Education Bookcast

Education Bookcast is a podcast in which we talk about one education-related book or article per episode.
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Education Bookcast


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Now displaying: April, 2017
Apr 13, 2017

I thought it was about time to cover something about books on this book-related podcast!

Keith Stanovich and Annie Cunningham are two researchers who have spent their careers working together to understand the effects of reading on knowledge. Their research aims to answer a few questions in particular:

1. How much does reading matter in increasing people's knowledge? Is amount of reading irrelevant, since amount of information absorbed depends so much more strongly on innate intelligence than it does on exposure to more information?

2. How does reading compare to other sources of knowledge? Is reading particularly important or special in some way, or do people tend to gain as much and as high-quality information from other sources?

The answers to these two sets of questions are very clear from Stanovich and Cunningham's research:

1. Reading is a much more important factor than innate intelligence, as far as knowledge is concerned. Extent of exposure to print even in literate societies varies greatly between individuals, and general knowledge, as well as applied knowledge, correlate strongly with measures of reading volume, but only weakly with measures of intelligence.

2. Reading completely outstrips other sources of information in terms of effect on knowledge. For example, when comparing old people to young people, the greater knowledge of the older people could be completely statistically explained by the amount of reading that they had done in their lives. All that matters is that the older people had read more!

Over multiple studies, the two researchers hammer home these points again and again. It reminds us of how high-quality text can be as a medium, and of how exposure and practice tend to go underrated in favour of natural talent in Western cultures. (This last point is a common theme on this podcast which I have talked about extensively, with episodes such as Mindset; my series on high performers including Bounce, Genius Explained, The Talent Code, and Outliers; and most recently in The Geography of Thought.)

Enjoy the episode. And get reading!

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Apr 8, 2017

11% of children and 4% of adults in the US are said to have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Dr Richard Saul has been a specialist in attention and learning problems in children and adults since the 1970's. He says that there is no such thing as ADHD. 

What, then, are all these children and adults suffering from? Dr Saul answers this question very thoroughly. It could be any of the following:

  • Vision problems
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Substance abuse
  • Mood disorders (bipolar disorder, depression)
  • Hearing problems
  • Learning disabilities
  • Sensory processing disorder
  • Giftedness
  • Seizure disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Tourette's syndrome
  • Asperger's syndrome
  • Neurochemical distractibility/impulsivity
  • Schizophrenia
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Fragile X syndrome
  • Poor diet
  • Iron deficiency
  • Allergies
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Pituitary tumour
  • Prematurity
  • Heavy metal poisoning

If you or someone you know has been suspected to have ADHD or been diagnosed with it, then you might be interested to find out what is at the root of the problem from this book.

Enjoy the episode.

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Apr 8, 2017

This continues the episode about The Geography of Thought, looking at more ways in which the cultural differences manifest themselves in differing psychologies of people from different parts of the world. Themes include:

  • Visual perception;
  • Descriptions and understandings of the self;
  • Attitudes to choice;
  • "Fitting in" versus uniqueness;
  • Attitudes to the law and contractual agreements;
  • Factors affecting motivation;
  • Preference for different types of reasoning; and
  • Approaches to blame and causality.

I also answer some questions posed at the beginning of last episode, namely:

  • Why do modern Asians excel at science and maths, and yet have few Nobel prizewinners?
  • Why were the ancient Chinese good at algebra and arithmetic, but bad at geometry, which the ancient Greeks excelled in?
  • Why did the West outpace the East in science and technology, given how far ahead China was in the fourteenth century?

The big idea here, as before, is that our thinking about psychology and education may be less universal than we realised. Many things that we thought were fundamental parts of human nature turn out to vary from culture to culture. It's a sobering thought, and has led me to have to rethink a range of conclusions about education, psychology, and human nature that I was previously quite confident about.

Enjoy the episode.

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