ANN ARBOR, MI – The belief that learning styles are set at birth and predict academic and career success is widely held among educators and non-educators, despite no evidence supporting the idea, according to a University of Michigan study recently was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

The study found that people generally agree with “essentialist” ideas that learning styles are discovered, natural, exist from birth and are unable to be changed, lead researcher and visiting UM scholar Shaylene Nancekivell said.

An essentialist, for example, might believe that pit bulls have aggression wired into their brain and genetics from birth, no matter how it is raised.

The study conducted two online experiments with 668 participants, who were both educators and non-educators. It concluded that more than 90% of the participants believed people learn better if they are taught in their predominant learning style.

“It seems likely that the appeal of the learning styles myth rests in its fit with the way people like to think about behavior,” Nancekivell said. “People prefer brain-based accounts of behavior, and they like to categorize people into types. The essentialism of learning styles allows people to do both of those things.”

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