Nature or nurture?

27 May

Off to Boston!

24 May

Posting might be light through the weekend. I am off to the Association for Psychological Science convention in Boston. I’ll be presenting on the psychology of yoga practitioners.

A bit of Boston trivia, in order to use the public transportation system you need a Charlie card. The card’s name comes from a famous campaign song:

Learning facts

22 May

I am feeling prophetic. The other day I blogged about Jonathan Rochelle’s anti-memory claim.

Today, the very capable  Daniel Willingham makes an argument similar to mine in Sunday’s New York Times:

It’s a grave mistake to think Google can replace your memory.

Here’s a similar piece Willingham wrote for the American Federation of Teachers. And here’s a link to his books.

The importance of committing facts to memory

19 May

In an article in last week’s New York Times, we find this:

The director of Google’s education apps group, Jonathan Rochelle, touched on that idea in a speech at an industry conference last year. Referring to his own children, he said: “I cannot answer for them what they are going to do with the quadratic equation. I don’t know why they are learning it.” He added, “And I don’t know why they can’t ask Google for the answer if the answer is right there.”

Regular readers know that I think this fundamentally misguided. Knowledge remains and will remain essential to negotiating the world. To see why let’s turn to another article in the Times: “If Americans Can Find North Korea on a Map, They’re More Likely to Prefer Diplomacy.”

Here’s the map of where the surveyed individuals placed North Korea.

nkorea map

According to the Times:

Geographic knowledge itself may contribute to an increased appreciation of the complexity of geopolitical events.

By the way the quadratic equation is not that hard to learn.

Interpersonal benefits of walking?

17 May

So argues a paper just published in American Psychologist:

Walking has myriad benefits for the mind, most of which have traditionally been explored and explained at the individual level of analysis. Much less empirical work has examined how walking with a partner might benefit social processes. One such process is conflict resolution—a field of psychology in which movement is inherent not only in recent theory and research, but also in colloquial language (e.g., “moving on”). In this article, we unify work from various fields pointing to the idea that walking together can facilitate both the intra- and interpersonal pathways to conflict resolution. Intrapersonally, walking supports various psychological mechanisms for reconciliation, including creativity, locomotion motivation, and embodied notions of forward progress. Both alone and in combination with its effects on mood and stress, walking can encourage individual mindsets conducive to resolving conflict (e.g., divergent thinking). Interpersonally, walking can allow partners to reap the cognitive, affective, and behavioral advantages of synchronous movement, such as increased positive rapport, empathy, and prosociality. Walking partners naturally adopt cooperative (as opposed to competitive) postural stances, experience shared attention, and can benefit from discussions in novel environments. Overall, despite its prevalence in conflict resolution theory, little is known about how movement influences conflict resolution practice. Such knowledge has direct implications for a range of psychological questions and approaches within negotiation and alternative mediation techniques, clinical settings, and the study of close relationships.

Synchronized team precision walking is actually a sport in Japan!

The Alcohol Harm Paradox

15 May

I had not heard of this relationship before and thought my readers might be interested. The alcohol harm paradox refers to the fact that “that people with low individual or neighbourhood socioeconomic status (SES) show a greater susceptibility to the harmful effects of alcohol”

For example, in England:

Lower SES is associated with an almost two fold greater risk of alcohol related death compared with individuals in higher SES classifications.
Relative to high SES, low SES is associated with an increased risk of head and neck cancers, strokes, hypertension, liver disease and pre-term birth. These findings are independent of a number of other known risk factors for these conditions such as diet and smoking.

Here is a large study of the effect. It concludes:

Different SES measures appear to influence whether the Alcohol Harm Paradox is observed as a linear trend across SES groups or a phenomenon associated particularly with the most disadvantaged. The paradox also appears more concentrated in men and younger age groups

It would not surprise anyone that greater wealth affords greater protection from the vicissitudes of life, but other variables may play a role, such as class differences in the patterns of drinking behavior and the beverages consumed.

Big cats and small cats

12 May

The semester is almost over, a good time to indulge in some cat videos.

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