Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn - Cathy N. Davidson (2011)


Introduction: I’ll Count—You Take Care of the Gorilla

1 The researcher that day was my colleague Güven Güzeldere, coauthor, with Murat Aydede, of Sensing, Perceiving, Introspecting: Cognitive Architecture and Phenomenal Consciousness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007).

2 The gorilla experiment by Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris is the cleverest of dozens of experiments that go all the way back to the 1970s, beginning with the work of Ulric Neisser. His foundational work can be seen in “The Control of Information Pickup in Selective Looking,” in A. D. Pick, ed., Perception and Its Development: A Tribute to Eleanor J. Gibson (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1979): 201–19; and Ulric Neisser and Robert Becklen, “Selective Looking: Attending to Visually Specified Events.” Cognitive Psychology 7, no. 4 (1975): 480–94.

3 Special thanks to Dan Simons for sharing this anecdote about the gorilla suit, in a conversation on Dec. 21, 2009.

4 The term “inattentional blindness” was coined by Arien Mack and Irvin Rock in the 1980s and 1990s and published in articles gathered together in the landmark study Inattentional Blindness (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998): ix.

5 Roger Highfield, “Did You See the Gorilla?”, May 5, 2004.

6 The man in this experiment, viewed millions of times on YouTube, is British psychologist Richard Wiseman. See “The Amazing Color-Changing Card Trick,” Apr. 28, 2007, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

7 John Helleberg, Christopher D. Wickens, and Xidong Xu, Pilot Maneuver Choice and Safety in a Simulated Free Flight Scenario (Savoy, IL: Aviation Research Lab, Institute of Aviation, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2000).

8 For a succinct discussion of why it is important to understand the difference between the Internet and the World Wide Web, see Thomas L. Friedman, The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century (New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005): 60–66.

9 “Exactly How Much Are the Times A-Changin?” Newsweek, July 26, 2010, p. 56.

10 Julie Logan, “Failures in Education System Cause UK to Produce Less Dyslexic Entrepreneurs than the US,” Nov. 5, 2007, Jan. 10, 2010).

11 “Survey Shows Widespread Enthusiasm for High Technology,” NPR Online, (accessed Apr. 7, 2010).

12 Robert Darnton, “The Library in the New Age,” New York Review of Books, June 12, 2008, (accessed June 15, 2009).

13 Clay Shirky, “The Collapse of Complex Business Systems,” (accessed Apr. 8, 2010).

14 Norman Doidge, The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science (New York: Penguin Books, 2007).

15 “A History of Speeding Tickets,” Wallstreet Fighter, (accessed Mar. 5, 2010).

16 U.S.Department of Labor study cited in “The Changing Workplace,” FamilyEducation .com, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010). See original study, “Futurework: Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century” at (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

17 Alvin Toffler, et al., Rethinking the Future: Rethinking Business Principles, Competition, Control and Complexity, Leadership, Markets and the World (London: Nicholas Brealey, 1997).

1. Learning from the Distraction Experts

1 John J. Boren, Allan M. Leventhal, and H. Edmund Pigott, “Just How Effective Are Antidepressant Medications? Results of a Major New Study,” Journal of Contemporary Psychotherapy 39, no. 2 (June 2009); see also Shankar Vedantam, “Drugs Cure Depression in Half of Patients: Doctors Have Mixed Reactions to Study Findings,” Washington Post, Mar. 23, 2006, (accessed Dec. 18, 2009).

2 As an industry magazine reports, “Cymbalta had $386 million in US first-quarter sales [in 2007], up 88% compared with the first three months of 2006.” See “Lilly Launches New Cymbalta TV Spots,” Medical Marketing & Media, June 1, 2007, (accessed Dec. 17, 2009).

3 According to the Draftfcb mission statement, “In delivering its clients a high Return on IdeasSM the agency is driven by The 6.5 Seconds That MatterSM, a creative expression recognizing the brief period of time marketers have to capture consumers’ attention and motivate them to act.” See (accessed Nov. 25, 2009).

4 See, for example, Ruth S. Day, “Direct-to-Consumer Ads for Medical Devices: What Do People Understand and Remember?” Testimony to the U.S. Congress, Nov. 18, 2008, Senate Committee on Aging, (accessed Dec. 15, 2009). Day’s Medical Cognition Laboratory at Duke University evaluates “cognitive accessibility” to determine how much consumers of prescription and over-the-counter drugs, medical devices, and medical treatments are influenced by ads. Such research might be funded by the National Science Foundation—or Glaxo Welcome.

5 Amy Shaw, “Direct to Consumer Advertising of Pharmaceuticals,” Proquest Discovery Guides, (accessed Nov. 20, 2009).

6 For testimony of Draftfcb’s success on the Cymbalta account, see “Best Branded TV Campaign,” Medical Marketing & Media, Oct. 29, 2009, Dec. 16, 2009). According to another account, “Industry watchers liked Lilly’s ‘Depression Hurts’ campaign for Cymbalta; Medical Marketing & Media deemed it the best overall consumer campaign. And Cymbalta sales growth reached a whopping 60 percent, giving Lilly a $2.1 billion infusion to the top line, $1.8 billion of that in the U.S. alone.” See “Top 13 Advertising Budgets,” Fierce Pharma, Sept. 23, 2008, (accessed Dec. 16, 2009).

7 As the Los Angeles Times reported, “For every 10% increase in direct-to-consumer advertisements within a class of similar drugs, sales of drugs in that class (say, antidepressants or erectile dysfunction drugs) went up 1%, Kaiser found in a 2003 study. In 2000, direct-to-consumer advertising alone boosted drug sales 12%, at an additional cost of $2.6 billion to consumers and insurers.” Melissa Healy, “The Payoff: In Short, Marketing Works; by Targeting Consumers and Doctors—Directly and Indirectly—Drug Makers Are Driving Sales. Why Mess with Success?” Los Angeles Times, Aug. 6, 2007, F6. See also Miriam Shuchman, “Drug Risks and Free Speech—Can Congress Ban Consumer Drug Ads?” New England Journal of Medicine, 356 (May 31, 2007): 2236–39; and “How Consumers’ Attitudes Toward Direct-to-Consumer Advertising of Prescription Drugs Influence Ad Effectiveness, and Consumer and Physician Behavior,” Marketing Letters 15, no. 4 (Dec. 2004): 201–12.

8 Special thanks to my student Ian Ballard for relating this incident.

9 Ludwig Wittgenstein was an influence on Edward Tronick’s important work on infant-mother scaffolding. See, especially, Edward Z. Tronick, “Dyadically Expanded States of Consciousness and the Process of Therapeutic Change,” Infant Mental Health Journal 19, no. 3 (1998): 290–99.

10 The primers of the socio-interactionist view of language acquisition are Clare Gallaway and Brian J. Richards, Input and Interaction in Language Acquisition (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Alison F. Garton, Social Interaction and the Development of Language and Cognition (New York: Psychology Press, 1995); and Brian MacWhinney, Mechanisms of Language Acquisition (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1987).

11 Birgit Mampe, Angela D. Friederici, Anne Christophe, and Kathleen Wermke, “Newborns’ Cry Melody Is Shaped by Their Native Language,” Current Biology 19, no. 23 (Nov. 5, 2009).

12 Cross-cultural studies by many investigators show that American parents tend to interact with their babies primarily by talking to, looking at, or smiling at them. See Berry Brazelton et al., “The Origins of Reciprocity: The Early Mother-Infant Interaction,” in H. Rudolph Schaffer, ed. Studies in Mother-Infant Interaction (New York: Wiley, 1974); Robert A. LeVine et al., Child Care and Culture: Lessons from Africa (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994). With newborns, American mothers tend to respond to hand movements, burps, and other physical responses as if these bodily functions were conversational.

