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Does scientific research really support the existence of different learning styles, or the hypothesis that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their own unique style? (i.e., visual learner, etc.)

 

Unfortunately, the answer is no, according to a major new report published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

 

This large-scale study looked at existing literature on learning styles and found that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible. Nearly all of the studies that purport to provide evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy key criteria for scientific validity.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091216162356.htm

Edited by tdeveson
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There was also a story published recently saying that the brain was never meant to read. :confused: Just because one person or team does a study doesn't make the study correct. :glare: I haven't fully bought into teaching each of my children to their 'learning style' however, when researchers come out with sweeping studies such as this, with an attitude of "we did it the right way", show their bias which skews the results from the start.

Edited by Alenee
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There was also a story published recently saying that the brain was never meant to read. :confused: Just because one person or team does a study doesn't make the study correct. :glare: I haven't fully bought into teaching each of my children to their 'learning style' however, when researchers come out with sweeping studies such as this, with an attitude of "we did it the right way", show their bias which skews the results from the start.

 

I'm not sure the researchers were out to debunk the theory. It's what they found when they analyzed the data. Who knows.

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Well, don't let my dd know about this because when I teach to her "style" she retains and scores above 90% on quizzes and tests. When I try to teach another way she struggles and usually scores below 80%. Is it psychological or real? Is it that she processes the info differently or that she simply prefers the format of the visual spatial curriculum? I don't know and I don't care. In my house the scientific proof is in the results with all three of my different learners. Wow, they are going to really upset a lot of people. :lol:

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One can always minipulate data to fit one's personal "theory". I, however, live w/ 3 kids who have very different learning styles. Not theory, just fact.

 

Yes. In fact, the new research shows that the people who are promoting this theory have manipulated the date to fit their personal theory. You're right about that.

 

And you're up late! (I have insomnia tonight.) :(

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I do think there are definite differences in "learning styles" (especially when there is also an LD involved) but I don't think the sort of randomized trials those researchers propose are necessarily the best way to "prove" that.

 

For example, my DS & DH are both very dyslexic, both seem to have auditory processing issues (I have to repeat things multiple times for either of them to understand more than every 4th word or so), and they are both VERY visual-spatial. They think in pictures, not words ~ in fact, they think in 3D pictures. If I ask DH or DS to explain something to me, they will draw a picture, but will struggle to put it into words. OTOH, I'm totally verbal and have a very hard time "picturing" things in my mind ~ especially anything mechanical or 3D.

 

If I need to drive somewhere I've never been before, I need a list of written directions ~ and I need them written out separately for both coming and going, because I can't just "reverse" them in my head. DH needs to see a map, and once he's been somewhere he will remember the route entirely from visual cues (turn left one block past the church with the blue roof, then drive 5 minutes and turn right at the big red & white billboard, etc). He couldn't tell you the street names if his life depended on it, whereas I remember routes entirely by street names, and I probably couldn't describe any buildings or landmarks along the way even for routes I've been driving for years.

 

DS11 can read an entire book and not remember a thing about it, but he can remember with great detail things he saw in a documentary when he was a toddler. His visual recall is astounding, but he can't remember what I asked him to do 2 minutes ago. No one can tell me that's not real.

 

I think what happened in the field of education was that some people assumed that since some kids had obvious "learning styles" then all kids must have one special "learning style" and it became the theory du jour, even though there wasn't any real evidence for it. Then of course these "learning styles" needed to be codified and quantified and new methods developed to accommodate each style blah blah blah. (No offense to anyone with a degree in Education, but I think a lot of the "research" in that field consists of just making things up and inventing new terminology so graduate students will have something to write about.)

 

I think there are kids (and adults) at both extremes of the visual-spatial/verbal learning spectrum, just as there are people at both ends of the IQ spectrum, and people with very different aptitudes for different things (e.g. literary analysis vs engineering). And I think that a child who thinks in three-dimensional images really does need a different educational approach from one who thinks in words, just as a mathematically gifted child needs a different kind of math instruction from a child with dyscalculia. But I don't think that taking a random sample of kids (most of whom will not be at either extreme) and randomly assigning them to different teaching modalities, will "prove" that.

