THE BRAIN AS MEANING MAKER OR 'ORGAN OF LEARNING'
theme: The human brain is a social brain which has evolved with the specialized capacity for making meaning of experience or meaningful learning or 'experiential learning' - a natural function of detecting relationships and making connections. Experiential learning is required for adaptive behaviour. The meaning of learning is communicated through 'functional language'.
"As a product of human evolution through natural selection, the brain can best be understood as an organ of learning, adapted for the survival of the species". (Gerald Fischbach, "Mind and Brain", Scientific American, 267: 3, Sept 1992, 48.) home
human organism as a social organism which depends on creative intelligence for adaptability and survival...
creative intelligence as a function of morality...
curiosity, cognition, intuition... cognition and learning...
learning and subconscious emotional forces...
subconscious and motivation...
motivation and personal development...
intuition and holistic perception...
implications for education...
The human organism is a social organism with social needs 'values' The human organism is a social organism instinctively motivated to relate to others - to 'socialise' and to 'assimilate' - in order to acquire the things which it needs for work and for defence. Motivations for socialisation and assimilation are intrinsic to the nature of the human personality i.e. 'human nature'. Human nature is defined in terms of instinctive motives for human thought and behaviour rooted in the instinct for self-preservation and the organismic striving for 'mature growth' or 'self-actualisation' i.e. 'human needs'. Human needs are biologically based 'value choices' or 'operative values'. The human operative values or 'human values' are involved in the unfolding of human powers and human potential for 'wholeness' or 'health' i.e. 'wellness'. Human needs include basic and higher psychological needs as well as the obvious physiological needs for survival of the organism and the species. The basic psychological needs - the 'ego needs' - are the needs for self-respect and self-esteem. Gratification of the ego needs depends on communication of security or 'unconditional love'. Once the basic psychological needs have been met then the individual becomes less dependent on others for the gratification of the needs for growth or 'growth needs' for 'normal growth' or 'spiritual growth'. Spiritual growth depends on self-reliance for gratification of the 'higher psychological needs' - the 'spiritual needs' for 'ego-transcendance' i.e. the 'Being needs', 'B-needs' or 'metaneeds'. The metaneeds are 'social values' of social cooperation or 'socialisation' required for successful adaptation to changing social conditions i.e. 'adaptability'. Human adaptability depends on education for development of the 'spiritual equipment' which ensures the connectedness of human beings as social beings i.e. 'creative intelligence'.
"The brain is best understood in terms of three functioning units: 1.'automatic response to the complexity of stimuli in its search for meaning in the complex environment in which it is immersed... 'alertness' , information processing or thinking'... intelligence and action." (Restak The Brain)
The brain is the organ of the 'mind'. The mind is the manifestation of the workings of the brain - a biological system.
"Brain and 'mind' evolved together. Language created the selection pressure under which emerged the human brain and the consciousness of self."(Popper K. and John Eccles. The Self and Its Brain. New York, London: Springer International, 1979 13)
Creative intelligence combines the understanding of reason with the wisdom of compassion.
Creative intelligence is a function of development morality i.e. 'moral development' Survival of the human species depends on the capacity to make meaning of the environment or 'learn' and to retain what is learned or 'remember'. Learning and memory are functions of complex information processing - an instinctive capacity of the 'organ of learning' or 'meaning maker' i.e. 'brain'. The human brain automatically responds as a whole to the complexity of the environment in which it is immersed - a result of 'brain evolution'. The 'holistic response' of the brain involves the simultaneous processing of many incoming stimuli... multitudinous stimuli... which deal with body functioning and health maintenance as well as the intellect and the emotions. Integrated brain functioning leads to behaviour which is creative and productive or 'adaptive'. Adaptive behaviour depends on the brain's capacity to learn from the complexities of experience i.e. 'experiential learning' or 'meaningful learning'. Meaningful learning or 'natural learning' is a function of accurate evaluation and intelligent planning for action or 'decision making' i.e. 'intuition'. Intuition is an emergent property of the holistic or 'global' response of the developed brain. Development of the human brain depends on social and cultural conditions which foster the capacity for 'socialisation' based on character development' or moral development'. Moral development is development of the moral or 'spiritual' dimension of human nature - the highest 'consciousness state'.
