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February 17, 2020 Monday 11:29:16 AM IST

Older people love learning from persons not machines

Teacher Insights

A study by the University of Edinburgh shows that older people pick up new skills better when they believe they are learning from another person, rather than from a computer. People were slower and less accurate in a task when they thought they were interacting with a machine and not a human, the research found. The study also found people changed their answers more, and was less likely to remember details an hour after the task was finished, when they believed instructions came from a computer.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh tested the problem-solving skills of 24 older adults aged 60-85 years. Participants were given spoken instructions and asked to arrange information and complete a task. Researchers used a technique – known as the Wizard of Oz system – to create the illusion that the task they were performing was being set by either a computer or a person when on both occasions they were in fact interacting with a human. Results showed that participants’ outcomes were poorer when they believed they were learning with a computer.

They were faster, more accurate and took fewer turns to complete the tasks when they believed the instructions were created and provided by a person. Experts say that people’s perception about who or what system they were working had a medium to large effect on people’s differences in performance. Researchers say the findings help to understand better how efficiently and accurately older adults learn with technology.

The study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences. It may also aid in the development of computerised systems to help and support older people. 

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