What do Steven Spielberg and Anne Rice have in common? Both are dyslexic. In The Dyslexic Advantage: Unlocking the Hidden Potential of the Dyslexic Brain, authors Brock L. Eide and Fernette F. Eide write, “Ultimately we’ve recognized the phenomenon of dyslexia, but missed its significance.” The physicians and neurological-based learning experts argue that dyslexics have differences in neuroanatomy and function that may predispose them to literacy problems but can also provide them with remarkable reasoning abilities. Here, the Eides propose a more comprehensive way to see dyslexia which “places abilities rather than disabilities at the center of our ideas” about dyslexia.
Looking at some successful dyslexics—from architectural engineers to CEOs of companies—the authors find that dyslexics may have four general-reasoning strengths in part or in full: material (spatial), interconnected (associating distant ideas), narrative (mental use of memories to test and understand concepts) and dynamic (predicting “best fit” scenarios). These strengths, they explain, are “achieved at the cost of relative weaknesses in certain kinds of fine-detail processing.” For example, “M-strength” individuals often have problems recognizing and producing correct letter orientation or expressing themselves in language or on paper.
The Eides also provide a variety of methods to help dyslexics overcome their weaknesses in school and to eventually find fulfilling careers that allow maximization of their gifts.
The Lab Rat Chronicles: A Neuroscientist Reveals Life Lessons from the Planet’s Most Successful Mammals
by Kelly Lambert
(Penguin Group, 2011)
For those who’ve seen Ratatouille, it’s easy to picture Remy—the good rat who dreams of being a great chef—as the archetypal animal model for The Lab Rat Chronicles, a sprightly tale about members of the order rodentia which suggests we have much to learn from them. Author Kelly Lambert, co-chair of the psychology department at Randolph-Macon College, has an engaging style appropriate for a wide-ranging audience and provides a pleasurable romp through a furry realm, making arguments for why we should try to live like the rats.
Rats have an approximately 90% genetic similarity to humans, and the study of their behavior, Lambert writes, produces an estimated one scientific publication per hour. They have a lot to teach us. Rats can adapt, survive and thrive in our culture, and Lambert finds that, for humans, happiness and mental well-being is derived not from having a trust fund but from rewarding hard work. Lambert discusses the “Slinky strategy”—the adaptability and feeling of control gained from a strong work-for-rewards ethic which creates emotional resilience to stress and stress-related diseases such as depression, so prevalent in today’s society.
Other tidbits of “whisker wisdom” that might help win our own rat races? Cognitive challenge leads to brain health and flexibility; positive social interaction and play promote healthy alterations in neurobiology; running enhances neurogenesis and may serve as therapy and/or prevention for mental illnesses; good parenting skills are priceless; and many others. Rodents have sacrificed much in the name of science, and Lambert provides them with a voice that can help lead us toward happier, healthier, more productive lives.
Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn
by Cathy N. Davidson
We’re living amidst a digital revolution, but we’re not thriving in it. We’ve embraced the technology that comes with it, but the ways in which we learn and work remain hierarchical and consequently antiquated. The phenomenon of attention blindness—the idea that focusing on one thing blinds us to others—sets the basis for this argument in Davidson’s new book, and it explains how we might redefine ourselves, our educational practices and our workplaces for the future.
“We’re not nearly as smart as we think we are,” writes the former Duke University vice provost for interdisciplinary studies, because we are trained to focus and “monotask.” This puts us at risk for attention blindness, but, Davidson argues, this is an opportunity for collaboration.
“If we see selectively but we don’t all select the same things to see, that also means we don’t all miss the same things.” To find success in this collaborative age, we need to unlearn certain habits so that “we can begin to relearn how to learn again.”
Davidson proposes a major departure from the hierarchical educational model, which she argues will be irrelevant in the digital economy. Education shouldn’t be a “one-size-fits-all model of standards,” as this excludes students who learn in ways not yet measured by current standards. She provides similar examples in the workplace, such as at IBM—where 40% of the employees work remotely—to validate the notion that eschewing the Industrial Age workplace is a possible, even necessary model for modern life.
Presenting current scientific research coupled with stories of pioneering individuals, Davidson provides a radical look into a future cognitively unrestricted by linearity, languishing workplaces and outdated educational systems. If she is right, a more collaborative, multitasking future awaits in which “[i]ncongruity, disruption, and disorientation may well turn out to be the most inspiring, creative and productive forces one can add to the workplace.” >>*<<