Interesting brain research plus upcoming tour – “Learning with the Brain in Mind” March 2010

The article below was sent to me by Terry Small a.k.a. “the Brain Guy”. Terry is an well known international speaker and… he is touring New Zealand in March!

If you would like to hear Terry speak in person, send an email to and you will added to the mailing list. He will be speaking in Auckland, Palmerston North, Wellington, (possibly Nelson) and Christchurch.  He speaks on a wide range of topics related to learning and is a fascinating speaker. Diana described him as “THE best conference speaker on the homeschooling circuit.”

Further details to come.

Volunteers needed! The “Learning with the Brain in Mind” tour is brought to you by the Firelight Foundation, a not for profit organisation committed to bringing quality international speakers to New Zealand. Past speakers have included: Steve Demme, Dr Jay Wile, Sally Clarkson, Jim Weiss and Andrew Pudewa.

If you would like to help with organising an event in return for free entry, please reply off-list.

Further details will be posted when they come to hand.

Have a great day.



By Terry Small a.k.a. “The Brain Guy”

How do you persuade a child to complete a homework assignment?

How do you persuade employees to embrace a change?

How do you persuade anyone to do anything?

We often use rewards. But do they really work? Do they really persuade the brain? I read an interesting study this week on this topic.

Stanford University rounded up two groups of school children. The children were given paper, pencils, and crayons and they were asked to create pictures. The first group was told that they would receive medals for good effort. The second group was just asked to create pictures.

Several weeks later the two groups were reassembled. Drawing materials were again handed out and the scientists measured how long the children played with them. What happened next was a surprise. The children who had received the reward of a medal spent much less time drawing than the children who were not give a reward.

Why did this happen?

It seems like the little voice in your brain says, ” Well, let’s see….they usually give me rewards for things I don’t like doing”. This effect has been replicated in many studies. The conclusion seems to be that if you reward children for doing something the long term result can be de-motivating. The “carrot and stick” approach only seems to produce short term change. It appears to destroy the very behaviour that it is designed to encourage.

I don’t think adults are much different.

What does work? Unpredictable celebrations. Something like, “Hey you did a great job on that assignment! How would you like to…..”  Or, ” You put a lot of effort into this. How would you like to celebrate?” This approach seems to create long term change! Even simple, small celebrations work wonders on your brain.

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