Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Perception is a Powerful Activity



One of the biggest drawbacks to successfully transforming education and enhancing student learning is a persistent but mistaken idea that visual thinking is not as important to human learning, thinking and communicating as are reading, writing and mathematics.

Many people maintain a mistaken idea about the role of visual perception in human learning. For example, many people mistakenly think watching a movie or looking at a picture is a passive activity while reading is more active. Students are often admonished for watching "too much" TV, movies, videos, video games or other images but are seldom told they are reading too much. This is because of a story we have mistakenly told ourselves that the brain is more active when reading than when looking at something. This is a bad story that has held back learning for generations.

Current scientific evidence shows that rather than being a passive state, perception is an active process fueled by predictions and expectations about our environment. Memory is a fundamental component in the way our brain generates expectations and predictions that precede perceptual experience.

Recently, researchers in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Oxford showed how Long Term Memory optimizes perception by varying brain states associated with anticipation of spatial localization in the visual field by devising a method for integrating memory and attention. The scientists used fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to trace a neural network involving a number of areas of the brain likely to be active in the predictive use of memory in the visual cortex (the occipital lobe shown in dark blue on left).

Click on the heading above to read about the research showing how long term memory and perception are intertwined.

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