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Communication Is the Most Important Learning Tool

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TRIESTE, Italy—Humans are intellectual creatures. But perhaps more so, they are emotional creatures. A new study illuminates the importance of emotion and human-to-human connection—via communication—in early learning.

Humans often think of the learning process as a process of repetition—of seeing and doing. But as new research reveals, the focus on statistical or repetitive learning fails to recognize the importance of communication.

In a recent study, researchers proved that the addition of human communication enabled less reliable information to beat out more statistically valuable info. The study featured an infant as the learner and an adult manipulating a machine with two buttons as the teacher. One button turned on a light two-thirds of the time (the high-frequency button), the other turned on the light only one-third of the time (the low-frequency button).

In the baseline scenario, the adult rotated between pressing the buttons successively over a brief period of time. The mimicking infant preferred the button that demonstrated a greater efficiency.

But in a second scenario, a communicative element was added. The adult made eye contact with the child and made baby-talk sounds when pressing the low-frequency button. Despite the statistical information available, the infants showed a preference for the low-frequency button.

“Human beings learn from statistical associations between events and objects,“ said study author Hanna Marno, a researcher at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste, Italy. “If, for example, one event very frequently follows another, we’ll learn to associate the first with the second and to use this association in our daily lives. However, this is not the only way we learn.“

The new study demonstrates that a preference for communicative learning may both interfere with and enhance early learning.

“The results demonstrate that in these experiments the ‘communicative’ signals are more important than the efficiency of the action” explains Marno. “Compared to children’s tendency to choose the more efficient button in the neutral condition, in the experimental situation they tended to prefer the button with low efficiency if this had been highlighted by the adult’s communicative signals.“

“Our studies clearly demonstrate the huge importance of communication in human learning,“ she concluded.

The research was published this week in the journal PLOS ONE.

Horoscopes: April 13, 2015

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The bonding spirit of the Aquarius moon brings focus to social possibilities that might inspire the higher mind. Should you seek a group of like minds? Benjamin Franklin and a group of a dozen or so friends met every week for 40 years to discuss mutual improvement. Of course, that was before Google and cable television.

ARIES (March 21-April 19). The theme of the day is: small doses, tiny portions and limited increments. It’s easy to underestimate the power of weak but consistent force, but to know what soft constancy can do, just look at any sandy beach.

TAURUS (April 20-May 20). Emotional pain, like physical pain, has a message. It tells you that life will be happier if you take things in a different direction. You listen to the wisdom inside of discomfort and figure out how to make things better.

GEMINI (May 21-June 21). Spending less than you make is the secret to happiness today. There are items you could cut, and you wouldn’t miss them in the least. You’ll get the best financial tips from friends.

CANCER (June 22-July 22). If a situation puts a damper on your warmth and confidence, it will also put a damper on your charisma. In order to be at your charismatic best, think the happy thoughts that keep you in a favorable mental state.

LEO (July 23-Aug. 22). Pretending to know things you don’t really know may be counterproductive, but it’s also a natural part of the learning process and a phase that most people go through over and over.

VIRGO (Aug. 23-Sept. 22). Don’t bother with trying to be universally liked. (Everyone hates people who are universally liked.) It will feel better to be acknowledged by one person you admire than by hundreds you don’t know.

LIBRA (Sept. 23-Oct. 23). You’ve been loyal, and you’ve invested time and energy in another person’s dream. It’s appropriate for you to now ask for help from this person. You’ve earned the right.

SCORPIO (Oct. 24-Nov. 21). It’s admirable how you’re willing to look inside yourself instead of flitting from one distraction to another to avoid your own mind. As your interior life thrives, so will your exterior life.

SAGITTARIUS (Nov. 22-Dec. 21). The important efforts will seem to drag on and on, and hopefully you’ll find a way to be OK with that. It’s going to take time – things that are worthwhile always do – so be patient.

CAPRICORN (Dec. 22-Jan. 19). You’ll find the equivalent of loose change under the sofa: valuable tender you lost at a time when you were otherwise focused that will be well spent on the thing you’re most focused on now.

AQUARIUS (Jan. 20-Feb. 18). When you have something urgent to express or exciting news to share, you’ll discover that your reach is outstanding, largely due to the work you do today building goodwill by just casually connecting because you feel like it.

PISCES (Feb. 19-March 20). Your comfort zone is undergoing a complete rezoning. It’s natural to feel a little nervous about this. The new people you’ll meet will inspire you to learn new skills and break out of old limitations.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY (April 13). Your loyalty will be rewarded; your optimism will prove well placed. The care you give others will be a theme through the next 10 weeks as you get used to making room for another person in your life. June will teach you history, and you’ll use the knowledge to make friends and money in the future. A deal favors you in September. Cancer and Virgo people adore you. Your lucky numbers are: 5, 30, 28, 15 and 27.

ASTROLOGICAL QUESTIONS: “You write a lot about mindfulness, but I don’t feel like I really know what you mean by that. Can you elaborate?”

Life is a lot like walking. You stand up and lean forward. The rest is a kind of organized fall. The only thing that keeps you on your feet is a series of corrections. Ask yourself these three magic mindful questions to bring yourself back on task:

What you are doing?

What do you think you’re supposed to be doing?

What are you going to do now?

