Saturday, October 12

Desirable Difficulties

The first part is a copy paste from today's Mint Lounge, excerpts from Malcolm Gladwell’s forthcoming book: 'David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants'
From what I have been reading Malcolm Gladwell in his previous book 'Blink' (ongoing read) there's this thing about him, the moment you start off you will observe a lot dots he scatters around and takes you along connecting and flash... when you you reach the end dot and get your hand off you will have a whole picture made of the thoughts he wanted to share with you and ponder upon.
So this was a bit of disclaimer that don't get confused by the initial start of the Article, keep reading until you reach the end, absorb each of his fact and you will see the magic of thought in your brain :)

Start the read and you have my bits of his psychology at the end (rather my experience out of the same)

If you do a brain scan on a person with dyslexia, the images that are produced seem strange. In certain critical parts of the brain—those that deal with reading and processing words—dyslexics have less gray matter. They don’t have as many brain cells in those regions as they should. As the fetus develops inside the womb, neurons are supposed to travel to the appropriate areas of the brain, taking their places like pieces on a chessboard. But for some reason, the neurons of dyslexics sometimes get lost along the way. They end up in the wrong place. The brain has something called the ventricular system, which functions as the brain’s entry and exit point. Some people with reading disorders have neurons lining their ventricles, like passengers stranded in an airport.
While an image of the brain is being made, a patient performs a task, and then a neuroscientist looks to see what parts of the brain have been activated in response to that task. If you ask a dyslexic to read when he or she is having a brain scan, the parts that are supposed to light up might not light up at all. The scan looks like an aerial photo of a city during a blackout. Dyslexics use a lot more of the right hemisphere of their brains during reading than normal readers do. The right hemisphere is the conceptual side. That’s the wrong half of the brain for a precise and rigorous task like reading. Sometimes when a dyslexic reads, every step will be delayed, as if the different parts of the brain responsible for reading were communicating via a weak connection. One of the ways to test for the presence of dyslexia in a small child is to have him engage in “rapid automatized naming.” Show him one color after another—a red dot, then a green dot, then a blue dot, then a yellow dot—and check his response. See the color. Recognize the color. Attach a name to the color. Say the name. That’s automatic in most of us. It’s not in someone with a reading disorder; somewhere along the way, the links between those four steps start to break down. Ask a four-year-old: Can you say the word “banana” without the buh? Or say, Listen to the following three sounds: cuh, ah, and tuh. Can you combine them into “cat”? Or take “cat,” “hat,” and “dark.” Which one of those words doesn’t rhyme? Easy questions for most four-year-olds. Really hard questions for dyslexics. Many people used to think that what defines dyslexics is that they get words backwards—“cat” would be “tac,” or something like that—making it sound like dyslexia is a problem in the way the words are seen. But it is much more profound than that. Dyslexia is a problem in the way people hear and manipulate sounds. The difference between bah and dah is a subtlety in the first 40 milliseconds of the syllable. Human language is based on the assumption that we can pick up that 40-millisecond difference, and the difference between the bah sound and the dah sound can be the difference between getting something right and getting something catastrophically wrong. Can you imagine the consequences of having a brain so sluggish that when it comes to putting together the building blocks of words, those crucial 40 milliseconds simply go by too quickly?

“If you have no concept of the sounds of language—if you take away a letter, if you take away a sound, and you don’t know what to do, then it’s really hard to map the sounds to the written counterparts,” Nadine Gaab, a dyslexia researcher at Harvard, explained. “It may take you a while to learn to read. You read really slowly, which then impairs your reading fluency, which then impairs your reading comprehension, because you’re so slow that by the time you’re at the end of the sentence, you’ve forgotten what the beginning of the sentence was. So it leads to all these problems in middle school or high school. Then it starts affecting all other subjects in school. You can’t read. How are you going to do on math tests that have a lot of writing in them? Or how do you take an exam in social studies if it takes you two hours to read what they want from you?
“Usually you get a diagnosis at eight or nine,” she went on. “And we find that by that point, there are already a lot of serious psychological implications, because by that time, you’ve been struggling for three years. Maybe you were the cool kid on the playground when you were four. Then you entered kindergarten and all your peers suddenly started reading, and you can’t figure it out. So you get frustrated. Your peers may think you’re stupid. Your parents may think you’re lazy. You have very low self-esteem, which leads to an increased rate of depression. Kids with dyslexia are more likely to end up in the juvenile system, because they act up. It’s because they can’t figure things out. It’s so important in our society to read.”
You wouldn’t wish dyslexia on your child. Or would you?
...What do we mean when we call something a disadvantage? Conventional wisdom holds that a disadvantage is something that ought to be avoided—that it is a setback or a difficulty that leaves you worse off than you would be otherwise. But that is not always the case....I want to explore the idea that there are such things as “desirable difficulties.” That concept was conceived by Robert Bjork and Elizabeth Bjork, two psychologists at the University of California, Los Angeles, and it is a beautiful and haunting way of understanding how underdogs come to excel.
Consider, for example, the following puzzle.
1. A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?
What’s your instinctive response? I’m guessing that it is that the ball must cost 10 cents. That can’t be right, though, can it? The bat is supposed to cost $1.00 more than the ball.
So if the ball costs 10 cents, the bat must cost $1.10, and we’ve exceeded our total. The right answer must be that the ball costs 5 cents.
Here’s another question:
2. If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets?

