Category Archives: MI as Science

The Importance of Eye Contact

from Branton Shearer blog, April 14, 2019

I am sharing this BBC article in full because it describes how eye contact powerfully impacts our interpersonal intelligence in everyday life.

By Christian Jarrett

http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20190108-why-meeting-anothers-gaze-is-so-powerful

8 January 2019

You’ve doubtless had the experience when, across a noisy, crowded room, you lock gazes with another person. It’s almost like a scene out of the movies – the rest of the world fades to grey while you and that other soul are momentarily connected in the mutual knowledge that they are looking at you and you at them.

Of course, eye contact is not always so exciting – it’s a natural part of most casual conversations, after all – but it is nearly always important. We make assumptions about people’s personalities based on how much they meet our eyes or look away when we are talking to them. And when we pass strangers in the street or some other public place, we can be left feeling rejected if they don’t make eye contact.

This much we already know from our everyday experiences. But psychologists and neuroscientists have been studying eye contact for decades and their intriguing findings reveal much more about its power, including what our eyes give away and how eye contact changes what we think about the other person looking back at us.

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For instance, a recurring finding is that gazing eyes grab and hold our attention, making us less aware of what else is going on around us (that ‘fading to grey’ that I mentioned earlier). Also, meeting someone’s gaze almost immediately engages a raft of brain processes, as we make sense of the fact that we are dealing with the mind of another person who is currently looking at us. In consequence, we become more conscious of that other person’s agency, that they have a mind and perspective of their own – and, in turn, this makes us more self-conscious.

You may have noticed these effects particularly strongly if you’ve ever held the intense gaze of a monkey or ape at a zoo: it is almost impossible not to be overcome by the profound sensation that they are a conscious being judging and scrutinising you. In fact, even looking at a portrait painting that appears to be making eye contact has been shown to trigger a swathe of brain activity related to social cognition – that is, in regions involved in thinking about ourselves and others.

Research shows that gazing eyes command our attention

Not surprisingly, the drama of realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting. Consider a recent study by Japanese researchers. Volunteers looked at a video of a face while simultaneously completing a word challenge that involved coming up with verbs to match various nouns (to take an easy example, if they heard the noun ‘milk”, a suitable response would be “drink”). Crucially, the volunteers struggled much more at the word challenge (but only for the trickier nouns) when the face in the video appeared to be making eye contact with them. The researchers think this effect occurred because eye contact – even with a stranger in a video – is so intense that it drains our cognitive reserves.

Similar research has found that meeting the direct gaze of another also interferes with our working memory (our ability to hold and use information in mind over short periods of time), our imagination, and our mental control, in the sense of our ability to suppress irrelevant information. You may have experienced these effects first hand, perhaps without realising, whenever you have broken eye contact with another person so as to better concentrate on what you are saying or thinking about. Some psychologists even recommend looking away as a strategy to help young children answer questions.

As well as sending our brains into social overdrive, research also shows that eye contact shapes our perception of the other person who meets our gaze. For instance, we generally perceive people who make more eye contact to be more intelligent, more conscientious and sincere (in Western cultures, at least), and we become more inclined to believe what they say.

Of course, too much eye contact can also make us uncomfortable – and people who stare without letting go can come across as creepy. In one study conducted at a science museum, psychologists recently tried to establish the preferred length of eye contact. They concluded that, on average, it is three seconds long (and no one preferred gazes that lasted longer than nine seconds).

The drama of realising we are the object of another mind is highly distracting.

Another documented effect of mutual gaze may help explain why that moment of eye contact across a room can sometimes feel so compelling. A recent study found that mutual gaze leads to a kind of partial melding of the self and other: we rate strangers with whom we’ve made eye contact as more similar to us, in terms of their personality and appearance. Perhaps, in the right context, when everyone else is busy talking to other people, this effect adds to the sense that you and the person looking back at you are sharing a special moment.

