Thursday, November 30, 2006

Growing Pack Behavior in Juvenile Homo Sapiens

I threw together this presentation, entitled Growing Pack Behavior in Juvenile Homo Sapiens -- or -- Making Kids Play Nice for an in-class presentation today presentation.


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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Student Nature, Part IV: Bibliography

As with the bibliography for Learning Evolved, the citations are close to APA Style. Entries starting with "A" are above the fold, and the rest are below

Albanese, Robert, & van Fleet, David D. (1985). Rational Behavior in Groups: The Free-Riding Tendency. The Academy of Management Review 10(2):244-255.
Alford, J., Funk, C., & Hibbing, J. (2005) Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? American Political Science Review, 99(2), 154-168.
Alford, J. & Hibbing, J. (2004) .The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspectives on Politics, 2(4), 707-723
Alford, J., & Hibbing, J. (2006). Could Political Attitudes Be Shaped by Evolution Working Through Genes? Tidsskriftet Politik: August 2006 edition.
Allen, Joseph P., et al. (2005). The Two Faces of Adolescents' Success with Peers: Adolescent Popularity, Social Adaption, and Deviant Behavior. Child Development 76(3):747-.760.
Atran, Scott. (2003). Genesis of Suicide Terrorism. Science 299:1534-1539.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Student Nature, Part III: Nature and Her Consequences

This series doe not argue that only genes matter. The emergent rules of complex systems (Bloom, 2000; Johnson, 2006, 2), in addition to more mundane matters such as instructional processes (Beins, 2002, 308; Fels, 1993, 365; Zubizarreta, 1996, 126), detailed syllabi (Barker, 2002, 382), and perhaps classroom size (Lisska, 1996, 93), effect education and classroom enjoyment in obvious ways. Still, genes interact with the environment, so both are important to educators. Just as series life decisions are correlated with an interaction between environment and genes (Capsi, 2003, 386), so education is as well. Next I outline how our genetic heritages should effect how we teach. Controversy should not keep us from the truth. A highly successful method of peer teaching, Cooperative Learning (see, for example, Slavin, 1999, 74)), is often not used because of aversion to the use of rewards that are external to the student (Slavin, 1996). Similarly, if genetic knowledge is ignored because it does not fit our pre-existing biases, shame on us.

Rationality may be overrated. Lieberman, Schreiber, and Ochsner noted that ""Because behavior is often driven by automatic mechanisms, self-reports of mental processes are notoriously unreliable and susceptible to many forms of contamination" (2003, 682). Yet many texts argue that reflection and self-reports are valuable tools (Moshman, 2005, 43) instead of dubious, context-specific guesswork (see, for example, Bower, 2006; Kurzban & DeScioli, 2005, 20-21). For instance, when asked to give as much force as they received, subjects will inadvertently hit harder than they were hit because of evolved quirks in our nervous system (Shergill, 2003, 187). This is because, literally, people do not know what they are doing. Further, people put much more value on losses than gains of equal magnitude, when logically there is no reason to do other than emotional predisposition (Jervis, 2004, 165-167). The emotional system is tied up with the logical thinking in the brain (McDermott, 2004, 693; Spezio & Adolphs, 13) so much so that "those who were instructed to think of reasons why they liked or disliked [a chose made in an experiment] ended up, on average, less happy with their choice... than subjects who were not asked to provide reasons" (Camerer, Lowenstein, and Prelec, 2003, 23). Does this call rational discourse into any doubt?

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

Student Nature, Part II: The Natures of Our Students

Humans vary by sex, and not just in the preferred hip-to-waist ratio (Singh, 1993, 293). Firing the President of Harvard for wondering if this is true does not make facts go away (Pinker, 2006). Men are less empathetic than women (Baron-Cohen 2006; Singer et al., 266, 2006). Emotional differences between the sexes are widely recognized, even by critics of evolutionary psychology (see, for example, Buller, 2005, 317).

It is strange that genetic factors are controversial while environmental factors are widely recognized (see, for example, Elkind, 1997, 31), especially when such incontrovertible evidence like prisoners having elevated levels of testosterone (McDermott, 2006, 5)is considered. Is environmental determinism somehow less deterministic than determinism on the interaction of the environment and genetics? This has implicationss throughtout education. The existence of a disproportionately male engineering gender gap (as opposed to a disproportionately female university gender gap (Marklein, 2005) is problematic in one way if women are being unfairly excluded from opportunities (e.g., Raskin, 2005) but problematic in another way if many existing women engineers were forced into their career-paths by misguided environmental-determinists (Pinker, 2002, 359). This is not to say anything of the question if men and women learn best in different ways.

