Real learning in a virtual world How VR can improve learning and training outcomes


​How can corporate trainers prepare employees for dangerous or extraordinary workplace scenarios? VR technology offers immersive learning opportunities for an increasingly broad range of experiences.

Introduction: Total immersion

At THE oil refinery, emergency sirens begin to wail. A shift supervisor races to the scene of the emergency and sees smoke already billowing from the roof of a distillation unit. He needs to get the fire under control, but when he opens the door to the control room, a wall of flame greets him. The situation is worse than anything in his training manual. How can he locate the shut-off button when he can’t see through the flames? He hesitates—and in that moment, the pressure built up in the distillation tower releases in a massive explosion, ripping apart the building and scattering debris across the whole refinery.

 

A red message flashes before the supervisor’s eyes: Simulation failed. A voice comes over the intercom and says, “All right—let’s take two minutes, and then we’ll reset from the beginning.” He is covered in sweat as he takes off the headset. It had been a virtual reality (VR) simulation, but the stress was real; more importantly, the lessons on how to respond to a crisis had been real.

For decades, trainers have faced a difficult trade-off: How can you adequately prepare learners to make good decisions when facing dangerous or extraordinary situations? You can provide simple learning materials like books and classes, but these are likely inadequate preparation for stressful and highly complex situations. Or you can expose the learners to those situations in live training, but this can be extremely costly—not to mention hazardous. For many jobs and situations, training has long offered an unappealing choice between easy but ineffective, or effective but expensive and risky.

VR promises a third way: a method of training that can break this trade-off of learning and provide effective training in a safe, cost-effective environment.1 Certainly, the technology is not optimal for every learning activity. But VR has been shown to offer measurable improvement in a wide array of immersive learning outcomes, in tasks that range from flying advanced jets to making a chicken sandwich to handling dangerous chemicals.2

This article is intended to help trainers identify whether VR is right for their particular learning needs and chart a path toward successful adoption of the technology. Ultimately, learning-focused VR can turn novices into experts more swiftly, effectively, and smoothly than ever before.

It’s all about expertise

Success in business often rests on having the right expertise in the right places: having the IT expert on hand when the system goes down, or the best shift manager on duty when a huge order comes in. The more experts in an organization, the more likely an expert will be around when needed.

Of course, expertise can be purchased by hiring established experts. But their numbers are finite, and with needs constantly shifting, training often makes far more sense. Corporate learning, then, aims to create expertise as quickly and effectively as possible. We want people to learn better and more quickly. This begs a question: What exactly is expertise? Just what is it that we want people to be able to do after training?

Expertise is easiest to define in terms of what it is not. Expertise is not merely the number of years one has studied or how many academic degrees—or corporate training certificates—one has earned or even the results one has achieved. For example, simply tabulating wins and losses in tennis turns out to be a poor way of ranking the best players.3 And notwithstanding some popular theories, thousands of hours of practice don’t always generate expertise. For example, deliberate practice accounts for only 29.9 percent of the variance in expertise in music.4

Experts are not only better at executing particular tasks—they tend to think about things fundamentally differently than amateurs. In fact, they can execute better precisely because they think about things differently. Experts typically see more when looking at a situation than an amateur. Research comparing a world champion chess player with amateurs showed that the champion was better not only at playing chess but at knowing the game. The champion had a better understanding of a chessboard setup after viewing it for five seconds than a skilled amateur did after 15 minutes of studying the board.5

That result came about not because the chess champion was any smarter or had faster visual acuity than his amateur opponents—it was a product of expertise itself. Experts are able to recognize patterns behind the data we all see. Academic research has found a similar pattern-recognition story in nearly every industry from medicine to chess.6 Experts in diverse domains are better able to reorganize and make sense of scrambled information.7 Where knowledgeable amateurs rely on rules and guidelines to make decisions, experts are able to quickly read and react to situations by recognizing indicators that signal how a situation is behaving.8 A key to creating experts, it seems, is not the memorization of facts or knowledge but, rather, instilling flexible mental models that help explain why systems act the way they do.

How can we learn better?

In hindsight, trainers may have had it easy in offering certifications based on hours of study. Creating deeper expertise can be far more challenging. How can we train people to see deeper patterns in data? How do we know whether they are using flexible mental models?

For most people, experiences that expose trainees to tough or atypical cases force them to create more refined or specialized reasoning than that found in a book or procedure manual.9 The most effective learning may come from unexpected scenarios, a challenge to present in a book or classroom.10 But unpredictable, experience-based learning has obvious limitations: It is easy to learn from experience when failure simply means losing a chess match, but what about fighting a fire, unloading hazardous chemicals, or configuring a wind turbine—all tasks for which failure means huge costs or even death? The problem facing trainers is how to create the benefits of learning from experience without incurring the costs of facing rare or dangerous experiences. The answer is to re-create those experiences.

