Monthly Archive for January, 2024

Cellphone distraction in the classroom can lead to distractions

Arnold L. Glass & Mengxue Kang (2019) Dividing attention in the classroom reduces exam performance,Educational Psychology, 39:3, 395-408.

When students are allowed to use phones, tablets or other devices for non-academic purposes during classroom lectures, they perform worse in end-of-term exams, according to a new Rutgers University–New Brunswick study.

The study, published in Educational Psychology, also found that students who don’t use electronic devices in class, but attend lectures where their use is permitted, also do worse – suggesting that phone and tablet use damages the group learning environment.

“Many dedicated students think they can divide their attention in the classroom without harming their academic success – but we found an insidious effect on exam performance and final grades,” said lead researcher Arnold Glass, a professor of psychology at Rutgers–New Brunswick’s School of Arts and Sciences. “To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only on themselves, but for the whole class.”

Glass, working with graduate student Mengxue Kang, led the experiment to test whether allowing students to divide their attention between electronic devices and the lecturer affected performance on tests taken during class as well as the end-of-term exam.

The experiment included 118 Rutgers–New Brunswick cognitive psychology students during one term of their course. Laptops, phones and tablets were banned during half of the lectures and permitted during the other half. When devices were allowed, students were asked to record whether they had used them for non-academic purposes during the lectures.

The study found that having a device didn’t lower students’ scores in comprehension tests within lectures but did lower their scores in the end-of-term exam by at least 5 percent, or half a grade. This finding shows for the first time that the main effect of divided attention in the classroom is on long-term retention.

In addition, when the use of electronic devices was allowed in class, performance was also poorer for students who did not use devices as well as for those who did.

This is the first-ever study in an actual classroom showing a causal relationship between distractions from an electronic device and subsequent exam performance.


There nothing to do to go beyond the daily stress?

Talking about stress is easy; we all experience sudden changes in our mood triggered by a phone call, a mistake, or other factors. However, often due to this ease in feeling stressed, we develop the habit of thinking that there’s nothing we can do against this psychological condition. Then there are optimistic relatives who go around saying not to worry too much because this discomfort will pass at some point.

It’s not just a matter of thoughts, as anxious feelings transform into behaviors to distract oneself from this unpleasant psychological state. The more active individuals, at this point, engage in behaviors to distance themselves from this discomfort: some eat, others consume alcohol, and some stay up late to avoid immediate sleep and forget about themselves, and so on.

Fear dominates these actions and thoughts, gradually solidifying, leading to learning to live with this psychological discomfort as if it were unchangeable. Many even consider themselves unfortunate because they associate with others whom they believe do not suffer from stress. When this magical thinking of misfortune combines with psychological discomfort, individuals become more submissive and passive, possibly starting to think that there is nothing to be done.

Now the next question is how to get out of this tunnel of passivity.

The truth is that living in fear or thinking that there’s nothing to be done is harmful. Courage lies in learning to know oneself, accepting oneself, and being reborn.

The winners thinking

High performance requires deep thoughts that lead to the acceptance of one’s anxiety and any emotional state the athlete may be in.

Here are some examples of great Italian champions:

Giovanni Pellielo (shooting, 4 Olympic medals, 4 world golds)

The last series of selection was the heaviest; I scored zero on the penultimate target in the first platform, and I finished with twenty-three. It was the series where I suffered the most because I had to achieve the result in difficult conditions and with a very high emotional load, as I was the man who had already won two Olympic medals. Let’s say that on that occasion, all the ghosts came to mind; it was difficult to close that result, but I did it. Then I thought about the final, referring to the baggage of four years of experience, and I relived everything I had done in the last year in terms of preparation, especially psychologically, so as to face the final as I wanted and desired.

Valentina Vezzali (6 Olympic golds)

I have great respect for the opponent to the point of trembling like a leaf before the start of each competition. When there are ten minutes left until the match, it feels like going back to the high school graduation exam. I feel the same anguish.