13 Madeline Shakin et al., “Infant Clothing: Sex Labeling for Strangers,” Sex Roles 12, no. 9–10 (1985): 55–64; Thomas Eckes and Hanns Martin Trautner, The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender(Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000); and Katherine H. Karraker et al., “Parents’ Gender-Stereotyped Perceptions of Newborn Infants: The Eye of the Beholder Revisited,” Sex Roles 33, no. 9–10 (1995): 687–701.

14 Nancy Shand and Yorio Kosawa, “Japanese and American Behavior Types at Three Months: Infants and Infant-Mother Dyads,” Infant Behavior and Development 8, no. 2 (1985): 225–40.

15 Richard E. Nisbett, The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently—and Why (New York: Free Press, 2003), 150.

16 My analysis of “concepts” and “categories” is much influenced by philosopher Elizabeth Grosz and the theoretical genealogies her work encompasses. See, for example, The Nick of Time: Politics, Evolution, and the Untimely (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004).

17 For a comprehensive overview of Piaget’s theories of concept development as well as a survey of many studies showing that children learn racial mappings long before they have a defined concept of race, see Debra Van Ausdale and Joe R. Feagin, The First R: How Children Learn Race and Racism (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2001).

18 See David J. Kelly, Paul C. Quinn, Alan M. Slater, Kang Lee, Liezhong Ge, and Olivier Pascalis, “The Other-Race Effect Develops During Infancy: Evidence of Perceptual Narrowing.” Psychological Science18, no. 12 (2007): 1084–89; Gizelle Anzures, Paul C. Quinn, Olivier Pascalis, Alan M. Slater, and Kang Lee, “Categorization of Faces in Infancy: A New Other-Race Effect,” Developmental Science 11, no. 1 (2009): 78–83; and Charles Barkley, et al., Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man? (New York: Penguin, 2005). Barkley’s collection of thirteen interviews on the issue of fear and black men is filled with insights.

2. Learning Ourselves

1 Gerald M. Edelman, Second Nature: Brain Science and Human Knowledge (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006), 18.

2 See Eric R. Kandel et al., eds., Principles of Neural Science (New York: McGraw-Hill, Health Professions Division, 2000), ch. 6.

3 Ideas about infant response to auditory stimulus began to change in the 1970s with the introduction of nonverbal mechanisms for measurement. See, for example, W. Alan Eisele et al., “Infant Sucking Response Patterns as a Conjugate Function of Changes in the Sound Pressure Level of Auditory Stimuli,” Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 18, no. 2 (June 1975): 296–307.

4 For a selection of some of the vast research on this topic, see Joseph L. Jacobson et al., “Paralinguistic Features of Adult Speech to Infants and Small Children,” Child Development 54, no. 2 (1983): 436–42; and Christiane Dietrich et al., “Native Language Governs Interpretation of Salient Sounds Speech Differences at 18 Months,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 104, no. 41 (2007): 16027–31.

5 An overview that includes the work of Anne and L. Dodge Fernald is in Robert S. Siegler, Judy S. DeLoache, and Nancy Eisenberg, How Children Develop (New York: Worth, 2002).

6 Whitney M. Weikum et al., “Visual Language Discrimination in Infancy,” Science 316, no. 5828 (2007): 1159.

7 See Jean-Pierre Changeux, Neuronal Man: The Biology of Mind (New York: Pantheon, 1985); Michael S. Gazzaniga, Nature’s Mind: The Biological Roots of Thinking, Emotions, Sexuality, Language, and Intelligence (New York: Basic Books, 1992); John C. Eccles, Evolution of the Brain: Creation of the Self (New York: Routledge, 1989); and a good historical discussion in the standard textbook, E. Bruce Goldstein, Sensation and Perception (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1989).

8 George Lakoff, The Political Mind: Why You Can’t Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain (New York: Viking, 2008): 34.

9 Many brain discoveries are made by studying brains that don’t function according to expectation. Recent research on autism, for example, is revealing more information about how mirror neurons work, not just in the cognitive part of the brain, but also in the most emotional parts of the brain, like the amygdala. See Vilayanur Ramachandran and Lindsay M. Oberman, “Broken Mirrors: A Theory of Autism,” Scientific American 295, no. 5 (2006): 62–69.

10 Sandra Blakeslee, “Odd Disorder of Brain May Offer New Clues,” New York Times Aug. 2, 1994, sec. C, p. 4. See also, Ursula Bellugi et al., “Nature and Nuture: Williams Syndrome Across Cultures,” Developmental Science 10, no. 6 (2007): 755–62; and Ursula Bellugi and Albert M. Galaburda, “Multi-Level Analysis of Cortical Neuroanatomy in Williams Syndrome,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 12 (2000): S74–S88.

11 Even the numbers on this disease vary widely, with some studies suggesting it occurs in one in every 7,500 births worldwide, while others insist it occurs only in one in every 20,000 births. While genetically the condition is the same, and while physical and personality syndromes manifest in similar ways, how those syndromes are evaluated differ drastically. Ursula Bellugi et al., “Nature and Nurture.”

12 Martin J. Sommerville, et al., “Severe Expressive-Language Delay Related to Duplication of the Williams-Beuren Locus,” New England Journal of Medicine 353, no. 16 (2005): 1694–1701; and Lucy R. Osborne and Carolyn B. Mervis, “Rearrangements of the Williams-Beuren Syndrome Locus: Molecular Basis and Implications for Speech and Language Development,” Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine 9, no. 15 (June 13, 2007): 1–16.

13 Ursula Bellugi, “Nature and Nurture.”

14 Giacomo Rizzolatti, Luciano Fadiga, Leonardo Fogassi, and Vittorio Gallese began this work with macaque monkeys and have since extended their work to speculations about humans in the transmission of language, which is to say culture. The groundbreaking work on mirror neurons by the Parma research group has appeared in numerous articles over the last decade, including: Giacomo Rizzolatti et al., “Premotor Cortex and the Recognition of Motor Actions,” Cognitive Brain Research 3 (1996): 131–41; Vittorio Gallese, et al., “Action Recognition in the Premotor Cortex, Brain 119, no. 2 (1996): 593–610; Leonardo Fogassi et al., “Parietal Lobe: From Action Organization to Intention Understanding,” Science 308, no. 5722 (Apr. 25, 2005): 662–66; Giacomo Rizzolatti and Laila Craighero, “The Mirror-Neuron System,” Annual Review of Neuroscience 27 (2004): 169–92; Giacomo Rizzolatti and Michael A. Arbib, “Language Within Our Grasp,” Trends in Neurosciences 21, no. 5 (1998): 188–94; Marco Iacoboni et al., “Cortical Mechanisms of Human Imitation,” Science 286, no. 5449 (Dec. 24, 1999): 2526–28; Leslie Brothers et al., “Response of Neurons in the Macaque Amygdala to Complex Social Stimuli,” Behavioral Brain Research 41, no. 3 (1990): 199–213; and Alfred Walter Campbell, Histological Studies on the Localisation of Cerebral Function (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1905). Gallese recently began working with linguist George Lakoff to investigate how the structure and concept of “grasping” embodies the interconnection of mind and body prefigured by the discovery of mirror neurons, and that radically reverses the Enlightenment separation of mind and body, mind and brain, brain and world. All are interconnected in profound ways. See Vittorio Gallese and George Lakoff, “The Brain’s Concepts: The Role of the Sensory-Motor System in Conceptual Knowledge,” Cognitive Neuropsychology 22, no. 3–4 (2005): 455–79.

