Saturday, December 22, 2007


From USA Today, an article by Michael Vertanen on research about students who "pull all-nighters"...

Students who rely on all-nighters to bring up their grades might want to sleep on that strategy: A new survey says those who never study all night have slightly higher GPAs than those who do.

A survey of 120 students at St. Lawrence University, a small liberal arts college in northern New York, found that students who have never pulled an all-nighter have average GPAs of 3.1, compared to 2.9 for those who have. The study, by assistant professor of psychology Pamela Thacher, is to be included in the January issue of Behavioral Sleep Medicine.

"It's not a big difference, but it's pretty striking," Thacher said. "I am primarily a sleep researcher and I know nobody thinks clearly at 4 in the morning. You think you do, but you can't."

I'm not sure how much of it is causal and how much is correlated with the sort of students who are more likely to cram for exams. I'd suspect it's more the latter than the former. A similar problem biases results about the impact of tutoring. It helps, but there is a selection bias in that those who are more likely to seek tutoring are already stronger or at least more conscientious students.

This also reminds me of a great quote by C.S. Lewis. (I use it in my syllabus for Intermediate Microeconomic Theory-- a course where it's most relevant.)

Teachers will tell you that the laziest boy in the class is the one who works the hardest in the end...when they are preparing for an exam, the lazy boy is doing hours and hours of miserable drudgery over things the other boy understands, and positively enjoys, in a few minutes. Laziness means more work in the long run.


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