Missed in 2018
Great Articles Brought Back

August 2020

For August, we’re taking a look back at the recent past and some of our earliest pieces. We asked our readers to submit their choices for best articles from 2018. The chosen articles cover various topics including working memory, confirmation bias, and the adolescent brain. 

Watch before you read...

We started writing serious Think Tanks from January 2018. We only had a couple hundred subscribers back then, so it is likely most of our current readership missed some truly great articles. We won’t let that happen! So, we asked our readers, authors, and editors to nominate some articles they thought were exceptional (editors’ pieces excluded) and we’re giving you these superb articles again, right here. Take a look at what you missed!

In the introduction to the issue, we list all the main articles written that year. Then, in the Think Tank itself, Caroline Handley gives us the lowdown on working memory, James Dunn and Hiroshi Nakagawa explain confirmation bias, Harumi Kimura considers how L2 anxiety might be reframed in a positive way, Amanda Gillis-Furutaka helps unravel the mysterious adolescent brain, and Julia Daley brings it all together by describing the four most important things she teaches her learners about their brains. We included a PLUS section article from 2018, in which Marc Helgesen offers useful materials for teaching learners about sleep.

See? We told you there was some great stuff you missed! And more. Check the Think Tank archive here.

Our Thoughts on Issue Theme

I read this interesting article a couple years ago!​ Curtis Kelly

Remember the original Star Trek with William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy? It was hardly watched during the first run, but reached cult status years later. That is kind of how we feel about our 2018 Think Tanks. We don’t expect any of those issues to reach cult status, but we had some really good articles that year that we’d like you to know about. Since, we started that year with only a ninth the number of subscribers we have now, we know most of our current readers missed them. What a shame!

Think Tank Articles

Just what is working memory anyway? And what does it mean for language teachers? Caroline Handley

Watching Peter Doolittle’s TED talk (an excellent introduction to working memory), two questions came instantly to mind, one based on prior reading about the brain, and the other more of a speculation about the implications for foreign language learning. First, I was immediately reminded to question how working memory is defined. Just what do we mean when we talk about working memory capacity anyway? In Peter’s talk, and in the literature, the dividing line between working memory and attention seems very fuzzy, to the point where you have to wonder, does it really exist at all?

Confirmation Bias: Why We Should Seek Opposite Views James Dunn & Hiroshi Nakagawa

The definition of confirmation bias in social psychology is observations of others based on individual prejudices and collecting only information fitting those prejudices, thereby reinforcing your own preconceptions. This happens everywhere in our society. People look for information to make sure what they think is true. Likewise, people tend to disregard evidence that is counter to their views and rarely try to seek it out. For this reason, adjustments to a view are made only with information that reinforces the initial judgment, and help people assume, “My ideas are NOT wrong.” In other words, confirmation bias is the tendency to look for, and accept, information that confirms our already held beliefs.

If Emotions Are Made, we Can Reframe L2 Anxiety and Empower Learners Harumi Kimura

It is really counterintuitive to say that emotions are not reactions to the world but are creations of our brain, or predictions our brain constructs. More simply put, we make our own emotions. Both scientists and ordinary people have naïvely believed that emotions are hardwired and universal. People see a face and can tell what emotion it expresses: happiness, surprise, sadness, fear, anger, or disgust. This is because our brain has emotion circuits and they are culture-independent. Well, not really. Dr. Barrett says this idea is a total myth because neuroscientific evidence has demonstrated otherwise.

Why are Teenagers Self-absorbed Risk-takers and How Can We Turn This to Their Advantage? Amanda Gillis-Furutaka

“Adolescence isn’t an aberration; it’s a crucial stage of our becoming individual and social human beings.” (Sarah-Jayne Blakemore)

Teenagers: active, powerful, challengers, without fear of failure, ambitious, flexible, curious, creative, cooperative, skilled operators of technology, memorize well, a lot of chatting and laughing, low motivation, selfish, bad manners, not responsible, no planning, get bored easily, depend on SNS, like to be in a group and like to be alone, negative.

Talking with students about their brains Julia Daley

I am something of a brain nerd. I love talking about the brain with anyone and everyone, including my students. Alas, as an English teacher, I must spend the bulk of my limited classroom time covering the curriculum. But I have still been able to weave brain science into my lessons consistently and to engage my high school students at a developmentally-appropriate level about their own minds. Sometimes I can plan in advance for these brain talks—for instance, by having my writing students look at an article that is coincidentally about how successful college students sleep—but most of the time they happen in spontaneous bursts when I stumble on a teachable moment: asking a napping student how long they slept the night before or talking about healthy study habits after I announce the date of an upcoming test.

Think Tank Plus

Sharing sleep science with students Marc Helgesen

Our students are busy. Sure, they are busy with our classes–and all their other classes. And homework. And part-time jobs. And clubs. And relationships. Oh, yeah, how about some time for studying?

We can, and I think we should, share some of the science behind sleep (and many other aspects of brain science) with them. But, ultimately, they are the ones who decide on their own priorities. They choose what is important in their own lives. They decide what to do.

Call for Contributions: Ideas & Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

An fascinating Invisibilia podcast with a visit from Lisa Barrett and the discovery of a new emotion.

Want to remember what it felt like to be an adolescent?

Then watch this!

Trailer for Bo Burnham’s screeching movie, “Eighth Grade.”

A Brief History of the Teen


How social conditions inspired the terms and concepts: “teenager” and “adolescent.”

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The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

Curtis H. Kelly                Skye Playsted   



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