Related Video(s):

Readiness: Early Life-Learning Trajectories
Emotion and Cognition


See also: Shame (index of all shame topics)

Return to Index of Topics  -  Notes: 1) This page is a work in progress and does not yet comprehensively cover its topic or include all the COTC and web resources its topic deserves.  2) Bold is used to emphasize our [COTC] sense of importance and does not necessarily reflect gestures or tones of emphasis in the original source. This color indicates COTC edits for brevity or flow. See referenced original for exact quotes

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Affects 'Aim' Cognition

Most of us were raised with the idea that emotion is only something that distracts us from solid, important thinking. But now we know that thereís more than one kind of thinking, that the kind of thinking we see in reading involves certain parts of the neocortex that are our most, our highest level of cognitive ability. But what people havenít realized until fairly recently is that the processing equipment that we call the neocortex does not start to operate until the emotion system, or what we call the affect system, aims the cognitive mechanism.

Donald L. Nathanson. M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, and founding Executive Director, Silvan S. Tomkins Institute. Source: COTC Interview -

The Effect of Affect on Cognitive Processing

Experimental psychologists began more than a hundred years ago to ask what it is. What factors control learning? That basically modulate it? That make its effect affective? That make it stronger? That vivify it? This has been a great interest in psychology and a great interest in neuroscience ever since. We know, for example, that if you learn under the right emotional conditions, you never forget. Learning is very affective.

Michael Merzenich, Chair of Otolaryngology at the Keck Center for Integrative Neurosciences at the University of California at San Francisco. He is a scientist and educator, and found of Scientific Learning Corporation and Posit Science Corporation. Source: COTC Interview -

Distraction and Affect    

Itís so much taken for granted that small children are distractible that we donít ask often enough what does that mean that theyíre distractible? But the answer is pretty simple. In the young child, every time one of these affect spotlights go off and points attention somewhere, thatís where the child is going to look and is going to look in the way motivated by that particular affect.

  Donald L. Nathanson. M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, and founding
      Executive Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute.

  Source: COTC Interview -

Affect Scripts    

In every aspect, when we learn to read our affective experiences of learning to read form what we call a script. Itís not a reflex where something happens the same way each time when you stretch a tendon. Itís a script that forms as the result of hundreds of affective experiences that we bundle together, then form into a bundle or family of scenes, and then develop an emotional, an affective response to the bundle.

So, script formation is not really a reflex. Script formation is a highly complex assembly of similar scenes, and once the mind realizes that they are similar enough to be grouped, we have an attitude toward the group. At that point the affect thatís associated with the attitude becomes the governing affect of the process. Thus, if Iíve never had any trouble with reading, and everything theyíve given me in the succession called successful education allows me to take in information and I become stronger and larger and happier with everything I learn, then with avidity I look forward to every book given to me. But if my experience of reading is almost always fraught with shame, then shame comes to be the overriding, magnifying affect as we form scripts.

 Donald L. Nathanson. M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, and founding Executive
     Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute.

Source: COTC Interview -

Accumulative Effect of Affect

When we counted up the differences and did that kind of elaboration Ė how many affirmations an hour? The notion that by the age of four the children had heard about 750,000 times that were right and about 120,000 times that they were wrong. With very taciturn parents it was almost the reverse. They only were right about 120,000 times and had heard they were wrong about 250,000 times.

In other words, the massive life-time experience of affirmations and prohibitions indicating youíre right and youíre wrong is a life-time batting average thatís hard to overcome with just a little bit of positive experience.

    Todd Risley, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Alaska. 
    Co-Author: Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children.
Source: COTC Phone Interview -
    (Note: The phone interview transcript does not match the video interview verbatim. The previous quote was taken from the video interview.)

Understanding Affect is Critical to Education

Weíre right in the beginning of our path toward understanding the relation between affect and education. Weíre beginning to focus on shame. Right now weíre going to use that word and these concepts constantly and in a couple of years we wonít have to...

The role of affect in education, the role of the affect interest, its impediment that triggers shame, the role of shame in self esteem, the role of shame in cognitive shock, all these things shame does, we can learn this easily and then build new systems of education where weíll never have to mention all of this affect language again.

Donald L. Nathanson. M.D., Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, and founding Executive
    Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute.

Source: COTC Interview -

Self-Esteem and the Affect of Shame

I think the low self-esteem, the sense of shame, is life-long. At the National Center for Learning Disabilities, we have a wonderful board of directors. We have at least two individuals on that board, both of whom have dyslexia and both of whom are former governors. They are extraordinarily accomplished individuals, both of them dyslexic. And both have talked at length about the continuing sense, not just of frustration or memories of failure, but precisely a sense of shame that is still remembered...classroom based, other children around, a teacher, not being able to do what other children seem to be able to do so easily. It stays for a lifetime. (More "Shame Stories")

James Wendorf, Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities. 
Source: COTC Interview -

Is Education Pervasively Backwards? 

...There's been insufficient attention paid to the interactive nature of teaching and learning. In a sense, that if the teaching materials are designed well, learning will follow from that...

It is certainly the case that learning ultimately resides in the child's brain and that learning in any circumstance is the joint function of the materials as they're presented, as well as what the learner brings to that situation.

