One of the most commonly made mistakes with regard to the brain today is that people say, “All your life the brain is in development, so you can become a top talent in everything that has to do with the brain.” This is partly true, only the assumption is completely wrong.
It is true that the brain is developing throughout your life. The brain connects different brain areas with each other that provide skills. If we do a certain act very often, these connections will become stronger. And we become more skilled. For example, we are able to think and react more quickly. Based on what we learn, new connections can be made throughout our lives. It is even so that cognitive stimulation, such as stimulation of concentration and memory, and physical movement can contribute to the creation and integration of new brain cells.
To the ceiling
The brain can continue to develop. But there is of course still a big step between reinforced connections and the behaviour that people exhibit. All the skills that originate in the brain cannot be infinitely developed and are all bounded by their own biological ceiling. The biological building blocks that you have acquired naturally determine your potential.
For example, it is possible for a very good sprinter to bring the time on the 100 meters from for instance 16.8 to 11.2 seconds by training a lot. Maybe there may be a few hundredths from it, but at some point this sprinter will reach its ceiling. His development is limited by the biological building blocks such as muscle groups, structure and maximal oxygen uptake. Also 10,000 hours of training do not make him ‘ natural ‘ like Usain Bolt.
Brain and intelligence
The same applies to the brain. You can train – and thus improve – certain cognitive skills such as reaction speed but here you have your own ceiling. And you are at a given moment at your maximum response speed. In addition, you see that the older you become, the more difficult it becomes to reach your maximum capacities. It is therefore important that you have insights into what you are good at a young age. Then you can focus on where naturally the predisposition is and you will reach your own top. This works a lot better than sketching the idea that everything is infinitely evolving and everyone can be good in everything. Yet you see this Growth Mindset very often at schools nowadays. The hallway is full of motivating posters from people who have reached the top, purely because they have always worked hard. The elasticity of the brain is hammered. Smart is not something that you are, it is something that you can become. Failure is just a step further on the road to success. But does this really help to learn?
Recently, an article on the effect of this Growth Mindset on children’s learning performance appeared. It is good to encourage children to improve themselves. Here the Growth Mindset can contribute. The problem lies in the implementation of this Growth Mindset. The implementation often underestimates the importance of innate intelligence. There are genetic conditions. Every human being has its own biological building blocks, as said with its own ceiling. Therefore, the focus in education should not be about just delivering more efforts. But mainly to deliver targeted and meaningful efforts. Learning concrete skills that fit the natural predisposition of a child is a much more effective way of letting them reach their maximum capacities, than telling them to be able to change their brains through many hard work.
Want to know more?
Do you want to know if your efforts are compatible with the biological building blocks of your brain? Contact Annemarein Braakman, she will gladly tell you more about this.