The Treatment: Mediation & Brain Plasticity

Brain plasticity = ability of the brain to "rewire" itself. This capability occurs predominately in the frontal lobes, the area of the brain right behind the forehead and above the eyes. Although they make up 40% of the volume, the frontal lobes were the last part of the human brain to evolve. They don't become fully operable until the late teens or early twenties. They provide our sense of self-awareness, our will power, and our humanity. They enable us to plan, prioritize, and conceive the future. Damage to the frontal lobes can deprive us of choice, intention, and conscience.

Professor Michael Merzenich of San Francisco , the world's leading researcher in brain plasticity, discovered that animals' brains that are passively stimulated aren't significantly changed by experience. The "rewiring" occurs only when attention is given to the stimulation. In other words, to make a change we have to be actively attentive.

The "attention circuits" of the human brain are located primarily in the frontal lobes. Here the initial stages of learning take place. With attentive and adequate rehearsal, the process then shifts to other parts of the brain, freeing the frontal lobe circuits for the further acquisition of new skills.

The frontal lobes also play an important role in selecting what sensory input to attend

to—emphasizing certain stimuli while ignoring others. The ability of "tuning in" and/or "tuning out" structures our perceptions of external and internal events. Damage to the frontal lobes can affect our ability to evaluate, prioritize, and differentiate relevant from irrelevant information.

One cost of "paying attention" is that activities in other areas of the brain are significantly reduced. When we listen intently, we become blind and numb to the world around us. When we focus on minute details, we lose sight of the big picture. We may get so lost in a book or a movie that we lose all sense of time and place. This effect is called "Hebbian learning," after psychologist Donald Hebb. The changes that take place in brain cells and synapses as a result of Hebbian learning is called "long-term potentiation" (LTP).

On a neural level, neighboring cells begin "firing" simultaneously, kind of empathically, even if only one of them receives the initial electro-chemical stimulation. In Mind Sculpture: Unlocking Your Brain's Untapped Potential , brain rehabilitation researcher Ian Robertson described this phenomenon as "Cells that fire together, wire together." On a metaphoric level, a coalition of actively firing cells will commandeer their more passive neighbors, enlarging the web of influence a specific stimulus can produce. On a conscious level, we experience a “zeroing in” on particular objects or events. For example: mothers can easily identify the sound of their children's voices even in a crowded and noisy playroom. And we all respond attentively when we hear our names mentioned.

Research with musicians who play string instruments demonstrated that while a larger than average part of their brains were devoted to the fingers of their left hands, it resulted in a less than average sensitivity in their left palms. Likewise, the folk adage that a loss of one sense, such as sight, leads to the enhancement of other senses has been scientifically justified by evidence that visual areas of a blind person's brain are taken over by touch when he learns Braille.

The commandeering of brain cells which results in the acquisition of new skills can be disrupted if we are not allowed to dream. Although REM (rapid eye movement) sleep takes up just 20% of the night, research indicates that without such dream time learning and memory suffer. This is why cramming all night for a final may get us through the test but does nothing to enhance our understanding of the subject matter.

The same does not hold true if non-REM sleep is disrupted. We may be tired and cranky, but our memories will still function. Hence, it is not enough to "sleep on it," we have to "dream on it" to make significant changes within our brains.

Neural networks that are derived from experience or practice will break down from disuse, or as Robertson said "Cells that fire apart, wire apart." This is why we may remember only snatches of old, familiar songs or experience a sense of "being rusty" at things we used to do so well. Brain cells don't whither away when unused. They are simply commandeered for other purposes. In weightless space, astronauts lose their kinesthetic sense of direction. Without gravity, they have no "this side up" cue. They have to depend entirely on their eyes to orient themselves as they float freely in the space shuttle. After an extended time in a space lab, they even lose the sense of their limbs. They have to look to see where their arms and legs are. This is why astronauts "walk funny" when they finally return to Earth. On average, it takes four to eight days for their brains to "rewire" under the influence of gravity.

This extraordinary, and until recently, unrecognized capacity our brains have for continually restructuring themselves holds great promise for people with traumatic brain injuries (TBI). In some cases, neural networks that have been 90% damaged have reorganized into functioning systems again. They do so by "working around" the dead cells and joining together with surviving neighbors.

As might be expected, higher and broader education provides a significant advantage when it comes to overcoming brain injuries. The more connections there are and the stronger those connections are, the more likely a patient will recover functional capacity, provided that the therapy is progressively organized. Sporadic or poorly organized treatment is like knitting and then unraveling a sweater. It may keep us busy, but in the end nothing has been achieved.

The most effective form of teaching, and subsequent brain restructuring, is mediation. The mediator is a kind of external frontal lobe, selecting and highlighting what is significant, downplaying or concealing what is distracting. Designs for Strong Minds™ and Learning How To Learn exercises are designed to do just that and more. They are organized progressively and around different logical structures. Think of them as a full brain workout, cross-training and restructuring the brain to maximize potential naturally.

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 

 
Brain Plasticity: Q & A

We are compelled to be “life long learners” – what does that mean exactly?
Biologically speaking, humans are born to learn. Our brains evolved to have an extraordinary capacity for restructuring themselves, which is what "learning actually does. Most animals don't have much capacity (or need) for learning—their brains are "hard-wired" which is to say they function instinctively. Take a cow, for example. A fully mature cow's brain is only 10% larger than a newborn calf's. Of course, calves have to be able to get up and walk very soon after birth. Their survival depends on it. But other than getting along with other members of the herd, cows don't have to learn much that hasn't already been genetically programmed into them.

On the other hand, chimpanzees (with whom we share 98% of our DNA) have a great capacity for learning. A newborn chimp's brain doubles in size by the time it reaches maturity. There is no definitive explanation as to why brains evolve to have different restructuring capacities (i.e. learning abilities). However, environment and physiology must have significant roles in the matter. A chimp's environment and social order is far more complex than that of a cow's. Although the nursery rhyme tells us a cow jumped over the moon at least once, no one has ever reported observing a bovine swinging from a tree. That is to say chimps have a body structure that allows them to move in ways that are unimaginable for cows and other four-legged animals. This allows them to make greater use of their environment. In turn, the environment has greater opportunity to influence the structure of their brains.

As impressive as the 100% growth of a chimp's brain is, the human brain far outpaces it. An adult's brain is 300% to 500% larger than an infant's. Of course, unlike cows or even chimps, human babies are entirely helpless at birth. They have a lot to learn right from the start. Environmental and societal factors are tremendously influential throughout their entire lives.

The issue isn't to become "life long learners," that's our genetic heritage. The issue is what we do with our capacity for restructuring our brains—how effectively we learn and what we do with our learning.

Why do we have to work at being more effective learners – haven't human beings always had to learn fundamentally new ways of thinking and creating?
Our brains are naturally very efficient learners, which is to say that brain cells (specifically neurons) quickly and easily form new connections with each other. By the way, neurons are the only cells in the entire body that can communicate directly with one another. And they can also easily and quickly disconnect. This accounts for temporary or short-term memories. They can last a few seconds, for instance long enough to remember a phone number you just looked up to call. Or they may last a day or two, such as remembering what you had for supper the day before yesterday.

Long-term memories are formed through the same process as the short-term except that they are made more permanent through an intense emotional experience or repetition. Mention September 11, 2001 and Americans can tell you exactly what they were doing when they first heard that the Twin Towers had been destroyed. We remember our wedding days, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one for the same reason—the experience connected billions of cells throughout our brains. A song, an aroma, a picture, a flavor can trigger a flood of memories when we least expect it.

There are other types of long-term memories as well:
• Semantic memory - facts and figures like historic dates, multiplication tables, names of things, etc.
• Episodic memory - personal experiences like a first kiss or a last good-bye
• Procedural memory - "how-to" kind of knowledge as in "how to dance the rumba," "how to fry an egg," or "how to program a computer"

There are also unconscious memories, things that we didn't know we learned. These sometimes show up as phobias or unexplainable fears. They can also be preferences or prejudices—behaviors we explain away as "just the way we are." We call them personality or character but they were laid down as memories.

It's this efficiency at creating memories that can at times interfere with effective learning. I think the difference between efficiency and effectiveness was best described by Peter Drucker in his book The Effective Executive . He defined efficiency as "getting things done right" and effectiveness as "getting the right things done."

Machines are built for efficiency. Computers are probably the most efficient machines ever invented. They can calculate and compare more in microseconds than the most brilliant person can in a lifetime. But computers, even super computers, don't know what they are doing or why. They are designed to follow routines called programs. If something unexpected happens in the program (for instance, a data entry mistake), the computer stops. It freezes and has to be reset. Sometimes a person, called a systems analyst, has to come in and read through reams of programming code to find out what went wrong. The computer can't explain anything. It can only do what the programmer tells it to do. It can only follow the routine.

For most of human history, for most people, work has been largely a matter of following routines. They learned how to plant a seed, sew a button, or shoe a horse through the process of procedural memory—by doing it over and over and over again. Even today much of what we do is accomplished through procedural memory, whether it's brushing our teeth, driving a car, or checking our e-mail.

But as machines have become more efficient, human labor has become more complex. Humans are being required to do things that machines can't—specifically, they're being required to think. Even factory work has changed. One robot can replace many workers, but the workers who keep their jobs have to think like supervisors. They have to make decisions and solve problems that are anything but routine.

