Monday, April 14, 2008

Fluid Reasoning from the Right Brain: Children vs. Adults

Children (like adults) may vary widely in their ability to engage in fluid reasoning, but as a group they are inferior to adults at analogical reasoning (a car is to a road as a boat is to...). One reason for this may be that it takes time for the right prefrontal cortex to develop.

In the figure, it's clear that children are able to activate many brain regions to identify different relationships between information, but they are less able to integrate the information, and so the picture of a child knowing lots of information, but missing the forest for the trees, is a normal part of development, and not "ADD".

Analogical reasoning is important for virtually all inventive or creative work:

From the Dunbar lab: "Analogy is a basic human reasoning process used in science, literature, art, education, and politics. Analogy can be used to make predictions, provide explanations, and restructure our knowledge. Analogy is also used to influence public opinion, fight battles, win wars, start and finish relationships..."

In our clinic, we often see wide variations in the abilities of children to reason analogically. And as remarkable as it is to see a young child able to reason fluidly, it's equally surprising how this gift may be missed or under-appreciated by even the most well-meaning teacher and parent.

Not surprisingly, many-a-young analogical reasoner may be turned off by school. Learning by rote sitting in a classroom may seem like an inefficient (and generally lousy) way to really advance his or her knowledge; what this student may really hunger for is appropriate challenges to their reasoning that consider the reality of their fund of knowledge and experience.

Most advanced conceptual thinkers welcome analogies and metaphors whether they are well-suited or not; because thinking through the goodness or badness of fit in the various relationships will organizes (and therefore simplify) all that they already "know".

Fluid Reasoning in Children and Adults fMRI pdf
Design simplification by analogical reasoning pdf
Scientific reasoning and thinking pdf
Analgoical reasoning in mathematical education
Teaching with Analogies
Eide Neurolearning Blog: Optimizing Science Education Through Analogy
Eide Neurolearning Blog: The power of analogy

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:28 PM

    I can remember up until late in college, how higher abstraction was blatintly ignored by academia. I've always felt that problems on course and entrance exams (SATs, CATs.ect) lacked significant properties of 'abstraction' (as how I would describe it back then). This really is just as disturbing to me as it is upsetting.