'Morality' is a function of spirituality.
Creative intelligence in terms of curiosity, cognition and intuition. Creative intelligence is defined in terms of three interrelated functions: first, alertness to the complexity of incoming environmental stimuli or 'information' which arouses the desire for inquiry and understanding i.e. 'curiosity'; second, the process of gaining knowledge through the processing of information i.e. thinking or 'cognition'; third, intelligent decision making for responsive action which is creative and adaptive i.e. 'intuition'.
Curiosity stimulates or awakens cognition and cognition activates intuition.
Cognition is a function of information processing or 'learning' Cognition is the active processing of information through analysis which exposes relationships within the complexities of a system so that new connections are discovered. Cognition yields 'empirical knowledge' which provides useful information for purposeful decisions and effective adaptation. It must be quick and effective to be beneficial to the organism. The brain's instinctive drive to make meaning of the environment or 'learn' is the driving force behind the brain's highly developed mental processes - the natural thinking or 'cognitive skills' of 'natural learning'. Natural learning is a function of physiological functions involved in the continuity of information from one part of the brain to another - 'information flow': the propagation of electrochemical signals or 'nerve impulses' along nerve cells or 'neurons' and their transmission across the connecting points between them, the 'synapses'. Modification of synaptic connections - 'synapse modification' - results in changes in existing neural networks and the creation of new ones and this accounts for the brain's potential for change or 'neuroplasticity'. The physiological functions of learning constitute the basis of mental functioning or 'mind': interrelated processes such as remembering, separating and comparing mental data i.e. 'analysis'; organizing, integrating, evaluating, detecting relationships and making connections i.e. 'synthesis'.
Learning involves simultaneous processing of complex stimuli... role of subconscious interpretation of environmental stimuli... cognitive function of the brain depends on subconscious emotional forces... Many incoming environmental stimuli are perceived and processed simultaneously. The brain responds consciously on a set of environmental stimuli- 'field of focused attention' - while responding subconsciously to environmental stimuli which are peripheral to it - 'peripheral stimuli'. The brain rapidly processes the information - organizes, analyzes, integrates and evaluates in order to make quick decisions for purposeful adaptation to changing conditions. The brain rapidly processes environmental stimuli in the field of focused attention responding on the conscious' level of awareness - the so-called 'intellectual level' - within the context of peripheral stimuli which are perceived and processed unconsciously at the 'subconscious' level of awareness - the so-called 'emotional' level. The brain's conscious or 'intellectual' interpretation of the focused stimuli depends on its subconscious or 'emotional' interpretation of the peripheral stimuli. Stimuli in the field of focused attention are consciously processed within the context of the subconscious emotional interpretation of the peripheral stimuli. The subconscious emotional meanings attached to peripheral stimuli determine the way in which the brain consciously processes information in the field of focused attention. The conscious interpretation of information depends on the subconscious interpretation of peripheral stimuli. Processed information is rapidly encoded in the short term memory for storage in the long term memory.
The brain's subconscious evaluation of the environmental stimuli determines the individual's interpretation and motives for behaviour i.e. 'motivation'.
Subconscious interpretation of environmental stimuli (emotional forces operate) is the source of motivation Motivation for behaviour is either creative ('adaptive') or destructive ('non-adaptive') depending on the accuracy of the brain's subconscious evaluation of the environment. The type of motivation depends on the individual's level of personality development i.e. 'motivational type' or personality type'. Motivational type depends on level of moral development or 'moral intelligence'. Decisions are 'intelligent' if they lead to responsible action and adaptive behaviour; they are 'unintelligent' if they lead to behaviour which is irresponsible and non-adaptive i.e. 'human wickedness' or 'evil'. Intelligence is a function of 'consciousness state' ... derived from effect of subconscious emotional forces on the learning process.
