Tag Archives: attention

Development of Cognitive Skills; Piaget’s theory.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run! When it comes to development, this phrase is certainly true. Before children learn to talk and are taught to problem solve at school, right from birth, they begin to develop novel ways of communicating and exploring the world around them. They cry to tell you they’re hungry, and go through a stage where it seems they’re trying to eat everything (I’m sure the parents reading this can relate)! These practices enable babies to make sense of the world. As they get older, their way of exploring rapidly evolves. As well as developing the ability to walk and talk, our development of cognitive skills (memory, attention, language, reading comprehension, fine motor and gross motor skills) are developed throughout our childhood.

French Psychologist Jean Piaget, proposed the development of cognitive skills during childhood occurs in 4 distinct stages. Each stage builds upon the previous one. Piaget’s theory was ground breaking at the time, as it was previously thought that children didn’t develop cognitive skills until they began to acquire language. Piaget challenged this, as he found that children explore the world around them before they acquire language by using their different senses. This is known as the sensorimotor stage, which is one of four stages that classify a child’s learning stages. The other three stages are known as the pre-operational stage, concrete operational stage and the formal operational stage. During each stage, children acquire new cognitive skills, whilst developing skills they have acquired in previous stages.

Cognitive development

Development of Cognitive Skills: Sensorimotor stage

This stage lasts from birth to 2 years.

In this stage, children learn about the world using their senses and manipulating objects. Here a child’s intelligence is based on their motor and sensory knowledge. During this stage, children learn of object permanence, i.e. although a toy is out of sight, it still exists. This information is extremely important as it prepares children to be able to name objects.

3 months– Infants are able to recognise faces and imitate facial expressions (above).

6 months– Infants can imitate sounds, recognise their parents and display fear towards strangers. They understand the difference between animate and inanimate objects. Between four and seven months, children begin to recognise their own name.

9 months– Infants imitate gestures and actions. The understand simple words like ‘no’ and begin to test their parents’ response to their behaviour.

12 months– Infants can follow moving objects. They can speak between two to four simple words like ‘mama’ and ‘dada’. They can imitate animal sounds and begin to display attachments to objects such as a toy or blanket. At this age, they will also begin to display separation anxiety.

18 months– Vocabulary increases to around 50 words. Children begin to identify body parts and display sense of ownership. They can follow simple instructions (e.g. picking up toys and putting them in the box). They begin to show an understanding of discipline and have knowledge of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour.

Development of Cognitive Skills: Pre-operational stage

This stage lasts from 2 – 7 years.

A child’s vocabulary is around 150 words. Around this time, children learn around 10 new words a day, and begin to understand emotions such as love, trust and fear. Children also begin to learn through pretend play, or “make believe”. However, their view of others and logic isn’t well understood, and children have a self-centered view of the world. In this stage, children begin to use their imaginary and memory skills, and begin to develop their social interaction skills and play cooperatively with children their own age. They will begin to develop their cognitive abilities. Children learn to read, develop routines and display an increased attention span. At the beginning of this stage, children develop their attention, long term and short term memory. As children get older, they learn to control their attention and use their cognitive abilities to help them solve problems and achieve their goals. Also during this stage of development, auditory processing is further refined. This is highly important in improving reading skills.

Imaginative play

Development of Cognitive Skills: Concrete operational stage

This stage is from 7-11 years.

During this stage, children learn to be less egocentric and self centered. They begin to think about the thoughts and feelings of others, and they are more aware of their own thoughts and feelings and the rules around sharing them with others. Children are also able to think in a more logic manner and see the world from the view of others. However, at this stage, a child’s thought is often rigid, therefore they tend to struggle with abstract concepts. Here children learn that things, such as volume and weight, can stay the same despite changes in the appearance of objects. For example, two different glasses can hold the same volume of water. Also, at this stage, children’s attention span begins to increase with age. At the age of six, the child may be able to focus on a task for around 15 minutes. At the age of nine, children can focus on a task for around an hour.

Concrete operational stage

Development of Cognitive Skills: Formal operational stage

This stage is from 11 years and upwards.

Children are able to better understand logic and abstract ideas. They will start to reason and think about abstract ideas, and implement these ideas into their lives. They are also able to see multiple solutions to problems, and begin to look at the world in a scientific manner. During this stage, Adolescents display independent problem-solving skills, and are able to understand abstract ideas such puns, proverbs, metaphors, analogies, philosophy and maths. Children also learn to apply general information to specific situations. During adolescence we undergo cognitive transition, which means that the way we think becomes more advanced, more efficient, and more complex. Thought is no longer limited to what is real, it is expanded to include the hypothetical. During this stage we begin thinking about the process of thinking, known as metacognition. Thought becomes multidimensional; we are able to look at multiple outcomes to a specific problem, which allows us to think rationally and analyze the problem. This will hopefully help us to make well-informed decisions.

Every child will progress through each stage in order, but it’s important to remember that each child is different, so that manner or time that it take a child to develop these skills may vary- and that’s OK! Progression through the 4 stages of development can occur at different rates; some faster than others. We all have a unique cognitive profile, some cognitive skills can be weaker than others. A cognitive assessment can help us to identify which of our cognitive skills are weaker. This enables us to tailor our cognitive training, and improve our weaker skills. If you are looking to strengthen your cognitive skills, why not try some brain games! If you are concerned that about your cognitive abilities or the development of a child, it is important to seek professional advice.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions, get in touch below! 🙂

Not Sure If You Should Take The Leap? Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

We may not look back on our foreign language classes at school with much fondness.However, after reading about the following benefits of learning foreign languages, we may all be searching for our Spanish or French class notes.

