Do “Hot” Emotions Lead to Better Decisions?

-*Do people in an agitated emotional state tend to make decisions they later regret?

Popular wisdom counsels against making decisions when influenced by “hot emotions” including feeling HALT – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired,
This guidance is based on the assumption that these physical and emotional experiences lead to regrettable decisions, such as relapsing to substance use.

Shane Frederick

Shane Frederick

Contradictory theories and research findings compete to explain the process of emotional decision-making.
One view, suggested by Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman with Shane Frederick of Yale, is that these two modes operate sequentially:  Intuitive judgments (“reflexive system”) are rapidly generated, whereas the analytical decisions (“reflective system”) are slower, and involve monitoring and modifying initial intuitive responses.

Andreas Glöckner

Andreas Glöckner

A contrasting view is that the two thinking modes work in parallel, and are applied in different decision environments, proposed by Max Planck Institute’s Andreas Glöckner and Tillman Betsch of Universität Erfurt.

J. Scott Armstrong

J. Scott Armstrong

Similarly, there are two divergent views of the quality of emotional decision-making.
One position is that the intuitive mode’s emotional approach may lead to faulty decisions, argued by Decision Research’s Donald MacGregor and J. Scott Amstrong of Wharton.

Marius Usher

Marius Usher

A counterpoint view is that the intuitive mode yields equal or better decisions compared with the analytical mode, offered by Tel Aviv University’s Marius Usher, Ran Brauner, and Dan Zakay with Zohar Rusou of Open University of Israel and University College London’s Mark Weyers.

Antonio Damasio

Antonio Damasio

Consistent with this view that intuitive thinking can enhance decisions, University of Southern California’s Antonio Damasio suggested that uncomfortable physical states like hunger, can provide access to unconscious processes that may determine decisions later rationalized with more rational explanations:  We feel, therefore we are, despite Descartes’ contrary assertion, he argued.

Dan Zakay

Dan Zakay

An integrative view is that decision quality depends on consistency (“transitivity”) between thinking modes during decision-making and characteristics of the decision, proposed Tel Aviv University’s Zohar Rusou and Marius Usher, with Dan Zakay of IDC Herzliya in their comparison of thinking during intuitive or analytical tasks.

Based on these views of thinking during decision making, the HALT theory that physiological arousal leads to poorer decisions was tested by asking hungry people to make complex choices.

Denise de Ridder

Denise de Ridder

Utrecht University’s Denise de Ridder, Floor Kroese, Marieke Adriaanse, and Catharine Evers asked volunteers to avoid eating and drinking between 11 p.m. the night before the experiment and 8:30 – 9:15 am, when they arrived at the lab.

Antoine Bechara

Antoine Bechara

Half of the participants received breakfast before beginning the task, whereas the remaining group immediately began the Iowa Gambling Task, developed by University of Southern California’s Antoine Bechara, Antonio Damasio and Hannah Damasio, with Steven W Anderson of University of Iowa to simulate real-life decision making using uncertainty, rewards, and penalties.

Iowa Gambling Task

Iowa Gambling Task

Participants received four decks of cards and were told to earn as much money as possible and lose the least possible when they selected one card at a time.
Cards in decks A and B had a 100 Euro payoff, whereas those in decks C and D has a 50 Euro reward.

In addition, decks A and B also had cards with a larger penalty than in decks C and D.
Consequently, selecting cards from decks A and B resulted in a loss, whereas cards from C and D led to a gain.

Floor Kroese

Floor Kroese

Hungry participants selected more cards from decks C and D, leading to greater financial gains.
Similarly, hungry participants made equally astute decisions about long term payoffs when choosing between 50 Euros in 21 days instead of 27 Euros today.

People in a “hot” emotional state like hunger actually made better decisions involving uncertain outcomes because recognized the risks of loss associated with higher rewards, concluded de Ridder’s team.
This team’s findings contrasts to conventional belief that impulsivity impairs decision-making.

  • When do you make better decisions in “hot” states like “HALT”?

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Motherhood Pay Penalty, Fatherhood Bonus

Michelle Budig

Michelle Budig

Having children increases men’s salaries by more than 6% and decreases women’s earnings by more than 4%, according to University of Massachusetts’ Michelle Budig.

Low-income women were most affected by the “motherhood pay penalty,” whereas low-income men were least affected.
In the U.S., more than 70% of mothers are employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
More than 40% of these mothers are the primary wage earner, reported the Pew Research Center.

