Apply Ideas from Neuroscience and Psychology to Create Truly Effective Learning Environments
21st October 2015 | Stella Collins
Neuroscience or Psychology? The Answer is Both.
Nature or nurture? Diet or exercise? Software or hardware? This or that? These are all dichotomies that we are regularly challenged with and it’s very unusual for anyone to be able to answer that one of the choices is better than another because there is an inseparable interaction between them – you can’t really have one without the other having an effect.
Psychology or neuroscience is another dichotomy that you may come across, particularly with more and more evidence coming out of both fields about how we think, how we learn and how we behave.
According to a study from 2014, neuroscience trumps psychology: people are more likely to dismiss findings from psychology than neuroscience even when all other factors are held steady. Students were asked to make a judgement on a hypothetical situation about a politician diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They were more inclined to rely on the evidence of the MRI scans as evidence for the disease rather than the types of cognitive tests that are actually used to test for Alzheimer’s.
The study, along with others, shows we seem to have a particular bias for evidence from brain imaging which the researchers said was surprising because brain imaging evidence is just as prone to bias as any other “the perception that brain MRI is somehow immune to problems of reliability becomes even more perplexing.”
That’s one of the reasons why I’ve included plenty of psychology research as well as information about neuroscience in Neuroscience for Learning and Development: How to apply neuroscience and psychology for improved learning and training. It isn’t an either / or question; neuroscience or psychology? It is more valuable to bring in ideas from across the disciplines rather than to try to focus on one specific field so that we end up with reliable evidence to create really effective learning environments.
Munro, G., & Munro, C. (2014). “Soft” Versus “Hard” Psychological Science: Biased Evaluations of Scientific Evidence That Threatens or Supports a Strongly Held Political Identity Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 36 (6), 533-543 DOI:10.1080/01973533.2014.960080
About the author: Stella Collins has a BSc in psychology, MSc in Human Communication and is a Fellow of ITOL. She's worked in Learning and Development as a manager and as a trainer for 15 years and consistently uses the 'brain friendly' approach to design and deliver result based training and learning programmes with a creative twist. She has written two pocketbooks on Writing Skills and Webinars, both of which were based on how peoples brains absorb information and therefore how best to present it. She founded the Brain Friendly Learning Group, a development network for learning professionals and delivers 'brain friendly' Train the Trainer programmes nationally and internationally.
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