Category: Educational

The Way Children Draw Human Figures Has Changed Since The 1970s, Reflecting Modern Society’s Attitudes To Gender – German Study

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Examples of children’s drawings of a human figure, via Lamm et al, 2019

By Christian Jarrett

Over the last half century Western European countries have enjoyed a large increase in gender equality. There is a long way to go, but some statistics are striking: for instance, in Germany the employment rate for women has increased from 48 per cent in 1980 to 73 per cent in 2014. Psychologists are interested in whether, and how, these kind of societal-level changes filter down and affect children’s conceptions of gender.

To find out, a team at the University of Münster and Osnabrück University, led by Bettina Lamm, has compared the way that young German children in 1977 drew a human figure with the way that age-matched German children in 2015 drew a figure. The results, published in Sex Roles, suggest two parallel changes: girls in 2015 more often chose to draw a female figure than girls in 1977; at the same time, the children tested in 2015 depicted female figures as more distinctly feminine than the children in the 1970s.

“Societal changes over the last four decades in West Germany have clearly generated two trends,” the researchers said. “… growing status equality between the genders on the one hand, and increasing gender differentiation, on the other.”

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Distinct From IQ Or Working Memory, “Implicit Learning Ability” Is An Important, Stable Trait That Varies Between Individuals

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The striking findings have implications for our understanding of intelligence

By Emma Young

There’s a huge amount of research into how people differ in their ability to learn things deliberately and “explicitly”, such as memorising a list of words or instructions, for example. Far less studied is “implicit learning”. Ask a five-year-old to explain the grammatical rules of their language and they’ll likely have no clue where to start. And yet, they do know them – or at least, well enough to form coherent sentences. This kind of unconscious acquisition of abstract knowledge is an example of “implicit” learning. 

Implicit learning may be especially important for young children, but adults depend on it, too. It “is recognised as a core system that underlies learning in multiple domains, including language, music and even learning about the statistical structure of our environments,” note the authors of a new paper, published in Cognition. 

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Researchers Conducted Six Studies To Investigate How Best To Challenge Science Deniers

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via James Mathurin/Flickr

By Jesse Singal

When responding to science denialism (or, for that matter, any sort of false or harmful information), such as claims that vaccines are ineffective and harmful, it can be difficult to establish the right strategy. Because of the fast-paced way in which information spreads these days, there is a risk that responding to a given inaccurate claim can give it further oxygen, leading the falsehood to reach more people who are vulnerable to being misled, and so forth. There’s also the possibility of the “backfire effect” – people who already endorse the false claims reacting to the debunking information by digging into their beliefs further (though there’s now evidence such fears were overhyped, and that the backfire effect may not be a regular occurrence overall).

To better understand when science-denialism debunking does and doesn’t work, Philipp Schmid and Cornelia Betsch, both of the University of Erfurt in Germany, ran a series of studies that involved online respondents being exposed to various sorts of science debates. The results, published in Nature Human Behavior, offer some useful insights about how to best stem the tide of science denialism.

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Five Unusual, Evidence-Based Ways To Get Better At A New Language

GettyImages-1037536210.jpgBy Emma Young

The last time I tried to learn a foreign language, I was living in an Italian suburb of Sydney. My hour a week at a local Italian class was inevitably followed by a bowl of pasta and a few glasses of wine. As an approach to language-learning goes, it was certainly more pleasurable than my German lessons at school. Despite the wine, it was also surprisingly effective. In fact, getting better at a new language doesn’t have to mean hard hours on lists of vocab and the rules of grammar. It turns out that what you don’t focus on matters, too. And a glass of wine may even help … 

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A Core Subgroup of Believers Don’t Just Think Learning Styles Are Real, But Also Inherited And Hard-Wired In The Brain

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Teachers were just as likely to be “essentialist” believers in learning styles as other participants

By Matthew Warren

The “learning style” myth – the idea that we each have a preferred modality for learning, usually described as visual, auditory or kinaesthetic – just won’t die. Belief in learning styles endures even though psychologists have pointed out repeatedly the many problems with the concept. Students don’t benefit from learning in their supposedly preferred style, for example, and teachers and their pupils don’t agree on the pupil’s learning style in the first place. 

