Learning Sciences of Change

Learning Change Project: 8 Blogs, 6775 Readings

Archive for the ‘Thinking’ Category

How Homo became Sapiens – on the Evolution of Thinking

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Our ability to think is one of our most puzzling characteristics. What would it be like to be unable to think? What would it be like to lack self-awareness? The complexity of this activity is striking. Thinking involves the interaction of a range of mental processes — attention, emotion, memory, planning, self-consciousness, free will, and language. So where did these processes arise? What evolutionary advantages were bestowed upon those with an ability to deceive, to plan, to empathize, or to understand the intentions of others? In this compelling work, the author embarks on an evolutionary detective story to try and solve one of the big mysteries surrounding human existence — how has the modern human being’s way of thinking come into existence? He starts by taking in turn the more basic cognitive processes, such as attention and memory, then builds upon these to explore more complex behaviours, such as self-consciousness, mind reading, and imitation. Having done this, he examines the consequences of ‘putting thought into the world’, using external media like cave paintings, drawings and writing.

My aim in this book is to describe how uniquely human thinking has emerged. I view knowledge as biologically grounded and I will start from the theory of evolution. However, as I shall argue, the biological foundation does not conflict with a humanistic outlook. On the contrary, I want to show that much of a humanistic worldview can be derived from an evolutionary story of our origins. I have dual objectives for the book. On the one hand, I want to present my own theory of the evolution of thinking. The theory is a synthesis of material from several scientific disciplines. On the other, I want to tell a story about how the cognitive capacities of Homo sapiens were shaped in a way that is accessible to a general audience.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

April 9, 2014 at 10:33 am

Think Fast! Take Risks! A Link Between Fast Thinking and Risk Taking

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New experiments show that the experience of thinking fast makes people more likely to take risks. This discovery suggests that some of the innovations of the modern world—fast-paced movies, social media sites with a constant flow of fresh updates—are pushing people toward riskier behavior. An article describing two experiments showing this effect will appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Thoughts can flow quickly or slowly. If you start your day with a cup of coffee, and an inbox full of e-mails with only a few minutes to check them, you may find your thoughts racing. But, if you skip your morning coffee and start the day staring at a blank wall, you probably won’t be thinking that fast. “Many aspects of your everyday environment impact the speed of your thinking,” says Emily Pronin, a psychology professor at Princeton University, who cowrote the article with Jesse J. Chandler.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

February 20, 2012 at 6:00 pm

Posted in Thinking

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Examining How Scientists Think

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Nancy J. Nersessian‘s research is driven by the question “How do scientists think?” Nersessian’s research focuses on how the cognitive and learning practices of scientists and engineers lead to creative and innovative outcomes. She is a Regents’ Professor of Cognitive Science at the Georgia Institute of Technology with joint appointments in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts School of Public Policy and the College of Computing School of Interactive Computing.

Her research supports the insight that scientists think not only with ideas, but also with the artifacts they create to investigate nature. Nersessian is one of the pioneers of the interdisciplinary field of cognitive studies of science and technology, which comprises psychologists, philosophers of science, artificial intelligence researchers and cognitive anthropologists.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

February 14, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Scientists, Thinking

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Training in ‘concrete thinking’ can be self-help treatment for depression, study suggests

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New research provides the first evidence that depression can be treated by only targeting an individual’s style of thinking through repeated mental exercises in an approach called cognitive bias modification. The study suggests an innovative psychological treatment called ‘concreteness training’ can reduce depression in just two months and could work as a self-help therapy for depression in primary care.

People suffering from depression have a tendency towards unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general negative thoughts, such as viewing a single mistake as evidence that they are useless at everything. Concreteness training (CNT) is a novel and unique treatment approach that attempts to directly target this tendency. Repeated practice of CNT exercises can help people to shift their thinking style.

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Written by Giorgio Bertini

November 19, 2011 at 10:45 pm

Posted in Depression, Thinking

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More Than Child’s Play: Ability to Think Scientifically Declines as Kids Grow Up

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Young children think like researchers but lose the feel for the scientific method as they age.

Since the 1990s studies have shown that children think scientifically—making predictions, carrying out mini experiments, reaching conclusions and revising their initial hypotheses in light of new evidence. But while children can play in a way that lets them ascertain cause and effect, and even though they have a rudimentary sense of probability (eight-month-olds are surprised if you reach into a bowl containing four times as many blue marbles as white ones and randomly scoop out a fistful of white ones), it was not clear whether they have an implicit grasp of a key strategy of experimental science: that by isolating variables and testing each independently, you can gain information.

Written by Giorgio Bertini

September 22, 2011 at 1:18 am