Learning a foreign language can be difficult. The older you are, the more challenging it can be. Nevertheless, learning a new language can have a range of cognitive, health and cultural benefits.

Cognitive Benefits of Learning Foreign Languages

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Beneficial for traveling, learning and communicating

Learning a foreign language means you can explore a whole new culture, country, or continent through the native tongue. Learning a foreign language also allows us to communicate with individuals who do not speak our mother tongue.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Stay young and stave off disease

Research has found that bilingualism can help counteract cognitive decline. In fact, it was noted that bilingual older adults had better memory than monolingual older adults. Furthermore, there has been links between bilingualism and Alzheimer’s, showing the correlation to speaking more than one language and preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Additionally, Evy Woumans and colleagues have found that in older adults diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, the rate of progression is slower in bilingual patients compared to monolingual patients.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Be more creative

A review into the cognitive correlates of bilingualism, by Olusola Adesope and colleagues found that bilingualism has been associated with enhanced creativity and abstract thinking. Essentially, being proficient in a foreign language can make you more creative and can help you think outside the box.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improved problem-solving skills

Bilinguals tend to have better problem-solving skills than monolinguals. In addition, bilinguals tend to perform better on tasks like the Stroop test, which requires an element of conflict management. Being fluent in a foreign language has been linked to enhanced inhibitory control ability. This means that bilinguals are better at ignoring information that interferes with their ability to complete a task. The message here seems to be that learning a foreign language can help us to solve problems faster and help us to ignore irrelevant information.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Better cognitive control

Researchers Viorica Marion and Anthony Shook tested bilinguals in experiments of task switching. Participants were required to switch between sorting objects based on colour and by shape. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals displayed high levels of cognitive control. They find it easier to switch between tasks compared to monolinguals. Essentially, learning a foreign language may improve our task switching ability. Researchers propose enhanced cognitive control is due to the ability to balance two languages. Bilingual language processing networks for both languages are active at the same time. As both languages are activated, the individual responds in the correct language by learning to inhibit one language over the other. By doing this, bilinguals improve their inhibitory control mechanism, to the point where when processing language, the process of inhibiting the language that isn’t needed at a particular time becomes second nature. Wondering how you can train your brain and cognitive skills? Try some fun brain games!

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Changes brain structure

Bilingualism has been found to increase neuroplasticity. Researcher Rosanna Olsen and colleagues investigated structural brain differences in monolinguals and bilinguals using fMRI. Scans revealed that bilinguals display increased activation in the dorso-lateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC plays an important role in tasks which require control). This part of the brain is associated with attention and inhibition. The researchers found that the hippocampus and the left superior temporal gyrus are more malleable in bilinguals (The hippocampus is associated with memory and the superior temporal gyrus is associated with sound processing). Furthermore, these structures as well as the frontal lobe are thicker in bilingual individuals (The frontal lobes are associated with executive functions such as problem solving and executive control-need some exercises to improve executive functions?). Increased volumes of white matter have been noted in frontal and temporal lobes. According to researcher Christos Pilatsikas and colleagues, when learning a second language age doesn’t matter, as adults who have learnt a foreign language have shown increase white matter. Being proficient in a foreign language can improve connections of brain regions that control our memory, executive functioning, attention and inhibition processes.

Benefits of learning foreign languages: Improves attention and attention control

Studies have shown that on tasks of attention control, bilinguals tend to perform better than monolinguals. Also bilinguals tend to have a higher attention capacity. Bilinguals are better at filtering out unwanted information and find it easier to focus on more relevant information.

Improves ability to process information– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Being bilingual can benefit sensory and information processing. Jennifer Krizman and colleagues present participants with target sounds embedded in background noise. Compared to monolinguals, bilinguals found it easier to filter out background noise. The researchers found bilingualism enhances sound processing and sustained attention. The study found that bilinguals process sound similarly to musicians. This means that one of the benefits of learning a foreign language is being able to improve the efficiency of the brain’s auditory system, and enhance our ability to distinguish between similar sounds.

Benefits of learning foreign languages

Enhances working memory– Benefits of learning foreign languages

Managing two languages puts increased pressure our working memory. To ease the pressure, bilinguals become more efficient at information processing. Combining this with their enhanced inhibitory control ability, a bilingual’s working memory capacity and efficiency us greater than monolinguals.

Learning multiple foreign languages

We have already established that being fluent in a foreign language can improve our information processing abilities and enhance our sustained attention. As a result of these enhanced processes, bilinguals find it easier to learn a third or even fourth foreign language.

Learning a foreign language can have numerous benefits on our cognitive functions. It improves executive functions, cognitive control, attention, and memory. In addition, neuroimaging studies have revealed that learning a foreign language in later life can actually grow the brain and improve the connections between different brain regions. What is even more interesting is that learning a foreign language can counteract cognitive decline and slow down the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Regardless of the age at which we learn a foreign language, it is still beneficial for our brains to do so. So, although it may be a little more difficult, it is clearly never too late to reap the benefits of learning foreign languages! Encouraging young children to learn a foreign language may benefit them in later life, so schools should look at making learning a foreign language a compulsory part of the curriculum. Aside from the benefits to cognition and the brain, for all of us who have the travelling bug and want to explore new cultures, learning the lingo is obviously the best place to start!

