Thursday, March 12, 2015

Why cognitively lazy women (and their smart phones) may make better language learners!

clip art:
Women are (in my experience, intuitively speaking) generally:

Most now realize that the attitude in education of "It is not so important what facts students have in their heads, but rather if they can find the right answer on the web!" does, indeed, have it's downside--particularly when there is an urgent need to impress somebody at a party--without Siri being part of the conversation.

We also know at least intuitively (rather than analytically, based on hard research) that successful language learners tend to be better at "looking up" words (either from other people or "books" of some kind, online or dead-tree) and are better at remembering them--which probably doesn't mean just memorization.

New study by Barr, Pennycook, Stolz, and Fugelsang of University of Waterloo, summarized by ScienceDaily, found that intuitive, as opposed to analytical thinkers, tend to use their smart phone web browsers more to arrive at answers, as opposed to "thinking" it out themselves. (Full citation below--To paraphrase Will Rogers, I only know what I read on

Here's the bad news: According to the researchers, reliance on the smart phone may well make the more intuitive user "lazy" cognitively: "They may look up information that they actually know or could easily learn, but are unwilling to make the effort to actually think about it".

They did not find any correlation between use of smart phones for entertainment or social media and intelligence or cognitive "decline," however. (Clearly, a "no-brainer" . . . )

Here's the good news:. As we use more and more hand-held technology in language teaching and learning (especially pronunciation work), it should just get easier and easier--at least for some of us! And simply from an analytical perspective, or is it just intuitive, nothing in "print" says that smarter language learners are necessarily better ones?

The reported correlations between learning language in school and general academic success really don't count here, for a number of reasons, including gender bias. Again, in my experience, the less "intelligent" (boys) have to be even more ambitious and work harder at it. They cannot afford to kick back and take it easier.

Probably should have done more web search to explore this, of course, but being the wannabe analytic that I am, just figured it wasn't all that necessary.

Full citation:
University of Waterloo. (2015, March 5). Reliance on smartphones linked to lazy thinking. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 11, 2015 from

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