Scholarly article on topic 'Level of consciousness: Reframing our understanding of individual differences in learning'

Level of consciousness: Reframing our understanding of individual differences in learning Academic research paper on "Psychology"

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{"Level of Consciousness" / Mindfulness / "Cognitive Ability" / Memory / Awareness / Attention / Meditation / "Martial Arts"}

Abstract of research paper on Psychology, author of scientific article — Jules A. Troyer

Abstract It is presented here that in order to fully understand the totality of intelligence, Level of Consciousness must be assessed, in addition to IQ. This study investigated whether people who participate in different mindfulness training activities (involvement in meditation, religion/spiritual discipline, martial arts, and yoga) have a higher level of consciousness

Academic research paper on topic "Level of consciousness: Reframing our understanding of individual differences in learning"

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Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 12 (2011) 290-299

International Conference on Education and Educational Psychology (ICEEPSY 2010)

Level of consciousness: Reframing our understanding of individual

differences in learning.

Dr. Jules A. Troyer

Delta State University, Counselor Education and Psychology Department .jtroyer@deltastate.edu P.O. Box 3142 Cleveland, MS 38733

Abstract

It is presented here that in order to fully understand the totality of intelligence, Level of Consciousness must be assessed, in addition to IQ. This study investigated whether people who participate in different mindfulness training activities (involvement in meditation, religion/spiritual discipline, martial arts, and yoga) have a higher level of consciousness. 450 participants completed the Troyer Level of Consciousness Inventory and a demographics questionnaire to provide a basic profile of the participants and the respondent's level of participation in mindfulness training activities. Results indicate a significant association between participation in mindfulness training and level of consciousness.

Keywords:

© 2009 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dr. Zafer Bekirogullari of Y.B.

Keywords: Level of Consciousness; Mindfulness; Cognitive Ability; Memory; Awareness; Attention; Meditation; Martial Arts

1. Introduction

Currently many societies are preoccupied with the development of cognitive skills for learners of all ages. In the United States, cognitive skills have become practically equated with intellectual skills and understood to be the mental bases for intelligence or total cognitive ability. Reportedly, this equation is a mistake (Sternberg, 2001). Intellectual skills vary, relevant to the given theory of intelligence (Sternberg, 2001). For example, Spearman (1927) included among these skills encoding, inference, and application; while Binet and Simon (1916) included judgment skills, and Galton (1883) included psychophysical skills which are a subset of cognitive skills. Psychophysical skills include skills that both are and are not relevant to intelligence within a given theoretical framework (Sternberg). It is presented here that in order to fully understand the totality of intelligence, Level of Consciousness (LOC) must be assessed, in addition to IQ.

1877-0428 © 2011 Published by Elsevier Ltd. Selection and/or peer-review under responsibility of Dr. Zafer Bekirogullari of Y.B. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2011.02.038

There is an increasingly popular line of research revealing mindfulness or the ability to be" attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present: (Brown & Ryan, 2003, p. 822) is positively related to an individual's ability to sustain attention, focus, and regulate negative emotions. Mindfulness is necessary for higher or more effective LOC or the degree of responsiveness to the stimuli in the environment (Kandel, Jessell, & Shwartz, 2000). There is a growing body of research illustrating that mindfulness meditation assists individuals in a variety of ways including anxiety reduction in students with learning disabilities (Beauchemin, Hutchins, & Patterson, 2008). Contrarily, lapses in mindfulness can lead to performance failures in attention-related cognitive errors (Cheyne, Carriere, & Smilek, 2006). Clearly, one of the greatest challenges in the learning process is maintaining attention, focus, and responsiveness to the material being studied. Techniques to improve attention and responsiveness of individuals engaged in the learning process have strong implications within the educational system. The results of many studies reveal meditation has a positive effect on attention and memory (e.g., Alexander, Langer, Newman, & Chandler, 1989; Chang & Hiebert, 1989; Hall, 1999; Jangid, Vyas, & Shukla, 1988). The present study could provide a basis for increasing the awareness and use of mindfulness-enhancing programs in the educational system for the goal of increasing learners Level of Consciousness (LOC) and overall cognitive ability.