Do you have any questions or comments? Leave me a note below! 🙂

References

Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the cognitive correlates of bilingualism. Review of Educational Research80(2), 207-245.

Krizman, J., Marian, V., Shook, A., Skoe, E., & Kraus, N. (2012). Subcortical encoding of sound is enhanced in bilinguals and relates to executive function advantages. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences109(20), 7877-7881.

Mårtensson, J., Eriksson, J., Bodammer, N. C., Lindgren, M., Johansson, M., Nyberg, L., & Lövdén, M. (2012). Growth of language-related brain areas after foreign language learning. NeuroImage63(1), 240-244.

Marian, V., & Shook, A. (2012, September). The cognitive benefits of being bilingual. In Cerebrum: the Dana forum on brain science (Vol. 2012). Dana Foundation.

Pliatsikas, C., Moschopoulou, E., & Saddy, J. D. (2015). The effects of bilingualism on the white matter structure of the brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences112(5), 1334-1337.

Woumans, E., Santens, P., Sieben, A., Versijpt, J., Stevens, M., & Duyck, W. (2015). Bilingualism delays clinical manifestation of Alzheimer's disease.Bilingualism: Language and Cognition18(03), 568-574.

Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2014). How does the bilingual experience sculpt the brain?. Nature Reviews Neuroscience15(5), 336-345.

Olsen, R. K., Pangelinan, M. M., Bogulski, C., Chakravarty, M. M., Luk, G., Grady, C. L., & Bialystok, E. (2015). The effect of lifelong bilingualism on regional grey and white matter volume. Brain research1612, 128-139.

Saidi, L. G., & Ansaldo, A. I. (2015). Can a Second Language Help You in More Ways Than One?. AIMS neurosci1, 52-57.

Non-Native Accent in the Job: The Problems

In a world that is becoming smaller and smaller, a mix of different cultures becomes more prevalent in our job and also our private life. For this reason, being exposed to peers speaking in a non-native accent has become very natural. Especially prominent are non-native accents in English, as this is considered the universal language of communication nowadays. With the trend of the world becoming a smaller and smaller place, so increases the number of people speaking with a non-native accent. Foreign languages and accents gain more importance especially in the job sector which we generally consider a positive development. However, evaluating the psychological burdens of placing a non-native speaker in an environment of native speakers is a necessity. Especially large are the problems of discrimination. Although the judging of people based on physical characteristics has decreased, foreign accents are still used as a way to discriminate certain cultures.

 What is a non-native accent?

A non-native accent is described to have a different pronunciation of vowels and consonants, and a difference in stress and tone is seen when compared to a native accent. The speaker with the non-native accent often applies some of the rules and sounds of his native language. If a sound in the second language is not present in the speaker’s native language, that phoneme will be substituted by the most similar phoneme in the native language causing it to sound different in the second language. Though individuals with a foreign accent are very proficient in that language, the accent is what remains and is not easily lost after a developmental window has closed. Until puberty, an individual is able to learn a foreign language and at the same time acquire the native accent. However, for any language that is acquired later in life, the non-native accent is almost impossible to get rid of. Nevertheless, the ease of obtaining a native accent in a foreign language also depends on the years the person has lived in the foreign country and how similar the phonemes are to the native language.

Typically, native speakers find it fairly easy to spot a person talking in a non-native accent and to them, it is perceived as foreign or even “wrong”.  According to United Nations reports, today more than 232 million people live in a country different from the country they were born in.

Brain areas involved when speaking in a non-native accent

Learning a new language is highly recommended for anyone. According to a Swedish study, a brain scan of adults learning a foreign language and therefore speaking in a non-native accent revealed increases of gray matter in language-related brain regions. Depending on how well they performed in learning the foreign language and their efforts they put in, their brain areas developed differently. The most profound observation was the growth of the hippocampus and three other brain areas to be associated with better language learning. Even though this study only took into account short-term changes, there is no doubt a more developed brain through learning languages will be beneficial for older ages. One of the benefits, for instance, is the later onset of Alzheimer’s in multilingual compared to monolinguals.

A different study looked at brain activity when native English or native Japanese were asked to identify between the English /r/ and /l/. From experience, we know native Japanese speakers to have trouble differentiating between these two particular English phonemes. Also in the study, the Japanese speakers had problems differentiating and producing the two phonemes. The reason for this was found to be a difference in activity of specific brain regions when comparing the two groups. These areas are responsible for the perception of speech.

Non-native accent: The problems of discrimination in the job

With an influx of immigrants, the selection of foreign potential employees of a company becomes bigger as well. Discrimination of minorities is unfortunately still commonplace. A correlation between physical appearance and employability is often observed. However, we should not only look at visual markers but also direct our attention to the several non-native accents of the immigrants when they learn a foreign language. In short, the question is whether discrimination only happens on the physical level or if we are prone to judging people depending on their non-native accents.

