Thursday 30 July 2015

The fundamental attribution error

Have just read a very interesting and quite frankly disturbing article on the above mentioned hypothesis.  No time to edit this tonight but posting it anyway!

Sabini, Siempann and Stein (2001) question three 'taken as given' assumptions of social psychology and question them - in particular the fundamental attribution error (FAE).

The FAE is when a person acts in a certain way and 'you' then attribute this behaviour to an internal disposition, rather than to an external situational factor.  In other words we tend to underestimate the effect of the situation and over estimate internal factors.  

For example, in the Milgram experiments, people acted against their consciences because they were told to by a person in authority.  Despite not wanting to shock someone, they still did so.  In the Asch experiments people folded to peer pressure, and lied about how long a line was in order to conform to other group members.  And, in the Darley and Latane experiments people would not intervene in a bad situation if more than three bystanders were also not intervening.  E.g. a woman is being beaten up by a little guy (so no fear of you being hurt) but 'you' will not stop it as long as at least three people do not move to help.  Basically, all this research suggests that we (people) fold waaay quicker than we think we do.  The situation dictates not the internal disposition.

Now, if you are like me, you hate the idea of being lumped in with the participants of these experiements.  If it was us, we wouldn't have shocked the guy!  We would step in and help a person who needed it etc.  But, unless you have read Milgram's book this is ignorance.  Because every single other person thought the same thing and then FOLDED.  Actually, not everyone but way too many for use to be getting cocky about our own behaviour.  

But Sabini et al have a different interpretation and one I tend to agree with due to my studies.  They suggest that all these behaviours can be explained by internal dispositions.  In particular, the need to avoid embarrassment and to avoid losing face.  Sabini et al unpack the research and place this internal factor at the centre of each one, and make a case that this internal factor is the real key.  The internal factor is - Fear of embarrassment and of losing face. 

They conclude that Americans, known as the most non-mitigating people, are in fact more prone to embarrassment and fear of losing face than we have thought.

My thoughts are - heaven help the Kiwis then because we are way down the scale from the Americans.  

Wednesday 29 July 2015

Study tip three: Test yourself, don't wreck yourself.

Rather than re-reading a text to retain information - test yourself on what you've already read.  It's a better use of your time.

This leads to deeper processing - more can be seen here in the most boring webinair that I did many years ago.  DON'T JUDGE ME. - it was my first one!  If you need some sleep this is the one.  Skip to 16:30 for a brief overview of Owens (2008) model for more on deep processing.  While my presentation is not great, the model is one I've continued to use for years in literacy.  And you only need to listen for about 60 seconds.

This testing yourself strategy really links with the literature on reading comprehension.  In fact, cognition and reading comprehension research domains are a classic example of two domains that overlap but very rarely cite each other.

Graeme Smith has a great overview here - well worth checking out.

The main point is - if you want to learn, you have to THINK, and thinking is a cognitive action - running your eyes over text doesn't count.  You have to actually do something with the content - testing yourself requires you engage in several mental actions.  Actually, ALL the comprehension strategies are simply codified ways of creating mental action.  The comprehension crowd get a bit pedantic about them being taught as distinct strategies - but for us meta-learners we know better.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Study tips - from cognitive research 

My sister is currently studying psychology and one of her papers is about cognition.  I have done a little work in this area and have found it sooo interesting and helpful in the area of learning and my particular domain - literacy and numeracy.

Anyway, she is deep into it and is sending me brief summaries of study tips fresh off the research train.  They are great so I'll post them here.  Thanks sis.

Study tip one: Memory pegging 
Memory pegging is a surface level learning technique that rocks.  Remember that the best learners select whether to engage in deep learning or surface learning based on a cost/benefit ratio.  If it's worth learning - go deep, elaborate and connect - if you need to recall facts either for recall or to elaborate on later, then attach target information to sequential mental objects.

Study tip two: free up working memory

Write down your worries before an exam, test, attending a meeting etc.  It frees up working memory for better recall.

Working memory is like your work table - if its all cluttered with other stuff there's no room for you to work.  Clear it.