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Best time to learn new skills may develop during teenage years

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Teenage years are the best time to learn and develop new skills.
Teenage years are the best time to learn and develop new skills. wikimedia commons

London, Dec 24, 2017: While a person can never be old enough to learn a new skill, teenage years can make learning easier. It is because the brain reacts more responsively to receiving rewards during adolescence, finds a study. Teenage years have been known to be inextricably linked to alcohol abuse, reckless behaviour and poor choice in friends.

This is due in part to increased activity in the corpus striatum — a small area deeply hidden away inside the brain. However, the new study showed that this increased activity in the corpus striatum does not have only negative consequences. “The adolescent brain is very sensitive to feedback,” said Sabine Peters, Assistant Professor at the Leiden University in the Netherlands.

“That makes adolescence the ideal time to acquire and retain new information,” Peters added. For the study, published in Nature Communications, the team involved 300 subjects between the ages of 8 and 29 and took MRI scans of their brains, for over a period of five years.

In the MRI scanner, participants had to solve a memory game, while the researchers gave feedback on the participants’ performance. The results showed that adolescents responded keenly to educational feedback. If the adolescent received useful feedback, then you saw the corpus striatum being activated. This was not the case with less pertinent feedback, for example, if the test person already knew the answer, the researchers said.

“The stronger your brain recognises that difference, the better the performance in the learning task. Brain activation could even predict learning performance two years into the future,” Peters said. (IANS)

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Here’s how People Themselves Become the Source of Misinformation

People can self-generate their own misinformation

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Misinformation
Sometimes, you yourself can become the source of misinformation. Pixabay

Do not blame partisan news outlets and political blogs for feeding you fake news as there’s another surprising source of misinformation on controversial topics — it is you.

A new study has found that people, given accurate statistics on a controversial issue, tended to misremember those numbers to fit commonly held beliefs.

For example, when people are shown that the number of Mexican immigrants in the US declined recently – which is true but goes against many people’s beliefs – they tend to remember the opposite.

And when people pass along this misinformation they created, the numbers can get further and further from the truth.

“People can self-generate their own misinformation. It doesn’t all come from external sources,” said Jason Coronel, lead author of the study and assistant professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“They may not be doing it purposely, but their own biases can lead them astray. And the problem becomes larger when they share their self-generated misinformation with others”.

The researchers conducted two studies to confirm this.In the first study, they presented 110 participants with short written descriptions of four societal issues that involved numerical information.

Fake news
People generate fake news in order to fit commonly held beliefs. Pixabay

The researchers found that people usually got the numerical relationship right on the issues for which the stats were consistent with how many people viewed the world.

In the second study, the researchers investigated how these memory distortions could spread and grow more distorted in everyday life. Coronel said the study did have limitations.

For example, it is possible that the participants would have been less likely to misremember if they were given explanations as to why the numbers didn’t fit expectations.

The researchers didn’t measure each person’s biases going in – they used the biases that had been identified by pre-tests they conducted.

But the results did suggest that we shouldn’t worry only about the misinformation that we run into in the outside world, Poulsen said in a paper published in the journal Human Communication Research.

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“We need to realize that internal sources of misinformation can possibly be as significant as or more significant than external sources,” she said.

“We live with our biases all day, but we only come into contact with false information occasionally”. (IANS)