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Comment: Re:Right... (Score 1) 428

Actually the book was from 1988, and uses a huge set of research.

Also, rote memorization was the research topic as such because it seeks to push your brain's memory functions directly, rather than train techniques. That's why research showing improvement has gone on to discover subjects which improved had developed memory systems, not made their brains stronger by flexing them repeatedly.

Finally, let's excerpt from your paper:

Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups: 10-session group training for memory (verbal episodic memory; n=711), or reasoning (ability to solve problems that follow a serial pattern; n=705), or speed of processing (visual search and identification; n=712); or a no-contact control group (n=704). For the 3 treatment groups, 4-session booster training was offered to a 60% random sample 11 months later.

So far, so good.

Memory training focused on verbal episodic memory. Participants were taught mnemonic strategies for remembering word lists and sequences of items, text material, and main ideas and details of stories. Participants received instruction in a strategy or mnemonic rule, exercises, individual and group feedback on performance, and a practice test. For example, participants were instructed how to organize word lists into meaningful categories and to form visual images and mental associations to recall words and texts. The exercises involved laboratory like memory tasks (eg, recalling a list of nouns, recalling a paragraph), as well as memory tasks related to cognitive activities of everyday life (eg, recalling a shopping list, recalling the details of a prescription label).

The memory training participants were taught new techniques. This is skill, not brute force. If you did push-ups exactly the same way, you'd get bigger muscles; but this is teaching people to do those push-ups by moving their hands to a correct position which requires less effort and more efficiently lifts the body.

Reasoning training focused on the ability to solve problems that follow a serial pattern. Such problems involve identifying the pattern in a letter or number series or understanding the pattern in an everyday activity such as prescription drug dosing or travel schedules. Participants were taught strategies to identify a pattern and were given an opportunity to practice the strategies in both individual and group exercises. The exercises involved abstract reasoning tasks (eg, letter series) as well as reasoning problems related to activities of daily living.

Reasoning training was based on teaching techniques to analyze and approach problems. Again, technique. This is like learning about Kepner-Tregoe problem analysis.

Speed-of-processing training focused on visual search skills and the ability to identify and locate visual information quickly in a divided-attention format. Participants practiced increasingly complex speed tasks on a computer. Task difficulty was manipulated by decreasing the duration of the stimuli, adding either visual or auditory distraction, increasing the number of tasks to be performed concurrently, or presenting targets over a wider spatial expanse. Difficulty was increased each time a participant achieved criterion performance on a particular task.

K. Anders Ericsson explains something called the "OK Plateau". Most people learn initially by cognitive effort, and then internalize that into autonomous task: it moves from activating the prefrontal cortex to activating the basal ganglia. At a point, people subconsciously decide they're doing good enough, and cease improving.

Ericsson outlines three strategies experts use. Deliberate focus brings the task into cognitive recognition; goal-oriented behavior demands improvement; and immediate feedback points out current performance so the experts can analyze and adjust for their shortcomings.

Having trained myself in speed-reading, I can relate to the speed-of-processing study. I've had to deliberately focus on the RSVP, analyzing my own cognitive process. Initially, my mind would mill over words, return back to words I'd read, and stop focusing on what I was reading. This can be done between words in free time to rebuild and reanalyze, but not for extended blocks of 1-2 seconds when RSVPing at 450-800 words per minute. My mind also tends to wander to other related thoughts--which I had to stop.

By increasing speed, the researchers demanded additional focus. By adding distractions, the researchers demanded improved filtering of distractions specifically (rather than just internal thought). These changes largely demand the subject improve focus, accept a certain error rate, and employ strategies to maximize recognition of the most information in the least time. When multiple cognitive tasks are present, the subject must recognize the recognizable information so as to attend to it first, and move to the less-recognizable once the delay in processing won't cost so much (diminishing returns); when multiple, time-sensitive tasks are presented, rapid prioritization becomes important.

This particular part of the research provided an environment in which direct focus was enforced, goals were obviated, and immediate feedback was provided. Pattern behavior would obviously develop from such a strict environment, up to physiological limits.