Machines can be invented to do things right, but only humans can determine what the right things are. We do this by:
• Identifying goals
• Defining the relevant facts or details
• Setting priorities
• Planning a course of action
• Evaluating the results

Modern industrial society requires that we all become effective learners. Thanks to the Internet, we have access to more data (i.e. facts and figures) than ever before. However, it doesn't become useful information until we decide how to process or organize it. Unfortunately, the different ways information can be organized is not explicitly addressed by formal education. For most people, schooling has been and continues to be just a matter of learning to follow routines.

What are some of the key differences between adult learners and children in school – to what extent does school prepare us to think?
The biggest difference between the adult learner and the schoolchild is the brain itself. While much of our brains are "hard-wired" from birth and responsible for the survival and maintenance of our bodies, a significant portion of the brain is plastic. In other words, it can "re-wire" or restructure itself in response to internal or external influences. This is a recent discovery, but keep in mind that it's only been about 30 years since medical technology enabled the first living brain to be observed in action. Since then, neuro-cognitive science has been challenging myths about how people think and learn.

In the early part of the 20 th century, behaviorists theorized that people were born with their brains fully intact, with a fixed intelligence that never changed by more than a few IQ points throughout one's life. We now know, thanks to brain scanning technologies like PET and fMRI, that our brains can and do change throughout our lives. At certain times, though, they change more rapidly than others.

It takes at least 2 years for a baby's brain to mature enough to enable speech. Once it occurs, young children develop an extraordinary capacity for memory, often to the frustration or embarrassment of their parents. This capacity for memory, particularly procedural and semantic, is key to laying the foundation of modern education—in other words, the 3 Rs, "reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic." In the early grades, establishing routines is of primary importance.

In the teen-age years the frontal lobes begin to mature. This will continue until we're well into our twenties and compose 40% of our brains. Frontal lobes enable a different kind of memory than we've discussed so far—working memory. The working memory is a kind of cauldron where current sensory stimuli is mixed with short-term and long-term memories. It enables us to recognize, recall, prioritize, inhibit, evaluate, and decide—all the skills we need to be effective, responsible adults.

Schools that provide a wide variety of activities and actively encourage student participation do a great deal to produce healthy, highly motivated, and productive adults. Schools that channel students into specific activities that they are particularly good at and isolate them from failure in their weaker subjects do a great disservice to their students and to society. These kids don't have the opportunity to rebound from failure. As adults they are reluctant to take risks and have difficulty “thinking outside the box.”

The good news is that even if you were unlucky enough to be specialized at an early age, your brain's plasticity can make amends. You're never too old to learn, provided you follow the 3 basic rules of effective learning:
• Intention—identify your objective
• Attention—distinguish what is relevant to achieving your objective
• Rehearsal—practice achieving your objective conscientiously and frequently

How do you train yourself to become better at critical thinking and problem solving – and how do you know when you've achieved that – what are the signs?
Critical thinking is a term that gets tossed about a lot but is rarely defined. Over 10 years ago the American Philosophical Association (APA) issued a Delphi Research Report entitled Critical Thinking: A Statement of Expert Consensus for Purposes of Educational Assessment and Instruction. In their report, the APA identified the critical thinking skills and sub-skills as follows:

• Interpretation: categorization, decoding significance, clarifying meaning
• Analysis: examining ideas, identifying arguments, analyzing arguments
• Evaluation: assessing claims, assessing arguments
• Inference: querying evidence, conjecturing alternatives, drawing conclusions
• Explanation: stating results, justifying procedures, presenting arguments
• Self-regulation: self-examination, self-correction

The APA listed the following decision making and problem solving behaviors as evidence of good critical thinking:
• Clarity in stating the question or concern
• Orderliness in working with complexity
• Diligence in seeking relevant information
• Reasonableness in selecting and applying criteria
• Care in focusing attention on the concern at hand
• Persistence though difficulties that are encountered
• Precision to the degree permitted by the subject and the circumstance

Studies show that the achievement of high academic goals and/or successful careers does not prove good critical thinking, decision making, or problem solving skills. What is most significant is the individual's learning disposition.

According to the APA, a good critical thinker is someone who habitually exhibits the following learning dispositions:
• Inquisitiveness with regard to a wide range of issues
• Concern to become and remain generally well-informed
• Alertness to opportunities to use critical thinking
• Trust in the processes of reasoned inquiry
• Self-confidence in one's own ability to reason
• Open-mindedness regarding divergent world views
• Flexibility in considering alternatives and opinions
• Understanding the opinions of other people
• Fair-mindedness in appraising reasoning
• Honesty in facing one's own biases, prejudices, stereotypes, egocentric, or sociocentric tendencies
• Prudence in suspending, making, or altering judgments
• Willingness to reconsider and revise views where honest reflection suggests that change is warranted

Looking through the above list, most intelligent people feel confident that they already possess those skills. They even put them into practice, some of the time. The problem comes when we feel rushed, stressed, or just confused. Then we're apt to resort to what David Perkins of Harvard University called "default thinking." He said, "Default happens when no special action is taken," in other words, when we haven't consciously determined what result we want or what is relative to achieving it.

Perkins divided default thinking into 4 categories. Each produces a predictable negative behavior. For instance:
• Hasty thinkers fail to consider alternative actions
• Narrow thinkers can't perceive alternative relationships
• Sprawling thinkers won't anticipate the result of their actions
• Fuzzy thinkers don't evaluate the effectiveness of their actions

Higher education can actually enhance our tendency toward specific types of default thinking. Lawyers, physicists, and mathematicians are more likely to be hasty and narrow thinkers. Biologists and psychologists tend to be sprawling thinkers. Economists lean toward fuzzy thinking. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule. It's really a question of how broad an education one has and how diverse one's interests. But in general, as we become more specialized in our professions, our perceptions narrow. We try to organize all information and solve all problems in the way we've been trained. To combat this tendency, we need to be aware that information can be organized in several different ways. The result we want will determine what information is relevant and how we organize it.

I use visual puzzles with my clients to demonstrate and practice the various ways information can be organized. These include:
• Analogies
• Progressions
• Part-whole relationships
• Categories

I also use puzzles that require:
• Identifying and correcting mistakes
• Playing with words
• Connecting dots
• Decoding numeric systems

Once they've been through a Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training program, my clients report they suddenly catch themselves dealing with problems more objectively. They notice that they're able to assess the response they're receiving “on-the-fly” and adjust their behavior according to achieve the results they want. Sometimes they'll even change their plans when the original objective no longer appears feasible. I don't know how to explain this except to say that they've learned to make better use of their working memories.

What internal and external factors are necessary in order that a person expand their learning capacity? What are the best kinds of environments and motivational states that facilitate "lifelong learning?"
By definition we cannot learn something we already know. When we say we "know something," we mean our brains are already structured to deal with the situation. Therefore, to expand our learning capacity we have to set ourselves up for failure. We have to risk the discomfort of not knowing what to do next. We have to develop a tolerance for ambiguity. Otherwise we fall back into default thinking. Then not only do we fail to learn, we don't even recognize that the opportunity to learn has presented itself to us.

Of course, not every experience has to be a lesson. By the end of the day, we'd be mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted if we couldn't make use of established routines. The key is taking a moment to think about the result we want and what we're willing to accept. Effectiveness and efficiency can, and should, work hand-in-hand. Then by the end of the day, we can go to bed with a sense of satisfaction that we've done our best with the opportunities that were presented. We'll wake up with an enthusiasm for the new challenges that await us.

We're life-long learners whether we want to be or not. Our brains evolved that way. To make the best use of this capacity, we have to lead our lives with conscious intent.

 
DSM & BUSINESS IN THE 21st CENTURY

Success in the Industrial Age was determined by efficiency . Success in the Information Age is determined by effectiveness . It is imperative that individuals and corporations be willing and able to apply multiple strategies when dealing with complex, ever-changing economies. Fortunately, the human brain is genetically equipped to meet the challenge. Unfortunately, most educational processes and training programs still utilize outdated models that fail to meet the requirements for transfer of new learning. The key to effective transference is mediation, a process that allows the learner to intentionally explore the underlying strategy upon which a lesson was built.

Based on neuro-cognitive research, Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training programs employ mediation techniques to uncover the learners' underlying assumptions (a.k.a. mental models) and then broaden their ability to perceive and respond effectively to diverse problems. Because DSM is unique in addressing the visual processing systems and how perception influences thought, it was the only training program NASA selected for a Critical Thinking Skills Project to enhance the mental agility of high-functioning employees.

In addition to the Professional Program modeled after the NASA study, DSM offers programs designed to meet the specific needs of Children , Adolescents , and Seniors . All programs enhance mental agility, concentration, communication, and memory and result in learners experiencing a greater self-confidence and readiness to meet new challenges.

Paradoxically, higher education tends to specialize and narrow perspectives. Consequently, many intelligent people have difficulty communicating their knowledge and effectively influencing “outsiders.” They fail to get the results they want because they don't recognize how others organize information or interpret agendas.

Technology has increased the speed and efficiency of communication throughout the world, but it can do nothing to improve the effectiveness of communication. That has to take place within the human brain. Because DSM addresses neuro-cognitive training from a unique bottom-up method, it has the means to help people of all ages and abilities become more effective at getting the results they want.

WHAT ARE THE SKILLS NEEDED FOR THE 21ST CENTURY? 

