Jamie Hale

Jamie Hale

Monday, December 16, 2013

The BS Antidote

BSers have no idea if the claims they perpetuate are true or false; they have put little effort forth in regards to investigating the claim.  The truth-value of a claim is not important to the BSer.  There is a difference between a liar and BSer.  The liar misrepresents what they believe to be true. 

On Bullshit (Frankfurt, 2005) is a pocket size, 67-page book that discusses BS.  Frankfurt discusses why BSers and Liars do not necessarily have the same motives.  I had never thought of the two- BSer and liar as being different until reading On Bullshit.  However, after reading Frankfurt’s book it became clear- there is a difference between BSers and liars.

Frankfurt points out that BS is one of the most salient features of our culture.  Everyone engages in some level of BS.  Frankfurt makes a point to explain that someone who thinks they are lying can actually being telling the truth. A statement is a lie if the person making the statement “believes that the statement is false and intends by making it to deceive” (p.8). 

Why are there so many Bsers? There are two key reasons:1- ego inflation 2- customary communication.  Many people like to always be right, or at least make others think they are right.  Of course, most people like to be right.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to be right, but this becomes problematic when being right becomes more important than finding the truth.  Many people pride themselves on being good BSers; you know the type of person that can carry on a conversation with anyone, or wow people with their smarts.  Some of the most popular people are BSers.  Personally, I don’t mind to hear a little BSing.  I BS on occasion, but I limit my BSing, and I know when it is inappropriate.  The excessive BSer doesn’t seem to understand or care to understand that BSing is sometimes inappropriate.  As an example, the excessive BSer has a tendency to consistently make unfounded claims, and attempts to participate in conversations on topics they know little to nothing about.  They haven’t looked at the evidence, and they aren’t interested in what the evidence says.  They know they are right, even when they have no evidence to support their claims. They generally support their claims by using an array of logical fallacies and nonsensical claims.  What is the antidote to BS, in this context?   Maybe we should call the bluff, and ask to see evidence.  This generally doesn’t work.  I have been in many Internet battles, and asking BSers to produce evidence is generally a waste of breath. To reiterate, BSers are not interested in the truth-value of their claim.  And, most of the time BSers have a completely different idea than others, when it comes to what constitutes evidence.  This lack of understanding in regards to what it means to produce evidence is prevalent, and is particularly problematic when discussing science.  In science, we discuss topics by referring to evidence, not wishful thinking, personal observations, or common sense.  Scientific thinkers derive their claims from systematic processes used to collect and analyze information, namely science.  If asking for evidence doesn’t work what should we do in order to combat BS?  I don’t have a good answer to this question.  Maybe someone else does.  Maybe we should pass a law that allows us to duct tape their mouths shut?  Maybe they should be fined for intellectual pollution?   

The customary process of communication may be another reason that BS is so prevalent.  Consider the following: you and your significant other attend a dinner party for your friend.  Your friends are talking and seemingly having a pleasant evening until the conversation addresses stem-cell research.  Your friends appear to be relatively knowledgeable about the subject.  After a few minutes of dialogue they ask for your opinion.  You panic because you know very little about the subject, but you decide to express your opinion. Why would you comment on something you know nothing about?  You felt obligated to say something because you didn’t want to be rude. This type of situation occurs on a regular basis.  Bullshit is unavoidable when someone is forced to discuss a topic that they know little about.  In this context the antidote to BS is politely admitting you are not qualified to discuss the topic. 

BS is ubiquitous and sometimes it is fine; however, at times it is inappropriate.  Good thinkers are able to figure out when it is appropriate. The next time you notice you are discussing a topic, and defending it vehemently, even though you have no evidence to corroborate your beliefs do yourself and anyone listening to you a favor and shut up!   

Below is some of the e-mail I have received and responded to over the past three weeks. A lot of these conversations are with BSers.

Not-Fan Mail

E-mail: Hello Jamie,

I am a fan of some of your work, but your article on testing and learning is PLAIN wrong.  I am a junior high teacher and I know from experience that testing does little to improve learning.  In fact, it is my opinion, and the opinion of many of my co-workers that testing has a negative influence on learning.

My response: Thanks for the e-mail.  I assume you are referring to the article titled Does Testing Enhance Learning http://jamiehalesblog.blogspot.com/search?q=does+testing+enhance+learning

Your opinion is a moot point if it is not supported by even an angstrom of evidence, and lacks logic.  “I know from experience” is not sufficient evidence.  Of course, at times experience may lead to the formation of testable hypotheses, and if that is the case they should be tested.  The article you are referring to discusses the following research:

Balota, D.A., Duchek, J.M., & Paullin, R. (1989). Age-related differences in the impact of spacing, lag, and retention interval. Psychology and Aging, 4, 3–9. 

Roediger, H.L., & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention. Psychological Science, 17 (3), 249-255.

The results support the claim that testing enhances learning

Name, sorry you don’t like the results, but science doesn’t have any concern for whether or not you are pleased with the results.  Science is the great truth finder and self- deception detector.

2nd email:  The results of studies are often wrong.  Scientists have vested interests.

My 2nd response:  You don’t think you could be wrong.  Science might be wrong, but it makes use of numerous self-correcting techniques to help ensure that it isn’t wrong.  When scientific information is shown to be wrong that information is abandoned in exchange for better information.  All scientific information is tentative. If interested in learning more about scientific processes I suggest you spend some time educating yourself in the following areas: philosophy of science, research methods and stats.  I can send you some suggested sources if you would like.

3rd email:  Jamie, I have no interest in seeing your suggestions.  It appears to me that you have a hidden agenda.  Maybe you are just interested in promoting science.  It seems to me that you think science can answer everything.

My 3rd response:  My agenda is the perpetuation of science.  I am not trying to hide that.  I am a science educator.  Do I think science can answer all questions?  No, I do not. You have never heard me say that.  You have heard me say, and you will continue to hear me say scientific processes are unquestionably the most successful processes we have for discovering reality.  There is no other method of knowledge acquisition that even compares.  Of course, you will probably dishonestly say you disagree.  I say dishonestly, because you like everyone else depends heavily on science and technology.  Try going 2-3 days without using any of the benefits that you are provided due to science and technology. 

E-mail: It appears to me that you are a hypocrite!  You are always talking about being skeptical.  So, why shouldn’t we be skeptical of your claims?

My response:  I appreciate the not so kind words.  You should be skeptical of all claims, including those made by myself.  Skeptic is derived from the Greek skeptikos, which means, "inquiring" or "to look around”. Skeptics apply reason to and need evidence for all claims. It is important to consider who are making the claims, but no matter who makes the claim evidence is required. The individual’s reputation, authority or credentials do not make the claim correct.  

If you are not a skeptic you should be.  Skepticism should be applied to all claims; no claim should be given a free pass when it comes to providing supportive evidence. 

E-mail:  Hey Coach Hale,

I used to be a fan of your work, until you became boring.  You are always talking about evidence.  Not everyone cares about evidence!  They just want the answers.  

My response:  I agree that many people do not care about evidence.  Especially, when that evidences contradicts their beliefs.

Correct answers are dependent on evidence; so, if someone wants correct answers they should want evidence.  But, people often do not care about what the evidence says, they are only interested with recipe knowledge- they want to know what to do, but they are not  concerned with why they should do it.

E-mail: If correlational research does not determine cause and effect why do researchers conduct this type of research?  It seems that they are wasting time. 

My response: Even though correlational research is not used to determine cause and effect it is still important. Consider the following points made by Stanovich (2007):

“First, many scientific hypotheses are stated in terms of correlation or lack of correlation, so that such studies are directly relevant to these hypotheses."

"Second, although correlation does not imply causation, causation does implycorrelation. That is, although a correlational study cannot definitely prove a causal hypothesis, it may rule one out."

"Third, correlational studies are more useful than they may seem, because some of the recently developed complex correlational designs allow for some very limited causal inferences."

"…some variables simply cannot be manipulated for ethical reasons (for instance, human malnutrition or physical disabilities). Other variables, such as birth order, sex, and age are inherently correlational because they cannot be manipulated, and, therefore, the scientific knowledge concerning them must be based on correlation evidence.”

Correlation does not imply causation, however causation does imply correlation. Correlational studies are a stepping-stone to the more powerful experimental method. (Hale, 2014).

E-mail:  Sometimes your comments are very rude.  I think each person has a right to their own beliefs, and those beliefs should be respected. 

My response:  You are being dishonest. You do not believe that all beliefs deserve the same level of respect.  Believes that are not based on evidence do not deserve the same level of respect as evidence based beliefs.  As an example, no one respects the belief that “Elvis lives.”  Why don’t people respect that belief? Because it is absurd; even if we can’t prove he doesn’t live.  It is important to realize no matter how much you want something to be true if it defies everything that is known about reality it probably isn’t true.  No amount of wishing makes it any truer.

E-mail:  I think it is offensive to tell people if they don’t have any training in research methods and statistics, or that if they don’t read about those subjects they can’t understand them. 

My response: Thanks for pointing this out.  I am sorry that you are offended by this fact.  Why do you think that you understand the complexity of research methods and stats if you have made no effort to acquire an education in these areas?  When I say that you do not understand these subjects, or when I say you are ignorant in these areas I am not saying you are stupid.  However, I am saying when you continuously attempt to show how much you know about subjects that you nothing about you demonstrate irrationality.  Of course, consistent irrationality might be referred to as stupidity.  Or a euphemism may be used in suggesting stupidity.

To be clear, not understanding a subject doesn’t reflect stupidity; if that were the case we would have to say everyone is stupid.  No one understands all areas of knowledge.   

E-mail: You admitted that your writing style has prevented you from getting published in some of the big magazines.  That should tell you something?

My response: It tells me that magazines should change their publication criteria.  When my writing style reflected many of the popular myths disseminated by the fitness industry it was a lot easier to get published.   
Many types of magazines not just fitness magazines have suggested that my writing style is a little too evidence based, and not practical enough.  Generally, magazines publishers are interested in generating high revenues, and quite often evidence based information might not be the best revenue generator.


Frankfurt, H.G. (2005).  On Bullshit.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.   

Hale, J. (Not yet published ).  In Evidence We Trust: The need for science, rationality and statistics.

Stanovich, K. (2007).  How To Think Straight About Psychology 8th Edition.   New York, NY: Pearson. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Answer Key: In Evidence We Trust

Answer key

1- IV: list of words- levels (conditions, groups): names of objects, abstract nouns
    DV: memory
Operationalization of DV: A test was administered to participants that assessed     memory.   The test was administered after participants were exposed to either of the lists of words.  Scores were compared.

2- IV: Presence or absence of drug- levels: received drug, no-drug
     DV: rate of learning
Operationalization of DV: The drug group and no-drug group ran the maze while   observers recorded how many times they had to run before learning.  Different judges recorded and compared their scores (interrater reliability). 

3- IV: Type of room where eating- levels: hot room, cool room
   DV: food consumption
Operationalization of DV: Researchers recorded the amount of food in each room before participants began to eat and after they finished eating.             

4- IV: Presence or absence of soft music- levels: soft music room, no-music room
    DV: plant growth
    Operationalization of DV: Compare the growth of the plants that were grown in each   room.  Baseline measures of plants were taken, and then at the end of the study another measure was taken.

5- IV: type of feedback- levels: told score was good, told score was average
     DV: self esteem
     Operationalization of DV: After receiving feedback participants are given a questionnaire.  The questionnaire is used to assess self-esteem.

1-c  2-b  3-a 4-a  5-b  6-c  7-b  8-c  9-b  10-d

A- 6.67  B- 2.5  C- 2  D- 2  E- 1  F-2

Roberto= 1  Dellis= 0  Pamelisa= -1  Hennis= -1.5 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Developing the RQ Test

The following interview was conducted with Dr. Keith Stanovich.  Dr. Stanovich is the author of What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought, the recipient of many prestigious awards, and recognized as one of the most important cognitive scientists ever.  Visit Dr. Stanovich’s site at http://www.keithstanovich.com/Site/Home.html

Congratulations on the three-year grant that you and a Richard West received from the John Templeton Foundation to develop a comprehensive test of rational thinking.  Do you think the test will be completed in three years?   Will we see it being put to use in three years?

Thanks very much. We were very happy and flattered to receive the grant. We are fairly certain that we will have completed a prototype of a comprehensive test that could be used in scientific work by the end of the three-year grant.  There of course will still be substantial work to do after that to make it useful in applied settings such as education, business, and industry. For example, subsequent to us producing the research prototype, there will be much more standardization work to be done to make it useful in applied settings.  However, I think that it is totally realistic to think that we will have a comprehensive instrument ready for scientific use in just two and a half years–we are about six months into the grant now.

Your work shows that individuals can rate high in intelligence, and at the same time, rate low in rationality.  Is it likely that an individual will rate low in intelligence but high in rationality?

Yes, that is a very good question. It is important to realize that those two outlier states will not occur with equal frequency.  By outlier states I mean people who are low in rationality and high in intelligence, and then also the converse state, people who are high in rationality and low in intelligence.  The former will be much more frequent than the latter.  For many types of rational thinking subcomponents intelligence is necessary but not sufficient.  Also, with respect to many different rational thinking components, there are at least mild to moderate correlations with intelligence.  Only on a few rational thinking components–myside bias for example–is it the case that the rational thinking component is totally disassociated from intelligence.  On those few tasks there will indeed be as many individuals high in rationality and low in intelligence as there are low in rationality and high in intelligence.  But that will be the minority of cases.

Another way to put it is to say that we already know from the past research that led up to the grant that there is a profile of associations between intelligence and rational thinking subcomponents that is quite varied.  A few rational thinking tasks such as belief bias in syllogistic reasoning are quite highly correlated with intelligence.  Most rational thinking skills are modestly correlated with intelligence.  The use of base rates in probabilistic reasoning would be an example.  And finally there are those like myside bias that are quite dissociated.  Those differing profiles will lead to somewhat different outlier groups.  Rational thinking is quite multifarious, much more so than intelligence, so any given statement about individual differences may vary quite a bit across the subcomponents.  The answer to your question here will probably vary quite a bit across the different subcomponents.

In your excellent book What Intelligence Tests Miss: the psychology of rational thought you point out the irrational thinking habits of George Bush.  Why did you choose George Bush as the example?  Have you received any negative comments concerning the discussion of Bush's irrational thinking tendencies?

I chose Bush because he was such a surprising example dysrationalia:  the failure to think rationally despite adequate intelligence. He was a surprising example because most people would not grant his intelligence. But as I point out in the book, this is because they are confused about what intelligence is.  And that is equally true of his supporters and his detractors.

Bush’s detractors described him as taking disastrously irrational actions, and they seemed to believe that the type of poor thinking that led to those disastrous actions would be picked up by the standard tests of intelligence.  Otherwise, they would not have been surprised when his scores were high rather than low.  Thus, the Bush detractors must have assumed that a mental quality (rational thinking tendencies) could be detected by the tests that in fact the tests do not detect at all. 

In contrast, Bush’s supporters like his actions but admit that he has “street smarts,” or common sense, rather than “school smarts.”  Assuming his “school smarts” to be low, and further assuming that IQ tests pick up only “school smarts,” his supporters were likewise surprised by the high pro-rated IQ scores that were indicated.  Thus, his supporters missed the fact that Bush would excel on something that was assessed by the tests.  The supporters assumed the tests measured only “school smarts” in the trivial pursuit sense (“who wrote Hamlet?”) that is easily mocked and dismissed as having nothing to do with “real life.” That the tests would actually measure a quality that cast Bush in a favorable light was something his supporters never anticipated.

In the talks that I give on these topics, when I use the Bush example I tried to head off questions and negative comments by pointing out that there is an absolute consensus that there was something wrong with his thinking style and that this fact is not in dispute–that even his supporters acknowledge this fact.  For example, in a generally positive portrait of the President, David Frum nonetheless notes, “he is impatient and quick to anger; sometimes glib, even dogmatic; often uncurious and as a result ill-informed”.  Conservative commentator George Will agrees, when he states that in making Supreme Court appointments, the President “has neither the inclination nor the ability to make sophisticated judgments about competing approaches to construing the Constitution” (p. 23, 2005).  In short, there is considerable agreement that President Bush’s thinking has several problematic aspects: lack of intellectual engagement, cognitive inflexibility, need for closure, belief perseverance, confirmation bias, overconfidence, and insensitivity to inconsistency.

The full interview can be read with Dr. Stanovich in my new book – In Evidence We Trust: The Need for Science, Rationality, and Statistics. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Exploring Memory: FAQ

What is working memory?

Working Memory- functional short-term memory.  WM – temporary storage and manipulation of information relevant to immediate goal(s).  WM – a type of short-term memory subserved in part by the prefrontal cortex, it integrates moment-to-moment perceptions over a relatively short period and combines them with memories of past experiences. 
3 Component Model of Working Memory- Baddeley & Hitch,1974 (Baddeley, 2000)
Phonological loop (articulatory rehearsal loop)- stores verbal material
Visuo-spatial sketchpad- stores visual materials
Central executive – director of the working memory system, binds information from a number of sources into coherent episodes

4 Component Model of Working Memory (Baddeley, 2000)
Fourth component added to the model of working memory
Episodic buffer -  provides a temporary interaction between the phonological loop,  the visuospatial sketchpad and LTM.

The revised model differs from the old by primarily focusing attention on the processes of integrating information, rather than on the isolation of the subsystems.

Does mental rehearsal promote memory? 

Rehearsal promotes memory only if it’s rehearsed in the right way. 

2 Types of rehearsal    

Maintenance – focus on the items that one is trying to remember in a mechanical fashion while paying little attention to meaning and how the items are related to items that are already stored in memory – example:  repeating a definition over and over, word for word (rote learning) 
Elaborative (relational) – thinking about the meaning of the items that one is trying to remember, and thinking about how they are related to items already in memory

Elaborative rehearsal is the right way. 
Why is Elaborative rehearsal the right way?  It provides the stimulus required to form numerous memory connections (synaptic connections).   This means more retrieval paths- paths that can guide thoughts toward the content to be remembered.  Connections allow one memory to trigger another, and then that memory to trigger another and so on.  Similar to the domino effect until finally the target is located.  Generally, the more retrieval paths that exist for a target (item to be remembered) the easier it will be to recall. 

What is muscle memory?
The idea of muscle memory is a misnomer.  Muscles do not remember. What is really meant when one refers to muscle memory is implicit memory.  Implicit memory (procedural, unconscious) – the storage of information that does not require conscious attention for recall- often in the form of habits, perceptual or motor strategies, and associative and non-associative conditioning.  Examples of implicit memory include the memory utilized for riding a bike, or throwing a ball.  IM has an automatic quality, it is recalled through performance. 

If you are interested in hosting an Exploring Memory Seminar you can contact me at Jamie.hale1@gmail.com



Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Popular Misconception About Science

An excerpt from In Evidence We Trust (Hale, Not yet published) 

Science Roundtable:  Discussing Scientific Matters 

What is the biggest (or at least one of the biggest misconceptions) misconception about science?
Andreas Zourdos has a BSc in Human Nutrition. He works as a nutritionist and has also translated Jamie Hale's Knowledge and Nonsense into Greek. His website is www.metavolismos.com .

Zourdos: A big misconception is the use of the word theory. In a scientific context a theory is something that has been proven many times as a fact, and therefore it has become a theory. In a non-scientific context people use theory but they mean hypothesis. People that are not scientifically literate will go and say "theoretically speaking" but they mean hypothetically speaking. Scientific theories are facts, not a hypothesis. This reminds me of  "Newspeak" in George Orwell's 1984, which was pretty much the deterioration of the english language in order to limit free thinking.
Kurtis Frank is a recreational bodybuilder and powerlifter.  Kurtis has a passion for dietary supplements due to a desire to harmonize the discord between the preventative and rehabilitative potential of some dietary supplements and the seemingly lack of interest of the medical community in incorporating dietary supplements in to preventative medicine.  He is the lead researcher for www.Examine.com. 
 Frank:  Probably the biggest misconception is the idea that science proves things, or that we can fully and absolutely answer a question. That is definitely not what science does, and how science answers questions can be sort of viewed like: 
1) What is X? (ie. you're looking at a new molecule) 
2) How does X interact with Y (seeing how this molecule works in humans)
3) How does X interact with Y assuming Z (seeing how this molecule works in humans who are diabetic)
4) How does X interact with Y assuming R (same as the aforementioned, but with hypertensives) 
When we refer to the 'body of evidence', we refer to a large amount of studies that look at certain drugs or supplements in certain situations. A well researched drug or supplement is one where we have investigated the particular question and can use that evidence as proof that it should work as the study says. 
That being said, there are too many possible combinations of variable to really prove all possible combinations and situations (which is what many people think science 'does', provide an absolute answer) and all we can do is replicate the above data and research most situations in the hopes that eventually most or all questions will lie in the collection of studies we call the 'body of evidence'. 
To be concise, science does not give 'the answer' but rather whittles away bit by bit getting closer to the best answer we can give at this moment in time; each whittle towards the impossible and ideal goal will refine our answer a bit more and make it a bit better so even if we don't get 'the' answer we still find a pretty damn good one en route.
Scott Lilienfeld is a Professor of Psychology at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia.  He received his A.B. at Cornell University, and his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota; and he completed his clinical internship at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinics in Pittsburgh.  He is the co-author of “50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior” and most recently, “Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.”
Lilienfeld:  That science is a body of knowledge; it’s not.  Science is a systematic approach to knowledge; specifically, it’s an approach that tries to minimize human error in an effort to get us a bit closer to the truth.  So, for example, chemistry itself isn’t a science, and neither is psychology (so when some people say that “Psychology isn’t a science,” that’s a tip-off that they don’t know what they’re talking about).  One can approach the study of chemistry or psychology either scientifically or unscientifically. If one uses finely honed research methods designed to rule out alternative hypotheses for findings and to minimize the risk of human error, one is doing science, regardless of what one is studying.

Alvaro Fer­nan­dez, named a Young Global Leader in 2012 by the World Eco­nomic Forum, is the CEO of Sharp­Brains.com, a lead­ing inde­pen­dent mar­ket research firm track­ing health and well-being appli­ca­tions of brain science. A sought-after national speaker, he has been quoted by The New York Times, The Wall Street Jour­nal, CNN, Reuters, and Asso­ci­ated Press, among oth­ers.

Fernandez: That science is what only scientists can do. Instead, science is a powerful system to ask questions and get answers, and every person in the 21st century should be science-literate, same way we learn math, reading, foreign languages...

Thanks to everyone who participated. On a final note, in addition to what Frank said, science doesn’t claim to prove.  Science does not make assertions of absolute certainty; rather assertions are stated in terms of probabilities. Science is tentative and is ready to make changes when evidence indicates changes need to be made.  This is one of science’s strongest characteristics. Science has no need for claims of certitude.  The process of science allows claims to be tested and often interpreted by statistical procedures.   

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Does Testing Enhance Learning?

Taking a test assesses knowledge, but it also enhances later retention of the material, a phenomenon known as the testing effect.  Roediger & Karpicke (2006) studied this effect with educationally relevant materials and investigated whether testing facilitates learning only because tests offer an opportunity to restudy material. In two experiments, students studied prose passages and took one or three immediate free-recall tests, without feedback, or restudied the material the same number of times as the students who received tests. Students then took a final test 5 min, 2 days, or 1 week later. When the final test was given after 5 min, repeated studying improved recall relative to repeated testing. However, on the delayed tests, prior testing produced significantly greater retention than studying, even though repeated studying increased students’ confidence in their ability to remember the material.   

Both experiments showed that immediate testing after reading a prose passage resulted in better long-term retention than repeatedly studying the passage, even though the tests included no feedback. The results in the two experiments discussed here indicate that the testing effect is not simply a result of students gaining re-exposure to the content during testing, because restudying allowed students to re-experience 100% of the material, but did not produce good long-term retention. These experiments indicate the dramatic positive effects of testing.  

Repeated studying improved performance relative to repeated testing on final tests given after a 5-min retention interval, however the reverse occurred with delayed tests.  This pattern of results is similar to the finding in the spacing-effect literature, which indicates that massed presentation improves performance on immediate tests, but spaced presentation leads to better performance on delayed tests (Balota et al., 1989). That is, in both cases, massed study leads to a short-term benefit, but testing or spaced studying has a greater effect on long-term retention. 

Frequent testing:
Leads students to space their study efforts
Allows them and their instructors to assess their knowledge on an ongoing basis 

Serves as a powerful mnemonic aid for future retention.

Testing allows for an accurate assessment of knowledge. Individuals often over estimate their level of knowledge.  Testing is a powerful means of improving learning.


Balota, D.A., Duchek, J.M., & Paullin, R. (1989). Age-related differences in the impact of spacing, lag, and retention interval. Psychology and Aging, 4, 3–9. 

Roediger, H.L., & Karpicke, J.D. (2006). Test-Enhanced Learning: Taking Memory Tests Improves Long-Term Retention. Psychological Science, 17 (3), 249-255.

Articles on memory- Emotional Memory & Genes http://jamiehalesblog.blogspot.com/2013/01/emotional-memories-genes.html 

Temporal Lobes Critical To Human Memory

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Exercise Improves Children's Cognition

Davis et al. (2011) conducted an experiment to test the hypothesis that exercise would improve executive function (high order cognitive functions mediated by prefrontal cortex circuitry- judgement, plannning, decision making, goal attainment, inhibitory control, social behavior, integration of cognition and emotion, attentional control, working memory).  The study involved sedentary, overweight 7- to 11-year-old children.  The participants were randomized to 13 ± 1.6 weeks of an exercise program (20 or 40 minutes/day), or a control condition.  Blinded, standardized psychological evaluations were used to measure cognition and academic achievement. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (*FMRI) measured brain activity during executive function tasks.

A specific improvement on executive function and brain activation changes due to exercise were observed.  In addition to its importance for maintaining weight, reducing health risks, and improving fitness levels,  exercise may prove to be a simple, important method of enhancing aspects of children’s mental functioning that are important for cognitive development. It is important that educators recognize these findings, and findings from other studies (Taras, 2005) that have shown similar results. Implementing vigorous physical activity into the school curriculum may lead to increased cognitive performance. 

* FMRI- A noninvasive biomedical imaging technique that employs a large magnet to detect changes in blood flow and oxygen consumption in the brain.  Blood flow and oxygen utilization increases in regions where neurons are more active, such as during the performance of a cognitive task. (Kandel, 2006, p. 438)

Recommended Articles
Exercise Benefits Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease http://www.maxcondition.com/page.php?163
Your Brain on Exercise http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2010/11/19/your-brain-on-exercise/

Davis, CL., Tomporowski, PD., McDowell, JE., Austin, BE., Miller, PH., Yanasak, NE., Allison, JD. & Naglieri, JA. (2011).   Exercise Improves Executive Function and Achievement and Alters Brain Activation in Overweight Children: A Randomized Controlled Trial.  Health Psychol, 30 (1), 91-98.  

Kandel, E. (2006).  In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind. New York, NY: Norton. 

Taras H (2005). Physical activity and student performance at school. Journal of School Health, 75, 214–218.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What Intelligence Tests Miss: Review

by Kevin Akers

I recently finished reading What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought by Keith Stanovich, and as an educator I feel the book is a very worthwhile read for educators at any level. I am an elementary K – 5 music teacher, and I feel that the book certainly applies to my job as well as to those in secondary and post secondary education. As the title indicates, Stanovich presents a very strong case that intelligence tests measure only a portion of cognitive functioning and that a separate test can and should be created that measures rationality. Although this is the premise of the book, I think that the most valuable aspects of the book for primary and secondary educators are the discussions about how poor thinking (or avoiding thinking) leads to irrational behavior and how rational thinking can be learned.

The opening chapters define intelligence and rationality and describes in detail a model of the mind that has three processes: autonomous, algorithmic, and reflective. This model builds on the research of other cognitive scientists and it was about at this point in the book that I began to realize something that I think is vital for educators; the book is based on evidence gathered from well done scientific studies. Stanovich cites a long list of research along with his own research and analysis. In my undergraduate and graduate studies some (many?) of the textbooks, educational theories, and speakers that were used in my classes were based on poorly controlled studies or worse – just opinion, “Hey I taught 25+ years and it worked for me!”

I have been told, and in fact it is written directly on my evaluation instrument, that I should be using research based instruction. I think this is a great idea and means that at least in my school system there is a focus on it, but I wonder how often educators at all levels, primary, secondary, and especially post secondary consider how much evidence there is for their teaching related beliefs.

This brings me to the rest of the book – having really already fully made his point that intelligence tests are inadequate for completely measuring cognitive ability and that we don't need to broaden the definition of intelligence, Stanovich lays out thinking errors that lead to irrationality in the other chapters. The list of thinking errors is very detailed, and I can almost visualize the poster hanging in a classroom listing them. Stanovich does not suggest a curriculum for incorporating rational thinking in this book, but he does say that improving rational thinking seems to be more “malleable” than improving intelligence. I would suggest then that a good first step in improving the rationality of students would be to improve the rationality of teachers! I am not in any way trying to talk down teachers – after all, as Stanovich points out there are a great many highly educated, highly intelligent people that are not rational. He also points out that it is a virtual mathematical certainty that in any group of highly educated people, and I am including teachers here, there will be irrational people, and this means that it is likely that their instruction, at least in some part, is not research based. After all, one part of being rational is holding beliefs that are evidence based, and I think it is safe to say that this includes a person's beliefs about education and how they teach.

If I had read this book before I started my undergraduate studies, I think I would have been better equipped to question the educational theories, textbooks, etc. that were put before me and I think that is the value in this book specifically for teachers. Teachers that have a good rationality quotient (when a test is created that measures it!) will be well equipped to consider scientifically the huge amount of teaching materials that are created for them each school year. There is a also a benefit to teaching students to be more rational and, at least in Kentucky, it is already popular in the school curriculum. Critical thinking, relating content to real life situations, and good decision making skills are all very popular in the curriculum and directly related to rational thinking. Stanovich discusses how marketing takes advantage of errors in rational thinking and this is a part of the current practical living curriculum as well. Finally, students that go on to college from high school that enter the medical field, and really any field, will need to have a strong grasp on scientific thinking, research methodology, and other skills that are strongly related to rational thinking.

In summary, What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought is a valuable book for improving good rational thinking skills. The premise of the book, that intelligence tests do not adequately measure all aspects of cognitive functioning, is very strongly supported. The more valuable part of the book for me and I would think for other educators as well, however, is the discussion on how to think rationally and how to avoid thinking irrationally. There is much to be learned here for teachers, and then for their students.

Commentary by Jamie Hale

Stanovich and West recently received a one million dollar grant from the John Templeton Foundation to develop a prototype rationality test. Stanovich and West have worked very hard to perpetuate the idea that rationality is as important as intelligence. This grant will help bring their ideas to fruition, and further our understanding and realization that good thinking is more than intelligence. Rationality is about judgment and decision making which entails setting appropriate goals, behaving in a manner conducive to goal attainment, and holding evidence based beliefs. I think most everyone can agree that rationality is very important to maximize cognitive functioning.

Read more http://www.breezejmu.org/news/article_b38a3c40-8f63-11e2-b3f0-0019bb30f31a.html

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Temporal Lobes Critical to Human Memory

Below are excerpts from Biology and Practical Aspects of Memory (lecutre designed by Jamie Hale and Dr. Adam Lawson).  If you are interested in hosting the lecture you can contact me at jamie.hale1@gmail.com

Temporal lobes critical to human memory 

William Scoville, neurosurgeon obtained direct evidence for the role of temporal lobe in human memory.  Scoville removed the medial temporal lobe and the hippocampus from an epileptic patient- called HM. 

HM’s Story

At age 9 he was struck by someone on a bicycle, he fell to the ground and suffered a head injury that led t o epilepsy. 