15 Valeria Gazzola and Christian Keysers, “The Observation and Execution of Actions Share Motor and Somatosensory Voxels in All Tested Subjects: Single-Subject Analyses of Unsmoothed fMRI Data,” Cerebral Cortex 19, no. 6 (2009): 1239–55; Vilayanur S. Ramachandran, “Mirror Neurons and Imitation Learning as the Driving Force Behind ‘The Great Leap Forward’ in Human Evolution,” available from Edge Foundation, (accessed Nov. 16, 2006); and Norman Doidge, “The Brain That Changes Itself,” American Journal of Bioethics 8, no. 1 (2008): 62–63.

16 Vittorio Gallese et al., “A Unifying View of the Basis of Social Cognition,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences 8, no. 9 (2004): 396–403.

17 Frans de Waal, Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009).

18 Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).

19 The persistence or reappearance of the Babinski reflex in an older child or adult (except during sleep or after a long walk) can signal a serious neurological condition such as brain or spinal damage. See James S. Harrop et al., “Neurological Manifestations of Cervical Spondylosis: An Overview of Signs, Symptoms, and Pathophysiology,” Neurosurgery 60, no. 1, suppl. 1 (2007): 14–20.

3. Project Classroom Makeover

1 These are all quoted and the experiment is discussed in James Todd, “The iPod Idea: Wired for Scholarship,” Duke Magazine 91, no. 5, Sept.–Oct. 2005.

2 The iPod experiment would never have happened without approval and funding of this forward-looking initiative, for which credit goes to my colleagues Tracy Futhey, vice president for information technology, and Provost Peter Lange.

3 On values formation and the blind spots it leaves, see Barbara Herrnstein Smith, Contingencies of Value: Alternate Perspectives for Critical Theory (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988).

4 Jeff Howe, Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd Is Driving the Future of Business (New York: Crown, 2008).

5 Professor Marie Lynn Miranda is a pioneer in using new technologies to help shape community activism on environmental policy. Her Web site is: May 6, 2010).

6 Maria Magher, “iPod Gets Top Marks: Culbreth Middle School Is the First in the State to Require Device,” Chapel Hill News, Mar. 14, 2010.

7 I have written about this at length with my HASTAC cofounder, David Theo Goldberg, in a research report that was first put up on the Web for comment from anyone who wished to offer it, then published in a research report based on colloquia we held all over the country, The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009). The expanded book form of this project is Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010).

8 “States Push for Nationalized Educational Standard,” U.S. and World News, CBS Interactive, Mar. 10, 2010, (accessed Mar. 19, 2010).

9 The classic studies of American education include Lawrence Cremin, American Education: The National Experience (New York: HarperCollins, 1980); Carl Kaestle, Pillars of the Republic: Common Schools and American Society, 1780–1860 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1983); and Michael Katz, Reconstructing American Education (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1987).

10 See Alvin Toffler and Heidi Toffler, Revolutionary Wealth: How It Will Be Created and How It Will Change Our Lives (New York: Knopf, 2006): 357–62.

11 Robert Schwartz, “The American High School in Context,” paper delivered to Sino-U.S. Seminar on Diversity in High School, Mar. 23, 2009, (accessed Mar. 19, 2010). This is the single most concise survey and set of statistics I have found anywhere, and one remarkably free of the polemics and politics (left or right) that confuse many of the statistics. This debt to him is not just for this wise assessment and sorting of the numbers but for his distinguished career of contribution to national educational policy since the Carter administration.

12 These are official figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an international organization of thirty countries “committed to democracy and the market economy.” “About OECD,”,3417,en_36734052_36734103_1_1_1_1_1,00.html (accessed Mar. 16, 2010).

13 Ibid.

14 Special thanks to tweeter Michael Josefowicz, a retired printer who tweets as ToughLoveforX, for this clarifying distinction between standards and standardization. Schwartz’s essay discusses the surveys of why students drop out of school.

15 On class size and academic performance, see foundational work in, for example, Glen E. Robinson and James H. Wittebols, Class Size Research: A Related Cluster Analysis for Decision-Making. (Arlington, VA: Education Research Service, 1986); Jeremy D. Finn, Class Size and Students at Risk: What Is Known? What Is Next? (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Institute on the Education of At-Risk Students, 1998); and Gene V. Glass, Leonard S. Cahen, Mary L. Smith, and Nikola N. Filby, School Class Size: Research and Policy (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1982). This work is reviewed at (accessed May 2, 2010).

16 See William R. Dagged and Paul David Nussbaum, “How Brain Research Relates to Rigor, Relevance and Relationships,” (accessed Apr. 29, 2010). See also Peter S. Eriksson, Ekaterina Perfilieva, Thomas Bjork-Eriksson, Ann-Marie Alborn, Claes Nordborg, Daniel A. Peterson, and Fred H. Gage, “Neurogenesis in the Adult Human Hippocampus,” Nature Medicine 4 (1998): 1313–17. There is a prolific body of research and policy statements on the “new three Rs”—including other Rs, such as responsibility, representing, relating, and so forth. See, for example, Clifford Adelman, Principal Indicators of Student Academic Histories in Postsecondary Education, 1972–2000 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, 2004); and Anthony P. Carnevale and Donna M. Desrochers, Connecting Education Standards and Employment: Course-Taking Patterns of Young Workers (Washington, DC: Achieve Inc., 2002).

17 Seth Godin, “What You Can Learn from a Lousy Teacher,” (accessed Mar. 20, 2010).

18 Matthew B. Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work (New York: Penguin, 2009).

19 All of this comes from weekly faculty blog posts at Quest 2 Learn, available online for parents and all the interested world to see: (accessed Jan. 10, 2009).

20 Katie Salen, ed., The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), 2.

21 Ibid., 9.

22 Quoted in David Kushner, “Can Video Games Teach Kids?” Parade, Dec. 20, 2009.

23 FAQ on the Quest 2 Learn/Institute of Play Web site, (accessed May 6, 2010).

24 Quoted in Kushner, “Can Video Games Teach Kids?”

25 Daniel J. Levitin, This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession (New York: Dutton, 2006), 106.

26 Cognitive surplus is a term coined by Clay Shirky in Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (New York: Penguin, 2008).

27 “Stanford Study of Writing,” results available at (accessed Jan 4, 2010).

28 Quoted in “A Vision of Students Today,” YouTube video by Kansas State University professor Michael Wesch and the students in Wesch’s Cultural Anthropology 101, (accessed Jan. 4, 2010).

29 Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee, On Intelligence (New York: Holt, 2005).

4. How We Measure

1 Cathy N. Davidson, “How to Crowdsource Grading,” (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

2 One of the most widely discussed papers of 2008 debunks the field of “social neuroscience” by showing the specious interpretation, application, and circular research design of studies using fMRIs to test human behavior. It uses the controversial term “voodoo” science. See Edward Vul, Christine Harris, Piotr Winkelman, and Harold Pashler, “Puzzlingly High Correlations in fMRI Studies of Emotion, Personality, and Social Cognition,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 4, no. 3 (2009): 274–90.

3 Special thanks to graduate student William Hunt for his insights into grading. For an analysis of the evolution of grading, see Christopher Stray, “From Oral to Written Examinations: Cambridge, Oxford and Dublin 1700–1914,” History of Universities 20, no. 2 (2005): 94–95.

4 Mark W. Durm, “An A Is Not an A Is Not an A: A History of Grading,” Educational Forum 57 (Spring 1993). See also Mary Lovett Smallwood, Examinations and Grading Systems in Early American Universities (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1935).

5 Jay Mathews, “A to F Scale Gets Poor Marks but Is Likely to Stay,” Washington Post, Oct. 18, 2005, (accessed May 4, 2010).