Effectiveness Versus Efficiency: Getting the results you want

People in the workforce today are struggling to:

•  Make decisions
•  Solve problems
•  Generate options

with educational tools that emphasized:

•  Rote memorization
•  Obeying orders
•  Following routines

For much of the 20th Century efficiency in the 3 Rs (reading, ‘riting, and ‘rithmetic) was the mark of an educated laborer. Schools were neither required nor designed to teach much else.

To be effective in the 21 st Century, knowledge workers must be able to find information and use it to create new knowledge. Literacy skills are assumed. Critical thinking skills are in demand.

HOW DO THE PRINCIPLES APPLY TO EVERYDAY LIFE? 

Success in the 21st Century requires a workforce that is able to distinguish between when to do things right (efficiency) and when to do the right thing (effectiveness).

Mental Agility: One size never fits all

Some factors that affect success in a world economy include:

•  Mergers
•  Acquisitions
•  New products
•  New markets
•  New technologies
•  Ecological disasters (natural and man-made)
•  Civil unrest
•  Changing alliances
•  Depletion of resources

HOW DOES GLOBALIZATION AFFECT CRITICAL THINKING? 

To survive and thrive in a global village requires the ability to devise and use multiple strategies effectively. This means:

•  Understanding the type of problem a selected strategy can successfully address
•  Identifying the resources a strategy requires
•  Determining the amount of time it will take to implement a strategy
•  Analyzing the consequences of implementing the strategy

To get beyond the limits formal education has set on most people requires an up-to-date understanding of how the human brain functions: its strengths and its weaknesses.

WHAT IS BRAIN PLASTICITY? 

Brain Plasticity: The science behind re-inventing oneself

Brains naturally change in 2 ways:

•  By the genetically triggered overproduction of synapses (nerve connections between brain cells) and their selective loss

•  By the addition of new synapse formations as a result of attentive experience

It has long been known that during certain periods in early childhood the brain goes into overdrive, producing a vast array of nerve connects and opening windows of opportunity to learn language, motor skills, social awareness, etc.

It had long been assumed that early childhood was the only time when the brain was malleable enough to be significantly influenced by external stimuli (parents and teachers).

Since the 1980s non-invasive imaging technologies such as PET (positron emission tomography) and fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) have revealed that even adult brains are constantly changing in response to stimuli. Moreover, these brains can be significantly restructured under the right conditions.

The discovery of the on-going malleability (also called "plasticity") of the brain demands a re-examination of the theory of modern education and the concept of IQ (intelligence quotient). Throughout life learning in general and guided instruction in particular:

•  Change the brain's physical structure
•  Alter the mind's perceptual experiences
•  Influence the individual's behavior, expectations, and choices

CAN WE INCREASE CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS AND INTELLIGENCE AT ANY AGE? 

Realizing that the human brain is a work-in-progress greatly affects:

•  How people assess their competencies
•  What risks they are willing to take
•  What opportunities they recognize
•  How they respond to setbacks

Transference: Why most training programs fail to produce desired results

Training programs tend to fall into 1 of 2 categories:

•  Standardized procedure
•  Lateral thinking 

HOW DO THESE LESSONS OR SKILLS TRANSFER TO REAL LIFE SITUATIONS (PERSONAL & PROFESSIONAL)? 

Standardized procedure training includes routine activities such as answering telephones, filling out forms, operating machinery, etc.

Lateral thinking programs involve solving puzzles, role-playing, and teamwork to unleash creative juices and innovation.

Neither process has proven particularly effective at enabling transference (the ability to take what has been learned in one context and apply it in a different context).

Research indicates that transference of new learning can be thwarted when:

•  People are asked to elaborate on a lesson with reference to the context in which it was presented (thereby securing it in their memories to a particular situation)
•  People's experiences, expectations, or beliefs lead to a misunderstanding of how the instructor intends the new information to be used
•  People are uncertain about how the new information is structured or do not understand the principles around which it is organized 

HOW DO YOU RESTRUCTURE THE BRAIN? 

Mediation: What has been learned from failure

The brain is restructured through attention. Without attention neither restructuring nor learning can occur.  

WHAT IS MEDIATION? 

Mediation is the process by which someone who knows more directs the attention of someone who knows less to relevant information that is determined by a specific intention.

Mediation enables transference because it makes the learner consciously aware of:

•  The inherent structure of the problem
•  The intended goal
•  The relevant information 

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER THEY DO THE EXERCISES 

“RETRAIN YOUR BUSINESS BRAIN”? 

Understanding when, where, why, and how new learning can be applied creates usable knowledge that enables you to:

•  Recognize similarities in diverse situations
•  Assess the ways in which situations are similar and different
•  Formulate a plan of action in accordance with the assessment
•  Analyze the degree to which the actions succeed or fail
•  Gain insight into their own preferences and expectations 

Bottom-up Learning: How Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) training is different 

Most instruction imparts established theories or routines as a means of leading someone from knowing less to knowing more. The learner never has an opportunity to explore the structure or examine the premise upon which the lesson was built.

Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) programs were not intended to impart pre-digested information but to enhance conscious recognition of various logical structures that have long been associated with intelligent behavior, specifically:

•  Conditional reasoning
•  Bi-conditional reasoning
•  Analytical perception
•  Classification 

Utilizing visual puzzles that require bottom-up thinking to solve, DSM mediators guide learners through the backwaters of their own subconscious thought processes, allowing them to objectively think about how they think and habitually structure information.

Once people have learned to recognize their own organizational behaviors, they can more easily:

•  Verbalize their rationale for doing something in a particular way
•  Monitor their current level of understanding
•  Determine when additional information is required
•  Evaluate new information based on its consistency with what they already know and its relevance for achieving their intended goal
•  Create analogies that help them and other people advance their understanding of the situation 

DSM training helps people develop Expert Minds.

A Peek behind the Curtain: How DSM works its magic

DSM puzzles utilize the same methods artists have employed for centuries to trick viewers into making assumptions about what they see and understand.

Through intentional intervention DSM mediators lead learners to an awareness of how their assumptions influence:

•  What they see
•  How they think
•  What they do 

The puzzles are not merely optical illusions. To solve them the learner has to visualize the conditions that make some answers logical and others illogical. In this way the learner experiences both the depth and breadth of neuro-cognitive restructuring.

In addition multiple experiences requiring the same general strategy strengthen synapse formations and broaden the learner's perceptual behavior.

A wide variety of puzzles allow learners to explore new strategies for:

•  Organizing information
•  Generating options
•  Making decisions
•  Solving problems
•  Verifying solutions 

Unlike most trainees who are conditioned to looking for correct formulas and single solutions, Retrain Your Business Brain develops Expert Minds that:

•  Seek to understand the goal
•  Organize the available information based on the goal
•  Structure the problem so that the goal can be achieved
•  Evaluate the solution's success at satisfying the goal
•  Strategize more effective ways of achieving similar goals 

Throughout the process DSM mediators encourage learners to engage in an internal dialogue that transforms the lesson into a meaningful experience. 

WHO BENEFITS FROM DSM TRAINING? 

Hopping on the Bandwagon 

Even smart people make dumb mistakes—and usually the smarter the person, the costlier the mistake. Recognizing this fact, NASA created a Critical Thinking Skills Project to enhance the mental agility of its high-functioning population.

DSM was the only training program selected by NASA to fulfill its goal. Although other programs give instruction in solving structured and semi-structured problems, only DSM provides opportunities to explore unstructured problems. That is, the kind of situations state-of-the-art organizations encounter that require:

•  Innovative thinking
•  Effective analysis
•  Precise definition
•  Clear understanding
•  Coordinated team effort to bring about the desired results.

DSM's Professional Program includes advanced mediation in:

•  Comparisons/Contrasts
•  Analogies
•  Analytical perception
•  Spatial orientation
•  Progressions
•  Functions
•  Categories
•  Relational thinking 

DSM also has modified programs for a wide range of ages, intellects, and skill sets. 

 

WHY USE DSM? 

Why DSM, Why Now: What DSM can do for you

Limited perspectives limit options. As people become increasingly educated and specialized in what they do, their range of expertise tends to narrow. This limits their ability to understand and communicate to “outsiders.” It may also prevent them from detecting and taking advantage of opportunities.

Perspectives (ways of organizing information) are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves, but they can be effective or ineffective. Knowing how you habitually organize information and what you prefer to do will help you understand under what circumstances you will most likely get the results you want and where you'll have difficulties. 

Preferred Activity

Logical Perspective

Quick to

Unlikely to

Likes to follow established rules and fill in gaps in existing structures

Conditional reasoning

Recognize change in status quo

Consider alternative actions

Likes to analyze problems and evaluate established rules and procedures

Bi-conditional reasoning

Recognize patterns and predict cause and effect

Consider alternative relationships

Likes to create new rules for old problems

Analytical perception

Recognize part/whole relationships

Anticipate effectiveness of action

Likes to take on new problems, deciding what to do and how to do it

Classification

Give meaning to experience

Anticipate result of action

Unlike other training programs, DSM doesn't stop at identifying your strengths and weaknesses. Through carefully structured puzzles, DSM mediators help you experience the entire range of perspectives, thereby clarifying familiar thought processes and enhancing unfamiliar processes.