Marital status and parenting situation significantly affect average salaries:  Married mothers in the U.S. earn 76 cents – 82 cents for every $1.00 earned by men, but unmarried women with no children earn 96 cents for every dollar a man earns,  according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 1979 – 2006 National Longitudinal Surveys of Youth.
In contrast, low-income women lost 6 percent in wages per child, two percentage points more than the reduction for average-income women.

Melissa J. Hodges

Melissa J. Hodges

White and Latino men who were highly educated and in professional jobs benefitted most from having children whereas unmarried African-American men who had less education and had manual labor jobs received less salary advantage, noted Boston University’s Melissa Hodges and Budig.

Sara Harkness

Sara Harkness

In the U.S., the average gender pay gap has been decreasing, but the parenthood pay gap related to parenthood is increasing:  By 2012, women on average earned 81 cents on a man’s dollar, reported University of Connecticut’s Sara Harkness and Jane Waldfogel of Columbia University.

However, unmarried women earned significantly more than the average:  96 cents to an unmarried man’s dollar.
Likewise, married and unmarried childless women earned 93 cents on a childless man’s dollar.

Jane Waldfogel

Jane Waldfogel

In contrast, single mothers earned just over 83 cents compared to a single custodial father’s dollar and married mothers with at least one child under age 18 fared worse:  They earned 76 cents for each dollar earned by a married father’s.

One source of this wage difference may be hiring discrimination against mothers.
Stanford’s Shelley J. Correll and Stephen Benard of Indiana University reported this effect after they sent identical fictitious résumés to hundreds of employers.

Shelley Correll

Shelley Correll

The only difference in “applicant” resumes was that half  the male and female “candidates” indicated membership in a parent-teacher association.

Female resumes with PTA membership were half as likely to be contacted for an interview compared with female resumes that did not contain this item.
In contrast, male “resumes” with this volunteer activity were contacted for interviews slightly more frequently than those that did not.

Stephen Benard

Stephen Benard

Correll and Benard also asked volunteers to act as “employers” and determine the salary for “job applicants.”
On average, participants offered mothers an average of $11,000 less than childless women and $13,000 less than fathers.

However, socioeconomic strata can buffer the motherhood penalty: Women in the top 10 percent of earners lost no income when they had children, and those in the top 5 percent received bonuses, similar to men.

Kate Krause

Kate Krause

Women who least can afford salary decreases experience the largest pay penalty for motherhood.
This inequity can be minimized, according to Deborah J. Anderson, then of University of Arizona with Melissa Binder and Kate Krause of University of New Mexico, by implementing the following measures:

      • Flexible work arrangements (ROWE), although some research indicates that this type of flexibility can result in lower salaries, mentioned in a previous blog post ,
                • Widely-available, affordable, high-quality childcare.
                          These recommendations remain aspirational goals in many organizations, and until these structures are available to most employees, this pay differential may persist.

 

  • To what extent have you seen men’s careers benefit from becoming a parent?
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Confident Cluelessness = The Dunning-Kruger Effect + Ignorant Bliss

Stav Atir

Stav Atir

Most people overestimate their own expertise, and most do not recognize their degree of incompetence. A previous blog post highlighted this metacognition phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.

This effect has been demonstrated for people’s overestimates of their skills in grammar, emotional intelligence, logical reasoning, firearm care and safety, debating, and financial acumen.

Emily Rosenzweig

Emily Rosenzweig

More recently, the effect was demonstrated by Cornell’s Stav Atir and  Emily Rosenzweig of Tulane,  when they asked volunteers if they were familiar with concepts like centripetal force and photon as well as fictitious terms including plates of parallax, ultra-lipid, and cholarine.

About 90% of participants claimed some knowledge of at least one of the nine fake concepts, and people who thought they were most knowledgeable also said they recognized more of the meaningless terms.

David Dunning

David Dunning

Atir and Rosenzweig concluded that poor performers lack insight about their lack of skill because they ”don’t know what they don’t know.”

Another verification of the Dunning-Kruger effect was replicated among volunteers who completed a logical reasoning task, an intuitive physics problem, a financial acumen challenge, and several others presented by University of California San Diego’s Elanor Williams, Justin Kruger of NYU, and Cornell’s David Dunning.

Elanor Williams

Elanor Williams

Some people achieved perfect scores, and expressed confidence in their answers, yet those who achieved no correct answers expressed the same degree of confidence as the most able performers.

