Avoiding Overconfidence: Studies Mentioned In This Week’s Brilliant Blog

The featured article in this week’s issue of The Brilliant Report is about how to avoid overconfidence when you’re learning. Here, abstracts of the four journal articles mentioned in the study. (If you’d like to receive The Brilliant Report each week by email, please sign up in the box to the left.)

“Why People Fail to Recognize Their Own Incompetence”
David Dunning, Kerri Johnson, Joyce Ehrlinger and Justin Kruger
Current Directions in Psychological Science, June 2003, vol. 12 no. 3, pp. 83-87
Successful negotiation of everyday life would seem to require people to possess insight about deficiencies in their intellectual and social skills. However, people tend to be blissfully unaware of their incompetence. This lack of awareness arises because poor performers are doubly cursed: Their lack of skill deprives them not only of the ability to produce correct responses, but also of the expertise necessary to surmise that they are not producing them. People base their perceptions of performance, in part, on their preconceived notions about their skills. Because these notions often do not correlate with objective performance, they can lead people to make judgments about their performance that have little to do with actual accomplishment.

“Four Principles of Memory Improvement: A Guide to Improving Learning Efficiency”
Bennett L. Schwartz, Lisa K. Son, Nate Kornell, and Bridgid Finn
The International Journal of Creativity and Problem Solving, 2011, vol. 21, no. 1, pp. 7-15
Recent advances in memory research suggest methods that can be applied to
enhance educational practices. We outline four principles of memory improvement that have emerged from research: 1) process material actively, 2) practice retrieval, 3) use distributed practice, and 4) use metamemory. Our discussion of each principle describes current experimental research underlying the principle and explains how people can take advantage of the principle to improve their learning. The techniques that we suggest are designed to increase efficiency—that is, to allow a person to learn more, in the same unit of study time, than someone using less efficient memory strategies. A common thread uniting all four principles is that people learn best when they are active participants in their own learning.

“Retrieval-Based Learning: A Perspective for Enhancing Meaningful Learning”
Jeffrey D. Karpicke and Phillip J. Grimaldi
Educational Psychology Review, September 2012, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 401-418
Learning is often identified with the acquisition, encoding, or construction of new knowledge, while retrieval is often considered only a means of assessing knowledge, not a process that contributes to learning. Here, we make the case that retrieval is the key process for understanding and for promoting learning. We provide an overview of recent research showing that active retrieval enhances learning, and we highlight ways researchers have sought to extend research on active retrieval to meaningful learning—the learning of complex educational materials as assessed on measures of inference making and knowledge application. However, many students lack metacognitive awareness of the benefits of practicing active retrieval. We describe two approaches to addressing this problem: classroom quizzing and a computer-based learning program that guides students to practice retrieval. Retrieval processes must be considered in any analysis of learning, and incorporating retrieval into educational activities represents a powerful way to enhance learning.

“Metacognition in Motor Learning”
Dominic A. Simon and Robert A. Bjork
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition, vol. 27, no. 4, pp. 907-12
Research on judgments of verbal learning has demonstrated that participants’ judgments are unreliable and often overconfident. The authors studied judgments of perceptual-motor learning. Participants learned 3 keystroke patterns on the number pad of a computer, each requiring that a different sequence of keys be struck in a different total movement time. Practice trials on each pattern were either blocked or randomly interleaved with trials on the other patterns, and each participant was asked, periodically, to predict his or her performance on a 24-hr test. Consistent with earlier findings, blocked practice enhanced acquisition but harmed retention. Participants, though, predicted better performance given blocked practice. These results augment research on judgments of verbal learning and suggest that humans, at their peril, interpret current ease of access to a perceptual-motor skill as a valid index of learning.



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