UC Berkeley

The Empathy Gene

Healthy individuals can tell if a stranger is trustworthy or not in 20 seconds, according to new research out of UC Berkeley; suggesting empathy may have a genetic component. In fact, "the listeners who got the highest ratings for empathy, it turned out, possess a particular variation of the oxytocin receptor gene known as the GG genotype." You can test your instincts here.

Were you able to guess who had the GG gene?

Learning Made Easy

Tired of learning things the hard way? The internet may be your friend. While it’s unclear to me whether online education in its current form is going to cure what ails education in the U.S., what is clear is that a good teacher is a mighty remedy. Thanks to the internet those good teachers are becoming much easier to find. Take Professor Diamond. I am not a Weenie but I am a fan of UC Berkeley’s 83 year-old Marian C. Diamond and her class, Integrative Biology 131. You can see it below. 

Her class videos are part of a new trend by institutions of higher learning, like Yale and MIT, to make some of their more popular classes accessible to the world for free.

What sets Professor Diamond’s classes apart for me is that she doesn’t use fancy graphics or musical entertainment but relies on all the key elements of good teaching and does it in 45 minutes.

Her class is interactive: from encouraging students to introduce themselves to someone they don’t know in class (the new experience helping to wake up the brain) to asking “How many here have a uterus?” Her class, as she likes to put it, is also kinesthetic: she outlines vocabulary ahead of time so focus isn’t taken away by students worrying about terminology; and she repeats herself (repetition helping students remember what they learn). Albeit, like any class, this particular one started to drag a bit in the middle and after a time I began to worry about her breathing (watch the video and you’ll understand what I mean here) but overall it was a solid experience. Plus, you got to love a class that starts with the question, “Will you introspect?”

At the end of the day, I think what makes this particular Diamond sparkle is her sheer love of teaching. And isn’t that what makes learning easy? I’d say I’m proximal to the truth.