A study has looked at this question and conducted an experiment with five groups (Mexican speakers, Indian speakers, Chinese speakers, American speakers and British speakers), each speaking in a particular non-native English accent. They were asked to attend a job interview over the phone. Each group prepared a short sentence containing identical words they had to recite. Obviously, the pronunciation of the individual words due to their accent differed depending on the group. Managers were then asked to listen to each sentence and subsequently evaluate how probable it would be for them to hire each employee based on the sentence they were hearing. Most surprisingly, even the sentence was only different in pronunciation and not content, a speaker with a non-native accent was less likely to be hired than a speaker with a native accent (which was, in this case, an American accent). Nevertheless, one observation was striking: The British speaker group was more likely to be selected by the managers when compared to the native group.
This shows a tendency to discriminate employees whose country is not as highly developed as America. If a person emigrates from a country that enjoys a similar economic status, that same person is not discriminated, in this case, the British group.

In another paper, we see a preference to cooperate with peers speaking the same accent rather than a person talking in a non-native accent.
The results of both studies suggest not only discrimination to happen on a physical level, but also in language. It is a problem which should definitely be considered and tackled as the job recruitment process should not take into account non-native accents if the applicant is able to communicate as well as his native peers. Often, however, the decision to reject a speaker with a non-native accent is made subconsciously with the employer being unaware why the applicant with the foreign accent did not happen to fit into the profile.

Why are non-native accents difficult for our brain?

One possible reason employers might discriminate non-native accent employees has to do with the credibility of the speaker. The manager perceives the employee with the foreign accent to be less credible as he is speaking. This is explained by cognitive fluency referring to the ease with which the brain processes stimuli. If a foreign accent is heard, cognitive fluency is reduced resulting in a more difficult processing of the person receiving the message from the speaker. We see a similar phenomenon in the stock market. Psychologists have shown shares with an easy-to-pronounce name to outperform shares with a hard-to-pronounce name. Similarly, if factual statements are manipulated to be processed easier (writing it in an easier-to-read font), the receivers’ judgment of the statement changes. Cognitive fluency, therefore, plays a crucial role in decision-making suggesting that the employer selecting a native speaker in favor of a non-native speaker cannot really be blamed for his decision.

Ways to reduce prejudices against non-native accent speakers

We might be aware of racial segregation considering physical appearance or religion of an individual. However, it is of paramount importance to add foreign accents to the list of factors contributing to racism. Experiencing racism using non-native accents compared to physique or race is however much more subtle. Judging foreign accents is very subjective (one person considers a foreign accent as very pronounced whereas another person might experience the same person to have only a marginal non-native accent). As a consequence, in real life situations as in the job sector, it becomes challenging to know whether a person’s foreign accent indeed contributed to discrimination. Nevertheless, as the studies have shown, a non-native accent leads to changes how an employer might think about a foreign applicant. As the prevalence of non-native accents is going to increase, we need to be aware of this problem and at best develop strategies to view everyone equally based on their accent. Here are a few things you can do when communicating with a person who is difficult to understand because of his or her non-native accent:

  • Do not pretend to understand the foreign speaker. Instead, ask the person to slow down his speech if you have difficulty catching his or her words.
  • At the same time, you should speak slowly too. This benefits the receiver with the non-native accent to pick up the sounds more easily.
  • Don’t raise your voice. You might think you are speaking too quiet, however, it is most likely not a problem of speech volume, but simply that the foreign speaker is not used to the different pronunciation.
  • If the accent of the person is too strong to understand the message, don’t act rude! It might come across impolite to say “Hey, I don’t understand you!” Instead, ask them to repeat the sentence.
  • But most importantly, focus on the content of the message! Do not waste time evaluating how the pronounced words of the non-native speaker sound.

Do you have a non-accent experience you would like to share? Please feel free to comment below!

Significant learning: How do we internalize information?

What is significant learning? Learning is an essential part of our lives. We need to constantly acquire new knowledge and put it into practice in order to adapt to the environment. Sometimes it is not enough to retain long lists of data, we must internalize them. Ausubel’s significant learning theory explains how we integrate information into our brain. In this article, we will give you tips on how to learn significantly.

Significant Learning

Significant learning: Definition and characteristics

What is significant learning? To answer this question, we must be clear about what “learning” means. This term does not only involve the knowledge we are taught at school. It involves any lasting changes that we may observe in our behavior or that take place in our minds. Learning is essential in every area of our lives. Understanding and communicating the basics is the key to progress.

Psychologists and other professionals try to develop learning theories to explain how the brain learns. There are several proposals that address this issue from different angles. At present, an attempt is being made to understand this process through brain-based learning. Answers must be sought to provide future generations with better education.

In this article, we will talk about significant learning, which was proposed by the American psychologist David Ausubel. This author is one of the greatest exponents of constructivism. This perspective is based on each person building their own world through their own experiences. Piaget is also one of its most prominent exponents, which profoundly influenced Ausubel.

Ausubel’s significant learning theory states that we add and adapt the new information to our previous knowledge. It is a conscious process. Significant learning is an active process in which the subject is the protagonist.

This type of learning contrasts with rote learning, which is a more passive procedure. This constructivist theory contrasts with other proposals that focus on external influences.

Significant Learning: What do we need?

It is imperative that we have:

  • A cognitive structure: The existing basis with which the latest data interact is of great importance. It is made of the ideas we have, how they relate to each other and their degree of clarity.
  • New materials to learn: They need to be related to our previous knowledge. If it is difficult for us to find a link, we must make an effort to achieve a link that unites the new and previous concepts.
  • Willpower: The most important thing is the willingness of the person to form and structure knowledge. We are in charge of organizing the information in our brain.