1.1 Background

Typical perspectives on total cognitive performance, such as the theory of general mental ability otherwise known as Spearman's "g" theory, assess cognitive ability primarily through IQ. Whenever IQ is used as an estimate of an individual's cognitive ability; there is an adherence, to some level, to the idea that intelligence is the single, general ability that affects performance on many different tasks (Ormrod, 2006). It is postulated here that this is an incomplete picture of all the salient variables involved in general cognitive performance. The possibility that general mental ability is not a single factor is presented (see Figure 1).

The key distinction posed here between IQ and LOC is that IQ produces the correct/incorrect response to a problem, while LOC is the level of awareness about the process of generating that response. In understanding general mental ability, it is important to measure the quality of both the product and process involved in the problem solving situation. This requires a two factor model (see Figure 1) that includes both IQ and LOC.

Two-Factor Model of Total General Cognitive Performance "Intelligence"

Figure 1

Two-Factor Model of Total Cognitive Ability

Most prominent theorists (e.g. Anderson, 2000; Baars & Franklin, 2003; Morin, 2004) agree working memory is the "place" where consciousness occurs; however there has been very little exploration to detail exactly how LOC impacts general working memory. General working memory is evidenced as being the "place" where problem solving and "thinking" occurs. Both IQ and LOC occur in working memory but IQ represents the accuracy of stimulus detection and response, while LOC is the level of self-awareness about the process. It is presented here

that an individual's ability to learn and perform cognitively is a function of (a) IQ or level of correct detection of cognitive stimulus and correct response (product-oriented), and (b) LOC or level of self-awareness about the process of correct/incorrect detection of cognitive stimulus and correct response (process-oriented). It is important to include both in order to accurately answer questions such as, "why do some individuals have a high IQ but still have difficulty in learning or performing certain cognitive skills?"

It is feasible that some individuals with a high IQ could be low in their awareness of the cognitive processes they are utilizing; thus, having difficulties in other areas such as, learning from their mistakes, transferring skills to new domains, or changing outdated ideas or beliefs. For example, if an individual has a high IQ but low LOC he/she may know the answer to a difficult calculus problem but may not know how he/she arrived at that solution. It would be nearly impossible, for a person with high IQ and low LOC, to explain to him/herself or someone else how the correct answer was achieved. This is not a serious problem, unless he/she is teaching or forced to "show his/her work." The real issue with IQ and LOC arises when a learner produces the incorrect solution and cannot explain the reason why. This produces a barrier in the learning process that inhibits overall mental ability. The ability to produce the correct solutions to cognitive problems is reflected by IQ, while LOC represents the learner's awareness of the process used to produce the response. Accurately assessing general mental ability requires equating both the process and product of cognitive reasoning by factoring in IQ and LOC.

This study does not provide conclusive evidence regarding the necessity to include LOC with IQ in measuring total cognitive performance, but it does (a) increase educators awareness that there is a viable and empirical means of measuring LOC in normally functioning individuals above the age of 18, (b) increase practitioner awareness of the existence of an instrument to begin assessing the performance-based abilities associated with LOC, and (c) present the idea that general mental ability is best understood as a two Factor model, including the Factor of intelligence and the Factor of LOC (see Figure 1), and (d) present evidence to support the idea that engagement in consciousness raising activities improves overall LOC.

The purpose of this study was to provide a framework for exploring the idea that general mental ability is not a single factor by adding to the evidence substantiating the TLOCI as a sound, reliable, valid, and scientifically rigorous instrument to measure LOC in normally functioning individuals, and to investigate whether engagement in consciousness raising activities improves overall LOC.

1.2 Learning, Self-Awareness, and Consciousness

Learning is primarily understood as a result of the interaction between individual's existing ideas and concepts and the material they are being presented with. According to Ausebel (1968), the most important individual factor influencing learning is the prior knowledge of the learner. In the first half of the 20th century, Bartlett presented a theory of the content of mind as schema, or networks of meaning (Beals, 1998) as a way of explaining how knowledge is constructed and changed. Bartlett (1932) underscores the importance of changing knowledge or conceptions by stating, "An organism has somehow to acquire the capacity to turn round upon its own 'schemata' and to construct them afresh. This is a crucial step in organic development" (p. 206). This position highlights the importance of a learner's ability to alter their existing knowledge or schema in cognitive development..

