Poster F133, Tuesday, March 27, 8:00-10:00 am, Exhibit Hall C
Neural Activity While Listening to Sentences Predicts University STEM Educational Outcomes
Richard J. Daker1, H. Moriah Sokolowski2, Ian M. Lyons1; 1Georgetown University, Department of Psychology, 2University of Western Ontario, Brain and Mind Institute
Past work has demonstrated that attitudes and ability pertaining to math and spatial reasoning predict STEM outcomes, and much of successful reasoning in math is spatial in nature. To date, there has been no work examining how the level of similarity between math and spatial processing relates to educational outcomes. The current study uses representational similarity analysis (RSA) to investigate whether the degree to which different brain regions represent math and spatial content similarly predicts real STEM outcomes in college. Incoming first-year university students (N = 49) completed behavioral and self-report measures of math and spatial performance and attitudes. In the scanner, each participant listened to sentences with math, spatial, or reading content. Academic records from the students’ first two years of university, including all courses taken and grades earned, were provided by the university. Results showed that individual differences in the similarity of neural representations of math, spatial, and reading sentences predicted math and spatial attitudes (math/spatial anxiety, motivation) and real college STEM outcomes, including number of STEM courses taken and STEM GPA. A key result showed that the degree to which the right superior parietal lobule, an area implicated in both math and spatial reasoning, represented math and spatial sentences as similar significantly predicted grades earned in university math classes. This work provides additional support that successful math processing is spatial in nature and shows that even passively listening to sentences about math and spatial content elicits patterns of neural activity that are predictive of real-world STEM outcomes.
Topic Area: THINKING: Reasoning