Be a better “learner” by being emotionally invested

“It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about” – Dr. Immordino-Yang


walking through shelves of books


The brain is man’s most impressive organ. How does it manage to do all it does? It’s potential for memory, learning, discovery and creativity. Learning; the ability to acquire new information, skill and abilities is one of the brains’ powerful abilities.

Learning is very important for all humans, especially in the present times. It is organising your thought processes over time. You build skill and experience. It determines achievement, satisfaction and security.

Learning is a broad spectrum, in different disciplines and spanning all areas of human endeavour. Humans capacity to learn is unrivalled. Different people have offered different opinions how this happens and how to optimise the learning process.

Few appreciate the complexity and power of the brain than computer scientists and artificial intelligence engineers who try to replicate the brain’s ability to think and to learn. Also, even more, people struggle to learn new things effectively or actively refuse to learn.


“The day you stop learning is the day you die.” – Isaac Asimov


A challenge of learning exists today, in the corporate world and in business, employees and employers do not have a healthy pursuit of new knowledge, insights and skills that will help them amplify their success.



In an interview with Dr Immordino-Yang to Joshua Freedman of Six Seconds, while discussing her research on the biology of the brain while learning, she said; “It is literally neurobiologically impossible to think deeply about things that you don’t care about”

The principle is simple, we are hardwired to pay attention to things that affect us or gives us a sense of meaning. This is because our capacity for cognition is limited, so we have to focus on only that which matters. We know that our emotions drive our behaviour, and caring about something means that we have an emotional connection or response to that thing and it becomes more interesting or sustains our attention.

This can be scoffed at as common sense, but it is said that “common sense isn’t common practice”. This can be a game changer for students owning their education in schools or workers trying to gain new knowledge. Care for what you’re learning.


“Care for what you’re learning.”


Curiosity is activating the brains capacity to explore. To find out more. To ask new questions and find out the answers wherever they may be. This allows for a deeper level of engagement in the subject matter than fear provides. Curiosity done right can create highly motivated learners.

Dr Immordino-Yang also talked about different types of learning, and engaging with the subject matter exposes them. The more popular “you’ll fail the exams if you don’t study” is engaging the learners with fear, but using fear allows for only a kind of learning.

Fear is also a motivator. “Study or fail the test” only does so much. While there may be short-term benefits in tests being passed and better grades. In a majority of cases, the lessons learnt are forgotten not long after the exams are over. It prevents the development of other skills required for problem-solving in the real world.

Dr Immordino-Yang described the use of tests and failure as a motivator for a certain kind of learning. It narrows focus but doesn’t allow the student to reach and grow in the understanding of the subject matter.



She recommends engaging the learners by activating their curiosity. This way they are seeking out information and have more cognitive processes firing and skills being developed. This creates a more engaged learner.

Again, this is all common sense and it stems from first engaging the emotions of the learner and making them care about what they’re learning.

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