Both high and low achievers made judgments based on intuitive “rules,” so they felt confident based on having a clear rationale, even if inaccurate.
Williams’ team concluded, “Rule-based confidence is no guarantee of self-insight into performance.”

Justin Kruger

Justin Kruger

Another “cringe-worthy” example is financial illiteracy accompanied by high confidence in financial acumen among people who filed for bankruptcy.

More than 25,000 people rated their financial knowledge, then tested actual financial literacy in the 2012 National Financial Capability Study, conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority with the U.S. Treasury.
Of these, 800 respondents said they filed bankruptcy within the previous two years.

Not surprisingly, bankruptcy filers achieved financial knowledge scores in the lowest third, but they rated their knowledge more positively than financially-solvent respondents.
Nearly a quarter of the recently bankrupted respondents gave themselves the highest possible rating whereas only 13 percent of other respondents were equally confident.

Deborah Keleman

Deborah Keleman

Even 80 physical scientists at top universities provided a number of inaccurate purpose-driven (“teleological”) explanations about “why things happen” in the natural world, including:

  • “Moss forms around rocks in order to stop soil erosion,”
  • “The Earth has an ozone layer in order to protect it from UV light.”
Joshua Rottman

Joshua Rottman

Participants provided these explanations at their own speed or with ambitious time constraints.
When these professional scientists provided rushed explanations, they were twice as likely to endorse inaccurate purpose-driven rationales, reported Boston University’s Deborah Kelemen, Joshua Rottman, and Rebecca Seston.

Rebecca Seston

Rebecca Seston

In addition, scientists were equally likely as humanities scholars to endorse teleological arguments despite most physical scientists’ rejection of purpose-driven explanations for natural phenomena.

However, these results suggest that teleological propositions are a default explanatory preference among humans, and could explain their presence in myth and religion across cultures.

These results suggest that most people hold a positive view of their capabilities even when faced with contrary evidence.
However, some groups, such as women, may hold an unrealistically modest view of capabilities despite affirming feedback.
These biases in self assessment point to the importance of realistic recalibration of confidence, aligned with consensual feedback.

-*How do you minimize the risks of “Clueless Confidence”?
-*How can systematic underestimates of competence be reduced to increase “Realistic Confidence”?

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Low Field Magnetic Stimulation To Improve Mood, Learning, Performance?

Michael L. Rohan

Michael L. Rohan

An unexpected observation during a diagnostic MRI brain scan may provide relief for people with medication-resistant, life-threatening depressive disorders.
People diagnosed bipolar disorder (BPD) who had diagnostic MRI brain scans, reported rapid mood elevation after the procedure.

Rinah Yamamoto

Rinah Yamamoto

The magnetic resonance imaging procedure was not intended to be therapeutic, but this unexpected finding led a team from Harvard directed by Michael L. Rohan, and including Rinah T. Yamamoto, Kenroy R. Cayetano, David P. Olson, Caitlin T. Ravichandran, Oscar G. Morales, Gordana Vitaliano, with Cornell colleagues  Steven M. Paul and Bruce M. Cohen in developing Low Field Magnetic Stimulation (LFMS) that reproduces the rapidly oscillating (1 kHz, <1 V/m) electromagnetic field.

They evaluated this device’s potential to provide mood elevation to more than 40 people diagnosed with depression associated with bipolar disorder (BPD) and more than 20 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder in a randomized, double blind, controlled study.

Steven M. Paul

Steven M. Paul

Participants received a single, 20-minute treatment of 256 microsecond pulses separated by 1 millisecond, then Rohan’s team immediately evaluated mood using the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the 17-item Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HDRS-17), and the Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS) scales.

They found substantial mood improvement following LFMS electric stimulation throughout the cerebral cortex, compared with a sham “treatment” for both volunteer groups.

Andre R. Brunoni

Andre R. Brunoni

In fact, six weeks of Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) was equally effective as antidepressant Sertraline (Zoloft) for 120 participants diagnosed with major depressive disorder, reported University of São Paulo’s Andre R. Brunoni, Leandro Valiengo, Alessandra Baccaro, Tamires A. Zanão, Janaina F. de Oliveira, Alessandra Goulart, Paulo A. Lotufo, and Isabela M. Benseñor, with Paulo S. Boggio of Mackenzie Presbyterian University and Harvard’s Felipe Fregni.
Both treatments were more effective than either alone when Brunoni’s team combined Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation (tDCS) with Sertraline (Zoloft).