Significant learning: Types and examples

Significant learning is used throughout our lives. Learning as machines can help us in specific cases like knowing our telephone number, our ID card or reciting a poem.

If we are interested in a topic, we will have to investigate the subject and retain it in a deeper and more lasting way. In fact, even if we don’t want to be experts, the results will improve if we learn significantly.

1. Feature learning

It is the most basic type of learning. From it comes the others. It consists of connecting meanings with certain notions. For example, it happens when we learn that an instrument that tells us the time is called a “clock”. It is not a simple association between concepts, the person connects them in a meaningful way.

2. Concept Learning

It is based on grouping the different representations into categories. It happens when we discover that although there are different types of clocks, they all have common attributes.

3. Learning statements

This is the most elaborate form of learning. It implies that the meanings of concepts are processed in depth in order to express them in the form of statements. It’s about creating logical connections.

For example, if we are asked everything we know about clocks, we will comment on their definition, uses, classifications, examples, etc. In order to do this task, we must have gone through the two previous types of learning.

Significant learning: Applications

Significant learning in the classroom

Significant child learning is vital for us to acquire new knowledge later on. Throughout our lives, we will find ourselves in a variety of situations where we have to settle new information deeply in our minds to overcome an academic challenge.

It doesn’t matter if we do it in college, for competition or to get a job. The sooner we implement strategies that enable us to learn meaningfully, the better.

Here are some significant classroom learning activities that will allow you to retain information more deeply.

1. Make concept maps

This will clarify and organize our ideas. Visually capturing the new concepts and linking them with others we know is a great way to firmly establish the latest data.

2. Explain the lesson to a friend

If we begin to talk about the topic we are studying to someone else, we take the trouble to structure the information. By answering your questions and looking for examples, our understanding of the subject will improve considerably.

3. Work in teams

Listening to people’s views helps us to better internalize information. Our colleagues will also benefit from our skills. We will discover new methods and data to incorporate into our learning process.

Significant learning in companies and organizations

Any type of institution requires its members to acquire new knowledge. There are completely mechanical jobs. Others imply a flexible way of thinking that adapts to continuous changes. However, in all jobs, you need to learn.

Recently it is difficult to keep up since it develops so fast. The future is uncertain and changing. This context does not imply that our future is negative, but that we must work hard to be efficient and adapt.

Companies and organizations should promote significant learning for their employees. This will encourage the involvement of workers and increase their productivity. Also, if we know what we are learning for and link it with our previous knowledge, we will be more motivated.

Significant learning in everyday life

We continue to learn throughout the life cycle. David Ausubel’s theory can be extrapolated to countless situations. For example, since childhood, we have some knowledge about cooking. We see people preparing food and exchanging recipes. In addition, we know a large number of dishes and know what we like and what we don’t like.

One day we may become independent and have to put everything we know about cooking into practice. We can ask our father to teach us his best tricks. He will see what our level is and act accordingly. In this way, knowledge will be mixed with those we have been learning all our lives.

In everyday life, we have to learn to live harmoniously with our flatmates, to drive in different cities or to behave in a party. The new situations will provide us with new knowledge that will interact with what we already knew about how to act in those circumstances.

Significant learning: Benefits

Ausubel’s significant learning is a simple theory that guides us to improve both education and interpersonal relationships.

  • Improved student-teacher relationship: If the teacher is concerned about knowing and adapting to the student’s knowledge, the student will adopt a more proactive attitude, be more motivated and study better. This may also apply to other contexts, such as family or peer groups. We may all need to teach something to our acquaintances at a certain point in time.
  • Ease the acquisition of new knowledge: It consists of “learning to learn”. It improves our learning habits and our understanding of the world.
  • The information is stored in long-term memory: The connections we create are thus firmly anchored in our cognitive structure. This way we can easily recover them in the future.
  • It’s personal: Each person has gone through previous experiences that affect their way of perceiving reality. This makes it easier for us to be able to form our own associations in an active and meaningful way. However, it requires a more personalized education that requires more time and dedication from educators.

Significant learning vs. rote learning

We all know people who are able to memorize immense lists very quickly without making practically the slightest effort (rote-learning). You may even be one of them. Or maybe you’d love to have that ability. On the other hand, there are people who, after reading a text, know how to summarize it and explain it perfectly, even if they don’t say it with the same words (significant learning). Which is better?

Each type of learning is more appropriate for a particular situation. It depends on the context, each person’s abilities, and motivation. In addition, everyone has had different experiences that have encouraged them to try to retain information in one way or another.

If we want to pass a subject and forget about it forever, we will probably try to memorize its contents as quickly as possible in order to pass the test. Next, we’ll forget about it when we’re done. On the other hand, if we are particularly interested in an issue, we will do our best to deepen it and internalize everything we learn.

These two types of learning are not opposites. They can perfectly complement each other. In fact, in tasks such as learning a country’s history, there are parts that we learn significantly and others that we memorize (such as dates). In most cases, however, it is preferable to learn significantly in order to make further progress.

Significant Learning Tips

1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle

This advice is valid for all areas of our life. Healthy habits are fundamental to our mental and physical health. Doing sports, eating well, keeping a regular schedule and getting enough rest will help us learn better. Likewise, contact with nature will help us to disconnect and de-stress from everyday life.

