Aug 3, 2009

Socializing, Emotion, and the Brain

It should come as no surprise that we here at HippoCampus love the brain. We love how flexible it is, the amount of stuff it can learn, and just how powerful each and every individual can be when using his or her brain correctly. There has been plenty of talk on this blog about the many ways someone can go about making their brain as good as it can be (such as with diet or exercise). In continuation of this cognitive improvement theme, we’ll make another brief foray into what researchers are learning about the way we learn.

According to a recent Science Daily article, social interaction plays a much more major role in learning than previously thought. The subtle nuances of learning from another person, face-to-face, helps facilitate the connections needed to synthesize information. This includes things like eye direction, or when gaze is lead by another who is looking at something.

The article goes on to explain the utilization of social technologies. Interactions that occur on Facebook or Twitter are not the same as sitting down with an experienced tutor, however, social networking tools remain crucial to understanding the application of technology to learning. The ubiquitous nature of these applications is a testament to their social importance and ease of use, and if used correctly, would teach much about how technology could fit into the learning environments of tomorrow. The key is creating something that incorporates the benefits of technology (such as accessibility and power of integration) with the benefits of face-to-face interaction (such as gaze direction).

Another fascinating article, this time published by eSchool News, outlines recent developments in the understanding of emotion in learning. Assistant professor Mary Helen Immordino-Yang has worked with the latest brain imaging technology to discover that when there is an emotional trigger of admiration, the body responds generally with a positive overall performance. This counters the argument that decisions are best made with cold, hard rationality alone.

The discovery coincides with previous advice to eat well and exercise. Exam preparation should include general and mental health alongside studying. If you feel good and healthy, chances are you’ll learn better as a result.

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