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 one group put 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…