Friday, 27 April 2012

The Brain Prefers Small 'Chunks' of Information.

Ever wondered why the Snowdrop programme activities are presented as small 'bite sizedchunks?'  Also why our Vygotskian workshop activities are broken down into 'bite sized' task series of simple units of activity.

In order to comprehend the continuous stream of stimulation that battle for our attention, humans seem to breakdown activities into smaller, more digestible chunks, a phenomenon that psychologists describe as "event structure perception." 

Event structure perception was originally believed to be confined to our visual system, but new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reports that a similar process occurs in all sensory systems. 

Researchers at Washington University examined event structure perception by studying subjects going about everyday activities while undergoing tests to measure neural activity. The subjects were then invited back a few days later to perform the same tasks, this time withoout their neural activity being measured. Instead, they were asked to divide the task where they believed one segment of an activity ended and another segment began. 

The researchers surmised that if changes in neural activity occurred at the same points that the subjects divided the activities, then it could be safe to suggest that humans are physiologically disposed to break down activities into bite sized chunks (remember that the same subjects had no idea during the first part of the experiment that they would later be asked to segment the activity). 

As expected, activity in certain areas of the brain increased at the points that subjects had identified as the beginning or end of a segment, otherwise known as an "event boundary." Consistent with previous research, such boundaries tended to occur during transitions in task such as changes of location or a shift in the character's goals. Researchers have hypothesised that people break down activities into smaller chunks when they are involved in an activity. However, this is the first study to demonstrate that this process occurs naturally, without awareness and to identify some of the brain regions that are involved in this process. 

These results are particularly important to our understanding of how humans comprehend everyday activity. The researchers suggest that the findings provide evidence not only that people are able to identify the structure of activities, but also that this process of segmenting the activity into discrete events occurs without us being aware of it.

In addition, a subset of the network of brain regions that also responds to event boundaries while subjects view movies of everyday events was activated. It is believed that "this similarity between processing of actual and observed activities may be more than mere coincidence, and may reflect the existence of a general network for understanding event structure.

No comments: