Category Archives: UNL / Child Psychology

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.

Enjoy!


Putting Humanity, and Schools, in Context

We’re the Cooperative Ones

But not Buffalos, Apparently

Schools as Gardens

An Obvious Polymorphism

Guess which one wasn’t in our text?

An absolute majority of people are Wary Cooperators

Free-Riders Go Home!

Ways of Influencing Peer Pressure

Exploit Social Bonds

Little Kids

Bigger Kids

What Changes During School

The Conclusion

Feed-back?

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.


Barker, L. (2002). Teaching the Learning Course: Philosophy and Methods, in The Teaching of Psychology: Essays in Honor of Wilbert J. McKeachie and Charles L. Brewer, 379-393.
Baron-Cohen, Simon. (2006). A Political System Based on Empathy. Edge: The World Question Center. Available online: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_4.html#baroncohen.
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)
Benton, Stephen L., & Kiewra, Kenneth A. (1986). Measuring the Organizational Aspects of Writing Ability. Journal of Educational Measurement 23(4): 377-386.
Biggs, John (1999). Enriching Large-Class Teaching in Teaching for Quality Learning at University. Philadelphia, PA; Open University Press.
Bloom, Howard. (2000). Global Brain. Wiley & Sons: New York, NY.
Bower, B. (2006). The Bias Finders: A Test of Unconscious Attitudes Polarizes Psychologists. Science News, 169(16), 250.
Boyd, R., Gintis, H., Bowles, S., & Richardson, P. (2003) “The Evolution of Altruistic Punishment,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 18 March 2003, 100(4), 3531-3535.
Buller, D.J. (2005). Adapting Minds. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.
Camerer, C., Loewenstein, G., and Prelec, D. (2005). Neuroeconomics: How Neuroscience Can Inform Economics. Journal of Economic Literature, 43(1), 9-64.
Capsi, A., et al. (2003). Influence of Life Stress on Depression: Moderation by a Polymorphism in the 5-HTT Gene. Science. Vol. 301 No. 5631 pp. 386-289.
Carmen, I. (2006). Genetic Configurations of Political Phenomena: New Theories, New Methods. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Castellanos, F.X., et al. (1998) Lack of an association between a dopamine-4 receptor polymorphism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: genetic and brain morphometric analyses. Molecular Psychiatry 3(5):431-434.
Craemer, Thomas. (2006). Evolutionary Model of Racial Attitude Formation Socially Shared and Idiosyncratic Racial Attitudes. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Ding, Y., et al. (2002). Evidence of positive selection acting at the human dopamine receptor D4 gene locus. PNAS, 99(1) 309-314.
Driver, R., et al. (1994). Constructing Scientific Knowledge in the Classroom. Educational Researcher 23, 5-12.
Elkind, David. (1997) All Grown Up and No Place to Go. Perseus Books Group: New York, NY.
Fadok, D.S., Boyd, J., & Warden, J. (1995). Air Power’s Quest for Strategic Paralysis. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press
Fass, Paula. (1989). Testing the IQ of Children. In Outside In: Minorities and the Transformation of American Education. Oxford University Press: New York, NY.
Fehr, E., & Gachter, S. (2000). “Cooperation and Punishment in Public Goods Experiments,” The American Economic Review, September 2000, Vol 90 No 4, 980-994.
Fels, Rendigs. (1993). This is what I do, and I like it. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):365-370.
Fowler, J. (2006). Altruism and Turnout, The Journal of Politics, Vol. 68 No. 3, pp 674-683.
Gardner, H. (1983). Multiple Intelligences. Basic Books: New York, NY.
Gardner, H. (2003). Multiple Intelligences After Twenty Years. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association.
Gould, Stephen J. (2000). More Things in Heaven and Earth. In H. Rose and S. Rose (Eds.) Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. Harmony: New York, NY.
Grady, D.L., et al. (2003). High prevalence of rare dopamine receptor D4 alleles in children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Molecular Psychiatry 8(5):536-545.
Hammond, R., & Axelrod, R. (2006) The Evolution of Ethnocentricism. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 50(6).
Harpending, H., & Cochran, G. (2002) In Our Genes. PNAS, 99(1), 10-12.
Henrich, Joseph, et al. (2001). In Search of Homo Economicus: Behavioral Experiments in 15 Small-Scale Societies. American Economic Review 91(2):73-78.
Hoffman, Donald. (2006). A Spoon is Like a Headache. Edge: The World Question Center. Online: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_3.html#hoffman.
Huddy, Leonie, Feldman, Stanley, & Weber, Christopher. (2006). The Political Consequences of Perceived Threat and Felt Insecurity. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Hursh, B. A. & Borzak, L. (1979). Toward Cognitive Development through Field Studies. The Journal of Higher Education 50, 63-78.
Igo, L. Brent, Kiewra, Kenneth A., & Bruning, Roger. (2004). Removing the Snare from the Pair: Using Pictures to Learn Confusing Words. Journal of Experimental Education 72(3):165-178.
Jervis, R. (2004). The Implications of Prospect Theory for Human Nature and Values. Political Psychology, 25(2), 163-176.
Johnson, Paul. E. (2006). Ecological Analysis of a System of Organized Interests. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Kurzban, R., & DeScioli, P. (2005) “Characterizing reciprocity in groups: Information-seeking in a public goods game,” (Submitted), alternate draft at http://www.psych.upenn.edu/~descioli/kurzban%20descioli%20pgi%207%2012%2006.pdf.
Kurzban, Robert, & Houser, Daniel. (2005). Experiments Investigation Cooperative Types in Humans: A Complement to Evolutinoary Theory and Simulations. PNAS 102(5): 1803-1807.
Leuthold, Jane H. (1993). A Free Rider Experiment for the Large Class. The Journal of Economic Education 24(4):353-363.
Lieberman, M., Schreiber, D., & Ochsner, K. (2003). Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle: How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology, 2003, 24(4), 681-704.
Lisska, A.J.(1996). Teaching through the curriculum: The development of a comprehensive honors program. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 90-99).
London, Jack. (1903). The Call of the Wild. Available online: http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Call_of_the_Wild_%28London%29.
Lupia, A., & Menng, J. (2006). When Can Politicians Scare Citizens Into Supporting Bad Policies? A Theory of Incentives With Fear Based Content. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Lynn, D.E., et al. (2005). Temperament and Character Profiles and the Dopamine D4 Receptor Gene in ADHD. The American Journal of Psychiatry 162:906-913.