Consequently, you'll not only be able to recognize and appreciate differing viewpoints, you'll also be able to communicate more effectively because you'll learn:

•  How other people habitually organize information
•  How they interpret the goal
•  What results they want 

By understanding and applying multiple perspectives, you'll be able to:

•  Develop better solutions
•  Discover new resources
•  Recognize relevant data
•  Align critical interests 

Paradoxically, mental agility creates a more stable environment in a complex world because it can foresee ramifications and contingencies and respond in a proactive and timely manner. 

Conclusion: DSM can help you get the results you want

Automobile magnate Henry Ford said "If there is any secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from his angle as well as from your own."

Ford made his fortune in part because he knew it was not enough to respect another person's perspective, you have to understand it well enough to compare it to your own. In a multi-cultural economy effective people are able to get the results they want because they can:

•  Assess differences in perspectives
•  Recognize common denominators
•  Bridge diverse goals
•  Develop achievable plans of action 

Moreover, these skills are vital components in establishing:

•  Better communication
•  Stronger cooperation
•  More stable relationships 

DSM mediators don't teach you what to do. They prepare you to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you in an ever-changing, complex world. As Charles Darwin explained the theory of evolution:

It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change



 Stress & Designs for Strong Minds™

Our brains are not computers but highly efficient filters. We are basically unconscious to most of the stimuli our senses are bombarded with throughout the day because our brains are such good filters. These filters are structured through our genes and experiences. That's why we don't have to expend energy thinking about how to do each and every little thing—like walking across the room or brushing our teeth or reading a newspaper. At one time we had to think about these things, when we were first learning to do them. And if we sustain a severe injury, we might have to learn to do them again or differently. But ordinarily, once we've learned a routine, we no longer have to pay conscious attention to it. In fact it becomes difficult to stop doing it and just think about it. For instance, try to remember how you learned to read. It's even hard to remember not being able to read.

Our brains are works in progress. They are constantly restructuring based on the demands of our environments. The more we do something, the more automatic it becomes. This enables us to multi-task. If we had to give full attention to each and everything we do throughout the day, we'd get very little done and be thoroughly exhausted. Thinking requires effort because thinking is the process by which new neural connections are created in our brains.

That 3 pound pile of mush we call our brains uses 20% of our energy resources. The more thinking we do, the more calories we burn. So, thinking is actually good exercise. And what happens in our brains is similar to what happens to our muscles once we get into an exercise program.

Chronic stress compromises problem-solving. We're all still experiencing the stress of 9/11, the sense of vulnerability whenever we hear about a terrorist attack or terrorist alert. There is also the economic uncertainty of a jobless recovery. In addition, many people in their middle years have the dual responsibility of sending their kids to college and providing for their aging parents.

Under stress our brains produce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline—commonly referred to as the "flight or flight" reaction. The persistent and overproduction of these hormones can increase aggressiveness and lead to violent behavior such as road rage. Long-term effects of elevated stress hormones can also damage a part of the brain called the hippocampus which is essential to working memory and new learning. Consequently, our ability to "think outside the box" when we need it most can be greatly impeded.

Among other things Design for Strong Minds Programs (DSM) were developed to counteract the effects of stress through a controlled rehearsal process (kind of like practicing a tennis stroke) that encourages the formation of new neural connections within the brain. The training is provided through puzzles that help people handle increasing numbers of variables. In addition, people learn there are different ways of organizing information and each way produces a different result. This often surprises people. We expect others to see things the same way we do.

Once we've practiced experiencing the world from somebody else's perspective, many of the irritations, frustrations, and hostilities we've met with fade away. We have a greater understanding of how other people think and what they are trying to communicate to us. What we've done is expanded our ability to channel stimuli through multiple filters. Consequently, we've expanded our awareness and can function more efficiently and more effectively in an ever-changing world.

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 The Aging Brain & Designs for Strong Minds™

By the age of 75, the average adult has half the brain cells in the occipital cortex (visual area) of the average 20-year-old. This massive loss may be due in part to the effect aging has on our eyes. With time, the cornea (the transparent fluid-filled bag in front of the lens) changes in molecular structure. As a result, light rays are bent and scattered more haphazardly which we experience as blurred vision. The shape of the cornea also changes. It flattens so that, by age 60, many of us require the help of eyeglasses or magnifying lens for close, detailed work.

The iris (which controls the size of the pupil) is also altered by aging. Its fibers may atrophy so that the size of the pupil is reduced. This means fewer photons can enter our eyes, requiring more light for close activities such as reading. The atrophy also reduces flexibility so our eyes cannot adjust as quickly to sudden change in light intensity. In other words, we become less sensitive to gradual contrasts in light or shadow.

As we age, our eyes grow more and more lens tissues. Because previous tissues are not removed, the new layers compress the older ones to the center, thus increasing the lens' diameter. Between 20 and 70 years of age, the average lens triples in mass. This is another cause of farsightedness. Moreover, the lens takes on a yellowish hue. It becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish greens, blues, and violets. And yellow itself becomes less "bright." Our color perception is altered.

Of course, these changes don't happen overnight. The changes are so gradual that many times we're more apt to blame something in the environment ("They don't make lights as strong as they used to") or lose interest in activities we once enjoyed than to recognize that our perceptual ability has altered.

Contrast the devastation of the occipital cortex with the vitality of the prefrontal cortex (associated with memory). In most people, the prefrontal lobe shows virtually no loss of brain cells with age. Some studies suggest that memory impairment in the aged is not so much loss of specific facts as it is a reduced ability to readily retrieve what is known. This may be due to a reduction or disconnection of neural pathways.

This raises an interesting possibility regarding the preservation of mental facilities as we age. It is known that an active social life greatly contributes to the maintenance of a healthy brain. Perhaps part of the reason is that interaction with other people provides increased sensory stimulation that keeps brain cells alive and active. It is not the stimuli itself that matters, but the way the stimuli is processed through intentional interaction. In other words, when we relate to other people, we have to engage our frontal lobes (the judgmental and decision making part of the brain) to organize the sensory stimuli we're receiving and to act upon it.

With this possibility in mind, Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM) programs can provide systematic, progressive training of the visual systems through intentional behavior. DSM does this with graphic puzzles organized to challenge and enhance cognitive and relational thinking skills such as comparative and sequential thinking, part-whole relationships and categorization. In effect, the puzzles encourage participants to exercise the muscles that are most likely to atrophy with age—the ones that enable us to note and observe fine details that enrich our lives. Consequently, DSM helps make people aware of what they have gradually been missing.

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 
Optimizing Memory in the Adult Brain for Effectiveness in a Multitasking Society


"I am summoned to see the headmistress at morning break on Monday," said Miss Brodie. "I have no doubt Miss Mackay wishes to question my methods of instruction. It has happened before. It will happen again. Meanwhile, I follow my principles of education and give my best in my prime. The word ‘education' comes from the root from ex , out, and duco , I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion, from the Latin root prefix in meaning in and the stem trudo , I thrust. Miss Mackay's method is to thrust a lot of information into a pupil's head; mine is a leading out of knowledge, and that is true education as is proved by the root meaning. Now Miss Mackay has accused me of putting ideas into my girls' heads, but in fact that is her practice and mine is quite the opposite. Never let it be said that I put ideas into your heads.

In the passage quoted above from The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie , novelist Muriel Spark entertainingly and succinctly exemplifies the question educators, philosophers, and scientists have struggled with since the Golden Age of Greece: What does it mean to educate? In other words, how do we learn what we know?

This was once dangerous ground to tread on. In 399 BC when Socrates was asked why he was called “the wisest of all men,” he said it was because he knew that he knew nothing. His persistence in questioning the citizens of Athens to learn how they knew what they knew ultimately cost him his life. For eons each generation has asked the question. Yet it has never been completely answered. But thanks to modern technology, we may be getting closer.

So How Do We Know?

In the early part of the 20 th Century, human brains were thought to be storage facilities. Each brain cell would serve as a kind of bin where facts could be neatly deposited. The size of the brain was equated with the amount of storage space available for knowledge. It was known that injury, illness, or age could reduce the number of cells a person had, but it was thought that nothing could increase them. The assumption was that brain size had a direct correlation with one's ability to learn. From that assumption came two arguments:

•  People are born with a given intelligence that sets limits on what they can learn
•  Since men generally have larger brains than women, opportunities for acquiring greater knowledge would be wasted on most women

The rationale managed to keep many young women out of college and out of the professions for many decades.

When biologists started measuring non-human brains in an effort to categorize levels of intelligence among birds and beasts, they discovered that some creatures had brains that were noticeably larger than the largest human brain on record. A new way of measuring had to be devised. One attempted to establish a ratio between brain size and body size. On average, primates have brains that are 2.3 times larger than other mammals of the same body weight. Although humans and chimpanzees have similar weights, our brains are 3 times larger than theirs. Among non-primates, porpoises and dolphins have brain-body ratios equal to or greater than ours. Animal rights activists sometimes use these numbers to argue the superiority of dolphin intelligence.

The idea that smart people must have more brain cells (a.k.a. “gray matter”) persisted until Albert Einstein's brain was made available for study by a select group of neuroscientists. More than 25 years after Einstein's death in 1955, microscopic examination revealed that his brain wasn't composed of more gray matter but more “white matter.” White matter refers to myelin, a protein substance that forms around the thread-like projections that connect neurons to each other. Myelin serves as an insulation that allows electrical impulses to flow faster between brain cells. Einstein's neurons had more and stronger connections with each other. This revelation led to a new understanding of how brains function.

Advances in technology have allowed brains to be explored on two fronts:

•  Regional—via PET scan, MRI, EEG, etc.
•  Cellular—via electron microscope

Scanning mechanisms enable on-line, real time observation of brains in action—in other words, responding to specific stimuli. Although the technology cannot pinpoint individual neurons, it does demonstrate the complex interaction of different areas within the brain—such as amygdala, hippocampus, parietal lobes, temporal lobes, etc. Moreover, it shows that some of these areas can shift and change over time and with experience. The electron microscope reveals where these changes start.

One out of ten brain cells are neurons. They are the only cells in our bodies that are known to communicate directly with one another. This isn't because the other cells are antisocial. They just lack the means to do so. Neurons are structurally different. In addition to the cell body, they have special appendages (nerve fibers) that literally reach out to touch other neurons—sometimes close neighbors, sometimes cells several feet away which is more impressive when you learn that 70,000 brain cells can fit on the head of a pin. Nerve fibers come in two varieties: axons and dendrites. Axons provide output—i.e. they transmit. Although they are usually in contact with dendrites, they can also connect with cell bodies and other axons. Dendrites receive input, usually from axons, but sometimes they “talk” to other dendrites.

Generally, neurons have one axon, but an axon can have multiple branches enabling it to transmit to many cells at once. A neuron will usually have many dendrites, and the dendrites have many spines (little knob-like projections) that axons can connect to. All of this was unknown before the development of the electron microscope which enables scientists to peer into the vast universe of the very small. 

You Must Remember This

At any given moment billions of messages are being exchanged via electro-chemical activity within our brains. Most are involved with maintenance or survival—such as regulating heartbeat, monitoring temperature, sensing movement, etc. Unless there is a sudden or extreme change, we remain blissfully unconscious of these goings-on. Just because we're unconscious of them doesn't mean we have no memory of them.

There is increasing evidence to suggest that memories aren't stored in individual neurons, but in the way the neurons are connected to each other. Some neurons are part of vast networks or systems; others only have small, regional connections. Some connections are well insulated and will last a lifetime; others are more fragile than soap bubbles. They exist for a fraction of a second before dissipating. Sometimes breaks occur within a system or between systems, due to injury or illness. Disconnections result in the loss of functions—such as a stroke that renders an arm useless or a tumor that disrupts the ability to link faces with names. Victims of such tragedies often suffer the frustration of knowing what to do but not being able to remember how to do it.

In theory, memories are reconstructions of the past. In fact, memories are thoroughfares by which we travel through time. The memory of our species is embedded in our DNA and passed along via egg and sperm to the future. Personal memories are woven throughout our brains, altered and adjusted with each new experience, making our brains as individual as our fingerprints.

Different types of memories form in different parts of the brain. The amygdala, an almond-shaped structure deep inside the temporal lobe, is fully formed and functioning at birth. Fears take root here that may later germinate as phobias and flashbacks, the unspeakable memories of things to avoid.

Nestled up against the amygdala, looking more like a paw than the seahorse for which it was named, the hippocampus lays down new memories, establishes personal history, and creates spatial awareness. The hippocampus is connected to almost every part of the neocortex, the thin outer layer of the brain where self-awareness, language, and abstract thought take form. An event does not become a long-term memory until it's bounced back and forth between hippocampus and cortex for two or three years. Much of the activity takes place during sleep and in dreams. After that, the frontal and temporal cortices can recall information without the aid of external stimuli.

Non-personal memories such as the capital of Vermont , the multiplication tables, or the location of the spare car key also begin in the hippocampus and end in the cortex. How quickly we can retrieve the information is dependent on how often we need to remember it and its emotional value. This is why cramming all night for a final can net a decent score on a test although the hastily acquired knowledge is forgotten soon afterwards. It is also why immersion into a culture is the quickest way to learn a second language. By involving all the senses—sight, sound, taste, smell, touch, and movement—vast networks of related information can be constructed in a short time. The process of becoming an expert requires a similar immersion.

Development of expertise in any subject requires time and opportunity. But exposure to information, no matter how intense, is not enough . For information to be of use, it has to be linked to an objective and a procedure for achieving that objective. Thoughts turn into actions when nerve impulses activate muscles in an organized manner. Without synchronization, muscle movement is reduced to tics and twitches. We would not be able to walk, talk, chew, write a check, kiss a loved one, smile, scream, juggle, cook—in short do anything but vegetate.

Movement is initially organized in the cerebellum, the “little brain” in the back of the skull. The evolution of the cerebellum is linked to the need to stabilized vision while the body is in motion, adjusting the rate and degree of eye movement to that of head movement. Otherwise, the world would seem like it was made with a hand-held video camera.

Coordination takes practice. Watch a baby learning to roll over, learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk. It all takes a lot of practice. And then suddenly, it happens and it seems as if one has always known how to do these things. At this point control shifts from the cerebellum to the putamen, a part of the basal ganglia that sits atop the brain stem. Activities learned through repetition become automatic here. We don't have to think about the process anymore. Muscle memory takes over. Actions flow smoothly, one after another. Choices are made swiftly and executed masterfully. Some activities, like walking in one's sleep, can even be performed unconsciously. 

How Knowledge Is Made

Most of the memory discussed thus far can be categorized as “long-term.” It is part and parcel of who we think we are and what we habitually do. In short, we owe our self-knowledge to long-term memory. Certainly some of it is genetic, lending a distinctly human quality to our lives. Animals such as chimpanzees and gorillas, with whom we share a great percentage of DNA, exhibit more “human-like” behaviors than do dogs, parakeets, or houseflies despite the fact that we have more experience with pets and pests than we do with apes. But we are also molded by experience. Physically, we may very well be a reflection of what we eat. Mentally, we become what we think.

What we think is a turbulent, ever-changing blend of past, present, and future prepared in a cauldron called “working memory.” More than just a short-term or temporary storage facility, working memory is the means by which past experiences are combined with present events to produce future effects. It is where knowledge is processed through planning, problem solving, and decision-making. We employ our working memories when we compare prices at the supermarket, carry on a conversation, solve crossword puzzles, balance check books, find our way home from a party, compose music, write novels, design nuclear reactors, etc.

All mammals have frontal lobes whose primary task is to control movement. In humans the frontal lobes occupy one-third of the brain. From there, in the prefrontal cortex, the working memory works its miracles. The prefrontal cortex is a convergence zone where electro-chemical messages sent from systems throughout the brain meet, greet, and are sent on their way back into the brain to change it. Here emotions, sensations, conditioned responses, and motivations blend. Some of these blends will be weak and erratic and quickly forgotten; others will be strong enough or frequent enough to forge new connections between neurons. In this way knowledge is built upon what we already know. This is why it is easiest to learn something new when we can associate it with something familiar.

Sometimes new experiences can challenge or disrupt old patterns of behavior. Then we feel confused. Uncertainty can generate hyper-awareness and large muscle paralysis. The discomfort is a sign that our working memory is seeking more information from various systems and inhibiting impulsive action until an appropriate response is determined. If we can tolerate the discomfort, we will be rewarded with a new insight and awareness that we've been forever changed. In other words, we'll have been educated.

Education is the result of a leading out of what is already there (i.e. long-term memories) and a thrusting in of new experiences, ideas, sensations, and/or feelings. Education enriches our lives by enriching our brains with neural connections. We can know and know that we know because of a wonderful system called working memory. Like all brain systems, working memory improves most with intentional use—for instance by playing games, solving puzzles, and socializing. In the process we learn both how to absorb knowledge and how to create it. 

  

  

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 
Designs for Strong Minds™ at work with NASA

When Chris Williams, Learning Systems Program Manager for NASA, was looking for a way to integrate the benefits of both types of training, she turned to Dr. Donalee Markus and her company, Designs for Strong Minds™ (DSM). "Highly educated people can develop tunnel vision," Williams explains. "They are so good, so brilliant that they don't have to think about creative problem solving until they reach a crisis. Donalee opens up people's ability to look at how they are thinking."

On the surface, DSM's game-like exercises may seem similar to other "thinking-outside-the-box" creativity problems, but dig deeper and the exercises' step-by-step progressive difficulty and rehearsal opportunities will closely resemble the more expensive scenario-based programs. Participants quickly shift from looking for a single right answer to discovering how their perception of a problem can influence the information they gather and affect which course of action they follow.

As Williams noted, experts may think so fast that they are unaware of their own decision-making and/or problem solving processes. They may end up micromanaging each and every crisis because it seems easier to do something themselves than to try to explain it to someone else. They may be unfairly labeled as “controlling personalities” when the real difficulty lies elsewhere. "Our population is very deep into each discipline, so it can be hard to communicate effectively between departments," Williams explains. "Instead of assuming everyone will understand where they are coming from, employees who have been through the [DSM] course will naturally begin to explain how they came to their conclusion. This opens up a whole different dialogue."

The practice of verbalizing one's thought processes produces three significant benefits:

• The opportunity to self-evaluate one's logic
• Better communication of the project's goal
• Clearer understanding of how each team member contributes to the solution

Team leaders who can clearly communicate their intentions find redundancy reduced and effectiveness improved. According to Williams, employees at NASA who completed the DSM program are more thoughtful, more centered and seem to be better able to hold and store more information without getting frazzled.

