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From a class discussion on the psychology of problem solving:

"Well, yes, the parameters of the problem do change if you replace the monk with a Time Lord."

Bonus points to anyone who can tell me the example problem we were discussing.
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Discussing the Little Albert experiment.

"The rat initially was a neutral stimulus, but eventually became a response to the fear..."

Every time a baby feels afraid, small rodents are spontaneously generated?
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"Nero-psychology." Non satis spellcheck, everyone.

Also, why I like working at a geek school. On Monday I was talking my Cognitive Processes class through a discussion of mental imagery. Some researchers (the analog theorists) think that we actually have mental images that are more or less like seeing. Some researchers (the propositional theorists) think that what we experience as mental images are actually coded linguistically. This sounds dumb, but there's actually some evidence supporting it. Nevertheless, my students were understandably having some trouble grokking it.

One of them (the same guy who produced the typo, in fact) is trying to explain that he doesn't think the evidence actually differentiates the two theories as well as researchers think.

Nero: It's like the magic/technology thing... If your linguistic representation is detailed enough, you should be able to get these results.

Me: So you're saying that any sufficiently advanced propositional code is indistinguishable from analog code?

Nero: Yes.

I love this class, incidentally. I've been teaching it Hampshire style--no tests, no lecture, but lots of projects and discussion. This is a new format for me as a teacher, and I was a little freaked out at first. Yes, I'm a Hampshire student to the core, but my actual training was all giving interactive lectures. Would everyone just shut up and stare at me? But the students are willing and able to toss this stuff around for 2 and a half hours. And they're creating hypotheses, and drawing connections with their own areas, and they're excited.
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Walking to the library on arrival day, and watching the new students go through orientation. I had to stop and ask, "What's up with all the trebuchets?" There's nothing that warms the heart of an ivory tower academic like seeing 100 18-year-olds hard at work building miniature catapults.
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First, one of my undergrads inserted a semi-relevant baby panda into a presentation. I made the mistake of squeeing and admitting that this made unbiased grading difficult. So the next presenter put an entirely random baby koala on her last slide... Today I think it was a possum. And this one officially described it as a tradition, so I'm going to be seeing scavs off of Cute Overload for the rest of the semester. Fortunately, this has the desirable effect of getting the presentation tone out of the boring-rehash-of-the-lecture gutter that it was in for the first couple weeks.

One of my grad students brought in a picture of her baby chihuahua, but it was actually entirely relevant to the discussion and I don't think any of my undergrads had tipped her off. I wish my grad students would get a little more creative, actually. This semester, the undergrad discussions are going off on wild philosophical tangents and interesting theoretical inferences, while the grads are doing, at best, basic applications of theory. The undergrads keep going overtime, while the grads have managed to keep a discussion running till the end of class maybe twice.
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I am teaching Learning Theory over the summer. I was explaining to my students that we learn to recognize patterns in the world by seeing lots of examples of them. Eventually, we create sort of an average representation, and we recognize things that are close to that prototype as being new instances of the pattern. If we actually see that prototype for the first time (which usually only happens in a lab situation, where the pattern has been deliberately created and the prototype actually exists), we recognize it more quickly and easily than less typical instances that we've seen before. The real-world example that I gave was that I've been a fantasy/sf fan for years. When I finally read Lord of the Rings before the movies came out, everything seemed incredibly friendly and familiar--because it was the central, prototypical example of all the other stuff I'd read.

Then we spent a fair portion of the discussion session talking about the eyewitness testimony work and comparing it to the experience of reading a book and then seeing the movie, and creating a representation of the story that has elements of both. We were using examples from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter and the upcoming Narnia movies.

I can talk about these things with my students, and they've seen them all and get the references. I spent half an hour after class today showing one of my students the new Mirrormask trailer and convincing her to read Neil Gaiman because she happened to be wearing a Labyrinth shirt. And then I spent another half hour geeking with my suitemate about all the sf and fantasy movies that are coming out this year.

And we all know where we are going to be on Friday night, too. I like working at a geek school.


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January 2019

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