Tag Archives: Education

Escaping (Psycho-)Logic Traps for Better Solutions

mathias-sager-pschologic trap escape 2

Summary. Social traps are situations in which individuals take rational (and often egoist) short-term decisions that, however, lead to negative collective results in the long-term. Some psycho-(logic) traps involve an isolating and limiting view on available behavioral choices. Because everyone needs to feel competent to take future action, the failure trap lets people deny their potential for further learning and engage in task-irrelevant actionism. The sunk cost fallacy is such an example in which, due to already made investments, there is a reluctance to change the unsuccessful course of behavior. Most social issues are not unfortunate events; they have to do with whether we base our solution design on observations rather than assumptions, and whether we accept our duty to act as if we trusted others, although there is always evidence for peoples untrustworthiness. Rather than limiting our fight for survival on individual competition, we can act as institutional entrepreneurs, guiding groups, and societies towards a better future.

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Learned Helplessness (LH) and the Need to Promote Hope

mathias-sager-hope

Learned helplessness and some psychological disorders

Dogs who experienced repeatedly unavoidable electro shocks learned that they have no control over escaping from such painful events [1], and henceforth developed a cognitive deficit in the form of generalizing the helplessness expectation to other situations [2]. This phenomenon is also considered reduced incentive motivation [3]. Mental patterns of learned helplessness (LH) resemble those of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which associate with depression [4]. LH is mentioned as the animal correspondent of depression [5]. Indeed, LH was found to be a primary cause of both PTSD and major depressive disorder (MDD) [6]. Depression includes the symptoms of feeling helplessness, but it is not its (sole) source. Non-depressed people can learn helplessness as well. Interestingly, ‘normal’ people may over-optimistically assess their level of control and therefore less likely notice uncontrollability as more realistically reasoning individuals with depressive tendencies do [7].

Example

For what could appear as inappropriate passivity in refugees who are not seeking help and not filing timely registration from the new government, for example, can be explained by LH theory. Survivors of traumatic persecution have learned that they cannot expect help from their violent or passive government, an uncontrollable fact that caused the learning of helplessness that now is applied to the new country’s government as well [6]. LH is characterized by attributions that are more personalized, constant, and of global nature and is directly associated with more severe PTSD and MDD symptoms. The relative importance of a situation to a person’s identity is further mediating this relationship [8]. This way, LH explains why a persecuted refugee may not display the knowledge of pro-actively managing the required legal administration even in a new context that would, in contrast to the former learned one, offering help to do so [6].

Related theories and hope

Towards the end of the last century, the finding that hopelessness can lead to depression caused researchers like Seligman to re-focus from helplessness to hopelessness and finally to a hope-promoting view that was intended to prevent helplessness and related pathologies of hopelessness depression [2]. For individuals who assume a performance-oriented motivation, prompts of hope and self-esteem are important to let them believe in their ability and become actively engaged, e.g., in learning and other challenging tasks. In contrast, according to goal achievement theory, subjects with a mastery-(learning-)orientation behave actively regardless of their degree of self-confidence. [9]. Models of regulation posit that learners self-regulate (i.e., manage, monitor, and motivate) their resources either towards process or achievement goals [10]. However pronounced and efficient these strategies may be though; the effects of hope finally beat any deficits in self-regulation [9].

Social-cognitive approach

A more positive outlook on relationships reduced the detrimental correlation between PTSD and dysfunctional goal orientation such as performance-avoidance. While mastery development is achieved through social comparison, performance-avoiding students see peer comparison as a threat. Therefore, motivation to get help and to learn can be increased by the adoption of a social-cognitive framework that is supportive of a positive relational outlook fostering help-seeking experiences [11].

Photo credit: Pexels (pixabay.com)