2. Be curious

Amazement is the key to wanting to inquire into why things are happening. If we ask questions and look for answers, we will be able to build new and lasting partnerships in our memory. Reflecting encourages us to learn more and better.

3. Don’t lose motivation

We are not always motivated to learn. Many times we are lazy to learn or read something new that might not contribute to what we need in the moment. However, we never know when the knowledge we get in certain moments might be needed.  we acquired years ago will be phenomenal. Taking a flexible attitude and accepting all tasks as challenges will bring us countless benefits in the long term.

4. Acquire good study habits

If we organize ourselves and have well-established habits, it will less difficult to study or carry out any similar task.

5. Prevents information overload

We have to face a lot of challenges at once every day. Sometimes we sacrifice doing things right for more activities. However, multitasking worsens our performance. It is preferable for us to know what our priorities are, how much time we have to carry them out and act accordingly. If we focus on a single issue and are clear about what we have to do, we will improve our performance.

6. Create your own summaries and outlines

If you are preparing for an exam, significant learning is the key to success. You can underline the most relevant aspects of the text after reading it a couple of times. Afterwards, when you are clear about what is most important, try to make your own notes with the essentials.

Think about what you know about the topic and connect it with the new information. New associations will emerge to help you master the content. You can use color psychology to make your summaries more memorable. In this way, you will be able to link the contents to emotions, keep attention and highlight the essential.

7. Make Examples

If every time you try to learn something you relate it to previous experiences or knowledge, you will make memorable connections. This way you can go from memorizing a concept to visualizing it and knowing how to explain it. Understanding an issue is the basis for meaningful learning.

Look for examples that excite you. You will create associations that go straight to your amygdala, which is a survival-associated part of the brain and is closely related to learning.

8. Take your time

Sometimes, fatigue or lack of time leads us to take the fastest path and avoid focusing on significant learning. With the rush we probably won’t retain the most important things.

If we are really interested in learning something, it is best to look at a time when we are not overwhelmed and to focus all our attention on this issue. We do not always have this option. But if we make an effort, our concentration will increase and we will appreciate it after seeing the results.

9. Rely on technology

Information and communication technologies allow us to improve our attention and keep us motivated to continue learning. New resources are continually being developed that simplify our daily activities and improve our quality of life. More and more means are being used to enable people to interact with them as they develop new skills.

10. Benefit from brain-based learning

CogniFit is the leading cognitive assessment and stimulation tool. Through an entertaining online brain-based platform, it enables both the specialized and general public to learn more about the brain and train cognitive skills such as memory, attention, perception, and reasoning.

If you have any questions or wish to deepen this topic, do not hesitate to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.

 
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
 

Color Psychology: How Colors Affect Us and What Each One Means

What is color psychology? How do colors influence emotions? What do the colors mean? What do the colors convey in different cultures? The meaning of colors resonates much more than we believe in our daily actions. We tend to associate each tone with certain feelings and various concepts. In this article, we will explain the fundamentals of color psychology, its practical applications and give you useful tips to use it.

Color psychology

Psychology of color: What it is and why is it useful

Color psychology is in charge of investigating how the colors affect us. Colors can change our perception, alter our senses, make us emotional, etc. Colors have the power to improve our memory and attention, and even the power to convince us to make a certain decision. Knowing the meaning of colors is key to a better understanding of our behavior.

General Cognitive Assessment Battery from CogniFit: Study brain function and complete a comprehensive online screening. Precisely evaluate a wide range of abilities and detect cognitive well-being (high-moderate-low). Identify strengths and weaknesses in the areas of memory, concentration/attention, executive functions, planning, and coordination.

The influence of colors can completely change the idea we have of a certain space or element. Imagine for a moment a toy for toddlers. It is very likely that you have thought of a bright colored object with strong contrasts that reflect energy and vitality. If we think now of the same toy, but we paint it black with silver details, what emotion does it give us? Does it seem childlike?

Maybe yes. There is no mandatory color code for each range of elements. However, throughout our life, we are making associations. We rely on what we see every day and we don’t usually stop to think about it. But if we see by chance a blue banana, orange lenses or a fluorescent yellow tree, we can’t help but be surprised.

Color psychology is a field of study in continuous development. This field is essential for professionals such as creative departments, ad agencies, and marketing.  However, discovering the meaning of colors can help us choose the right outfit for a special occasion, choose the ideal gift for a friend according to his personality or just feel at home in our own home.

Color Psychology: brain and emotions

Colors influence your emotions and mental health. We are subjected to an immense amount of stimuli and we carry out an infinity of different tasks. Our brain faces many challenges simultaneously. It does not give us time to process everything we grasp through our senses.

Therefore, the associations that we develop on aspects such as colors or shapes save us a great amount of time, since they are processed automatically.

In addition, we are deeply emotional. Colors interact with our memory, awaken feelings and guide reason. They remind us of nice things like those yellow and orange rain boots we had as kids or colors might irritate us for example when we see a blue sweater that was our ex-boyfriend favorite color. 

For example, there is no need to know in depth theories about color psychology to be aware that colors such as pink and red are associated with love or romanticism (ergo Valentine’s day). If we enter a store that has this color combinations (inadequate proportions), we are likely to suddenly remember how much in love we are, and maybe even buy something for our significant other. 

The following video explains a little about how colors can affect your mood.

