Education shapes the structure of semantic memory and impacts creative thinking

Quotes from some a recent article, presenting intersting insights on semantic memory and creative thinking.

Education is central to the acquisition of knowledge, such as when children learn new concepts. It is unknown, however, whether educational differences impact not only what concepts children learn, but how those concepts come to be represented in semantic memory—a system that supports higher cognitive functions, such as creative thinking. “

The findings may reflect differences in how knowledge is taught at school.
In a more interdisciplinary and active way of learning, concepts may be perceived as more dynamic and connected, offering children a more flexible, broader understanding and interpretation of concepts—beyond what they may learn in a more directed education (leading to more passive learning) that focuses on distinct disciplines successively.
Differences in knowledge representation may also be related to other factors, such as free movement and active learning, […] or the uninterrupted work (providing no time limit or stress to embody concepts), peer-peer teaching (rehearsal of concepts, impact on attentional processes), and multi-age classes (higher diversity in language heard). Together, each of these educational features may gradually come to shape and/or train the structure of children’s semantic networks, with continued expansion and integration of networks with learning over time.

As concluded in the “Behind The Paper” NPJ text:

These results raise important questions for traditional pedagogical practices. Traditional schooling focuses on learning in isolation, rote memorization, and graded knowledge assessment. Although these practices can increment learning, they may also have unintended consequences for other cognitive abilities, such as creative thinking. Moreover, traditional schooling may also have social implications beyond the personal capacity to use concepts and come up with new ideas. The personality trait, openness to experience—the tendency to seek out and enjoy diverse experiences—is tightly related to semantic memory organization in adults.
Children, by perceiving concepts and understanding more flexibly, may be more open to others as well (i.e., the way other human beings behave and think).
Social tolerance and co-working crucially need people with such abilities to adjust and to introduce ideas that go beyond the norm.
Our study suggests that educational practices can play a central role in literally shaping the minds of students to be more flexible and creative.

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