Archive for March, 2010

Time capsule: Practical instruction and learn-by-doing pedagogy “strange and alarming”

In November 1936, the March of Time! newsreel introduced the progressive education movement championed by John Dewey as a series of “Strange and alarming teaching innovations which today threaten to change the entire method of public school education in the United States.”

HBO Archives has digitally restored the 8-minute film, which you can watch here.

(Note, free registration is required to access the HBO Archives.)


March 30, 2010 at 3:31 pm 1 comment

Domesticated gym rats

From “A Wild Workout for the Real World“:

And with that one word — “practical” — Erwan Le Corre [founder of MovNat] exposes a key weakness in modern exercise: Our workouts are domesticated, while the world out there is still plenty wild…

Being fit isn’t about being able to lift a steel bar or finish an Ironman,” Le Corre says. “It’s about rediscovering our biological nature and releasing the wild human animal inside.

A video of Erwan in motion:

March 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm 1 comment


The documented first year of four babies in four different corners of the world:

Update: This NYT Magazine story on the moral life of babies is a great complementary reading to the movie:

The mental life of young humans not only is an interesting topic in its own right; it also raises — and can help answer — fundamental questions of philosophy and psychology, including how biological evolution and cultural experience conspire to shape human nature. From Sigmund Freud to Jean Piaget to Lawrence Kohlberg, psychologists have long argued that we begin life as amoral animals. One important task of society, particularly of parents, is to turn babies into civilized beings — social creatures who can experience empathy, guilt and shame; who can override selfish impulses in the name of higher principles; and who will respond with outrage to unfairness and injustice.

A growing body of evidence, though, suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life. With the help of well-designed experiments, you can see glimmers of moral thought, moral judgment and moral feeling even in the first year of life. Some sense of good and evil seems to be bred in the bone. Which is not to say that parents are wrong to concern themselves with moral development or that their interactions with their children are a waste of time. Socialization is critically important. But this is not because babies and young children lack a sense of right and wrong; it’s because the sense of right and wrong that they naturally possess diverges in important ways from what we adults would want it to be.

March 26, 2010 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

Trick or treatment

Dr. Harriet Hall has a fascinating article on the placebo effect over at eSkeptic:

We not only know placebos “work,” we know there is a hierarchy of effectiveness:

  • Placebo surgery works better than placebo injections
  • Placebo injections work better than placebo pills
  • Sham acupuncture treatment works better than a placebo pill
  • Capsules work better than tablets
  • Big pills work better than small
  • The more doses a day, the better
  • The more expensive, the better
  • The color of the pill makes a difference
  • Telling the patient, “This will relieve your pain” works better than saying “This might help.”

Dr. Hall also discusses four factors that explain how the placebo effect works — expectancy, motivation, conditioning, and endogenous opiates. Also in the article, a section on whether animals respond to placebos, and a summary of the ethics of the matter.

In this great video, Dr. Ben Goldacre, author of Bad Science, explains the role of the placebo effect in medical research.

March 24, 2010 at 11:09 am Leave a comment

Science’s dirtiest secret: The shortcomings of statistics

From an important article and commentary by Tom Siegfried in ScienceNews, the magazine for the Society of Science and the Public:

It’s science’s dirtiest secret: The “scientific method” of testing hypotheses by statistical analysis stands on a flimsy foundation. Statistical tests are supposed to guide scientists in judging whether an experimental result reflects some real effect or is merely a random fluke, but the standard methods mix mutually inconsistent philosophies and offer no meaningful basis for making such decisions. Even when performed correctly, statistical tests are widely misunderstood and frequently misinterpreted. As a result, countless conclusions in the scientific literature are erroneous, and tests of medical dangers or treatments are often contradictory and confusing.

Read “Odds Are, It’s Wrong: Science fails to face the shortcomings of statistics.”

March 21, 2010 at 11:40 am Leave a comment

Neuroplasticity 101

GoCognitive produces a great series of videos for educators, researchers, and the general population about a wide variety of topics in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Below, “Dr. Ione Fine from the University of Washington explains the basic mechanisms underlying neural plasticity – how the brain can change in response to the specific processing demands of an individual (e.g., by building expertise, after cortical lesions early in life, etc.). The interviewer is Jade Francetich, an undergraduate student of psychology at the University of Idaho.”

This 2003 essay review on the limits of plasticity by Michael S. C. Thomas in the Journal of Cognition and Development makes a great complement to the above video. Abstract:

The more scientists learn about the brain, the more we learn about its infinite plasticity.… If there is a challenge to one part of the brain, we can learn to revive other parts to make all sections of the mind work together. (Elaine Colliar, “mind-mapping” champion, on how a visualization technique might be used to overcome reading impairments in developmental dyslexia; Kenyon, 2002)

We should encourage the public’s interest in developmental brain science and applaud attempts to base early childhood policy and practice on a scientific basis. However, in some instances, public enthusiasm far outstrips our scientific understanding. Too often the messages broadcast by advocates and the media do not accurately reflect what scientists currently knowabout synapses, critical periods, neural plasticity, and how experience affects the brain. (Bruer, 2001, p. XXX)

March 21, 2010 at 6:39 am 3 comments

Learning to play: Exuberant Animal workshop in San Francisco

Frank Forencich, Chief Creative Officer of the health leadership organization Exuberant Animal, is hosting a workshop in San Francisco on Saturday, April 10 at the Diakadi Body personal training and wellness center.

The daylong event will include presentations on human evolution, functional exercise, and the power of play. (Earlier in the month, Frank will deliver a similar talk to the Stanford University School of Design, in presentation with the design firm IDEO.) The EA San Francisco Jam will also include movement sessions and games that practitioners, educators, athletes, trainers, coaches, and athletes of all fitness levels can incorporate into their lives and work.

Anyone interested in functional fitness, play-based fitness, and evolutionary movement is encouraged to attend. Click here to register.


Skye Nacel is a friend whom I met at an EA event in Seattle — he is the founder of Mocean365, an action photography and video production firm based in Vermont that also organizes a fantastic series of action workshops. Skye recently produced 10-minute video that leads viewers through the Exuberant Animal Short Form movement sequence — a perfect way to start the day or warm-up before any strenuous physical activity.


In mid-April, Frank will lead a two-day seminar with Wildfitness in London’s Regent Park:

American movement guru Frank Forencich is one of the leading experts in the growing field of evolutionary fitness and his books have been a major influence on the philosophy of Wildfitness and our holiday programme. The seminar is a fantastic opportunity for forward-thinking fitness and movement professionals to get an insight into the new trend in fitness towards ‘natural movement’ and to gain inspiration from one of the key voices and proponents of this culture shift.

The seminar is ideal for personal trainers, therapists, martial artists, dancers and physical educators, as well as non-professional fitness enthusiasts.


Finally, trail runners, endurance athletes, and barefoot enthusiasts should check out the Misty Mountain Foot Quest, in partnership with Mick, The Barefoot Sensei. This is an EA-sponsored multi-day run in Washington state from Quinault to the Elwah, up the spine of the Olympic Mountains. The Foot Quest party kicks-off on Thursday, August 12 and the two-day run includes sherpa support. Sign up with Eventbrite.


March 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm Leave a comment

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Jason R. Atwood

I'm an avid trail runner and doctoral student at U.C. Berkeley who studies motivation and the relationship between the mind and body. This blog is a forum to share research, news, and musings about these topics of interest. More

Play is the beginning of knowledge.

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