Decoding failure penalty

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Decoding failure penalty in learning is a sensation of displeasure that occurs in learning without comprehension. When a high value information is decoded, the reward signal makes sure new knowledge is stored in the brain. When a decoding effort ends in failure, the opposite will happen: the sensation of displeasure. If decoding is successful, but leads to incoherent or inconsistent knowledge, we may experience a similar penalty to which I refer to as incoherence penalty or inconsistency penalty.

It is possible that a minor decoding failure will be equivalent to no reward signal and no penalty signal. The penalty will be the effect of the effort expended. Moreover, in highly pleasurable learning process, e.g. based on incremental reading, absence of reward in a stream of reward may feel like a penalty. In free learning, we naturally avoid learning materials that are too hard, too complex, poorly phrased, uninteresting, etc. We avoid inputs of low learntropy.

In schooling, upon extrinsic motivation, which I call the school drive, we may experience extrinsic rewards for learning results. This can induce bad learning in which decoding failure penalty may add up, and result in the displeasure of learning. This is how students who receive awards and accolades may actually hate learning. See: Dangers of being a straight A student

The richer the pool of school awards, the greater the risk of the hate of learning

Micro-frustrations are a healthy guidance. All learning is peppered with microscopic problem solving jobs. Each sentence is a series of words. If we stumble on a word we do not know, or a concept we do not understand, we suffer a microscopic decoding failure that brings a penalty that brings down the learntropy level. In good learning, those penalties are imperceptible because they are followed seconds later by a resolution: a peek to a dictionary, a peek at Wikipedia, etc. They may also be resolved by a change in the course of learning (e.g. switching to another source, to another branch of learning, or to another activity).

In free learning, decoding failure will signal the brain to "reject" the message. Repeated decoding failure will result in rejecting the source of knowledge. This is one of the reasons why kids hate school (see: Why do kids hate school?).

This glossary entry is used to explain "I would never send my kids to school" (2017-2024) by Piotr Wozniak

Learn drive vs. School drive
Learn drive vs. School drive

Figure: This is how school destroys the love of learning. Learn drive is the set of passions and interests that a child would like to pursue. School drive is the set of rewards and penalties set up by the school system. Learn drive leads to simple, mnemonic, coherent, stable and applicable memories due to the fact that the quality of knowledge determines the degree of reward in the learn drive system. School drive leads to complex, short-term memories vulnerable to interference due to the fact that schools serialize knowledge by curriculum (not by the neural mechanism of the learn drive). Competitive inhibition between the Learn drive and the School drive circuits will lead to the weakening of neural connections. Strong School drive will weaken the learn drive, destroy the passion for learning, and lead to learned helplessness. Powerful Learn drive will lead to rebellion that will protect intrinsic passions, but possibly will also lead to problems at school. Storing new knowledge under the influence of Learn drive is highly rewarding and carries no penalty (by definition of the learn drive). This will make the learn drive thrive leading to success in learning (and at school). In contrast, poor quality of knowledge induced by the pressures of the School drive will produce a weaker reward signal, and possibly a strong incoherence penalty. The penalty will feed back to produce reactance against the school drive, which will in turn require further coercive correction from the school system, which will in turn reduce the quality of knowledge further. Those feedback loops may lead to the dominance of one of the forces: the learn drive or the school drive. Thriving learn drive increases rebellion that increases defenses against the school drive. Similarly, increased penalization at school increases learned helplessness that weakens the learn drive and results in submission to the system. Sadly, in most cases, the control system settles in the middle of those two extremes (see: the old soup problem). Most children hate school, lose their love of learning, and still submit to the enslavement. Their best chance for recovery is the freedom of college, or better yet, the freedom of adulthood. See: Competitive feedback loops in binary decision making at neuronal level
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