Overcoming the Brains Negativity Bias: Efficient Learning Tools We Tend to Avoid

Conference: The European Conference on Arts & Humanities (ECAH2022)
Title: Overcoming the Brains Negativity Bias: Efficient Learning Tools We Tend to Avoid
Stream: Arts - Performing Arts Practices: Theater, Dance, Music
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation
Barbara Fast, University of Oklahoma, United States


The brain’s negativity bias (Baumeister, Finkenauer, Vohs, 2001) describes the phenomenon of the brain retaining negative impressions and experiences over more positive events. Of interest to teachers, it has also been established in the learning and memory domain. Following a brief explanation of the brain’s negativity bias, the remainder of the workshop explores ways to avoid the negativity bias while teaching, a difficult task as teachers goals are to identify areas needing improvement and offer solutions to problems.

Cognitive and sports psychologists recommend learning most efficiently via interleaved practice – returning frequently to an activity rather than blocked practice. Most musicians, and learners in general, intuitively use blocked practice. Recent research indicates that Interleaved practice is more effective than blocked practice (Carter & Grahn 2016). Surprisingly, research demonstrated that performers, even after given their higher marks with interleaved practice, preferred blocked practice.

The author has successfully utilized the practice strategy, ‘Hardest First,’ in teaching. Grounded in sports research, the strategy is based on ice skaters practicing easier moves rather than intended, difficult moves. Surprisingly, the ice skaters remembered practicing more repetitions of difficult moves (Deakon, 2003). Do musicians fall into the same trap, believing they spend more time on difficult areas, but in reality spend more time on easier sections?

Useful tips for incorporating practice strategies that really work because our brains find them most efficient, but we avoid because of negativity bias, will be explored. The presenter has actively employed these learning tools teaching both individual and group classes.

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