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My research currently involves the study of "cognitive_styles". Many people say they have an intuitive sense of what type of "learner" they are - visual, verbal, etc. These cognitive_styles - stated preferences for processing information in a particular format - are prevalent in everyday life, and have even found their way into many classrooms around the world. There is a relative lack of empirical research, however, investigating such questions as: what is a cognitive_style (i.e., are these "styles" more like immutable abilities or flexible strategies), how many categories of cognitive_styles exist, how accurate are our intuitions about our cognitive_styles (i.e., how well do our preferences correlate with our abilities), what measurable consequences do cognitive_styles have on learning, and how do differences in cognitive_styles correlate with differences in the neural representation of concepts?
Here's the abstract from a recent article of mine (Kraemer et al., 2009, Journal of Neuroscience) that takes a crack at answering that last question:
"It has long been thought that propensities for visual or verbal learning styles influence how children acquire knowledge successfully and how adults reason in everyday life. There is no direct evidence to date, however, linking these cognitive_styles to specific neural systems. In the present study, visual and verbal cognitive_styles are measured by self-report survey, and cognitive_abilities are measured by scored tests of visual and verbal skills. Specifically, we administered the Verbalizer–Visualizer Questionnaire (VVQ) and modality-specific subtests of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) to 18 subjects who subsequently participated in a functional magnetic resonance imaging experiment. During the imaging session, participants performed a novel psychological task involving both word-based and picture-based feature matching conditions that was designed to permit the use of either a visual or a verbal cognitive_style during all conditions of the task. Results demonstrated a pattern of activity in modality-specific cortex that distinguished visual from verbal cognitive_styles. During the word-based condition, activity in a functionally defined brain region that responded to viewing pictorial stimuli (fusiform gyrus) correlated with self-reported visualizer ratings on the VVQ. In contrast, activity in a phonologically related brain region (supramarginal gyrus) correlated with the verbalizer dimension of the VVQ during the picture-based condition. Scores from the WAIS subtests did not reliably correlate with brain activity in either of these regions. These findings suggest that modality-specific cortical activity underlies processing in visual and verbal cognitive_styles."
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