caregivers as social coaches.
InterleavingRohrer has conducted a number of studies of interleaving in the laboratory
cramming is 1/3 as effectivein a study of fifth-graders published in Applied Cognitive Psychology in 2011, lead author Hailey Sobel of McGill University reported that students who learned definitions of vocabulary words on a spaced-out schedule remembered three times as many definitions as students who spent the same amount of time learning the material in a single session.
Good tips for a reporter... or an entreprenuer, from WaPo's Dan ZakAlways put your name and contact information on the cover of your notebooks. Stay a little longer. Even just a minute. If you can go, go. Always go. Life doesn't usually conform to narrative, or, at least, a single narrative. Rigorous reporting can reveal arcs and themes and twists and denouements and literary-like symbolism, but in the end life is mostly open-ended, unsatisfying and incomplete. Honor that incompleteness. Respect it. "It's the reporting, stupid." (Someone said this, I don't know who, but Ann Gerhart had it on a Post-It note on her computer at one point.) Don't lose your way. Start to cheat a little, and soon you'll be cheating a lot. Every story, no matter how small, is somehow about the meaning of life (this is the Weingarten Corollary). Say "I don't understand this; help me understand this" early and often. Close interviews with "Who else should I talk to?" and/or "What else should I know?" and/or "Is there a question you wish I'd asked that you've been waiting to answer?" Answer every reader e-mail; return their calls, especially.
Moderate drinking decreases number of new brain cellsThe researchers discovered that at this level of intoxication in rats -- comparable to about 3-4 drinks for women and five drinks for men -- the number of nerve cells in the hippocampus of the brain were reduced by nearly 40 percent compared to those in the abstinent group of rodents. The hippocampus is a part of the brain where the new neurons are made and is also known to be necessary for some types of new learning. This level of alcohol intake was not enough to impair the motor skills of either male or female rats or prevent them from associative learning in the short-term. Still, Anderson said, th is substantial decrease in brain cell numbers over time could have profound effects on the structural plasticity of the adult brain because these new cells communicate with other neurons to regulate brain health. "If this area of your brain was affected every day over many months and years, eventually you might not be able to learn how to get somewhere new or to learn something new about your life," said Anderson, a graduate fellow in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology. "It's something that you might not even be aware is occurring."
Improving Students’ Learning With Effective Learning TechniquesPractice testing and distributed practice received high utility assessments because they benefit learners of different ages and abilities and have been shown to boost students’ performance across many criterion tasks and even in educational contexts. Elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, and interleaved practice received moderate utility assessments. […] Five techniques received a low utility assessment: summarization, highlighting, the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, and rereading. These techniques were rated as low utility for numerous reasons.
The meta-analysis, published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that teaching approaches that turned students into active participants rather than passive listeners reduced failure rates and boosted scores on exams by almost one-half a standard deviation. “The change in the failure rates is whopping,” Freeman says. And the exam improvement—about 6%—could, for example, “bump [a student’s] grades from a B– to a B.” “This is a really important article—the impression I get is that it’s almost unethical to be lecturing if you have this data,” says Eric Mazur, a physicist at Harvard University who has campaigned against stale lecturing techniques for 27 years and was not involved in the work.
In the first study, 65 college students watched one of five TED Talks covering topics that were interesting but not common knowledge. The students, who watched the talks in small groups, were either given laptops (disconnected from Internet) or notebooks, and were told to use whatever strategy they normally used to take notes. The students then completed three distractor tasks, including a taxing working memory task. A full 30 minutes later, they had to answer factual-recall questions (e.g., "Approximately how many years ago did the Indus civilization exist?") and conceptual-application questions (e.g., "How do Japan and Sweden differ in their approaches to equality within their societies?") based on the lecture they had watched. The results revealed that while the two types of note-takers performed equally well on questions that involved recalling facts, laptop note-takers performed significantly worse on the conceptual questions. The notes from laptop users contained more words and more verbatim overlap with the lecture, compared to the notes that were written by hand. Overall, students who took more notes performed better, but so did those who had less verbatim overlap, suggesting that the benefit of having more content is canceled out by "mindless transcription." "It may be that longhand note takers engage in more processing than laptop note takers, thus selecting more important information to include in their notes, which enables them to study this content more efficiently," the researchers write. Surprisingly, the researchers saw similar results even when they explicitly instructed the students to avoid taking verbatim notes, suggesting that the urge to do so when typing is hard to overcome. The researchers also found that longhand note takers still beat laptop note takers on recall one week later when participants were given a chance to review their notes before taking the recall test. Once again, the amount of verbatim overlap was associated with worse performance on conceptual items.
The researchers randomly assigned 90 children to conditions in which they learned using different kinds of physical interaction with the material. In one group, children picked up magnetic number tiles and put them in the proper place in the formula. For example, for the problem 4 + 2 + 6 = ___ + 6, they picked up the 4 and 2 and placed them on a magnetic whiteboard. Another group mimed that action without actually touching the tiles, and a third group was taught to use abstract gestures with their hands to solve the equations. In the abstract gesture group, children were taught to produce a V-point gesture with their fingers under two of the numbers, metaphorically grouping them, followed by pointing a finger at the blank in the equation. The children were tested before and after solving each problem in the lesson, including problems that required children to generalize beyond what they had learned in grouping the numbers. For example, they were given problems that were similar to the original one, but had different numbers on both sides of the equation. Children in all three groups learned the problems they had been taught during the lesson. But only children who gestured during the lesson were successful on the generalization problems. “Abstract gesture was most effective in encouraging learners to generalize the knowledge they had gained during instruction, action least effective, and concrete gesture somewhere in between,”
Research shows that people who follow strategy B [read ten pages at once, then close the book and write a one page summary] remember 50 percent more material over the long term than people who follow strategy A [read ten pages four times in a row and try to memorize them]. This is because of one of deep practice’s most fundamental rules: Learning is reaching. Passively reading a book—a relatively effortless process, letting the words wash over you like a warm bath—doesn’t put you in the sweet spot. Less reaching equals less learning.