Take medical training, for example. A cardiologist may practice for years, continually training, before reaching the peak of her profession. One reason: Many of the most serious medical problems are extremely rare, meaning that a doctor must often work for years before encountering them and building expertise in how to recognize and treat them. With some procedures requiring doctors to practice on 100 patients before reaching a critical level of skill, this means that some doctors may retire before even having the opportunity to become an expert in treating certain rare conditions.11

VR training offers a shortcut. Given its ability to present immersive, realistic situations over and over again, the technology can give doctors the opportunity to potentially build expertise on conditions before they see them for the first time in real patients (see figure 1). VR can also offer the ability to learn in new ways—not only simulating what a doctor might see but presenting it in 3D or in more detail. For example, a cardiologist could see a heart defect, not just from symptoms or test results but as a 3D model, allowing her to peek inside the heart and understand the problem more deeply and how to treat it more accurately.12

Virtual reality: Better training faster, safer, and at less cost

VR technology can enable more effective learning at a lower cost and in less time than many traditional learning methods. This is because VR can allow for more training repetitions, especially when dealing with costly, rare, or dangerous environments. For example, the skills of aviation maintenance personnel can degrade when budget constraints limit flying hours; if jets are not in the air, there is nothing to be fixed. But without that practice, critical maintenance skills can slip, leading to increased accidents.13 VR can allow maintenance staffers to keep up their skills by learning from experience, at a fraction of the cost of putting an actual jet in the sky.

VR is not just about saving money—it can provide better outcomes than many traditional learning methods. Most research examining the technology’s effectiveness have found that it reduces the time taken to learn, decreases the number of trainee errors, increases the amount learned, and helps learners retain knowledge longer than traditional methods.14 These effects apply to the general population as well as specialists training for unique tasks. One experiment compared how prepared airline passengers were for an emergency from reading the ubiquitous seatback safety card versus completing a brief immersive game. Passengers who used the game seemed to learn more and retain their knowledge longer than those who merely read the safety card. These better outcomes are almost certainly linked to the fact that the game was more successful than the card at engaging passengers and arousing fear, both incentivizing participants to learn and providing the neurological surprise to support that learning.15

Beyond simply improving how well learners retain information, VR-based training can help learners when they get it wrong. The ability to track all of a trainee’s actions and inputs as he or she moves through a scenario can reduce the cost of providing individual feedback and giving tailored feedback. Experts need not sift through all the data and tell a trainee where he or she went wrong—the system itself may be able to determine likely causes of error and best strategies for avoiding those errors in the future.16

All of these capabilities mean that VR can be a valuable learning tool for a variety of tasks in any industry—and some real-world applications are already catching up to predictions that academic research has suggested:

  • Better learning. Some major retailers have begun training workers using VR simulations. Staff are able to repeatedly take on new tasks such as managing the produce department or annual challenges such as dealing with Black Friday.17 Working through these challenges is designed to help people directly see the impact of their actions on customer experience. And simulations can even allow staff to virtually travel to other stores to see how operations are managed there, spreading good ideas and offering paths to improvement.18 As a result, some companies have found that not only do people seem to retain more compared to traditional methods—they appear to learn more as well.19
  • Faster learning. In 2017, KFC debuted a VR training simulation to help trainees learn the chain’s “secret recipe” for preparing chicken. Using the simulation, trainees were able to master the five steps of making fried chicken in 10 minutes, compared with 25 minutes for conventional instruction.20

Linde’s experience with VR-based training illustrates the technology’s potential benefits. One of the world’s largest suppliers of industrial gases, Linde delivers hazardous chemicals to thousands of locations daily, meaning that truck drivers must handle materials that may be explosive or, at -320° F, cold enough to instantly freeze hands solid. When one slip-up can mean injury or death, how can new drivers build their skills and expertise? For Linde, VR-based training provides an answer. In the virtual environment, new drivers can get dozens of repetitions, building safe habits before stepping out on their first delivery.21 VR can even give drivers an X-ray view of what is happening inside the tanks as they work. Not only are drivers practicing the right skills—they are learning the underlying concepts of why they are the right skills. That is what can create expertise—allowing drivers to react to unexpected situations quickly and with confidence.

Linde is experimenting with more ambitious VR training environments as well. The company used CAD files for a plant currently under construction to create an immersive VR environment, aiming to train the operators who will eventually manage that plant.22 As with the earlier oil-refinery example, operators can practice emergency procedures or dangerous tasks, but they can also explore the environment, understand how all systems fit together, and even peek inside operating machinery to have a better view of the plant for which they will soon be responsible.23

When can VR enhance training?

