Dyslexic People, Skilled at Exploring, Helped in Evolution That Led to Human Survival: Study


While dyslexia is characterised by learning difficulties, researchers from the University of Cambridge have concluded that people with the disorder are skilled at exploring the unknown. This strength, according to researchers, has helped humans adapt and survive in changing environments. The findings came as researchers carried out a study on behaviour, cognition and the brain. They highlighted that the explorative strength in dyslexic people has an evolution link to it and has contributed to human survival.

“We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia result from a cognitive trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge, with the upside being an explorative bias that could explain enhanced abilities observed in certain realms like discovery, invention and creativity,” explained Dr Helen Taylor, affiliated Scholar at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at the University of Cambridge. She is the lead author of the study published in Frontier in Psychology.

According to Taylor, the “deficit-centered” view of dyslexia isn’t sufficient and there is a need to change the perspective. “This research proposes a new framework to help us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia,” she added.

This is the first time a cross-disciplinary approach using evolutionary perspective has been taken into consideration to study dyslexia.

She highlighted that the environment offered at academic institutions, schools, and workplaces do not provide explorative learning. Taylor also called for incorporating such way of thinking so that humanity continues to adapt overcomes challenges.

The findings are in context of the theory of Complementary Cognition that says that our ancestors evolved to get specialised in different but complementary ways of thinking. This helped humans adapt to changes through collaboration.

“Striking the balance between exploring for new opportunities and exploiting the benefits of a particular choice is key to adaptation and survival and underpins many of the decisions we make in our daily lives,” said Taylor.

While exploration involves searching for the unknown, exploiting is using what is already available such as refinement and selection. Taylor underlined that an explorative specialisation in dyslexic people could shed light on why they face difficulty in tasks related to exploitation.

“It could also explain why people with dyslexia appear to gravitate towards certain professions that require exploration-related abilities, such as arts, architecture, engineering, and entrepreneurship,” she added.

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