Marom Bikson

Marom Bikson

The typical current dose used in tDCS is a thousand times lower than the dose used in Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), and may enable neural connections to rewire, depending on the position of current flows, found City College of New York’s Marom Bikson and Abhishek Datta, with Peter Bulow of Columbia University, Seton Hall University’s Fortunato Battaglia, John W. Stiller of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, Princeton’s Sergei V. Karnup, and Teodor T. Postolache of University of Maryland.

tDCS has also shown potential to improve learning and motor skill performance – with caveats.

Peter E. Turkeltaub

Peter E. Turkeltaub

One study demonstrated tDCS’s impact on improved word reading efficiency among 25 right-handed volunteers, due to increased left lateralization of the brain’s posterior temporal cortex (pTC), reported Georgetown’s Peter E. Turkeltaub with Jennifer Benson of University of Michigan, collaborating with Roy H. Hamilton and H. Branch Coslett of University of Pennsylvania and City College of New York’s Abhishek Datta and Marom Bikson.

The team asserted that these findings offer a low-cost, accessible treatment option for people with below-average reading skills and developmental dyslexia.

Roi Cohen Kadosh

Roi Cohen Kadosh

Likewise, tDCS brain stimulation during numerical learning over five days enhanced people’s ability to learn a new number system based on arbitrary symbols – with significant improvement enduring up to 6 months in a study by University of Oxford Roi Cohen Kadosh, with Sonja Soskic, Teresa Iuculano, Ryota Kanai, and Vincent Walsh of University College London.

However, these benefits came with costs when the team compared volunteers who received electrical stimulation to:

  • Posterior parietal cortex, implicated in numerical cognition,
  • Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, involved in learning and memory.
Sonja Soskic

Sonja Soskic

The team also provided a “sham” treatment that caused no change in brain activity to another.
Volunteers who had the parietal area electrical stimulation learned the new number system more quickly than those who got sham stimulation.

Teresa Iuculano

Teresa Iuculano

However, the cost was slower reaction times when they applied the learned skill to novel tasks.
Those who received prefrontal stimulation were slower than the control group to learn the new numerical system, but they performed faster on the new test at the end of the experiment.

Shinichi Furuya

Shinichi Furuya

Skilled physical performance selectively improved with noninvasive Transcranial Stimulation (tDCS) among musically-untrained volunteers, but not for highly-trained musicians, found Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media’s Shinichi Furuya, Matthias Klaus and Eckart Altenmüller, with Michael A. Nitsche and Walter Paulus of Georg-August-University. 

Vincent Walsh

Vincent Walsh

Further caveats come from University College London’s Vincent Walsh, who critiqued this and other studies, for potential shortcomings, including:

  • Inadequate control experiments,
  • Speculation about brain areas excited and inhibited by tDCS,
  • Real-world relevance of small effects noted in lab experiments.

-*To what extent does electrical brain stimulation offer appealing therapeutic and performance benefits?

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Task Switching Skills Improved With Musical Training

Ira Hyman

Ira Hyman

“Multitasking” is more accurately described as “task switching” because people typically can’t effectively sustain split attention.
However, it is possible to alternate between two mental tasks, but there is a “cognitive switching cost” in decreased speed and performance accuracy.

S. Matthew Boss

S. Matthew Boss

One vivid example of performance decrements when performing simple “multitasking” is illustrated in a study of walking while using a mobile phone, conducted by Western Washington University’s Ira E. Hyman Jr., S. Matthew Boss, Breanne M. Wise-Swanson, Kira E. McKenzie, and Jenna M. Caggiano.

Ira Hyman-Unicycling Clown Attentional BlindnessThey found that walking and talking caused most volunteers to experience “inattentional blindness” to unicycling clown.

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

Breanne M Wise-Swanson

In addition, the “multitasking” participants walked more slowly, changed directions more frequently, and were less likely to acknowledge other people than individuals.

Hyman and team concluded, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity,” and went on to note the dangers of driving while talking on a phone.
In fact, a previous blog reviewed the evidence for reduced driving performance when listening to music, a less-demanding activity than texting or talking on a telephone.

Ranate Meuter

Ranate Meuter

Even switching between two well-practiced languages can reduce cognitive processing speed, found Queensland University of Techology’s Renata Meuter and University of Oxford’s Alan Allport.

They asked bilingual participants to name numerals in their first language or second language in an unpredictable sequence.
Participants responded more slowly when they switched to the other language, indicating a “cognitive switching cost.”