As with any technology, VR is a tool, not a magic bullet. Incorporating VR into a training program hardly guarantees quality improvements; indeed, the coming years will doubtless bring anecdotes of VR disappointments along with successes. Trainers should bring the same careful planning in program design and learning goals to VR as to any other training effort—including focusing programs around understanding the knowledge that an organization needs learners to acquire and what they should then do with that knowledge.

The knowledge that learners must acquire can cover a wide range, but several factors are particularly relevant to VR technology: how rare the knowledge is, how observable, and how easily it can be replicated physically. A cardiologist may struggle to learn about uncommon heart defects exactly because they are rare, limiting learning opportunities. Many find organic chemistry challenging to learn partly because one can’t directly observe molecular bonds with human senses; landing on an aircraft carrier is tricky to perfect because repetitions are both costly and dangerous.

Another attribute to consider: what trainers expect learners to do with the knowledge once they have it. Do people simply need to recognize and apply it, as with reading the defense in football, or do they need to perform complicated actions such as synthesizing it with other knowledge and adjusting to context? All of these factors play into how best to present knowledge to learners.

By understanding the different factors that go into learning, a trainer can make informed decisions about when VR is appropriate and design the best training possible to maximize performance (see figure 2). For example, if learners need only acquire relatively simple information—that is, information that is common, obvious, or easy to represent—VR may be superfluous and no more effective than books, classroom instruction, or job aids.

Similarly, if learners need to do more complex tasks involving simple information, VR may help, but there may be easier, cheaper ways to accomplish the learning. Take the simple knowledge of a workflow: Workers need to understand the workflow and apply it in different contexts. VR might certainly help in learning such workflows, but it may not always be necessary. If the various contexts of the work are not rare, dangerous, or costly to recreate, using case studies or job aids may be cost-effective alternatives.

Where VR moves into a class of its own is when the knowledge that learners must acquire is complex: where trainees must try to grapple with difficult-to-observe phenomena that occur rarely or in dangerous situations. In these cases, VR-based training may well be an effective choice, offering the advantages of faster and better learning at lower cost.

Indeed, VR’s ability to allow for collaboration and for repeated simulation opens up entirely new learning possibilities:

  • Shared scenarios. Consider a military squad that needs its members not only to individually do the right thing but to coordinate and work together. Shared scenarios can allow members to practice individual actions and communication within the squad in a variety of combat situations they could not normally face.
  • Seeing the unseen. VR may be even more helpful for research scientists. Not only do they often need to collaborate within teams—they regularly struggle with concepts not easily visualized. But imagine if a team of scientists could share ideas while all looking at a 3D model of the molecules they are studying. They could come up with new ideas inspired by finally seeing the previously unseen—and they could then easily share those ideas with their colleagues.
  • Test and re-test. VR technology allows trainees to test ideas as well as share them. Many Formula 1 auto racing teams use VR extensively in preparation for races, going far beyond drivers simply learning the track—after all, they already know it by heart. Instead, the teams use simulations to test different setups for their car and different race strategies.24 The aim is to prepare team members for any eventuality during the race, helping them react swiftly. This type of virtual testing represents a deeper form of learning, one in which the drivers and the teams are using VR to see into the future and discover the deeper patterns in what is likely to happen. In short, they are building expertise.

Getting started is less daunting than it may seem

Many trainers no doubt find exciting the description of VR as a new technology that can bring revolutionary benefits, though CFOs and CTOs—worried about complex technical integration, high up-front costs, and years of headlines about VR hype—may express less initial enthusiasm. The good news: Implementing VR technology may be far less daunting than it might seem. With standardized development kits, training design and technical integration have never been easier, as the costs of hardware, computing power, and storage continue to fall. As a result, many will find the cost of VR-based training applications increasingly reasonable. Especially when companies consider the increases in performance and the cost savings from time lost to longer, traditional training methods, VR can show a rapid return on investment.

With technology improving and prices dropping, the major steps to consider for creating successful VR learning resemble those typically involved in designing any good learning program:

  • Understand your training needs. Determine the type of knowledge that learners must absorb and how they must use that knowledge during the job to help understand whether VR is right for your need and how it should be used.
  • Create your business case. Quantify the expected benefit from the training in terms of increased performance, decreased errors, and productivity gains from fewer days lost to training. Array those benefits against expected costs to understand the ROI for the project.
  • Pilot the training. Start small. Begin with a pilot program to evaluate the effectiveness of the VR training and its adoption within the organization.
  • Quantify the benefit and scale the program. Use the results of the pilot program to validate initial estimates of ROI, modify the program based on what worked and what did not, and scale in scope or size of deployment.

Following these steps, companies adopting VR should get more than a shiny new technology—they can get better learning at lower cost than other options. Ultimately, the applications of VR and its ROI are limited not by dollars or technology but purely by imagination.

