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Good ideas can stunt innovation

Mad Cognitive Science: Study Shows Digg Freezes Innovation Among Its Users

When information is freely shared, good ideas can stunt innovation by distracting others from pursuing even better ideas, according to Indiana University cognitive scientist Robert Goldstone . . .

This study used a virtual environment in which study participants worked in specifically designed groups to solve a problem . . . In the "fully connected" group, everyone's work was completely accessible to everyone else -- much like a tight-knit family or small town. In the "locally connected" group, participants primarily were aware of what their neighbors, or the people on either side, were doing. In the "small world" group, participants also were primarily aware of what their neighbors were doing, but they also had a few distant connections that let them send or retrieve good ideas from outside of their neighborhood.

Goldstone found that the fully connected groups performed the best when solving simple problems. Small world groups, however, performed better on more difficult problems. For these problems, the truism "The more information, the better" is not valid.

February 19, 2008

The secret to raising smart kids

Scientific American: The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

In two words: Growth mindset.

Several years later I developed a broader theory of what separates the two general classes of learners—helpless versus mastery-oriented. I realized that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different “theories” of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount, and that’s that. I call this a “fixed mind-set.” Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. They avoid challenges because challenges make mistakes more likely and looking smart less so. Like Jonathan, such children shun effort in the belief that having to work hard means they are dumb.

The mastery-oriented children, on the other hand, think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. They want to learn above all else. After all, if you believe that you can expand your intellectual skills, you want to do just that. Because slipups stem from a lack of effort, not ability, they can be remedied by more effort. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating; they offer opportunities to learn. Students with such a growth mind-set, we predicted, were destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

We validated these expectations in a study published in early 2007. Psychologists Lisa Blackwell of Columbia University and Kali H. Trzeseniewski of Stanford University and I monitored 373 students for two years during the transition to junior high school, when the work gets more difficult and the grading more stringent, to determine how their mind-sets might affect their math grades. At the beginning of seventh grade, we assessed the students’ mind-sets by asking them to agree or disagree with statements such as “Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you can’t really change.” We then assessed their beliefs about other aspects of learning and looked to see what happened to their grades.

As we had predicted, the students with a growth mind-set felt that learning was a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it. They understood that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

February 18, 2008

Hiccups may be caused by our fish genes

collision detection: Hiccups due to our fish ancestry

Spasms in our diaphragms, hiccups are triggered by electric signals generated in the brain stem. Amphibian brain stems emit similar signals, which control the regular motion of their gills. Our brain stems, inherited from amphibian ancestors, still spurt out odd signals producing hiccups that are, according to Shubin, essentially the same phenomenon as gill breathing.

February 15, 2008

Unprecedented increase in ocean dead zones tied to global warming

Click to enlarge. Science Daily | Ocean Dead-Zones May...

February 10, 2008

The secret sex-life of Wombats

Secret sex life of wombats - National - theage.com.au

A complicated dance, a bite on the rump and ferocious backward kicks are all part of the wombat's lovemaking repertoire, a new study has revealed.

Until recently, there were no recorded observations of mating between wombats.

But the director of Nocturnal Wildlife Research Ltd, biologist Clive Marks, found wombats were more likely than the average Aussie male to emulate moves from the Kama Sutra.