Very Important Study On Learning & The Brain

Larry Ferlazzo, Weblog, May 27, 2010
Commentary by Stephen Downes

Larry Ferlazzo cites a study suggesting that reward systems do not produce high-level learning. "Using "points" was definitely effective in getting the class under control," he writes, relating the study to his own experience. "They received them for being focused and doing their work. However, I didn't think students started doing their highest quality work until they were 'weaned' off the point system and began to gain what (Daniel) Pink calls 'autonomy, mastery, and purpose.' Pink says that those are the three essential elements in generating higher-order thinking." I don't think much of functional magnetic resonance imaging, which is the basis for the current study. But I do think the conclusion and the analysis are basically sound. "A model-based system can learn about the structure of the virtual environment and then use this information to compute the actions needed... A model-free system, on the other hand, would only learn to blindly choose those actions that gave reward in the past."
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