Newly discovered state of memory could help explain learning and brain disorders.


Memory researchers have shone light into a cognitive limbo. A new memory—the name of someone you’ve just met, for example—is held for seconds in so-called working memory, as your brain’s neurons continue to fire. If the person is important to you, the name will over a few days enter your long-term memory, preserved by permanently altered neural connections. But where does it go during the in-between hours, when it has left your standard working memory and is not yet embedded in long-term memory?

In Science, a research team shows that memories can be resurrected from this limbo. Their observations point to a new form of working memory, which they dub prioritized long-term memory, that exists without elevated neural activity. Consistent with other recent work, the study suggests that information can somehow be held among the synapses that connect neurons, even after conventional working memory has faded.

“This is a really fundamental find—it’s like the dark matter of memory,” says Geoffrey Woodman, a cognitive neuroscientist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville who was not involved with the work. “It’s hard to really see it or measure it in any clear way, but it has to be out there. Otherwise, things would fly apart.”

Cognitive neuroscientist Nathan Rose and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin (UW) in Madison initially had subjects watch a series of slides showing faces, words, or dots moving in one direction. They tracked the resulting neural activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and, with the help of a machine learning algorithm, showed they could classify the brain activity associated with each item. Then the subjects viewed the items in combination—a word and face, for example—but were cued to focus on just one item. At first, the brain signatures of both items showed up, as measured in this round with electroencephalography (EEG). But neural activity for the uncued item quickly dropped to baseline, as if it had been forgotten, whereas the EEG signature of the cued item remained, a sign that it was still in working memory. Yet subjects could still quickly recall the uncued item when prompted to remember it a few seconds later.

Rose, who recently left UW for the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and his colleagues then turned to transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a noninvasive method that uses rapidly changing magnetic fields to deliver a pulse of electrical current to the brain. They had subjects perform the same cued memory task, then applied a broad TMS pulse just after the signature of the uncued memory item had faded. The appropriate neural activity for that “forgotten” item spiked, showing the memory was reactivated into immediate consciousness from its latent state. What’s more, when the TMS directly targeted the brain areas that were initially active for the uncued item, the reactivation response was even stronger.

The study doesn’t address how synapses or other neuronal features can hold this second level of working memory, or how much information it can store. “It’s a primitive early step in understanding how we bring things into mind,” says UW cognitive neuroscientist Bradley Postle, a study co-author.

Woodman agrees. “Good studies tend to bring to light more questions than they answer,” he says. “This work absolutely does that.” Ultimately, he says, this new memory state could have a range of practical implications, from helping college students learn more efficiently to assisting people with memory-related neurological conditions such as amnesia, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.

Infants use prefrontal cortex in learning.


Researchers have long thought that the region of the brain involved in some of the highest forms of cognition and reasoning — the prefrontal cortex (PFC) — was too underdeveloped in young children, especially infants, to participate in complex cognitive tasks. A new study suggests otherwise. Given the task of learning simple hierarchical rules, babies appeared to employ much the same circuits as adults doing a similar task.

A baby wears a near infrared spectroscopy-sensing headband in the lab of Associate Professor Dima Amso.

Researchers have long thought that the region of the brain involved in some of the highest forms of cognition and reasoning — the prefrontal cortex (PFC) — was too underdeveloped in young children, especially infants, to participate in complex cognitive tasks. A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests otherwise. Given the task of learning simple hierarchical rules, babies appeared to employ much the same circuits as adults doing a similar task.

The findings suggest that even at the age of 8 months, a baby’s PFC appears properly adapted to the kinds of tasks important to an infant of that age, said study senior author Dima Amso, associate professor of cognitive, linguistic and psychological sciences (CLPS) at Brown University.

“The wow factor isn’t ‘Look the PFC works,'” Amso said. “It’s that what seems to be happening is that its function is a really good fit for what these babies need to be mastering at that moment in their development.”

Of course babies aren’t yet equipped for writing essays or planning the day’s errands, Amso said, but their brains are properly adapted for learning essential elements in their world and how best to organize them. The PFC is not offline. Instead it’s appropriately mature for the goals of babyhood.

An example from bilingualism

To make this discovery, Amso, lead author Denise Werchan, fellow CLPS professor Michael Frank and then postdoctoral researcher Anne Collins, who is now assistant professor at the University of California at Berkeley, devised a task initially developed by Collins and Frank to test PFC function in adults. The infant version was made to parallel the circumstance of growing up in a bilingual family. Maybe Mom and her side of the family speak English, while Dad and his family speak Spanish. The babies must learn that different groups of people use different words for the same things.

To scientists, this association of some people with one language and other people with another is an example of a “hierarchical rule set.” The person speaking is the higher-level context that determines what language will be used. Babies must learn that Mom and her brother will say “cat” when Dad and his sister will say “gato” to refer to the same family pet.