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 Building Better Brains

Ages 0 – 3

From 0 – 3 years old, there are many things we can do to build better brains. Movement, balance, and the use of our senses form the foundation for all learning experiences. Enjoy every moment as you share in your child's growth and development. Some neuro-developmental themes and tips include:

Infant 

  • Hang a simple pendulum from the ceiling (or a mobile). A mobile has multiple stimuli and it doesn't have the same range of motion as a pendulum, nor does it demand the same amount of attention as a singular pendulum. The ability to visually follow this form helps the infant prepare for rolling over. The eye movement also prepares the child for scanning, a necessary skill for learning to read. 

  • While feeding or reading to your child, alternate the sides to which you are holding the child in order to stimulate bilateral sensory-integration. Example: An 8-month old child was brought to me who only used her right arm and leg when creeping on the floor. She went to the pediatrician, who said there was no need to worry. I asked the mother to tell me all about her day with her daughter. The new mother was so proud that her daughter loved when she read stories to her. She read stories 3 times a day for about 40 minute intervals. I had the mother show me how she read to the child. She always held the child on her left side and turned the pages with her right hand. I requested that the mother read to the child on her right side for two weeks and then alternate sides from thereafter. I also instructed the mother to put her child on her knees so tat the child's hips would have an opportunity to experience mobility. Within two weeks, the child was using both sides of her body to crawl. 

  • Let the child explore movement. Don't hold the child hostage to a chair or a jumping seat. Movement is the infant's language. Exploring and experimenting with movements builds balance and control. 

  • Allow the child to explore with his/her food. Playing with the different textures of food can help the child develop tactile kinesthetic sensory integration and motor skills. Finger differentiation also contributes to speech development. 

  • Begin to develop the ability to cross the midline for neuro-motor functioning. When you had a 4-month old an object on their right side, they will naturally reach for the object with their right hand. In an effort to cross the midline, hold the infant's right hand and hand the the 4-month old something on their right side. This forces the child to reach for the object with his/her left hand, thereby crossing the midline. Do this with both hands. Among other things, your child's tennis or golf swing will not be short. They will be able to follow-through. 

**We are on our way to cross-fertilizing the brain – cross training the brain.**

2-year olds

  • A 2-year-old should be able to participate in one meal a day with the family and keep his feet grounded! His/her feet must firmly hit a base—use a box if you need to. This helps the child maintain focus and concentration for longer periods of time. (Try doing your taxes on a bar stool without a place to rest your feet. Do I need to say more?) Until your child is five feet tall, this tip should be of constant concern if you want your child to perform at his/her best. 

  • Begin to develop a healthy internal dialogue for your child to carry throughout their life. How you parent, criticize, compliment and organize information for your child becomes his internal dialogue—the way he begins to problem-solve, plan and place himself in the world. If you only comment when there is a problem—a spill or a misbehavior, the child internalizes a critical voice. If you honestly compliment and correct when appropriate, a benevolent parenting voice is internalized. Take a moment to reflect on your own internal dialogue. Are you hyper-critical of yourself? Do you only have a monologue (one way of viewing a situation)? Do you think that you are special and that you should be treated differently than everyone else? Or do you have a dialogue in your head, many ideas and variations? Ideally we want realistic, benevolent parenting. Conversation with your infant and toddler that reflects this approach will transfer to his meta-cognitive conversation and will prepare your child with the disposition for learning. Healthy meta-cognitive conversation will help your child recognize that: 

    • Mistakes are a part of learning 

    • Without risk, there is no learning 

    • Perseverance is necessary to build skills 

    • A good sense of humor is important 

    • We just don't do it, we think before we act.

The foundation for learning how to learn is reinforced when you have healthy internal dialogue. Building healthy, smart, confident children is easier when their experiences are reinforced with self-assuring meta-cognitive conversation.

**Raising children is not about creating a structured musical score, it is about learning how to be a jazz musician—perfecting the art and skill of improvisation.** 

  

  

© Copyright 2004 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 Neuro-Cognitive Restructuring & DSM/LHTL Programs

The Designs for Strong Minds (DSM) and Learning How To Learn (LHTL) programs are based on a neurocognitive model that utilizes attention, intention, and rehearsal to implement learning and behavioral change.  They are distinguished from other cognitive training programs that emphasize either standardized procedures (e.g. answering telephones, filling out forms, baking brownies, etc.) or lateral thinking (e.g. role-playing, teamwork, thinking outside the box, etc.) through mediation and a large variety of visual puzzles organized by logical structures.

Mediation is the process by which someone who knows more directs the attention of someone who knows less to relevant information that is determined by a specific intention.  Mediation enables transference because it makes the learner consciously aware of:

  • The inherent structure of the problem

  • The intended goal

  • The relevant information

Understanding when, where, why, and how new learning can be applied creates usable knowledge that enables learners to:

  • Recognize similarities in diverse situations

  • Assess the ways in which situations are similar and different

  • Formulate a plan of action in accordance with the assessment

  • Analyze the degree to which the actions succeed or fail

  • Gain insight into their own preferences and expectations

Most instruction imparts established theories or routines as a means of leading someone from knowing less to knowing more.  The learner never has an opportunity to explore the structure or examine the premise upon which the lesson was built.

The DSM and LHTL programs were not intended to impart pre-digested information but to enhance conscious recognition of various logical structures that have long been associated with intelligent behavior, specifically:

  • Conditional reasoning

  • Bi-conditional reasoning

  • Analytical perception

  • Classification

Utilizing visual puzzles that require bottom-up thinking to solve, the mediator guides learners through the backwaters of their own subconscious thought processes, allowing them to objectively think about how they think and habitually structure information.

Once people have learned to recognize their own organizational behaviors, they can more easily:

  • Verbalize their rationale for doing something in a particular way

  • Monitor their current level of understanding

  • Determine when additional information is required

  • Evaluate new information based on its consistency with what they already know and its relevance for achieving their intended goal

  • Create analogies that help them and other people advance their understanding of the situation

DSM and LHTL puzzles utilize the same methods artists have employed for centuries to trick viewers into making assumptions about what they see and understand.  Through intentional intervention, mediators lead learners to an awareness of how their assumptions influence:

  • What they see

  • How they think

  • What they do

The puzzles are not merely optical illusions.  To solve them the learner has to visualize the conditions that make some answers logical and others illogical.  In this way the learner experiences both the depth and breadth of neurocognitive restructuring.

In addition multiple experiences requiring the same general strategy strengthen synapse formations and broaden the learner’s perceptual behavior.  A wide variety of puzzles allow learners to explore new strategies for:

  • Organizing information

  • Generating options

  • Making decisions

  • Solving problems

  • Verifying solutions

Unlike most trainees who are conditioned to looking for correct formulas and single solutions, program participants develop Expert Minds that:

  • Seek to understand the goal

  • Organize the available information based on the goal

  • Structure the problem so that the goal can be achieved

  • Evaluate the solution’s success at satisfying the goal

  • Strategize more effective ways of achieving similar goals

 

  

  

© Copyright 2006 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 The Science of Corporate Learning

On first glance, neuroscientific research hasn't taught much about the human brain that can be used to improve corporate training programs. Invasive studies that attach probes to neurons are not performed on humans, and no other species matches the human capacity for language and abstract reasoning. The discipline itself is merely 30 years old and thus still in its infancy. Much of what is known about human brain functions has been deduced from pathological studies, i.e. defective brains. Tumors, injuries and diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's that take portions of the brain "offline" have been used to map cognitive and behavioral functions in much the same way that, in the 15th and 16th centuries, European explorers mapped the American coastlines.

Brain-scanning equipment available today measures blood flow and glucose supply, which allows researchers to peer into healthy brains as volunteers perform memory tasks, solve problems and make decisions. These scans are the neural equivalent of a global positioning satellite (GPS) system tracking traffic flow. They can reveal where the action is without giving insight into why it occurs the way it does. With the aid of 21st-century technology, however, one thing is becoming increasingly evident: Many of the assumptions that were made in the 20th century about intelligence, memory formation and learning processes were wrong.

One of the key discoveries this young science has made is the brain's natural plasticity, the infinite capacity for parts of the human brain to be restructured through intentional experience. For corporate trainers working to develop effective training methods and materials, brain plasticity is crucial. How memories are created and ideas generated remains a mystery, but we know intelligence is modifiable and learning is transitional because specific brain cells called neurons constantly connect, disconnect and reconnect with one another. Intelligence is not fixed but flexible, which means learning is possible. Therefore, an IQ test score is nothing more than a snapshot of a person's intellectual ability at that moment in time. As with any other photograph, an IQ number is flat and static. It cannot predict future achievements - it only can document past experience.

Brain plasticity means human intelligence is always a work in progress. That is both the good news and the bad news. It means people enhance cognition throughout their lives, and they also can lose cognitive abilities. The part of the human brain that is the most modifiable is also the most fragile.

The best news to come out of neuroscience in the last decade is that cognitive degeneration is not a natural part of aging. People do not have to lose their mental faculties as they grow older. Just as physical exercise can keep your body strong and healthy well into your senior years, mental exercises contribute to the preservation and vitality of your brain.

If you are serious about maintaining or improving your health, both physical and mental, you know an occasional brisk walk around the block or a friendly game of bridge is not enough. You need a carefully designed regimen of gradient challenges that allows you to develop progressively without the frustration of pumping more iron than you are ready to handle.