The setup of the question tempts you to answer 100. But it’s a trick. One hundred machines take exactly the same amount of time to make 100 widgets as 5 machines take to make 5 widgets. The right answer is 5 minutes.
These puzzles are two of the three questions that make up the world’s shortest intelligence test.* It’s called the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT). It was invented by the Yale professor Shane Frederick, and it measures your ability to understand when something is more complex than it appears—to move past impulsive answers to deeper, analytic judgments.
Frederick argues that if you want a quick way to sort people according to their level of basic cognitive ability, his little test is almost as useful as tests that have hundreds of items and take several hours to finish. To prove his point, Frederick gave the CRT to students at nine American colleges, and the results track pretty closely with how students from those colleges would rank on more traditional intelligence tests. Students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—perhaps the brainiest college in the world—averaged 2.18 correct answers out of three. Students at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, another extraordinarily elite institution, averaged 1.51 right answers out of three. Harvard students scored 1.43; the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1.18; and the University of Toledo 0.57...
Can dyslexia turn out to be a desirable difficulty? It is hard to believe that it can, given how many people struggle with the disorder throughout their lives—except for a strange fact. An extraordinarily high number of successful entrepreneurs are dyslexic. A recent study by Julie Logan at City University London puts the number somewhere around a third. The list includes many of the most famous innovators of the past few decades. Richard Branson, the British billionaire entrepreneur, is dyslexic. Charles Schwab, the founder of the discount brokerage that bears his name, is dyslexic, as are the cell phone pioneer Craig McCaw; David Neeleman, the founder of JetBlue; John Chambers, the CEO of the technology giant Cisco; Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s—to name just a few. The neuroscientist Sharon Thompson-Schill remembers speaking at a meeting of prominent university donors—virtually all of them successful businesspeople—and on a whim asking how many of them had ever been diagnosed with a learning disorder. “Half the hands went up,” she said. “It was unbelievable.”
There are two possible interpretations for this fact. One is that this remarkable group of people triumphed in spite of their disability: they are so smart and so creative that nothing—not even a lifetime of struggling with reading—could stop them. The second, more intriguing, possibility is that they succeeded, in part, because of their disorder—that they learned something in their struggle that proved to be of enormous advantage. Would you wish dyslexia on your child? If the second of these possibilities is true, you just might.

Well, I could strongly connect to his thought. I had my past experiences to believe in the psychology of Desirable Difficulties.
Often while going through the struggle we end up becoming stronger and smart enough to tackle the whole thing. Writing my 12th Board exam with Left hand completely fractured just a day before the exam was one such experience. I remember sitting in the hospital all through the evening absolutely calm and composed as if it's nothing big, everyone around me was so hyper and certainly I too could have got influenced. However, I chose to be the opposite in reaction at that moment. In that one month the only part of my left hand which was workable was the tip of index finger and I guess the tip of second finger to some extent. I did not get the Plaster fracture thing done, I forced the Doctor to get a slight lesser heavy thing so that I don't have one more distraction added (the Plaster thing causes hell lot of itching ) to which the Doctor had warned that my last chotu si finger could stop working completely as the damage was severe, but still I was stubborn enough to get it done my way
I actually learnt using those two tips of fingers so well that I would put margins on the paper by somehow holding the scale with those fingers. And more than that the willpower I gained in those days was immense. It made me realise that your physical limitations can be pushed off by your mental stability.
I got the chotu si finger's wound healed in flat eighteen days and that took the Doctor by surprise, though when one observes that finger closely even today it has that bent left which could have been healed better, but nevermind I became a stronger myself in those days.(P.S.: I managed to top my college in those Board exams)
Second such incident happened before my CPT exams. Just like most of the students even I planned that I will cover it all from May last week and by 20 June I will be able to give my exam. I started off around 26th May and then the day came, 1st June and in the morning I find myself unable to open my eyes coz I was affected by conjunctivitis. I couldn't read anything till 18th Night and those 18days were another roller coaster seriously :D My friend Disha would sit all day around me reading out each and every page of the Modules .. My goodness.. Thanks to her.. (P.S.: I cleared CPT with 140/200 .. passing being 100 .. )
After all this seriously believe me, I consider getting ill, fractured, whatever physical pulldown, a good omen for me. I come out winning out of the whole thing. 
I m like, bring it on babyy :*
Desirable Difficulties :)

Note: I am waiting for another desirable difficulty for my upcoming CA Final exams :P (else I will create one :D)