December 31, 2012

Top 10 Greatest Classical Composers Ever

Just for fun, my son Brent and I made a brief poll: Who is the Greatest Classical Composer ever? 115 people filled in the survey. Here are the results (by the way, the difference between no. 1 and 2 was only 1 vote):

Top 10 Greatest Classical Composers Ever

December 25, 2012

Parental autonomy support

In a new post, Raising kids to become autonomous individuals, I explain the importance of autonomous functioning and how parents can support the autonomy of their children.

December 21, 2012

Predicting Long-Term Growth in Students' Mathematics Achievement

Predicting Long-Term Growth in Students' Mathematics Achievement: The Unique Contributions of Motivation and Cognitive Strategies

by Kou Murayama, Reinhard Pekrun, Stephanie Lichtenfeld, & Rudolf vom Hofe

This research examined how motivation (perceived control, intrinsic motivation, and extrinsic motivation), cognitive learning strategies (deep and surface strategies), and intelligence jointly predict long-term growth in students' mathematics achievement over 5 years. Using longitudinal data from six annual waves (Grades 5 through 10; Mage = 11.7 years at baseline; N = 3,530), latent growth curve modeling was employed to analyze growth in achievement. Results showed that the initial level of achievement was strongly related to intelligence, with motivation and cognitive strategies explaining additional variance. In contrast, intelligence had no relation with the growth of achievement over years, whereas motivation and learning strategies were predictors of growth. These findings highlight the importance of motivation and learning strategies in facilitating adolescents' development of mathematical competencies.

December 19, 2012

December 17, 2012

How can we defend ourselves against those who try to control us by creating fear?

The competition for our attention
Nowadays, we are confronted with more information and opinions than ever before and much more than we can possibly process. All these streams of information compete for our attention. And since our attention is a rather limited resource that competition is fierce. It appears that we are more sensitive to some types of information than to others. A well-documented psychological phenomenon is the negativity bias which says that people pay more attention to and give more weight to negative rather than positive experiences or other kinds of information. Negative information captures our attention more easily than positive information. Thus, newspapers, TV stations, special interest groups, and politicians seeking money and power by seeking our attention may benefit from presenting us with negative information.

What happens when negative information reaches us?
The amygdala is a brain system which plays an important role in the automatic detection of threats. When there is an immediate threat the amygdala helps to narrow your focus so that you may take immediate action in order to save yourself from the threat. While doing that the amygdala may override other cognitive functions which are less directly related to the process of protecting yourself. While there is a direct threat the ability to process information rationally is to some extent suppressed. For instance, our thinking becomes less nuanced.

December 10, 2012

A not so well-known downside of advice giving

I think the effectiveness of giving advice is, in general, overrated. Even when advice sounds reasonable and useful, people may still be reluctant to act upon it. In this post I argue that solutions which are self-found and based on one's own previous experience have a better change of being accepted and used.

Now I came across evidence which suggests that advice may also be not so beneficial for the person giving it: Advising someone to act in a certain way may make it less likely that you yourself will act in that way.

Quite surprising. But it does provide an explanation for a the situation of a doctor I once knew well was in. He seemed to do everything doctors are supposed to advice their patients to stay away from (heavy smoking, eating, drinking, not exercising, etc.). 

December 7, 2012

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