Maalouf, Amin. (2003). In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong (reprint edition). New York, NY: Penguin Group.
Marklein, M. B. (2005). College gender gap widens: 57% are women. USA Today. March 28, 2005 edition.
McCrudden, Matthew, Schraw, Gregory, Kendall, Hartley, & Kiewra, Kenneth A. (2004). The Influence of Presentation, Organization, and Example Context on Text Learning. Journal of Experimental Education 72(4):289-306.
McDermott, R. (2004) The Feeling of Rationality, The Meaning of Neuroscientific Advances for Political Science. Perspectives on Politics 2(4), 691-706,
McDermott, R. (2006). Testosterone, Cortisol, and Aggression in a Simulated Crisis Game. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Meilinger, Phillip S. (2000). The Historiography of Airpower: Theory and Doctrine. The Journal of Military History 62(2):467-501.
Moffat, J. (2000). Representing the Command and Control Process in Simulation Models of Conflict. The Journal of the Operational Research Society 51(4):431-439.
Morgan, Michael. (2001). Fruity Genes. The Guardian. Available online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4156478,00.html.
Morris, J., Squires, N., Taber, C., & Lodge, M. (2003). “The Automatic Activation of Political Attitudes: A Psychophysiological Examination of the Hot Cognition Hypothesis,” Political Psychology, 24, 727.
Morrisey, Kathleen, & Werner-Wilson, Ronald. (2005). The relationship between out-of-school activities and positive youth development: an investigation of the influences of communities and family. Adolescence 40(157):67-85.
Moshman, David. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Mutz, Diana C. (2006). Effects of “In-Your-Face” Television Discourse on Perceptions of a Legitimate Opposition. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Olson, I., & Mashuetz, C. (2003). Facial Attractiveness is Appraised at a Glance. Emotion. 5(4), 498-502.
Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. Viking Adult: New York, NY.
Pinker, S. (2006). Groups of People May Differ Genetically in their Average Talents and Temperaments. Edge: The World Question Center. Available online: http://www.edge.org/q2006/q06_3.html#pinker.
Raskin, Robin. (2005). Neartly sixty years later the world’s first programmers are still doing gender battles. WITI Women, March 2005 edition.
Ridley, M. (2003). Nature via Nurture. Harper Collins: New York, NY.
Rockman, Matthew V., et al. (2005). Ancient and Recent Positive Selection Transformed Opioid cis-Regulation in Humans. PLoS Biology 3(12).
Sanfey, A., et al. (2003). The Neural Basis of Economic Decision-Making in the Ultimatum Game, Science, 300(5626), 1755-1758.
Sapolsky, R. (2006) A Natural History of Peace. Foreign Affairs. 85(1).
Sautter, John A. (2006). Empathy and Collective Action in the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Schraw, Gregory, & Bruning, Roger. (1996). Readers’ Implicit Models of Reading. Reading Research Quality 31(3):290-305.
Shergill, Sukhwinder, et al. (2003) Two Eyes for an Eye: The Neuroscience of Force Escalation. Science 301:187.
Singer, T., et al. (2006). Empathetic Neural Responses are Modulated by the Perceived Fairness of Others. Nature, 439(26).
Singh, Devendra. (1993) Adaptive Significance of Female Attractiveness: Role of Waist-to-Hip Ratio: Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65(2):293-307.
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.
Smirnov, O., Arrow, H., Kennet, D., & Orbell, J. (2006). ‘Heroism’ in Warfare. Paper presented at the Hendricks Conference on Biology, Evolution, and Political Behavior.
Smith, K. (2006) Representational Altruism: The Wary Cooperator as Authoritative Decision Maker. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 50 No. 4, pp 1013-1022.
Smith, K., et al. (2004). Evolutionary Theory and Political Leadership: Why Certain People Do Not Trust Decision-Makers. Paper Presented at the 2004 Midwest Political Science Association Conference in Chicago, 1-42.
Smith, M.L.R. (1999). The Intellectual Internment of a Conflict: The Forgotten War in Northern Ireland. International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-) 75(1):77-97.
Spezio, M., & Adolphs, S. Emotional Processing and Political Judgement: Toward Integrating Political Psychology and Decision Neuroscience. Unpublished Manuscript. Available Online: http://www.uiowa.edu/~c030111/decisionmaking/grad2005/spezio.pdf.
Steinberg, L. (2001). We Know Some Things: Parent-Adolescent Relationship in Retrospect and Prospect. Journal of Research on Adolescence 11(1):1-19.
Steinberg, L., & Morris, A. (2001) Adolescent Development. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 83-110..
Sullivan, P.F., et al. (1998). No Association Between Novelty Seeking and the Type 4 Dopamine Receptor Gene (DRD4) in Two New Zealand Samples. The American Journal of Psychiatry 155:98-101.
Talbot, Colin. (2003). How the Public Sector Got its Contradictions – The Tale of the Paradoxical Primate. Integrating the Idea of Paradox in Human Social, Political and Organisational Systems with Evolutionary Psychology. Human Nature Review 3:189-195.
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).
Tooby, J., & Cosmides, L. (1992) The Psychological Foundations of Culture. In The Adapted Mind, Jerome Barkow, Leda Cosmides and John Tooby, eds. New York: Oxford University Pres.
von Lubitz, Dag K.J.E., Carrasco, Benjamin, Levine, Howard, & Richir, Simon. Medical Readiness in the Context of Operations Other Than War: Development of First Responder Readiness Using OODA_Loop Thinking and Advanced Distributed Interactive Simulation Technology. Paper presented at Empispher conference on Best Practice in Real-time Telemedicine.
Wade, Nicholas. (2006). Still Evolving, Human Genes Tell New Story. New York Times. March 7, 2006 edition.
Weisberg, Robert W. (1993). Creativity: Beyond the Myth of Genius. W.H. Freeman & Company: New York, NY.
Wilson, E. O., & Holldobler, B. (2005). Eusociality: Origin and Consequences. PNAS 102(38)-13367-13371.
Wrangham, R. (1999). Evolution of Coalitionary Killing. Yearbook of Anthropology 42:1-30.
Yandell, Lonnie. (2002) Web-based resources. 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. 295-305).
Zubizarreta, J. (1996). Improving teaching through teaching portfolio revisions: A context and case for reflective practice. In J.K. Roth (Ed.) Inspiring Teaching: Carnegie Professors of the Year Speak. Bolton, MA: Anker Publishing Company, Inc. (pp. 123-133).


