Daily Archives: April 18, 2011

April 18 cognitive science news round-up

  • Writing in the New York Times a few months ago, physician Perri Klass reviewed recent research to counter myths our society has about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Among Dr. Klass’s arguments was a statement that seemed to rule out cultural influences as possible contributing factors to ADHD. In this op-ed piece in the Huffington Post, neuroscientist Russell Poldrack argues that our ‘information culture’ can indeed contribute to ADHD.
  • A new study by a global consortium of researchers found that among a pool of study participants from around the world, a majority reported failure in their efforts to ‘unplug’ from information technology such as mobile phones and the Internet. Some study participants even reported feeling symptoms akin to those suffered by substance abusers going through withdrawal.  [U. of Maryland International Center for Media & the Public Affairs]
  • “A survey of hundreds of drinkers found that on average people could tell good wine from plonk no more often than if they had simply guessed.” [The Guardian]

New studies suggest direct instruction can constrain very young children’s cognition

Note: This is cross-posted with my Education Blog.

Dr. Alison Gopnik of UC-Berkeley writes in Slate:

Shouldn’t very young children be allowed to explore, inquire, play, and discover [in a setting less ‘school-like’ than is the case with many pre-schools today]? Perhaps direct instruction can help children learn specific facts and skills, but what about curiosity and creativity—abilities that are even more important for learning in the long run? Two forthcoming studies in the journal Cognitionone from a lab at MIT and one from my lab at UC-Berkeley—suggest that the doubters are on to something. While learning from a teacher may help children get to a specific answer more quickly, it also makes them less likely to discover new information about a problem and to create a new and unexpected solution…

As so often happens in science, two studies from different labs, using different techniques, have simultaneously produced strikingly similar results. They provide scientific support for the intuitions many teachers have had all along: Direct instruction really can limit young children’s learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions.