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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:

Understanding Ebooks

Say, you’re Homer (the Greek one), and you’ve just put the finishing touches on your latest epic. You’re going to want a book. You’re going to want one so that you won’t have to worry about people mishearing your singing (because microphones haven’t been invented yet) or those pesky barbarians on the road to the next town mugging you and stealing your lyre. If you think about it, a book is a pretty nifty piece of technology. In fact, books are awesome enough to have been in use for something like 5000 years, and not only to still be in use in modern society, but to still be commonplace in it.

They're really expensive

They’re really expensive!

It is probably because books printed on paper have been so reliably awesome for so long that there has been so much controversy surrounding the expansion of reading platforms to include E-reading devices (Kindles or Nooks) and computers. Bibliophiles everywhere are collectively freaking out about the end of printed books, and as a result, a lot of ink has been spilled (Well, maybe not ink. Pixels, maybe? Bytes?) on research to determine how these new formats measure up to our classic, well-loved paperbacks. Read more…

Categories: Attention, Education, Language, Memory Tags:

Don’t Let It Go: How To Study For Finals Using Testing

May 2nd, 2014 5 comments

The clock signals the hour. Your palms are sweaty as your professor hands out your final exam. You take a deep breath and look down at the questions in front of you only to realize that you have no idea what the answer is to the first question. Has this ever happened to you? I know it’s happened to me more times than I care to admit. I’ve even had exams that I’ve spent hours studying for and found my brain completely blank when finally confronted with the exam. As a result, I’ve been on the search for the best study strategies to combat these final exam blues.

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Categories: Attention, Education, Memory Tags:

Tests Don’t Have to be Bad!

December 9th, 2013 3 comments

Most people don’t enjoy taking tests. Tests mean stress, late nights, and coffee – lots and lots of coffee.  However, not all tests have to be bad. What if, in fact, some tests were helpful?

Testing, when used as a study method, benefits later retention – a phenomenon known as the testing effect (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006). In other words, students who take tests, rather than simply rereading their notes, while studying tend to do better on their actual exams (Roediger & Karpicke, 2006).

So what does this mean? Instead of merely rereading your notes or textbook, try taking some practice tests. Look for tests that offer immediate feedback, as immediate feedback provides even greater benefits in terms of performance on later assessments (Roediger & Butler, 2013).  It doesn’t matter if you find a short answer or multiple-choice practice test; as long as you answer questions and receive feedback, you will be studying and absorbing the material more effectively than if you were just rereading (Smith & Karpicke, 2013). Search the textbook and its website. You’re bound to find something!  Read more…

Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,

Why those who force you to take exams are not actually terrible people

December 6th, 2013 3 comments

It’s not exactly a secret: when presented with the choice, students overwhelmingly avoid testing and exams like the plague. It’s not something we all met up and agreed upon; but rather a fundamental truth that we feel in hearts, bodies, minds and souls: we would rather get gingivitis than study for and take an exam. I’m sure many professors can begrudgingly attest to this.

However, like children that don’t want to eat their vegetables, we students can’t deny the overwhelming research that has shown that testing is, in fact, one of the best approaches to boosting memory. Unlike children that don’t want to eat their vegetables, though, I will not make you sit at the dinner table until you agree that you love taking tests. I will, however, provide you with several reasons why you should learn to love them (or even just kind of tolerate them), extracted from recent findings by Dunlosky et al (2013).

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Categories: Education, Memory Tags: ,