Student Nature, a companion series to Learning Evolved
1. The Nature of the Student
2. The Natures of Our Students
3. Nature and Her Consequences
4. Bibliography

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?


Likewise, group deliberations must be rethought. Constructed group identities lead to conflict (Maalouf, 2003, 21) because xenophobia and ethnocentricism are often genetically adaptive (Hammond & Axelrod, 2006, 10). Though it is clearly possible to reduce actual conflicts (Sapolsky, 2004), group aggression is a function of environment and genes, after all, the capacity for violence is in our genes. What to do with this? What to do with the fact that fear seems conducive to learning (Lupia & Menng, 2006, 3-4,7). We get nowhere if we do not ask.

Politics, too may be a concern. The finding that people like those who have similar attitudes to themselves (Mutz, 2006, 8) immediately strikes us as a problem for socialization, but learning that not only attitudes but also, and seperately (Alford & Hibbing, 2006, 13), political beliefs (Alford & Hibbing, 2004) are generally heritable shows us that socialization may have limits. Compound this with the historical politicalization of education (Fass, 307) as well as that differences are as conflicting as they are “enriching” (Taylor, 1996, 137), or even a world where terrorism is positively correlated with educational achievement (Atran, 2003, 1536) and you have a recipe for trouble.

In other papers, for other classes, I have argued for deliberative proceedings and group work. I believe these are effective tools and that student empowerment is vital for proper classroom education. I also believe that evolutionary theory and population genetics will give us educators important clues about how to best teach our students, whatever their age. But if we shirk from hard work because we are uncomfortable with some of the possibilities, or retreat with disgust as the questions raised we are like a farmer who, too lazy to reach his hands high, never picks the tastiest fruit.


Student Nature, a companion series to Learning Evolved
1. The Nature of the Student
2. The Natures of Our Students
3. Nature and Her Consequences
4. Bibliography

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.


In the days where all undergrads were between 18 and 22 the interaction between DNA and age could be ignored. At most we were troubled with the issue of development (see, for example, Allen et al., 2005; Morrisey & Werner-Wilson 2005; Steinberg 2001; Steinberg & Morris, 2001). Yet once we see that certain ideas may become “hard” relatively early in life because of genetic factors (Alford, Funk, & Hibbing, 2005) the concept of teaching itself becomes troublesome. Likewise, old theories of learned development are being undermined by evidence of genetically-derived knowledge (Tooby & Cosmides, 1992), an idea once consigned to fiction (London, 1903). How will we deal with this knowledge?

Just as our experiences make students unique, so do their genes. Evolutionary simulations have shown that genetic populations instead of evolving toward agents with homogeneous behavioral strategies [that is, alleles], often evolve such that multiple strategies coexist at equilibrium” (Kurzban & Houser, 2005, 1803). This genetic polymorphism in students comes in two broad categories: genetic variation between individuals and genetic variation between groups (Rockman et al., 2005, 2214). In the future, educators will do well to be cognizant of these categories.

Some variation is merely between individuals. This is because variation between individuals is evolutionary useful for evolutionary groups (Smith et al, 2004, 5). As Sautter writes, “Evolution has cultivated a multitude of personality traits that vary amongst humans. This phenotypic variation allows for selective advantages on the group level” (2006, 4), even within just the past few thousand years (Wade, 2006). Fortunately, new technologies are helping us educate those who are smart in different ways (Yandell, 2002, 303) with different parts of their brains (Morgan, 2001) and with different “intelligences” (Gardner, 1983). But obviously we can now see only the shadows of the final consequences of the recognition genetic individuality.

