A new study in educational psychology purportedly shows that “Gamification of Learning Deactivates the Default Mode Network.” The authors point out that “games offer incentivised conditions that are remarkably effective in engaging players in goal-directed behavior.” The associated DMN deactivation can apparently preclude mind-wandering and distraction, and thus “improve learning outcomes.” There is much evidence, though, that the DMN is involved in implicit learning, pattern recognition, holistic understanding, intuition, creativity, empathy and social judgment, etc. – so we should perhaps be careful what we wish for. Psychologist Matthew Lieberman offers and alternative approach. He suggests teachers should not seek to shut down the “social brain” (which largely overlaps with the DMN). Rather, they need to engage the latter through stories and dramatization – an approach more readily applicable in the humanities and social sciences, but apparently holding some promise in STEM areas, too. Alas, this argument may not hold much water for social scientists who do not seem to make much use of their own “social brain” – even when studying the human mind.
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