The chemistry of eye contact doesn’t end there. Should you choose to move closer, you and your gaze partner will find that eye contact also joins you to each other in another way, in a process known as “pupil mimicry” or “pupil contagion” – this describes how your pupils and the other person’s dilate and constrict in synchrony. This has been interpreted as a form of subconscious social mimicry, a kind of ocular dance, and that would be the more romantic take.

But recently there’s been some scepticism about this, with researchers saying the phenomenon is merely a response to variations in the brightness of the other person’s eyes (up close, when the other person’s pupils dilate, this increases the darkness of the scene, thus causing your pupils to dilate too).

That is not to say that pupil dilation has no psychological meaning. In fact, going back at least to the 1960s, psychologists have studied the way that our pupils dilate when we are more aroused or stimulated (in a physiological sense), whether by intellectual, emotional, aesthetic or sexual interest. This has led to debate about whether faces with more dilated pupils (sometimes taken as a sign of sexual interest) are perceived by onlookers to be more attractive. At least some studies, some decades old and others more recent, suggest they are, and we also know that our brains automatically process the dilation of other people’s pupils.

Even staring at a portrait painting’s eyes triggers the kind of brain activity associated with social cognition (Credit: Getty Images)

Either way, centuries prior to this research, folk wisdom certainly considered dilated pupils to be attractive. At various times in history women have even used a plant extract to deliberately dilate their pupils as a way to make themselves more attractive (hence the colloquial name for the plant: ‘belladonna’).

But when you look another person deep in the eye, do not think it is just their pupils sending you a message. Other recent research suggests that we can read complex emotions from the eye muscles – that is, whether a person is narrowing or opening their eyes wide. So, for instance, when an emotion such as disgust causes us to narrow our eyes, this ‘eye expression’ – like a facial expression – also signals our disgust to others.

Yet another important eye feature are limbal rings: the dark circles that surround your irises. Recent evidence suggests that these limbal rings are more often visible in younger, healthier people, and that onlookers know this on some level, such that heterosexual women looking for a short-term fling judge men with more visible limbal rings to be more healthy and desirable.

Gorilla staring at camera (Credit: Getty Images)

Look into the eys of a gorilla, and you are aware you are being scrutinised by another intellect (Credit: Getty Images)

All these studies suggest there is more than a grain of truth to the old adage about the eyes being a window to the soul. In fact, there is something incredibly powerful about gazing deeply into another person’s eyes. They say that our eyes are the only part of our brain that is directly exposed to the world.

When you look another person in the eye, then, just think: it is perhaps the closest you will come to ‘touching brains’ – or touching souls if you like to be more poetic about these things. Given this intense intimacy, perhaps it is little wonder that if you dim the lights and hold the gaze of another person for 10 minutes non-stop, you will find strange things start to happen, stranger perhaps than you’ve ever experienced before

Dr Christian Jarrett edits the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog. His next book, Personology, will be published in 2019.

Mind Brain and Education in Los Angeles

I am happy to report that the International Mind Brain and Education Society hosted a fine conference with many great speakers in Sept. I presented a poster overview of my MI – neuroscience investigations and the response was quite positive.

My poster was titled: Intelligence: Intelligence: Neural Architectures and Educational Bridges to the Future Multiple Intelligences After 35 Years

NO MORE DEBATE ABOUT IT

The Tug of War is Over!

The war of words between psychologists over the nature of human intelligence is over

Branton Shearer < excerpted 12/12/17 >

A scientific puzzle is solved. The debate is over. For 35 years teachers, students and parents have been stuck in the middle of the war of words between psychologists regarding the nature of human intelligence. Neuroscience evidence now builds a coherent bridge between IQ and multiple intelligences. This battle among theorists has resulted in confusion and unhappy compromises as teachers struggle to serve two masters. On the one side are IQ-ists who argue that intelligence is unitary and only associated with academic skills (reading, math and such). These folks advocate for a standardized curriculum emphasizing basic skills development. On the other side are advocates for personalized instruction based on the idea of multiple intelligences. They argue that human intelligence cannot be summed up with a single number and that student learning will increase with differentiated instruction that emphasizes strength-based activities.