References
[1] Seligman, M. E., & Weiss, J. M. (1980). Coping behavior: Learned helplessness, physiological change and learned inactivity. Behaviour Research And Therapy, 18(5), 459-512. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(80)90011-X
[2] Nunn, K. P., & Thompson, S. L. (1996). The pervasive refusal syndrome: Learned helplessness and hopelessness. Clinical Child Psychology And Psychiatry, 1(1), 121-132. doi:10.1177/1359104596011011
[3] Maier, S. F., & Seligman, M. E. (1976). Learned helplessness: Theory and evidence. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, 105(1), 3-46. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.105.1.3
[4] Bargai, N. )., Shalev, A. )., & Ben-Shakhar, G. ). (2007). Posttraumatic stress disorder and depression in battered women: The mediating role of learned helplessness. Journal Of Family Violence, 22(5), 267-275. doi:10.1007/s10896-007-9078-y
[5] Greenwood, B. N., & Fleshner, M. (2008). Exercise, learned helplessness, and the stress-resistant brain. Neuromolecular Medicine, 10(2), 81-98. doi:10.1007/s12017-008-8029-y
[6] White, B. R. (2016). Using Learned Helplessness to Understand the Effects of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder on Refugees and Explain Why These Disorders Should Qualify as Extraordinary Circumstances Excusing Untimely Asylum Applications. Buffalo Law Review, 64(2), 413-463.
[7] Schwartz, B. (1981). Does helplessness cause depression, or do only depressed people become helpless? Comment on Alloy and Abramson. Journal Of Experimental Psychology: General, 110(3), 429-435. doi:10.1037/0096-3445.110.3.429
[8] Reiland, S. A. (2017). Event Centrality as Mediator Between Attributions and Mental Health Outcomes. Journal Of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma, 26(6), 574-589. doi:10.1080/10926771.2017.1308981
[9] Sideridis, G. )., & Kaplan, A. ). (2011). Achievement goals and persistence across tasks: The roles of failure and success. Journal Of Experimental Education, 79(4), 429-451. doi:10.1080/00220973.2010.539634
[10] Rezaee, R., & Mosalanejad, L. (2015). The effects of case-based team learning on students’ learning, self regulation and self direction. Global Journal Of Health Science, 7(4), 295-306. doi:10.5539/gjhs.v7n4p295
[11] Ness, B. M., Middleton, M. J., & Hildebrandt, M. J. (2015). Examining the Effects of Self-reported Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms and Positive Relations With Others on Self-regulated Learning for Student Service Members/Veterans. Journal Of American College Health, 63(7), 448-458.

Learning from differences and collaborating in diversity according to Lev Vygotsky

mathias-sager-global-learning

Content. (1) Individual embodiment of increasingly global social contexts, (2) Globally influenced mediation of learning, (3) Extension of the proximate to a collaborative zone of development, (4) Integrating differences for rich and demanding learning opportunities

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Scaffolding Cooperative Learning

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Human interactions don’t lack technical but rather cooperative communication skills. The good news is that pro-social behavior can be learned. Collective argumentation is one means to scaffold learners’ engagement in group work. Also, the negotiation of values is vital for achieving a shared sense of agency and accountability between teachers and students. In computer-enabled learning, consequential engagement in the form of enabling equitability and showing the benefits beyond single contributions, as well as using game formats are promising pathways to progress cooperation in learning environments.

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Individual and Collective Products and Producers of Society

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Content 1. Development of agentic power, 2. Forethought, intentionality, reactiveness, and self-reflection, 3. Collective efficacy: shared belief in agency, 4. Applied collective agency

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History and Philosophy of Learning Theory

Behaviorism

Introspection as the scientific method had to give place to behavioral psychology in the nineteenth century [1], which opposed mentalist approaches to the study of associative mechanisms in learned behavior [2] with rigorous observable laboratory experiments and animal behavior training as performed by B.F. Skinner [3] (Figure 1.). Associationists like E. Thorndike believed in biological processes which construe memory in the form of neuronal connections in the brain [1]. Reinforcement, for example in the form of dopamine rewards, was considered necessary feedback for learning enablement [4]. Today there is substantial evidence that learning can happen without this kind of reinforcement though [5]. The classical conditioning (Figure 2.) through basic physical stimulation proven too simplistic, Ivan Pavlov introduced a second system allowing for linguistic inputs too [2]. L.S. Vygotsky considered language as a requirement for the human ability to analyze the world by cognitively separating real-world objects from related conceptualizations [6]. Signs and symbols allow a shared subjectivity, e.g., between teacher and student [7]. Verbal animal behavior is studied to find roots for the development of human language sophistication [8].

Skinner.pngFigure 1. Skinner’s Operant Conditioning Quadrant

Pavlov.pngFigure 2. Pavlov’s classical conditioning

Cognitive Approach to Learning

Noam Chomsky criticized that animal verbal behavior might follow different principles that wouldn’t allow generalization attempts to human behavior [3]. The lack of real-life conditions in the laboratory environments and the difficulty to repeat animal experiments in wild life [8], ethical constraints in animal research limiting invasive practices [21], utterly operant-mathematical approaches, and an over-emphasis on language opened the way towards cognitive approaches beyond the study of language [2]. The negligence of instinct’s role, as proven by Konrad Lorenz to be relevant for imprinting mechanisms in learning (Figure 3.), also brought behaviorism into critique [9]. Vygotsky’s developmental method of research of the human species was re-discovered [10]. Around the same time, after the mid of the twentieth century, Jean Piaget’s schema theory (Figure 4.) introduced the concepts of assimilation, accommodation, and equilibration as the developmental cognitive principles of his influential genetics based philosophy [11].