And again there needs to be a tuning, an alignment of the instruction materials and the interaction with what the child is bringing to the situation, not only in terms of cognitive background and assumptions, but also motivational background as well.

Grover (Russ) Whitehurst, Director, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.
Source: COTC Interview -

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Dr. Grover (Russ) Whitehurst  Director, Institute of Education Sciences, Assistant Secretary of Education, U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Jack Shonkoff Chair, The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child; Co-Editor: From Neurons to Neighborhoods
Dr. Edward Kame'enui Commissioner for Special Education Research, U.S. Department of Education; Director, IDEA, University  of Oregon
Dr. G. Reid Lyon  Past Director, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Dr. Keith Stanovich  Canadian Chair of Cognitive Science, University of Toronto
Dr. Mel Levine Co-Chair and Co-Founder, All Kinds of Minds; Author: A Mind at a Time, The Myth of Laziness & Ready or Not Here Life Comes
Dr. Alex Granzin  School District Psychologist, Past President, Oregon School Psychologists Association 
Dr. James J. Heckman Nobel Laureate, Economic Sciences 2000; Lead Author: The Productivity Argument for Investing in Young Children
Dr. Timothy Shanahan President (2006) International Reading Association, Chair National Early Literacy Panel, Member National Reading Panel
Nancy Hennessy  President, 2003-2005, International Dyslexia Association
Dr. Marilyn Jager Adams Senior ScientistSoliloquy Learning, Author: Beginning to Read: Thinking and Learning About Print
Dr. Michael Merzenich Chair of Otolaryngology, Integrative Neurosciences, UCSF;  Member National Academy of Sciences
Dr. Maryanne Wolf Director, Center for Reading & Language Research; Professor of Child Development, Tufts University
Dr. Todd Risley  Emeritus Professor of Psychology, University of Alaska, Co-author: Meaningful Differences
Dr. Sally Shaywitz  Neuroscientist, Department of Pediatrics, Yale University, Author: Overcoming Dyslexia
Dr. Louisa Moats  Director, Professional Development and Research Initiatives, Sopris West Educational Services
Dr. Zvia Breznitz Professor, Neuropsychology of Reading & Dyslexia, University of Haifa, Israel 
Rick Lavoie Learning Disabilities Specialist, Creator: How Difficult Can This Be?: The F.A.T. City Workshop & Last One Picked, First One Picked On
Dr.Charles Perfetti Professor, Psychology & Linguistics; Senior Scientist and Associate Director, Learning R&D Center, U. of Pittsburgh, PA
Arthur J. Rolnick Senior V.P. & Dir. of Research,  Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis;  Co- Author: The Economics of Early Childhood Development  
Dr. Richard Venezky  Professor, Educational Studies, Computer and  Information Sciences, and Linguistics, University of Delaware
Dr. Keith Rayner  Distinguished  Professor, University of Massachusetts, Author: Eye Movements in Reading and Information Processing
Dr. Paula Tallal  Professor of Neuroscience, Co-Director of the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience, Rutgers University
Dr.John Searle  Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language, University of California-Berkeley, Author: Mind, A Brief Introduction
Dr.Mark T. Greenberg Director, Prevention Research Center, Penn State Dept. of Human Development & Family Studies; CASEL Leadership Team
Dr. Terrence Deacon  Professor of Biological Anthropology and Linguistics at University of California- Berkeley
Chris Doherty  Ex-Program Director, National Reading First Program, U.S. Department of Education
Dr. Erik Hanushek Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University

Dr. Marketa Caravolas Director, Bangor Dyslexia Unit, Bangor University, Author: International Report on Literacy Research
Dr. Christof Koch Professor of Computation and Neural Systems,  Caltech - Author: The Quest for Consciousness: A Neurobiological Approach
Dr. Guy Deutscher Professor of Languages and Cultures of Ancient Mesopotamia, Holland; Author: Unfolding Language
Robert Wedgeworth  President, ProLiteracy, World's Largest Literacy Organization
Dr. Peter Leone  Director, National Center on Education, Disability and Juvenile Justice
Dr. Thomas Cable  Professor of English, University of Texas at Austin, Co-author: A History of the English Language
Dr. David Abram Cultural Ecologist and Philosopher; Author: The Spell of the Sensuous
Pat Lindamood and Nanci Bell  Principal Scientists, Founders, Lindamood-Bell Learning Processes
Dr. Anne Cunningham  Director, Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education, Graduate School of Education at University of California-Berkeley
Dr. Donald L. Nathanson  Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at Jefferson Medical College, Director of the Silvan S. Tomkins Institute 
Dr.Johanna Drucker  Chair of Media Studies, University of Virginia, Author: The Alphabetic Labyrinth
John H. Fisher  Medievalist, Leading authority on the development of the written English language, Author: The Emergence of Standard English
Dr. Malcolm Richardson   Chair, Dept. of English, Louisiana State University; Research: The Textual Awakening of the English Middle Classes  
James Wendorf  Executive Director, National Center for Learning Disabilities
Leonard Shlain Physician; Best-Selling Author: The Alphabet vs. The Goddess
Robert Sweet  Co-Founder, National Right to Read Foundation


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