1.3 Consciousness Raising Activities

There is a long empirical and philosophical tradition indicating involvement in mindful activities such as meditation, martial arts, yoga, and spirituality assist in increasing self-awareness and personal consciousness (e.g. Moore & Malinowski, 2009; Fasching, 2008; Mackenzie, 2007; Mendenhall, 2006; Rama, Ballentine, & Ajaya, 1976). Jon Kabat-Zinn (1997) revealed that martial arts, yoga, awareness of breathing, and other types of meditation assist in the reduction and frequency of panic attacks and anxiety. Learners indubitably can benefit more from the learning situation by being more self-aware and less anxious.

Meditation and other consciousness raising activities have repeatedly illustrated the positive effect on memory and other cognitive abilities. Chang and Hieber (1989) demonstrated that public school children displayed an increase in academic performance when they were taught to meditate. The beneficial effects of consciousness

raising activities also were revealed by Jangid, Vyas, and Shukla (1988) in a study of 30 normal adult individuals who practiced meditation for a 6-week period and had the ability to significantly improve their memory quotients. Alexander, Langer, Newman, and Chandler (1989) also demonstrated significant improvement in cognitive flexibility among 73 elderly adults who practiced meditation. Additionally, Hall (1999) found cumulative Grade Point Averages for college students placed in experimental meditation groups were significantly higher than the control group of college students who did not meditate.

1.4 Significance of the Study

Strategies that address students' misconceptions and resulting attitudes can effectively initiate conceptual

change that makes students more able to solve problems and learn, by increasing awareness of the self and the problem space, as well as increasing the responsiveness in the learning situation. The ability to respond to feedback stimuli and rearrange schema or to construct them anew was described by Bartlett (1932) as a primary evolutionary adaptation that was inherent in the learning process. Self-awareness and stimuli responsiveness (LOC) are key to the highest success within the learning process and is characterized by self-regulation, self-actualization, or meta-self-awareness.

The value of this study lies in its broad application to instruction of all kinds, including school-based education for adults and possibly for children, military training, corporate training, as well as clinical applications in the arena of behaviour modification and life-skills instruction. The benefits include, but are not limited to, formulating a more cognitive and systematic approach to teaching for the purpose of raising consciousness or increasing the ability to engage in conceptual change or schema reconstruction resulting in an increase individuals being more capable of self-regulation, self-actualization, and more.

As Robert Sternberg (2001) eloquently pointed out, in the U.S. today cognitive skills have basically been equated with intelligence and this is a mistaken equation. The entirety of cognition is far more elaborate than simply one's IQ and factoring in consciousness and the ability to be aware of salient features in a problem environment are vital components in truly understanding what human cognition is. Expanding the definition of total cognitive ability or intelligence beyond mere IQ promotes the creation of instructional and learning environments that address the student in a more complete fashion. By looking at not only prior experience and IQ but consciousness as well, teachers and instructional designers can more readily meet the needs of students.

1.5 Discussion

In the pursuit of understanding the best practices within education, self-awareness and LOC surface as viable means of teaching students to better solve difficult problems by revealing to them the part they play in the problem solving process. Logically, an individual who is high in self-awareness can potentially catch mistakes quicker, change strategies for quicker and more accurate analysis, avoid using up valuable working memory space with unnecessary stress or worry, and overall process information more efficiently and accurately.

2. Method

2.1 Participants

The raw sample was 646, and after screening and cleaning the data, the final sample was 450 individuals ( 128 males, 320 females) who had access to the Internet, were above the age of 18, and resided within the United States. The 450 participants ranged in age from 18-85, varied in educational attainment with 8 having no High School, 163 who graduated from High School, 171 with an undergraduate college degree, 65 with a Master's, 26 who attained a Doctorate, and 17 who had a Vocational Degree. The ethnicity of the participants was 85.78%

Caucasian, 5.78 % Hispanic, 2.89% Native American, .44% African American, and 3.56% who reported Other. Participants were recruited

Instructors teaching undergraduate Educational Psychology classes at Northern Arizona University, people living in the United States with access to the Internet, 18 or above in age, and individuals involved in consciousness raising activities (e.g. Buddhist Stupa's, martial arts dojo's that teach meditation, and organizations dedicated to consciousness research) were contacted via email, informing them of the purpose of the study and asking for their assistance in recruiting. A follow-up email was sent to all non-respondents, once again asking them for assistance in participating in this study. Interested parties were given an email with the link to the study on SurveyMonkey and students receiving extra credit were asked to print out the validation of participation in the study after completion.