Multiple Intelligences theory describes eight forms of intelligence possessed by all people but with varying levels of skill and ability. The eight intelligences are Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical (associated with general intelligence and academic success), Visual-Spatial, Kinesthetic, Musical, Naturalist, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal [3]. Since 1983, schools and teachers around the world have been striving to find the best ways of using MI theory to enhance education.

Of particular concern are the large numbers of students who are marginalized as a result of being stigmatized by simplistic labels such as “merely average,” or “below average,” or “not very bright.” On the flip side are students with highly developed skills that go unrecognized, unappreciated, or denigrated because they don’t fit into the academic hierarchy. No room for creativity on tests of intelligence or math skills.

This debate is not merely an arid academic question among ivory towered grey beards. Millions of dollars are paid out to the winners. Careers are wrecked or made; egos bruised or acclaimed. This conflict is most keenly felt in the schools and classrooms as teachers plan lessons and curriculum designers organize their priorities. Students and parents are casualties of the conflict, too. Parents preside over the “homework wars” as students wrestle with worksheets and perplexing projects.

There is something appealing about the simplicity of the IQ score (as a measure of general intelligence, also called g by psychologists). Unfortunately, like most simplistic labels it is simply not true that a person’s intellectual potential can be neatly fit into the box like someone’s shirt size. The human brain resists being carved up into neat categories because it is a massively interconnected and always changing and growing organ.

Five investigations involving more than 500 neuroscience studies lead to the conclusion that each intelligence possesses its own unique neural architecture. What is the relationship between IQ and MI? In 1983, Howard Gardner explained that general intelligence is comprised of the Logical-mathematical and Linguistic intelligences. This theory is supported by the neuroscience evidence because IQ is associated with nearly the exact same neural structures as those two intelligences.

The debate is not MI vs. IQ but rather how can we use a multiple intelligences understanding of each student to build the academic skills associated with IQ? MI does not minimize the importance of skills such as reading, attention to detail, logical thinking, and mathematics. Of course, those are important skills. But for artists they are no more important than imagination, spatial awareness, and intuition. Only when we understand each person’s unique profile of strengths can we devise strategies to maximize their development and build or manage weaknesses. IQ-based limitations are not to be avoided but instead creatively addressed by leveraging strengths in the service of whole brain development. This is not a dry theoretical argument but instead a practical approach to developing human potential.

To read the full article email:  sbranton@kent.edu

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Lessons from Neuroscience for Teachers and Schools

How the Multiple Intelligences Can Enhance Education

Guided by Big Ideas from Neuroscience

< excerpted 12-12-17 >

Branton Shearer

Every classroom is its own culture. Students walk in with their brains murmuring unspoken questions: Will I belong here? Will I be successful? Will the teacher like me? As their leader you are charged with creating the class culture so that it is welcoming to all and conducive to high performance. Culture can be defined as shared ideas, values, beliefs, and practices [1]. A sense of belonging is fundamental for individuals to perform at their best. Consider the discomfort of the art student in the calculus class or the engineering student in drama class. Or the star quarterback in speech class who turns bright red when it’s his time to speak. The challenge is to create the culture where all students can engage and make progress towards the learning objectives. The key question is, How will each student strive towards those goals in the best way possible?

Researchers in neuroscience labs around the world are daily generating a wealth of data with varying degrees of applicability to the educator’s job. This article highlights how the multiple intelligences can be deployed in classrooms guided by neuroscience to bring out the best in all students. We will review several Big Ideas and practices.

Multiple Intelligences theory describes eight forms of intelligence possessed by all people but with varying levels of skill and ability. The eight intelligences are Linguistic, Logical-Mathematical (associated with general intelligence and academic success), Visual-Spatial, Kinesthetic, Musical, Naturalist, Interpersonal and Intrapersonal [3]. Since 1983, schools and teachers around the world have been striving to find the best ways of using MI theory to enhance education.