6 Joseph J. Harris, H. Russell Cross, and Jeff W. Savell, “History of Meat Grading in the United States,” Meat Science at Texas A&M University, 1990, rev. 1996, (accessed Mar. 22, 2010); and Herbert Windsor Mumford, “Market Classes and Grades of Cattle with Suggestions for Interpreting Market Quotations,” Bulletin of the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign Campus), Agricultural Experiment Station, no. 78 (1902), (accessed Mar. 22, 2010). Special thanks to William R. Hunt for this work on grading students and meat.

7 Franz Samelson, “Was Early Mental Testing: (a) Racist Inspired, (b) Objective Science, (c) A Technology for Democracy, (d) The Origin of the Multiple-Choice Exams, (e) None of the Above? (Mark the RIGHT Answer),” pp. 113–27, in Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890–1930, ed. Michael M. Sokal (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987), 122–23.

8 Peter Sacks, Standardized Minds: The High Price of America’s Testing Culture and What We Can Do to Change It (New York, Da Capo, 2001), 221–22.

9 Frederick J. Kelly, “The Kansas Silent Reading Tests,” Journal of Educational Psychology 8, no. 2 (Feb. 1916).

10 Ibid.

11 Theodore M. Porter, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995): ix.

12 Samelson, “Early Mental Testing,” 122–23.

13 Porter, Trust in Numbers, 208–10.

14 Samelson, “Early Mental Testing,” 122–23.

15 The debates about classical test theory, item response theory (IRT), latent trait theory, modern mental test theory, and so forth are extremely complicated. All attempt to justify the fact that a larger body of knowledge is tested according to filling in one “bubble” about one topic. Critics of IRT compare assessing overall knowledge based on response to one item as equivalent to assessing a Beethoven symphony based on one note. Relationships among ideas and sets of facts are not tested in IRT. For a readable overview, see Susan E. Embretson and Steven Paul Reise, Item Response Theory for Psychologists (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000).

16 Frederick James Kelly, The University in Prospect: On the Occasion of His Inauguration as President of the University of Idaho (Moscow, ID, 1928): 21.

17 My special thanks to Julie Munroe, Reference Library, Special Collections, University of Idaho, for finding materials about Frederick Kelly that were thought not to exist.

18 Stephen J. Ceci, On Intelligence: A Bioecological Treatise on Intellectual Development (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996); and Michael M. Sokal, ed., Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890–1930 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987).

19 See Jay Mathews, “Just Whose Idea Was All This Testing?” Washington Post, Nov. 14, 2006; and Richard Phelps, “Are US Students the Most Heavily Tested on Earth?” Educational Measurement: Issues and Practice 15, no. 3 (Fall, 1996): 19–27.

20 Quoted in Mark J. Garrison, A Measure of Failure: The Political Origins of Standardized Testing (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2009): 84.

21 Garrison, A Measure of Failure, 29–30. See also Howard Gardner, Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice (New York: Basic Books, 1993).

22 William Stern, The Psychological Methods of Intelligence Testing (Baltimore: Warwick & York, 1912).

23 It is possible that psychologists themselves have overestimated the harmful role of IQ tests in the immigration and eugenics controversy, a point made in a revisionist collection of essays, edited by Michael M. Sokal, Psychological Testing and American Society, 1890–1930 (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1987).

24 Stephen Jay Gould reproduces the confusing early pictorial Army Beta IQ tests and challenges readers to score higher than the “moron” level, The Mismeasure of Man, rev. ed. (New York: Norton, 1996).

25 Frederick McGuire, “Army Alpha and Beta Tests of Intelligence,” in Robert J. Sternberg, ed., Encyclopedia of Intelligence, vol. 1 (New York: Macmillan, 1994): 125–29; and Leon J. Kamin, “Behind the Curve,” review of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray (New York: Free Press, 1994), Scientific American, Feb. 1995, pp. 99–103.

26 Larry V. Hedges and Amy Nowell, “Sex Differences in Mental Test Scores, Variability, and Numbers of High-Scoring Individuals,” Science 269 (1995): 41–45; see also Cyril L. Burt and Robert C. Moore, “The Mental Differences Between the Sexes,” Journal of Experimental Pedagogy 1 (1912): 273–84, 355–88.

27 See Michael Bulmer, Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003); and Nicholas Wright Gillham, A Life of Sir Francis Galton: From African Exploration to the Birth of Eugenics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

28 Gould, Mismeasure of Man, 177.

29 Richard E. Nisbett, Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count (New York: Norton, 2009).

30 David Gibson, “Assessment & Digital Media Learning,” presented at the Peer to Peer Pedagogy (P3) HASTAC Conference, John Hope Franklin Center for Interdisciplinary and International Studies, Duke University, Sept. 10, 2010. Gibson is a computer scientist and educational visionary working on digital media assessment theory, a combination of evidence-centered test design and machine-readable methods for creating and scoring assembly-style (adaptive) testing, such as found in game mechanics. See, for example, David Gibson et al., Games and Simulations in Online Learning: Research and Development Frameworks (Hershey, PA: Information Science Publishing, 2007); see also Robert J. Mislevy et al., Computerized Adaptive Testing: A Primer (Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2000).

31 Timothy Salthouse, “Implications of Within-Person Variability in Cognitive and Neuropsychological Functioning for the Interpretation of Change,” Neuropsychology 21, no. 6 (2007): 401–11. For additional studies by Salthouse of cognition, aging, and testing procedures, see also “Groups Versus Individuals as the Comparison Unit in Cognitive Aging Research,” Developmental Neuropsychology 2 (1986): 363–72; and Timothy A. Salthouse, John R. Nesselroade, and Diane E. Berish, “Short-Term Variability and the Calibration of Change,” Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences 61 (2006): 144–51.

32 Salthouse, “Implications of Within-Person Variability.”

33 “Cognitive Scores Vary as Much Within Test Takers as Between Age Groups,” UVA Today, July 2, 2007, available at (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

34 Diane Ravitch, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education (New York: Basic Books, 2010).

35 Daniel J. Cohen and Roy Rosenzweig, “No Computer Left Behind,” Chronicle Review, Chronicle of Higher Education, Feb. 24, 2006.

36 This is not simply a pipe dream. In November 2010, the Mozilla Foundation sponsored its first international festival in Barcelona—Learning, Freedom, and the Open Web—at which programmers and educators codeveloped learning portfolios and learning badges for this purpose. HASTAC members worked on some of these for higher education.

37 Helen Barrett, “Authentic Assessment with Electronic Portfolios Using Common Software and Web 2.0 Tools,” (accessed Sept. 12, 2010); and, for an overview of new digital measurement, David Weinberger, Everything Is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder (New York: Times Books, 2007).

38 Danah Boyd, “Taken Out of Context: American Teen Sociality in Networked Publics,” PhD dissertation, University of California Berkeley, Jan. 2009, (accessed Sept. 12, 2010).

39 See “Framework for Twenty-First-Century Learning,” an invaluable set of resources compiled by the Partnership for Twenty-First-Century Skills, a partnership among the U.S. Department of Education and many private and nonprofit agencies, foundations, and corporations. For more information, see (accessed Sept. 12, 2010).

40 Historian Todd Pressner is the leader of the Hypercities project, which was a winner of a 2008 Digital Media and Learning Competition award, (accessed Oct. 6, 2010).

5. The Epic Win

1 “Epic Win,” Urban Dictionary, (accessed Mar. 30, 2010).

2 Jane McGonigal’s Web site, (accessed Mar. 20, 2010).

3 “About World Without Oil,” (accessed Mar. 30, 2010).

4 Evoke, (accessed Apr. 5, 2010).

5 Joseph Kahne, “Major New Study Shatters Stereotypes About Teens and Video Games,” John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Nov. 16, 2008. All statistics are taken from this study.