None of that research says the brain bench pressed a bunch of information and became stronger and tougher. It suggests skill development, or at least suggests the strong possibility of skill development. My above discourse about cognitive processing skills is an implied likelihood not addressed by the paper; while the paper itself specifies the teaching of specific, researcher-selected mnemonics and problem-solving skills, rather than the exercise of basic mental faculties.

Nothing in there suggests the brain is a muscle and benefits from exercise. Much of that directly references technique, while the remainder supplies a situation where technique could easily develop and would be useful. I would bet money that tasks requiring similar cognitive effort and load on the same mental faculties, yet wholly unaided by any technique which could improve any of the things tested, would show zero improvement after the experiment.

Comment: I RTFA (Score 1) 196

by nine-times (#47973759) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

So I had one post that was a response to the question "Do specs matter", but I just RTFA, and I want to respond to that too. The complaint seems to be that, in tests of application load time, a brand new high-end phone isn't significantly faster than a high-end phone that's 1 year old. The conclusion is that, therefore, people buying new phones are doing so for stupid reasons, which is extremely foolish because they cost $900.

And yes, I'm sure some people buying them are doing so for dumb reasons. But the implied assumption there is that new high-end phones are being purchased every year by people whose main concern is application load speed. The truth is, a lot of people buying phones have phones that are at least 2 years old, and in America at least, a lot of them are buying it as part of deal that gets them the phone for something closer to $200. So not only the the cost much lower, the the benefit is much greater because an iPhone 6 actually is significantly faster than an iPhone4, for example.

But beyond that, there are features that are new. Maybe someone wants the bigger screen. It seems like much ado about nothing.

Comment: Re:Right... (Score 1) 428

In the late 1800s, William James, often referred to as the father of American psychology, tested whether he could improve his memory by exercising it. He memorized some of Victor Hugo's works, and then practiced memorizing Milton for 38 days. After this practice, he memorized more form hugo, and found that he actually memorized a bit slower than he had previously; he reported similar results for several other people who tried the same task.

Similarly, twelve-year-old girls practiced memorizing poetry, scientific formulas, and geographical distances for 30 minutes a day, 4 days a week, for 6 weeks. The practice did not result in any improvement for their ability to memorize.

A more recent study found that after practicing several hours a week for 20 months, a college student was able to increase his short-term memory span for digits from 7 to 80. However, he showed no increased ability in other kinds of memory tasks, including short-term memory for letters or words: He improved his memory for digits because he had learned to apply a mnemonic technique to the digits, not because of any actual increase in the capacity of his short-term memory.

Note: Above was one giant paragraph; I corrected it. Continues in new paragraph as below.

There is no substantial evidence that practice alone makes a significant difference in improving memory. It is true that practicing memorizing can help improve memory, but what you *do* during practice is more important than the *amount* of practice. One classic study (discussed in chapter 6) found that 3 hours of practicing memorizing did not improve long-term memory, but that 3 hours of practice using certain techniques did improve long-term memory.

--Kenneth L. Higbee, Ph.D., "Your Memory: How It Works and How To Improve It".

The brain is not a muscle. That is an urban myth, along with the myth that you use only 10% of your brain (or 1%, or 4%, or 20%, or whatever bullshit number you've heard throughout your life).

Every memory forms neurological links in the brain. It's associative. Stronger associations are easier to grasp at than weaker associations: your brain will attach pancakes to a recipe for pancakes if you cook pancakes a lot, as well as to tastes and smells and visual appearance; but it may attach pickled garlic to an idea, and to the idea of garlic and pickling, attached to vinegar, rather than directly to tastes and smells and opinions and familiar visual imagery and a recipe (process, materials) for pickling garlic.

More recent and more familiar memories tend to associate more with your current, every-day life. When your life changes--which is all the time--those associations drop away. Ties back to them are maintained by the strong memory of your extended long-term recall. As the years pass, those things become mixed around, and eventually the links are hard to locate. That's why you forget things: they're memorable because they're meaningful, and because the thing that makes them meaningful is familiar--meaningful itself.