But in other ways, populations vary (statistically) because of genetics, too. For instance, one pair of alleles, Dopamine Receptor D4 3 Repeat (DRD4 4R) and Dopamine Receptor D4 7 Repeat (DRD4 7R), was after some controversy found to be correlated with a type of ADHD (Castellanos et al, 1998; Grady et al, 2003) and perhaps other personality factors (Lynn, et al., 2005; Sullivan, et al., 1998).† The prevalence of “drd4 7r” varies by population, with some peoples (!Kung, Han Chinese and Sardinians) having very little of the “adhd” allele and other populations (American Indians, white Americans, Yanamamo) having elevated levels. Apparently this resulted from different evolutionary pressures (Ding, et al., 2002). Commenting on this, Harpending & Cochran (2002, 12) noted “It is probably no accident that two of the best known ethnographies of the twentieth century are titled ‘The Harmless People’ about the !Kung who have few or no 7R alleles, and ‘The Fierce People,’ about the Yanomamo with a high frequency of 7R.” As the population diversifies, population genetics will become more and more important to educators.


Student Nature, a companion series to Learning Evolved
1. The Nature of the Student
2. The Natures of Our Students
3. Nature and Her Consequences
4. Bibliography

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.


The most obvious genetic factor is our common humanity. Our human nature is seen in the information-processing system of the brain, our natural cooperativeness, and the universal learning tools we all have.

The most trivially shared, inborn human adaption is that our brains are information-processing machines. The information-processing approach has been used to explain motivation (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252), reading ability (Benton & Kiewra, 1986, 378; McCrudden, Schraw, Hartley, & Kiewra, 2004), and even warfighting (Meilinger, 2000; Moffat 2000; Smith, 1999). One particular information processing model was noted for “its multidimensional complexity and its dynamic nature that encompasses both time and space… [this information processing model] does not represent a linear process developing along the time axis but a process that develops simultaneously within the operational sphere where time is but one of the constituent elements.” (von Lubitz et al., 2004) We have a modular information processing system (Smirnov, Arrow, Kennet, & Orbell, 2006 4) that is influenced by genetic factors (Fadok, Boyd, & Warden, 1995) that directly leads to multiple intelligences (Gardner, 2003).

Humans are generally cooperative. People act as if they enjoy altruism, reporting feeling a “warm glow” (Leuthold, 1993, 353) when they help each other. Students learn (Driver et al., 1994, 10; Hursch & Borzak, 1979, 70) and act socially in a manner reminiscent of only a few other mammals (Wrangham, 1999, 1) and the social insects (Wilson & Holldobler, 2005, 13371). These social tendencies, which Smith described as “a preference for cooperation, a modest level of mistrust, an ability to persuade others of one’s own good faith, and an ability to detect lack of good faith in others” (2006,1014) are exactly the genetic adaptations what one would expect in a socially evolved species. This includes not only altruism but also altruistic punishment, the behavior of irrational vengeance seen in countless laboratory experiments (Fehr & Gachter, 2000, 993; Sanfey et al, 2003, 1755) and computer simulations (Boyd, Gintis, Bowles, & Richardson, 2003, 3532). And even if completely anonymous conditions, people still are generous to others (Fowler, 2006, 676). Humans are social animals who need each other in order to learn (Ridley, 2003, 208). Education should be designed to exploit this.

Our “species-nature” (Talbot, 2003) includes other learning tools we often take for granted. The human brain can learn how to take care of things automatically by repeated practice, a process called automaticity (Craemer, 2006, 4-5; Morris, Squires, Taber, & Lodge, 2003, 4). Closely related to this is analogical thinking, applying known strategies to a new tasks, documented in areas from economic games (Henrich, et al, 2001, 75) to creativity (Weisberg, 1993). Similarly, essential human needs such as security (Huddy, Feldman, & Weber, 2006, 2) and thus the increased attention to intimate partners (Biggs, 1999, 106), probably have a genetic basis as well. Additionally, the cogntive split between verbal and visual knowledge (Igo, Kiewra, & Bruning, 2004), to say nothing of conscious and unconscious knowledge (Hoffman, 2006; Schraw & Bruning, 1996, 302), appear to be universal. This includes intuition (the ability to make correct choices faster than one could have consciously viewed choices) (Olson & Marshuetz, 2005, 501) and other hitherto-unscientific theories. Any educational methodology that assumes that what students are consciously aware of and what they can explain is the limit of their knowledge would be very misguided.


Student Nature, a companion series to Learning Evolved
1. The Nature of the Student
2. The Natures of Our Students
3. Nature and Her Consequences
4. Bibliography

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


Nevertheless, it often is true that people acting rationally, try to minimize their costs relative to the benefits they receive. Free-rider theory (Olson, 1965) explains how this tendency operates to affect group formation and individual productivity in groups. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 244)

Stigler states the basic free-rider problem as follows: “In a wide range of situations, individuals will fail to participate in collectively profitable activities in the absence of coercion or individually appropriate inducements (1974, 359). (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 244)

Free-rider theory assumes that individuals (1) are the actors in social situations, (2) share homogeneous value systems, similar information, and similar perceptions of reality, and (3) act rationally. Rationality means that an individual has an ordered set of preferences defined by the individual’s selfish interests and when free to do so will choose behaviors efficacious for achieving those preferences. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 244-245)

The distinction between private and public goods is central to free-rider theory (Buchanan & Tullock, 1962; Olson, 1965; Samuelson, 1954). A good is anything tangible or intangible that satisfies an individual’s needs or desires. Goods can be differentiated by their degree of excludability. In a group, a private good is one for which it is feasible or economic to exclude one or more group members… A public good is one for which it is not feasible or economic to exclude one or more group members. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 246)