Additionally, advertisements were posted on key social networking websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and a variety of other internet websites, to recruit participants from around the United States to participate.

2.2 Instruments

Demographics questionnaire. The demographics questionnaire designed for this study provided a basic profile of the participant as well as detailing the respondent's level of participation in Consciousness Raising Activities (martial arts, meditation, yoga, religious/spiritual activity).

Troyer Level of Consciousness Inventory. The TLOCI was constructed from the Principle Factor Analysis (PFA). The TLOCI has 23 questions comprising four subscales: 1) MetaSelf-Awareness, 2) Reflection, 3) Openness, and 4) Helping Others. The likert scores for each item range from 1 -5 and reflect how much the participant engages in the statement. Scores are generated from a mean of items with higher scores on the Subscale and Total scores of TLOCI indicating higher Level of Consciousness (LOC) or awareness and responsiveness to internal and external stimulus, specifically stimulus that leads to self-awareness. The mean Total score for the TLOCI is 86.63, with the mean of the subscale MetaSelf-Awareness being 25.28, Reflection being 29.44, Openness being 16.00, and Helping Others being 16.18. The reliability of the total and subscales of the TLOCI is excellent to good; the overall Cronbach's Alpha for the Total score of the TLOCI is .91, MetaSelf-Awareness is .84, Reflection is .81, Openness is .73, and Helping Others is .73.

2.3 Procedure

The demographics questionnaire and the TLOCI were administered on SurveyMonkey. Participants were invited to visit the website to complete the study by email. Participants logged into the website, electronically signed the consent form by clicking the accept button, and answered the questions in the demographics questionnaire and TLOCI. The final page of the survey thanked the participants for assisting in the research.

3. Results

The sampling procedures utilized in this study produced a starting sample size of N = 645 cases, providing a good pool of participants to carefully scrutinize the data for underlying assumptions and take a conservative perspective of addressing any potentially problematic cases. Prior to any analyses, careful consideration was paid to the issues of screening and cleaning the data in order to present an honest and accurate representation of the data (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). Specifically, all aspects of the data were screened for missing values, and fit between their distributions and the assumptions of multivariate analysis. This process was repeated at relevant junctures of the analysis to ensure these assumptions were stringently met. The overall philosophy underlying the decisions made throughout this analysis was to present the most accurate, unbiased, and conservative results possible.

This study investigated whether people who participate in Consciousness Raising Activities (involvement in religion/spiritual discipline, martial arts, and yoga) have higher scores on the TLOCI. A MANOVA and an ANOVA were conducted to answer these questions. The MANOVA (see Table 1) was conducted to analyze the

overall group differences explained by participation in Consciousness Raising Activities on the subscales of the TLOCI: MetaSelf-Awareness, Reflection, Openness, and Helping Others. An ANOVA (see Table 2) was conducted to analyze the overall group differences explained by participation in Consciousness Raising Activities on the total score of the TLOCI.

3.1 MANOVA.

A One-Way between-subjects MANOVA was conducted on the five dependent variables: MetaSelf-Awareness, Reflection, Openness, and Helping Others. Where the single IV (with five levels) of involvement in Consciousness Raising Activities (martial arts, meditation, yoga, spiritual/religious activity) the 5 levels were: No (0) participation in Consciousness Raising Activities, participation in one (1) Consciousness Raising Activity, participation in two (2) activities, participation in three (3) activities, and participation in all four (4) activities. The variable for participation in Consciousness Raising Activities was created by summing the responses to the demographics questionnaire regarding current weekly participation in martial arts, meditation, yoga, spiritual/religious activity. In other words if a participant answered that they currently participated weekly in martial arts and meditation but not yoga or spiritual/religious activity that individual was given a two (2). If another participant only did martial arts but none of the others, the individual was given a one (1). The evaluation of assumptions of normality, homogeneity of variance-covariance matrices, linearity, and multicollinearity were all satisfactory.