Your brain doesn't actually get stronger by doing mental bench-presses. You just solidify the information you're working with, or develop implicit mnemonics techniques (people learn to chunk double-digit numbers or make them meaningful, etc.), or tie a bunch of stuff together when working in the same domain. It's like a hard drive that accesses things faster and more reliably when there's more things on it, and when those things are similar--or like a node database.

Comment: Phone size myopia (Score 2) 181

by swb (#47973363) Attached to: Phablet Reviews: Before and After the iPhone 6

They haven't released numbers yet, but the press reports seem to indicate that the 6 Plus demand is outstripping supply yet the chorus of people who think that even the 6 is too big let alone the 6 plus is as loud as ever. I think this is an interesting dichotomy.

I think the 6 Plus is fine -- I find more screen better than less screen, even if the increased size limits one-handed usage. I don't think there's an "ideal" size for any phone unless you toss in some usage requirements, like one-handed use or pocket storage complaints. I know some people who would use a full-size iPad as a phone if they could because none of the one-handed use or pocket issues apply to them. I think it's just a matter of personal preference.

I do think it's interesting that Tim Cook's Apple is responding to market demand instead of imposing a Jobsian design fascism. I also think that for a decent chunk of people, the 6 Plus is meant to take over some of the things they'd use a tablet for. I'm mostly happy with my iPad 3 (even with iOS8), but I think with a 6 Plus I'll reach for it less and put off upgrading it until it runs out of iOS updates.

And I think a lot of people who want both but can't swing it financially will find a 6 Plus a reasonable universal device. This is what surprised me about the 6 Plus release as I'm pretty sure it will eat into iPad Mini sales and even some full-size iPad sales.

What would be nice and I don't know if we'll ever get there for lots of reasons (technological and sales/marketing) would be a watch-sized device becoming the root device with the phone or tablet being the kind of screen/user interface, tethered to the phone for network access. That way you could pick your "phone" based on size preference, or none at all if all you wanted was bluetooth audio and phone calling.

Comment: Specs never really mattered (Score 3, Insightful) 196

by nine-times (#47973057) Attached to: Do Specs Matter Anymore For the Average Smartphone User?

I think sometimes people fail to recognize that the specs never really mattered. Not for any of it.

Does it matter what resolution the screen is? No. It matters whether the screen appears to be sharp. Does it matter how much RAM you have, or how fast the clock speed is on your processor? No, it matters whether applications are responsive. What really matters to people is the qualitative experience of using the object.

Specs and benchmarks are ways that you might try to quantify that experience. For the sharpness of the display, you can give the screen resolution and that can serve as an indication of the sharpness. For the speed of the device, you could measure how long it takes to complete a specific task, and that benchmark serves as an indicator of the speed. Those indicators may be more or less helpful. Some of these indicators (clock speed of the processor, megapixels of the camera) are often not that helpful anymore. But either way, they're just pieces of information that are helpful for shopping, for turning the qualitative aspects into quantities that make it easier to perform a direct comparison between products, and that's the only reason they're meaningful.

But a lot of the time, people lose sight of that. Especially when they have an agenda, and want to say, "my gadget is fancier than your gadget because it has more sneezelflopits." It doesn't matter what a sneezelflopit is, or whether it serves any purpose.

Comment: Re:Interest != a position (Score 1) 128

by nine-times (#47972957) Attached to: Nobody's Neutral In Net Neutrality Debate

I explicitly said I have and do participate in debates in where I don't care about the eventual outcome.

Geeze, I'm getting really tired of explaining this to people who obviously just haven't bothered to think. You do care. Obviously you do, or you wouldn't bother. The debate might be between A and B, and maybe you don't care about A or B, but the outcome of real debates (contrary to what they teach you when you're a little kid) is not the choice between A and B. If you want the debate to be fair, or you want the debate to be interesting, or you want to avoid a certain kind of outcome to the debate, then you care about the outcome.