One way to assure provision of public goods in large groups is through coercion and/or special incentives. Coercion is any form of influence or persuasion that tends to force the provision of public goods by a a group… Special incentives include increased shares in the public good and various individual incentives, such as personal recognition, a bonus, and so on. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 247)

An identifiable task is one for which the output of an individual can be identified with that particular individual. Studies reporting “social loafing” effects used nonidentifiable tasks (Harkins, Latane, & Williams, 1980; Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979). Subsequent research by Harkins and Petty (1982) suggests social loafing effects cna be eliminated by making tasks identifiable. However, even when tasks are nonidentifiable, social loafing may not occur if subjects perceive tasks to be difficult or unique (Harkins & Petty, 1982). (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 248)

A study by Kerry and Brunn (1983) suggests that the task type affects group members performance. High-ability group members exerted less effort with increasing group size on a conjunctive task, a group task for which the group product is limited by the contribution of the least capable member (Steiner, 1972). Low-ability group members exerted less effort with increasing the group size on a disjunctive task, a task in which the group product is confined to the contribution of the most capable member (Ingham, Levinger, Graves, & Peckham, 1974; Steiner, 1972). (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 248)

Orbell and Dawes (1981) refer to the role of a group member who carries free riders as the “sucker role.” When a group member reduces efforts rather than play the sucker role, the effort reduction is referred to as the “sucker effect” (Kerry, 1983). The sucker effect may arise from incorrect attributions abotu the extent of free riding in a group. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252)

Altruistic motives may reduce the likelihood and degree of free-riding, but they do not eliminate it. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252)

Social information processing theory (Griffin, 1983; Salancik & Preffer, 1978) suggests that social cues from respected co-workers or supervisors about task characteristics may cause a group member to perceive a task as unique. (Albanese & van Fleet, 1985, 252)

Yandell, Lonnie. (2002) Web-based resources. 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. 295-305).

Thorndike was among the first to imply that if we were to alter the process of instruction, the outcome would differ. In what we might now see as a prophetic utterance, he asserted that if “by some mechanical ingenuity, a book could be so arranged that only to him who had done what was directed on page one would page two become visible, … much that now requires personal instruction could be managed by print” (Thorndike, 1912, p. 165). (Beins, 2002, 308)

For example, Gaskill (1933) may have been the first teacher to usher in a form of distance learning. He presented two lectures over the radio; they involved what we would probably now call sports psychology. However, radio did not reappear in the literature as a medium of tutelage for 35 years (Snyder, Greer, & Snyder, 1968). Television broadcasts began as the beginning of the 1950s (Barden, 1951), and even teh telephone served as a teaching tool (Cutler, McKeachie, & McNeil, 1958). (Beins, 2002, 310)

“Instead of producing revolution, interactive courseware has produced barely a ripple on the stagnant surface of the instructional program. But the courseware mirage still beckons” (Ehrmann, 2000, pg. 44). (Beins, 2002, 315)

One of the newest approaches, Just in Time Teaching (JiTT), gives a good illustration of how to maximize what the student, teacher, and computer can achieve in combination… Using this approach, instructors pose questions or offer other preparatory assignments that students have to complete and submit within a few hours of the class meeting. The instructor reads the student responses prior to class and uses their ideas to structure class time. (Biens, 2002, 318)

Progressive social reformers hoped to use education to revitalize democracy through the reconstruction fo the elements of individual political responsibility. (Fass, 307)

The science that had the most profound effect on educational practice as psychology, a hybrid calling which was part biology, part philosophy, and in good part linked with the evolving profession of education. (Fass, 307)

What had begun as a way of eliminating the feebleminded, proceeded to a ranking of individuals according to talent, and finally became a means for ordering a hierarchy of groups. (Fass, 309)

Chamberlin reported using classroom games or experiments for teaching purposes as long ago as 1948. (Fels, 1993, 365)

Universities are based on the principle that teaching and research go together. (Fels, 1993, 365)

At the other extreme, a poor lecturer with low ratings on student evaluation questionnaires could pep up a course with these games. (Fels, 1993, 365)

Free riders are those who enjoy the benefits of a public good without contributing to the costs of providing it. Because it is impossible, or highly expensive, to exclude people from the benefits of a public gone once it is produced, consumers have an incentive to free ride” on the contributions of others. The presence of free riders can lead to the underrepresentation of preferences for the public good and, hence, to its underprovision. (Leuthold, 1993, 353)

Rosen (1992, 76) stresses that free ridership is not a fact, but a hypothesis. (Leuthold, 1993, 353)

Asch and Gigliotti (1991, 33) are also concerned that the standard treatment of free riding behavior as “rational” is ethically questionable. They believe that economists often ignore such noneconomic motivation as sense of commitment or morality. Other motivations for voluntary behavior that have been suggested in the literature include “a desire to win prestige, respect, friendship, and other social and psychological objectives” (Olson, 1965, 60) or “a desire to avoid the scorn of others or to receive social acclaim” (Becker, 1974, 1083). Andreoni (1990, 464) identifies the desire for a “warm glow” as a possible influence on behavior. (Leuthold, 1993, 353)

However, when Isaac and Walker (1988) tested the effect of group size on free riding in an experimental setting, they got mixed results, with small groups being more cooperative in some situations but less cooperative in others. (Leuthold, 1993, 354)

Experimental economics can provide interesting and profound insights into many types of economic behavior. Used in the classroom experiments stimulate student interest and involve students actively in the learning process. Involved students tend to be more attentive, have a more positive attitude toward the subject, and have higher self-esteem because they have more control over their own learning. The free rider experiment described here was specifically designed to bring active learning to the large classroom. It could, of course, be conveniently used in the small classroom as well. (Leuthold, 1993, 361-362).

