You Are Not a Nile Grass Rat…

read research skeptically

I’ve seen the same headline thee times in my newsfeed today: “Dim Light Might Make You Dumber.”

One summary includes this teaser:

“Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain’s structure and hurt one’s ability to remember and learn.”

That’s a fascinating — and potentially alarming — research finding. At a minimum, it seems to have important implications for classroom design.

Here’s a key detail to remember: this study was done on Nile grass rats.

No, really. Rats. (I assume rats that live in Nile grass.)

Teachers Should Read Research Skeptically

Rat research is essential for neuroscientists. A great deal of our neuro-knowledge comes from animal studies.

So, too, in psychology. Watching primate behavior (and even pigeon behavior) helps us understand human behavior.

But, here’s the key point to remember: your students are not rats. (Depending on the grade you teach, they might occasionally remind you of rats. But, they’re really not.)

Teachers should pay close attention to neuroscience and psychology research done on people. However, you should NEVER change your teaching practice based on research into non-human animals.

Once More, with Feeling…

I want to go back to the quotation I cited above:

“Spending too much time in dimly lit rooms and offices may actually change the brain’s structure and hurt one’s ability to remember and learn.”

In your experience, how much time do rats spend in their offices?

According to Wikipedia, the natural habitats of the African rat are “dry savanna, moist savanna, subtropical or tropical moist shrubland, arable land, pastureland, rural gardens, urban areas, irrigated land, and seasonally flooded agricultural land.”

There’s no indication that rats ever go to the office.

Clearly, someone has already extrapolated the conclusions of this research to assume it applies to people. Until it has, in fact, been tested on people, you should not make the same mistake.

tags: / category: L&B Blog

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