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I rather enjoyed reading the assignments and listening to the podcast. The first thing I thought of when listening to the podcast and the idea of confirmation bias was the concept of person in environment in the social work field. Confirmation bias indicates that a person will interpret new information or evidence in accordance to their already set beliefs or standards. Sometimes this can affect a person negatively because then a person will not accept evidence that goes against their already set beliefs.
For person in environment, it is based on the aspect that people learn their behaviors from the environment they come from. For example, a child who grows up in poverty or in an abusive environment may believe that is all exists. These individuals may develop tendencies to be abusive toward their own children in the future simply because they are learned behaviors. As another example, a person who comes from a cultural background where education is not allowed for females, women will not attend school and follow the guidelines of their culture simply because it was what they were taught. However, when someone is given enough persuasion or incentive, their learning may be changed. A good example of this would be of Mahlala who got shot in the head by armed forces for attempting to attend school and get an education. She inspired many young girls in her country to fight for an education.
In the first reading by Illeris, dimensions of learning are explained in the same sort of example. Illeris describes learning in a triangle. Learning can be influenced depending on the environment a person is in. Sometimes when a person changes their environment their learning may change. For example, those who grow up in a certain religion such as the amish. At 16, when they are allowed to go out on their own into the world to experience things for themselves their opinions on the world or everything they have learned growing up may change or they may simply stay the same. On the other spectrum of the triangle Illeris describes how learning is also influenced by the content of the learning or the incentives the individual may obtain when learning. How the material is presented makes a big difference as to whether or not a person will receive the information that is being taught. For instance if it is just in an article with a lot of words an d scientific research a person may not be able to understand, learning may not take place. However, if it is presented in a video it may be easier for the person to understand.
Going back to the idea of confirmation bias, we all tend to believe and learn information in which we are taught in our local social groups. We form beliefs according to the people around us that we trust the most and share values with us. A good and drastic example of this is the FLDS Church and the leader Warren Jeffs. He taught his followers that he was the leader and that it was ok to have multiple wives regardless of age. He had young girls and women thinking it is ok to sleep with anyone. He had over 87 wives and was believed to have fathered over 50 children. He also banned all contact to the outside world, most technology, and any socializing. He made it impossible for anyone to have any other methods to learn and made it essential for everyone to trust him. He made it so they had no other choice but to believe what they were being taught.
It is simply incredible how our brains are affected when learning and how they can be retrained when there is enough incentive such as danger or fear.
While reading the texts and listening to the podcast, “Hidden Brain”, this week, what fascinated me most was the concept of the anxious brain and how it is intersects with social cognitive theory.
Per the Marienau reading, the brain strives for survival in all circumstances including social situations, causing this fear-based response to directly affect individuals’ behavior and one’s ability to learn. The brain stem in conjunction with the limbic system plays a key role in this heightened physical and emotional response of a person. “ALFAS need to be aware that when the reflexive brain is sharply stimulated-perhaps when an adult is suddenly put on the spot (especially if everyone else is watching)-the capacity of the rest of the brain to reflect, reason, or learn is severely curtailed” (Marienau, p.13). Students of all ages, including adults, have the desire to assimilate to those around them and be accepted by their peers even to the degree of giving an answer they know is incorrect or giving an opinion that is not true to themselves.
In this way, the anxious brain intersects with the idea of social cognitive theory discussed in the Merriam and Bierema reading, “Linking Theory and Practice”. In social cognitive theory, it is believed that humans learn and tend to obtain attitudes and beliefs by observing others and modeling behavior seen within their environment. Therefore, it is important to note that when adult learners are put into a group setting where they are required to state their truth vocally (whether it is to give an answer to a question or an opinion on a topic), the anxious brain oftentimes causes the individual to give a response that has been swayed by whether or not the majority of their peers agree. Similarly, learners may alter their behavior accordingly to assimilate to their peer group.
An example that reinforces this concept of the anxious brain in relation to social cognitive theory is the Solomon Asch conformity experiment conducted in the 1950s. One of the experiments consisted of six participants who were asked to examine which lines on the cards shown matched each other in length. The extent of social pressure on individuals to conform with the majority was clearly proven. Five participants were instructed to give the wrong answer to see if the sixth member would agree with the blatant incorrect answer or state the truth as he saw it. When it was the participant’s turn to speak, he gave the same incorrect answer as the others, conforming to the social pressure of his peers for fear of being the only student to be “wrong”. Why do individuals feel the need to conform even when they know better? Marienau states, “Adults are especially anxious about being wrong” (p.24) and goes on to discuss there is a tremendous fear for adults to reveal a potential shortcoming or lack of understanding in a group setting.
For this reason, it’s important for the educator to keep in mind the social pressure that may be felt by the learner in group sessions so they can proactively create a safe space for students to discuss concepts and at times, disagree with one another without being ostracized from the group. The safe space is contingent upon respectful interactions and each learner valuing one another’s unique point of view. In doing so, the educator will allow for a level of deeper learning to occur and for honest perspectives to be shared.
After listening to the podcast, “Hidden Brain” was an excellent example of the concept of the anxious brain vs. curious brain and how the use of an individual’s emotions and fears can alter the thought process information being received.
The podcast is an example of the two learning theories, behaviorism, and social cognitive theory. According to Merriam and Bierema, the behavior was a function of the person’s interaction with the environment. The social cognitive theory states that adults learn social roles by observing and modeling others.
The difference between a curious and anxious brain is the curious brain is usually looking for cause and effect and self-perseverance. Well, the anxious brain is indeed seeking and ready to fight or flee. Anxiety signals individuals to retreat and makes it very difficult to learn, and curiosity causes them to the lead. According to Taylor and Marienau, increasing curiosity does not ensure less anxiety, and lowering the threat does not guarantee curiosity.
Our brains have two settings: the anxious brain and the curious brain. When the anxious brain is in charge, the response is to retreat and be ready to fight or flee. The curious brain needs to be in charge of engaging in challenging conversations and having excellent and hard conversations. This transition is challenging. It requires some deep self-reflection, practice, and courage. For more information on Comments Reply see this: https://www.huffpost.com/static/comment-policy
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