The first Big Idea is that Culture Matters. This means that the school / classroom culture influences the quality of the student’s thinking and performance. The main take-away is that the teacher cannot take for granted that students are completely autonomous learners. They depend upon you to create the highest quality culture to enhance thinking, motivation, and effective performance.

The second Big Idea is that Every Brain is Unique—Activate Strengths! in the service of learning and maximum performance. As teachers we often fall into the narcissistic fallacy believing that everyone thinks like we do and this is the best (only) way to work. As we look out onto the sea of faces we need to remember that each brain is as different as their faces. We can be overwhelmed by these vast differences or we can keep in mind the simple dictum, Look for the Strengths. Ask yourself, How can strengths be activated to maximize success?

The third key idea is that all learning begins with the self. The ancient Greeks knew the fundamental value of self-knowledge and carved the words γνῶθι σεαυτόν (Know Thyself) over the entrance to the temple of Delphi where kings and generals came seeking wisdom.

Embodied Cognition and the Emotional Rudder sums up the findings that it is a mistake to undervalue the role of the body and feelings to enhance learning. We have come a long way from the day where we believed that feelings were separate from thinking. Or that the mind is somehow detached from the body.

Make it Mean Something! No learning that will last takes place without meaning. A simple example is that you will remember many more words when they are presented in a meaningful way rather than at random. When you are presenting a new or difficult concept to students you often hear the question, Will this be on the test?  Rather than being exasperated by this question (for the millionth time) keep in mind that just beneath this query may lurk a number of deeper concerns: Does this make sense to me? Is this of value to adults in my world?

Neuroscience principles can guide the use of the multiple intelligences at all levels of the school experience for students. Of course, teachers can design instruction around the eight MI. Guidance counselors use MI to focus students’ attention on their strengths that are matched with career paths. School psychologists look at learning disabilities in a new light. And tutors can help students activate their strengths to memorize, understand, and use new ideas and skills. The goal is to use strengths to enhance motivation and cognitive engagement in order to leverage achievement and improve limitations.

To read the full paper send a request to:  sbranton@kent.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building Better Teen Brains Tip #8

Get Real!

This is Brain Friendly tip #2 from Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of the Adolescent Brain. www.ASCD.org

Real-world experiences. Work activities engage higher-order thinking processes that are impacted by social and emotional influences…providing opportunities to develop executive functions…prefrontal cortex…

“…In real-world settings, adolescents are under optimal conditions for dealing with issues related to “hot” cognition, where on-the-spot behaviors and good decision making result in the formation of new neural connections between the emotional brain and the rational prefrontal cortex.. where life is unpredictable…with meaningful consequences.. that result from the choices we make…” (p.135)

Armstrong lists 6 ways that teachers can give students real world work experiences ….:

  1. Institute a job-shadowing program
  2. Provide internship experiences
  3. Create an apprenticeship program
  4. Establish a career academy
  5. Incorporate community-based learning and service learning
  6. Encourage entrepreneurial learning

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst
  • Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
  • Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible?
  • Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
  • If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for incorporating real world work experiences  into your subject area? What could help you to do more of this? Materials?

 

+++ www.ASCD.org

 

 

Building Better Teen Brains Tip #6

Thinking About Your Thinking!

This is Brain Friendly tip #2 from Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of the Adolescent Brain. www.ASCD.org

Metacognitive strategies. Executive control… maturation of the prefrontal and parietal lobes­­

“…abstract thought processes, self-reflection, thinking about long-term goals and social cognition…to rise above the concrete events of the world to confront and challenge their own emotionally charged and peer-influenced ways of thinking…activating executive functions”  such as goal setting, monitoring, evaluation and adjustment..(pgs. 35 and 109)

Armstrong lists 6 ways that teachers can give students opportunities to activate ….:

  1. Engage students in critical thinking
  2. Demonstrate use of metacognitive tools – organizers, heuristics, thinking journals

3.Help students learn goal-setting behaviors.