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Friday, October 20, 2006

Student Nature, Part I: The Nature of the Student

In the context of education, the human mind expresses genetic factors in four ways: universally among the species, differently by age, differently by sex, differently by group, or differently by type. The old models of explaining human behavior, some more economic, some more psychological, are dying (Carmen, 2006, 1). It is time for a new model, of genetics in education, to be born.

Before I begin, it is important to realize that some people are not more or less “fit” than others – genetic factors in no way implies social darwinism. Educationally, some of our most valuable abilities, reading and writing, rely on genetic factors that developed accidentally (Gould 114). In evolution we are all winners. Of all the humans who have ever lifted, each and every one of the ancestors of every human who now exists succeeding in something very unlikely: having descendants who are alive even today. Not only are we all equally human: we are all equally winners.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Social Motivation, Amongst Other Notes

Albanese, Robert, & van Fleet, David D. (1985). Rational Behavior in Groups: The Free-Riding Tendency. The Academy of Management Review 10(2):244-255.

Beins, B.C. (2002). Technology in the classroom: Traditions in psychology. In S. Davis & W.Buskist (Eds.). The teaching of psychology: Essays in honor of William J. McKeachie and Charles Brewer. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. (pp. 307-321)

Fass, Paula. Testing the IQ of Children.

Fels, Rendigs. (1993). This is what I do, and I like it. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):365-370.

Leuthold, Jane H. (1993). A Free Rider Experiment for the Large Class. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):353-363.

Slavin, Robert E. (1996). Research on Cooperative Learning and Achievement: What We Know, What We Need to Know. Contemporary Educational Psychology 21(1):43-69.

Slavin, Robert E. (1999). Comprehensive Approaches to Cooperative Learning. Theory into Practice 38(2):74-79.

Taylor, M.C.(1996). Creating global classrooms. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 134-145).

In a recent comment, Mark of ZenPundit tipped me off to Robert Slavin, an education researcher who emphasizes group goals and individual accountability. Some other tips were read, as well:

The studies that examined the role of task variables indirectly support the counterforces proposition. Making tasks identifiable, difficult, and/or unique (Harkins & Petty, 1982) or altering the nature of the task (Kerr & Brunn, 1983) basically changes the incentive system fro a group member. In general, such actions enhance the intrinsic satisfaction a group member receives from contributing to the group's public good. This intrinsic satisfaction is, in effect, a special incentive or private good the group member receives for contributing to the group's public good, and it serves to decrease the likelihood of free riding. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252)

Besides some other articles which I am required to read, most of this batch of notes deals with free-riding, accountability, and other similar issues. Many of the articles can be found on JSTOR

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

Chomsky's Language Module

I greatly admire Noam Chomsky. While his political theories border on the zany, he is a first rate researcher and a first rate scientist. He is justly viewed as a founding father of cognitive psychology, evolutionary psychology, and sociobiology. Berk, in chapter 6, does a competent job of outlining the basics of the universal grammar module. However, Berk's criticism are off base (or at least incomplete). Her attempt to paint a balanced picture of Chomsky instead outlines a caricature of modularity.

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Monday, August 28, 2006

Computer Games Aren't Bad For You, and The Internet Is Good For You

The text's statements on computer games are doubtful. It states that "an increasing number of studies show that playing violent games, like watching violent TV, increases hostility and aggression." However, more than half of studies looking at the connection between media violence and violent activity failed to find any significant link (Pinker 311). The spread of video games has mirrored the fall in the violent crime rate. Nor it is clear that the greater appeal of software applications to boys than girl is a problem. Newborn boys show a greater affection for mechanical contraptions than newborn girls in their first day (Alford and Hibbing 2004), so how are similar observations later on surprising? Likewise, the the Columbine shooters played “Doom” lessens when one learns the last game they played was bowling (Moore 2002).

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The OODA Loop Completes The Store Model

The Store Model contains weakness, such as its Central Executive, the "conscious part of the mind" that "coordinates incoming information with information in the system" and "controls attention." This unified command does not exist in all cases, as has been shown in cases where the corpus callosum has been damaged (Pinker 2002). Likewise, the Store Model hides an absurdity: how do we know what we do not know we do not know? If the Central Executive is conscious, then we must consciously ignore information we have not even noticed yet.

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12:05 Posted in UNL / Child Psychology | Permalink | Comments (6) | Tags: ooda

Pragmatic Vygotskianism

(Long time readers of this blog will notice a thematic similarity between this paper and my earlier post, PNM Theory is Critical Theory (And That's A Good Thing).

Psychologists has been described as holders of flashlights in a dark cave. Different beams illuminate different surfaces, and the true nature of things is difficult to determine. This analogy is apt. The best a psychologist can do is to move from beam to beam as appropriate, evaluating what he sees not by some abstract "truth" but on utility. By this standard, the Vygotskian perspective should be carefully implemented by psychologists.

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