Thursday, July 15, 2010

two types of attention

I have been reading Master and His Emissary by Iain McGilchrist, and he illustrates the necessity of the divided brain through exploring its role in other species. It allows for two essential, distinct, and simultaneous forms of attention. Remember that the left brain is connected to the right eye, and right connected to the left.
Many types of bird show more alarm behavior when viewing a predator with the left eye (right hemisphere), are better at detecting predators with the left eye, and will choose to examine predators with their left eye, to the extent that if they have detected a predator with their right eye, they will actually turn their head so as to examine it further with the left.
The left brain, and right eye, in contrast, performs another task, that of isolating and finding food from within its field of vision. This task is extremely sophisticated, as the bird attempts to visually isolate a small grain of seed from a field of sand and non-edible materials. The matters of finding food, and of maintaining a sense of security within the environment are two extremely important functions requiring two distinctive, and different forms of attention. The two halves of the brain are connected by the corpus callosum, but the function of the cells within it serve both to connect, and actively isolate the two halves of the brain from each other, allowing each to maintain its own necessary distinctive and separate form of attention.

To vastly oversimplify things, in the human being, the left side of the brain, that in more primitive animal life would have been deciding what to eat, has been allocated the tasks of reading and language, because it is best of the two halves equipped by evolution for that function. The right brain, still, as it has always done, maintains a sense of the security of the individual within the larger environment. Something we are doing in schools is obviously not working, because children are deciding they don't fit. We can see it in the statistics, the drop out and failure rates.

And so, the left and right hands, mirroring the right and left brains, as outward extensions of innermost structure, offer a point of leverage for us to make change. Make certain the hands are engaged in learning. The brain (and all of it) will follow.

The hands offer a means through which to make the brain whole and wholly involved in learning. I call it the strategic implementation of the hands.

I will have more on the two types of attention later in the day.

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