Neuromyths

pea brain“The idea that we use only ten percent of our brain is patently false,” report Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons in The Wall Street Journal (11/17/12). If you thought it was true, don’t feel bad, because so do about two-thirds of the American public. Apparently the myth is perpetuated by neuroimaging research “showing only a small number of areas ‘lighting up’ in a brain scan, but those are just areas that have more than a base line level of activity; the dark regions aren’t dormant or unused.”

Another popular neuromyth is that “enriching children’s environments will strengthen their brains.” This myth “may have emerged from evidence that rats raised in cages with amenities like exercise wheels, tunnels and other rats showed better cognitive abilities and improvements in brain structure compared with rats that grew up isolated in bare cages.” All that means is that a “truly impoverished and unnatural environment leads to poorer development.” It doesn’t mean that “constant exposure to ‘Baby Einstein’-type videos … will boost cognitive development.”

A third neuromyth is that “students perform better when lessons are delivered in their preferred learning style.” One study found that 94 percent of teachers believe this to be true, but according to a study by cognitive psychologist Daniel Willingham, it is false. He’s done studies that show that visual presentation leads to better memory than does verbal, but there is “no relationship between a learner’s preferences and the instruction style.” Another study found that many people “believe that memory works like a video recording or

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