Moral intelligence is a function of inner perception of the essential... 'clarity of perception' or 'perceptual sensitivity' i.e. 'intuition'.
Motivational state is a function of emotional growth or 'personal development'... 'sociocognitive stage'... The subconscious interpretation of environmental stimuli is determined by emotional states or developmental stage which the individual has reached i.e. 'socio-cognitive stage'. Socio-cognitive stages of development constitute the hierarchy of 'moral stages' during development of conscience - the source of 'human values'. Human values are required for adaptation of the organism as a social organism i.e. social adaptation or 'social intelligence'. Development of social intelligence depends on education in environmental conditions - both physical or 'material' and social or 'cultural' - which foster development to spiritual maturity as 'mature growth' or 'self-actualisation'. Self-actualisation engages the human potential for creativity and productivity or 'work' and involves development of 'moral consciousness' or 'conscience'. Conscience is the human 'soul' - the source of creative intelligence. The development of conscience is a function of integration of the human personality or 'human nature'.
Human nature is defined in terms of human values for moral behaviour or 'morality' and a function of moral development.
Intuition is immediate cognition (flash of insight) by the brain as a whole ... involves 'holistic perception' Intuition is the brain's natural capacity to integrate complex environmental stimuli by comparing, categorizing, detecting patterns and creating connections... in order to make accurate evaluations and reach conclusions quickly and effectively... the brain's pattern seeking capacity. In its effort to detect patterns the brain automatically responds as a whole i.e. 'holistic perception'. The instinctive holistic response of the brain to incoming stimuli results in the creative process of 'intuition'... making connections between parts and wholes... reaching a conclusion and making a decision without conscious awareness of all the facts. Intuition is an act of imagination... of creativity... involves the emotions as well as the intellect. The intuitive process involves the immediate processing by the whole brain... is influenced by emotional interpretations of environmental stimuli. Intuition involves the subconscious 'emotional' level of brain functioning ('emotional intelligence') as well as the conscious 'intellectual' level ('intellectual intelligence'). Intuition is enhanced with the integration of the 'ego-self' with the 'spiritual self' ('personality integration') ... 'holiness'... 'health' or 'wholeness' i.e. 'wellness'. The result is learning which is meaningful, effective, creative and adaptive. In the absence of personality integration the individual can see all there is to be seen of the surface features of phenomena... the sum total of what has already materialized... but is incapable of penetrating below the surface to the essential...of visualizing what is not apparent. Such an individual can see the details but not the whole; can see the trees but not the forest. Their limited perception leads to limited recognition of 'reality'... lack of intuition or 'vision' and limited cognition or 'incomplete cognition' which requires the imagination to calculate and combine the existing elements of their reality and to infer their future operation i.e. 'non-holistic learning'. The result of non-holistic learning can be meaningless, non-effective, destructive and therefore 'non-adaptive'.
Holistic learning is global learning or 'optimal learning' ('optimalearning') The brain is driven by the instinctive need to search for meaning in the complexity of the environment in which it is immersed. The brain's function as 'meaning maker' of experience drives its natural capacities for learning based on the brain's natural rules for meaningful learning is 'brain-based learning'. Brain-based learning is learning which is based on the brain's natural functions or 'rules' for meaningful learning i.e. 'brain functions'... comparing, patterning and categorizing. brain-based learning engages the global functioning of the brain.... i.e. optimal learning or 'optimalearning'.The global functioning of the brain results from the interdependent functioning of the two cerebral hemispheres. The functions of the two hemispheres are integrated by way of large interconnecting nerve fibers - the 'commisures' - which make up the 'corpus collosum'. The interconnectedness of the cerebral hemispheres results in the activation of the brain as a whole... the brain's holistic response to incoming stimuli.e. 'holistic learning'. Holistic learning is effective because it is based on natural interest... meaningful motivation...('prefrontal lobes')... and therefore creative and adaptive. .
For education it is crucial to understand the global nature of the functioning of the brain... or 'mind'.