What does each color in psychology mean?

This topic has sparked passionate debate. Professionals such as psychologists, sociologists, linguists or market researchers interpret the meaning of colors. They analyze phrases such as “being green with envy” or “feeling blue” examining the most frequent colors according to the different categories of products or doing extensive studies to different populations.

Color Psychology: Meaning of White

It is the color of snow, milk, cotton or wedding dresses. White represents a new beginning, lightness, perfection, purity, peace, innocence, etc. In hospitals, white is one of the predominant colors, it is aseptic and conveys calm.

White shirts are used to create a good impression. It is an immaculate and impartial color. White is neutral and clean. A blank sheet of paper opens you a world full of creative possibilities, but it can also give us some sense of anguish if we don’t know how to use it.

Color psychology: Meaning of White

Color Psychology: Meaning of Yellow

The color yellow is linked to positive concepts like optimism, youth, confidence, and creativity. We always paint smiley little faces in yellow and rarely dress in yellow clothes on a sad day. It is the color of the sun, gold or animals as nice as giraffes.

However, yellow is a contradictory color. It is related to betrayal, greed, lies, insanity or warnings. Yellow has also been linked to groups that have been excluded such as Jews, prostitutes or single mothers. It should be noted that in China it is the most valued color and lacks any negative connotations.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Orange

The orange color immediately captures the attention of the person staring. This color is found in several fruits and vegetables, the sunset and redheads. Many of the things we describe as “red” are actually orange, like fire or roof tiles. According to color psychology, orange represents extravagance, energy, transformation, and uniqueness.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Red

Red is the most passionate color, it causes alarms and catches our attention immediately. According to color psychology, red is linked to love, blood, joy, suspense, closeness, war or forbidden. It is shown on the road signs and sale prices. It is the color of urgency.

It is impossible to go unnoticed that is why corrections on any task are made in this color. By the way, wearing this color has effects on sexual attraction, both in people and animals.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Pink

According to color psychology, pink represents sweetness, femininity, delicacy, charm, sensitivity, courtesy, illusion, eroticism, etc. It can be childlike because of its connection with childhood and innocence.

Pink is one of the most popular colors in our culture, some love it and buy everything in this color and others find it irritating, sexist or cheesy. Fuchsia is usually associated with cheap and tacky products.

Color psychology: Meaning of Pink

Color Psychology: Meaning of Purple

Purple is an unusual and enigmatic color. According to color psychology, purple is linked to luxury, religion, and sexuality. It is not frequent in nature and stands out over the rest if used correctly.

It has been related to homosexuality and adopted by feminism. It reflects nostalgia, fantasy, banality, ambition, vanity, etc. It is very ambiguous and has the potentials to be used any way creatively.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Blue

Blue is a favorite among many. According to color psychology, blue symbolizes harmony, fidelity, sympathy, peace, serenity, trust, honesty, communication, etc. It should not surprise us that several social networks (and all types of corporations) use it in their logos.

However, blue can also be cold and distant. It shouldn’t be associated with food since this color makes us suspect the food has expired. It is suitable for homes and rooms that need a relaxing tone. 

Color psychology: Meaning of Blue

Color Psychology: Meaning of Green

Green is related to nature, it reminds us of grass, youth, hope, health, fertility, money, etc. According to color psychology, green is fresh and harmonious, peacefulness, youth, and tranquility. People with environmental awareness are called “green”.

However, it is not always linked so positively. It is associated with poison (shown in many Disney movies).

Color Psychology: Meaning of Brown

Brown represents laziness, vagrancy, filth, vulgarity or ugliness. It may seem bland and outdated. Brown is one of the least appreciated colors.

However, it is also the color of wood and autumn, it reminds us of sturdy, warm and pleasant homes. It is also found in foods like chocolate and having a tan tone is highly valued these days. Brown is a color that has a large presence around us and arouses multiple associations.

Color psychology: Meaning of Brown

Color Psychology: Meaning of Gray

According to color psychology, gray mainly symbolizes old age and sobriety. It can be dark, mediocre and bland or related to cover ups such as “gray literature” or “gray areas”.

On the other hand, gray also reminds us of “gray matter” or elegance in fashion.

Color Psychology: Meaning of Black

Like for the color white, there is an open debate about whether black really is a color. According to color psychology, black is closely related to the world of night, power and death. It represents denial, mystery, mourning, hatred, cruelty, etc. People associate black cats with bad luck and nobody wants to have a black day.

However, black is an elemental color in any closet, every girl must have a little black dress. It is functional and very useful for going to an evening party or looking more elegant on an occasion that requires solemness.

In Eva Heller’s book about color psychology, the meaning of these colors is deepened. It has been one of the main sources of this article.

Color psychology: Meaning of Black

Color psychology: The meaning of colors in different cultures

It has been investigated whether the color classification is a natural process or defined by society. Berlin and Kay, after an analysis carried out in different cultures, affirmed that there were common tendencies in all of them when categorizing the colors. It is believed that there are six main colors around which the rest are grouped. There are several consensuses but still, there are variations when ordering them.

As for the meanings, in our society it is not polite to show dressed in bright colors to a funeral, we prefer dark colors. In Asia, however, mourning is linked to white. This color is better suited to their culture and their idea of reincarnation. However, many years ago in Europe, this color was used by women, who were covered with huge white cloths.

