“That is a nice BIG target, especially if I can see it.”


I really enjoy my subscription to Scientific American Mind.  I stumbled upon a small article from July/August 2011 about a visualization experiment conducted by researchers at the Free University of Amsterdam.


The experiment was really simple:


  •  Ask three different groups to putt a golf ball at a target 5 feet away.
  • Let each group see the target first, but then change the landscape for two of the groups.
  • Make one group putt under a curtain so that they cannot see the target.
  • Make another group putt through a small obstacle enroute to the target.
  •  Allow the last group to see the target with no obstacles.

 After each group putted the golf ball, they were asked to estimate the size of the target on a computer screen.  The group that was able to have an unobstructed view of the target during the task described a bigger target.  This outcome is interesting, especially considering that each group was allowed to see the target first.

 It is obvious that golfers in the first two groups clearly understood that the path to the target had changed.  Most surprising however, is that it would appear that barriers to a target negatively change people’s perception of the nature of the target itself.

 Perhaps our students would perceive learning targets to be more attainable if they had a clear idea not only what these targets were, but if the targets were in clear view any time they needed them.

 Something to think about…

2 thoughts on ““That is a nice BIG target, especially if I can see it.”

  1. Nice post Myron! I love the idea of keeping targets in clear view at all times. I agree that students may understand the targets in terms of final outcome, however, if the path toward those targets is restricted or out of view, then the disconnect creates an additional impediment for success; confidence – my belief in my ability to eventually succeed – is stifled. Nice to see you blogging again!


  2. Thanks Tom, it does feel good to contribute again.

    I reflected on my own sense of confidence when approaching something I cannot really see, or conceptualize. A few years back, I would have approached the unknown with a fair degree of trepidation. Now my own confidence is a little stronger as I have had a few years to practice and gain a little success when sticking my neck out.

    For students, and especially those at-risk, it is likely a rather terrifying experience to approach a blurry or invisible target. If not scary, for others it would be a reason to check out of the whole process. I think it fits nicely with something you said to me a few years ago, ‘Why don’t we take the mystery out of the material?’ …I couldn’t agree more.

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