Jannik Sinner (tennis, 1st Italian to win a Grand Slam tournament in 48 years)

Under pressure? Nothing compared to that of a surgeon or a head of the family who has to put dinner on the table. Maintaining a family or not knowing if a rocket is going to hit your house, that’s pressure. Playing tennis is a privilege, something to feel honored about.

Unbelievable Sinner: “Now I’m getting back to work”

A friend just sent me this text that he sent to his players and players.

Guys print it out on yourselves. This one just made history and already talks about how he can coach better….
This is the epitome of the way things should be done, regardless of whether you’re a tennis player or an entrepreneur.

In fact, Sinner responded just that way:

Now what? So much will change. “But what? I’m still the same guy I was the day before yesterday. The moment is beautiful, but now we’re going to calm down and get back on track.”

In what way? “Simple: there’s a lot of work to be done, and I’m looking forward to it because I like it. We have accomplished a beautiful thing, which lets us know that I am doing the right things. So the important thing is to live peacefully with my team and work because the opponents now know me, it showed in Melbourne, and so I have to improve a lot.”

Football: the way we were

It is not about nostalgia for the past. It is knowing where we came from and reflecting where we have arrived today in soccer. In Rocco’s Milan, the genius he speaks of was Gianni Rivera.

60 years later, aside from the differences in the game, the donkeys have studied.


Marathoners’ mental strategies

For sports psychologists, the study of the cognitive strategies of long-distance runners is particularly interesting, as these athletes undergo extremely high psychophysical stress during which they must perform at their best.

The first systematic study conducted on the cognitive strategies of long-distance runners was carried out by Morgan and Pollock [1977], with a sample consisting of world-class athletes and lower-level middle-distance runners. To classify the strategies used during running, the authors used the terms association and dissociation.

In the first condition, athletes focus on sensations coming from their bodies and are aware of the fundamental physical factors for that type of performance. In the dissociation strategy, on the other hand, the athlete’s thoughts are concentrated on anything other than bodily sensations.

During competition, the cognitive strategies of the elite group differ from those of the other group based on these two characteristics. In fact, to counteract painful stimuli, lower-level athletes use the dissociative strategy, while elite athletes use the associative one and consequently modulate their pace.

Moreover, experienced marathon runners do not attribute much importance to the so-called pain zone, for at least two reasons that differentiate them from less experienced runners. The first refers to their physiological superiority, which allows them to run at their limit with less difficulty. The second involves the fact that they avoid this pain zone because they can self-regulate throughout the entire race based on their internal sensations.

Specifically, in the associative phase, the runner, in an effort to maximize performance and minimize discomfort or painful sensations, continuously focuses on physical sensations such as breathing, temperature, the heaviness of calves and thighs, and abdominal sensations. This cognitive mode is quite demanding for athletes, as it requires the ability to concentrate for extended periods. The dissociative phase occurs when the athlete voluntarily distracts themselves from the sensory feedback continuously received from the body.

In summary:

Association and dissociation should be considered as the two extreme poles of a continuum and not interpreted in dichotomous terms, especially when used in long-distance races.

  • The use of associative strategies is more strongly correlated with fast long-distance performances than the use of dissociative strategies.
  • In races, runners prefer to use associative strategies (focusing on monitoring body processes and controlling race strategy).
  • In training, however, they tend to use dissociative strategies more, although both strategies are still used in both contexts.
  • Dissociation is inversely correlated with physiological awareness and feelings derived from the perception of exertion intensity, as highlighted in laboratory studies.
  • Dissociation does not increase the likelihood of injury and can reduce the fatigue and monotony of running and recreational races.
  • Association can allow the athlete to continue competing even in the presence of sensory pain.
  • Dissociation should be used as a training technique by those looking to increase their exercise adherence, as it allows for a better and more enjoyable perception of the end of the exercise.
  • As training load increases, there is a shift from dissociative strategies to associative strategies to increase the athlete’s concentration on the task at hand.
  • When using mindful focus on oneself to enhance running efficiency, attention should be directed toward bodily sensations rather than automatic responses such as breathing and running movements.