 

Ironically, if you flip the whole premise upside down, and assume that a child who is an extreme visual-spatial learner probably has verbal deficits, and vice versa, then no one would argue that these kids don't deserve special instruction that meets their individual needs. So I don't think that the idea that some kids have very specific "learning styles" has ever been in doubt ~ it was the misguided attempt to apply this concept across the board to ALL students that's being "debunked."

 

I hope some of that makes sense, it's 1:30 AM and I feel like I'm totally rambling here....:tongue_smilie:

 

Jackie

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I wouldn't buy into this theory, either. I always taught my girls with a variety of methods, but I was well aware that they had definite learning styles: all three of them were strong visual learners. Yes, we used different approaches that would appeal to different types of learning, all of which would reinforce their learning. I am definitely a visual learner myself. Since we homeschooled for seven years, I'm also very aware of the way they learn in general.

 

I would be hard-pressed to believe this study.

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As a toddler, he never pulled things off shelves, opened cupboards, touched things to learn about them. Instead he would sit in the middle of the floor and ask, 'What's that? What's it for?'

 

He went to Montessori school for a year and learned no maths: everything was taught through tactile learning, and what he did with his hands meant nothing to his brain.

 

He's a bright kid, and if you use words to teach him, he can learn pretty much anything. Tell him to learn by doing? He doesn't learn.

 

Laura

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If all studies are invalid, then no conclusion regarding the hypothesis can be made.

 

We did an interesting exercise at Cub Scout Leader Training once...made an origami two ways..one by hearing directions for the steps only, one by seeing an example only (no audio directions accompanying). If you're not convinced that initial learning styles can differ, try that in a room of willing volunteers. Make sure you have refreshments.

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Is learning style something a good teacher would intuitively understand about their student, or is it something you need to test for? I know my daughter learns very well from books, and though she has auditory processing issues, she still remembers vividly what you have said if she understood it at the time. I'm not sure how she'd learn with her hands because we don't do that sort of thing more than salt box letters. I guess I'll see that over time.

 

I had read before that the research behind learning styles is very lacking as far as someone's ability to learn something. Perhaps if you teach according to a person's preferred method they are more apt to pay attention and that makes them more apt to learn, but maybe the study was adjusted for attention? You can see where someone's actual ability to learn might be different from their preferred method of learning. Humans are smart creatures and we can learn a variety of ways, even though we may not enjoy it.

 

I'm not saying that to argue or anything, I'm just trying to give an idea of how things might fit together. Maybe everyone can be right?

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The title of the article is extremely misleading.

 

It was not a study to see if matching up the correct learning style to the learner would produce better results; it was a review of:

 

"the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible."

 

What they are saying is the studies that have already been done by the people who promote that learning styles are individual, are not valid scientific studies. Meaning that correctly conducted scientific studies have not been preformed to see if learning styles really have any impact.

 

This report only says we just haven't researched learning styles "scientifically".

 

This report doesn't prove or disprove learning styles!

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The title of the article is extremely misleading.

 

It was not a study to see if matching up the correct learning style to the learner would produce better results; it was a review of:

 

"the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible."

 

What they are saying is the studies that have already been done by the people who promote that learning styles are individual, are not valid scientific studies. Meaning that correctly conducted scientific studies have not been preformed to see if learning styles really have any impact.

 

This report only says we just haven't researched learning styles "scientifically".

 

This report doesn't prove or disprove learning styles!

 

Thank you. :iagree:

 

Even if this study was a scientific experiment and its conclusions were different than the other established studies....well, one dress does not a wardrobe make.

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I've always approached the "learning styles" idea differently. My dd is definitely an auditory learner; I use that to strengthen her visual skills. I don't avoid teaching her in ways that boost her auditory skills, but my goal is to strengthen her weaker areas, to round her out, instead of just promoting one style.

 

I'm probably not making sense, haven't had my coffee yet today. I learn best on caffeine. ;)

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The title of the article is extremely misleading.

 

It was not a study to see if matching up the correct learning style to the learner would produce better results; it was a review of:

 

"the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible."

 

What they are saying is the studies that have already been done by the people who promote that learning styles are individual, are not valid scientific studies. Meaning that correctly conducted scientific studies have not been preformed to see if learning styles really have any impact.

