Those of us in online environments are familiar with the concept of attention allocation or attention as currency. A new research paper in Psychological Science argues that off-topic wall decorations in the classrooms of young students distract from the learning.
I’m not a psychology researcher. So, I can’t and won’t comment on the merits of the work as it relates to the body of related research. From reports, the study does use a small sample size (24 students in one class) and the same students in both conditions. So, don’t start yelling at your kid’s kindergarten teacher based on this study alone.
As the parent of a kindergartener and a recently graduated kindergartener, I was a bit surprised to discover that there was debate about the decoration of classroom grounds on its educational merit. Here, competition for kindergarten students is pretty fierce. At the same time, we parents are pretty irrational consumers of education as a product.
Walls covered in bright colors and cute art by little kids? That makes a classroom look fun, inviting, and warm. It distracts us too; and, before you know it, we are signing applications and deposit checks.
The evidence does not support the trendy notion of “psychological debriefing” – one-off counseling immediately after events to help people “process” – in fact it shows that it is worse than doing nothing. The actual experts in disaster relief seem to be wise to the research and using methods to help identify those people who do need help, rather than “helping” people who do not need it.