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Let me google that for you

May 11th, 2017 1 comment

Everyone loves Google, right? All the information you could possibly ever want access to is right at your fingertips – quite literally – with search engines carried around in our pockets. Is Google making us smarter? It should, right? I mean it does provide us with an almost infinite amount of information. Well, here is where things get interesting. Recent studies have introduced a new concept known as The Google Effect, in which we are actually seeing some cognitive deficits caused by our dependency on Google and other search engines.

It is quite counterintuitive that these tools, which provide us with any information we want in just a matter of seconds, would actually hurt and not help our brain’s functioning ability. I know this is confusing, but let me put this into a real-life context that you might relate to a little more. 

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Handwashing, Heliocentrism, and Global Warming: To Reject or Accept?

April 17th, 2017 3 comments

How often do you wash your hands? The Center for Disease Control recommends hand washing in numerous scenarios, such as before, during, and after preparing food, before and after tending to someone who is sick, before and after treating a wound, after going to the bathroom, after touching animals, and the list goes on. Now I know it might seem a little ridiculous to wash your hands as often as it is recommended, but I am crossing my fingers that you at least understand why it is necessary. One of the first things we teach our children is to always wash their hands, and how to do so effectively (such as washing for the duration of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”… twice). If you don’t believe me when I say hand washing is deep-seated in our modern society, just look at the 3.1 billion dollar market for hand soaps (Nielsen 2016). I, for one, certainly get overwhelmed when I walk down the aisle at my local Target and have to choose between the exhaustive collection of soaps with which I can lather up. And if I don’t find any soap I like then I can make my way over to the various types of hand sanitizers nearby. We can credit Ignaz Semmelweis and his microbial discoveries for the normalization of hand washing in our culture, but can you imagine a world where we didn’t wash our hands? And even stranger – can you imagine rejecting the science behind it? 
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You’ll still probably have to Google what the Google effect is later on, even if you read this now

April 17th, 2017 2 comments

http://www.medicaldaily.com/smartphones-tablets-and-tvs-all-screen-time-hurting-your-mind-and-body-335808

Imagine you encounter a time traveler who recently arrived in the present day from a couple hundred years ago. What would he or she be most impressed by in this day and age? Would it be the skyscrapers and developed roadways? The drastic decrease in the amount of untouched nature? The amount of leisure time and luxuries people have today compared to back then? No; perhaps the most amazing breakthrough that distinguishes today from a few centuries ago, though it is seemingly taken for granted by most who use it, is the phenomenon of us having almost all the information we could possibly need contained in a small box in our pockets. The ability to search the plethora of knowledge that is the internet at any time and any place allows us to access any information we want within seconds. Gone are the archaic days in which we needed to flip through countless books looking for a single quote or memorize facts that may or may not be useful in the future. So, why would we bother taking up space in our memory with such knowledge when we could simply remember where to find it? Read more…

Categories: Education, Memory Tags:

Nature: The Natural Adderall

e9cab5788e12f4abd64a03a1739df4e2By Erin, Michaela, & McKayla

 

Having a hard time paying attention? Can’t remember all the definitions? Finals at Colby are no walk in the park. Exam week requires a lot of focused attention in order to study, write 15 page papers, and sit down for three-hour examinations. We all have gotten to that point where we feel like we can’t focus or direct our attention anymore. Research has shown that this happens when we overuse the brain’s inhibitory attention mechanisms and can no longer inhibit distractions (Kaplan, 1995). The person walking into the library, the pen tapping on the desk, the music coming from down the hall, all prevent us from maintaining focus on the task at hand. We have all suffered from directed attention fatigue. But what if a walk in the park could actually restore this fatigue and give you an edge academically? Read more…

Categories: Attention, Education, Memory Tags: ,

What’s Outside Your Window?

May 8th, 2016 No comments

By Leah, Lynna, Aiya, & Hannah

It’s room draw time.

What dorm do I want to be in? Do I want a double? Or a suite? Do I want to be close to the library? The dining hall? Where are my friends living?

b8335f7a0be0c4169a4942f618734848Although all of these questions are valid, an important element of room selection often fails to be considered. You may or may not think about it that much, but the view from your window has important effects on you, particularly if you’re a mentally drained and stressed-out college student. You have to look through it every day, and know which direction it faces relative to the sun. You want to have the best view without worrying about strangers peering in. But besides these concerns, the specifics of your window should be at the top of your dorm priority list. Research shows that a view of nature from your window has immense benefits, including improved mood, replenished attention and cognitive functioning, and reduced stress.

