Annie Murphy Paul Profile picture
Writer, thinker. Author of 'The Cult of Personality,' 'Origins,' and most recently THE EXTENDED MIND: THE POWER OF THINKING OUTSIDE THE BRAIN.
Oct 29, 2021 5 tweets 2 min read
"It’s not WHERE we work that matters the most; it’s HOW the work is done and WHO is doing it," write Christoph Riedl, Thomas Malone, and Anita Woolley, three researchers who have studied the phenomenon of "collective intelligence."

In a new article, they write> that "the largest predictor of collective intelligence is a group’s collaboration process." Effective groups—remote OR in-person—do the following two things:

1) They figure out which member is the best at different tasks, and have that person take the lead on it.
Sep 26, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
I'm convinced that we need more structured ways of communicating if we are to "think with" other people more effectively. This goes for the classroom as well as the workplace.

Doug Lemov, author of the "Teach Like a Champion" books, addresses this in the latest edition of TLAC. As Jay Mathews of the Washington Post writes, Lemov introduces the acronym STAR:

"That stands for 'Sit up to look interested and stay engaged. Track the speaker to show other people their ideas matter. Appreciate your classmates’ ideas by nodding, smiling, and so on>
May 29, 2021 4 tweets 2 min read
Lovely insight from @GlenPearson in the London Free Press. We usually think of awe as being induced by a truly grand or majestic natural scene—and, research shows, the experience of awe acts as a "reset button" for the human brain, allowing us to see things afresh. But awe can be inspired by more modest encounters with nature, Pearson reminds us. "Co-operating with the natural order produces within us a sense of awe by putting us in touch with things beyond our daily frame of reference," he writes.
May 29, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
Can fidgeting help you focus?

Interesting article by Sarah Ayoub (@bysarahayoub) in the Guardian about this very common behavior. The adaptive functions of fidgeting are beginning to be recognized, says UC-Santa Cruz professor Katherine Isbister— —and this has led, she tells Ayoub, "to an increase in innovation around products that are intentionally designed and marketed to support fidgeting."
May 28, 2021 5 tweets 2 min read
One more good reason to move while we're doing mental work: we literally SEE things more clearly.

When we’re engaged in physical activity, our visual sense is sharpened, especially with regard to stimuli appearing in the periphery of our gaze. This shift, which is also found in non-human animals, makes evolutionary sense: the visual system becomes more sensitive when we are actively exploring our environment. When our bodies are at rest—that is,
sitting still in a chair—this heightened acuity is dialed down.
May 27, 2021 13 tweets 3 min read
A reader who received an advance copy of THE EXTENDED MIND just told me that he used this technique, described in the book, to get three colleagues on the same page in a meeting: Image "Researchers recommend that we implement a specific sequence of actions in response to our teammates’ contributions: we should ACKNOWLEDGE, REPEAT, REPHRASE, AND ELABORATE ON what other group members say.
May 25, 2021 6 tweets 1 min read
In his review of THE EXTENDED MIND in the Wall Street Journal today, writer Matthew Hutson singles out one particular theme of the book, and I'm so glad he did.

That theme concerns the fact that the raw materials of intelligent thought are by no means equitably distributed. Hutson's conclusion reads:

"By removing the brain from the vat, Ms. Paul writes, thinking 'can become as dynamic as our bodies, as airy as our spaces, as rich as our relationships—as capacious as the whole wide world.'"
May 24, 2021 5 tweets 2 min read
"Groups typically assume their most confident members are their most knowledgeable," note the authors of a new paper on collaboration.

That works out well for everyone when the most confident member also happens to be accurate in his or her judgment. But I think we all know that confidence doesn't always equal accuracy! Hence the importance of what the researchers (Philip Tetlock and two others) call "collective confidence calibration."
May 24, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
We tend to think of attention as an individual resource: MY attention, directed at MY chosen target.

But SHARED attention is an equally valuable resource. When a group of people is skillfully attending to the same thing at the same time, they work better together. Studies of groups laboring on a shared task—from students programming a robot to surgeons performing an operation—show that the members of effective
teams tend to synchronize their gaze, looking at the same areas at the same time.
May 23, 2021 9 tweets 2 min read
Cognitive scientists refer to stories as “psychologically
privileged,” meaning they are granted special treatment by our brains.

Compared to other informational formats, we attend to stories more closely. We understand them more readily. And we remember them more accurately. Image Research has found that we recall as much as *50
percent* more information from stories than from expository passages.