The results indicate a small overall association between participation in Consciousness Raising Activities and LOC as measured by the TLOCI with a partial Eta Squared of .05 or 5% of the variability is explained by participation in Consciousness Raising Activities. This relatively low variance explained is partially due to a few different dimensions. First, all the activities were grouped together, not accounting for any variability in each of the Consciousness Raising Activities. In other words, all the activities were treated as equally effective and the only important aspect was how many activities the person engaged in. For example, if martial arts are shown to be a more effective method of raising consciousness and yoga is shown to be a less effective method, grouping all the variables together could create a levelling effect. This is one explanation to account for a significant but relatively (5%) small variability explained.

Another explanation is revealed when analyzing the Tests of Between-Subjects Effect, which illustrates the statistically significant effects of Consciousness Raising activities on all four dependent variables (see Table 1). Tests of Between-Subjects Effect shows a significant difference of participation in Consciousness Raising Activities on MetaSelf-Awareness F = 16.12, Eta Squared = .13, p < .001, resulting in 12.70 % variance in the differences. There is also a significant difference on Reflection F = 16.79, Eta Squared = .13, 2 < .001, providing 13.10 % explanation of variance. There was additionally a significant effect on Openness F = 9.57, Eta Squared = .080, p < .001, Observed Power of 1.000, with 7.90 % variance explained. Finally, there was also a significant difference on Helping Others F = 2.81, Eta Squared = .03, p = .03, with 2.5 0% variance explained. In all, participation in Consciousness Raising Activities is highly associated with MetaSelf-Awareness, Reflection, and Openness and moderately associated with Helping Others.

Table 1

Multivariate Analysis of Variance for TLOCI Subscales and Consciousness Raising Activity

Source SS df MS F p

MetaSelf-Awareness 1212.74 4 303.18 16.12 .000

Reflection 1068.15 4 267.04 16.79 .000

Openness 195.07 4 48.77 9.57 .000

Helping Others 43.78 4 10.94 2.81 .025

Note. (N = 450).

The Post Hoc analyses of Tukey Honestly Significant Difference (HSD), Scheffe, and Fisher's Least Significant Difference (LSD) were performed to verify these results. Significance was found in all three Post Hoc analyses. These three Post Hoc analyses were selected because each of them is sensitive at varying degrees of liberalism. The Scheffe is considered the most conservative or the least sensitive to significance (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001). The fact that significance was found even in the most conservative Post Hoc analysis indicates a robust level of significance.

3.2 ANOVA

A one-way ANOVA was performed with the IV (five levels) of Participation in Consciousness Raising Activities on the DV, the total TLOCI score. The variable for participation in Consciousness Raising Activities was created by summing the responses to the demographics questionnaire regarding current weekly participation in martial arts, meditation, yoga, spiritual/religious activity. In other words if a participant answered that they currently participated weekly in martial arts and meditation but not yoga or spiritual/religious activity that individual was given a two (2). If another participant only did martial arts but none of the others, the individual was given a one (1). The evaluation of assumptions of normality, homogeneity of variance-covariance matrices, linearity, and multicollinearity were all satisfactory.

The Tests of Between-Subjects Effects revealed F = 20.91, partial Eta Squared = .16, p < .001 with 16% variance explained (see Table 2). The parameter estimates also reveal relevant information, indicating No Participation (0) being significant at p = .014 significance, with a partial Eta Squared = .01 or 1%. Participation in (1) Activity revealed a Partial Eta Squared = .02 or 2%, p = .006.

A rough estimate of strength of association was calculated for this ANOVA through n2 = SS effect/SS total (7517.21/3424835.82 = .00). Although n2 is flawed for two reasons (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2007), it is presented here as one of three measures of strength of association or effect size reported. The first reason n2 is flawed is because for a particular IV, n2 depends on the number and significance of other IVs in the design. Additionally, "n2 for an IV tested in a one-way design is likely to be larger than n2 for the same IV in a two-way design where the other IV and the interaction increase the size of the total variance, especially if one or both of the additional effects are large" (Tabachnick & Fidell, 2001, p. 52). This is due to the fact that the denominator of n2 contains systematic variance for other effects in addition to error variance and systematic variance for the effect of interest. For these two reasons, an additional estimate of strength of association was calculated through Partial n2 = SS effect/SS effect + SS error (Partial n2 = 7517.21\7517.21 + 39987.41) resulting in Partial n2 = .16 or 16%. The third method of calculating effect size that was investigated was m2, it was calculated using the following equation, m2 = SS effect -(df effect) (SS error)/SS total + MS error (a>2 = 7517.21 - (4) (39987.41)/3424835.82 + 89.86), a>2 = -.05.