And true neutrality would mean that you don't have *any* agenda and you aren't exerting *any* influence. If you're participating, you are doing those things. I'm guessing you're a guy who's maybe a math guy, to think about it like this: You have two force vectors pushing in opposite directions on the same object. A "neutral" party to the situation would be one sitting idly by, watching, having no effect on the outcome. You think you're being that "neutral" party when you engage in debates when you "don't care about the outcome". But in reality, you might be a 3rd vector pushing along another dimension. You're not pushing one way or another, but you're pushing to the side, moving the object in a completely different direction. Or maybe you're pushing straight down, and instead of moving the object, you're increasing the friction along the ground, making it harder for either of the other forces to cause the object to move.

When you look at it that way, you're not neutral. You're just another force in the system. Your mistake is in thinking that "debates" are ever a simple one-dimensional binary question of "either A or B", and so if you don't care about A or B, you're neutral. But those debates only exist in the mind of extremely small-minded people who fail to see the other dimensions to the problem.

I don't think I'm going to bother to respond anymore, unless you actually have something to offer.

Comment: Re:Why did he lose tenure? (Score 1) 145

by nine-times (#47972325) Attached to: Anonymous Peer-review Comments May Spark Legal Battle
That was my thought. I don't know anything about this case, but if you get fired from your job because an anonymous nutjob posts some unfounded criticisms of your work, then your boss (or whoever had you fired) is to blame. If there's a connection, I'd sooner guess that he was fired because some influential people at his school didn't like him, and the comments were posted by one of those people.

Comment: Re:Good response to the Systemd fight... (Score 1) 190

by grcumb (#47970939) Attached to: Outlining Thin Linux

"Servers" is not just that instance of node.js that you run in your VM. Servers in general do need hotplug (for example, a RAID array of hot swappable hard drives), and there are benefits of using DHCP for networks of servers too.

I think the point was that either udev could be forked or an older version of it could be kept kicking around for servers, and that network-manager wouldn't be needed at all. Device and network client configuration can be done via conf files with minimal effort (especially in context of a managed deployment via Puppet or the like). I agree, by and large. I'd argue that we could even do without udev, if it didn't take more effort to live without than to live with it.

Comment: Re: More great insightful summaries from /. - not! (Score 1) 75

by jd (#47970913) Attached to: Researchers Propose a Revocable Identity-Based Encryption Scheme

I've used the site longer and reserve the right to use Doctor Who references where I'm suspicious of technical details, especially as relate to timing vulnerabilities. This is allowed, as per The Hacker's Dictionary. Bonus points for finding the Doctor Who references included.

Comment: Re: Cursory reading (Score 1) 75

by jd (#47970887) Attached to: Researchers Propose a Revocable Identity-Based Encryption Scheme

That was pretty much my interpretation as well. Which would be great for ad-hoc encrypted tunnels - the source and destination can have keys that are valid only until the tunnel's authentication expires (typically hourly) and where the encryption is based on the identity the other side is known by. Ad-hoc tunnels need to generate keys quickly and efficiently, but also don't need to be super-secure. In fact, they can't be.

If RIBE isn't useful in ad-hoc, then you'd end up having to ask when it would be useful.

Anything that depends on a third party, including PGP/GPG with keyservers, is vulnerable to some form of compromise, SSL/TLS certificates all have a third party signer and Kerberos depends on all kinds of behind-the-scenes work being secure. However, although they're imperfect, they're considered adequate for what they do. Well, except for SSL, perhaps.

RIBE presumably therefore also has a niche where it's good. Rapid key turnover is what's wanted for conversation-based protocols with timeouts. That makes RIBE sound promissing for IPSec ad-hoc and SSL, as it makes store and crunch by attackers less likely to work. But is that the right niche?

Comment: Re:The WHO (Score 1) 428

by ultranova (#47970873) Attached to: Bioethicist At National Institutes of Health: "Why I Hope To Die At 75"

Do you want high-risk open-heart surgery, with a fifteen-per-cent risk of dying during the operation, or would you rather continue as you are, with a fifty-per-cent chance you will be dead in two years?

Open-heart surgery, please. You can actually feel your heartbeat, and thinking there's a problem means every irregularity, real or imagined, is going to give you a start. This gets especially fun when you're trying to sleep because that, after all, involves heartbeat slowing down.

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