From a motivationalist perspective (e.g., Johnson & Johnson, 1992; Slavin, 1983a, b, 1995), cooperative incentive structures create a situation in which the only way group members can attain their own personal goals is if the group is successful. Therefore, to meet their personal goals, group members must both help their groupmates to do whatever helps the group to succeed, and, perhaps even more importantly, to encourage their groupmates to exert maximum efforts. In other words, rewarding groups based on group performance (or the sum of individual performances) creates an interpersonal reward structure in which group members will give or withhold social reinforcers (e.g., praise, encouragement) in response to groupmates’ task-related efforts (see Slavin, 1983a)… students to encourage goaldirected behaviors among their groupmates (Slavin, 1983a, b; 1995). A substantial literature in the behavior modification tradition has found that group contingencies can be very effective at improving students’ appropriate behaviors and achievement (Hayes, 1976; Litow & Pumroy, 1975). (Slavin, 1996)

The motivationalist critique of traditional classroom organization holds that the competitive grading and informal reward system of the classroom creates peer norms opposing academic efforts (see Coleman, 1961). Since one student’s success decreases the chances that others will succeed, students are likely to express norms that high achievement is for “nerds” or teachers’ pets. Such work restriction norms are familiar in industry, where the “rate buster” is scorned by his or her fellow workers (Vroom, 1969). (Slavin, 1996)

Use of group goals or group rewards enhances the achievement outcomes of cooperative learning if and only if the group rewards are based on the individual learning of all group members (Slavin, 1995). Most often, this means that team scores are computed based on average scores on quizzes which all teammates take individually, without teammate help. (Slavin, 1996)

Comparisons of alternative treatments within the same studies found similar patterns; group goals based on the sum of individual learning performances were necessary to the instructional effectiveness of the cooperative learning models (e.g., Fantuzzo, Polite, & Grayson, 1990; Fantuzzo, Riggio, Connelly, & Dimeff, 1989; Huber, Bogatzki, & Winter, 1982). (Slavin, 1996)

However, motivational theorists hold that students help their groupmates learn at least in part because it is in their own interests to do so. Social cohesion theorists, in contrast, emphasize the idea that students help their groupmates learn because they care about the group. A hallmark of the social cohesion perspective is an emphasis on teambuilding activities in preparation for cooperative learning, and processing or group self-evaluation during and after group activities. Social cohesion theorists tend to downplay or reject the group incentives and individual accountability held by motivationalist researchers to be essential. For example, Cohen (1986, pp. 69-70) states “if the task is challenging and interesting, and if students are sufficiently prepared for skills in group process, students will experience the process of groupwork itself as highly rewarding…never grade or evaluate students on their individual contributions to the group product.” (Slavin, 1996) [this seems crazy — tdaxp]

In general, methods which emphasize teambuilding and group process but do not provide specific group rewards based on the learning of all group members are no more effective than traditional instruction in increasing achievement (Slavin, 1995), although there is evidence that these methods can be effective if group rewards are added to them. (Slavin, 1996)

One widely researched set of cognitive theories is the developmental perspective (e.g., Damon, 1984; Murray, 1982). The fundamental assumption of the developmental perspective on cooperative learning is that interaction among children around appropriate tasks increases their mastery of critical concepts. (Slavin, 1996)

There is a great deal of empirical support for the idea that peer interaction can help non-conservers become conservers. Many studies have shown that when conservers and nonconservers of about the same age work collaboratively on tasks requiring conservation, the nonconservers generally develop and maintain conservation concepts (see Bell, Grossen, and Perret-Clermont, 1985; Murray, 1982; Perret-Clermont, 1980). (Slavin, 1996)

The importance of peers’ operating in one anothers’ proximal zones of development was demonstrated by Kuhn (1972), who found that a small difference in cognitive level between a child and a social model was more conducive to cognitive growth than a larger difference. (Slavin, 1996)

However, Damon (1984, p.337) explicitly rejects the use of “extrinsic incentives as part of the group learning situation,” arguing that “there is no compelling reason to believe that such inducements are an important ingredient in peer learning.” (Slavin, 1996)

As noted earlier, reviewers of the cooperative learning literature have long concluded that cooperative learning has its greatest effects on student learning when groups are recognized or rewarded based on individual learning of their members (Slavin, 1983a, 1983b, 1989, 1992, 1995; Ellis & Fouts, 1993; Newmann & Thompson, 1987; Manning & Lucking, 1991; Davidson, 1985; Mergendoller & Packer, 1989). (Slavin, 1996)

In groups lacking individual accountability, one or two students may do the group’s work, while others engage in “social loafing” (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979). (Slavin, 1996)

A comparison among Learning Together studies (Johnson & Johnson, 1989) also supports the same conclusions. Across eight studies of Learning Together methods in which students were rewarded based on a single worksheet or product, the median effect size was near zero (+.04). However, among four studies that evaluated forms of the program in which students were graded based on the average performance of all group members on individual assessments, three found significantly positive effects. (Slavin, 1996)