 

This report only says we just haven't researched learning styles "scientifically".

 

This report doesn't prove or disprove learning styles!

 

:iagree:

 

I think most of us who have more than one child have observed that different children have different "learning styles" on our own, by watching our children, not by reading studies about it. If people don't have different learning styles, then what's the alternative? Everyone learns best in the exact same way as everyone else? Where's the study for that? ;)

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Not to be cynical or anything, but I would search long and hard for a major textbook publisher in the list of funding sources for this latest report.:glare:

 

My BIL teaches in public school and every couple of years he brings me tons of lightly used curriculum to see if we need any of it. He says that the textbook publishers scramble for a way to repackage the same old concepts of learning to make it look like their new line will be The One that will Guarantee Those Higher Test Scores. Problem is that they have to reformulate every couple of years to keep the school districts buying new materials. So interestingly enough, BIL says, every few years there is an exciting new discovery of some method or concept (which bears strange resemblance to an old concept with a new name) that promises to revolutionize the industry or correct past mistaken beliefs. Which then leads to the districts buying millions of dollars worth of new textbooks, teachers' manuals, workbooks, visual aids, etc.

 

I suspect that might be what is going on here.

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All I know is all 3 of my dc process information in totally different ways. It's also true that as my dc grow and learn the way they process that information changes.

 

For example: Ds11 used to be very tactile and didn't process things well if he had to read them. Now, he does well with reading and doesn't have to process everything tactily (sp?). DD13 was very visual and now I would say she's more tactile--especially in certain subjects.

 

Anyway, that's been my experience in 10+ years of homeschooling.

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Yes. In fact, the new research shows that the people who are promoting this theory have manipulated the date to fit their personal theory. You're right about that.

 

 

there seems to be so much of THAT going around that it's now almost impossible to determine if the people determining "scientifically valid" are even credible to make that determination.

 

:lol:

 

gotta agree with others: according to how science really works, you can't base a conclusion w/o a valid study that would disprove it.

 

So your subject title is false.

 

eta: and since this post sounds fairly trollish ;) I'll add that it's a darn good thing we didn't make public policy out of learning style studies, and didn't insist that every person utilize specific learning style methods, and didn't tax and penalize people for not using certain learning styles. :D

Edited by Peek a Boo
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I guess I don't really care, because it is so true for me. Dealing with yourself or with the kid you are working with is all that matters. If one way works and another doesn't, do the thing that works. Right? Whether or not a phenomenon has been proven or not doesn't terribly matter.

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We know our kids. We know what works. We don't need "experts" to figure out why.

 

:iagree: I am with those who have seen different learning styles in action in our home. I have different ones who learn differently. It's just so, no matter what an "expert" might say. That's why it gets easier and easier to take what the "experts" say & toss it...they'll change their minds next week anyway.

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:iagree: I am with those who have seen different learning styles in action in our home. I have different ones who learn differently. It's just so, no matter what an "expert" might say. That's why it gets easier and easier to take what the "experts" say & toss it...they'll change their minds next week anyway.

 

:iagree:

 

I think the "experts" are highly overrated. Don't we homeschool because WE know what's best and what works for OUR children? If we're going to rely on "experts" for parenting and educating them, why don't we just toss them into the machine at 5, pick them up at graduation and not worry about what happens in the middle?

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One can always minipulate data to fit one's personal "theory". I, however, live w/ 3 kids who have very different learning styles. Not theory, just fact.

 

Same here. Someone gave me a book early on to look into this, but ds1 wasn't old enough at 5 to figure out and/or I was clueless. (probably the latter :lol:). Now that we're on in years, it's quite clear that they receive, process and deliver info and stimuli in very different ways.

 

It just makes sense that I pay attention to this evidence and use it to my advantage in teaching them. It's even to the point that a couple of my chosen curricula don't translate from ds1 on down. :glare: I could make it translate but that would be much less efficient and more time-consuming and frustrating for us.

 

Scientists and researchers can publish what they will, my field study reveals the truth in these test subjects.

 

:001_smile:

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What's the conclusion of the study? That all people learn in the same way?

 

 

ETA: Here's their conclusion:

 

"Given the lack of scientific evidence, the authors argue that the currently widespread use of learning-style tests and teaching tools is a wasteful use of limited educational resources".

