Monday, August 24, 2015

Early clue to why some children may have reading woes -

Early clue to why some children may have reading woes -

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Early clue to why some children may have reading woes

This photo provided by the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, shows scalp electrodes to pick up how children's brains react to sounds such as speech in a noisy background. New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read, and it has to do with how they decipher speech when it's noisy.

This photo provided by the Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University, shows scalp electrodes to pick up how children's brains react to sounds such as speech in a noisy background. New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read, and it has to do with how they decipher speech when it's noisy.
Photo courtesy of Auditory Neuroscience Lab, Northwestern University

Associated PressBy Lauran Neergaard
AP Medical Writer

WASHINGTON -- New research suggests it may be possible to predict which preschoolers will struggle to read -- and it has to do with how the brain deciphers speech when it's noisy.
Scientists are looking for ways to tell, as young as possible, when children are at risk for later learning difficulties so they can get early interventions.
There are some simple pre-reading assessments for preschoolers. But Northwestern University researchers went further and analyzed brain waves of children as young as 3.
How well youngsters' brains recognize specific sounds -- consonants -- amid background noise can help identify who is more likely to have trouble with reading development, the team reported recently in the journal PLOS Biology.
If the approach pans out, it may provide "a biological looking glass," said study senior author Nina Kraus, director of Northwestern's Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory.
"If you know you have a 3-year-old at risk, you can as soon as possible begin to enrich their life in sound so that you don't lose those crucial early developmental years."
Connecting sound to meaning is a key foundation for reading. For example, preschoolers who can match sounds to letters earlier go on to read more easily.
Auditory processing is part of that pre-reading development: If your brain is slower to distinguish a "D" from a "B" sound, for example, then recognizing words and piecing together sentences could be affected, too.
What does noise have to do with it?
It stresses the system, as the brain has to tune out competing sounds to selectively focus, in just fractions of milliseconds. And consonants are more vulnerable to noise than vowels, which tend to be louder and longer, Kraus explained.
"Hearing in noise is arguably one of the most computationally difficult things we ask our brain to do," she said.
The new study used an EEG to directly measure the brain's response to sound, attaching electrodes to children's scalps and recording the patterns of electric activity as nerve cells fired.
The youngsters sat still to watch a video of their choice, listening to the soundtrack in one ear while an earpiece in the other periodically piped in the sound "dah" superimposed over a babble of talking.
Measuring how the brain's circuitry responded, the team developed a model to predict children's performance on early literacy tests. Then they did a series of experiments with 112 kids between the ages of 3 and 14.
The 30-minute test predicted how well 3-year-olds performed a language-development skill and how those same youngsters fared a year later on several standard pre-reading assessments, the team reported. Time will tell how well those children eventually read.
But Kraus' team also tested older children -- and the EEG scores correlated with their current reading competence in school, and even flagged a small number who'd been diagnosed with learning disabilities.
Oral language exposure is one of the drivers of reading development, and the study is part of a broader push to find ways to spot problem signs early, said Brett Miller, who oversees reading disabilities research at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, which helped fund the work.
But don't expect EEGs for preschoolers any time soon. While the machines are common among brain specialists, this particular use is complicated and expensive, and further research is necessary, Kraus cautioned.
Her ultimate goal is to test how a child's brain processes sound even younger, maybe one day as a part of the routine newborn hearing screening.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

How Stress & Learning Affect the Brain

The Neuroscience Behind Stress and Learning | Edutopia:

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By Judy Willis, MD

The realities of standardized tests and increasingly structured, if not synchronized, curriculum continue to build classroom stress levels. Neuroimaging research reveals the disturbances in the brain's learning circuits and neurotransmitters that accompany stressful learning environments. The neuroscientific research about learning has revealed the negative impact of stress and anxiety and the qualitative improvement of the brain circuitry involved in memory and executive function that accompanies positive motivation and engagement.