Several studies have focused on the question of which students gain the most from cooperative learning. One particularly important question relates to whether cooperative learning is beneficial to students at all levels of prior achievement. It would be possible to argue (see, for example, Allan, 1991; Robinson, 1990) that high achievers could be held back by having to explain material to theirlow-achieving groupmates. However, it would be equally possible to argue that because students who give elaborated explanations typically learn more than those who receive them (Webb, 1992), high achievers should be the students who benefit most from cooperative learning because they give the most frequent elaborated explanations. The evidence from experimental studies that met the inclusion criteria for this review support neither position. A few studies found better outcomes for high achievers than for low and a few found that low achievers gained the most (see Slavin, 1995). Most, however, found equal benefits for high, average, and low achievers in comparison to their counterparts in control groups. (Slavin, 1996)

One category of tasks that may not require group goals and individual accountability is tasks in which it is likely that students will benefit by hearing others thinking aloud. This is the classic Vygotskian paradigm; students in collaborating groups make overt their private speech, giving peers operating at a slightly lower cognitive level on a given task a stepping stone to understanding and incorporating higher-quality solutions in their own private speech (see Bershon, 1992). Tasks of this kind would be ones at a very high level of cognitive complexity but without a well-defined path to a solution or a single correct answer, especially tasks on which there are likely to be differences of opinion. For such tasks, the process of participating in arguments or even of listening to others argue and justify their opinions or solutions may be enough to enhance learning, even if no teaching, explanation, or assessment goes on within the group. Perhaps the best classroom evidence on this type of task is from Johnson and Johnson’s (1979) studies of structured controversy, in which students argue both sides of a controversial issue using a structured method of argumentation. (Slavin, 1996)

As in the case of controversial tasks without single correct answers, there is evidence that adding group rewards to structured dyadic tasks enhances the effects of these strategies. Fantuzzo, Polite, & Grayson (1990) evaluated a dyadic study strategy called Reciprocal Peer Tutoring. A simple pair study format did not increase student arithmetic achievement, but when successful dyads were awarded stickers and classroom privileges, their achievement markedly increased. (Slavin, 1996)

individual learning of all group members, and feel that it is unnecessary and cumbersome to do so. Widespread reluctance to use extrinsic incentives, based in part on a misreading of research on the “undermining” effects of rewards on long-term motivation (Cameron & Pierce, 1994) has contributed to many educators’ reluctance to use group rewards. (Slavin, 1996)

Cooperative learning is one of the greatest success stories in the history of educational innovation. Almost unknown in the mid-1970s, cooperative learning strategies are now so common-place that they are often seen as a standard part of educational practice, not as an innovation. One national survey (Puma, Jones, Rock, & Fernandez, 1993) found that 79 percent of third grade teachers and 62 percent of seventh grade teachers reported making regular, sustained use of cooperative learning strategies. (Slavin, 1999, 74)

Research on teh achievement effects of cooperative learning emphasizes the importance of group goals and individual accountability (e.g., Davidson, 1985; Slavin, 1995). Yet observational studies of teachers using cooperative methods find that most are using informal versions of the model, typically lacking group goals and individual accountability. This “group work” creates the danger that one child can do the work for the whole group, that some children will take the “thinking rolee” in group activities while others take clerical or passive roles, or that some children may be ignored or shut out of the group activitity, especially if they are perceived to be low achievers (see, for example, Cohen, 1994). (Slavin, 1999,74)

The emergence of electronic and tellecommunications technologies is not only changing what we teach but is transforming how we think, write, and communicate. (Taylor, 1996, 134)

While many nineteenth- and twentieth-century philosophers accept Kant’s criticism of the notion of the mind as a blank slate upon which the data of experience are directly imprinted, they remain suspicious of his claims for the universality of our mental apparatus. From Hegel and Nietzsche to Heidegger and Sartre, philosophers insist that systems of knowledge are physcologically, socially, historically, and culturally relative. While the mind might be preprogrammed, it is not necessarily hardwired. (Taylor, 1996, 135-136)

Whlie personal and cultural differences can, of course, be enriching, they can also generate conflict. (Taylor, 1996, 137)

One of the most common uses of teleconferencing by universities is for distance learning in which communication tends to be one-way and non-interactive. It is obvious that in this kind of extended classroom or lecture hall, contact between teacher and student is difficult if not impossible. (Taylor, 1996, 139-140)

In addition to increasing contact among seminar participants, the electronci environment influenced the teacher-student relation in another important way. Students were much more willing to take the lead in discussions than in any other class I have taught. While the initial impulse to contribute might have been the result of the desire to see themselves on screen, students quickly overcame their exhibitionist impulses and became serious participants in a sustained dialogue. (Taylor, 1996, 140)

Not only did they [graduate students] devise effective laboratory sessions adn write clear procedures and instructions; they also repeated the gesture of uniting theory and practice or form and content by creating a hypertextual multimedia lab manual. (Taylor, 1996, 143)

Having given by research asssistants the opportunity to teach what they had designed, I elected not to attend any of the laboratory sessions… I was beginning to suspect that these technologies create new possibilities for nonhierarchical relationships in which the line separating students and teacherse becomes obscure. (Taylor, 1996, 143)

More faculty are choosing to integrate Web resources into their teaching, and many more teachers are beging encouraged to do so. (Yandell, 2002, 296)

Brown (2000) sugested three aditional positive aspects of the Web. He pointed out that the Web is a “two way push and pull” media (p. 12)… He also observed that the Web is the “first media that honors the notion of multiple intelligences — abstract, textual, visual, musical, social, and kinesthitic… He also suggested that the Web has the distinct advantage of being able to “leverage the small effort sof hte many with the large efforts of the few” (Yandell, 2002, 303)

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.


