Adonis Diaries

Archive for February 20th, 2016

What neuromyths do you believe in?

Why “neurobonkers“?

The name of this blog was originally a comment on the widespread and blatant abuse of neuroscience to lend credibility to spurious claims about psychology.

This is something we see all the time in the newspapers and something that goes on every single day in our schools. The issue is a big part of an excellent new lecture by Dr. Christian Jarrett, who quotes Nate Cornell’s recent comment that: “You need to know how brains work to teach. Just like dogs need to know physics to catch a frisbee”

Simon Oxenham posted:

Jarrett agrees with Nate Cornell’s comment : “I think he is right, that is where we are at right now. Although there is this hunger and passion to use findings about the biology of the brain to help us learn better. We are not at that stage yet. We might be one day soon and these are exciting times but we are not there yet”.

Jarrett suggests we ask ourselves “would it make any difference if I took the word ‘brain’ out of what was being claimed, are the references to the brain or neuroscience gratuitous or are they really adding meaning?”

Jana Bou Reslan shared this link Big Think

The science of bad science is just as interesting as the science of real science!

Many people, including a majority of school teachers, harbor important false beliefs about the brain. Are you one of them?|By Simon Oxenham

At present much of what many of us believe, indeed much of what most school teachers believe about neuroscience is wrong. (Is that a matter of a set of belief system?)

Jarret who writes the wonderful British Psychological Society Research Digest, has explored some of the biggest misconceptions and cases of “neurobollocks” in his new book Great Myths about the Brain. He’s tackled a few of the most common of those false beliefs in the new talk:

My favourite part of the talk is Jarrett’s debunking of “learning styles”, the myth that we learn better if taught through the medium we personally prefer.

The belief exists in schools around the world, including 93% of British teachers. In Jarrett’s talk we see how contrary to popular opinion, people do not perform any better in their preferred learning style, rather they perform better in the learning style that best matches the material being taught.

People are in fact poor judges of what form of learning will be best for them, in reality often a mixture of learning styles is the best solution, Jarrett concludes.

For further reading on some of the issues in the talk, here are links to where I’ve covered some of the key topics (spoiler warning, watch Jarrett’s lecture before checking out these posts):

  1. False neuroscience beliefs believed by teachers.
  2. More on neuromyths believed by teachers
  3. What learning techniques do actually work?
  4. More on the science of learning how to learn.
  5. An introduction to the science of bad neuroscience

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Chris for the kind mention at the end of the talk and in his new book which I’m currently glued too.

It was especially heart warming because his Research Digest (which I recently had the pleasure of guest blogging for) has been one of my greatest sources of inspiration. It is testament to the fact that it is possible to consistently and regularly communicate news of complex psychological findings in plain English without compromising on facts or accuracy, which is something that the mainstream media regularly fails to do.

If you don’t follow it already, be sure to check  it out.

Remembering Anthony Shadid

When I first met Anthony Shadid he was sitting across the table from me in a Doha conference room in 2003 eagerly jotting down quotes in a tiny notebook.

There were about 10 of us in the room– young, enthusiastic journalists from several countries that had been hired as the first staff writers for Al Jazeera International. It would eventually become the television channel Al Jazeera English.

I wrote this four years ago, but still resonates today. Thank you for the advice, Anthony.

From our archives on this day in 2012…

Anthony was there to interview us for his piece on Qatar’s media ambitions at the time. I remember being fascinated by his ability to use such a tiny notebook (about the size of a pack of cigarettes) to capture so many voices at once.

But being young, idealistic and vocal, I was also terrified by what he was going to use and barely slept that night! Thankfully our comments didn’t make into his story, and fears of being snatched at night by mukhabarat never materialized.
I ran into Anthony several more times over the years, at conferences and news events, even at the gym in Beirut.

“Hope all’s well with you,” he wrote me a year ago. “If you’re in Beirut, I’d love to get coffee when I get back.”

Having known more than a few egotistic journalists over the years– whose talents don’t compare to his– Anthony was very humble for a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner.

He encouraged my work on this blog and printed out a draft of my in-depth piece on the Lebanese Jewish community, “a subject that is really dear to my heart,” and promised to read it. I always planned to follow up with him and now regret not having had the chance to do so.

Though our encounters were often brief, what sticks with me the most about Anthony, in addition to his insightful writing and humility, was his perspective on the role of a journalist: “My job is to bear witness,” he told a 2005 conference in Texas, explaining that “conversations… are probably the best thing we can encounter as journalists.”

He said listening to and recording the thoughts of average people was often more important than the punditry of leaders and analysts that claim to speak for them.
He further elaborated on this theme at a 2008 AUB conference saying:

“If I’ve learned something after more than 12 years of being a foreign correspondent… (it’s that) the journalism we can be least proud of is the journalism that comes from claiming to know too much, of acting like someone we are not.”
He also discussed lessons learned while revisiting his own work–articles he had written during the 2003 invasion of Iraq–while writing his 2006 book “Night Draws Near: Iraq’s People in the Shadow of America’s War 

He said of his previous articles:
“The articles that I felt held up over time were the ones that gave voice to the people I met there over those weeks (in Baghdad), that describe their sentiments, their fears, their hopes and their ambitions.
The ones that felt dated and cliched were the ones where I put forth my own views when I said with too much certainty what was going in a country that wasn’t my own.”
Note: I posted an extensive review of his book on his hometown Marje3youn
Here is the full lecture:

May Anthony’s words live on, and continue to inspire other journalists as they have inspired me.





February 2016

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