 

 

Interesting.

Edited by LibraryLover
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:iagree:

 

I think the "experts" are highly overrated. Don't we homeschool because WE know what's best and what works for OUR children? If we're going to rely on "experts" for parenting and educating them, why don't we just toss them into the machine at 5, pick them up at graduation and not worry about what happens in the middle?

 

Sometimes that would be a welcome thing. ;) I've got one who is organized to a T and can read and highlight and organize thoughts amazingly. I've got another that reads something and forgets what was read within 5 minutes but really gets things when it is hands-on. I'm pretty sure those are some different learning styles at work.

 

I re-read what I wrote..."I have different ones who learn differently." Such a well thought-out sentence that was!! ;)

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Does scientific research really support the existence of different learning styles, or the hypothesis that people learn better when taught in a way that matches their own unique style? (i.e., visual learner, etc.)

 

Unfortunately, the answer is no, according to a major new report published this month in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

 

This large-scale study looked at existing literature on learning styles and found that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible. Nearly all of the studies that purport to provide evidence for learning styles fail to satisfy key criteria for scientific validity.

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091216162356.htm

There is almost never any scientific validity to the gobbledegook that the educational establishment and its progeny come up with. Gardner is a joke among real researchers. I am glad you posted this it is long overdue. But then again, scientific validity or lack thereof, is not a stumbling block for many people...

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There is almost never any scientific validity to the gobbledegook that the educational establishment and its progeny come up with. Gardner is a joke among real researchers. I am glad you posted this it is long overdue. But then again, scientific validity or lack thereof, is not a stumbling block for many people...

 

No, it's not...not even on a global scale!! :)

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http://pinker.wjh.harvard.edu/books/tbs/index.html Cognitive and evolutionary psych has a great deal to say on the matter. This book is simply amazing and well researched . If you enjoy reading ideas that certainly call for a new paradigm with regard to public policy and what science can contribute to one based on data not conjecture you will enjoy this book.

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I will reassert my opinion that any pervasive, widespread falsehood, generally accepted as fact can fairly be called a "myth." :lol:

 

And I will assert that the dictionary definition offered is "descriptive" (of wrong usage used wrongly, albeit widely) rather than a "prescriptive definition" offering "correct usage." Big difference.

 

It's Quixotic to think I'm going to win this battle against the vulgarization of the term "myth" in the general society (although we all have our own windmill's ;)) but come on. This is a "Classical Education" forum. We ought to have standards! :D

 

Sorry about the kitty, but you went TOO FAR :tongue_smilie:

 

Bill

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The title of the article is extremely misleading.

 

It was not a study to see if matching up the correct learning style to the learner would produce better results; it was a review of:

 

"the existing literature on learning styles and finds that although numerous studies have purported to show the existence of different kinds of learners (such as "auditory learners" and "visual learners"), those studies have not used the type of randomized research designs that would make their findings credible."

 

What they are saying is the studies that have already been done by the people who promote that learning styles are individual, are not valid scientific studies. Meaning that correctly conducted scientific studies have not been preformed to see if learning styles really have any impact.

 

This report only says we just haven't researched learning styles "scientifically".

 

This report doesn't prove or disprove learning styles!

 

Read the above everyone and then go read the link. I think a lot of the outrage here is a little misplaced.

 

About learning styles, I've read a bit about this before from people sceptical about them and what they seem to be saying is not that people don't have learning preferences, clear methods they favour or find easier then others but that most people don't have a particular style that is so important it must be addressed to the exclusion of other methods. That being an "auditory learner" doesn't mean a child can't and doesn't also learning by doing hands on things or by reading.

 

That's common sense to most of us but the problem comes not with homeschoolers who augment SOTW with some hands-on stuff for the child is a "kinesthetic learner" but with schools and systems where the limits of such systems often things ARE adopted to the exclusion of other methods. Discovery math is adopted to the exclusion of drill. "Creative" projects are assigned to the exclusion of rigourous ones. Hands-on curriculum is favoured to the exclusion of reading assignments and so on. And very often hot and trendy ideas like "learning styles" are adopted to the exclusion of traditional methods and without proper evidence.

