Team McCallum

R&D for Lifetime of Life

Accelerating learning?

Two Professors of Psychology at the University of Chicago,  Sian L Beilock and Susan Goldin-Meadow, appear to have come up with a way to accelerate learning that you can use yourself or to teach others, such as children, more effectively. But their experiments showed this would accelerate learning things wrong just as much as it accelerated learning things right, so you need to be careful that you’ve got things right before you apply this.

The Tower of Hanoi is a well-known puzzle in which you move the tower from the left-hand side to the right-hand side, one slice at a time, and stacked so that there is never a larger slice on top of a smaller slice.

The professors carried out 2 experiments.

First, people were asked to shift the tower, then they were asked to explain the way they did it to another person. People explaining typically used gestures to do this, as this is much easier. Those gestures were either one-handed or two-handed, and this made a major difference.

The professors changed the weight of the smallest slice so it could no longer be moved with one hand – it now required two. People who had demonstrated with two hands found no problem with this change. But for those using one-handed gestures, it took longer, and the more the gestures had been one-handed, the longer the puzzle took.

To confirm that gestures affect learning, the professors carried out the second experiment. This had the same start as the previous one, using a top slice that could be moved one-handed if the person so chose. This time, people were not asked to explain their solution, so there were no gestures. The tower puzzle was completed a second time, then the professors swapped in the top slice requiring two hands.

Whether people had previously moved the top slice one-handed or two-handed made no difference. Both groups did the puzzle in the same time.

So the process of gesturing cements learning, whether right or wrong.

The professors pointed out the potential of this. Gesturing yourself while learning, or building this into teaching when others are learning, is an easy way to accelerate learning, even for subjects such as mathematics. Just make sure you get the right gestures!


January 6, 2011 Posted by | Brain, Learning, Success | Leave a comment

Udiet: The Designer Diet.

2010 was stuffed with research published on the topic of weight management – how best to take weight off and how best to keep it off.

Udiet is a look at the most interesting findings from 2010, and to kick the story off, 2011 has already seen further work published on the first topic – why a diet has to be designed around you.

Medical research is full of studies that mention ‘responders’ and ‘non-responders’. A particular course of treatment should work for the general population, but in practice some respond as predicted, and some simply don’t, or worse.

Two days ago it was announced that Johnson and Johnson agreed to commercialise an invention of Dr Daniel Haber and colleagues. They have found a way to take a small blood sample and scan it for signs of a number of different cancers. The device gives results in 8 hours and also supplies information of the genetic profile of any cancer.

The device was invented over 2 years ago but Haber and team have been working to take it out of the lab setting and make it general purpose. Other teams are developing other devices with the same aim in mind.

Currently, a number of cancer treatments are on the basis of applying treatment then waiting several weeks to see if the patient is a responder. The aim of these new devices is to get the correct profile in advance, so you know what the cancer will respond to. Cancer treatment designed around you.

Yesterday, it was the turn of hepatitis-C to figure in the news. Standard treatment works for responders, but only about half of patients fall into this category. Non-responders need different treatment. Dr Matthew L Albert and Dr Stanislas Pol have found a biomarker that predicts whether a patient is a responder or not, and they are working with Rules Based Medicine Inc to bring this to the market.

2010 showed that the idea of responders and non-responders works in weight management. What works for one person, or for most, may not work for you.

Hence the Udiet – the diet designed around you. We publish the findings of 2010. Keeping in mind the concept of responders and non-responders, you apply the ones that work for you.

January 6, 2011 Posted by | Diet, Obesity, Psychology, Success, Weight management | Leave a comment