Monkey Work

Note- I wrote this college essay in February of 2011. All links and references may not be relevant.

As a returning college student, I feel inferior to younger students who may have a better advantage due to their flexibility in thought and comprehension. I have not taken a college course in over 12 years. The results of my placement test were less than desirable; most of the classes that were recommended for me were at basic levels. But there is a recent idea that I am learning to keep in mind that makes me not as stress about learning in college. The one thing that I am keeping in mind is although what I am learning may seem complex, the learning processes are similar to how primates learn.

In Science Daily (Aug 2, 2007), psychologist report that the way the rhesus monkey learns is similar to the way humans learn. Two Rhesus Macaque monkeys were giving a series of images on touch screen monitors similar to ATMs. They were given 18 images and then given the task of assembling them in order. It did not seem the monkeys understood why the order was given, but they knew that the correct order yielded positive results in the form of M and M’s. Researchers concluded that the Rhesus monkeys learn though active learning. “The way the monkeys learn to remember the correct answers is though active learning, like humans.” Stated Nate Kornel, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar in psychology. His research in Science Daily gave many examples of how humans learn though hands on and visual instruction. In a study conducted at Duke University in Durham, N.C., two rhesus monkeys and 14 college students were given math task using dotes on computer touch screens. In less than three weeks, the monkeys had to be given more complex math equations due to how quickly the monkeys understood the problems (they were given kool aid as their reward). The college students scored an average of 94% were as the monkeys scored a 74%. However both groups had difficulty picking right answers to similar problems. This lead researchers to believe that humans and monkeys use the same mental estimation process.

In my own efforts to obtain an AA in Graphic Design, I have found that visual learning and classes which I was active I excelled in rather than classes where I had to passively follow along. Most of the computer classes and animation classes utilized computers and tutorials to teach how to do certain methods. Although I did not received awards in the form of candy or sugar drinks, I did received validation in the form of grades and approval from my teachers. In Graphic design classes I was given a series of illustrations and methods to imitate. And by imitation of method I developed a foundation for me to explore my creativity further. In several of math classes I was given examples and problems in which to solve. Although these problems were not on a touch screen, they were on a medium that I can understand. In those math classes, I found that word problems were much more difficult to do because I could not visualize the problems. In fact most of the classes that required passive learning, like Psychology or even Political science, I ended up failing. Classes like Weight Training or Printing I excelled in because I had to learn though visual aids and hands on work.

Although the complexities of the subjects I may learn vary from what primates learn, the methods I am most comfortable in and grown in are strikingly similar. In a way this theory becomes a comfortable thought to me. Whatever I have to learn in the future or what classes I have to take, I know what methods work best for me. It is just a matter of finding how to apply those methods to my subjects. In a sense, if a monkey can do it, then I should have no problems with the challenges that come with college courses.

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