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    Thomas, Christopher L. Pavlechko, Gary M. and Cassady, Jerrell C. 2018. An examination of the mediating role of learning space design on the relation between instructor effectiveness and student engagement. Learning Environments Research,

  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: December 2011

8 - Paradoxes of learning and memory



We explore 12 paradoxes of learning, memory and knowing in our chapter. These are mysteries in which subjective experience – what we think we know or remember – does not correspond to objective facts. In some cases, we hold false memories: we are utterly confident in our memories that events happened one way, but they did not. Another example is hindsight bias: we may believe that we knew (after the fact) how an event would turn out, but controlled experiments show people cannot predict the event. Another category of illusion occurs with learning. Often students judge one method of learning to be superior to a second method, but their actual performance shows the reverse to be true. The paradox of interference creates other puzzles: when people try to remember similar events, they will often confuse one for another. We discuss 12 paradoxes and their implications for cognitive functioning. Some of these errors may implicate cognitive strategies that we use because they often lead to correct answers in many situations, but can produce errors in other instances.


Psychologists love mysteries and paradoxes. They always have, they always will. There is nothing surprising here; all people like paradoxes and puzzles. Look at Figure 8.1 and ask yourself which surface of the two boxes is longer, the one on the left or the one on the right? Every person naïve to the situation will answer the one on the left. However, the two surfaces are exactly congruent. They are the same.

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The Paradoxical Brain
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