The mind and the brain

In this chapter we will look at a couple of models which offer some explanation of how the mind works and see what we can infer from these models about ways of stimulating the development of better thinking.
First let’s be clear about the use of the words ‘mind’ and ‘brain’. The brain is obviously the physical apparatus inside our skulls, while we use the word ‘mind’ to indicate the theoretical apparatus responsible for thinking and emotions.

The brain

We can study the brain by almost direct methods, i.e. brain scans, but up to now these have given us only very limited information about the nature of thinking. Brain scans tell us about the localisation of certain functions such as face recognition or interpretation of visual signals from the eye to particular parts of the brain, but it is risky to infer any educational practice from such data. Just because aspects of spatial ability or of musical ability appear to excite different parts of the brain, we cannot conclude that these are completely separate functions. Both may be (and probably are) monitored and controlled by more general brain functions. Great advances are being made in the techniques and interpretation of brain scans. Possibly over the next 10 to 20 years we will be able to draw lessons from brain function for teaching methods, but for now we should be rather cautious about claims made for ‘education based on brain research’.

The mind
The mind, of course, is an altogether more abstract idea and, although its proper functioning depends centrally on the brain, the mind includes both cool cognitions and warm emotions so it is not entirely fanciful to talk of ‘thinking’ with one’s heart, or
stomach, or sex organs since thoughts are clearly influenced by emotional and physical needs. We study the mind by looking at how people think and feel, how their thinking and feelings respond to stimuli, and what sorts of things go wrong
with mental functioning. From these observations and experiments, which are in the province of
cognitive psychology, we can build models of how the mind works.

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Lets Think Handbook Copyright © by Alex Black. All Rights Reserved.

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