Links for February 27, 2012

Kathy Sierra on gamification in education [Larry Ferlazzo/Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… for Teaching ELL, ESL, & ESL] Kathy offers guidelines around when gamification may be safe vs. dangerous. What falls in the dangerous category? Learning and engaging that is intrinsically rewarding, since psychology studies have suggested that rewarding such activity destroys a person (or a monkey’s) interest in doing the activity for its own sake:

The studies are both counter-intuitive and disturbing. The monkeys that enjoyed playing with wooden puzzles until given their favorite treat reward for solving the puzzles, at which time their puzzle-solving diminished. The kids given ribbons for their drawings then showed less interest in drawing. The writers shown a list of possible external reasons for writing immediately wrote less complex and interesting poems than those shown a list of intrinsically-rewarding reasons for writing. And on and on and on and on. Animals, humans, children, adults, across wide-ranging domains and in studies conducted by dozens of independent researchers.

If 99.9% of big data is irrelevant, why do we need it [Michael Wu/Lithium Lithosphere blogs] Lithium’s Principal Scientist of Analytics Wu says “Just because you can track, store, and analyze big data, doesn’t mean you should.” He argues that in many cases you can answer the questions you need to answer just by getting the relevant data — which might be able to be loaded and analyzed on a beefy computer.

Lazily musing about sharing [JP Rangaswami/Confused of Calcutta]. “Sharing is serious business” — it has serious consequences for businesses, especially for those built upon not-sharing. Five ideas about sharing:

1. For anything to be social, it must be shared.

2. Sharing, the act of making social, happens because people are made social.

3. Sharing is encouraged by good design.

4. When you share physical things like food, sharing reduces waste.

5. When you share non-physical things like ideas, sharing increases value.

Want to get value our of your data and analytics investment? Then deal with this issue before you buy the software [Maz Iqbal/B2C Business to Community]. People don’t think statistically correctly, even professional statisticians. Getting the right data into systems that can analyze it is the easy part. The hard part is:

Getting managers to give up their pet theories, their ideological convictions, their vested interests, their intuition, their past experience and use data and analytics to make decisions. That is the central issue that you have to and should deal with.

psychology, psychometrics

Because I’m bored: A post about novelty seeking

Do you know anyone who is easily bored? Always looking for the novel, the exciting, the stimulating? You might see this trait manifest in different ways: the heli-skiier, the intellectual omnivore, the golf-sensation/sex-addict, even the heroin abuser likely have in common a drive to avoid boredom and a twin drive to experience excitement in whatever form works best for them.

Some psychologists call this novelty seeking, sensation seeking, or stimulation seeking.* Here’s one definition of sensation seeking:

a trait defined by the seeking of varied, novel, complex, and intense sensations and experiences, and the willingness to take physical, social, legal, and financial risks for the sake of such experiences. (Zuckerman & Kuhlman, 2000)

I took the Zuckerman-Kuhlman Personal Questionnaire sensation seeking scale and scored 84%, High bordering on Very High. I’m easily bored. I’m always looking for the next excitement, usually intellectual but could be something else. My need for novelty makes it hard to ever reach equilibrium because I inevitably get distracted by sparkly objects passing by.

It’s a good thing

That definition makes sensation seeking sound like a mostly negative thing (all those risks!) but in my experience, it’s not. Because I’m easily bored, I’ve had a pretty exciting life, I think. In Penelope Trunk’s framing, I’ve prioritized having an interesting life over a happy one. In the past, I have sacrificed comfort and stability for the new and different, whether it was a new job or a new career or a new house or a new state.

But now I find myself leaning more towards trying to have a happy, stable life rather than an interesting and exciting one. Sensation seeking declines with age, and I think I might have reached a pretty optimal level for where I am in my life. I’m totally willing to take intellectual leaps and risks, where some people in their early 40s might be stuck with tired ideas. I wouldn’t rule out moving our family yet again if the right opportunity arose. I take risks like blogging about random stuff that enters my bored brain. And yet I’m settled and stable in many ways I couldn’t have imagined in my 20s: I am satisfied with my husband, my neighborhood, my house, my career path, my colleagues.

It’s in the genes

There’s evidence of a genetic basis for novelty seeking, and also evidence that novelty seeking may be a risk factor for drug dependence.

And, novelty seekers may be more intelligent on average. From a 2002 paper in the Journal of Personal and Social Psychology:

The prediction that high stimulation seeking 3-yr-olds would have higher IQs by 11 yrs old was tested in 1,795 children on whom behavioral measures of stimulation seeking were taken at 3 yrs, together with cognitive ability at 11 yrs. High 3-yr-old stimulation seekers scored 12 points higher on total IQ at age 11 compared with low stimulation seekers and also had superior scholastic and reading ability. Results replicated across independent samples and were found for all gender and ethnic groups. Effect sizes for the relationship between age 3 stimulation seeking and age 11 IQ ranged from 0.52 to 0.87. Findings appear to be the first to show a prospective link between stimulation seeking and intelligence. It is hypothesized that young stimulation seekers create for themselves an enriched environment that stimulates cognitive development. [emphasis added]

I think adult stimulation/sensation/novelty seekers can do the same thing.


*Are novelty-seeking and sensation-seeking the same thing? Maybe.