Volunteers named digits associated with a background color in their first language or second language.
They named digits in their second language more slowly, but were slower in their first language after the language changed from the previous cue.

Jeffrey Evans

Jeffrey Evans

Involuntary persistence of the second-acquired language interfered with participants actively suppressing their original language, leading to delays when responding in their more well practiced “birth tongue,” they argued.

As tasks become more complex, the performance-hampering effects of task switching increase, according to United Stated Federal Aviation Authority’s Joshua Rubinstein with Jeffrey Evans, and David Meyer of University of Michigan, who evaluated switching between different task like solving math problems or classifying geometric objects.

David Meyer

David Meyer

Like Meuter and Allport, they noted that people switching tasks navigate two stages of “executive control:”

  • Goal shifting: “I want to do this now instead of that,”
  • Rule activation: “I’m turning off the rules for that and turning on the rules for this”.Rubinstein’s team estimated that traversing these phases can reduce productivity by much as 40 percent, and noted that the problem is compounded for individuals with damage to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.
Linda Moradzadeh

Linda Moradzadeh

However, musical training seems to reduce the costs of task switching, found York University’s Linda Moradzadeh, Galit Blumenthal, and Melody Wiseheart.
This team matched more than 150 similar age and socioeconomic status participants who were also:

  • Monolingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual musicians (averaging 12 years of musical training) or
  • Bilingual non-musicians or
  • Monolingual non-musicians.
Galit Blumenthal

Galit Blumenthal

Volunteers performed task switching and dual-task challenges, along with intelligence and vocabulary measures.
Musicians demonstrated fewer global and local switch costs compared with non-musicians and bilingual volunteers.
This finding contrasts other results regarding bilingualism’s advantage for task switching performance in a previous blog post.

Melody Wiseheart

Melody Wiseheart

In addition, Moradzadeh’s team found no benefit of combining bilingual expertise with musical training to reduce task-switching costs,

These results suggest that musical training can contribute to increased ability to shift between mental sets in both task switching and dual-task efforts, thanks to “superior ability to maintain and manipulate competing information in memory, allowing for efficient “global” or holistic processing.”

-*To what extent do you find “multitasking” an effective practice to accomplish cognitive tasks?

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Comparative Rankings May Reduce Gender Bias in Career Advancement

Iris Bohnet

Iris Bohnet

An “evaluation nudge” – or decision framing aid – may reduce biased judgments in hiring, promotion, and job assignments, according to Harvard’s Iris Bohnet, Alexandra van Geen, and Max H. Bazerman.

Alexandra van Geen

Alexandra van Geen

They proposed that organizations evaluate multiple employees  simultaneously rather than each person independently without comparison to other candidates, somewhat similar to “Stack Ranking” (“Rank and Yank”) procedures advocated by Jack Welch at General Electric and critiqued in a previous blog post .

This approach is frequently used for hiring decisions, but less frequently when considering employee candidates for developmental job assignments and promotions.

Max Bazerman

Max Bazerman

Bazerman and Sally B. White, then of Northwestern with George F. Loewenstein of Carnegie Mellon, provided the original demonstration of preference reversals between joint and separate evaluation.

George F. Loewenstein

George F. Loewenstein

Lack of comparison information in separate evaluation typically leads people to rely on internal referents as decision norms, though these may be biased or stereotyped preferences, according to Princeton’s Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman and Dale T. Miller of Stanford.

Dale T. Miller

Dale T. Miller

Additionally, lack of comparative referents can lead evaluators to rely on easily calibrated attributes, found University of Chicago’s Christopher K. Hsee.
Both of these short cuts can lead to biased decisions, which may systematically exclude particular under-represented groups.

Christopher K. Hsee

Christopher K. Hsee

Still another problem is the “want/should” battle of emotions and preferences, outlined by Bazerman and Ann E. Tenbrunsel of Notre Dame, with Duke’s Kimberly A. Wade-Benzoni in “Negotiating with Yourself and Losing.”

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

Ann E. Tenbrunsel

They argue that the “want self” tends to dominate when deciding on a single option because there’s both less information and less need to justify the decision.
In contrast, the more analytic “should self” is activated by the need to explain decision rationales.

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Kimberly Wade-Benzoni

Bohnet’s team asked more than 175 volunteer “employees” to perform a math task or a verbal task, then 554 “employer” evaluators (44% male, 56% female) received information on “employees’” past performance, gender, and the average past performance for all “employees.”

