Daily Archives: July 21, 2008

Like adults, toddlers prefer their data in ‘chunks’

Many learning science researchers long have argued that people process information in discrete ‘chunks’ (it helps if the chunking parameter have some semantic meaning, such as the knowledge that a US area code is always three digits).

Science Daily reports on new research that suggests toddlers, like adults, prefer chunked information:

Which is easier to remember: 4432879960 or 443-297-9960? The latter, of course. Adults seem to know automatically, in fact, that long strings of numbers are more easily recalled when divided into smaller “bite-sized chunks,” which is why we break up our telephone and Social Security numbers in this way.

Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have discovered that children as young as 14 months old can — and do — use the same technique to increase their working memories, indicating that “chunking” information in this way is not a learned strategy, but is, instead, a fundamental aspect of the human mind.


Autism may be a result of both nature AND nurture

Science Daily reports on new research from MIT researchers into the causes of autism:

“Our work points to how a disorder can be genetic and yet be dependent on the environment,” said co-author Mriganka Sur, Sherman Fairchild Professor of Neuroscience at the Picower Institute and chair of MIT’s brain and cognitive sciences department. “Many genes require activity to be expressed and make their assigned proteins. They alter their expression when activity is altered. Thus, we reveal an important mechanism of brain development that should open up a window into the mechanisms and treatment of brain disorders such as autism.”

In the brain, some genes are only expressed, or turned on, in response to stimulus from the outside world. Like a panel of switches that turn lights on and off, genes that don’t receive electricity don’t “turn on” and express their particular proteins.

The psychology of shopping

LiveScience reports on the often irrational behaviors exhibited by shoppers, especially when it comes to computing savings and discounts.