What happens to the individual, the family and society when learning is impaired?
In today’s encore selection — the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain associated with emotional maturity, does not fully develop in humans until they are in their mid-twenties. This may be because the prefrontal cortex, though it brings emotional balance, focus, planning and efficient action, restricts a person from the most creative aspects of learning:
“From an evolutionary perspective, one of the most striking things about human beings is our long period of immaturity. We have a much longer childhood than any other species. Why make babies so helpless for so long and thus require adults to put so much work and care into keeping their babies alive?
“Across the animal kingdom, the intelligence and flexibility of adults are correlated with the immaturity of babies. ‘Precocial’ species such as chickens rely on highly specific innate capacities adapted to one particular environmental niche, and so they mature quickly. ‘Altricial’ species (those whose offspring need [long] care and feeding by parents) rely on learning instead. Crows, for instance, can take a new object, such as a piece of wire, and work out how to turn it into a tool, but young crows depend on their parents for much longer than chickens.
“A learning strategy has many advantages, but until learning takes place, you are helpless. Evolution solves this problem with a division of labor between babies and adults. Babies get a protected time to learn about their environment, without having to actually do anything. When they grow up, they can use what they have learned to be better at surviving and reproducing — and taking care of the next generation. Fundamentally, babies are designed to learn.
author: Alison Gopnick
title: “How Babies Think”
publisher: Scientific American
date: July 2010
Read more at Delancey Place 6/14/2014