Posts Tagged ‘Training’

Risk Intelligence

November 11, 2014

Risk Intelligence: How to Live with Uncertainty is the title of a book by Dylan Evans. This title should immediately grab you attention as we must live with uncertainty. Actually our cognitive processes lead us to believe that we live in a world with much more certainty than there actually is. The first chapter begins with a quote by Thomas Jefferson: “He who knows best, best knows how little he knows.” And there is also the human tendency to think we know more than we know. I’ve found that in continuing my education through the Ph.D plus decades of additional experience and learning that I know much less than I thought I knew when I graduated from high school! I’ve discovered vast new landscapes of ignorance.

Given the ubiquity of risk, we might well as is there such a thing as risk intelligence and can it be measured? Given the title of the book, you will probability not be surprised to learn that the answer to both questions is yes, Evans book contains a Risk Intelligence (RQ)Test or you can go online to There are also expert RQ tests targeted for specific areas of expertise.

A fear I had when I first encountered RQ tests was whether they would result in debates and research on the issue of whether RQ is innate or learned. Fortunately, RQ can be developed through education and training. Perhaps a good first step would be to read the book. Moreover, it has the additional merits of being interesting and entertaining.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

What Can Be Done About Older Drivers?

November 28, 2012

This current blog post reminded me of my dear senior citizen colleague, Fletcher Platt, Sr. Although Fletch had retired from the auto industry and had played an important role in placing seat belts in autos and in establishing a center for research into safe driving, he had become concerned about whether he could still drive safely. We continued to communicate about this and other topics. Eventually my wife and I had the privilege of visiting him at his retirement home a couple of times. He established, maintained, and constantly upgraded a website I wrote about in this blog (see the healthymemory blog posts, “An Interesting and Inspirational Website,” “A Life That Leads to a Healthy Memory,” and “Transactive Memory: An Important Concept Not to Be Overlooked”). Unfortunately his website is gone with his passing, but I know he would have been much interested in this post.

When number of miles driven is equated, elderly drivers have higher crash rates than all other drivers, with the exception of teenagers. Moreover, drivers older than 70 are over involved in right-of-way crashes primarily at intersections where hazards typically emerge from the side of the driver’s vehicle. A wide variety of causes have been proposed to include:

diminished cognitive abilities such as the narrowing of the drivers’ useful field of view.

a loss of ability to attend selectively to what is important.

poor judgment of vehicle speed

diminished physical abilities that interfere with ability to control their vehicle

failure to turn their heads

older drivers scan at intersections less effectively than do younger experienced drivers.

Pollatsek, Romoser, and Fisher1 conducted research to determine whether scanning itself, in the absence of distractions and other traffic, was also a problem. To address this question they used two groups of drivers as research participants using driving simulators. A group of drivers over 70 and a control group of experienced drivers aged 25-55. The difference in scanning behavior occurred in the scenario in which the driver first has to stop at a stop sign and then go straight through the intersection. The critical threat region here is the two seconds before the driver entered the intersection and the one second after the driver entered (when the driver still might have been able to avoid a crash). It was during this critical period when the older drivers did not look around as much as the younger drivers. After they left the intersection and at less hazardous intersections, both groups looked around equally. The conclusion the researchers reached was that the older drivers had simply fallen into a bad habit.

Of course, the critical question here is whether anything can be done about this. Accordingly, the researchers examined the effect of training. The driving behavior of one group was recorded by three cameras that were placed in their cars. The research involved two other groups. One was a control group that was given no training. Another control group was given 30 to 40 minutes of instruction that included coaching about where to look at intersections and why less careful scanning was an important cause of crashes for elderly drivers. The group that had had their driving behavior recorded was shown the video of their driving behavior in addition to receiving the 30 to 40 minute block of instruction. At the end of this training the group given both the training and the video feedback reached a level of driving performance that was indistinguishable from the performance of younger experienced drivers.

Apparently, the feedback on their individual driving performance was critical. It is likely that the group that received only the instruction concluded that they knew and did that and that the training was not necessary. Feedback was required to show the drivers that they had fallen into a bad habit and needed to correct it.

As far as losses in the ability to divide attention, in peripheral vision, visual working memory, in visual processing and in the useful field of view, there are computer-based courses to rebuild and enhance these skills. Some of these can be found at

As for the question posed in the title of this article. Develop training programs for the elderly and train them.

1Pollatsek, A., Romoser, M.R.E., & Fisher, D.L. (2012). Current Directions in Psychological Science, 21, 3-7.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Review of Brain Exercises and Training Induced Learning

December 1, 2010

This post in based on a review article in Psychology and Aging.1 This article notes that there are volumes of evidence that even as we age, training in specific tasks generally results in improved performance on those tasks. The problem is that most of this research indicates that improvements are specific to the task and do not generalize to measurable benefits in daily life. This does not mean that this training is worthless. It can still provide beneficial exercise to the brain. Consider doing push-ups for physical exercise. Undoubtedly, doing push ups regularly is beneficial to your health. Nevertheless, it would be difficult to find that doing them provided measurable benefits in daily life outside your exercise regime.

So providing measurable benefits in daily life, say an overall increase in the rate of learning, is a difficult goal to achieve. Yet certain programs have provided evidence to this effect, and the authors of this article sought to capture the features of these programs that lead to generalizable results. They identified the following characteristics: Task difficulty, motivation and arousal, feedback, and variability.

With respect to the characteristic of task difficulty it is important to begin with an easy level of difficulty and then gradually advance through levels of increasing task difficulty. Obviously, if the task is too difficult to begin with, people become discouraged and learning suffers. However, if people are able to accomplish the task fairly easily, then can gradually increase their skill while advancing to increasing levels of difficulty.

Perhaps it is obvious, but if people are motivated to learn, they are more likely to succeed. Arousal goes hand in hand with motivation. Aroused learners, within limits, learn faster. So tasks that are enjoyable and rewarding increase arousal levels, and so forth, and so forth.

Feedback is important so that people know that they are performing the task correctly. This also relates back to motivation, arousal, and task difficulty. When task difficulty can be accommodated, the feedback is positive, which is arousing and increases motivation. Now task difficulty can be too easy, in which case the feedback is trivial, not rewarding and does not lead to arousal and increased motivation. So task difficulty is what is termed a “Goldilocks” characteristic—not too easy and not too difficult, but just right.

Variability is the final key characteristic. The training program should exercise a wide variety of skills. It is this variability that increases the likelihood that the benefits will transfer to everyday life and learning.

Unfortunately, too many Baby Boomers and looking for the magic exercise, the magic program, or the magic vitamin or dietary supplementary to ward off the effects of aging. There is no magic exercise or pill. What is required is a range of activities and exercises to ward off the effects of aging. The Healthymemory Blog recommends such activities. Its blog posts provide a variety of mnemonic techniques (click on the category mnemonic techniques) that increase the efficiency of memory and provide mental exercises that make requirements on creativity, recoding, and both hemispheres of the brain. The Healthymemory Blog provides information on human cognition, that provide both exercise and insight into cognitive processes. Transactive memory provides for cognitive growth via the technology, the internet, books, as well as for interactions with your fellow human beings.

1Green, C.S., & Bavilier, D. (2010). Exercising Your Brain: A Review of Human Brain Plasticity and Training-Induced Learning. Psychology and Aging, 23, 692-701. 

© Douglas Griffith and, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.