Brain as Prediction Machine

So I’m really interested right now in how the brain operates as a prediction machine. Basically, one of our core brain functions seems to be guessing what is going to happen next.

I think this has some really fascinating implications for behavior change.  Humans are (in many ways) bad at risk prediction.  More people seem to be afraid of flying than driving, despite data that shows the riskiest part of any flight is the drive to the airport. We are often more afraid of things that are scary than things that are likely — sedentary behavior is far more likely than bungee jumping to injure us, but we probably wouldn’t rate sitting on the couch as more risky than jumping off a bridge attaching to a giant rubber band.

Classic behaviors that are difficult to change include things like diet, exercise, smoking, texting while driving.  In workplace contexts, I might look at safety procedures or sanitary food handling.  All of these activities involve some assessment of the risk involved and some prediction of outcomes, either consciously or unconsciously.

Here are some interesting things I’ve been looking at regarding this:

How your brain hallucinates your conscious reality by Anil Seth:

How our brains use embodied simulation to construct meaning:

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2013/05/02/180036711/imagine-a-flying-pig-how-words-take-shape-in-the-brain (from Benjamin Bergen’s book Louder Than Words)

 

How even the structure of our vision is structured around predicting the immediate future from Mark Changizi:

This is another explanation of how vision is a constructed function (the rest of his talk covers similar ground to the Anil Seth talk):

Here’s a closer look at the image he is describing:

Here’s a good talk on Risk Literacy from Gerd Gigerenzer:

Emily Pronin et al found that people make different choices for their future selves, and that the decisions they make for their future selves are more like the decisions they might make for other people — we essentially have a “do as I say, not as I do” relationship with our future selves:

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167207310023

Similarly, seeing pictures of your aged self can impact your retirement planning:

http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/the-stranger-within-connecting-with-our-future-selves

Image of the scientist and his artificially aged self

While some of this is not immediately translatable into practical applications for learning and development, it does seem that construction of reality and future prediction is an important part of meaning-making and decision-making, which in turn impacts choices and behaviors.

 

An Elearning Design Reading List

books

Several things have led to me actually writing a blog post.  First, I’m home for two whole weeks straight (this alone is a small miracle).  I’m also relatively up to date with my inbox and to do list (much larger miracles). I’m also indulging in some productive procrastination (which is probably the real reason).

Anyway, I typically keep a list of resources when I teach the ATD (ASTD) Advanced Instructional Design for Elearning Certificate, and I keep thinking that I should put the list somewhere.  So here it is:

Blogs et al:

Presentations

Software Tools:

  • Branchtrack and Versal  – two interesting new elearning tools — can’t fully endorse them as they are still beta-ish, but interesting to look at.
  • Quandary Examples – a free (and unsupported) tool for making branched learning games.

Research-based Resources

Behavioral Economics

Books

Anything by Kathy Sierra

The “I can’t believe I forgot…” Add-ons

Updated — some new books that have come out since I originally wrote this post:

 

Webcast: Using the Psychology of Games for Learning

I should have posted this a few days ago, but I’m doing a webcast tomorrow (Wednesday May 15th, 1pm ET) for ASTD on using the psychology of game design for learning.  Talking about some familiar stuff (flow, hyperbolic discounting) and a few new things (visceral feedback).  Not sure if you need to be an ASTD member to attend, but I *think* you can just sign up:

http://webcasts.astd.org/webinar/731#.UZKUcU7gd84.twitter

 

A few things going on

So, I’ve had a crazy spring so far — between a brutal travel schedule and some unexpected health stuff (all resolved now), there’s barely been time to draw breath.

There have been lots of good things, including some interesting projects in the works.  A particular good thing recently was a really nice review of the book by Clive Shepherd:

There’s book a I’ve been meaning to write which I hoped would address the problem. I tentatively called it ‘What every L&D professional needs to know about learning’ (not so catchy I know). But I’ve been beaten to the gun by Julie Dirksen.” – Clive Shepherd

Still giddily fanning myself a bit over that…

For local folks (Minneapolis/St. Paul area), there are a few things going on also:

On Thursday (April 12th, 2012), I’m doing the Design for Behavior Change talk for the local UPA (Usability Professionals Association) chapter.  The event starts at 6:15 PM, and the talk starts at 6:45 PM.  You can get details here http://www.upamn.org/events?eventId=456463&EventViewMode=EventDetails

Also, the fantastic Connie Malamed (author of Visual Language for Designers and http://theelearningcoach.com/) is in town this week, so check out her talk on Friday:

Your Brain on Graphics: Research-Inspired Design, Friday April 13th

Information here: http://www.pactweb.org/ (you can also get details about her 1/2 day workshop at that link)

Program Details: Learning through visuals opens up new pathways in the brain. You can optimize opportunities for visual learning and provide better learning experiences when you understand how people perceive and process visual information. During this presentation, you will learn how graphics can leverage the strengths and compensate for the weaknesses of our cognitive architecture. You’ll learn how to make design decisions based on research. We’ll look at lots of examples in the process. Topics include: * How our brains are hardwired for graphics * How to speed up your visual message * How to make graphics cognitively efficient * How to speak to the emotions through visuals * How to visualize abstractions This presentation is for anyone who selects, conceives of, designs or creates visuals or anyone interested in visual communication.

Location: The Metropolitan, 5418 Wayzata Boulevard, Golden Valley, MN 55418 When: 8:30-11am

(She also wrote a very nice review of the book, btw)

Gameful Webinar – Recording

The recording of the webinar that I did for the Gameful folks has been posted – it’s available  here:

http://gameful.org/groups/gameful-webinar-series/forum/topic/gameful-webinar-%E2%80%93-sunday-february-12-2012/

We wound up with a troll in the room towards the end, who kept posting links to -erm- unsavory sites, so be careful about clicking links in the chat (The ones in the actual presentation slides are safe).  Made for a slightly odd experience.

Slides and links can be found here: http://usablelearning.com/about/presentations/leef/

Gameful Webinar

Hey — what are you doing on Sunday?  I’m doing this:

The concept of Flow has gotten a little overused in game design, but there are still useful insights and subtleties that can be applied to experience design.  And, it’s free! And we’ll look at a PET scan of your brain on Tetris! And, it’s free! And, we’ll play Plants vs Zombies! And, free!

More info here: http://gameful.org/groups/educational-games/forum/topic/gameful-webinar-%E2%80%93-sunday-february-12-2012-2013/

 

Want Attention? Talk to the Elephant.

Do you want to capture and maintain your learners’ attention?  You need to talk to the elephant.

The elephant metaphor is from Jonathan Haidt's book, The Happiness Hypothesis (http://www.happinesshypothesis.com/)

Peachpit (my publishers) just posted an article I wrote based on Chapter 5: Design for Attention. You can read the entire article here.

Love these: Mental Notes

So, still need a gift for the design geek on your holiday shopping list?*

I’ve mentioned Stephen Anderson before (I’m a big ol’ fan), but I particularly love his Mental Notes cards, which cover dozens of psychology principles that impact how we design. Need to jump start your design process?  Pull a few cards out the deck, and talk about how you can incorporate those ideas.

You can order them here: http://getmentalnotes.com/

I particularly mention it now because (aside from the fact that these are awesome) Stephen is donating half the proceeds right now.

* Yes, I know it’s a little late to order holiday presents (story of my life), but you can print some sample cards to use a placeholder gift until the real ones arrive.