Implications for education Education for development of intelligence depends on the provision of environmental conditions which stimulate the natural brain function as a meaning maker. Meaningful learning is based on human needs for personal development to self-actualisation. Self-actualisation is the real aim of education for responsible 'freedom' i.e. 'holistic education' Holistic education is education based on motives for human behaviour or 'human needs'. Human needs include basic psychological needs for self-esteem -'ego needs' - and spiritual needs for 'ego-transcendance' - 'metaneeds'.
Needs based education recognises the importance of growth through learning... i.e. mature growth as 'self-actualisation' and the expression of understanding - 'self-expression' - in meaningful communication or 'functional language'.
Top of page / Introduction / Homepage
As a product of human evolution through natural selection, the thinking skills of the brain can best be understood in terms of behavioral adaptation and survival. The survival of the individual depends on meaningful learning and adaptive behavior. In the evolution of the human species, survival of the human organism has depended on the natural selection of brain functions which enabled the individual to derive meaning from environnmental stimuli. Brain functions which resulted in effective thinking produced adaptive behavior and subsequent survival. Brain functions which produced non-effective thinking produced non-adaptive behavior and subsequent non-survival. The human species has evolved a brain with the specialized capacity for meaningful learning required for adaptive behavior
"As a product of millions of years of evolution through natural selection, the specialized brain functions have ensured the survival of the human species. The functions of the human brain are the natural outcome of millions of years of evolutionary process through natural selection. The mental functions of learning and memory are natural outcomes of the human evolutionary process of behavioural adaptation. In the course of human evolution, survival of the human species has depended on behavioural adaptation. Human adaptive behaviour has depended on brain development. The evolution of the human species is concurrent with the evolution of the human brain. This is in contrast to the evolution of other organisms whose survival and adaptation have depended on the development and specialization of various other organs and other forms of instinctive behaviour". (Eric R. Kandel and Robert D. Hawkins "The Biological Basis of Learning and Individuality" Scientific American September 1992 79-86)
The brain's pattern seeking capacity, hence its ability to think, is influenced by the nature of the peripheral stimuli in the environment - the physical, social, cultural and emotional environments. Complex environmental stimuli include those in the field of focused attention and those which are peripheral to it. The brain processes environmental stimuli which are in the field of focused attention and at the same time it processes those stimuli which are peripheral to it. In processing information from the environment, the brain focuses on specific stimuli and responds on the conscious level of awareness. Many environmental stimuli are perceived unconsciously by the brain and are processed at the subconscious level. The brain responds to peripheral stimuli at the subconscious level of awareness. It rapidly processes environmental stimuli in the context of stimuli which are peripheral to the field of focused attention. The stimuli in focus are interpreted in the context of the peripheral stimuli. The meanings attached to the peripheral stimuli determine the context in which the brain consciously processes environmental stimuli which are in focus. The brain's conscious interpretation of the focused stimuli depends on its subconscious interpretation of the peripheral stimuli. The brain consciously remembers, organizes, analyzes, integrates and evaluates the information in terms of the contextual framework of the subconsciously perceived peripheral stimuli.