The Proven Effects of Positive Motivation

Thankfully, this information has led to the development of brain-compatible strategies to help students through the bleak terrain created by some of the current trends imposed by the Common Core State Standards and similar mandates. With brain-based teaching strategies that reduce classroom anxiety and increase student connection to their lessons, educators can help students learn more effectively.
In the past two decades, neuroimaging and brain-mapping research have provided objective support to the student-centered educational model. This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are relevant to students' lives, interests, and experiences. Lessons can be stimulating and challenging without being intimidating, and the increasing curriculum requirements can be achieved without stress, anxiety, boredom, and alienation as the pervasive emotions of the school day.
During my 15 years of practicing adult and child neurology with neuroimaging and brain mapping as part of my diagnostic tool kit, I worked with children and adults with brain function disorders, including learning differences. When I then returned to university to obtain my credential and Masters of Education degree, these familiar neuroimaging tools had become available to education researchers. Their widespread use in schools and classrooms globally has yet to occur.
This brain research demonstrates that superior learning takes place when classroom experiences are motivating and engaging. Positive motivation impacts brain metabolism, conduction of nerve impulses through the memory areas, and the release of neurotransmitters that increase executive function and attention. Relevant lessons help students feel that they are partners in their education, and they are engaged and motivated.
We live in a stressful world and troubled times, and that is not supposed to be the way for children to grow up. Schools can be the safe haven where academic practices and classroom strategies provide children with emotional comfort and pleasure as well as knowledge. When teachers use strategies to reduce stress and build a positive emotional environment, students gain emotional resilience and learn more efficiently and at higher levels of cognition.

Neuroimaging and EEG Studies

Studies of electrical activity (EEG or brain waves) and metabolic activity (from specialized brain scans measuring glucose or oxygen use and blood flow) show the synchronization of brain activity as information passes from the sensory input processing areas of the somatosensory cortex to the reticular activating and limbic systems. For example, bursts of brain activity from the somatosensory cortex are followed milliseconds later by bursts of electrical activity in the hippocampus, amygdala, and then the other parts of the limbic system. This data from one of the most exciting areas of brain-based learning research gives us a way to see which techniques and strategies stimulate or impede communication between the parts of the brain when information is processed and stored. In other words, properly applied, we can identify and remove barriers to student understanding!
The amygdala is part of limbic system in the temporal lobe. It was first believed to function as a brain center for responding primarily to anxiety and fear. Indeed, when the amygdala senses threat, it becomes over-activated. In students, these neuroimaging findings in the amygdala are seen with feelings of helplessness and anxiety. When the amygdala is in this state of stress-induced over-activation, new sensory information cannot pass through it to access the memory and association circuits.
This is the actual neuroimaging visualization of what has been called theaffective filter by Stephen Krashen and others. This term describes an emotional state of stress in students during which they are not responsive to learning and storing new information. What is now evident on brain scans during times of stress is objective physical evidence of this affective filter. With such evidence-based research, the affective filter theories cannot be disparaged as "feel-good education" or an "excuse to coddle students" -- if students are stressed out, the information cannot get in. This is a matter of science.
This affective state occurs when students feel alienated from their academic experience and anxious about their lack of understanding. Consider the example of the decodable "books" used in phonics-heavy reading instruction. These are not engaging and motivating. They are usually not relevant to the students' lives because their goal is to include words that can be decoded based on the lesson. Decodability is often at the expense of authentic meaning to the child. Reading becomes tedious and, for some children, confusing and anxiety-provoking. In this state, there is reduced passage of information through the neural pathways from the amygdala to higher cognitive centers of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex, where information is processed, associated, and stored for later retrieval and executive functioning.
Additional neuroimaging studies of the amygdala, hippocampus, and the rest of the limbic system, along with measurement of dopamine and other brain chemical transmitters during the learning process, reveal that students' comfort level has critical impact on information transmission and storage in the brain. The factors that have been found to affect this comfort level such as self-confidence, trust and positive feelings for teachers, and supportive classroom and school communities are directly related to the state of mind compatible with the most successful learning, remembering, and higher-order thinking.

