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.

May 8, 2017

The spillover effect and the crucial role of basic needs

Research has shown a correlation exists between how satisfied people are with their job and how satisfied they are with their life. But there are two uncertainties about the relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. First, it is unknown whether this effect primarily happens in the Western world; this is where most of this research has taken place. Second, it is unknown whether there is a causal relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction because most research is correlational. Third, there is no clear explanation for the relationship between job satisfaction and life satisfaction. A new paper provides more clarity in all these questions.

May 5, 2017

Where does meaning in life come from?

In earlier times the question of how to lead meaningful life was simply answered by referring to the bible (or another religious text, depending on when and where you were born). But for an increasing number of people religious dogma is no longer a satisfying answer to the question what a meaningful life means. Nowadays it has become a common wisdom that we should discover or create meaning in life ourselves. This raises two questions: how important is a sense of having meaning in life anyway, and -if it is important - how can we find or create it?

April 29, 2017

What do you choose, running or walking?

These last years have seen a growing attention to the positive effects of physical exercise, not only on our general physical fitness but also on our brain fitness. Many who have heard about these positive effects have started to run or walk more frequently. Also many people have installed an app on their cell phones which counts their daily steps. Bit what is actually better, running or walking? You might think that running has more positive effects but also leads to more injuries. Julia Belluz also wondered about this and checked the scientific literature to answer this question.

April 24, 2017

The learning and performing model

After I wrote this post I talked to several people about the importance of making the distinction between learning and performing. Most people I talked to found this distinction interesting and valuable and were interested in the three phases I mention: the preparation phase, the execution phase, and the reflection phase. Generally, people found these stages useful and they said they would like to pay more attention to preparation and reflection.

April 22, 2017

Why do we bounce back from failure better when we have a growth mindset?

We know that we generally bounce back from failure better when we have a growth mindset than when we have a fixed mindset (Dweck, 1999). This has to do with the fact that we interpret failing differently in different mindsets and because of that we also feel and behave differently. In a growth mindset we view failure as a consequence of not having put in enough effort or not having used an effective strategy (read more).

April 21, 2017

The effects of envy and admiration

You meet someone who is obviously better at something than you are. What do you feel? Do you admire the person? Do you feel envy? What are the effects of these different emotions? Below you can first read about social comparison theory, which has something useful to say about these phenomena. Then, I mention new research by Niels van de Ven about the effects of these different emotions.

April 20, 2017

The growth mindset and intrinsic motivation contribute independently to persistence

One way to describe what the progress-focused approach means is captured in a model which I introduced in my book Kiezen voor progressie. The model (see figure right) describes how both a growth mindset and autonomous motivation contribute to effective effort and how effort in turn creates progress. In this post you read more about this model and it may be used. Looking at this model you might wonder if there should also be an arrow between the growth mindset and autonomous motivation. Do these two influence each other, too? I have thought this before and several people have asked me about it. As far as I know it has been studied only once.

April 16, 2017

How does grading affect motivation?

Research guided by self-determination theory has shown that factors like punishment, rewards, threats, coercion, and competition can undermine the quality of motivation of individuals. When those factors are applied the autonomous motivation of individuals, which consists of intrinsic motivation and internalized motivation, can be diminished (read more about autonomous motivation). In such circumstances a more controlled motivation can emerge which generally comes with anxiety, tension, and worse performance. One factor which also can harm autonomous motivation is grading performance in schools. A new study by Krijgsman et al. (2017) explores the relationship between performance grading and students motivation in physical education (N=409).

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