Our beliefs shape our learning: Study

April 18th, 2011 - 7:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 18 (IANS) If something is easy to learn, then it will be just as easy to remember - nearly everyone uses this simple rule to assess his or her own learning. But holding different belief about the nature of intelligence too can influence our learning, psychological scientists say.

It has long been known that these beliefs have important bearing on people’s motivation to learn, the journal Psychological Science reports.

The so-called ‘entity theorists’ hold that each person possesses a fixed level of intelligence, which cannot be improved, says study co-author David B. Miele, of Columbia University.

Meanwhile, ‘incremental theorists’ believe that intelligence is malleable. “They keep forging ahead when faced with a challenge, believing that more time and effort will yield better results,” added Meile, according to a Columbia statement.

Researchers conducted experiments to determine whether these theories also affect the way people evaluate their own learning.

In the first, 75 English-speaking students studied 54 pairs of Indonesian to English translations that varied in terms of how difficult they were to learn.

The easy pairs consisted of English words nearly identical to their Indonesian counterpart (for example, Polisi-Police).

Many of the medium pairs were still connected in some way (Bagasi-Luggage) and the difficult pairs were entirely dissimilar (Pembalut-Bandage).

After studying each pair for as long as they liked, the participants reported how confident they were about being able to recall the English word when supplied the Indonesian word on an upcoming test.

At the end of the experiment, they completed a questionnaire which assessed the extent to which they believed that intelligence is fixed or changeable.

The results showed that although all of the students did better at recalling the easy pairs compared to difficult ones, only entity theorists (who expressed more confidence the less time they spent studying) accurately predicted the magnitude of this effect.

Incremental theorists (who expressed more confidence the more time they spent studying) tended to be overconfident about how likely they were to remember the difficult pairs.

Thus, simply holding different beliefs about the nature of intelligence can lead people to form very different impressions of their own learning, researchers said.

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