In fact, within our own culture, the meanings of colors can change.

It wasn’t until the 1920s that girls started dressing in pink and boys in blue.

In recent years this custom has been widely criticized. Over time, we are redefining the meaning of colors and creating new conventions that may one day be forgotten or vary according to fashions.

Color meaning can change from one person to another. We can perceive them in a certain way or another depending on our sense of fashion, our emotional state or moment that we are going through.

We don’t all see the same colors, some people might be color blind or the opposite they are able to discriminate even the slightest variation between two colors that are practically the same. People with synesthesia, who are able to hear colors.  

However, this does not imply that color psychology is tremendously subjective and changing. If we analyze the context correctly, it can be very useful.

Color Psychology: Applications

Colors have been used to try to cure diseases, they are in every description we make and much has been speculated about the relationship of colors and personality. In fact, we tend to choose colors that fit our mood and that we believe represent us. Here we will tell you the main professional and daily applications:

Color Psychology for Creative People

Perhaps the first professions that come to mind when talking about colors and color psychology are professions related to creativity. Designers (graphic, fashion, interior, etc.), artists, advertising agents, and marketing need to know how to get other people’s attention and communicate with them.

Take for example Tv shows, the color palette of a children’s program differs greatly from an adult one. Making your brand pop in a society that is overwhelmed with images is a complicated mission, but thanks to color psychology it is possible to connect with your target audience and create an emotional impact. Predicting how the audience will react to your message is essential when trying to convey a message correctly.

Color Psychology in Companies

The corporate image of companies is fundamental to their success. If we were to name the colors of a brand and say the category they fall on you would probably guess right if their color psychology was selected correctly. For example, a red can with soda (you probably already know what I’m talking about).

To give us a sense of coherence and impact in our memory, brands condense in their logo their marketing personality through the colors. They are essential marketing strategies. If a food franchise would use different logos each time, we wouldn’t associate them together, and our memory would be disorganized. This in turn, for the company, could be detrimental, since there is no familiarity with their product and they would lose customers.

However, an image is not everything, but it helps in these cases and even more so with the competitive and changing markets today. In fact, we can see color changes in logos depending on the characteristics of their audience and social trends. It is no coincidence that some brands go from their usual colors to green, which as we’ve established is eco-friendly.

Colors are not only important to the public. Employees can increase their well-being and increase productivity if they work in a place where they feel comfortable.  A dark work environment with dim lights can cause your employees to be overwhelmed and even generate job stress.  Instead, if we paint walls white and put some touches of green and blue and other warm colors, it will become a more welcoming and productive place of work.

Color Psychology in daily life

Colors also affect us when making the most common decisions. Since children, we are asked what our favorite color is and everyone has their personal preferences. Almost everything available is made in several colors to suit everyone’s taste. 

When choosing something silly colors don’t really matter, however, there are situations in which we have to contemplate more variables. If we are going to buy a car we have to be sure not to make a mistake. We will spend a lot of time in it, we may fancy something daring like orange, but it is possible that we end up getting tired of it. On the other hand, a car of a more discreet color such as black or navy blue may be barely visible at night. This dilemma is solved after many headaches and hearing lots of opinions. 

The color of our clothing says a lot about us, and there are different situations where using a type of color might be more appropriate. Positive Branding managed to put together a great infographic to make sure you are sending the right message with your color clothing and the occasion. Check it out below.

Postive Branding: The Psychology of colors.

Useful Tips for Using Color Psychology

1- Not always our favorite color is the most suitable for everything

We are likely to be passionate about purple, but perhaps if we have overused it in our bedroom we might start feeling anxious. Before choosing a color always think previously about the function you want it to have and choose accordingly.

2-The context is fundamental to interpret and choose colors

We know the importance of cultural variables and the circumstances of each situation when choosing a color. It’s important to take these things into account when choosing a color. For example, an attorney going for an interview in a bright red suit is highly likely he will not succeed. However, this doesn’t now mean that you shouldn’t try new things or innovate, but try to choose according to the cultural variables and situations.

3- The key is knowing how to combine the colors well

We may have to send a letter or design a poster and have taken into account all the elements of color psychology. Nonetheless, there are more aspects to consider, such as the effect that two colors can have together. For example, yellow and orange represent autumn but if you combine brown, gray and black it may come off as conservative and expressionless.

4- Colors also have to be functional

Many football teams have probably thought about dressing their players in white jerseys, however cleaning it would be a big issue. There are colors more resistant to dirt, others more suitable for heat, some are perfect if we want to go unnoticed, etc. Take into account the function the color is going to have and choose accordingly.

5- Use colors to enhance your memory

If you want to prepare for a test and do not know how to remember all the steps of a certain list, write each point in a different color. Mnemonic rules encourage our learning. In addition, if you have to make a presentation, you can also improve the memory of your audience in this way. Use color psychology to highlight the most important thing you have to say and associate each color with its meaning.

6- Be consistent

If you have a business think carefully about what you want to convey. When you have finished this analysis, evaluate what your brand has to do to achieve it. It is essential that all elements of your company are congruent between them. The help of a professional designer who takes these aspects into account may be essential for rescuing a business or launching it successfully.

Thank you very much for reading this article. And now, will you analyze the meaning of the colors that surround you? Will you put these tips into practice? If you want to know more about color psychology or want to contribute something, please comment below.