Concept: Educational psychology
In England between 2010 and 2013, just over one million recipients of the main out-of-work disability benefit had their eligibility reassessed using a new functional checklist-the Work Capability Assessment. Doctors and disability rights organisations have raised concerns that this has had an adverse effect on the mental health of claimants, but there are no population level studies exploring the health effects of this or similar policies.
Adults and children are spending more time interacting with media and technology and less time participating in activities in nature. This life-style change clearly has ramifications for our physical well-being, but what impact does this change have on cognition? Higher order cognitive functions including selective attention, problem solving, inhibition, and multi-tasking are all heavily utilized in our modern technology-rich society. Attention Restoration Theory (ART) suggests that exposure to nature can restore prefrontal cortex-mediated executive processes such as these. Consistent with ART, research indicates that exposure to natural settings seems to replenish some, lower-level modules of the executive attentional system. However, the impact of nature on higher-level tasks such as creative problem solving has not been explored. Here we show that four days of immersion in nature, and the corresponding disconnection from multi-media and technology, increases performance on a creativity, problem-solving task by a full 50% in a group of naive hikers. Our results demonstrate that there is a cognitive advantage to be realized if we spend time immersed in a natural setting. We anticipate that this advantage comes from an increase in exposure to natural stimuli that are both emotionally positive and low-arousing and a corresponding decrease in exposure to attention demanding technology, which regularly requires that we attend to sudden events, switch amongst tasks, maintain task goals, and inhibit irrelevant actions or cognitions. A limitation of the current research is the inability to determine if the effects are due to an increased exposure to nature, a decreased exposure to technology, or to other factors associated with spending three days immersed in nature.
To assess the impact of communicating DNA based disease risk estimates on risk-reducing health behaviours and motivation to engage in such behaviours.
To assess the health benefits of outdoor walking groups.
The existence of ‘Learning Styles’ is a common ‘neuromyth’, and their use in all forms of education has been thoroughly and repeatedly discredited in the research literature. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that their use remains widespread. This perspective article is an attempt to understand if and why the myth of Learning Styles persists. I have done this by analyzing the current research literature to capture the picture that an educator would encounter were they to search for “Learning Styles” with the intent of determining whether the research evidence supported their use. The overwhelming majority (89%) of recent research papers, listed in the ERIC and PubMed research databases, implicitly or directly endorse the use of Learning Styles in Higher Education. These papers are dominated by the VAK and Kolb Learning Styles inventories. These presence of these papers in the pedagogical literature demonstrates that an educator, attempting to take an evidence-based approach to education, would be presented with a strong yet misleading message that the use of Learning Styles is endorsed by the current research literature. This has potentially negative consequences for students and for the field of education research.
Dyscalculia, dyslexia, and specific language impairment (SLI) are relatively specific developmental learning disabilities in math, reading, and oral language, respectively, that occur in the context of average intellectual capacity and adequate environmental opportunities. Past research has been dominated by studies focused on single impairments despite the widespread recognition that overlapping and comorbid deficits are common. The present study took an epidemiological approach to study the learning profiles of a large school age sample in language, reading, and math. Both general learning profiles reflecting good or poor performance across measures and specific learning profiles involving either weak language, weak reading, weak math, or weak math and reading were observed. These latter four profiles characterized 70% of children with some evidence of a learning disability. Low scores in phonological short-term memory characterized clusters with a language-based weakness whereas low or variable phonological awareness was associated with the reading (but not language-based) weaknesses. The low math only group did not show these phonological deficits. These findings may suggest different etiologies for language-based deficits in language, reading, and math, reading-related impairments in reading and math, and isolated math disabilities.
To investigate cognitive operations underlying sequential problem solving, we confronted ten Goffin’s cockatoos with a baited box locked by five different inter-locking devices. Subjects were either naïve or had watched a conspecific demonstration, and either faced all devices at once or incrementally. One naïve subject solved the problem without demonstration and with all locks present within the first five sessions (each consisting of one trial of up to 20 minutes), while five others did so after social demonstrations or incremental experience. Performance was aided by species-specific traits including neophilia, a haptic modality and persistence. Most birds showed a ratchet-like progress, rarely failing to solve a stage once they had done it once. In most transfer tests subjects reacted flexibly and sensitively to alterations of the locks' sequencing and functionality, as expected from the presence of predictive inferences about mechanical interactions between the locks.
The increasing prevalence of social media means that we often encounter written language characterized by both stylistic variation and outright errors. How does the personality of the reader modulate reactions to non-standard text? Experimental participants read ‘email responses’ to an ad for a housemate that either contained no errors or had been altered to include either typos (e.g., teh) or homophonous grammar errors (grammos, e.g., to/too, it’s/its). Participants completed a 10-item evaluation scale for each message, which measured their impressions of the writer. In addition participants completed a Big Five personality assessment and answered demographic and language attitude questions. Both typos and grammos had a negative impact on the evaluation scale. This negative impact was not modulated by age, education, electronic communication frequency, or pleasure reading time. In contrast, personality traits did modulate assessments, and did so in distinct ways for grammos and typos.
Online learning initiatives over the past decade have become increasingly comprehensive in their selection of courses and sophisticated in their presentation, culminating in the recent announcement of a number of consortium and startup activities that promise to make a university education on the internet, free of charge, a real possibility. At this pivotal moment it is appropriate to explore the potential for obtaining comprehensive bioinformatics training with currently existing free video resources. This article presents such a bioinformatics curriculum in the form of a virtual course catalog, together with editorial commentary, and an assessment of strengths, weaknesses, and likely future directions for open online learning in this field.
The preparation and consumption of bone broth is being increasingly recommended to patients, for example as part of the gut and psychology syndrome (GAPS) diet for autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, dyspraxia, depression and schizophrenia, and as part of the paleolithic diet. However, bones are known to sequester the heavy metal lead, contamination with which is widespread throughout the modern environment. Such sequestered lead can then be mobilised from the bones. We therefore hypothesised that bone broth might carry a risk of being contaminated with lead. A small, blinded, controlled study of lead concentrations in three different types of organic chicken broth showed that such broths do indeed contain several times the lead concentration of the water with which the broth is made. In particular, broth made from skin and cartilage taken off the bone once the chicken had been cooked with the bones in situ, and chicken-bone broth, were both found to have markedly high lead concentrations, of 9.5 and 7.01μgL(-1), respectively (compared with a control value for tap water treated in the same way of 0.89μgL(-1)). In view of the dangers of lead consumption to the human body, we recommend that doctors and nutritionists take the risk of lead contamination into consideration when advising patients about bone broth diets.