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How to Master Another Complex Skill: Writing

ClipboardEngineers and scientists perform complex calculations, solve seemingly insurmountable problems, and overcome intellectual obstacles every day. So, what is it about writing about that work that’s so difficult?

Reading and writing are two of the most complex functions our brain performs. The value, then, of being able to predict a person’s capacity to develop those skills is incalculable. As National Public Radio recently reported, Nina Kraus and her team at Northwestern University have created just such a way. They developed a half-hour test capable of predicting children’s literacy before they’re even old enough to read.

How do you test for literacy in the preliterate?

As Kraus notes, reading begins not with our eyes but with our ability to hear and process sound. We separate meaning from background noise, a task our brains can accomplish in microseconds. To that end, Kraus and her team created a way to evaluate a child’s ability to separate speech from mere sound using electroencephalogram (EEG) readings.

For this test, children fitted with EEG electrodes sat in comfortable chairs in front of their favorite movie. In their left ear, they could hear a movie. In their right ear, they heard a mix of background noise similar to a conversation among several people and a simple repeating word, “Da.”

Kraus hypothesized that the EEG would register a reaction each time the children picked the word out of all the other noise. That consistency of reaction to the same word or sound is the indicator of the children’s future ability to read and read well. As Kraus noted, “If the brain responds differently to that same sound — [although] the sound hasn’t changed — how is a child to learn?”

Through this study, Kraus demonstrated just how complex reading and writing are. These processes require coordination of several skills and different parts of the brain.

How this helps your writing

Our ability to distinguish meaning from chaos is the key to our ability to process written language. The good news for those who already have expertise in breaking down complex concepts is that writing is just another physics, chemistry, math, or engineering puzzle.

Hurley Write can help your team develop that skill. Contact us by phone at 877-24WRITE (249-7483), or visit our website for more information.

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