The team wanted to determine how baby brains handle this task. They recruited 37 babies to learn a simple, abstracted version of the bilingual scenario while their brain activity and behavior were gently monitored.

On screens before them, babies were shown a face and then an image of a toy. At the same time they’d hear a particular nonsense word in a voice associated with the face, as if the depicted person — call her “person 1” — was calling the depicted toy by that word. Then they’d see a different face with a different associated voice call the same toy by a new word (i.e. as if “person 2” was speaking a different language). Over several rounds, switching back and forth, the babies were exposed to these associations of person 1 with one vocabulary and person 2 with a distinct vocabulary.

After that phase the babies were then introduced to person 3 on the screen who used the same words as person 1, but also introduced a few new ones (in the bilingual family metaphor, think of person 3 as Dad’s sister, if person 1 is Dad). If the babies were learning the rules, they’d associate person 3’s new words with person 1, because they were otherwise speaking the same rule set or “language.”

In the blink of an eye

The researchers tested whether the learning was occurring by next presenting the babies with persons 1 and 2 saying some of the new vocabulary of person 3. Babies who’d been learning should react differently to each instance. They should look longer at the unexpected case of person 2 using a word from the vocabulary of person 3. In fact, that’s what the babies did. On average they gazed a couple of seconds longer at that surprising situation of person 2 using an inconsistent language than they did at the expected case of person 1 speaking like person 3.

Meanwhile, the researchers were tracking brain activity by means of a Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) machine provided, along with technical support, by TechEn, Inc. NIRS safely records brain activity over the scalp and is therefore becoming important to infant research, Amso said. Babies wear a special headband that holds near-infrared sensors over the scalp area of interest. The sensors detect how much infrared light is absorbed by hemoglobin in the blood and therefore report where brain activity is greatest (because that’s where the blood goes).

The researchers also tracked the babies’ eye blinks because recent research has found that eye blinks reflect the degree of involvement of the neurotransmitter dopamine. When adults learn hierarchical rules, Frank and Collins have combined experimental data with computer models of brain function to suggest, that the key circuit involved is a connection between the PFC and another region called the striatum. That connection is mediated and reinforced by dopamine.

The results of the infrared recording and the eye blink tracking both supported the hypothesis that as the babies were learning they were actively employing the PFC, similarly to adults. Both PFC activity — specifically in the right dorsolateral PFC — and eye blinks were significantly elevated when babies were asked to switch from one “language” to another, which is the most cognitively demanding moment for the PFC during the task.

“Once you learn these hierarchical structures, each time you need to access or use one of them you need to update the structure into working memory,” Werchan said. “When the task switches you need to update information into PFC.”

Moreover, the degree of the babies’ elevated PFC and eye blink activity predicted how distinctly they responded to the unexpected situation of a person speaking inconsistently with their language — a measure of how well the babies learned the rule structures.

Developing a new view of development

Amso said the findings suggest that early neurodevelopment should be viewed differently than before. Rather than regarding young brains as immature and less functional, a better perspective may be to regard them as constantly adapting to meet the key challenges they face. When healthy, they are as sophisticated as they need to be.

“Atypical development, then, might reflect an inability to adapt to an environmental challenge, or an earlier adaptation because of a negative environment. Amso said. “We and others are probing with these ideas as relevant to PFC development.”

BRAIN IMAGING SHOWS BRAIN DIFFERENCES IN RISK-TAKING TEENS.


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According to the CDC, unintentional injuries are the leading cause of death for adolescents. Compared to the two leading causes of death for all Americans, heart disease and cancer, a pattern of questionable decision-making in dire situations comes to light in teen mortality. Newresearch from the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas investigating brain differences associated with risk-taking teens found that connections between certain brain regions are amplified in teens more prone to risk.

“Our brains have an emotional-regulation network that exists to govern emotions and influence decision-making,” explained the study’s lead author, Sam Dewitt. “Antisocial or risk-seeking behavior may be associated with an imbalance in this network.”

The study, published June 30 in Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, looked at 36 adolescents ages 12-17; eighteen risk-taking teens were age- and sex-matched to a group of 18 non-risk-taking teens. Participants were screened for risk-taking behaviors, such as drug and alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, and physical violence and underwent functional MRI (fMRI) scans to examine communication between brain regions associated with the emotional-regulation network. Interestingly, the risk-taking group showed significantly lower income compared to the non-risk taking group.

Dewitt paper“Most fMRI scans used to be done in conjunction with a particular visual task. In the past several years, however, it has been shown that performing an fMRI scan of the brain during a ‘mind-wandering’ state is just as valuable,”said Sina Aslan, Ph.D., President of Advance MRI and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.“In this case, brain regions associated with emotion and reward centers show increased connection even when they are not explicitly engaged.”