The Power of Joyful Learning

The highest-level executive thinking, making connections, and "aha" moments of insight and creative innovation are more likely to occur in an atmosphere of what Alfie Kohn calls exuberant discovery, where students of all ages retain that kindergarten enthusiasm of embracing each day with the joy of learning. With current research and data in the field of neuroscience, we see growing opportunities to coordinate the design of curriculum, instruction, and assessment in ways that will reflect these incredible discoveries.
Joy and enthusiasm are absolutely essential for learning to happen -- literally, scientifically, as a matter of fact and research. Shouldn't it be our challenge and opportunity to design learning that embraces these ingredients?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Teachers tap into brain science to boost learning

Teachers tap into brain science to boost learning

PBS NewHour- Education

JUDY WOODRUFF: Next: neuroscience and education.
Thousands of teachers around the country are learning about an alternative teaching program that aims to use scientific discoveries about the brain to improve the way children learn in the classroom.
Special correspondent John Tulenko of Learning Matters reports from Philadelphia.
JASSELLE CIRINO, Teacher, Francis Scott Key Elementary: When I say class, you…
CLASS: You stop what you’re doing. Look at the teacher.
JOHN TULENKO: Today is Wacky Wednesday in Jasselle Cirino’s third grade classroom, which explains the blue wig.
JASSELLE CIRINO: So I want you to teach your neighbor.
JOHN TULENKO: But the rest of what you’re about to see is what her classroom looks like every day.
JASSELLE CIRINO: I want giant gestures.
JOHN TULENKO: She uses a set of techniques some call whole brain teaching.
JASSELLE CIRINO: A lot of times in traditional teaching, you’re just lecturing, and you’re talking and talking. And what we like to say, whole brainers, we like to say that the more you talk, the more students you lose. And so we use different methods to engage multiple parts of the brain. And that way, you get 100 percent engagement.
JOHN TULENKO: These days, scientists can look further into the brain than ever, pinpointing the neurons and circuits that control how we think and act. All that’s sparking a movement that’s changing the way some teachers teach.
Are there parts of the brain that you’re aiming at?
JASSELLE CIRINO: Yes, the hippocampus, the motor cortex, the prefrontal cortex, which is the brain’s boss, so something like class, it turns on the prefrontal cortex, which makes the brain’s decisions.
So it says, hey, pay attention. I’m about to tell you something. So, once I have their attention, I teach the material usually through mirrors.
This deals with the mirror neurons in your brain. And so what I say, they repeat. To learn anything, you have to repeat something. You have to repeat something that’s modeled to you. That’s where it starts.
JOHN TULENKO: A lot of times in your class, I saw you gesture, and then you asked your students to gesture.
JASSELLE CIRINO: Right. That’s for engaging their motor cortex. When you act things out while you’re reading, you comprehend more. And we use brainees. These are gestures that are tied to writing skills.
JOHN TULENKO: Can you give me some examples?
JASSELLE CIRINO: Sure. For example is an example. But or however. If, then, so more of like a cause and effect. Adjective. A noun is a person, place or thing, compare, contrast, simile, metaphor, I mean, the list goes on and on.
JOHN TULENKO: I saw you a bunch of times where you would stop, and then you would say to the group, teach.
JOHN TULENKO: What’s going on there?
JASSELLE CIRINO: So I have taught them the lesson, but now they need to teach that main point to each other. They’re getting another repetition of the material, but, this time, a lot of times it’s in their own words. And they’re learning how to put things in their own words.
You’re writing while you’re doing it. You’re gesturing, so you’re remembering it in different parts of the brain. You’re not just listening. You’re also speaking. You need to be doing all of these things at once in order to engage the whole brain.
JOHN TULENKO: We wanted to know if science actually backed up any of this. So we brought a video of Jasselle’s class to Daphna Shohamy, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.
DAPHNA SHOHAMY, Columbia University: I buy it. It makes great sense to me.
I mean, the brain is really in many ways wired for actions. Right? It’s — it’s really not wired to sit passively and absorb any information. But I think where — you know, where I wouldn’t fully agree is the idea that more activity is always good. More brain activity in more places doesn’t equal more learning or a better memory.
JOHN TULENKO: OK. How can children learn better?
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: Right, right. Yes, it’s the million-dollar question. I think we have some answers.
The brain learns when things are surprising and interesting.
JASSELLE CIRINO: What is going on here?
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: So if I give you a $20 bill, now, all of a sudden, you will sort of have a burst of activity in your dopamine neurons. They fire.
But if I do that regularly, like every five minutes, I give you $20, your dopamine neurons will stop firing. So what these neurons are doing is they’re signaling how unexpected an event was in the world. They’re not signaling how good or bad it was. They’re signaling how unexpectedly good or unexpectedly bad it was.
So keeping things a little bit noisy and a little bit different is actually really beneficial for learning in many different ways.
JASSELLE CIRINO: Hold your horses.
JOHN TULENKO: Neuroscience says there’s something else important going on here.
JASSELLE CIRINO: When you’re learning things, just even in life, you connect it with a type of feeling. And so the main emotion we want you to feel in a whole brain classroom is fun.
DAPHNA SHOHAMY: Our brain was evolved to survive. We need to remember things that were of emotional and social significance. That’s probably much more important than remembering any bit of information that was communicated to us within a lecture.
JASSELLE CIRINO: We’re done being blah. It’s time to get fuzzy.
CLASS: Fuzzy!
JOHN TULENKO: Here are a few other things neuroscientists think the rest of us ought to know about the brain, that stress damages neurons and impairs learning. Brain training games claim to be effective, but, in fact, the jury’s still out.
What does help is regular physical exercise. Staying active keeps the brain developing and delays cognitive decline as we get older.
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I’m John Tulenko reporting for the NewsHour.
JUDY WOODRUFF: As for results, a study on the effect of whole brain teaching in one California elementary school found test scores in math and language arts rose by an average of 11 percent.