Konrad Lorenz.pngFigure 3. Konrad Lorenz’ Imprinting

Piaget schema.png

Figure 4. Piaget’s Schema stages

After 1980, intelligence, especially Howard E. Gardner’s multiple intelligences (Figure 5.) (but also, Robert J. Sternberg’s triarchic theory of intelligence [12], as well as his personality characteristics related to thinking styles [13]), were taken into account in education programs [12]. Autonomous learning raised from Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory (Figure 6.) noticing that human behavior is about willful and context-dependent mental processes [14]. Innate needs for competence, as described by Skinner [16], and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Theory further contributed to the motivational aspect of learning [15].

Gardner multiple intelligences

Figure 5. Gardner’s multiple intelligences

Bandura social cognitive theory.pngFigure 6. Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory

Conclusion

Piaget and Vygotsky both construct human development holistically from transactional, relational, and situational thinking perspectives [17]. Such a constructivism also implies that education is about active learning rather than teaching [18], putting the focus on human growth experience instead of economic principles [19]. Vygotsky with his socio-cultural approach to psychological development (Figure 7.) is, in my opinion, best reflecting Plato’s principle of “the meaning of the world is embedded in the experience of the world” (p. 399) reminding us that the theory of learning remains a dynamic and context-sensitive science going forward [20].

Vygotsky socio-cultural developmentFigure 7. Vygotsky’s Socio-cultural approach

 

References

[1] Malone, J. C. (2014). Did John B. Watson really ‘found’ behaviorism?. The Behavior Analyst, 37(1), 1-12. doi:10.1007/s40614-014-0004-3

[2] Jerome, B. (2004). A Short History of Psychological Theories of Learning. Daedalus, (1), 13.

[3] Palmer, D. ). (2006). On Chomsky’s appraisal of Skinner’s Verbal Behavior: A half century of misunderstanding. Behavior Analyst, 29(2), 253-267.

[4] Jeff A, B. (2012). Thorndike’s Law 2.0: Dopamine and the regulation of thrift. Frontiers In Neuroscience, Vol 6 (2012), doi:10.3389/fnins.2012.00116/full

[5] Artino, A. J. (2007). Bandura, Ross, and Ross: Observational Learning and the Bobo Doll.

[6] Chuprikova, N. (2016). Unknown Vygotsky: Cultural-Historical Theory in the Context of Pavlov’s Theory of Higher Nervous Activity and H. Werner’s Differential Development Theory. Kulʹturno-Istoričeskaâ Psihologiâ, Vol 12, Iss 3, Pp 232-246 (2016), (3), 232. doi:10.17759/chp.2016120313

[7] Pardjono, P. (2016). Active Learning: The Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky, and Constructivist Theory Perspectives. Jurnal Ilmu Pendidikan, Vol 9, Iss 3 (2016), (3), doi:10.17977/jip.v9i3.487

[8] Reznikova, Z. (2007). Dialog with black box: using Information Theory to study animal language behaviour. Acta Ethologica10 (1), 1–12.

[9] Átima Clemente Alves, Z. (2007). Instinto, etologia e a teoria de Konrad Lorenz / Instinct, etology and the Konrad Lorenz theory. Ciência & Educação (Bauru), (3), 337. doi:10.1590/S1516-73132007000300005

[10] Salonen, L. (2013). L. S. Vygotsky’s psychology and theory of learning applied to the rehabilitation of aphasia: A developmental and systemic view. Aphasiology, 27(5), 615-635. doi:10.1080/02687038.2013.780284

[11] Zhang, Z. (2015). Assimilation, Accommodation, and Equilibration: A Schema-Based Perspective on Translation as Process and as Product. International Forum Of Teaching & Studies, 11(1/2), 84-89.

[12] Ekinci, B. (2014). The relationships among Sternberg’s Triarchic Abilities, Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences, and academic achievement. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 42(4), 625-633.