The study, conducted by Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Research of Addictive Behaviors at the Center for BrainHealth and her colleagues, shows that risk-taking teens exhibit hyperconnectivity between the amygdala, a center responsible for emotional reactivity, and specific areas of the prefrontal cortex associated with emotion regulation and critical thinking skills. The researchers also found increased activity between areas of the prefrontal cortex and the nucleus accumbens, a center for reward sensitivity that is often implicated in addiction research.

“Our findings are crucial in that they help identify potential brain biomarkers that, when taken into context with behavioral differences, may help identify which adolescents are at risk for dangerous and pathological behaviors in the future,” Dewitt explained.

He also points out that even though the risk-taking group did partake in risky behavior, none met clinical criteria for behavioral or substance use disorders.

By identifying these factors early on, the research team hopes to have a better chance of providing effective cognitive strategies to help risk-seeking adolescents regulate their emotions and avoid risk-taking behavior and substance abuse.

What It Really Takes To Make Friends With Someone.


“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” ~ Dale Carnegie,

Have you ever wondered what friendship really is? Do you often feel that it’s kind of a “black box”, and that no one really knows what’s inside it? Are you curious to discover what’s inside?

I always wondered about it, myself, as I was learning to make friends and become social. See, it’s when you struggle with loneliness day and night that you really commit to learning how to have the friends you want. That’s what I did, but you don’t have to. You can learn from me, starting right here in this article.

I would like to share with you a check-list you can use to go from strangers to friends with people.

An Encouraging Context

Before you make friends with someone, you have to meet them for the first time, and it has to take place in a good environment. What this means is that the context must encourage socializing and meeting new people. For example, networking events are good, bars and nightclubs are not.

When it comes to making friends, always focus on places where you can comfortably go to someone and introduce yourself. Public places, where people come with their existing friends, aren’t the best, as people don’t go there to meet new folks.

A Proper Situation

In order for you to make friends with a person, you both need to have enough time and energy to be able to socialize. For example, if they’re moving, having a baby, getting married, changing jobs, or just hanging out with too many friends already, then they just won’t have time for you.

What you can do here is consider places where others are out to meet new people. You’ll find people who actually have the time and energy to invest in new friendships. These can be trade shows, seminars, talks, cultural or charitable events, etc. These places even encourage networking. By going there, you’re improving your chances of meeting people who actually want to meet you.

Appropriate Friendship Skills

Social Skills: It’s true that social skills are important in general, but they’re especially important for making new friends. This particular phase of the friendship, the formation, is where some skills can make it, or break it.

These critical social skills are: Initiating and joining conversations, asking appropriate questions, showing interest in what others are saying, Proper eye contact, and respecting others’ personal space.

Engagement: This is a state that determines to others whether or not you’re open to making friends. Being responsive means that you appropriately answer the questions that people ask, with some enthusiasm. This shows that you’re interested, that you like them, and that you’re engaged in the conversation. People who give half-answers and who barely look at you when you talk to them aren’t regarded as friendly.

A Great Interaction

Similarities: having things in common is very important. It’s the factor that most predicts whether or not you’re going to be friends with someone. When we find people like us, we are validated, we feel that we’re “right”. We also love to have people that enjoy the same kind of weekend activities.

This is why I recommend that you join a community that revolves around a subject or hobby that you love. If you can’t find that, then look for what’s available in your local area, and join the one where people seem to share your attitude and values.

Mutual Liking: When you first meet someone, you both have to like each other to become friends. This entirely subjective aspect about first encounters shouldn’t scare you. What you can do here is always assume that you’re going to be liked, and that you generally like to meet new people.

When you hold these two mindsets, you automatically start to behave in a way that signals to other people that you like them, which makes them like you. This is a self-fulfilling prophecy: if they think you like them, they’ll start to like you.

Openness: This sounds like an expression out of a crime movie, but it’s not. It’s a principle that happens in almost every new friendship. If you’re going to be friends with someone, there is a level of trust to establish; both of you have to disclose some things to each other.

You can start by revealing something quirky, funny, or weird about yourself, and see how they respond. Start by something not that weird, don’t disclose heavy secrets right away. This is like a dance, you disclose something, they replicate, then you disclose something a little heavier, and so on. This exchange of secrets means that you’re going to trust each other; it literally glues two people and makes them friends.

Wrapping Up

This check-list gives you more clarity on what needs to happen between two people before they become friends. You can use it to understand why some friendships worked in your past, while others didn’t. If you want to have great friends that care for you and support you, instead of feeling lonely and isolated, I recommend that you see friendship as a skill, and start learning it.

Daytime naps ‘can boost learning’


Getting young children to take an hour-long nap after lunch could help them with their learning by boosting brain power, a small study suggests.