Monday, June 22, 2015

The “dreams” of Google’s AI are equal parts amazing and disturbing - Quartz

The “dreams” of Google’s AI are equal parts amazing and disturbing - Quartz:

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American sci-fi novelist Philip K. Dick once famously asked, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? While he was on the right track, the answer appears to be, no, they don’t. They dream of dog-headed knights atop horses, of camel-birds and pig-snails, and of Dali-esque mutated landscapes.

Google’s image recognition software, which can detect, analyze, and even auto-caption images, uses artificial neural networks to simulate the human brain. In a process they’re calling “inceptionism,” Google engineers sought out to see what these artificial networks “dream” of—what, if anything, do they see in a nondescript image of clouds, for instance? What does a fake brain that’s trained to detect images of dogs see when it’s shown a picture of a knight?

Google trains the software by feeding it millions of images, eventually teaching it to recognize specific objects within a picture. When it’s fed an image, it is asked to emphasize the object in the image that it recognizes. The network is made up of layers—the higher the layer, the more precise the interpretation. Eventually, in the final output layer, the network makes a “decision” as to what’s in the image.
But the networks aren’t restricted to only identifying images. Their training allows them to generate images as well. Here’s what it outputs when it was asked to create images of the following objects:

Cool, right? And it gets a lot more interesting. Google engineers decided that instead of asking the software to generate a specific image, they would simply feed it an arbitrary image and then ask it what it saw. Here’s how Google describes the experiment:

We then pick a layer and ask the network to enhance whatever it detected. Each layer of the network deals with features at a different level of abstraction, so the complexity of features we generate depends on which layer we choose to enhance. For example, lower layers tend to produce strokes or simple ornament-like patterns, because those layers are sensitive to basic features such as edges and their orientations.
When feeding an image into the first layer, this is what the network created, something akin to a familiar photo filter:

Then things got really weird. Google started feeding images into the highest layer—the one that can detect whole objects within an image—and asked the network, “Whatever you see there, I want more of it!”