The collettive efficacy in sport teams

In team sports, it is important to remember that to win, “The champion team beats a team of champions,” indicating that even an ideal team composed solely of champions must still integrate each individual’s skills effectively, despite possessing a superior qualitative potential at the individual level.

To integrate skills, it is necessary to distinguish between competence acquired through the experience of playing a specific sport and the experience of playing on a particular team.

The importance of this distinction has been highlighted by studies that have emphasized the significance of shared knowledge for team coordination, emphasizing the importance of sharing knowledge with other team members, both through playing the sport and playing on that specific team.

Shared knowledge is also acquired before a given match through explicit planning. Coaches typically provide players with information about the team’s planned actions, communicating action plans to face opponents. Planning can occur at different levels of team functioning.

At a more general level, the desired outcomes are established, such as “winning 2-0.” Planning at this level involves a decision on which result to pursue.

At the immediately lower level, the design refers to the overall behavioral approach adopted to manifest a specific attitude, such as “aggressive play,” and the decision on which approach to employ is termed a schema.

Subsequently, procedures constitute specific sequences of global actions, such as “attacking from the center.” Planning at this level involves a decision, called a strategy, on which procedure (or procedures) to employ.

At the lowest level, operations constitute micro-level actions, such as “player X should try, whenever possible, to pass to player Y.” A decision at this level on which operation to employ is called a tactic.

While planning can occur at any level of abstraction, the design, or the game plan involving only the highest levels, imposes few constraints on how that action plan might be implemented at lower levels. For example, in soccer, the plan of “playing in attack with high intensity” provides few specific constraints on the moment-to-moment player selections at the operational level during the game, allowing flexibility in the use of tactics to attack with high intensity.

Mental coaching in high-intensity sports

Birrer, D. and Morgan, G. (2010), Psychological skills training as a way to enhance an athlete’s performance in high-intensity sports. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 20: 78-87.

In today’s professional and semi-professional sports, the thin line between winning and losing is becoming progressively thinner. At the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, the difference between first and fourth places in the men’s rowing events averaged 1.34%, with the equivalent for women being a mere 1.03%. This increasing performance density creates massive pressure. Thus, it is not surprising that in recent years, the importance of psychological skills training (PST) has been recognized, and the number of athletes using psychological training strategies has increased.

This paper aims to address the effect of PST on an athlete’s performance progress, with a special focus on a group of sports involving a high-intensity load. High-intensity sport (HIS) is characterized by an impact duration between 1 and 8min, with a very high-impact intensity and a continuous power output throughout the performance phase. Typical examples of HIS are rowing, swimming, 800 and 1500m track and field running, track cycling and flat-water canoeing.

What appears to be crucial to perform at the highest level is the presence of fear of failure. The psychological and physical impacts of fear are numerous. It affects athletes’ affective state, can reduce athletes’ motivation to train and compete, affects athletes’ self-confidence and their volitional and attentional skills, produces feelings of anxiety and increases muscle tension, which can lead to loss of coordination.

A number of strategies have been proposed for performers to modify their arousal state: psych-up psych-down techniques involving self-talk, imagery, physical activity, short or cued relaxation; pre-performance and performance routines; mental rehearsal strategies; stress management and mood-enhancement strategies.

Most research shows that these strategies can reduce anxiety or reduce the interpretation of symptoms of performance anxiety as debilitating.  Almost all studies have failed to show a clear impact on performance. One reason might be that it is still not clear whether and when anxiety or fear exerts a beneficial effect, what arousal level is performance facilitating and under which conditions the same level might be debilitating.

