Psychology

Students’ mistaken beliefs about how much their peers typically study could be harming their exam performance in some surprising ways

GettyImages-882969886.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

A lot of us use what we consider normal behaviour – based on how we think most other people like us behave – to guide our own judgments and decisions. When these perceptions are wide of the mark (known as “pluralistic ignorance”), this can affect our behaviour in detrimental ways. The most famous example concerns students’ widespread overestimation of how much their peers drink alcohol, which influences them to drink more themselves.

Now a team led by Steven Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has investigated whether students’ pluralistic ignorance about how much time their peers spend studying for exams could be having a harmful influence on how much time they devote to study themselves. Reporting their findings in Teaching in Psychology, the team did indeed find evidence of pluralistic ignorance about study behaviour, but it seemed to have some effects directly opposite to what they expected.

Across four studies with hundreds of social psych undergrads, the researchers found that, overall, students tended to underestimate how much time their peers spent studying for an upcoming exam (but there was a spread of perceptions, with some students overestimating the average). Moreover, students’ perceptions of the social norm for studying were correlated with their own study time, suggesting – though not proving – that their decisions about how much to study were influenced by what they felt was normal.

However, when Buzinksi and his colleagues looked to see whether the students’ misconceptions about their peers’ study time were associated with their subsequent exam performance, they found the opposite pattern to what they expected.

The researchers had thought that underestimating typical study time would be associated with choosing to study less, and in turn that this would be associated with poorer exam performance. Instead, they found that it was those students who overestimated their peers’ study time who performed worse in the subsequent exam, and this seemed to be fully explained by their feeling unprepared for the exam (the researchers speculated that such feelings could increase anxiety and self-doubt, thus harming exam performance).

In a final study, one week before an exam, the researchers corrected students’ misconceptions about the average exam study time and this had the hoped-for effect of correcting pluralistic ignorance about normal study behaviour; it also removed any links between beliefs about typical study time and feelings of unpreparedness.

Most promisingly, average exam performance was superior after this intervention, as compared with performance in a similar exam earlier in the semester, suggesting that correcting misconceptions about others’ study behaviour is beneficial (perhaps learning the truth about how much their peers studied gave the students a chance to adjust their own study behaviour, and this may have boosted the confidence of those who would otherwise have overestimated average study time. However this wasn’t tested in the study so remains speculative).

Of course another explanation for the improved performance could just have been due to practice effects through the semester, but it’s notable that such an improvement in the late-semester exam was not observed in earlier years when the study-time-beliefs intervention was not applied.

Future research will be needed to confirm the robustness of these findings, including in more diverse student groups, and to test the casual role of beliefs about study time and feelings of preparedness, for example by directly observing how correcting misconceptions affects students’ study behaviour and their confidence.

For now, Buzinksi and his colleagues recommend it could be beneficial to use class discussions “…to correct potentially detrimental misperceptions”. They added: “Unless we as educators actively intervene, our students will approach their coursework from an understanding based upon flawed perceptions of the classroom norm, and those most at risk may suffer the most from their shared ignorance.”

Insidious Assumptions
How Pluralistic Ignorance of Studying Behavior Relates to Exam Performance

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/BpsResearchDigest/~3/434H6Zg3yp8/

Students’ mistaken beliefs about how much their peers study could be harming their exam performance

GettyImages-882969886.jpgBy Christian Jarrett

A lot of us use what we consider normal behaviour – based on how we think most other people like us behave – to guide our own judgments and decisions. When these perceptions are wide of the mark (known as “pluralistic ignorance”), this can affect our behaviour in detrimental ways. The most famous example concerns students’ widespread overestimation of how much their peers drink alcohol, which influences them to drink more themselves.

Now a team led by Steven Buzinksi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has investigated whether students’ pluralistic ignorance about how much time their peers spend studying for exams could be having a harmful influence on how much time they devote to study themselves. Reporting their findings in Teaching in Psychology, the team did indeed find evidence of pluralistic ignorance about study behaviour, but it seemed to have some effects directly opposite to what they expected.

Across four studies with hundreds of social psych undergrads, the researchers found that, overall, students tended to underestimate how much time their peers spent studying for an upcoming exam (but there was a spread of perceptions, with some students overestimating the average). Moreover, students’ perceptions of the social norm for studying were correlated with their own study time, suggesting – though not proving – that their decisions about how much to study were influenced by what they felt was normal.

However, when Buzinksi and his colleagues looked to see whether the students’ misconceptions about their peers’ study time were associated with their subsequent exam performance, they found the opposite pattern to what they expected.

The researchers had thought that underestimating typical study time would be associated with choosing to study less, and in turn that this would be associated with poorer exam performance. Instead, they found that it was those students who overestimated their peers’ study time who performed worse in the subsequent exam, and this seemed to be fully explained by their feeling unprepared for the exam (the researchers speculated that such feelings could increase anxiety and self-doubt, thus harming exam performance).

In a final study, one week before an exam, the researchers corrected students’ misconceptions about the average exam study time and this had the hoped-for effect of correcting pluralistic ignorance about normal study behaviour; it also removed any links between beliefs about typical study time and feelings of unpreparedness.