Berk states that “critics of Chomsky’s theory doubt one set of rules can account for all grammatical forms.” However, such a list is unneeded. A genetic factor would only need to account for all behavior within a domain if the claim was that the behavior is ruled entirely by genetics. Yet the list of such thing is vanishingly small. Chomsky and other modular theorists argue for a “G X E” view in which both genetics and environment are independent variables in behavior. This should not be confused with the “interactionist” perspective Berk outlines immediately following the Chomsky sections. While the interactionists maintain that a sort of massive, parrallal, distributed computer exists in the mind and learns modules based on statistical input and perhaps some seed variables, modularists like Chomsky argue that the modules are pre-programmed, and only have to be evoked.

Likewise, as I mentioned in a previous reaction paper, a nativist view does not imply the sort of stability that Berk seems to assume. Modules may be programmed to be evoked in time, and indeed the language module may be composed of several interrelated modules that are naturally evoked at different ages (much as your computer, when it first starts, perhaps loads your web browser first, and then your wireless Internet connection, and only then does the “email module” appear).

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).


Following the text’s advice on the Internet can impede development. The author focuses on negative aspects of electronic communication, such as increased loneliness and exploitation. Then what to make of these quotes: “I’m from a medium-sized city, I’ve still found it hard to find good company…” (Chirol 2006) and “The Internet makes this far easier in today’s world.” (Curzon 2006)? They are statements of domain experts on how Internet communication has allowed them to experience the advantages of geographical nearness (tdaxp 2006) that is required for expertise in a talent domain (Csikszentmihalyi 1996, Gardner 1997).

A focus on negative aspects of new technology is harmful, especially when combined with an incomplete literature review or pessimism. The Internet is good for you, and video games don’t hurt. At least, that’s what scientific research tells us.

Bibliography

tdaxp. (2006). The Creativity Anarchy. Paper for Creativity, Talent, and Expertise.
Alford, J. and Hibbing, J. (2004). The Origin of Politics: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior. Perspective on Politics, Vol. 2 No. 4, 707-723.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the psychology of discovery and invention. New York: Harper Perennial.
Curzon, G. (2006). Personal communication.
Chirol, I. (2006). Personal Communication.
Gardner, H. (1997). Extraordinary Minds. New York: Basic Books.
Moore, M. (2002). Bowling for Columbine. MGM Distribution Co.

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.


Most of Vygotsky’s ideas should be used because they are useful. Mentoring is critical in the development of expertise (Price 2005, Barnett 2006). “Zones of Proximal Development,” “Scaffolding,” and “Guided Participation,” are Vygotskian concepts that fit under this ancient rubric. Other concepts should be used but with caution. “Intersubjectivity” and “Reciprocal Teaching” are similar to attempts to construct rationality in domains with multiple perspectives and peer interaction. The record here is more mixed, with some supporting the idea (van Glasersfeld, Moshman 2005) and others who are more critical (Safranski 2006, Steinberg and Morris 2001, Allen et al 2005).

That said, Vygotsky’s theoretical framework should be junked. It does not matter if a child’s babblings are “egocentric speech” or “private speech,” so long as he is able to obtain mastery in whatever domains are important. Likewise, whether make-believe is spontaneous or taught, or whether language is a central or secondary process, does not matter in practice.

Child Psychologists must be pragmatic and results-oriented, helping children achieve their best. Vygotsky’s ideas and powerful tools for these end, but they should not be confused with an objective truth.

Bibliography

Allen, J.P., Porter, M.R., McFarland, F.C., Marsh, P., McElhaney, K.B. (2005). The Two Faces of Adolescents’ Success with Peers: Adolescent Popularity, Social Adaption, and Deviant Behavior. Child Development 76, 747-760.

Barnett, T. (2006) Personal Communication, February 19, 2006.

Moshman, David. (2005). Adolescent Psychological Development (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Safarnski, M., Personal Communication, March 28-30, 2006.

Steinberg, L., & Morris, A.S. (2001). Adolescent Development. Annual Review of Psychology: 2001 52, 83-110.
von Glasersfeld, E. (1995). A Constructivist Approach to Teaching. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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.


The Store Model is more intelligible when seen in the light of the OODA Loop. In the OODA Loop, outside information, unfolding circumstances, and unfolding environmental interaction are “Observed.” These are then fed forward and previous experience, new information, genetic heritage, cultural tradition, and analysis/synthesis led to an “Orientation” which also feeds backwards to Observation. In most cases this creates an implicit guidance and control to a person’s Action, though sometimes a Decision is made, in which case it feeds forward into action and feeds back to Orientation. In every case, Action feeds back to Observation. (Fadok, Boyd, and Warden 1995). The OODA Model resolves these problems. The Store Model becomes acceptable by breaking the “Central Executive” into a large, complex, unconscious Orientation component and a seldom used but powerful Decision making aspect. Because Orientation is itself composed of sub-procedures, cases of split personality are intelligible as maladaptive assembles of these sub-procedures. Likewise, if Observation must go through Orientation before Decision, then it is no surprise we often do not “see” things that would change our decisions if we knew of them (Richards 2004).

Bibliography

Fadok, D.S., Boyd, J., and Warden, J. (1995). Air Power’s Quest for Strategic Paralysis. Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press.

Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. New York City: Penguin Books.

Richards, C. (2004). Certain to Win: The Strategy Of John Boyd, Applied To Business. Xlibris Corporation.