What does all this mean for corporate training At the simplest level, it means learning is possible and that employees can be trained to learn a wide variety of tasks and skills. The issue is far more complicated, however, when you get down to working with individuals. Many training programs might be fundamentally sound but ineffective in practice. Is this because the people in those programs are incapable of learning Probably not. It's that the program doesn't address how they learn.

Eight Types of Learners
Diversity is the dominant theme of today's business world. Suppliers and customer relations reach across countries, and colleague relationships span continents, as well as social differences such as age, sex and race. In order to communicate effectively, everyone must learn to walk in someone else's shoes. Effective communication demands the recognition that individuals organize information in different ways. The first step to communicating effectively is to become aware of the way we take in and process information.

As you become more aware of what goes on in your mind and in the minds of the people with whom you communicate, you'll be able to make better use of their skills. Having insight into how other people organize information vastly improves your ability to communicate with them. Misunderstanding and conflict occur in organizations because we don't recognize how someone else takes in information. While recognizing your thinking style is like uncovering a treasure trove of information, the process is a formidable one because the majority of our thinking happens at a subconscious level - seldom do you think about your thinking.

Paradoxically, higher education tends to specialize and narrow perspectives. Consequently, many intelligent people have difficulty communicating their knowledge and effectively influencing "outsiders." They fail to get the results they want because they don't recognize how others organize information or interpret agendas.

The notion of different types of learners and learning styles usually refer to "auditory," "visual" and "verbal." While these distinctions are valid, there is a different way to think about this: in terms of how people think about their goals.

When people first confront complex problems, they tend to identify their goals in comparative terms: They want to make things better or safer, they want to be happier or richer. People want things to be different but are not clear on how or to what extent they'll be different. In other words, they haven't a clear vision of the result they want. Studies in decision-making processes demonstrate that when people have precise goals, the visual cortex of their brains is activated. Complex problems have elements or can produce results that are hard, if not impossible, to visualize. When you deal with complex issues, you want to have specific goals in mind while recognizing that you might need to modify them.

For some, altering a goal is the equivalent of admitting failure. And they will never admit failure. Once they've set their sights on a goal, they will try to move heaven and earth to achieve it. They will run a business into the ground. They will risk divorce and alienation of family and friends. They will ruin their health with long hours at the office. Perseverance is the way they get things done right.

These people can be called "bottom liners." They focus their attention on the bottom line: What will it cost When will it be done They want definite answers and guarantees. Don't bother them with details or raise issues after the course has been set because they'll interpret your concern as disloyalty both to the cause and to them personally. Although they make good team captains and excel at planning strategies, they ignore facts that conflict with their expectations because the goal is so clear in their minds that everything else is irrelevant.

"Left-to-righters" have a similar leadership style to bottom liners in that they want guarantees from their staff, although the results they expect aren't always articulated. Personally, they appear well-organized and like to do things in a step-by-step, orderly manner - any deviation from the norm makes them uncomfortable. While bottom liners bristle at the suggestion of failure, left-to-righters just don't see how they could have done things differently. They had been so careful to do everything right that mistakes couldn't have been made. But if they were made, someone else was at fault for not providing the left-to-righter with precise information in the prescribed way. Unlike bottom liners, who can consciously visualize their goals, left-to-righters are rarely aware of visualizing, but their behavior suggests their self-image closely is tied to their achievements and success.

Bottom liners and left-to-righters are particularly good at solving problems that require established routines. People look to them as natural leaders because they seem to know how to get things done right. Their strength lies in achieving simple, short-term goals. Complex problems are dynamic, though - conditions can change without warning and for no apparent reason.

The concept of a dynamic system suggests there is a "method to the madness." Much like gears and belts in a machine, if we can determine how the pieces work together, we can predict what will happen next with some degree of confidence. Of course, sometimes belts snap or cogs break off gears. Then the whole process comes to a smoking, grinding halt. That's one of the unknown variables that has to be factored in and makes the prediction less than perfect. But people are not always looking for a solution on which they immediately can act - sometimes they just want to understand the "how" and "why" of the complex problem. The result they want is a clear picture of the issues and the resources they'll require.

Pattern detection is the forte of "central shapers." If you could project an image of their minds at work, they would look like Swiss watches: complex, interactive mechanisms that are a delight in accuracy and detail. As with bottom liners, central shapers can clearly visualize a desired result. They are less interested in the result, however, than they are in finding an elegant means of achieving it. Even after the problem's been solved, they will go back over the details, looking for a better way to solve it the next time. Their obsession with crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's is the way central shapers try to do things right next time.

As the name implies, "direction changers" do not adhere to a specific goal as strongly as bottom liners and left-to-righters. Like central shapers, direction changers can quickly perceive patterns of behavior, but they do so on a subconscious level. They have an almost eerie ability to predict cultural changes or read the boss's mood. Their underdeveloped visual skills prevent them from acting on their intuitions in a timely manner. Consequently, most of their efforts involve doing things right by not fully committing to anything at all.

Central shapers and direction changers are particularly good at defining problems. They are the "know-how" people in an organization. They can sense what is relevant and how the pieces work together, but they tend to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the goal. Because they recognize complex problems almost immediately, they might feel overwhelmed and their self-esteem threatened. They seek relief by focusing their efforts on minor issues they can control.

Complex problems have an elusive quality - it's like we're viewing something moving through a fog. Here and there the fog might thin, offering a glimpse of something solid and definable. But we never clearly see all of it at one time, only bits and pieces. From the detailed parts, we need to construct a viable whole in our mind's eye. By visualizing how the visible and invisible parts interrelate and influence the whole, we gain insight about what it will take to solve the complex problem.

Unlike central shapers, "random connectors" don't have to fill in all the missing pieces before arriving at a conclusion. They are result-oriented, provided the result is maintaining the status quo. They have more of a feel for how the pieces fit together than a conscious visual image. Masters at networking, they think they've done things right if they have the "right people" on their team.

As with random connectors, "disconnectors" have difficulty visualizing future possibilities. They might be highly knowledgeable on a specific subject - their minds are virtual data banks of information, just waiting to be tapped. They cannot translate their knowledge into doable actions, however. Consequently, for disconnectors, doing things right means keeping everything in its preordained place.

Random connectors and disconnectors are particularly good at explaining how things are. They'll say what other people want to hear and think their responsibility ends there. They easily can overlook missing pieces because they have a feel for the operation as a whole. But in a complex system, small changes can have major consequences. Complex systems seem like only so much static until people turn their attention to them. Then, like tuning into a radio frequency, they began to exhibit form and substance.

"Outliners" have a knack for "flashbulb" thinking. Their minds work like cameras, snapping the big picture and capturing the moment. They recognize opportunities when they see them, but by not having time to focus, the images are often blurred. Their visualizations and their verbal explanations frequently lack detail. They make up for their shortcomings with great enthusiasm, however. Doing things right, for outliners, means getting everyone on board the bandwagon.

"Creators" are also "of the moment" people. Nothing excites them more than a new opportunity - they are innovators capable of quickly sketching out the next big thing. Just don't ask them to get into the details or how they expect to get from here to there. For creators, doings things right means coming up with something new to do.

Outliners and creators are particularly good at ad hoc thinking. They have an intuitive sense of what might work at a particular time, but they are always fuzzy on specific details and the rationale for doing something. Provide them with too much information, and they'll go off on tangents that, in their minds, keep getting bigger and better.

Given the brain's plasticity, it's possible for any brain to organize information in any of these eight ways. Once individuals' underlying assumptions are revealed, they broaden their ability to perceive and respond effectively to diverse problems.

As corporate trainers, it's important to be aware of these paradigms and use them as a guideline to incorporate the thinking process and behavior into the training, explicitly identifying goals and discussing the organizational mechanisms that best allow the learners to reach that goal. Great communicators connect with people by using meaningful analogies and examples with their audience. By talking about the thinking paradigm each person uses, enterprise educators provide the foundation for unprecedented interdisciplinary communication and geometric corporate growth. 

 

© Copyright 2006 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates

 Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

When smart people make dumb mistakes, it usually isn’t because of stupidity, ignorance, or apathy. Smart people make dumb mistakes because they’ve been seduced by their own success. The rewards of success help them develop expectations about how things are supposed to be. Smart people are supposed to be competent, confident, and in control. They have important contributions to make. They are valued and respected, optimistic about the future, and proud of their achievements.

It feels good to be smart. So good, in fact, that smart people will do dumb things and make critical mistakes in an effort to maintain that self-image. They may become success-junkies who cannot fail and will never admit to failure. There are always extenuating circumstances, unknown factors, misinformation, or just bad luck that contributed to failure. Or, as spin-doctors would have us believe, failure didn’t occur at all. They simply reassessed their objectives. The original goal wasn’t worth the effort. They’ve actually succeeded although their enemies would have us believe otherwise.

The concept of failure is difficult for some people to grasp because they never expect to fail. They have no doubt that they’re on the right track, that they’ve got the situation under control, and they know exactly what to do. That’s the way it’s always been. Well, almost always. There may be times, some rare occasions, when a doubt might sneak in. Usually it’s when they’re tired or under a lot of stress. But the doubt doesn’t last long. After a good night’s sleep or a vacation break, their heads are cleared. Once again they’re feeling smart and successful, and they know how to do things right.

Ironically, the compulsion to “do things right” causes smart people to make dumb mistakes. Not big mistakes, little ones that accumulate over time. Like a pebble rolling down a snowy slope, the initial mistake may seem insignificant. But over time, all the small mistakes can snowball into a sizable force capable of causing a great deal of damage.

