SPUG: QASIG - John Medina - Brain Rules - Meeting Report

Grace Hensley methylgrace at yahoo.com
Mon Feb 4 11:49:10 PST 2008

Hi Spuggers,

(Sorry for the delay, but I was busy having a baby .... ;)  )

I attended the QASIG (http://www.qasig.org/past_meetings.html) at  
Quardev in January, where we invited John Medina to speak about his  
upcoming book 'Brain Rules' (http://www.amazon.com/Brain-Rules- 
ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1202148137&sr=8-1).  Dr. Medina is a dynamic and  
entertaining speaker.  My only gripe with the presentation was how he  
delivered his slides, opening a variety of files as he made his  
points; it could have been smoother.  I highly recommend that you  
visit his website and review his engaging short videos (http:// 
www.brainrulesbook.com).  By the way, this is the first time that  
I've ever seen a prose (non-software) book released with a website.   

Dr. Medina spoke about two of his Brain Rules, Sleep, and Memory.  He  
is interested mainly about how people learn, and what it says for  
business practices or education.  As a QA person, I also tried to  
apply his talk specifically to software testing.

In the part of the speech regarding Memory, he discussed Intentional  
Blindness.  [Aside: Watch the video from the Visual Cognition Lab  
carefully.  How many times do you see the basketballs bounce? (http:// 
viscog.beckman.uiuc.edu/grafs/demos/15.html) ].  He reports that your  
brain edits out what is not supposed to be there.  Many points  
derived from patients with brain injuries were discussed, including  
the patient who had motion blindness (her brain edited out motion)  
braindamage.htm#motion).  When you apply this to Problem Solving  
(which is what software developers and testers are particularly good  
at), be aware of your biases.  Remember, "What is obvious to you, is  
obvious to you."  ...  Read that again!!

He discussed several phases of memory, Immediate Memory; that which  
must be repeated within 30 seconds or is forgotten, Working Memory,  
in which you repeat the information within 60-90 minutes, and of  
course, Long Term Memory.  What is interesting is that information is  
subject to corruption (just like software data!) unless you relearn  
it.  The process of getting the informaiton into long-term memory  
takes about 11 years!  Dr. Medina proposed changing the school day  
from half-a-dozen disparate single topics to 2-3 topics that are  
repeated throughout the day.  Perhaps you can teach a topic once  
auditorily, once kinesthetically, and once visually, each day to  
reinforce the concepts, getting them into Working Memory.

Segue into Sleep, which Dr. Medina proposes is really how you get  
information into your long term memory.  Dr. Medina used the model of  
the laboratory rat whose brain wave patterns were measured during the  
maze learning, and while the rat slept that night.  The pattern  
during sleep was repeated thousands of times during the night.  If  
the rat was interrupted during sleep, then the rat 'forgot' how to  
solve the maze and had to relearn it the next day.  Note to parents  
of teenagers: Get them to bed, and keep them from listening to the  
radio or TV while sleeping!  Dr. Medina also discussed some  
interesting sleep disorders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ 

Dr. Medina also described experiments where math problems were  
presented to study participants.  60% of those who were allowed to  
'sleep on it' came up with alternative creative solutions, compared  
to 20% of those who had to complete the task without a sleep  
interval.  He reported that effective problem solving decreased by  
110% if you go into sleep debt.

Finally, he made the point that events can be tagged by emotions and  
thus remembered better.  These 'post-it-notes' help reinforce ones'  
memories.  Therefore, memory and problem solving skills (i.e.  
software testing) are deeply influenced by ones' experiences and biases.

Enjoy, and y'all come to the next QASIG, too!

Grace Hensley
Geospiza, Inc.
methylgrace at yahoo.com

> From:	"Michael R. Wolf" <MichaelRWolf at att.net>
> To:	spug-list at pm.org, "SASAG Members" <members at lists.sasag.org>
> Date:	Tue, 8 Jan 2008 18:09:23 -0800
> Subject:	SPUG: OT - Interesting QA meeting on problem solving
> Plain Text Attachment [ Scan and Save to Computer ]
> The WSA QA SIG (sponored by Quardev) is having a
>  meeting this Wednesday on
> problem solving.  It looks interesting. (See
> http://www.quardev.com/events/january_qasig_meeting).
>    At our January meeting we welcome John Medina
>  PhD, Director, Brain Center
>    for Applied Learning, Seattle Pacific
>  University. Dr. Medina's talk,
>    titled The Strange World of Problem Solving,
>  discusses what scientists
>    have learned about the brain and some of the
>  things to try to bring
>    learning environments into 21st century.
> The speaker sounds interesting (see video clips),
>  and he's got a book coming
> out soon, that integrates a CD, the web, and the
>  book.  His (multi-)media is
> his message, or at least his multi-media
>  publishing model is supported by
> his research as he conveys his message.
> http://brainrules.net/
> I wish I could attend.  Please report back if you
>  go.
> -- 
> Michael R. Wolf
>     All mammals learn by playing!
>         MichaelRWolf at att.net

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