It’s relevant the early recognition and control of anxiety symptoms were associated with superior performance in elite athletes. This statement indicates that two factors are important for competitive athletes:

  • Athletes have to know their individual performance-facilitating state of arousal before and during the competition.
  • Athletes have to be aware of their current state of arousal and how they can influence it in the direction of the performance-facilitating state.

However, considering the amount of research that has been conducted in this area, there is surprisingly little sports-specific knowledge regarding the individual optimal level of arousal.

Athletes can interpret the intensity of anxiety-related symptoms or arousal as either facilitative (athletes are termed “facilitators”) or debilitative (athletes are termed “debilitators”) toward performance and that this differentiation might be critical in the coping efficacy before a competition. Facilitators and debilitators experience more or less the same feelings in phases before a competition, but the intensity is less in facilitators.

Facilitators appeared to be capable of using a repertoire of psychological skills, which enabled them to reinterpret negative cognitive and somatic sensations as performance facilitating. In contrast, debilitators tried to use the same psychological skills but were not able to internally control these skills and experienced a loss of control (inability to attain a positive pre-performance state), lower confidence and an ongoing debilitative interpretation of the sensory input showed that it might be possible to restructure athletes’ interpretation of anxiety and confidence symptoms with:

  • multimodal intervention (imagery, rationalization, cognitive restructuring, goal-setting and self-talk),
  • positive effects on their confidence
  • anxiety appraisal as well as their performance.

PhD anxious and depressed

The Association of Italian Doctors and Doctoral Students conducted a survey of 7,000 doctoral enrollees who responded to the questionnaire posed and found that nearly half of the scholars at the top rung of education-training in the country have high-risk mental health.

  • 27% report scores rated as severe or very severe on a scale assessing anxiety, 36 percent report a similar situation for depression, and 37 percent for stress. These data are higher than those found in the general population but also higher than those of fellow Ph.D. students abroad. Only 52% have no severe scores.
  • 20% have severe values in the three psychopathological dimensions: stress, anxiety, depression.
  • 16,243 euros (1,195 net per month) is the minimum gross amount set by the Ministry of Education and Research for a doctoral fellowship. Purchasing power is down 8.7 percent from 15 years ago and 9 percent from the 2020 figure.
  • 61.6% of doctoral students are in the range between 1,100 and 1,200 euros per month, the minimum for the fellowship. Nine percent are below. Less than a third of the sample, therefore, is above 1,200 euros per month and only 18.6 percent is above 1,300 euros per month.
  • 24 out of 40 cities host 80.2 percent of the total number of doctoral positions in Italy. The rent for a 35-square-meter studio apartment in the center is more than 30 percent of the grant.
  • 52% could not meet an unexpected expense of 400 euros, and only 26 percent exceed the determining threshold of 800 euros, “the one used in official statistics to determine poverty status.”
  • 88% perceive the precariousness of the role, and more than 50% initially intending to stay in academia say they have changed their minds.

Being skilled in Italy is a disgrace.

Emma 90 years old and the pleasure of pre-race pressure

What better invitation to participate in sports than that of Emma Maria Mazzenga, who at 90 years old knocked 6 seconds off the old world record in the 200m, which had stood for 20 years, by running this distance in 54.47 seconds : “I train three times a week, I have participated in World and European Championships. In the race I feel the tension, at the end the muscles are sore but the spirit is much better.”

Sometimes it is true that anything is possible. There are people like Emma who get involved for the pleasure of it: “I have fun, I can hang out with a lot of people, everyone is very nice to me. Besides, I’ve always liked the competitive spirit: I have the spirit of competition.”

They have the pleasure of experiencing the excitement of the race, which, on the other hand, blocks many young athletes: “Oh yes, I was tense. Although I take on the 200 quite easily, you always get to the finish line, while I am sent into a crisis by the 400, which is my race, because I don’t have as much speed, I have more stamina.”

So W Emma and all those like her.

Emma Maria Mazzenga festeggia il suo record