Tip of Tongue: Dreamland Edition

12 Apr

Last night I dreamed that I had a tip of the tongue experience. Tip of the tongue states are situations where you forget some piece of information, but have a strong sense that you actually know it. Often the information comes to you later in the absence of any outside reminder, strong evidence that the information was there all along.

In my dream, I could not recall the name of a university administrator I was meeting with. I experienced it just like a real TOT state. On waking, I not only remembered the dream, but I also had no problem recalling the administrator’s name. The TOT experience was completely confined to my dream.

This reminds me a bit of the phenomenon of state dependent memory, where a person’s physiological state serves as a memory cue. For example, some people will learn a fact well drunk, forget it when sober, but recall it again when inebriated. This was a central plot point in Chaplain’s film, City Lights.

Manipulatives may hinder learning

10 Apr

Walk into an early elementary school classroom and you are likely to see lots of manipulatives. From Popsicle sticks to Cuisenaire rods we have a strong intuitive sense that these objects should help children learn mathematics.

Not so fast, says Sara Fulmer over at The Learning Scientist;

Although manipulatives can increase students’ attention, this attention may not benefit their learning. In fact, the very aspect of manipulatives that capture students’ attention—bright colors, visual appeal, realistic features—may be their downfall. Manipulatives that are more visually interesting or realistic can increase off-task behavior, such as building or sorting (1). This is especially true if students interact with that object in other contexts, such as during play time or outside of the classroom.

Students who learn with manipulatives can become too reliant on the object and context, and as a result, have difficulty transferring their knowledge to new contexts, different testing formats, or to abstract representations (e.g., algebraic expressions) of the problem

New findings on body weight and mortality

7 Apr

In recent years, people have drawn comfort from the notion of the possibility of being both healthy and overweight. Several well publicized studies suggested that moderate excess body weight may have been exaggerated as a health threat.

A recent study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, now raises doubts about the earlier claims.  NPR published a good overview of the findings:

New research published Monday adds fuel to an ongoing debate in the public health community over whether a few extra pounds are good, or bad, for you.

Earlier research found that being somewhat overweight, but not obese, may result in a longer life.

But today’s study in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests that being slightly overweight may actually decrease a person’s life span, which is more in line with conventional wisdom about weight.

One of the problem with earlier studies is that people tend to lose weight after they become ill.  Thus, to gauge the actual effects of weight on mortality one needs to look at the history of an individual’s weight over a longer period of time. The new study looked at a 16 year weight history.

Compare X to Y

6 Apr

Different routes to genius:

prior probability

Let’s start with X. According to Jeff McMahan, here is a detailed description of the daily routine of one great thinker:

There are many anecdotes about the ways in which [X] simplified his life to take as little time as possible away from his work. He ate only twice a day, with almost no variation in what he had at each meal. He ate cold food only, mostly fruits and vegetables without any preparation. Even when he could have had freshly ground coffee with only a minute’s additional preparation, he drank instant coffee, often with water straight from the tap. He sometimes kept a book open on the chest-of-drawers so that he could read while putting on his socks. His speed in reading was phenomenal, in part because his power of concentration was prodigious. Wanting to preserve his mental and physical capacities, he took an hour every evening…

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People who never forget

5 Apr

Read about them in this Guardian article.

Can rosemary improve cognition?

3 Apr

Perhaps, but only at very low doses. Dr. Greger explains. Note that the study suggests that too much rosemary might interfere with cognition.

I did find the results about aromatherapy interesting. I had always assumed that the idea was implausible. But Dr. Greger points to a study that shows that the volatile compounds used can actually be measured in the blood. This doesn’t mean that aromatherapy works, only that it’s plausible.

Too cute not to repost

2 Apr

(Hat tip to BoingBoing)


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