The brain's evaluation of the environment determines the individual's behavior. Depending on the accuracy of the brain's evaluation of the environment, the individual's subsequent behavior is adaptive or non-adaptive. The brain's capacity to integrate complex environmental stimuli results in effective thinking and adaptive behavior. Overall, in the instinctive drive to derive meaning from a complex environment, the brain focuses of a set of environmental stimuli, rapidly processes information in the context of peripheral stmuli, rapidly encodes the information in the short term memory for storage in the long term memory, rapidly processes the information by organizing, analyzing, integrating and evaluating in order to make a quick decision for purposeful adaptation to a changing environment. Quick and effective thinking results in the individual's adaptive behavior. Behavioral adaptation depends on an effective thinking process which involves the combined functioning of intellectual, affective and creative states of the 'mind'. As the manifestation of the natural thinking functions of the brain, the mind perceives reality - social and cultural reality - according to the individual's level of consciousness or level of awareness. Referred to as the mind's 'modes of knowing', the different levels of consciousness determine the individual's sense of identity. The mind's perception of itself determines the individual's thinking and perception of reality. It determines the individual's perception of reality in a social and cultural context. The total and integrated functioning of the brain results in a wholistic perception of reality. The brain-based wholistic perception of reality forms the basis for adaptive behavior. The wholistic learning process involves the 'orchestration' of the so-called mental 'powers' - imagination, intuition, associations, questioning, synthesizing, thinking skills. The human brain is characterized by a natural capacity for observation and inquiry, essential for the learning process which is necessary for survival of the individual in a complex environment. Constituting the human being's natural 'curiosity', the brain's natural capacity for observation and inquiry are characteristic features of the specialized human brain of the socialized human being. Survival of the human species depends on natural human curiosity and the natural development of critical and creative thinking. It depends on the development of the individual's critical attitude about the nature of the environment. Survival depends on the development of the individual's 'critical consciousness' in the context of a cultural environment. The natural functions of the brain are concerned with its special ability to search for meaning in the environment. As a product of millions of years of evolution through natural selection, the specialized brain functions have ensured the survival of the human species. For its millions of years of survival as a species, the human being has depended on the brain's ability to search for meaning in the environment. The brain's efficient evaluation of the environmental context of experience has depended on the natural selection of its characteristic complex thinking functions. The natural thinking processes constitute the brain's natural capacity for processing complex stimuli in the physical, social and cultural environment. 'Brain-based' wholistic learning is compatible with the natural functioning of the brain. It involves those natural processing functions of the brain which constitute thinking and acquiring knowledge in the act of 'cognition'. Brain based education involves the natural learning functions of the brain and brain-based learning involves the natural 'thinking' functions of the brain.
the term 'synapse'Introduced in 1897 is derived from the Greek word 'synapsis' meaning 'to clasp'or 'contact'
Freud called the cell-to-cell junctions between the nerve cells 'contact barriers'.
Allman, C. RWilliam 1989. Apprentices of Wonder: Inside the Neural Network Revolution. New York, London: Bantam Books.
Caine, Renate Nummela and Geoffrey Caine 1991. Making Connections: Teaching and the Human Brain. Alexandria, Virginia: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
Campbell, Jeremy 1982. Grammatical Man: Information, Entropy, Language and Life. New York: Simon and Schuster Chapter 16 "The Brain as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Other Fallacies", 189-199
Changeux, Jean-Pierre 1985. Neuronal Man :The Biology of Mind. New York: Pantheon Books.
Eccles, John Carew 1952. The Neurophysiological Basis of Mind: The Principles of Neurophysiology. Oxford: Clarendon Press. Chapter VI Prolonged Functional Changes (Plasticity) in the Nervous System p. 193-227 Section C . "Synaptic Activity and Plasticity", 203-211.
Eccles, John Carew 1957. The Physiology of Nerve Cells. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins.
Eccles, John Carew and Daniel N Robinson 1984. The Wonder of Being Human: Our Brain and Our Mind (chapter 9). London: Collier Macmillan Publishers.
FischbachGerald, Mind and Brain, Scientific American 276: 3, September 1992
Hill, Winfred 1990. Learning: A Survey of Psychological Interpretations (Chapter 3) New York: Harper and Row.
Hobson, J. Allan The Dreaming Brain. London: Penguin Books, 1988, 100-133)
Hunt, Morton. 1982. The Universe Within: A New Science Explores the Human Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.
Leahey, Thomas and Harris Richard 1989. Human Legarning (chapter 10) New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Ornstein, Robert and Richard Ornstein 1984. The Amazing Brain. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Penrose, Roger, 1989. Emperor's New Mind: Concerning Computers Minds and the Laws of Physics (Chapter 9), New York: Oxford University Press.
Richard Restak, The Brain: The Last Frontier, an Exploration of the Human Mind. New York: Doubleday and Company, 1979.