One of the dominant theories explaining nature’s positive cognitive benefits is Attention Restoration Theory (ART; Kaplan, 1995). Sustained effortful attention reduces your ability to pay attention. Imagine, for example, the cognitive resources it takes to proofread a long essay, and how exhausted you feel afterwards. You might make more mistakes as time goes on and be in a more negative mood. ART suggests that these cognitive resources can be replenished by engaging with nature (Kaplan, 1995). Proofreading an essay requires effortful sustained focus. Nature is less demanding because it easily draws attention and allows resources for effortful attention to replenish. Read more…

Is a picture worth one thousand MORE words?

November 23rd, 2015 No comments

Ever notice the diagrams in your textbook? Or the visuals in your professor’s slides? Or maybe the pictures in an instruction manual to construct furniture? It seems that professionals have caught onto the idea that pictures are beneficial to learning and understanding content. Whether is comes to providing information in a presentation, deciding how to best visualize data for a report, or giving directions for a task, it obvious that visual content provides some benefit in absorbing information that is not attainable through simple text. I am going to walk your through when visuals are most helpful, when they aren’t, and how to best include visuals in your own work. Read more…

Is your favorite music distracting you?

November 23rd, 2015 2 comments

Do you listen to music while you do assigned homework? Do you listen to music while you study? Do you listen to music while you are reading for class? If you are a college student I would assume that you said yes to at least one of these questions. As college student, when I am in the library or any public study space I often see the majority of my peers with headphones in while doing their work. Whether or not they are all just trying to avoid talking to me, I will never know, but I usually assume that there is some sort of sound or music coming from the headphones. Often people’s reasoning for doing this is because they want to “tune out” all of the distractions and conversations happening around them. Furthermore, if they are “tuning out” all of the distracting sounds around them then they think they are successfully staying focused and internalizing whatever material they are working on.

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Categories: Attention, Education, Memory Tags:

The Secret Behind Steve Jobs’ “Walking Meetings”

November 18th, 2014 3 comments

Have you ever taken part in a “walking meeting”? People who work closely with Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg, arguably two of the most successful and innovative people of our time, have probably experienced these on a regular basis. Both of these influential people are known for frequently having important business meetings while walking outside. They certainly have enough building space to hold a meeting inside, so why do they do this? Have they noticed something about walking that helps them think differently than if they were sitting in a meeting room? Walking is known to be beneficial for our physical health, but what about its effect on our cognitive functioning?

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Could The Experts Be Wrong?!

May 18th, 2014 4 comments

In the field of cognitive psychology, it is widely believed that testing is the best way for a person to learn. Many studies have been conducted to establish the differences in retention between initial testing and the restudying of information. These studies found that final recall has greatly supported that when people are retested they retain more of the learned information. During testing, people make meaningful connections within their minds to understand what they are learning, this allows for more comprehensive recall later on. Students are forced to process the information deeper during testing than when they are simply rereading the information. This strategy has been something that many psychologists have been trying to get implemented into school systems and teaching styles. As a student, having to be tested all the time is not something I want. I also frequently find myself questioning if it really is as beneficial as the so-called experts say. There are some things that, no matter how many times I am tested on it and how many times I study it, I am simply unable to understand. A recent study by Bridger and Mecklinger questioned the benefits of this testing idea, and found that it may only work with certain kinds of information. Their research brought to light the idea of errorful learning, which is similar to testing yourself as a study method, and errorless learning, which is more like reviewing information as a study method. They attempted to draw attention to the fact that errorful learning may not be the most beneficial strategy to long-term retention.

 

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Categories: Education Tags: ,

Does Caffeine Help Academic Performance?

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Last October Neuro, an energy drink company, held an online contest to name the newest flavor of their NeuroSonic energy drink. Without thinking much about it, I submitted a name and entered my address (all entrants got mailed a coupon for a free drink, after all!). Imagine my surprise when, two weeks later, I was notified that my submission made it into the top ten, earning me the consolation prize: an entire year of NeuroSonic! Two months later, 16 crates of the energy drink arrived at my house: a total of 384 bottles and 38,400 mg of caffeine.  I returned from winter break with 12 crates of my newly-acquired energy drink in tow, and neatly stacked them in my dorm. Every day I’d slip a NeuroSonic into my backpack, drinking it during my morning class. After a few weeks of this, I started drinking another bottle in the afternoon while doing homework. Then I began to wonder: is all of this caffeine actually improving my academic performance? What will happen when I run out of my free caffeinated beverage? Was there really “mental performance in every bottle®“?

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Categories: Attention, Education Tags: