December 5, 2017

The motivation continuum: self-determination theory in one picture

Elements from self-determination theory are somewhat known to many people. Particularly, the terms intrinsic motivation and extrinsic motivation are familiar to many people. Also reasonably well-known are the basic psychological needs of autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Recently someone said to me: "I have heard of several elements of the theory but I find it hard to get a good overview of the it." If you feel the same, the picture below may be useful for you. It is my most recent version of the so-called motivation-continuum. There are many version of this model in circulation and they are all variations on and extension of the original version by Ryan & Deci (2000). In the picture below I show which types of motivation emerge in which contexts, and what their effects are on our behaviors, emotions, and performance (click to enlarge).

November 26, 2017

Carol Dweck's new theory on the foundations of personality

Carol Dweck, founder of mindset theory, has written an ambitious new paper in Psychological Review. In this paper, she presents a new theory about how personality is formed and how both nature and nurture play a role in this. The interesting thing about this theory is that it both establishes connections between old and new theories within psychology and that is brings together separate psychological disciplines. Social psychologists have often been criticized for paying too little attention to theory building and for merely developing fragmentary knowledge. Dweck now comes up with a strong answer to these criticisms in the form of a broad theory which may turn out to explain a broad range of psychological phenomena. This type of theorizing is not only important for social scientists but also for practitioners for whom psychological knowledge is relevant (and who is really excluded from this group?). Good theory can help practitioners deal with problems in more informed, systematic and integrated ways. Below, I will explain what the theory is. Then, I will say a bit more about some of the main parts of the theory.

May 13, 2017

Is there a good case for 'positive education'?

In this post I expressed my skepticism about something which is called Positive education, an approach advocated by Martin Seligman (photo). What that is, is explained in this video which I also mentioned. My two reasons for being skeptical were 1) that I found the definitions of positive education as mentioned in the video confusing rather than clarifying, and 2) that it is not clear to me to what extent well-being should be an outcome measure in education (read the post for more details on that point).

May 12, 2017

Are positive stereotypes taken as compliments?

We generally think of stereotypes as generalizing negative judgments about a category of people. In a stereotype the behavior of individuals is attributed to the group to which they (appear to) belong. Also, supposed negative characteristics of groups may be projected on individuals which belong to the group. It is not surprising that many people view stereotypes as undesirable. There are some quite dangerous sides to it. They can create tensions between groups and even undermine the integrity of society. Moreover they deny the unique character of individuals. But what about positive stereotypes, in other words, positive generalizations about social groups? Will these be viewed positively because they are really just complimentary?

May 11, 2017

How will stereotype threat get through the replication crisis?

The replication crisis within psychology has shown that rather many findings from previous research cannot be trusted. Some cynics see this as a reason to write of all of psychology and to not take it seriously any longer. I find that illogical and unwise. The replication crisis is a result of a failure of the methodical and statistical quality of old studies and of too limited attention for replication studies and negative findings. The solution cannot be to throw out the whole idea of a scientific approach to psychological topics. Non-scientific attempts to build psychological knowledge are even much weaker methodologically and statistically and even more negligent of contrary evidence and thus even much more unreliable. The solution must be to strengthen scientific psychological research by improving its methods and practices (read here how Carol Dweck is very seriously doing this). The current situation makes it necessary to critically check all psychological findings of the past. We can't automatically assume that research findings from the past can be trusted.

May 10, 2017

How do you interpret it when you find something hard?

Imagine you are reading a text and your notice that you find it hard. You have try really hard to understand the text. How do you interpret having to try so hard? Do you think this is an indication that you have nearly reached the limits of your capabilities? Does the fact that you find the subject matter so hard make you want to stop reading?

Easily learned → better understood and remembered? 

It has long been thought that the easier you find it to process information, the more you feel that you understand it. In other words: the greater the processing fluency will, the greater the perceived competence will be.  Also, it is often thought that the easier we learn information, the easier we also remember this information. This principle is called ELER (easily learned=easily remembered). But a number of recent studies shows a more nuanced picture.

May 9, 2017

The punitive versus the empathetic mindset

Some time ago, I heard about a situation in which a student behaved disruptively in class. I will repeat here, from memory, what happened. The teacher asked the student if he would calmly join the lesson and pay attention. The student did not directly reply and went on with his disruptive behavior. Then some other students started making comments like: "Just send him to the hall, miss." The teacher replied: "No, I will not send him to the hall", to which the students said: "Why not? He is behaving very badly." The teacher replied: "If I send students to the hall, they will not learn how to behave appropriately in the classroom. That is why I won't do that." Then she repeated here question to the student to calmly pay attention to the lesson which he then started to do without complaining. This approach seems counter-intuitive. Shouldn't you just be tough to students behaving badly? Maybe not. A new paper provides some insight into what might have worked in this situation.

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