6 For the best overview of this early research of the 1980s and 1990s, see C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, “The Cognitive Neuroscience of Video Games” (Dec. 2004), repr. Lee Humphreys and Paul Messaris, Digital Media: Transformations in Human Communications (New York: Peter Lang, 2006). Green and Bavelier use the results from this research on arcade games to retest these skills on contemporary digital games. They are replicating, in several new experiments, many of the older kinds of cognitive research and finding similar results with contemporary online and mobile games. Although the Green and Bavelier paper does not make the kinds of historical-critical points I am raising here, its excellent survey of this older research informs my discussion.

7 D. Drew and J. Walters, “Video Games: Utilization of a Novel Strategy to Improve Perceptual Motor Skills and Cognitive Functioning in the Non-institutionalized Elderly,” Cognitive Rehabilitation 4 (1986): 26–31.

8 Tim Lenoir has astutely documented what he calls the “military-entertainment complex.” See Tim Lenoir and Henry Lowood, “All but War Is Simulation: The Military-Entertainment Complex,” Configurations8, part 3 (2000): 289–36. Donkey Kong was used to train soldiers, and excellence at the game made one more attractive to recruiters.

9 This 1994 study by Patricia M. Greenfield, Patricia deWinstanley, Heidi Kilpatrick, and Daniel Kaye is especially relevant to this discussion of attention and needs to be replicated with current techniques using contemporary video games and contemporary kids. See “Action Video Games and Informal Education: Effects and Strategies for Dividing Visual Attention,” Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 15, no. 1 (1994): 105–123.

10 C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier, “Effect of Action Video Games on the Spatial Distribution of Spatiovisual Attention,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 32, no. 6 (2009): 1465.

11 Richard J. Haier et al., “Regional Glucose Metabolic Changes After Learning a Complex Visuospatial/Motor Task: A Positron Emission Tomographic Study,” Brain Research 570 (1992): 134–43.

12 Kebritch Mansureh, “Factors Affecting Teachers’ Adoption of Educational Computer Games: A Case Study,” British Journal of Educational Technology 41, no. 2 (2010): 256–70.

13 Early Nintendo Gameboy Commercial, (accessed Mar. 25, 2010).

14 Bryan Vossekuil et al., “The Final Report and Findings of the Safe School Initiative: Implications for the Prevention of School Attacks in the United States,” United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education (Washington, DC, 2002).

15 Mark Ward, “Columbine Families Sue Computer Game Makers,” BBC News, May 1, 2001, (accessed Mar. 25, 2010).

16 Maggie Jackson, Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age (New York: Prometheus Books, 2009); Mark Bauerlein, The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30) (New York: Tarcher/Penguin, 2008); Nicholas Carr, The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (New York: Norton, 2010); and Nicholas Carr, “Is Google Making Us Stupid? Why You Can’t Read the Way You Used To,” Atlantic Monthly, July 2008.

17 Psychiatrists and psychologists, including Peter Breggin, Thomas Hartmann, and Sami Timimi, propose that ADHD is not a developmental, neurobehavioral disorder but a “socially constructed” disorder that varies widely from society to society, with diagnostic rates ranging from less than 1 percent to over 26 percent. While some extreme cases now diagnosed with ADHD may well need medical intervention (and possibly a more accurate diagnosis), they believe the pathologizing is harmful, especially as we have so little research on the long-term neuroanatomical effects of many of the drugs being prescribed as “treatment” for ADHD. See Sami Timimi and Maitra Begum, Critical Voices in Child and Adolescent Mental Health (London: Free Association Books, 2006); and Thomas Hartmann, The Edison Gene: ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2003).

18 “Adolescent Violence and Unintentional Injury in the United States: Facts for Policy Makers,” National Center for Children in Poverty, Oct. 2009, shows that teen years are the most susceptible to self-perpetrated violence or violence perpetrated by others. In addition, both are highly correlated with poverty as well. See (accessed May 2, 2010). However, these numbers have gone down, rather than up, in recent years, especially when poverty is factored in or out proportionally. See also Alexandra S. Beatty and Rosemary A. Chalk, A Study of Interactions: Emerging Issues in the Science of Adolescence (Washington, DC: National Research Council and Institute of Medicine, 2007); and “Criminal Victimization in the United States: Victimization Rates for Persons Age 12 and Over, by Type of Crime and Age of Victims,” (accessed Mar. 15, 2009). For a sampling of data on declining rates for suicide, murders, depression, and other factors, see Mike Males, “The Kids Are (Mostly) All Right,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 2007; and Lawrence Grossberg, Caught in the Crossfire (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2005).

19 Joseph Kahne quoted in “Major New Study Shatters Stereotypes About Teens and Video Games,” PEW Research Center, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

20 See John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas, “The Play of Imagination: Beyond the Literary Mind,” working paper, Aug. 22, 2006, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

21 To learn more about Virtual Peace, a game designed under the leadership of Timothy Lenoir, the Kimberly Jenkins Professor of New Technologies and Society at Duke University, visit

22 Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention (New York: HarperCollins, 1996).

23 John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas have teamed up for a number of articles on the importance of games and on the personal and social qualities games reward, encourage, support, and nourish. See “The Gamer Disposition,” Harvard Business Review 86, no. 5 (2008); “You Play World of Warcraft? You’re Hired! Why Multiplayer Games May Be the Best Kind of Job Training,” Wired 14, no. 4 (2006); “The Power of Dispositions,” forthcoming, International Journal of Media and Learning; and “Why Virtual Worlds Can Matter,” working paper, Oct. 21, 2007. I am very grateful to John Seely Brown for sharing these papers with me, including the two unpublished ones.

24 In 2009, the MacArthur Foundation released a second important study based on a three-year collaborative qualitative team effort by scholars, graduate students, and other researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of California–Berkeley. See Mizuko Ito et al., Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Media and Learning (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009).

25 The research-based, six-volume MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Series, for which I serve as a series adviser, was published by MIT Press in February 2008. It consists of W. Lance Bennett, ed., Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth; Miriam J. Metzger and Andrew J. Flanagin, ed., Digital Media, Youth, and Credibility; Tara McPherson, ed., Digital Youth, Innovation, and the Unexpected; Katie Salen, ed., The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning; Anna Everett, ed., Learning Race and Ethnicity: Youth and Digital Media; and David Buckingham, ed., Youth, Identity, and Digital Media. See also John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives (New York: Basic Books, 2008).

26 James Daly, “Reshaping Learning from the Ground Up: Alvin Toffler Tells Us What’s Wrong—and Right—with Public Education,” (accessed Oct. 6, 2010).

27 Benedict Carey, “Studying Young Minds, and How to Teach Them,” New York Times, Dec. 21, 2009.

6. The Changing Workplace

1 OECD Manual: “Measuring Productivity: Measurement of Aggregate and Industry-Level Productivity Growth” (Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2001), (accessed Oct. 6, 2010).

2 See especially Carr, The Shallows; and for a debate on the topic of how our brain is surviving the Internet onslaught, Steven Pinker, “Mind Over Mass Media,” New York Times, June 1, 2010. See also Jackson, Distracted; James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (New York: Random House, 2005); and Clay Shirky Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations (New York: Penguin, 2008).

3 See, for example, Sven Birkerts, “Reading in a Digital Age,” American Scholar, Spring 2010, (accessed July 23, 2010). For a survey of ideas of reading and attention, see Maryanne Wolf, Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).

4 For a concise compendium of the numbers, comparing information sources and flows between 2000 and 2010, see “Exactly How Much Are the Times A-Changin’?” Newsweek, July 26, 2010, p. 56.

