Category Archives: Learning

noob 2 l33t: now with graphs

Myself and Mike Dewar have just had a paper published in the journal Psychological Science. In it we present an analysis of what affects how fast people learn, using data from over 850,000 people who played an online game called Axon (designed by our friends Preloaded. This is from the abstract: In the present study, […]

BBC Future column: Personal superstitions

I’m writing a fortnightly column for BBC Future, about everyday brain quirks (as I’ve mentioned previously). My marvellous editor has told me I can repost the columns here, with a three day delay. There’s a bit of a backlog, including Why can smells unlock memories?, Why you’re bad at names and good at faces, and […]

Make study more effective, the easy way

Decades old research into how memory works should have revolutionised University teaching. It didn’t. If you’re a student, what I’m about to tell you will let you change how you study so that it is more effective, more enjoyable and easier. If you work at a University, you – like me – should hang your […]

The death of the mind

Business Week has an important article on how internet companies are using the massive data sets collected from the minutia of users’ behaviour to influence customer choices. The article is a useful insight into how tech companies are basing their entire profit model on the ability to model and manipulate human behaviour but the implication […]

Air gun psychology

An amusing YouTube video demonstrates Ivan Pavlov’s principal of classical conditioning with an air gun, a novelty alarm and a reluctant college roommate. Pavlov discovered that we learn to associate an established response to a new event simply by repeatedly pairing the new event to a situation that already caused the response. Famously he could […]

In the eye of the swarm

The Economist has a great article on how computer models of how bees, ants and birds operated in swarms, are being deployed as ‘artificial intelligence’ systems to solve previously unassailable problems. To be honest, the premise of the piece is a little too grand to be plausible: the introductory paragraph announces “The search for artificial […]

The early years

If you’re interested in the psychology of children and how they develop, two new blogs have recently appeared which are doing a fantastic job of covering an area that has previously neglected by online writers. Child’s Play is a new blog on the Scientopia network that combines the talents of developmental psychologists Jason Goldman and […]

The inflexible efficiency of babies

Scientific American Mind has an excellent article on how the inflexibility of young children’s brains can make them better learners than adults. The piece riffs on the apparent paradox that humans develop into perhaps the most psychologically flexible of creatures and yet spend the longest with seemingly impaired mental functions. This is due to the […]

The ups and downs of smouldering talent

In Touched with Fire psychologist Kay Redfield Jamison argued that history’s great artists were more likely to have experienced mood problems and especially the ups and down of ‘manic depression’ that fuelled their intense creativity. The idea is attractive, although her book relied on a case by case interpretation of often long-dead figures. Nevertheless, a […]

Pavlov, Office Style

This clip, from the US version of comedy show The Office, shows Jim training co-worker Dwight to expect a sweet everytime he reboots his computer. From Vodpod. Psychologists everywhere will recognise this an an application of classical conditioning. The ‘scientist’ Jim has heard of is, of course, Ivan Pavlov. Thanks to Russ Fazio for showing […]

The Straight Dope on Learning Styles

The glorious truth is that people think and learn differently. Some people like words, but not pictures, some like movements rather than sounds. Why are people different? Who knows, perhaps because Allah loves wondrous variety. A funny thing is that we have the tendency to ignore this fact. Perhaps because empathy is difficult, perhaps because […]

Learning Should Be Fun

Learning can and should be fun. This is not just a moral position, but a scientific one too. When you learn a new thing, or get a surprise, there is a shot of a chemical messenger in your brain called dopamine. Dopamine is famous among neuroscientists for its involvement in the reward and motivation systems […]

Learning Makes Itself Invisible

This month I am guest blogging at School of Everything, the website that helps people who want to learn meet people who want to teach. I’ll be posting here and there about what psychologists know about learning. Below is my first post… Once you have learnt something you see the world differently. Not only can […]

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