Most promisingly, average exam performance was superior after this intervention, as compared with performance in a similar exam earlier in the semester, suggesting that correcting misconceptions about others’ study behaviour is beneficial (perhaps learning the truth about how much their peers studied gave the students a chance to adjust their own study behaviour, and this may have boosted the confidence of those who would otherwise have overestimated average study time. However this wasn’t tested in the study so remains speculative).

Of course another explanation for the improved performance could just have been due to practice effects through the semester, but it’s notable that such an improvement in the late-semester exam was not observed in earlier years when the study-time-beliefs intervention was not applied.

Future research will be needed to confirm the robustness of these findings, including in more diverse student groups, and to test the casual role of beliefs about study time and feelings of preparedness, for example by directly observing how correcting misconceptions affects students’ study behaviour and their confidence.

For now, Buzinksi and his colleagues recommend it could be beneficial to use class discussions “…to correct potentially detrimental misperceptions”. They added: “Unless we as educators actively intervene, our students will approach their coursework from an understanding based upon flawed perceptions of the classroom norm, and those most at risk may suffer the most from their shared ignorance.”

Insidious Assumptions
How Pluralistic Ignorance of Studying Behavior Relates to Exam Performance

Christian Jarrett (@Psych_Writer) is Editor of BPS Research Digest

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/BpsResearchDigest/~3/434H6Zg3yp8/

A cartography of consciousness – researchers map where subjective feelings are located in the body

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Bodily feeling maps, from Nummenmaa et al, 2018

By guest blogger Mo Costandi

“How do you feel?” is a simple and commonly asked question that belies the complex nature of our conscious experiences. The feelings and emotions we experience daily consist of bodily sensations, often accompanied by some kind of thought process, yet we still know very little about exactly how these different aspects relate to one another, or about how such experiences are organised in the brain.  

Now, reporting their results in PNAS, a team of researchers in Finland, led by neuroscientist Lauri Nummenmaa of the University of Turku, has produced detailed maps of what they call the “human feeling space”, showing how each of dozens of these subjective feelings is associated with a unique set of bodily sensations.

In 2014, Nummenmaa and his colleagues published bodily maps of emotions showing the distinct bodily sensations associated with six basic emotions, such as anger, fear, happiness and sadness, and seven complex emotional states, such as anxiety, love, pride, and shame. 

Building on this earlier work, for their new research they recruited 1,026 participants and asked them to complete an online survey designed to assess how they perceive 100 “core” subjective feelings, compiled from the American Psychological Association’s Dictionary of Psychology, ranging from homeostatic states such as hunger and thirst, to emotional states such as anger and pleasure, and cognitive functions such as imagining and remembering. 

The participants were shown a list of the 100 core feelings on the computer screen, and asked to drag and drop each one into a box, placing similar feelings close to each other (try it for yourself). They also had to rate each feeling according to how much it is experienced in the body, how much of it is psychological, how pleasant it feels, and how much control they think they have over it. 

Their descriptions of the core feelings clustered into five distinct groups, based on similarity: Positive emotions, such as happiness and togetherness; negative emotions, such as fear and shame; thought processes, such as hearing and memorising; homeostatic sensations, such as hunger and thirst; and sensations associated with illness, such as coughing and sneezing. 

In another online experiment, Nummenmaa and his colleagues asked the participants to indicate exactly where in the body they felt each state, by colouring in a blank body shape, allowing them to map the bodily sensations associated with the each of the 100 core feelings.

The researchers then pooled these data to create “bodily sensation maps” for each of the core feelings (see image, above). For example, the participants localised the feeling of anger to the head, chest, and hands; feelings of hunger and thirst to the stomach and throat, respectively; and the feelings of ‘being conscious’, imagining, and remembering entirely to the head.

The maps showed that, despite the similarities, each core feeling was associated with a unique set of bodily sensations. For example, participants reported perceiving anger mostly in the head and hands, anxiety mostly in the chest; and sadness in the chest and head. Although similar feelings produced similar body maps, the intensity and precise distribution of bodily sensations associated with each was unique.

That both anger and fear were associated with intense bodily sensations in the head and chest adds to past work showing that both these emotions involve remarkably similar physiological changes to the body, and further explains why we usually have to depend on context to help us interpret the emotional meaning of our sensations.

The new results provide yet more evidence for the emerging idea that the body plays a crucial role in cognitive and emotional processes – something which has, until very recently, been overlooked. “In other words,” says study co-author Riita Hari, “the human mind is strongly embodied.” 

Maps of subjective feelings

Post written by Mo Costandi (@Mocost) for the BPS Research Digest. Mo trained as a developmental neurobiologist and now works as a freelance writer specialising in neuroscience. He wrote the Neurophilosophy blog, hosted by The Guardian, and is the author of 50 Human Brain Ideas You Really Need to Know, and Neuroplasticity.

Article source: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/BpsResearchDigest/~3/pwtsjdbi7mE/