Notes and Sources

for "Science / Fiction"



The concept of different “learning styles” is one of the greatest neuroscience myths, Olivia Goldhill, Quartz, January 3, 2016.

One Reason the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth Persists, Jesse Singal, New York Magazine, December 28, 2015.

All You Need to Know About the ‘Learning Styles’ Myth, in Two Minutes, Christian Jarrett, Wired, January 5, 2015.

Do Learners Really Know Best? Urban Legends in Education, Paul A. Kirschner and Jeroen J. G. van Merriënboer, Educational Psychologist, 48(3), 169–183, 2013.

Learning Styles Don’t Exist, Daniel Willingham, YouTube video, uploaded August 21, 2008. 


Professor Daniel Willingham describes research showing that learning styles are a myth. Take heed, visual learners: you will not be able to improve your French accent using your eyes!


Learning Styles FAQ, Daniel Willingham,

Ask the Cognitive Scientist: Do Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Learners Need Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Instruction?  Daniel Willingham, American Educator, Summer 2005.

Learning styles & the importance of critical self-reflection, Tesia Marshik, TEDxUWLaCrosse. 


The belief in learning styles is so widespread, it is considered to be common sense. Dr. Marshik explains in detail the silly cognitive biases and childlike beliefs that fool us into thinking that learning styles exist!


Learning styles and pedagogy in post-16 learning: A systematic and critical review, Frank Coffield, David Moseley, Elaine Hall, Kathryn Ecclestone, Learning and Skills Research Centre, 2004.

Learning Styles: Concepts and Evidence, Harold Pashler, Mark McDaniel, Doug Rohrer, and Robert Bjork, Psychological Science in the Public Interest, Volume 9 Number 3, December 2008.  

Pashler et al., like Kirschner and Merriënboer, are not shy about revealing their contempt for the preferences of learners:

“Having noted the reality of these preferences, we emphasize that the implications of such preferences for educational practices and policies are minimal. The existence of preferences says nothing about what these preferences might mean or imply for anything else, much less whether it is sensible for educators to take account of these preferences.”

In other words, your preferences only matter if we say they do.

Neal DeGrasse Tyson, Twitter, February 5, 2016.


Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, by David F. Barsky, ECW Press, Toronto 1996. p. 141

How Capital Markets Enhance Economic Performance and Facilitate Job Creation, William C. Dudley and R. Glenn Hubbard, Goldman Sachs Global Markets Institute, November, 2004.

Finding Beauty in the Darkness, by Lawrence M. Krauss, New York Times, February 11, 2016

Bonini’s Paradox:

Bonini's Paradox proves that you can't make a useful AND accurate model, Esther Inglis-Arkell, io9, October 18, 2013

The Strategy of Model Building in Population Biology, Richard Levins, American Scientist, Vol. 54, No. 4, December 1966.

The Fallacies of Models, Institute of Physics website,

The Case for Teaching Ignorance, Jamie Holmes, New York Times, August 24, 2015.  

The Book of Learning and Forgetting, Frank Smith. New York: Teacher’s College Press, 1999.  

Punished By Rewards, Alfie Kohn.  Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1993/1999.

The Neural Correlates of Visual and Verbal Cognitive Styles, David J.M. Kraemer, Lauren M. Rosenberg, and Sharon L. Thompson-Schill, The Journal of Neuroscience, 25 March 2009. 

A Threefold Model of Intellectual Styles, Li-fang Zhang and Robert J. Sternberg, Educational Psychology Review, 17(1), 1–53, 2005.

“Jack loves to come up with his own ways of doing things. He prefers unstructured assignments and to come up with his own essay and project topics rather than being told what to do. Jill prefers to be given fairly explicit directions regarding how to do things. She prefers more structure in assignments and to be given an essay or project topic, or at least a choice of topics. Jack and Jill have different intellectual styles…
“In this article, intellectual style is used as a general term that encompasses the meanings of all major "style" constructs postulated in the past few decades, such as cognitive style, conceptual tempo, decision making and problem-solving style, learning style, mind style, perceptual style, and thinking style. An intellectual style refers to one's preferred way of processing information and dealing with tasks. To varying degrees, an intellectual style is cognitive, affective, physiological, psychological, and sociological. It is cognitive because whatever styles one uses to process information, one must be engaged in some kind of cognitive process. It is affective because one's way of processing informtion and of dealing with a task (i.e., employing an intellectual style) is partially determined by how one feels about the task... It is partially physiological because the use of a style is partially influenced by the way our senses (e.g., vision, hearing, and touch) take in the information provided to us. It is psychological because the use of a particular style is partially contingent upon how one's personality interacts with one's environment. Finally, it is sociological because the use of a style is affected by the preferences of the society in which one lives for various ways of thinking.”

