Real-world accecssibilty, valuation and Learning

Douglas Galbi’s post at purplemotes about a recent study published in the American Economic Review (Benjamin Bushong, Lindsay M. King, Colin F. Camerer, and Antonio Rangel, Pavlovian Processes in Consumer Choice: The Physical Presence of a Good Increases Willingness-to-pay, American Economic Review 100 (September 2010): 1–18.) sparks my interest. The conclusion of the paper is that real-world accessibility of an object will increase its value to consumers. Implications: more deserts sold through a desert tray than through a printed menu; widgets you can hold are valued more than widgets you see on-line.

The consumer choice model of this paper might speak more to impulse buying rather than some longer-term valuation. In any event, this paper might have implications for learning.
This paper makes me wonder if teachers of graduate and medical students shouldn’t reconsider using physical objects to teach instead of relying so much on text and visuals.

It reminds me of the method we used to teach one of my daughters spelling. In second grade she was getting 20’s and 30’s on her spelling tests; the psychologist’s evaluation indicated an extreme deficit in short term visual member (bottom 2%-ile) and recommended a kinaesthetic approach involving tracing on a white board letters. Indeed, within a few weeks she was nearly perfect on her spelling and we could shortly thereafter drop the whiteboarding and she is today an excellent speller.

Perhaps this is a “learning styles” issue. Or perhaps it is a valuation issue, which might drive a “learning style” issue. Perhaps we learn best what we value most (one of the ideas of andragogy) and that kinaesthesis drives valuation better than text. An object is worth a thousand pictures?

Likewise, we might consider the ‘value’ of books. Is a book read on-line or on a kindle valued as highly as one that one holds? Is a book that one marks up and dog-ears a better teacher than a book that is kept in pristine condition (so that it can be re-sold?)

This model might also apply to certain political decisions. For example, a citizen might value more highly a tangible right or good, such as as a “gas-guzzling truck”, over an intangible good, such as a “sustainable future”.

Moreover, there might be individual, developmental and possibly heritable differences in the role of kinaesthesis in valuation.

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