  1. Show students how to think clearly about their emotions
  2. Teach students how their brains work and why mindset is important
  3. Take students to the next level of existential thinking- philosophical reflections on life

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst
  • Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
  • Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible?
  • Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
  • If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for engaging students’ executive and critical thinking into your subject area? What could help you to do more of this? Materials?

++++www.ASCD.org

 

 

Build Better Teen Brains Tip #5

Move it!

This is Brain Friendly tip #2 from Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of the Adolescent Brain. www.ASCD.org

Learning through the body. Both large motor and fine motor skills coordinated by the cerebellum

.“…cerebellum plays a key role in movement…but also important in higher cognitive functions, such as language, executive function, and attention… take advantage of cerebellum’s neuroplasticity by engaging students in physical movements that are integrated directly with higher-order thinking skills…increase student engagement and academic achievement” (p. 34 and 96)

Armstrong lists 4 ways that teachers can give students opportunities to move while they are learning:

  1. Provide exercise breaks during and between classes
  2. Integrate drama into the curriculum
  3. Use physical movement to each specific concepts
  4. Engage students in hands-on activities

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst
  • Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
  • Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible?
  • Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
  • If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for incorporating more movement into your subject area? What could help you to do more of this? Materials?

 

++++www.ASCD.org

 

 

Build Better Teen Brains Tip #4

Feeling It!

This is Brain Friendly tip #4 from Thomas Armstrong’s book, The Power of the Adolescent Brain. www.ASCD.org

Affective learning. The limbic system is in full throttle while the prefrontal executive functions are still developing.

“…engage a range of activities and strategies for bringing joy, zest, and laughter as well as acknowledgement of the darker emotions in the classroom…” (p.34)

Armstrong lists 6 ways that teachers can give students opportunities to engage their emotions meaningfully:

  1. Be emotionally supportive of your students
  2. Bring more emotional expression into your teaching style
  3. Integrate controversy into your lessons
  4. Inject more humor into the classroom
  5. Engage your students’ imagination
  6. Become more aware of adolescent culture

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst
  • Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
  • Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible?
  • Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
  • If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for engaging students’ emotions into your subject area? What could help you to do more of this? Materials?

++++++www.ASCD.org

 

Building Better Teen Brains Tip #3

The Power of Peers!

Peer learning connections. Social peer activities engage striatum and the dopamine reward centers of the brain associated with motivation.

For teens…  “individual identity seems to be tightly bound to their identification with friends, classmates, and other peers…peer teaching, cooperative learning, exchanging ideas” (p. 66)

Armstrong lists 7 ways that teachers can give students opportunities to connect content with peer interaction:

  1. Establish small learning communities
  2. Engage students in collaborative learning projects
  3. Incorporate peer teaching
  4. Establish a peer mentoring program
  5. Let peers critique one another’s work

6.Use peer mediation as part of a school discipline plan

7.Create classwide simulations around specific academic content

Points to Ponder and Discuss:

  • Rate these suggestions from Best to Worst
  • Which idea(s) sound the most important or meaningful to you?
  • Which idea(s) are the most doable or feasible?
  • Which suggestion(s) are unrealistic or impossible to do?
  • If you had to choose one to do immediately, which one would you do and what would you have to do prepare to get started?

Do you have your own ideas for peer engaged learning in your subject area? What could help you to do more of this? Materials?

 

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MIDAS in Romania

Romania_Validity

email: sanda.bordei@yahoo.com

 

Sanda Bordei has conducted research with the MIDAS in Romania for a number of years. He has found support for the validity of his Romanian translation for 12 – 14 year old students. This work is well aligned with the recent validity studies in Iran as well as numerous other validity studies around the world.

 

 

Sanda Bordei, (2015) MIDAS factor structure analysis for Romanian 12 – 14 year old students. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. ScienceDirect.com

 

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