It’s been said that hindsight has 20/20 vision. Viewing the recent downfalls of domestic divas and telecom chieftains, we wonder how they could have missed what seems so obvious to the rest of us. The answer is that they were so focused on doing things right that they failed to “do the right thing.”

We expect people in positions of power and authority to possess foresight, to know and do the right thing. We want our leaders to accurately predict what will happen next. Since ancient times, we humans have accepted or chosen leaders with the expectation that their abilities to foresee future events would protect the rest of us from harm.

Studies in problem solving indicate that when leaders make poor decisions it’s because they fail to appreciate the complexity of the issue. Real world problems, those that involve other people, inevitably are complex. But our brains evolved to solve simple problems, ones that give us immediate feedback and have no long-term repercussions.

Simple problems may not be easy to solve, but they are easy to understand.  If we’re hungry, we know we have to find food.  If we’re tired, we know we have to find a safe place to sleep.  We may have to fight off a bear or go to the supermarket for food, but the result we want is clear.  And we know whether or not we’ve succeeded.  We can bring closure to simple problems.

Complex problems don’t always have closure.  They may be active or dormant over long periods of time.  The result we want may seem clear until we set about solving the problem or something unexpected happens that complicates the issue.  Complex problems are dynamic systems with interdependent variables that may or may not be knowable but can change over time.  Nuclear disarmament, overpopulation, and terrorism are examples of extremely complex global problems.  Most of us face more personal complex problems such as raising families, running businesses, and planning for retirement.

Whether a problem is complex or simple is subjective.  To a medical student, a patient’s long list of symptoms, some that seem contradictory, is a complex problem.  To a doctor who is an expert in the patient’s condition, the problem may seem elementary.  The specialist’s training has taught her what to look for, which symptoms are relevant.  But the specialist may error if she too readily discounts the unexpected as an anomaly.  If the patient doesn’t respond to the prescribed treatment the “right” way, the doctor’s simple problem has suddenly turned complex.  Complex issues require flexible thinking skills.  The good news is that our brains are quite capable of dealing with complex issues, provided we understand how organizing information in different ways produces various results.

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again
The above adage encourages us to do what is counterintuitive.  Usually success compels us to try again, and failure makes us want to give up.  As emotionally satisfying as it is, success teaches us very little.  Mistakes can make us stop to think, at least they would if we knew what to think about.  Before we can answer the question “What went wrong?” we have to know precisely what result we wanted to produce.  Knowing the result we want determines how we set about solving the problem and what elements are relevant to achieving success.

When people first confront complex problems, they tend to identify their goals in comparative terms.  They want to make things better or safer.  They want to be happier or richer.  People want things to be different but are not clear on how or to what extent they’ll be different.  In other words, they haven’t a clear vision of the result they want.  Studies in decision-making processes demonstrate that when we have precise goals, the visual cortex of our brains has been activated.

Goals that we can easily visualize and articulate serve us best when we’re dealing with simple problems.  Complex problems have elements or can produce results that are hard, if not impossible, to visualize.  We just don’t know what to expect.  Therefore, when we deal with complex issues, we want to have specific goals in mind while recognizing that, as events unfold and information becomes available, we may need to modify those goals.

For some people, modifying a goal is the equivalent of admitting failure.  And they will never admit failure.  Once they’ve set their sights on a goal, they will try to move heaven and earth to achieve it.  They will run a business into the ground.  They will risk divorce and alienation of family and friends.  They will ruin their health with long hours at the office.  Perseverance is the way they get things done right.  I call them “Bottom-liners.”  They focus their attention on the bottom-line: What will it cost? When will it be done?  They want definite answers and guarantees.  Don’t bother them with details or raise issues after the course has been set.  They’ll interpret your concern as disloyalty both to the cause and to them personally.  Although they make good team captains and excel at planning strategies, they ignore facts that conflict with their expectations because the goal is so clear in their minds that everything else is irrelevant.

“Left-to-righters” have a similar leadership style to Bottom-liners in that they want guarantees from their staff although the results they expect aren’t always articulated.  Personally, they appear well-organized and like to do things in a step-by-step orderly manner.  Any deviation from the norm makes them uncomfortable.  Whereas Bottom-liners bristle at the suggestion of failure, Left-to-righters just don’t see how they could have done things differently.  They had been so careful to do everything right that mistakes couldn’t have been made.  But if they were made, someone else was at fault for not providing the Left-to-righter with precise information in the prescribed way.  Unlike Bottom-liners who can consciously visualize their goals, Left-to-righters are rarely aware of visualizing but their behavior suggests that their self-image is closely tied to their achievements and success.

Bottom-liners and Left-to-righters are particularly good at solving problems that require established routines.  People look to them as natural leaders because they seem to know how to get things done right.  Their strength lies in achieving simple, short-term goals.  But complex problems are dynamic in that conditions can change without warning and for no apparent reason.  Rigid adherence to a long-term goal, however noble it may be, can lead to dumb mistakes.

Some assembly required
Pattern detection is the forte of “Central Shapers.”  If we could project an image of their minds at work, they would look like Swiss watches—complex, interactive mechanisms that are a delight in accuracy and detail.  Like Bottom-liners, Central Shapers can clearly visualize a desired result.  However, they are less interested in the result than they are in finding an elegant means of achieving it.  Even after the problem’s been solved, they will go back over the details, looking for a better way to solve it the next time.  Their obsession with crossing all the “Ts” and dotting all the “Is” is the way Central Shapers try to do things right next time.

As the name implies “Direction Changers” do not adhere to a specific goal as strongly as Bottom-liners and Left-to-righters.  Like Central Shapers, Direction Changers can quickly perceive patterns of behavior.  But they do so on a subconscious level.  They have an almost eerie ability to predict cultural changes or read the boss’s mood.  Their underdeveloped visual skills prevent them from acting on their intuitions in a timely manner.  Consequently, most of their efforts involve doing things right by not fully committing to anything at all.

Central Shapers and Direction Changers are particularly good at defining problems.  They are the “know-how” people in an organization.  They can sense what is relevant and how the pieces work together.  But they tend to get bogged down in details and lose sight of the goal.  Because they recognize complex problems almost immediately, they may feel overwhelmed, and their self-esteem threatened. They seek relief by focusing their efforts on minor issues that they can control.  But keeping busy without a specific goal in mind can lead to dumb mistakes.

Chaos theory in practice 
Unlike Central Shapers, “Random Connectors” don’t have to fill in all the missing pieces before arriving at a conclusion.  They are result-oriented provided the result is maintaining the status quo.  They have more of a feel for how the pieces fit together than a conscious visual image.  Masters at networking, they think they’ve done things right if they have the “right people” on their team.

Like Random Connectors, “Disconnectors” have difficulty visualizing future possibilities.  They may be highly knowledgeable on a specific subject—their minds virtual data banks of information just waiting to be tapped.  But they cannot translate their knowledge into do-able actions.  Consequently, for Disconnectors doing things right means keeping everything in its preordained place.

Random Connectors and Disconnectors are particularly good at explaining how things are.  They’ll say what other people want to hear and think their responsibility ends there.  They can easily overlook missing pieces because they have a feel for the operation as a whole.  But in a complex system, small changes can have major consequences.  Ignoring a missing piece can lead to dumb mistakes.

In the beginning... 
“Outliners” have a knack for “flashbulb” thinking.  Their minds work like cameras—snapping the big picture, capturing the moment.  They recognize opportunities when they see them.  But by not having time to focus, the images are often blurred.  Their visualizations and their verbal explanations frequently lack detail.  However, they make up for their shortcomings with great enthusiasm.  Doing things right, for Outliners, means getting everyone on board the bandwagon.

“Creators” are also “of the moment” people.  Nothing excites them more than a new opportunity.  They are innovators capable of quickly sketching out the next big thing.  Just don’t ask them to get into the details or how they expect to get from here to there.  For Creators, doings things right means coming up with something new to do.

Outlines and Creators are particularly good at ad hoc thinking.  They have an intuitive sense of what might work at this particular time.  But they are always fuzzy on specific details and the rationale for doing something.  Provide them with too much information, and they’ll go off on tangents that, in their minds, keep getting bigger and better.  When dealing with complex problems, ignoring the goal or seeking new targets can lead to dumb mistakes.

Making the most of our brains 
Most personality theories offer no advice on how to change inappropriate behavior other than by being aware that we have such tendencies.  A behavior is inappropriate only if it fails to get the result we want.

Recent studies exploring how our brains actually work demonstrate that they have a previously unexpected capacity for restructuring.  The outer layer, the cerebral cortex, can be altered through intentional experience.  This is good news because it means we’re not doomed to making dumb mistakes when we’re confronted with complex problems.  By learning to organize information in different ways, we can do the right things at the right time and produce the results we really want.

The progressively structured visual puzzles are particularly effective at encouraging mental agility because they:

• Force high-functioning individuals to slow down their thinking
• Focus the individual's attention on the process of thinking
• Provide many opportunities for the acquisition and rehersal of new thinking skills
• Are culture-free and don't require any special knowledge
• Encourage risk-free exploraiton, generating alternatives, thinking outside the box
• Provide the foundation for higher order thinking

 

© Copyright 2006 Donalee Markus, Ph.D. & Associates