[13] Nahla, A. (2017). Differences in styles of thinking ‘In Light of Sternberg’s Theory’: A case study of different educational levels in Saudi Arabia. Journal Of Technology And Science Education, Vol 7, Iss 3, Pp 333-346 (2017), (3), 333. doi:10.3926/jotse.291

[14] Ponton, M. K., & Rhea, N. E. (2006). Autonomous Learning from a Social Cognitive Perspective. New Horizons In Adult Education & Human Resource Development, 20(2), 38-49.

[15] Joko, S., & Sri Wiwoho, M. (2017). Motivation Engineering to Employee by Employees Abraham Maslow Theory. Journal Of Education, Teaching And Learning, Vol 2, Iss 1, Pp 86-92 (2017), (1), 86.

[16] Fryer, L. K. (2017). Building Bridges: Seeking Structure and Direction for Higher Education Motivated Learning Strategy Models. Educational Psychology Review, 29(2), 325-344.

[17] Vianna, E., & Stetsenko, A. (2006). Embracing History through Transforming It: Constrasting Piagetian versus Vygotskian (Activity) Theories of Learning and Development to Expand Contructivs within a Dialectical View of History. Theory & Psychology, 16(1), 81-108. doi:10.1177/095934306060108

[18] Cattaneo, K. H. (2017). Telling Active Learning Pedagogies Apart: From Theory to Practice. Journal Of New Approaches In Educational Research, 6(2), 144-152.

[19] Illeris, K. (2015). The Development of a Comprehensive and Coherent Theory of Learning. European Journal Of Education, 50(1), 29-40.

[20] Spector, J. (2001). Philosophical implications for the design of instruction. Instructional Science29 (4/5), 381–402.

[21] Rollin, B. (2006). The regulation of animal research and the emergence of animal ethics: A conceptual history. Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, 27 (4), 285–304.

The Frog in the Bottom of a Well

MATHIAS-SAGER-world citizen-frog

I have already argued that psychology should be taught instead of history, and that kind of un-learning and de-culturation would complement the strategy to reduce shared group hatred and separation in favor of more compassionate oneness with all and everything. It was always known that traveling and cross-cultural exchanges are mind-opening and enriching experiences that are often even dramatically changing one’s world view. As Third Culture Kids (TCK) show, it takes in fact a bit more, but only little more than around three years of living between cultures during the formative years to become a world citizen in the sense of not being socially conditioned and limited to a specific culture [2]. With global communication and mobility possibilities today we could use that old wisdom to implement ‘world citizenship’ programs to educate a truly locally AND globally caring generation that helps promoting peace and well-being for anybody from far and wide.

Don’t be a frog, and enjoy the following story:-) [1]:

THE CHINESE HAVE AN EXPRESSION FOR THE LIMITED WAY ALL OF US LEARN TO SEE THE WORLD: jing di zhi wa, meaning “frog in the bottom of a well.” The expression comes from a fable about a frog that has lived its entire life in a small well. The frog assumes that its tiny world is all there is, and it has no idea of the true size of the world. It is only when a passing turtle tells the frog of the great ocean to the east that the frog realizes there is much more to the world than it had known. 

All of us are like that frog. We grow up as members of a culture and learn, through direct and indirect teaching, to see the world from the perspective that becomes most familiar to us. Because the people around us usually share that perspective, we seldom have cause to question it. Like the frog, we rarely suspect how big and diverse our human species is.

 

References:

[1] Arnett, J. J. (2012). Human development: A cultural approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

[2] Walters, K. A., & Auton-Cuff, F. P. (2009). A story to tell: the identity development of women growing up as third culture kids. Mental Health, Religion & Culture, 12(7), 755-772. doi:10.1080/13674670903029153

Solving the “everybody’s problem becomes nobody’s responsibility” issue

mathias-sager-responsibility-collective-individual-moral

Predominance of responsibility at the individual level rather than at the societal-level

Floridi (2016) is pointedly describing the issue around the distribution respectively diffusion of responsibility as “everybody’s problem becomes nobody’s responsibility” (p. 11). He suggests a framework that is recommitting responsibility for any action of a collective back to the individual by rejecting the concept of faultless responsibility, i.e., even when an individual would lack intention or information regarding the immorality of his action (Floridi, 2016). Ralston et al. (2014) found that the individual level determines ethical behavior rather than the societal level. This may be surprising when considering, for many psychological explanations often defining, the influence of culture and society. One possible explanation could be that there is an increasing variety of values within a single culture (Ralston et al., 2014). One type of collectivist setting, however, was found to be influencing ethical behavior, namely institutional collectivism (Ralston et al., 2014).

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