5 Gloria Mark, (accessed Jan. 7, 2010). See also Gloria Mark, Victor M. Gonzalez, and Justin Harris, “No Task Left Behind? Examining the Nature of Fragmented Work,” Take a Number, Stand in Line (Interruptions & Attention 1): Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Portland, OR, Apr. 2–7, 2005 (New York: Association for Computing Machinery, 2005), 321–30; and Gloria Mark, Daniela Gudith, and Ulrich Klocke, “The Cost of Interrupted Work: More Speed and Stress,” Proceedings of the CHI 2008, n.p. A video presentation of Mark’s findings is available at (accessed Jan. 7, 2010).

6 Mark et al., “No Task Left Behind?” See also A. J. Bernheim Brush, et al., “Understanding Memory Triggers for Task Tracking,” Proceedings of ACM CHI 2007 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2007), 947–50; and Mary Czerwinski, Eric Horvitz, and Susan Wilhite: “A Diary Study of Task Switching and Interruptions,” in Elizabeth Dykstra-Erickson and Manfred Tscheligi, eds., Proceedings of ACM CHI 2004 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2004): 175–82.

7 “So Where Was I? A Conversation on Workplace Interruptions with Gloria Mark,” Information Overload Research Group, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

8 Excellent overviews of the research on attention for the last five decades are: Hal Pashler, The Psychology of Attention (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998): and Richard D. Wright and Lawrence M. Ward, Orienting of Attention (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2008).

9 Peter Borsay, A History of Leisure: The British Experience since 1500 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

10 For a survey and an analysis of crosscultural adaptation, see Andrew Molinsky, “Cross-Cultural Code-Switching: The Psychological Challenges of Adapting Behavior in Foreign Cultural Interactions,” Academy of Management Review 32, no. 2 (2007), 622–40.

11 “Web Browser Market Share,” StatOwl, (accessed Jan. 3, 2010); and “StatCounter Global Stats,” StatCounter (accessed Jan. 3, 2010). Special thanks to Aza Raskin for allowing me to interview him in March 2010. In December 2010, Raskin announced his resignation from his position as creative lead for Firefox to start his own company, Massive Health, a venture dedicated to applying design principles to health.

12 Jef Raskin, “Computers by the Millions,” 1979, DigiBarn Computer Museum, (accessed July 28, 2010).

13 For a full biography and analysis of Taylor’s contribution, see Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way: Frederick Winslow Taylor and the Enigma of Efficiency (New York: Viking, 1997). See also Charles D. Wrege and Ronald G. Greenwood, Frederick W. Taylor, the Father of Scientific Management: Myth and Reality (Homewood, IL: Business One Irwin, 1991).

14 Frederick Winslow Taylor, Shop Management (New York: Harper & Bros., 1911); and The Principles of Scientific Management (New York: Norton, 1967), 7.

15 Robert Kanigel, The One Best Way, 202.

16 Peter F. Drucker, Management, rev. ed. (New York: HarperCollins Business, 2008). This quotation comes from the Amazon Web site advertisement for Kanigel’s study of Taylor, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

17 Historian Jennifer Karns Alexander has shown that human worker efficiency has been compared (usually unfavorably) to the machine at least since the invention of the waterwheel in the Middle Ages. See The Mantra of Ef ficiency: From Waterwheel to Social Control (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). Alexander analyzes the intellectual concept of efficiency in Enlightenment ideas of rationality, especially the bifurcation of mind and body. Bruno Latour discusses the idea of “constitution” arising from English natural philosophy in the mid-1750s as significant for later studies of will, thought, and attention, in We Have Never Been Modern (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), 33. See also Robert L. Martensen, The Brain Takes Shape: An Early History (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), for an analysis of the history of mind and brain and the gradual extrication of “brain” from “mind.”

18 Harry Braverman’s Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1974) is a classic critique of Taylorism. In The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), Simon Head argues that the digital workplace is more Taylorized than ever and extends the operations of work into every aspect of private life and leisure time.

19 For excellent overviews of women and the modern workplace, see Barbara J. Harris, Beyond Her Sphere: Women and the Professions in American History (New York: Greenwood Press, 1978); Elizabeth Smyth, Sandra Acker, Paula Bourne, and Alison Prentice, Challenging Professions: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Women’s Professional Work (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999); and Natalie J. Sokoloff, Black Women and White Women in the Professions: Occupational Segregation by Race and Gender, 1960–1980 (New York: Routledge, 1992).

20 Theodore M. Porter, Trust in Numbers: The Pursuit of Objectivity in Science and Public Life (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1995): 76, 210.

21 To be exact, 904,900. U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Human Resources, Training, and Labor Relations Managers and Specialists,” (accessed July 18, 2010).

22 Clive Thompson’s 2005 article in the New York Times Magazine drew on the language of sociology to coin the phrase “interrupt-driven.” See Clive Thompson, “Meet the Life Hackers,” New York Times Magazine, Oct. 16, 2005, (accessed Jan. 10, 2010). For a contrast in the ideology of two very different technologies, see Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet: The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century’s On-line Pioneers (New York: Walker, 1998). See also Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon, Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins of the Internet (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996); and Tim Berners-Lee and Mark Fischetti, Weaving the Web: The Original Design and Ultimate Destiny of the World Wide Web by Its Inventor (San Francisco: Harper San Francisco, 1999).

23 Paul Sutter, Driven Wild: How the Fight Against Automobiles Launched the Modern Wilderness Movement (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002), 104.

24 U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, “American Time Use Survey Summary” for 2009, released June 22, 2010, USDL-10-0855, (accessed July 15, 2010).

25 Paul Carroll, Big Blues: The Unmaking of IBM (New York: Crown, 1994); Richard Thomas De Lamarter, Big Blue: IBM’s Use and Abuse of Power (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1986); Emerson W. Pugh. Building IBM: Shaping an Industry (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995); and Louis V. Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Inside IBM’s Historic Turnaround (New York: HarperCollins, 2004).

26 Gerstner, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?

27 Chuck Hamilton, e-mail to author, Mar. 30, 2010.

28 Special thanks to Charles (Chuck) Hamilton for talking with me on March 31 and April 6, 2010, and for taking the time to send me materials from his job and for answering my questions about his work life.

29 See Bill Bamberger and Cathy N. Davidson, Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (New York: Norton, 1998).

30 Henning Boecker et al., “The Runner’s High: Opioidergic Mechanisms in the Human Brain,” Cerebral Cortex 18, no. 11 (1991): 2523, (accessed Oct. 18, 2010).

31 IBM Jam Events, (accessed Apr. 8, 2010).

32 Ibid.; and Dean Takahashi, “IBM’s Innovation Jam 2008 Shows How Far Crowdsourcing Has Come,” Venture Beat, Oct. 9, 2008, (accessed Apr. 8, 2010).

33 Nicole Kobie, “The Chief Executive of Second Life Thinks Virtual Worlds Will Be the Future of Work,” IT Pro, Mar. 5, 2010, Mar. 30, 2010).

34 Quoted in Karl M. Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll, Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration (San Francisco: Wiley, 2010), 330.

7. The Changing Worker

1 Karl M. Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll, Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration (San Francisco: Wiley, 2010), 86–87.

2 For a compendium of the effects of obesity on health-care treatment, see Ginny Graves, “The Surprising Reason Why Being Overweight Isn’t Healthy,” Jan. 21, 2010, (accessed Mar. 25, 2010).

3 For a more detailed discussion of women’s struggles to obtain equal treatment in the workplace and of women’s advancement in the corporate hierarchy, see Douglas Branson, No Seat at the Table: How Corporate Governance and Law Keep Women Out of the Boardroom (New York University Press, 2007); and Douglas S. Massey, Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System (New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2008). See especially research on women and the law in Karen Maschke, The Employment Context (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1997); and Evelyn Murphy and E. J. Graff, Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men—and What to Do About It (New York: Touchstone, 2005).

4 Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan, “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination,” American Economic Review 94, no. 4 (2004): 991–1013.

