Dyslexia a condition?  This scientist says it's actually an evolutionary force

Dyslexia a condition? This scientist says it’s actually an evolutionary force

Sociologist Helen Taylor says dyslexia is a cognitive force. According to her, he made the successful development of man possible.

willem shonen

Whoever talks or writes about dyslexia usually talks about a condition or at least a problem. But it is not at all, as British sociologist Helen Taylor puts it: “It is not a disease or a disorder, but a different form of cognition.”

“This may manifest itself in reading difficulties, but dyslexia has been around long before the prevalence of reading and writing. It is also very common: 5 to 20 percent of the population has dyslexia. This is the case all over the world, as you see it all over the world. cultures. Moreover, dyslexia is largely hereditary and therefore hereditary.”

These were reasons why Taylor viewed dyslexia with an evolutionary eye. “It was clear that dyslexic people have special talents. You will find dyslexia among famous scientists, artists, architects and engineers. There is a well-known story about a man, named Mark Roe, who barely passed his exams, but got a scholarship, and is now a surgeon Brilliant. And why is he brilliant? Because before the operation he imagines all possible ways to do it. Dyslexics are adept at this universal thinking, and seeing the big picture.”

Explore new possibilities

This is cognitive power. This is offset by a cognitive impairment: an eye for details, here and now, fine lines. Cognitive strength versus cognitive weakness, Taylor says, is a basic pattern in biology. We call it the balance between exploitation and exploration, use and exploration. Every living system is looking for a partner, for food, you name it – and it must always make the trade-off between exploiting a familiar area or exploring something new. This also applies to memory and knowledge: you can build on the knowledge you already have or look for new ideas. This basic understanding of research and the trade-off between exploration and exploitation has provided me with a framework for understanding the cognitive differences between people.”

Dyslexics are adept at exploring and exploring new possibilities. They have spatial insight, and can think abstractly and imaginatively. Taylor: “These traits have been seen, but they are not brought together in a good relationship. It is a scale: there are organisms, animal or human, that can use an existing area very efficiently and make the most of it. They are on the other side of the scale, they are local thinkers.” Dyslexics are global thinkers. Almost everyone is somewhere on that scale in between the extremes. You could say dyslexics specialize in exploration.”

division of labor

Taylor explains that dyslexia appears not because something went wrong, but because something was needed. The period in which modern humans began their development, about 300,000 years ago, was very variable. So volatile that people who are only good at exploiting familiar lands will have a hard time surviving. In changing circumstances you need exploratory talents. One cannot be both at the same time.

Taylor: “Your brain’s capabilities are limited, and it costs you energy if you as an individual have to constantly move from one strategy to another. At a certain point, it will become more economical to choose a particular specialty and start working with specialists in the other. Specialization and collaboration increase your brain’s capabilities by making up your mind. collective “.

Helen Taylor: “We desperately need dyslexic talents.”

This is what Taylor calls “the development of complementary cognition.” A form of division of labour. You see division of labor and specialization not only in humans, but also, for example, in socially living insects. While one part of the bee community focuses on taking care of the hive and offspring, another part goes in search of (new) food sources. Biologists have determined that these scouts, these exploratory professionals, make up 5 to 20 percent of the bee population. As much as we face dyslexia among people.

Attachment to the education system

There was an evolutionary impulse to bring about this division of labor. Taylor: “We needed that diversity to survive the changing conditions.”

And still, because so far conditions are seriously changing. Taylor has already received interested responses from scientists working on climate change. People with a global perspective can think well of complex systems – such as climate. They are good at predicting and understanding different scenarios. This is very important in changing regimes.”

This seems logical, but it is not recognized in today’s society. The education system is primarily aimed at exploitation, the assimilation of existing knowledge in accordance with established rules, and not at the creative exploration of new possibilities.

Taylor: In principle, that wasn’t the point at all, but the education system has become that way. He swung to the side of exploiting knowledge. This makes it difficult for people with dyslexia to make full use of their talents. You always feel like the least, that’s bad. Many people with dyslexia have problems. Dyslexia is overrepresented in prisons. We must stop pushing people in the wrong direction. to see their talents. We desperately need it.”

Who is Helen Taylor?

He is 41 years old Helen Taylor PhD at Cambridge University on research into the origin of social complexity in human societies. After her PhD research, she laid the foundation for her theory of human evolution whose main story is: complementary cognition† Taylor draws on many sciences for her research, from economics and biology to organizational science and cognitive psychology. This diversity is also evident from her academic life. She was affiliated with the MacDonald Institute for Archaeological Research in Cambridge, and continues to work with it. She is also a fellow at the University of Strathclyde in the Hunter Center for Entrepreneurship. Taylor: “I can’t understand a problem in just one scientific discipline.”

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