Wednesday, September 07, 2005

What We Remember: 2 Very Different Types of Novelty Seeking

There are definite differences in how and what we remember best, but this latest research article from Stanford, researchers have been able to dissect out different pathways for novelty-based learning depending on whether recollections were conceptual or perceptual.

From the individual person point-of-view this makes complete sense. Sometimes we meet people who are very lopsided in what interests them. Sometimes these differences are very apparent at early ages.

Powerful conceptual novelty seekers are wonderful to talk with (they could go on for hours and hours in fact) because they make interesting observations, notice unusual aspects to prosaic topics, and play and appear to endlessly ruminate on personal topics of conceptual fancy. They may not always succeed in the classroom because they can think of better ideas in their heads, may prefer the company of smart adults, and have broad intellectual interests because it allows them to distill different subjects to their essence, and examine underlying conceptual foundations. Their most likely public school diagnosis: underachiever.

Powerful perceptual novelty seekers are often equally frustrating in the classroom but they are more likely to be misdiagnosed as 'ADD' or 'ADHD' because they're always noticing and playing with objects in the room. A bit of color here, texture there, weird shape, and their hands are running over it and using it exotic and unexpected ways. These perceptual novelty seekers may be excellent mechanical diddlers, find new uses for old things, and seem to always be wanting to make ordinary things better.

In the figure below, check out the very different brain patterns of activation depending on whether novelty-based recollections are 'conceptual' or 'perceptual' - sure it's not all-or-none right vs. left brain, but there is a pretty striking preferential pattern of right/left activation.

It's another question, how education might be optimized for these two very different classes of novelty seekers - but we'll have to talk about that another day (doing the crazy beginning of the school year dance).

Creative corporations probably have some of these lopsided novelty seekers - do you think they always get along?

Domains of Novelty Memory and fMRI

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