Table 2

One-way Analysis of Variance for TLOCI Total Score and Consciousness Activity_

Source SS df MS F p

Activity 7517.21 4 1879.30 20.91 .000

3.3 Descriptives

A review of the descriptive statistics also reveals some interesting evidence. The normed mean score for the TLOCI is 86.63 in the following descriptions. Participation in No (0) Consciousness Raising Activities revealed an average TLOCI score of 82.79 (n = 68) or 3.84 below the TLOCI normed mean. Participation in 1 activity (n = 155) had an average score of 82.58, revealing little differences between no activities and 1 activity. As mentioned earlier, this is likely due to the fact that all the activities were grouped together and are likely not all equal in their effectiveness. Interesting patterns begin to emerge when individuals participate in 2 activities (n = 130) with an average TLOCI total score of 89.75, illustrating an average increase of 7.18 points for individuals who engage in 2 activities. Individuals who engage in 3 activities (n = 75) had an average TLOCI total score of 92.54, increasing another 2.78 points and these having a 5.90 point average increase from the normed TLOCI total score mean. An interesting thing occurs at participation in 4 activities (n = 22), as the average TLOCI total score reduces back down to 88.55. It is not within the scope of the present study to offer an explanation; however, this is rich area for future investigation. Hypothetically, this could be due to a ceiling effect of simply doing too much, similar to a student taking too many courses in one semester and academic performance suffering from trying to accomplish too much in a given amount of time. In all, level of participation in Consciousness Raising Activities does reveal differences in average TLOCI total scores, with for the most part; higher levels of participation resulting in higher average TLOCI total and subscale scores.

4. Discussion

Although mindfulness and Level of Consciousness have received considerable attention in clinical research, there are far fewer studies looking a t the role of mindfulness in organisational behaviour research and individual performance (Shao & Skarlicki, 2009). The findings of this study show that participation in mindfulness training or consciousness raising activities does positively affect overall Level of Consciousness. These findings present further evidence in support of utilizing consciousness raising techniques to assist students in attaining higher levels of attention, focus, self-awareness, environmental awareness, and ability to react to stimuli.

The results of this study revealed notable increases in overall mean TLOCI scores for participants who engaged in martial arts, meditation, yoga, and spiritual or religious engagement. Although, many more studies need to be conducted to substantiate the true impact of this kind of training on learners, this research does show that purported consciousness raising activities do indeed have a positive effect on self-awareness and responsiveness.

4.1 Limitations and Future Research

First, this study utilized primarily Caucasian participants and questions of cross-cultural are presently being investigated by the author. Second, further studies need to be conducted in different cultural and racial contexts to validate generalizability outside the present sample. Third, further delineating the effectiveness level the different types or combinations of consciousness raising activities will assist in further refining our understanding of best practices within this area of instruction. Additionally, monitoring participants LOC prior, during, and after periods

of training would elaborate on the intricacies of this training on the four Factors of Meta-Self-awareness, Reflection, Openness, and Helping and Total LOC score.

Future research in this area would benefit considerably from analyzing the interaction between LOC, IQ, and problem solving ability in a variety of contexts. Empirical data needs to be generated to substantiate the positive effect of consciousness training on individual performance in a variety of educational and professional settings.

4.2 Conclusions

Increasing mindfulness in turn increases overall Level of Consciousness and can effectively be accomplished by training in consciousness raising activities such as martial arts, yoga, meditation, or spiritual or religious activities. Future research needs to examine the effectiveness of consciousness raising activities in increasing learner's ability to solve problems, address misconceptions for greater understanding and schema organizations, and self-awareness within the problems solving process. The degree to which these activities can assist individuals in improving individual performance needs to be explored.

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