This creates a feedback loop: if a cloud looks a little bit like a bird, the network will make it look more like a bird. This in turn will make the network recognize the bird even more strongly on the next pass and so forth, until a highly detailed bird appears, seemingly out of nowhere.
The result is somewhat akin to looking into the subconscious of an AI. When an image of clouds was fed to a network trained on identify animals, this is what happened:

Here are some closeups of details from the second image:

Show an artificial neural network a normal, cloudy sky, and it’ll tell you there are dog-fish and pig-snails floating around out there. It’s what one imagines an AI might see on the computing equivalent of an acid trip.

Not only does “inceptionism” teach Google a lot more about artificial neural networks and how they operate, but it also reveals some interesting new applications for the technology. As the Google engineers put it, the process “makes us wonder whether neural networks could become a tool for artists—a new way to remix visual concepts—or perhaps even shed a little light on the roots of the creative process in general.”

Below are some more images the networks created in their feedback loops (in addition to the one at the top of this story). You can see theentire gallery here.

Monday, May 18, 2015

40K: Safe, Sane and Consensual, or The Arrogance of Unacknowledged Playstyles - Bell of Lost Souls

I don't play Warhammer 40K, but the message can be applied across most games.

40K: Safe, Sane and Consensual, or The Arrogance of Unacknowledged Playstyles - Bell of Lost Souls: "See, everyone learns a different way, and everyone assumes their way of learning is the best. There are three styles of learning, and each can be combined with the other to greater or lesser degrees.

The first is visual. Visual learners learn by seeing and reading. They like books and words, pictures and illustrations. As a result, pure visual learners tend to be good readers or artists. The second is auditory. Auditory learners learn through hearing; they like teachers to tell them how to do stuff. Pure auditory learners tend to be great at music too – for obvious reasons. They also memorise things better when they make them into a song (where a visual learner will do much better by simply writing their ideas down). The final style is kinaesthetic. These people learn by doing things with their hands, or by moving. Pure kinaesthetics tend to be great at things like sport or carpentry, sculpting or dance."

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Marvel Universe Upcoming movies (2015-2019)

The Avengers: Age of Ultron is now in theaters, followed by 
Ant-Man on July 17 2015, 
Captain America: Civil War on May 6 2016, 
Doctor Strange on November 4 2016, 
Guardians of the Galaxy 2 on May 5 2017, 
Spider-Man on July 28, 2017, 
Thor: Ragnarok on November 3 2017, 
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 on May 4 2018, 
Black Panther on July 6 2018, 
Captain Marvel on November 2 2018, 
Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 on May 3 2019 and 
Inhumans on July 12, 2019.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Learned Something New Today

I was reading a Facebook post and saw the term SJW GHH. Of course, I had no cluse what that meant. So, some diligent goolge searching found that SJW = Social Justice Warrior.
Well, that took a little more digging, but this story seems to sum it up the best.
It's from

The fact it's an 8 year old post and I'm just now shearing about it probably says something, but we'll save that examination for a later date....