That’s mindfulness. It’s simply awareness. Most problems can be made better with greater awareness. But we only know what we know and see what we see – and even that is suspect. Mindfulness is being willing to observe our own thought processes as we live and open them up for inquiry. Another way of thinking of mindfulness is that it’s a way of gently parenting yourself inside your own head. Be sure to do this in a kind voice. Realize that there is no perfect way to live.

CELEBRITY PROFILES: It has been rumored that President and Founding Father Thomas Jefferson had an astrologer. Though no conclusive evidence has surfaced, our third president did mention some astronomical discoveries of his day in correspondence, suggesting he was interested in cosmic events. Jefferson was a bold Aries born under an expansive, forward-thinking Sagittarian moon.

WayBackWhen™: April 13, 2015

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Today is Monday, April 13, the 103rd day of 2015. There are 262 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight:

On April 13, 1965, 16-year-old Lawrence Wallace Bradford Jr. was appointed by New York Republican Jacob Javits to be the first black page of the U.S. Senate.

On this date:

In 1613, Pocahontas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, was captured by English Capt. Samuel Argall in the Virginia Colony. (During a yearlong captivity, Pocahontas converted to Christianity and ultimately opted to stay with the English. )

In 1742, Handel’s “Messiah” had its first public performance in Dublin, Ireland.

In 1743, the third president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, was born in Shadwell in the Virginia Colony.

In 1861, at the start of the Civil War, Fort Sumter in South Carolina fell to Confederate forces.

In 1912, the Royal Flying Corps, a predecessor of Britain’s Royal Air Force, was created.

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C., on the 200th anniversary of the third American president’s birth.

In 1958, Van Cliburn of the United States won the first International Tchaikovsky Competition for piano in Moscow; Russian Valery Klimov won the violin competition.

In 1964, Sidney Poitier became the first black performer in a leading role to win an Academy Award for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.” Patricia Neal was named best actress for “Hud”; best picture went to “Tom Jones.”

In 1970, Apollo 13, four-fifths of the way to the moon, was crippled when a tank containing liquid oxygen burst. (The astronauts managed to return safely.)

In 1975, the President of Chad, Francois Tombalbaye, was killed in a military coup.

In 1986, Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in the first recorded papal visit of its kind to a Jewish house of worship.

In 1992, the Great Chicago Flood took place as the city’s century-old tunnel system and adjacent basements filled with water from the Chicago River.

Ten years ago: A defiant Eric Rudolph pleaded guilty to carrying out the deadly bombing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and three other attacks in back-to-back court appearances in Birmingham, Alabama, and Atlanta. Contract worker Jeffrey Ake (ayk) was shown at gunpoint on a videotape aired by Al-Jazeera television, two days after he was kidnapped near Baghdad. (His fate remains unknown.) Gymnast Paul Hamm (hahm) received the 75th Sullivan Award as the nation’s top amateur athlete.

Five years ago: World leaders concluded a 47-nation nuclear security conference in Washington, endorsing President Barack Obama’s call for securing all of the globe’s vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, but offering few specifics for achieving that goal. First lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden paid a surprise visit to Haiti, the scene of a devastating earthquake three months earlier.

One year ago: The head of the United Nations’ expert panel on climate change said the cost of keeping global warming in check was “relatively modest,” but only if the world acted quickly to reverse the buildup of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. Three people were shot to death at two sites in suburban Kansas City; suspect Frazier Glenn Miller, a white supremacist, was allegedly targeting Jews (none of the victims was Jewish). Thirty-six people were killed when a bus slammed into a broken-down truck in Veracruz, Mexico. Bubba Watson won the Masters for the second time in three years.

Today’s birthdays: Movie director Stanley Donen is 91. Former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., is 82. Actor Lyle Waggoner is 80. Actor Edward Fox is 78. Actor Paul Sorvino is 76. Rhythm-and-blues singer Lester Chambers is 75. Movie-TV composer Bill Conti is 73. Rock musician Jack Casady is 71. Actor Tony Dow is 70. Singer Al Green is 69. Actor Ron Perlman is 65. Actor William Sadler is 65. Singer Peabo Bryson is 64. Bandleader/rock musician Max Weinberg is 64. Bluegrass singer-musician Sam Bush is 63. Rock musician Jimmy Destri is 61. Singer-musician Louis Johnson (The Brothers Johnson) is 60. Comedian Gary Kroeger is 58. Actress Saundra Santiago is 58. Sen. Bob Casey Jr., D-Pa., is 55. Rock musician Joey Mazzola (Sponge) is 54. Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov is 52. Actress Page Hannah is 51. Actress-comedian Caroline Rhea (RAY) is 51. Rock musician Lisa Umbarger is 50. Rock musician Marc Ford is 49. Reggae singer Capleton is 48. Actor Ricky Schroder is 45. Rock singer Aaron Lewis (Staind) is 43. Actor Bokeem Woodbine is 42. Singer Lou Bega is 40. Actor-producer Glenn Howerton is 39. Actor Kyle Howard is 37. Actress Kelli Giddish (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”) is 35. Actress Courtney Peldon is 34. Pop singer Nellie McKay is 33. Actress Allison Williams is 27. Actress Hannah Marks is 22.

Thought for today: “Happiness is not the absence of problems but the ability to deal with them.” — Charles Louis de Montesquieu, French philosopher (1689-1755).

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