 By age 20 severely incapacitated

 It was thought the epilepsy originated within the medial temporal lob

 Surgery succeeded in relieving HM of seizures, but also left him with severe memory loss  

Brenda Milner’s Studies of HM 

-  HM had good ST memory – ST memory involves the PFC, which hadn’t been removed

- Could carry on a normal conversation if it didn’t last too long or involve too many topics

-         Good long-term memory for events that occurred before surgery – language skills good, IQ good, recollection of childhood events

-         Could not convert new ST memory into new LT memory  Examples:  Less than 60 minutes after eating couldn’t remember eating, after 30 years of interaction with Brenda Milner he still failed to recognize her each time she entered a room and greeted him, didn’t recognize himself in recent photos because he remembered himself only as he appeared prior to surgery.  

“ He couldn’t acquire the slightest new piece of knowledge.  He lives today chained to the past, in a sort of childlike world.  You can say his personal history stopped with the operation.”  Milner commenting on HM (Kandel, 2006, p. 128)

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Myth of Hormone-Free Meat!

Some food consumers prefer to eat hormone-free meats. Many consumers are confused about the use of hormones in livestock and poultry production, and about their safety. To the surprise of many, no meat is hormone-free. Animals naturally produce hormones. So, the meat you are eating may have "no added hormone," but it does contain hormone(s).

Another surprise to many, is that Federal law prohibits the use of hormones in poultry production.

From: http://usda01.library.cornell.edu/usda/ers/LDP-M/2000s/2006/LDP-M-12-27-2006_Special_Report.pdf

USDA does not permit the use of hormones in poultry production. Therefore, the label "no hormones added" cannot be used on the labels of poultry unless it is followed by a statement that says "'Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones." USDA does not allow a "hormone-free" label
Why are chickens getting so much bigger? Due to advances in breeding, animal nutrition and animal care.  Just as apple farmers aim to plant trees that will produce the most fruit, chicken producers also aim to breed chickens that yield the most meat.

You have been bamboozled if you believe the meat you are eating is hormone free. You have been bamboozled, again, if you believe consuming meat with the label "no-hormones added" is inherently indicative of a more nutritious or healthier choice.

Stop being bamboozled.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Emotional Memories & Genes

Generally, emotion helps us remember (Reisberg, 2010).  Emotional events activate the amygdala, and various studies, show the amygdala (region of brain that coordinates autonomic and endocrine responses in conjunction with emotional states) plays a key role in enhancing explicit memory (conscious, declarative) for both pleasant and unpleasant emotional stimuli through modulation of encoding and consolidation processes (Hamman, 2001).  In addition to activation of the amygdala, emotional events are likely to be important to us, which leads to enhanced focused attention, thus facilitating memory.  Moreover, we often think about emotional events hours, days or weeks after they occur.  This type of memory rehearsal may lead to increased memory connections, enhancing the likelihood of retrieval.  

Genes and Memory

Eric Kandel, Nobel Laureate, suggests another means in which emotional events may contribute to enhanced and efficient memory.  Generally, repetition is required for the formation of long-term memory.  However, a highly emotional event, such as a life-threatening situation, could bypass the normal limits on long-term memory (Kandel, 2006). 

“In such a situation, enough MAP kinase molecules would be sent into the nucleus rapidly enough to inactivate CREB-2 molecules, thereby making it easy for protein Kinase [enzyme that adds a phosphate group to proteins, which activates some proteins and inactivates others] A to activate CREB-1 and put the experience directly into long-term memory.”
(Kandel, 2006, pp. 264-265)

The extraordinary memory shown by some people may be due to genetic differences in CREB-2 that limit the activity of this repressor protein in relation to CREB-1.  CREB-1 is a protein that activates expression of CREB – a gene that initiates protein synthesis that is essential for the storage of long-term memory.  CREB-2 is a protein that suppresses the expression of CREB.  Other genes as well as CREB have been found to influence memory (Kandel, 2006).  Kandel’s work has been mostly focused on CREB- dependent gene expression.

“[O] ther transcription factors, such as SRF, c-fos, EGR-1 or NF-κB are also likely to contribute to the transcriptional regulation that accompanies long-lasting forms of synaptic plasticity for different forms of learning in different animal species.” (Kandel, 2012, 14)   

CREB-1 and CREB-2 may be involved in age related memory loss.  Aging may represent a weakening of the ability to activate CREB-1, but also a weakening of the signals needed to stop the action of CREB-2. 

When I first watched the video below I assumed that Jill Price may have some abnormalities in gene expression

The Woman Who Could Not Forget

An article featured in Wire paints a different picture of Jill’s superb memory.


Hamann, S. (2001).  Cognitive and neural mechanisms of emotional memory.  Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 5 (9), 394-400.

Kandel, E. (2006).  In Search of Memory: The Emergence of A New Science of Mind.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 

Kandel, E. (2012).  The molecular biology of memory: cAMP, PKA, CRE, CREB-1, CREB-2, and CPEB.  Molecular Brain, 5,14.   

Reisberg, D. (2010).  Cognition: Exploring The Science of The Mind 4th Edition.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company.