Attributes That Matter: Beyond the Usual in College Admission and Success
January 16-18, 2013
Westin Bonaventure, 404 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA
For the Conference blog and photos, click on the dates below.
6:00 pm Welcome by Jerome Lucido, USC Research Professor & Executive Director
Speaker Introduction by Karen Symms Gallagher, Dean, USC Rossier School of Education
Opening Address - Neuroscience, Inspiration, and Purposeful Lives
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, Assistant Professor, USC Brain and Creativity Institute & Rossier School of Education
Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang kicked off the conference with her talk, “Embodied brains, social minds: The importance of social reflectiveness and emotional awareness in young adult development.” She discussed the social and emotional abilities of young people and suggested that these are critical not only to learning but to the world and our future. She entitled her talk, “Embodied brains, social minds” because our complex, human-developed minds are inherently social minds. The intellect that we have does not stand independent from the rest of lives- we collaborate and can use our knowledge to solve problems that impact us all.
Dr. Immordino-Yang described the brain as an amazingly complex system that works together to make a human being who can be a whole, real person- not just capable of “one off” functions. “We think of the brain as a separate thing from the social world- an independent thing that is inside your head that operates in isolation.... but nothing could be further from the truth.” She described her use of powerful individual stories to gain information about social emotions. Upon hearing a story of an extraordinary person, one recognizes their uniqueness and reflects on their own opportunity to take similar extraordinary actions. According to Immordino-Yang, "Feeling social emotions...involves the neural mechanisms for feeling and regulating your own body and for constructing your own sense of "self"."
To illustrate the point, Dr. Immordino-Yang showed a video of a subject responding to a powerful story. The subject described sensations in his body- which is a sign of information. There is, however a lot of variability in how people feel and describe what they feel. These signals are indicators of how the person is processing the story or event. Dr. Immordino-Yang highlighted the subject’s pause in his speech- noting that this is an indicator that he is turning off his attention to the world- and then he came back with evidence that he had turned their attention inward, to his own memories, and revealed a new and meaningful lesson that he had built for himself.
The presentation continued with images of the brain and an overview of the functions of different areas. A statistical map superimposed on the brain showed that the blood-flow in certain regions of the brain increased when people indicated that they felt "moved". She made the connection between the neural platform that allows us to recognize "spoiled food" as the same that makes us "sick to our stomachs" upon hearing something upsetting or repugnant. According to Immordino-Yang, "Emotions (and their primitive counterparts, biological drives) serve to keep organisms alive and living comfortably. Human "survival" has become a complex social and cultural construct." What makes us survive is the meaning that we make out of our social world and purposefulness.
Dr. Immordino-Yang summarized her presentation with the following, "Learning, in the complex sense in which it happens in schools or the real world, is not a rational or disembodied process; neither is it a lonely one." She shared the following website as an opportunity for teachers to learn more about neuroscience and the classroom: http://learner.org/courses/neuroscience/.