The neuroscience of social interactions and academic success
No single cognitive, emotional, or behavioral system is isolated from its physical partner. An individual’s memory, social skills, motivation, and attitude towards school are inherently linked with a non-cognitive feature associated with each of those disciplines. When exposed to a new issue or situation during a social interaction, the corresponding brain area responsible for those cognitive and emotional aspects is likely to be more active or relaxed.
Although the contribution of non-cognitive features of social interactions to academic success is well-known, this relationship also has implications for the emotional, social, and physical aspects of human development, such as school enrollment, difficulty avoiding peer tension, and staying on task during lessons. Two researchers, Nirmal Shimpi and Denise Richardson of the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, have now identified a mechanism linking this non-cognitive dimension of social interactions with educational progress. Using data from two large, nationally representative surveys of high school students, Shimpi and Richardson demonstrated that the structure and function of the teenage brain is related to the role that the adolescent brain’s novel bilingualic brain patterns can play in shaping adolescent non-cognitive competence and as a consequence, educational performance. Importantly, their findings suggest a novel step toward assuring that all adolescents, regardless of socioeconomic status, have equal access to the best educational opportunities.
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