Education Theory/Additional Theory

Education Theory

Additional Theory

Theory 1: Disconfirmation bias


When people are faced with evidence for and against their beliefs, they will be more likely to accept the evidence that supports their beliefs with little scrutiny yet criticize and reject that which disconfirms their beliefs. Generally, we will avoid or discount evidence that might show us to be wrong.


Lord, Ross and Lepper had 24 each of pro- and anti-death penalty students evaluate faked studies on capital punishment, some of which supported the death penalty and some which did not. Students concluded that the studies that supported their views were superior to those that did not.


I am a scientist who is invited to investigate a haunted house. I rubbish the idea and decline the invitation. When given a paper which supports my pet theories, however, I laud the fine research with little questioning as to the methods used.

Theory 2: Objectification


Complex ideas are, almost by definition, difficult to understand. To help us make sense of them, we turn them into concrete images. There are three processes by which objectification is done:

  • Ontologizing gives an idea physical properties, for example by using close metaphors like the ‘mind as a computer’.
  • Figuration turns the ideas into pictures or images, for example traffic ‘jams’.
  • Personification turns the idea into a person. For example, a genius as Einstein.

The term 'objectification' or depersonification is also used to describe the way we treat other people as objects, in particular the way men can treat women as sex 'objects'. By reducing other people to things, it permits us to treat them with less care and human concern, bypassing our values around this subject.


This car is like a thoroughbred race-horse. Just imagine thundering up the roads, with trees and houses flying by. People will think you are Michael Schumacher. In war, effort is often put into depersonifying the other side, thus legitimizing and even encouraging killing them.

Theory 3: Social Identity Theory


When we belong to a group, we are likely to derive our sense of identity, at least in part, from that group. We also enhance the sense of identity by making comparisons with out-groups. Social identity is different from personal identity, which is derived from personal characteristics and individual relationships.


Breakwell (1978) studied teenage soccer fans, some of whom went to most games, whilst others did not go to games. Those who did not go to games were the most vehement about their loyalty and showed most in-group bias, presumably as they had a greater need to prove themselves as fans.


When abroad, especially in countries which have particularly different languages and cultures, we feel our nationality far more keenly than when we are at home. We will tend to band together in national groups, perhaps making comments about the strangeness of the natives.

Theory 4: Social Facilitation


When we are have tasks which we find relatively easy, we find the presence of other people a positive stimulus such that we perform even better. However, when the tasks are difficult, we find the audience unnerving and we are more likely to put in a worse performance.

When the task being performed is relatively easy, we are likely to do it more quickly. When the task is difficult, then we are likely to take more time to ensure we get it right (it is more embarrassing to be seen to be wrong than be seen to be slow).

This is because first, the presence of others increases physiological arousal such that our bodies become more energized, and secondly because when we are aroused it is more difficult to perform new or difficult tasks. The dominant response is that under arousal it is easier to do things we can easily perform.

The presence of others makes us suspect evaluation. Depending on how we forecast that evaluation, we may look forward to either adulation or criticism and rejection.


Michaels (1982) and three colleagues overtly watched students play pool. The better players got better. The novices got worse.


Top sports people are often lifted by the crowd to give their best ever performances at big events. Lower down the order, less confident sports people can find the crowds unnerving and consequently make mistakes.

Additional Literature on development of memory systems across the lifespan

Sander MC, Werkle-Bergner M, Gerjets P, Shing YL, Lindenberger U. (2012). The two-component model of memory development, and its potential implications for educational settings. Dev Cogn Neurosci. 2 Suppl 1:S67-77. We recently introduced a two-component model of the mechanisms underlying age differences in memory functioning across the lifespan. According to this model, memory performance is based on associative and strategic components. The associative component is relatively mature by middle childhood, whereas the strategic component shows a maturational lag and continues to develop until young adulthood. Focusing on work from our own lab, we review studies from the domains of episodic and working memory informed by this model, and discuss their potential implications for educational settings. The episodic memory studies uncover the latent potential of the associative component in childhood by documenting children's ability to greatly improve their memory performance following mnemonic instruction and training. The studies on working memory also point to an immature strategic component in children whose operation is enhanced under supportive conditions. Educational settings may aim at fostering the interplay between associative and strategic components. We explore possible routes towards this goal by linking our findings to recent trends in research on instructional design. PMID: 22682913

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