A nap appeared to help three-to-five-year-olds better remember pre-school lessons, US researchers said.

University of Massachusetts Amherst researchers studied 40 youngsters and report their findings in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The benefit persisted in the afternoon after a nap and into the next day.

The study authors say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning.

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“Start Quote

This is important, because pre-school nurseries are divided on whether they should allow their children a nap”

Paediatrician Dr Robert Scott-Jupp

When the children were allowed a siesta after lunch they performed significantly better on a visual-spatial tasks in the afternoon and the next day than when they were denied a midday snooze.

Following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the information they were being tested on than they did when they had been kept awake.

Close monitoring of 14 additional youngsters who came to the researchers’ sleep lab revealed the processes at work in the brain during asleep.

As the children napped, they experienced increased activity in brain regions linked with learning and integrating new information.

Memory aid

Lead investigator Rebecca Spencer said: “Essentially we are the first to report evidence that naps are important for preschool children.

“Our study shows that naps help the kids better remember what they are learning in preschool.”

She said while older children would naturally drop their daytime sleep, younger children should be encouraged to nap.

Dr Robert Scott-Jupp, of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “It’s been known for years that having a short sleep can improve the mental performance of adults, for example doctors working night shifts. Up until now, no-one has looked at the same thing in toddlers. This is important, because pre-school nurseries are divided on whether they should allow their children a nap.

“Toddlers soak up a huge amount of information everyday as they become increasingly inquisitive about the world around them and begin to gain independence.

“To be at their most alert toddlers need about 11-13 hours of sleep a day, giving their active minds a chance to wind down and re-charge, ready for the day ahead. We now know that a daytime sleep could be as important as a nighttime one. Without it, they would be tired, grumpy, forgetful and would struggle to concentrate.”

A Little Guide on How to Master the Art of Listening.


We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say. ~Zeno of Citium

We are living in a world where people feel disconnected from each other. A feeling of alienation is pervading our culture, and there is a deep reason why this is so.

The reason is that we have not yet learned to genuinely communicate.

This is most obvious when observing two people while they are having a conversation with each other. During a conversation, most people don’t truly listen to what the other is saying. Of course, they do hear words but that is very different from listening.

To listen means to understand the meaning that lies behind words. It means to be totally absorbed into what the other is trying to communicate. It means to be focused on the essence of what the other wants to convey through words.

let-go-past

By not being able to listen, we fail to communicate. Naturally, we end up feeling lonely and alienated. When we cannot understand others and others cannot understand us, we feel disconnected from the rest of humanity. When we have nobody with whom we can truly share our thoughts and emotions, we end up being depressed and develop various social phobias.

To feel connected with those around us, we need to start communicating on a deeper level. The basic and most important step to achieve this is by learning how to listen. Only in this way can we have a heartfelt communication where we can truly share with one another.

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.

Here is a little yet concise guide on how to master the art of listening:

1. Desire to learn

A conversation is always an opportunity to learn something new. Everyone has a great story to tell, and we can learn from anybody. Many times when someone is talking to us we are just pretending to listen—we hear words, we nod our heads, we show that we understand, but in reality we don’t. The reason why this happens is that we are not truly interested to know about another’s story. We are so filled with our inner chatter, our problems and concerns, that we don’t have the mental space that is necessary to allow another’s story enter our lives. To genuinely listen, we need to cultivate the desire to learn, to understand—we need to care for what the other has to say.

2. Keep an open mind

Sometimes our ideologies are blocking new ideas from entering our minds. In addition, our opinions, superstitions, and expectations usually color the meaning of what others are trying to communicate to us through the spoken word. When listening to someone talking to you, make sure to leave your belief systems aside for a while and just keep an open mind.

3. Be receptive

While engaged in a conversation, most of us are continuously interrupting people, not letting others say what they want to say. We are continuously on the lookout for an opportunity to speak about our own story. In this way, however, we do not allow others to express themselves and communicate their thoughts and emotions to us. As a result, we never get to understand them. When  having a conversation, make sure not to hurriedly interrupt or respond, and stop trying to solve things out or reach to quick conclusions. Just listen.

4. Be patient

To understand another takes a great deal of patience. Usually we are in such a hurry that we don’t have the time anymore to get together and listen to each other. And even when we do, we do so in such a quick way that we don’t get anything out of it. We never get intimate with one another—we don’t allow ourselves to reach another’s mind, heart and soul. From now on, when you are having a conversation, don’t push it. Give it the time that is needed and just let it flow, allowing yourself to squeeze the juice out of it.

Source: Purpose Fairy

Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me.


 Context Many faculty members believe that students today differ from those in the past. This paper reviews the empirical evidence for generational changes among students and makes recommendations for classroom teaching based on these changes. Generational changes are rooted in shifts in culture and should be viewed as reflections of changes in society.