“Employers” were paid based on their “employees’’” performance in future tasks, similar to managerial incentives in many organizations.
Consequently, “employers” were rewarded for selecting people they considered effective performers.
Based on information about “employee” performance, evaluators decided to:

  • “Hire” the “employees,” or
  • Recommend them to perform the task in future, or
  • Return to “employees” to the pool for random assignment to an employer.
Keith E. Stanovich

Keith E. Stanovich

The Harvard team found that “employers” who evaluated “employees” in relation to each other’s performance were more likely to select employees based on past performance, rather than relying on irrelevant criteria like gender.

Richard F. West

Richard F. West

In contrast, more than 50% of “employers” evaluated each candidate separately without reference to other “employees,” selected under-performing people for advancement.
Only 8% of employers selected under-performers when comparing “employees” in relation to each other, and multiple raters for multiple candidates also tended to select the higher performing “employees.”

Team Bohnet suggested that people have two distinct and situation-specific modes of thinking, “System 1” and “System 2,” illustrated by University of Toronto’s Keith E. Stanovich and Richard F. West of James Mason University.

Keith Stanovich-Richard West System 1- System 2 ThinkingThese varied cognitive patterns can lead evaluators to select incorrect decision norms, leading to biased outcomes.

As a result, decision tools like the “evaluative nudge” decision-framing procedure can reduce bias in hiring and promotion decisions, leading to a more equitable workplace opportunity across demographic groups.

-*What other evaluation procedures can reduce unconscious bias in performance appraisal and career advancement selection processes?

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Low-Stakes Testing Improves Learning Retention, Retrieval

Henry L. Roediger III

Henry L. Roediger III

Few people enjoy having knowledge gaps exposed by formal testing, but those who receive this corrective feedback are more likely to retain information over time, according to studies by Washington University’s Henry L. Roediger III and Jeffrey D. Karpicke.

Mary Pyc

Mary Pyc

Their work confirms considerable previous research, and the idea that testing acts as a “meditator” to retrieve stored information, suggested by Kent State University’s Mary A. Pyc and Katherine A. Rawson.

Katherine A. Rawson

Katherine A. Rawson

Participants in Roediger and Karpicke’s investigation read texts and were tested by writing as much as they recalled of selected sections, rather than completing a multiple choice test or writing a critical thinking essay on the topic.
Volunteers recalled about 70 percent of the ideas they’d read, then re-read the
remaining passages that were not tested.

Jeffrey D. Karpicke

Jeffrey D. Karpicke

Delayed testing on both sets of readings occurred after two days or seven days, and volunteers were significantly more able to remember material on which they’d been tested.

Roediger and Karpicke noted that testing requires people to retrieve knowledge from memory, rather than merely acquire information as when reading or listening to a lecture.
The testing effect, also known as the retrieval practice effect, strengthens learning by embedding information in memory.

Karl Szpunar

Karl Szpunar

Most effective testing is integrated into learning with frequent, low-stakes checkpoints in contrast to less frequent, higher-stakes testing in the traditional British education system, they suggested.

Novall Y. Khan

Novall Y. Khan

Additionally, “interpolated testing” during learning activities enables people to sustain attention, reduce mind wandering, test anxiety, and perceived “cognitive load,” found Harvard’s Karl K. Szpunar, Novall Y. Khan, and Daniel L. Schacter.

Sarah L. Eddy

Sarah L. Eddy

The testing effect can benefit people who have previously under-performed relative to their peers, and are under-represented in courses, reported University of Washington’s Sarah L Eddy and Mary Pat Wenderoth with Sara E Brownell of Arizona State University.

Mary Pat Wenderoth

Mary Pat Wenderoth

They evaluated women’s academic achievement and participation in class discussions in more than 20 large university biology courses.

Sara E. Brownell

Sara E. Brownell

Unlike in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, 60% of the students were women.
However, they responded to only 40% of questions posed by the instructor during classes, much less than their representation in the course.
In addition, these women achieved lower exam scores than men with similar overall academic performance.

Daniel Schachter

Daniel Schachter

However, when the researchers introduced frequent, low-stakes testing – even without providing test results – women’s information retention and accessing significantly improved.

Frequent low-stakes testing integrated into learning activities leads to longer-term information comprehension, retention, and application – and this frequent exposure to a sometimes-feared or disliked activity can reduce avoidant reactions.

-*How effective do you find frequent tests to increase recall and retention of learning materials?

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