cific experiences have specific effects on the brain, the nature of “experience” becomes an interesting question in relation to memory processes. For example, when children are asked if a false event has ever occurred (as verified by their parents), they will correctly say that it never happened to them (Ceci, 1997). However, after repeated discussions around the same false events spread over time, the children begin to identify these false events as true occurrences. After about 12 weeks of such discussions, children give fully elaborated accounts of these fictitious events, involving parents, siblings, and a whole host of supporting “evidence.” Repeating lists of words with adults similarly reveals that recalling non-experienced events activates the same regions of the brain as events or words that were directly experienced (Schacter, 1997). Magnetic resonance imaging also shows that the same brain areas are activated during questions and answers about both true and false events. This may explain why false memories can seem so compelling to the individual reporting the events.
In sum, classes of words, pictures, and other categories of information that involve complex cognitive processing on a repeated basis activate the brain. Activation sets into motion the events that are encoded as part of long-term memory. Memory processes treat both true and false memory events similarly and, as shown by imaging technologies, activate the same brain regions, regardless of the validity of what is being remembered. Experience is important for the development of brain structures, and what is registered in the brain as memories of experiences can include one’s own mental activities.
These points about memory are important for understanding learning and can explain a good deal about why experiences are remembered well or poorly. Particularly important is the finding that the mind imposes structure on the information available from experience. This parallels descriptions of the organization of information in skilled performance discussed in Chapter 3: one of the primary differences between the novice and the expert is the manner in which information is organized and utilized. From the perspective of teaching, it again suggests the importance of an appropriate overall framework within which learning occurs most efficiently and effectively (see evidence discussed in Chapters 3 and 4).
Overall, neuroscience research confirms the important role that experience plays in building the structure of the mind by modifying the structures of the brain: development is not solely the unfolding of preprogrammed patterns. Moreover, there is a convergence of many kinds of research on some of the rules that govern learning. One of the simplest rules is that practice increases learning; in the brain, there is a similar relationship between the amount of experience in a complex environment and the amount of structural change.
In summary, neuroscience is beginning to provide some insights, if not