Handbook of Intellectual Styles: Preferences in Cognition, Learning, and Thinking, Li-fang Zhang, Robert J. Sternberg & Stephen Rayner, Springer Publishing Company, New York, 2012.

“Intellectual styles,” a generic term for all style constructs, with or without the root word “style,” refer to people’s preferred ways of processing information and dealing with tasks. The accumulated knowledge in the field of intellectual styles has reached a new level of maturity. We see this maturity reflected in the nature of the research questions asked, the range of issues and topics investigated, the scope of investigations, the increasing sophistication of the research methodologies employed, the adequacy of the theoretical advancements achieved to account for and integrate the increasing body of empirical data, and the connections between the literature on intellectual styles and scholarship in other areas of psychology, education, and business, as well as allied fields.

The Effects of Personality Type on Engineering Student Performance and Attitudes, R.M. Felder, G.N. Felder, E.J. Dietz, Journal of Engineering Education, 91(1), 3–17 (2002).

People have different learning styles that are reflected in different academic strengths, weaknesses, skills, and interests. Given the almost unlimited variety of job descriptions within engineering, it is safe to say that students with every possible learning style have the potential to succeed as engineers. They may not be equally likely to succeed in engineering school, however, since they respond differently to different instructional approaches and the predominant mode of instruction favors some learning styles over others. Understanding learning style differences is thus an important step in designing balanced instruction that is effective for all students.

Are Learning Styles Invalid? Hint: NO!  R.M Felder, On-Course Newsletter, September 27, 2010. 

Every two years or so, some academic psychologists conduct a literature review and conclude that no research supports the use of learning styles in teaching, and journal reviewers and editors treat this conclusion as a new revelation that once and for all debunks learning styles…
Most learning styles debunkers base their arguments on the meshing hypothesis. They claim they have found no credible evidence that matching teaching to students’ learning style preferences leads to improved learning, so there is no reason to take learning styles into account when designing instruction…
This does not mean that learning styles have no place in instructional design, however: there is another view of their utility that the debunkers have chosen to ignore. The point is not to match teaching style to learning style but rather to achieve balance, making sure that each style preference is addressed to a reasonable extent during instruction. From this viewpoint, instruction is ineffective if it heavily favors one set of learning preferences (and hence one set of students) over another.

What’s the Story on Learning Styles? Maryellen Weimer, Faculty Focus, April 30, 2014.

“We have this tendency in higher education to throw babies out with bath water. It derives from dualistic thinking. Either something is right or wrong, it’s in or out, up or down. As mature thinkers, we disavow these dichotomous perspectives, but then find their simplicity hard to resist. They make complicated things easy.”

Social Control and Knowledge in Democratic Societies, Reiner Grundmann and Nico Stehr, Science and Public Policy, Vol. 30 No. 3, June 2003.

The “Revolving Door” between Regulatory Agencies and Industry: A Problem That Requires Reconceptualizing Objectivity, Zahra Meghani, Jennifer Kuzma, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, December 2011, Volume 24, Issue 6, pp 575-599.

How Intuition and the Imagination Fuel “Rational” Scientific Discovery and Creativity, Maria Popova, Brainpickings, June 1, 2012. 

Where is Science Going?  Max Planck, New York: W.W. Norton, 1932.

Steven Singer: The Sordid, Racist History of Standardized Testing, Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch's blog, April 5, 2016.

Animals Think and Feel: Here’s How We Know, Simon Worrall, National Geographic, July 15, 2015.

Are We in Anthropodenial?  Frans de Waal, Discover, July 7, 1997.

Animals are conscious and should be treated as such, Mark Bekoff, New Scientist, September 19, 2012.


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