steph489: October 2011 Archives

Learning Styles

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Most everyone has heard of learning styles. They might even have identified their own learning style as either "analytical", "holistic", "verbal", or "spatial" - these being some of the most commonly acknowledged learning styles. The idea of there being specific types of learners is everywhere. Most of us have been told at some point that once we've identified our learning style, learning will become much easier. But is this actually the case?

Most careful research findings lead us to believe that learning styles are not as functional as they claim to be. Much of this is probably due to the fact that most people are not purely one type of learner, but instead learn through many different methods. Researchers of cognitive science have said, in fact, that students learn better when information is presented to them multiple times in varying ways. This gives the information to students from different angles, and better enables them to make sense of it.

This information seems to contradict the idea of people having one specific way that they learn best. Although, there certainly may be some truth to the idea of people getting more sense out of information presented to them in a certain format, such as visually. Perhaps this is because it forces students to think about the meaning of the information more deeply, as the article above suggests.
There is a great amount of information available about learning styles. Some of this information may hold some truth in it, however, we must be careful when evaluating such claims. Saying that every person has one particular form of learning best leaves little room for variability, which is a large part of psychology. Either way, the idea of learning styles leaves many questions. What careers do believers in learning styles think that certain learning styles gravitate towards? Does personality have a lot to do with learning style? Can a person's learning style change over time?

Phoebe Stephan

We've all had the feeling of having been somewhere or done something before, even though it might be a completely new experience with no possibility of having had the experience before. We refer to this feeling as deja vu. Deja vu is defined as a feeling of reliving an experience that's new. This can be an eerie experience at times, which this video humorously capitalizes on:

These episodes tend to last anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, and interestingly enough, are reported more frequently by people who are young, remember their dreams, have liberal political views and religious beliefs, have a high income, and travel frequently.
Scientists believe that deja vu may be caused by an surplus of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the temporal lobes of the brain. Researchers also believe that deja vu might arise from an experience resembling a previous experience. The familiar feeling might arise because we don't consciously remember the experience. This would account for why a "new" experience would seem familiar to us.
I find the concept of deja vu very fascinating. It's interesting to learn about little things, such as deja vu, that we experience but have never really understood why we do. As I've learned about it, I continue to wonder what exactly triggers deja vu episodes, as well as if it has anything to do with what kind of an experience you are having at the time.

Phoebe Stephan

The Placebo Effect

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One of the main pitfalls in experimental design, is the placebo effect. This is when a patient's condition improves merely because he or she expects it to. For example, in an experiment testing a new drug, the members of the control group may not be administered anything, while the members of the experimental group may be administered the actual experimental drug. The members of the experimental group might show a larger improvement than the members of the control group. This could be due to the effectiveness of the drug, or it could be because the experimental group knew that they were receiving the drug and expected to improve. This would demonstrate the placebo effect. Here is a real life experiment involving the placebo effect:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=8558295832641895552

I believe that the placebo effect is an important concept in psychology and research because it has been shown to have the same effects as real drugs. This is also what I find most fascinating about the placebo effect, that a person's mere expectation of improvement can actually cause physical improvement.
It's very important for researchers to guard against the placebo effect in their experiments, because it can have such a strong effect. They do this by not letting patients know whether they're in the control or experimental group, or making them "blind". This evens out patients' expectations of improvement.
The placebo effect is an important and intriguing concept in psychology. It continues to bring up many interesting questions, such as how the mind can have such a powerful effect on a patient's condition, or if it's ethical to use placebos in treatment.

Phoebe Stephan

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This page is an archive of recent entries written by steph489 in October 2011.

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