Modern Literary Terms: The Glittery HooHa

April 9, 2007
I’ve been working on the Fun Book on Sundays, and I ran into a snag because my hero, who is supernaturally irresistible (stick with me, it works) sleeps with at least twelve women before he goes to bed with the heroine. That’s believable given his character, but here’s the kicker: my heroine won’t sleep with him because he’s promiscuous–she’s no dummy–and he actually gives up other women to have her and keep her. I mean, what are the chances?
So I talked this out with a pal of mine, somebody who’s very savvy about literary convention and respectability, Lani Diane Rich.
“Sam nails everything that moves and then gives it all up for Char,” I told her. “Who’s going to believe that? I’m in so much trouble here.”
“Oh, no, you’re fine,” Lani said. “Char has a Glittery HooHa.”
“Excuse me?”
“You’ve never heard of the Glittery HooHa?” Lani patted my arm. “Oh, honey.”
I’m going to quote directly now, because nobody explains the origin of the Glittery HooHa like Lani:
Once upon a time, in a land called Television Without Pity, the peasants gathered to discuss a particular type of character on soap operas. She was always blond, always beautiful, and always good-natured and kind, and always stupid beyond the telling of it. Did someone get approached by a masked man wearing dark gloves who needed help getting a puppy out of a wolf trap, only to happily agree to assist and disappear? It was her. Did someone get drunk on her honeymoon, pass out in a strange bed, and wake up only to assume on very little evidence that she’d slept with another man? Then lie about it? Then get caught lying? Then find out it was all a set-up by her Evil Twin, who had always been evil and had, in fact, done this before? It was her. Did someone get trapped in their own microwave oven?
Guess who?
And yet… there is a man. We’ll call him… Hero. Hero is handsome, he is strong, and… well, yes, okay, he’s kinda dumb, too, but still he manages to rescue her every single time she’s in trouble… which is approximately twice a show. He stays by her side and loves her through thick and thin. He disentangles her hair from the curling iron. He drops his Very Important Job to rush off and rescue her from the cardboard box on the pier where the Villain left her, warning her NOT TO SAY A WORD lest he do BAD BAD THINGS to her favorite hamster, so she kept quiet, even though the Villain was long gone, and many a passerby had passed her by. The Hero is loyal and loving
and doesn’t seem to mind the fact that she is so FREAKIN’ stupid. How can this be??
Well, my friends, it comes down to the power of the Glittery HooHa, or the GHH for short. A woman with an HH as G as this girl merely needs to walk around as glitter falls from her netherparts, leaving a trail for Hero to follow. And once he finds her, it only takes one dip in the GHH to snare him forever, for yea, no matter how many HooHas he might see, never will there be one as Glittery as hers…
I love Lani Diane Rich.
So, the Glittering HooHa or the GHH. Does my girl Char have one?
Char’s a redhead, not a blonde, and she’s a forty-two-year-old professor of Ancient Near Eastern History, so she’s not dumb although she has had her nose buried in her work for over twenty years which probably isn’t the brightest way to plan your life, and she owns a dog not a hamster, and she doesn’t end up in cardboard box on a pier although she does end up in an ancient temple with a pissed-off goddess . . .
“I don’t see it,” I told Lani.
But as she explained further, the GHH is more universal than the dumb blonde, it is, in fact, applicable to the romance heroine in general. “Char definitely has a GHH,” she told me. “Sam’s toast. One dip and he’s done.”
When I thought about it, I realized she was right about the romance heroine. Take J. T. Wilder, the hero of Don’t Look Down. He sleeps with a hot actress his first day in the story, even though he’s already met our heroine, Lucy, but the next day, he feels that something was missing. He can’t put his finger on it (stop snickering) but of course we know now it’s the GHH. Shortly thereafter, he and Lucy get horizontal and by damn, that’s it for J. T. My writing partner, we’ll call him Bob, took awhile to get used to this, probably because I didn’t know about the GHH and couldn’t explain it to him that way. In fact in his first draft of the day-after-Althea scene, J. T. was thinking he’d had a very good time.
“Nope,” I said.
“You’re kidding me,” Bob said. “He had great sex with a hot actress.”
“Yes, but it wasn’t that great,” I said.
“Yes, it was,” he said.
“No,” I said. “It wasn’t.”
“No, it really was.”
“She’s an actress.”
“Oh, come on.”
So he sighed and wrote in the part about how something had been missing–“Yeah, right,” he said–and saved us from some angry mail although we still got a lot because J. T. dared to sleep with anybody but Lucy in the book. I guess J. T. wasn’t looking at the ground and missed the glitter on that first day.
So now I’m looking at Sam, who is irresistible to women and who in turn sees no point in resisting them, and at Char in her mud brown sweater and sensible shoes, and I’m thinking her GHH better have Super Glitter (which, come to think of it, it does), and that I’m going to have to write the hell out of this because even with a supernatural GHH in front of him, Sam is not going to find fidelity easy.
But at least I have literary convention on my side.

