Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Evolution Of Electronic Monitoring Devices

Nearly 50 years since it was first designed by social psychology students at Harvard, the electronic monitoring device has become a significant part of the criminal justice system. More popularly associated with law-breaking celebrities like Paris Hilton or Martha Stewart, the electronic ankle bracelet has been used to track hundreds of thousands of sex offenders, DUI offenders, people free on bail and others. But its current use is not quite what its inventors had in mind. In the 1960s, twin brothers Robert and Kirk Gable were studying psychology at Harvard under famed psychologists B.F. Skinner and Timothy Leary. They wanted to develop a way to monitor the movements of juvenile offenders so they could encourage them to show up to places on time. It would be a form of positive reinforcement. Using old military equipment, they created a system in which offenders would wear radio devices that communicated where they were. more

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Seeing is a Matter of Experience

"Faces are of tremendous importance for human beings," the neuroscientist explains. That's why in the course of the evolution our visual perception has specialized in the recognition of faces in particular. "This sometimes even goes as far as us recognizing faces when there are none at all."...The basis for this is the neuronal plasticity of the brain, which allows us to adapt to environmental stimuli. "The more often we are exposed to a certain stimulus, the quicker we perceive it," Mareike Grotheer, doctoral candidate in Kovác's team says. This "training effect" could be measured directly in the brain. As magnetic resonance imaging shows, environmental stimuli which the brain has already adapted to, lead to distinctly lower responses in the processing areas. "This might sound paradoxical at first, but it only means that the brain arrives at the same result with less effort," Kovács points out. This adaptation mechanism is particularly pronounced in situations when we expect a very specific stimulus. "Our past experiences are essential in shaping our sense of perception," Kovács stresses. For the recognition of characters experience also plays a decisive role. Practically we are surrounded by characters everywhere: in the media, in the streets, on everyday objects. more

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What Can Online Course Designers Learn from Research on Machine-Delivered Instruction?

The research that the American behaviorist B. F. Skinner carried out in the mid-twentieth century sheds light on how students learn and what can be accomplished through automated instruction. Approximating one-on-one tutoring, his procedure begins with the determination of what behavior constitutes competent performance. A human tutor then assesses the student’s current level of performance. Building on the student’s existing skills, the teacher guides the student through increasingly complex tasks that Skinner called “successive approximations.” If the student progresses rapidly, the teacher adjusts by assigning more difficult problems or questions. If the student hesitates or makes mistakes, the teacher finds out what knowledge or skills are lacking, goes back a step, breaks the material into smaller steps, or provides hints or other help. This kind of individualized instruction continually adjusts to student progress. more

Monday, May 19, 2014

Studying Behavior Using Light to Control Neurons

Some of the neurons responsible for behavioral decisions in rats have been identified in a new study. Using a technique that employs light to control nerve cell activity, researchers inactivated a region of the brain and showed that it caused the rats to behave more flexibly while trying to get a reward. The technique, called optogenetics, allows researchers to “show that the firing or inhibition of certain neurons has a causative relationship with a given behavior, whereas previous methods only allowed us to correlate neuronal activity with behavior,” says one researcher. more

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Dealing with Irreproducibility

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of retractions, higher rates of misconduct and fraud, and general problems of data irreproducibility, spurring the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and others to launch initiatives to improve the quality of research results...“We really have to change our culture and that will not be easy,” said Lee Ellis from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, referring to the immense pressure researchers often feel to produce splashy results and publish in high-impact journals...C. Glenn Begley, chief scientific officer of TetraLogic Pharmaceuticals and former vice president of hematology and oncology research at Amgen, discussed a project undertaken by Amgen researchers to reproduce the results of more than 50 published studies. The vast majority were irreproducible, even by the original researchers who had done the work. “That shocked me,” he said. more

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Make Boring Chores More Enjoyable with Random Positive Reinforcement

Little, unpredictable rewards can turn a dreary, dreaded task into something you actually look forward to. "Softwarepreneur" Assaf Lavie writes on his superbly named Super Fun Time Happy Blog how he's hacked his brain to enjoy washing the dishes—something he used to postpone as much as possible. The secret: Podcasts. More importantly, there are two parts to this strategy. First, he listens to podcasts only when washing the dishes, so the positive association is stronger. Second, not every podcast episode is entertaining or rewarding, so the positive reinforcement is more random... more

Monday, May 12, 2014

Aubrey Daniels International Publishes Fifth Edition of Definitive Book on Performance Management

Aubrey Daniels International (ADI), a leading workplace consultancy, today announced the release of the fifth edition of Performance Management: Changing Behavior That Drives Organizational Effectiveness. Originally published in 1982 and widely embraced by business and academia, the book is the definitive guide to a commonly misunderstood topic: how to apply the laws of behavior to improve workplace results more efficiently and effectively. Performance Management Publications, a subsidiary of ADI, is releasing the updated, expanded edition. The co-authors are ADI founder Aubrey Daniels, Ph.D., who coined the term "performance management" and has written six management best-sellers, and Jon Bailey, Ph.D., director of the Applied Behavior Analysis master's program in psychology at Florida State University and founder of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis. more

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Tuesday, May 06, 2014

(Surprise!) You Don't Always Know What You're Saying

If you think you know what you just said, think again. People can be tricked into believing they have just said something they did not, researchers report this week. The dominant model of how speech works is that it is planned in advance — speakers begin with a conscious idea of exactly what they are going to say. But some researchers think that speech is not entirely planned, and that people know what they are saying in part through hearing themselves speak. So cognitive scientist Andreas Lind and his colleagues at Lund University in Sweden wanted to see what would happen if someone said one word, but heard themselves saying another. “If we use auditory feedback to compare what we say with a well-specified intention, then any mismatch should be quickly detected,” he says. “But if the feedback is instead a powerful factor in a dynamic, interpretative process, then the manipulation could go undetected.” more

Monday, May 05, 2014

Lab Rats May Be Stressed By Men, Which May Skew Experiments

Rodents left alone in a room with a man, or presented with a T-shirt worn by a man, had a sharp spike in the stress hormone corticosterone. And because the hormone acts as an analgesic, they also showed less response to pain. The rodents showed no such reaction to women; they were also less stressed when given a woman’s shirt together with a man’s...The findings, published in Nature Methods, could have far-reaching repercussions for research. Rodents account for more than 95 percent of all lab animals, according to the National Association of Biomedical Research. If a researcher’s sex might affect results, it should be considered a confounding factor, Dr. Mogil said. more