5 Special thanks to my colleague and friend Tony O’Driscoll for many conversations over the years about his techniques in Second Life and other virtual environments. I am also grateful that he introduced me to two of the other visionaries profiled in this book, Chuck Hamilton and Margaret Regan (who facilitated the Second Life session with “Lawanda” described here).

6 For a further discussion of the idea of “theory” and “rapid feedback,” see Kapp and O’Driscoll, Learning in 3D, 86–87.

7 See Kapp and O’Driscoll, Learning in 3D, p. 85, for further discussion of neurological responses to changing environments, and p. 87 for the idea of integration, not just application.

8 Dan Ariely’s experiments about the way emotions influence future decision making are detailed in The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Benefits of Defying Logic at Work and at Home (New York: HarperCollins, 2010).

9 “Brave New Thinkers,” Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 2009, (accessed Jan. 13, 2010).

10 Special thanks to Thorkil Sonne for his correspondence of December 2009. Additional quotations come from Chris Tachibana, “Autism Seen as Asset, Not Liability, in Some Jobs: A New Movement Helps Hone Unique Traits of Disorder into Valuable Skills,”, Dec. 8, 2009, (accessed Dec. 8, 2009); see also “Entrepreneur Thorkil Sonne on What You Can Learn from Employees with Autism,” Harvard Business Review, Sept. 2009, (accessed Jan. 12, 2010); and “Brave New Thinkers,” Atlantic Monthly, Nov. 2009, (accessed Jan 13, 2010).

11 “Entrepreneur Thorkil Sonne.”

12 Quoted in Tachibana, “Autism Seen as Asset.”

13 Malcolm Gladwell writes about the analyses of Gretzky’s “field sense” on the ice in “The Physical Genius: What Do Wayne Gretzky, Yo-Yo Ma, and a Brain Surgeon Named Charlie Wilson Have in Common?” New Yorker, Aug. 2, 1999, (accessed May 7, 2010).

14 My thanks to Margaret Regan for her time and her candor during our conversation of Apr. 2, 2010. Quotations are from this interview and the FutureWork Institute Web site.

15 “The Future of Work in America,” FutureWork Institute slide presentation, (accessed Apr. 15, 2010).

16 Michael Lewis, “The No-Stats All Star,” New York Times, Feb. 13, 2009.

17 Katherine Mangu-Ward, “Wikipedia and Beyond: Jimmy Wales’ Sprawling Vision,” Reason 39, no. 2 (June 2007): 21, (accessed Mar. 31, 2010).

18 See “Jimmy Donal ‘Jimbo’ Wales,” Wikipedia, (accessed Dec. 20, 2009).

19 WikipediaCommunityPortal, (accessed Jan. 12, 2010).

20 Ibid.

21 Richard Pérez-Peña, “Keeping News of Kidnapping off Wikipedia,” New York Times, June 28, 2009,, (accessed July 20, 2010).

22 See especially Jonathon Cummings and Sara Kiesler, “Who Collaborates Successfully? Prior Experience Reduces Collaboration Barriers in Distributed Interdisciplinary Research,” Proceedings of the ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, San Diego, CA, 2008. These results are highlighted in Nature, 455 (2008): 720–23. I first began developing “collaboration by difference” as a method in 1999, and HASTAC adopted this as our official method sometime after. For a more detailed discussion, see Cathy N. Davidson and David Theo Goldberg, The Future of Thinking: Learning Institutions in a Digital Age (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010).

8. You, Too, Can Program Your VCR (and Probably Should)

1 Vilayanur S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee, Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind (New York: Morrow, 1998), 43.

2 R. Douglas Fields, “Myelination: An Overlooked Mechanism of Synaptic Plasticity?” Neuroscientist 11, no. 6 (2005): 528–31. The literature on adolescent myelination is extensive, contradictory, and hypothetical. It’s interesting that a number of recent adolescent-onset psychosocial diseases, including schizophrenia, have been attributed to irregularities in myelination. See, for example, Frances M. Benes, “Myelination of Cortical-Hippocampal Relays During Late Adolescence,” Schizophrenia Bulletin 15, no. 4 (1989): 585–93. See also “Myelination,” Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Understanding the Brain: The Birth of a Learning Science (Paris: OECD, 2007), 187.

3 Wendy Todaro, “Want to Be a CEO? Stay Put,”, Mar. 31, 2003, (accessed May 7, 2010).

4 Special thanks to James R. Gaines for taking the time to correspond in December 2009. See James R. Gaines, “Over 60, and Proud to Join the Digerati,” New York Times, Nov. 28, 2009.

5 Brandeis University, “Confidence in Memory Performance Helps Older Adults Remember,” Science Daily, Mar. 8, 2006. Lachman is one of the finest and most prolific researchers on cognition in middle age. See also Carrie Andreoletti, Bridget W. Veratti, and Margie E. Lachman, “Age Differences in the Relationship Between Anxiety and Recall,” Aging and Mental Health 10, no. 3 (2006): 265–71; Margie E. Lachman and Carrie Andreoletti, “Strategy Use Mediates the Relationship Between Control Beliefs and Memory Performance for Middle-Aged and Older Adults,” Journals of Gerontology, series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 61, no. 2 (2006): 88–94; Margie E. Lachman, Carrie Andreoletti, and Ann Pearman, “Memory Control Beliefs: How Are They Related to Age, Strategy Use and Memory Improvement?” Social Cognition 24, no. 3 (2006): 359–85.

6 Peter S. Eriksson, “Neurogenesis in the Adult Human Hippocampus,” Nature Medicine 4, no. 11 (1998): 1313–17.

7 Florin Dolcos, Kevin S. Labar, and Roberto Cabeza, “Interaction Between the Amygdala and the Medial Temporal Lobe Memory System Predicts Better Memory for Emotional Events,” Neuron 42, no. 5 (2004): 855–63; Sander M. Daselaar et al., “Effects of Healthy Aging on Hippocampal and Rhinal Memory Functions: An Event-Related fMRI Study,” Cerebral Cortex 16, no. 12 (2006): 1771–82; and Roberto Cabeza et al., “Brain Activity During Episodic Retrieval of Autobiographical and Laboratory Events: An fMRI Study using a Novel Photo Paradigm,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 16, no. 9 (2004): 1583–94.

8 Howard Gardner, “Creating the Future: Intelligence in Seven Steps,” (accessed May 7, 2010).

9 The ongoing National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS) is attempting to gather survey data on midlife patterns that address a greater range of social, mental, and health issues. For early results see, Orville G. Brim et al., National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS), 1995–1996 (Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research, 2007).

10 Yaakov Stern, “What Is Cognitive Reserve? Theory and Research Application of the Reserve Concept,” Journal of International Neuropsychological Society 8 (2002): 448–60; Nikolaos Scarmeas et al., “Association Between the APOE Genotype and Psychopathologic Symptoms in Alzheimer’s Disease,” Neurology 58, no. 8 (2002): 1182–88; Yaakov Stern et al., “Exploring the Neural Basis of Cognitive Reserve,” Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology 25 (2003): 691–701; and Yaakov Stern et al., “Brain Networks Associated with Cognitive Reserve in Healthy Young and Old Adults,” Cerebral Cortex 15, no. 4 (2005): 394–402.

11 Sydney Jones and Susannah Fox, “Generations Online in 2009,” Pew Internet & American Life Project (Pew Research Center Publications: 2009), May 7, 2010).

12 Sam Nurmi, “Study: Ages of Social Network Users,” Royal Pingdom, Feb. 16, 2010, (accessed Apr. 15, 2010).

13 David Meyer, “Women and Elderly Lead Internet Charge,” (2007),,1000000085,39288730,00.htm (accessed May 7, 2010).

14 “New Data on Twitter’s Users and Engagement,” Metric System, (accessed Apr. 18, 2010).