But exactly how believers in learning styles conceive of the concept has until now remained unclear. It could be that people take an “essentialist” view that our learning style is something we are born with, for instance. On the other hand, they may believe that learning styles are more liable to change – a “non-essentialist” perspective. A new study in the Journal of Educational Psychology has found that, in fact, both views are common, a result that could have implications for tackling the myth. 

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Thinking About Their Multiple Identities Boosts Children’s Creativity And Problem-Solving Skills

GettyImages-478513620.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

It usually helps to “get a fresh pair of eyes” on a problem, especially from someone with a different perspective than your own. But what if you could find a variety of vantage points from within yourself? After all, each of us has multiple roles and identities in life. In a new paper in Developmental Science, a team led by Sarah Gaither at Duke University presents evidence that prompting children to think about their own multiple identities boosts their problem-solving skills and increases their flexible thinking.

“Someone can be a woman and White, a teacher and a parent, a girl and a friend,” the researchers write. “Although individuals may not automatically reflect on their multiple identities, here we propose that when they do, it may have positive consequences for their creative problem solving and flexible thinking.”

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Most Comprehensive Review To Date Finds The Average Person’s Reading Speed Is Slower Than Previously Thought

giphyBy Matthew Warren

You should take just under two-and-a-half minutes to finish reading this blog post. That’s going by the findings of a new review, which has looked at almost 200 studies of reading rates published over the past century to come up with an overall estimate for how quickly we read. And it turns out that that rate is considerably slower than commonly thought.

Of the various estimates of average reading speed bandied around over the years, one of the most commonly cited is 300 words per minute (wpm). However, a number of findings of slower reading rates challenge that statistic, notes Marc Brysbaert from Ghent University in Belgium in his new paper released as a preprint on PsyArxiv. 

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People Agree It’s Harder To Conjure A Frog With Magic Than Change Its Colour – Suggesting We Use Our Intuitive Physics To Make Sense Of Imaginary Worlds

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via McCoy and Ullman (2019)

By Christian Jarrett

In a world with magic, how much effort do you think it would take to cast a spell to make a frog appear out of nowhere? What about to turn a frog invisible? Or make it levitate? And would it be easier to levitate a frog than a cow?

The researchers John McCoy and Tomer Ullman recently put such questions to hundreds of participants across three studies and found they were in remarkable agreement. The findings, published in PLOS One, suggest that we invoke our intuitive understanding of the physical world – our “folk physics” – to make sense of imaginary worlds. And they help explain why fantasy TV shows and books can lose their magic as soon as it feels like anything goes. “Superman leaps tall buildings in a single bound, but a building takes more sweat than an ant-hill,” the researchers said. “And even for Superman, leaping to Alpha Centauri is simply silly.”

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Taking Tiny Breaks Is Key To Learning New Skills

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Brain activity associated with learning of left-handed key-presses during rest periods, via Bönstrup et al 2019

By Matthew Warren

A wealth of research has shown that taking breaks is an important part of learning. Resting straight after acquiring new information seems to improve memory of that information, for example, and sleep is particularly important for consolidating what we have just learned. 

Now it seems that even miniscule breaks, just seconds long, are also vital for learning new skills. A study published recently in Current Biology has found that most of the improvement while learning a motor task comes not while actually practicing, but instead during the breaks between practice sessions.

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Kids Are More Motivated To “Do Science” Than “Be A Scientist” – A Finding That Could Help Address The Profession’s Diversity Problem

GettyImages-639407632.jpgBy Matthew Warren

It’s well known that science has a diversity problem, with women and members of minority groups being underrepresented. A new study suggests a solution aimed at children – reframing science as something that people do, rather than something that defines their identity, can reduce the potentially off-putting impact of the “white male” scientist stereotype.

According to the paper, published recently in Developmental Science, thoughtful use of language encourages greater interest in science among young children – and makes them less likely to lose confidence in their scientific abilities as they grow up.

Continue reading “Kids Are More Motivated To “Do Science” Than “Be A Scientist” – A Finding That Could Help Address The Profession’s Diversity Problem”