 

This article isn't concerned with those of us educating kids by the ones and twos and have the advantage of knowing our children's personalities and styles intimately. It's a warning for those involved with systems where they HAVE to rely on evidence (but often don't) and must address children in generalities.

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And I will assert that the dictionary definition offered is "descriptive" (of wrong usage used wrongly, albeit widely) rather than a "prescriptive definition" offering "correct usage." Big difference.

 

Hey, at least dictionary.com has "irregardless" listed as "nonstandard." :lol:

 

It's Quixotic to think I'm going to win this battle against the vulgarization of the term "myth" in the general society (although we all have our own windmill's ;)) but come on. This is a "Classical Education" forum. We ought to have standards! :D

 

Sorry about the kitty, but you went TOO FAR :tongue_smilie:

 

Bill

 

If we didn't allow language to evolve we'd still be speaking Old English. You bad old kitten-killer, you!

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If we didn't allow language to evolve we'd still be speaking Old English. You bad old kitten-killer, you!

 

"Mythos" is Ancient Greek (a language you'd think this community would respect) and the term has come to us a part of our English-language cultural patrimony, so I don't want to hear about any of this "evolution" stuff :tongue_smilie:

 

The term has had a settled meaning for thousands of years and to allow for modern-day cultural vandals to destroy that meaning is not to my liking.

 

What would Joseph Campbell do? :D

 

Bill

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And I will assert that the dictionary definition offered is "descriptive" (of wrong usage used wrongly, albeit widely) rather than a "prescriptive definition" offering "correct usage." Big difference.

 

It's Quixotic to think I'm going to win this battle against the vulgarization of the term "myth" in the general society (although we all have our own windmill's ;)) but come on. This is a "Classical Education" forum. We ought to have standards! :D

 

Sorry about the kitty, but you went TOO FAR :tongue_smilie:

 

Bill

 

Have I told you lately that I love you?

 

ETA: (As a payment for my cheek I can not get the 80's song out of my head)

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Well, I found it very helpful to consider and understand my *own* learning style, as the teacher. That was just as important to me as knowing about my kids', though I do believe my children each learn in unique ways and it is helpful to know that when trying to get an important point across.

 

FWIW, I think personal experience trumps the "research" in this case, for my family, anyway.

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And I will assert that the dictionary definition offered is "descriptive" (of wrong usage used wrongly, albeit widely) rather than a "prescriptive definition" offering "correct usage." Big difference.

 

 

But ... but ... but ... "descriptive" doesn't mean "of wrong usage, used wrongly, albeit widely." It simply refers to how language is actually used (generally by native speakers). Descriptivists get such a bad rap. :001_tt2:

 

((A bit of a tangent, my little rant, I know. But this particular subject is a bit close to my heart. :D ))

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But ... but ... but ... "descriptive" doesn't mean "of wrong usage, used wrongly, albeit widely." It simply refers to how language is actually used (generally by native speakers). Descriptivists get such a bad rap. :001_tt2:

 

((A bit of a tangent, my little rant, I know. But this particular subject is a bit close to my heart. :D ))

 

The "descriptivists" have had it way too easy for too long. But the pendulum has swung. We're a mad-as-[insert whatever will pass WTM censors] and we're not going to take it anymore :D

 

What this country needs is a little kick-in-the-pants "prescriptivism."

 

Bill (who sudden realizes how fun it is to be an arch-conservative on occasion :tongue_smilie:)

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One can always minipulate data to fit one's personal "theory". I, however, live w/ 3 kids who have very different learning styles. Not theory, just fact.

 

I agree with this...for every study there is at least one other refuting it. Psychological research is very fickle, it is VERY easy to misunderstand the significant differences because people are so varied and it is hard to control for everything necessary to control for.

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The "descriptivists" have had it way too easy for too long. But the pendulum has swung. We're a mad-as-[insert whatever will pass WTM censors] and we're not going to take it anymore :D

 

What this country needs is a little kick-in-the-pants "prescriptivism."

 

Bill (who sudden realizes how fun it is to be an arch-conservative on occasion :tongue_smilie:)

 

But the two aren't mutually exclusive, you know, despite the common "anti-descriptivist" perception. ;) They're just different approaches to studying language. Can't we all just get along? :lol:

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