25.8 Psychology: Learning

There are two contrasting learning models in the literature of significance to this section. Rote Instruction/ Learning whereby an instructor repeats an activity to the student and the student attempts to replicate this activity over many trials, with the instructor correcting the student frequently. There is no stated purpose for the activity other than to follow instructions. The student is not allowed to deviate from the instructions or to experiment with variations on the instructor’s directions. A second approach, Mindful Instruction/ Learning which utilizes the Langer Protocol, see Table 25.8, allows for experimentation, exploration and individual initiative organized around a meaningful purpose. The Langer Protocol was developed from the research of Professor Ellen Langer at Harvard on the human learning process [74], [75]. A sixteen year research project [31], was undertaken to empirically study the differences in these two approaches using the Langer Protocol. The mathematical model for each approach have similarities but differ in the parameter that represents the capacity for learning.

There are three components in a simple learning model. (1) a learning capacity term that is the analog of the carrying capacity of the environment; (2) an interaction term analogous to a prey-predator encounter; and (3) a student and teacher presence. Using the empirical model, Fig. 25.16, a learning model can be derived. Figure 25.16, [78], page 256, provides an empirical model that should be reflected in any analytical model because the learning graph in Fig. 25.16 is representative of a student learning a new skill or solving a problem by experimentation and exploration guided by relevance and purpose. If the


1 Encourage experimentation and exploration
2 Eliminate value judgments
3 Emphasize discovery
4 Stress Individual initiative and creativity
5 Establish conceptually clear purposes
6 Eliminate should as a mindset
7 Eliminate micromanagement
8 Stress that answers are neither right nor wrong

Table 25.2: Principles of the Langer Protocol

fish is removed and the cat only relies on trial-and-error to escape, the learning time will be extended. The fish provides purpose. If a rote system is used in which the cat is constantly corrected, the cat will become confused and escape time will be extended. Also, the cat will become confused because he has no idea of what the instructor is trying to convey in the absence of a purpose. The time series for this model is presented in Fig. 25.17.

Figure 25.16: Learning by purpose and experimentation from [78]


Figure 25.17: Mindful learning prediction curves. Plate A Mindful Learning; Plate B Rote


The Code for Fig. 25.17, Plate A is as follows: 



The significance of the mindful learning model is that it is the carrying capacity (learning capacity) of the individual’s intellectual environment that is the critical parameter. If an indi- vidual has self doubt, then, on the average, their learning capacity is lower than an individual


without self doubt. If there are learning boundaries within a culture, the learning capacity will be reduced. This would include political culture. The individuals who will be most productive are those for which the limitations of the intellectual environment are minimal. Specifically, the potential to experiment with new ideas, innovate and defy authority increase the learning capacity of the individual. Why these activities can be limited by the cultural environment can be traced to the associative structures in the human brain. Thought pro- ceeds by association. The mesoscopic structures discovered by Freeman [45] and analyzed in the work of Kozma and Freeman [72] represent the building blocks of thought. These mesoscopic structures do not exist in isolation from structures that are related to emotion and fear. Therefore a cultural environment that provokes fear or concern for one’s welfare links actions such as innovation to mesoscopic structure linked to culturally established structures that invoke fear. In short, fear for one’s safety can block innovation and discovery. When fear arises from threats within a culture, they have the capacity to significantly limit mindful learning. In short, the learning capacity of an individual is causally limited by their culture. This parameter can be changed by cultural changes.

Additionally, early childhood environment can limit the learning capacity of the child. This can be overcome by environmental changes. The most serious conclusion of the model is that a child born in an economically limited environment will necessarily have their learning capacity limited until steps are taken to alter the limitations of the environment. The work of Freeman [45], [46], [47] demonstrates that environmental change can alter the growth of mesoscopic components related to the human learning process.