15 Joan M. Kiel, “The Digital Divide: Internet and E-mail Use by the Elderly,” Informatics for Health and Social Care 30, no. 1 (2005): 19–24. See also “Internet a Long-Term Benefit for Depression,” Science Daily, Oct. 12, 2006.

16 Robert J. Campbell and James Wabby, “The Elderly and the Internet: A Case Study,” Internet Journal of Health 3, no. 1 (2003); and Robert J. Campbell, Kimberly D. Harris, and James Wabby, “The Internet and Locus of Control in Older Adults,” Proceedings of the American Informatics Association (2002): 96–100. Much excellent geriatric Internet research, not surprisingly, comes from the Netherlands. See, for example, Laurence L. Alpay et al., “Easing Internet Access of Health Information for Elderly Users,” Health Informatics Journal 10, no. 3 (2004): 185–94.

17 My special thanks to David Theo Goldberg, my HASTAC cofounder and codirector of the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Digital Media and Learning Competitions, for introducing me to the technology visionaries at the Waag Society in Amsterdam, and especially to Marleen Stikker, founder and president of the Waag Society, for her hospitality during my trip to Amsterdam. I’m grateful to the researchers and designers at the Waag Society for generously sharing their research and this anecdote about Holland’s original work pairing elderly citizens with youth volunteers via the Internet. For the Netherlands’ “Bill of Technological Rights” for senior citizens, see (accessed Jan. 9, 2010). Similar findings have been reported by Gary Small and his team of researchers; see Gary Small, Teena Moody, Prabha Siddarth, and Susan Bookheimer, “Your Brain on Google: Patterns of Cerebral Activation During Internet Searching,” Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry 17, no. 2 (Feb. 2009): 116–26.

18 Netherlands’ “Bill of Technological Rights” for senior citizens.

19 Jenna Wortham, “MySpace Turns Over 90,000 Names of Registered Sex Offenders,” New York Times, Feb. 3, 2009.

20 Matt Granfield, “Average Age of People Using Social Media,” Zakazsukha Zoo, (accessed May 6, 2010).

21 “‘Oldest’ Blogger Dies, Aged 108,” BBC News, July 14, 2008, (accessed May 6, 2010); and Saeed Ahmed, “‘World’s Oldest Blogger’ Dies at 108,”, July 14, 2008, (accessed May 6, 2010).

22 At 108, Olive Riley wasn’t actually uploading her own material. Filmmaker Mike Rubbo met Olive in the course of doing research on centenarians and was so charmed that he made a movie, All About Olive(2005), and then subsequently transcribed what she dictated to him. He taped her vlogs and helped her post her e-mails to various virtual friends around the globe.

Conclusion: Now You See It

1 Howard Rheingold, Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Perseus Publications, 2003); and Virtual Reality (New York: Summit Books, 1991). See also Howard Rheingold’s vlog on this subject, which can be found on his Web site for his new Social Networking Classroom Co-Laboratory, ( See also the forum on “Participatory Learning” he conducted with the HASTAC Scholars beginning on August 26, 2008,, too, Rheingold talks about the importance of students deciding their intellectual goals first, then deciding what digital technology facilitates those goals. He advocates against beginning with the technology before those goals are defined.

2 Theresa Tamkins, “Drop that BlackBerry! Multitasking may be Harmful,” CNN Health, Aug. 29, 2005, (accessed Sept. 14, 2010).

3 See, for example, the excellent work by Debra A. Gusnard and Marcus E. Raichle, “Searching for a Baseline: Functional Imaging and the Resting Human Brain,” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 2, no. 10 (2001): 685–94. See also, Harold Burton, Abraham Z. Snyder, and Marcus E. Raichle, “Default Brain Functionality in Blind People,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101, no. 43 (2004): 15500–505. This article looks at default functionality of the human brain, as revealed by “task-independent decreases in activity occurring during goal-directed behaviors” and the way such activity is functionally reorganized by blindness. See also Marcus E. Raichle, “The Neural Correlates of Consciousness: An Analysis of Cognitive Skill Learning,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences1377 (1998): 1889–1901, which uses fMRIs to isolate neural correlates of consciousness in the human brain. Raichle tests neural activity during skill mastery. For a summary of the latest work, see Marcus E. Raichle, “The Brain’s Dark Energy,” Scientific American, Mar. 2010, pp. 44–47.

4 Malia F. Mason et al., “Wandering Minds: The Default Network and Stimulus-Independent Thought,” Science 315, no. 5810 (2007): 393–95.

5 Jonathan Smallwood et al., “Going AWOL in the Brain: Mind Wandering Reduces Cortical Analysis of External Events,” Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 20, no. 3 (2008): 458–69.

6 Mason, “Wandering Minds.”

7 The great literary theorist Roland Barthes argues that our tendency toward distraction is precisely what makes reading so pleasurable. See The Pleasure of the Text, tr. Richard Miller (New York: Hill & Wang, 1975).

8 Studies conducted by Jonathan Schooler of the University of California–Santa Barbara show not only that our mind wanders but that we don’t know it does until it’s called to our attention. Jonathan Smallwood, Merrill McSpadden, Jonathan W. Schooler, “The Lights Are On but No One’s Home: Meta-awareness and the Decoupling of Attention When the Mind Wanders,” Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14, no. 3 (2007): 527–33; and Jonathan Smallwood and Jonathan W. Schooler, “The Restless Mind,” Psychological Bulletin 132, no. 6 (2006): 946–58. See also Michael J. Kane et al.,“Working Memory, Attention Control, and the N-Back Task: A Question of Construct Validity,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition 33, no. 3 (2007): 615–22; and Carmi Schooler, “Use It and Keep It, Longer, Probably: A Reply to Salthouse,” Perspectives on Psychological Science 2, no. 1 (2007): 24–29. As a writer, I am also intrigued by work on what is called prospective memory, that is, the ability to remember one’s own planning in order to execute it. I’m convinced much writer’s block comes from the tendency to be able to clearly envision one’s argument and then to find the “transcription” of those ideas on paper to be a disappointingly faulty, laborious, and inconsistent rendition that has almost nothing to do with the prospective memory that allows one to envision the perfect, beautifully executed piece as a whole. See Peter Graf and Bob Uttl, “Prospective Memory: A New Focus for Research,” Consciousness and Cognition 10, part 4 (2001): 437–50.

9 Dan Ariely, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (New York: HarperCollins, 2008); and Daniel Gilbert, Stumbling on Happiness (New York: Knopf, 2006). In different arenas, Ariely and Gilbert emphasize the myriad ways that we misestimate ourselves and others. Daniel Goleman, in Vital Lies, Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1985), suggests that our brain actually reinforces us with various pleasant chemicals (typically dopamine) when we avoid thinking about that which makes us anxious, a biochemical explanation that supports the responses that Ariely and Gilbert test experimentally. See also Daniel T. Levin, Thinking and Seeing: Visual Metacognition in Adults and Children (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004).

10 Eyal Ophira, Clifford Nass, and Anthony D. Wagner, “Cognitive Control in Media Multitaskers,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) 10, no. 1073 (Aug. 24, 2009), (accessed May 7, 2010).

11 Alexa M. Morcom and Paul C. Fletcher, “Does the Brain Have a Baseline? Why We Should Be Resisting a Rest,” Neuroimage 37, no. 4 (2007): 1073–82.

12 Daniel Levitin, quoted with permission from Facebook, Dec. 30, 2009.

13 Linda Stone first coined the term “continuous partial attention” in 1998 and writes about it on her blog at (accessed Jan. 10, 2010).

14 KAIST stands for Korea Advanced Institute for Science and Technology.