Minigames and Molecules: Cognitive Priming for Chemistry Spatial Tasks
(Society) – Chemistry Education Research, Monday PM
Amanda Bongers, Alex Hemmerich, and James Ingman
In this work, we are trying to apply some known principles and phenomena from the field of cognitive science to chemistry learning. Specifically, we wanted to see if playing certain computer games could cause people to perform better on stereochemistry tasks that may require mental rotation.
The idea was that playing the game may temporarily activate the learner’s spatial working memory, priming their brain for the mental rotation task. This idea of “cognitive priming” is that a stimulus can unconsciously influence, in the short term, your response to the next stimulus. Cognitive priming, especially in the context of video games, has a controversial history – it was originally proposed to explain how violent media, and then violent video games, could affect aggressive behaviour. But these affects don’t hold up to scrutiny. However, cognitive priming is real and has ground in neuroscience.
- Joordens, S., & Becker, S. (1997). The long and short of semantic priming effects in lexical decision. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 23(5), 1083-1105. doi:10.1037/0278-73220.127.116.113
- Shepard, R. N., & Metzler, Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, Vol 14, Feb 1988, pp. 3-11.
- Stieff, M., Ryu, M., Dixon, B., & Hegarty, M. (2012). The role of spatial ability and strategy preference for spatial problem solving in organic chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education, 89(7), 854-859.
- Stieff, M. (2004) A localized model of spatial cognition in chemistry [Doctoral Thesis].
- Stieff, M., Origenes, A., DeSutter, D., Lira, M., Banevicius, L., Tabang, D., & Cabel, G. (2018). Operational constraints on the mental rotation of STEM representations. Journal of Educational Psychology, 110(8), 1160–1174. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000258
- Information on logistics regression: https://www.datacamp.com/community/tutorials/understanding-logistic-regression-python
- Chao-Ying Joanne Peng,Kuk Lida Lee & Gary M. Ingersoll (2010) An Introduction to Logistic Regression Analysis and Reporting. https://doi.org/10.1080/00220670209598786
Special Thanks to my students Alex Hemmerich (USSRF Summer 2020)
and James Ingman (4th year thesis, 2020-2021) and to the students who participated in this research!
Lessons from a stolen discovery:
Teaching introductory organic chemistry by retracing the work of Alice Ball
(Society) – Nature of Discovery in the Chemical Sciences and Technology, Wednesday PM
- William Dehn, “Acetylations in Ether Solutions” JACS 1912 34, 10, 1398-1399
- William Dehn and Alice Ball “Benzoylations in Ether Solutions” JACS 1914 36, 10, 2091-2101
- Alice Ball (1915) “The Chemical Constituents of Piper Methysticum; The Chemical Constituents of the Active Principle of the Ava Root” MSc Thesis. https://scholarspace.manoa.hawaii.edu/handle/10125/1837
- Flynn, A. B.; Featherstone, R. B. “Language of mechanisms: exam analysis reveals students’ strengths, strategies, and errors when using the electron-pushing formalism (curved arrows) in new reactions” Chem. Educ. Res. Pract. 2017, 18, 64.
- “Alice Ball’s treatment for leprosy” by Nina Notman (Online article) https://www.chemistryworld.com/culture/alice-balls-treatment-for-leprosy/4011313.article
- “Alice A. Augusta Ball; Young Chemist Gave Hope to MIllions” by Paul Wermager & Carl Heltzel in ChemMatters, 2007.
- Hollmann, Harry H. “The Fatty Acids of Chaulmoogra Oil in the Treatment of Leprosy and Other Diseases”. Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology. 5: 94–101
To address the above issues, I’ve gathered some high-level learning outcomes that I hope become part of my chemistry teaching:
- Diversity: Recognize diverse contributions to organic chemistry
- Systems Thinking: Discuss the ways that chemistry relates to topics of social justice and health
- Design Thinking: Understand what questions organic chemists ask and problems organic chemistry can solve
- Patterns: Reason about why reactions occur by considering factors that influence properties and reactivity
- Mechanism first: Use and interpret curved arrows for bond-forming and bond-breaking reactions
- Inquiry/Discovery: Apply knowledge of reactivity to develop a hypothesis
Thanks to the historians, writers, and researchers who have helped rebuild Alice Ball’s story:
Harry Hollmann, Paul Wermager, Carl Heltzel, Nina Notman, Brianna Bibel.
Thanks to the 2020-2021 CHEM 112 students!
I would love to chat!