Friday, January 30, 2015

How credit scores are calculated

How credit scores are calculated:

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Excerpt from article (

Fair Isaac says there are five factors that influence your FICO score.

5 factors that influence your FICO score:

Payment history: 35 percent. The bad news: While regular, on-time payments will keep your score high in this category, just one slip up can undo a lot of your hard work. "Being 30 days or later on one account can cause your score to dip as much as 100 points," says Cunningham.

Amounts owed: 30 percent. Surprisingly, the amount of your income does not impact the typical FICO score (though some creditors will ask for the information for their own models). Instead, the formula looks at how much you owe and compares that against your credit limits, says Watts. Want a better score? Keep that number at or below 25 percent, says Janet Garkey, special materials editor with the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance. Ever hear the rumor that lenders will be upset if you have a lot of credit that you can tap? It's not entirely false, says Watts. While your FICO won't be affected if you have large amounts of credit available, "some lenders may raise their eyebrows," he says.
Length of credit history: 15 percent. This is the one category over which you really have no control. Lenders want to know how long you've been playing the credit game -- and as far as they're concerned, the longer the better. For creditors, time equals stability. So if you have a good long-term history with a credit card, even if you're not using it, this could be a good reason to keep it open and active.
Interest in obtaining new credit: 10 percent. So how do they know that you're looking for credit? They keep a record of every time someone looks at your credit report. These requests to see your history are known as "inquiries." But there are two kinds, and it pays to know the difference. A hard inquiry is when you actually apply for credit and the potential lender pulls your report. That will actually lower your score. While there seems to be no hard and fast rules for just how much it could hurt you, it's best to avoid hard inquiries if you're about to go shopping for a home or auto loan. (Fun fact: If you're shopping for a mortgage, all the mortgage-related hard inquiries within a two week period will be treated as one -- allowing you to shop around for the best deal.) The same is true if you're hunting for a car loan or home equity loan. If you're not actually asking someone to consider you for a loan, that's called a "soft inquiry." Some examples: a current creditor wants to look at your report; you ask to see your own credit history or a potential creditor wants to scope you out without your permission. Soft inquiries don't affect your score because they do not indicate you're out shopping for more debt. To keep your score high, apply for credit only when you need it. If you're getting ready to make a big purchase, like a home or car, hold off on applying for other types of credit. "You don't want to have lots of activity before you make a major life purchase," says Steven Katz, spokesman for TransUnion, one of the three major credit bureaus.
Mix of credit/miscellaneous: 10 percent. This is kind of a catch-all category, says Watts. But the main factor to analyze is whether your financial history shows a mix of different kids of loans, like mortgages, revolving loans and installment loans. If it does, you demonstrate that you can "responsibly manage more than one type of credit," says Watts.

Your best score

One thing many consumers may not know: Your scores also can vary depending on which bureau the lender contacts. That's because not every credit issuer will necessarily report to every bureau, so the information used to calculate a score could be different.

"A pretty savvy consumer will know all three scores" and will apply for a card that uses the best score, says Arnold.
As careful as creditors and credit bureaus are, mistakes happen. So if you're thinking about making a big buy where a few percent in interest can mean thousands in (or out) of your pocket, pull your credit history and buy your score well in advance.
Allow at least three to six months before you start shopping, says Katz. That way, if you find an error, you've got plenty of time to get it cleared up before a potential lender sees your report.
Says Katz, "Don't wait until immediately before the purchase."

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