 Methods This paper reviews findings from a number of studies, most of which rely on over-time meta-analyses of students’ (primarily undergraduates’) responses to psychological questionnaires measuring IQ, personality traits, attitudes, reading preferences and expectations. Others are time-lag studies of nationally representative samples of high school students.

 Results Today’s students (Generation Me) score higher on assertiveness, self-liking, narcissistic traits, high expectations, and some measures of stress, anxiety and poor mental health, and lower on self-reliance. Most of these changes are linear; thus the year in which someone was born is more relevant than a broad generational label. Moreover, these findings represent average changes and exceptions certainly occur.

 Discussion These characteristics suggest that Generation Me would benefit from a more structured but also more interactive learning experience, and that the overconfidence of this group may need to be tempered. Faculty and staff should give very specific instructions and frequent feedback, and should explain the relevance of the material. Rules should be strictly followed to prevent entitled students from unfairly working the system. Generation Me students have high IQs, but little desire to read long texts. Instruction may need to be delivered in shorter segments and perhaps incorporate more material delivered in media such as videos and an interactive format. Given their heightened desire for leisure, today’s students may grow into professionals who demand lighter work schedules, thereby creating conflict within the profession.

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com

Generational changes and their impact in the classroom: teaching Generation Me.


Many faculty members believe that students today differ from those in the past. This paper reviews the empirical evidence for generational changes among students and makes recommendations for classroom teaching based on these changes. Generational changes are rooted in shifts in culture and should be viewed as reflections of changes in society.

Methods This paper reviews findings from a number of studies, most of which rely on over-time meta-analyses of students’ (primarily undergraduates’) responses to psychological questionnaires measuring IQ, personality traits, attitudes, reading preferences and expectations. Others are time-lag studies of nationally representative samples of high school students.

Results Today’s students (Generation Me) score higher on assertiveness, self-liking, narcissistic traits, high expectations, and some measures of stress, anxiety and poor mental health, and lower on self-reliance. Most of these changes are linear; thus the year in which someone was born is more relevant than a broad generational label. Moreover, these findings represent average changes and exceptions certainly occur.

Discussion These characteristics suggest that Generation Me would benefit from a more structured but also more interactive learning experience, and that the overconfidence of this group may need to be tempered. Faculty and staff should give very specific instructions and frequent feedback, and should explain the relevance of the material. Rules should be strictly followed to prevent entitled students from unfairly working the system. Generation Me students have high IQs, but little desire to read long texts. Instruction may need to be delivered in shorter segments and perhaps incorporate more material delivered in media such as videos and an interactive format. Given their heightened desire for leisure, today’s students may grow into professionals who demand lighter work schedules, thereby creating conflict within the profession.

Medical educators face many of the same challenges as other faculty in trying to communicate with a generation they may not fully understand. Although Generation Me has many strengths, such as tolerance and a drive to succeed, its members may sometimes be tooconfident. Others crack under the pressure of sustaining high achievement and develop mental health problems. Their previous educational experiences have often not prepared them for the hard work and challenges required to succeed.

Educators can take several steps to better teach this generation. The first step is to understand its perspectives and realise that they are reflections of contemporary culture. Generation Me is doing exactly what it has been taught to by parents, teachers and media. The second step is to meet its members on their own ground by breaking lectures into short chunks, using video and promoting hands-on learning. However, standards for content and learning should remain the same, and should be fair to everyone. If one student asks for and receives special treatment, the rest of the class is short-changed, as is the ‘special’ student in the long run (the longer he receives special treatment, the more difficult he will find it to succeed in a world that does not confer special treatment just for asking). Educators cannot compromise on the material that must be learned. As students feel more entitled, more will demand better grades for less work, just as they received in high school. In medical education, however, allowing students to earn good grades when they do not learn the material is not only unfair but dangerous.

Today’s students frequently need the purpose and meaning of activities spelled out for them. Previous generations had a sense of duty and would often do what they were told without asking why. Most young people no longer respond to appeals to duty; instead, they want to know exactly why they are doing something and want to feel they are having a personal impact. This is an opportunity: if young people understand the deeper meaning behind a task, they can bring their energy and passion to bear on it. Medicine is a natural field for people who seek to have an impact, and this desire can be harnessed to improve medical education. Although self-esteem and narcissism do not necessarily help people succeed, narcissistic people’s desire for attention can potentially be harnessed to good ends, such as that of helping others through medicine. However, medical educators must make sure that students’ overconfidence does not lead to failure, and that the importance of less visible tasks is emphasised. Medical education resembles evolution in that it rewards by ensuring the survival of the fittest. When taught properly, the fittest of Generation Me will succeed, just as the fittest members of previous generations have done in the past.

 

Source: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com