A thread about why stories exert these effects on us:
Apr 15, 2021 9 tweets 2 min read
In 2008, Nicholas Carr wrote a seminal article for The Atlantic, “Is Google Making Us Stupid?”

In the 13 years since then, digital technology has become only more pervasive and more integrated into our thinking processes—for better and for worse. But we know a lot more now. 1/9 In place of what was mostly speculation on Carr’s part, there is now a booming field of empirical research into exactly HOW and WHEN and WHY our encounters with technology influence our thinking.

For example: this new study from researchers at the University of Tübingen. 2/9
Apr 14, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
So powerful is the effect of gesturing while learning that it can improve learners’ comprehension of a complex concept, EVEN WHEN they are not aware of the connection between the concept and the gesture they've been instructed to make.
1/8 Simply making a conceptually-congruent gesture while they’re learning about the concept helps clarify and reinforce the concept—forming a second channel of instruction that’s independent of the verbal one.
2/8
Apr 13, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
UNC-Chapel Hill has the monument known as the Old Well. Penn State has the building known as Old Main. UVA has the Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson.

All of these are "iconic spaces" on university campuses—but who uses them? Who feels that they belong there? 1/8 Image Researchers led by UVA psychologist Sophie Trawalter recently examined the relationship between students' socioeconomic status and their use of iconic public space. Lower-SES students were less likely to feel that they belonged in these spaces, and less likely to use them. 2/8
Apr 3, 2021 6 tweets 2 min read
It's been a really weird year for college students. In thinking about the kind of supports they need, there's one we often overlook: their personal connection to the PLACE where they live.
1/6 Benjamin Meagher, a psychologist at Kenyon College, recently published a paper in which he examined the relationship between college students' psychological well-being and the degree of "place identity" they experience in regard to their housing.
2/6
Apr 2, 2021 10 tweets 2 min read
Andy Clark is one of the world's most interesting thinkers, and I'm always curious to hear what he's thinking about NOW. (With fellow philosopher David Chalmers, Clark proposed the theory of the extended mind, and is the author of "Supersizing the Mind," among other books.)
1/10 Image Anthony Wing Kosner recently published an article about the extended mind, featuring an interview with Clark. It includes a number of gems—such as Clark's suggestion that the isolation imposed by the pandemic has driven us further into what he calls "brainbound" thinking.
2/10
Apr 2, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
When engineers and architects tackle complex spatial problems, does all the action take place inside their heads? Not at all, write a team of learning scientists from Northwestern University. Such experts “don’t solve these problems just by manipulating mental models."
1/7 Image "They solve them through the coordinated manipulation of both internal and external representations”—like sketches, models, and even hand gestures. But the instruction we offer students fails to develop the outside-the-brain thinking skills used by real-world experts.
2/7
Apr 1, 2021 7 tweets 2 min read
When engineers and architects tackle complex spatial problems, does all the action take place inside their heads? Not at all, write a team of learning scientists from Northwestern University. Such experts “don’t solve these problems just by manipulating mental models." 1/7 Image "They solve them through the coordinated manipulation of both internal and external representations”—like sketches, models, and even hand gestures. But the instruction we offer students fails to develop the outside-the-brain thinking skills used by real-world experts. 2/7
Mar 27, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
Communicating via videoconference makes us LESS intelligent, as a group, than we would be if we communicated by phone with just our voices. That’s the surprising finding of a new study by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The reason why is fascinating. 1/8 Research previously found that SYNCHRONY among group members—the alignment of non-verbal behaviors—promotes collective intelligence. You might think that synchrony would be easier to achieve when members can see each other—but in fact such visual cues act as distractions. 2/8
Mar 26, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
I've been reading a fascinating new book that is all about how the SPACES in which teachers and students operate affect the learning that takes place there. It includes one of my favorite anecdotes about the role of physical space in our thinking processes. 1/8 After the British House of Commons was severely damaged by German bombs in 1941, Winston Churchill weighed in on plans for the reconstruction of the building, writes the book's co-editor, Thomas Kvan, in an introductory essay. 2/8
Mar 25, 2021 8 tweets 2 min read
Designers of digital tools aim to make them as “seamless” as possible—such that our technology supplies us with the information we need right away, without us having to ask for it. But it’s precisely these qualities that undermine our own sense of how difficult a task is. 1/8 Image An interesting new paper by Matthew Fisher and Daniel Oppenheimer in Psychological Science looks at what happens when our mental work is augmented by technological resources—say, using spellcheck to correct our writing. 2/8