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Education Administrators Associates
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Education Administrators Associates was initiated by Dr. John Brownridge, an educator and school principal with extensive knowledge and expertise in the field of Education, and experience in both North America and the United Kingdom. EAA's objective is to offer resource, assistance, and consultation to professional educators in the English-speaking world.

A variety of issues of interest and concern to educators will be presented and considered in this blog on a weekly basis. All educators, whether teachers, administrators or consultants, are invited to comment on the Contacts Page.

None of us can be experts in every field. Yet, as teachers we are expected to be knowledgeable on a whole range of topics, especially those that relate directly or indirectly to education. The parents of our students frequently have questions and concerns about curriculum, special programs, and new innovations they have heard about through news media. Our colleagues, friends and acquaintances may seek explanations and definitions. It is in our own interest to have a cursory knowledge of issues outside our areas of expertise, and to be capable of providing some insight into a variety of educational topics.

This weekly blog will explore many educational topics. Please check in on a regular basis, and do feel free to submit your comments and questions on the Contacts Page. As teachers, we have a wealth of experience to share.

John Brownridge

This Week

Emotion and Memory

The neural processes of the brain are extremely complex and despite astonishing progress in the ability to map the functions and associations of the major cerebral regions, many brain functions are still not well understood. Research continues, however, and many neural connections between different types of brain function can be readily identified.

Emotional reactions, for example tend to be associated with particularly vivid and long-lasting memories and researchers have been able to determine that the group of neurons linked to emotional events, the amygdalae, also performs a primary role in the formation and storage of emotional memories. This connection has significant implications for education because the effects of emotions on memory are relevant to the teaching-learning process, and they are clearly shown in a number of different ways.

It is well known that lucid memories of highly emotional experiences last far longer than memories of more neutral events. This is shown clearly in the autobiographical works of numerous authors who recollect childhood experiences as material for their books. Inevitably, detailed accounts of childhood are associated with emotion, trauma, and excitement, and though this may be in part because highly emotional experiences create the best drama, research shows that virtually everyone remembers emotional events of the past and forgets almost everything else.

Some researchers have referred to so-called memory narrowing as an explanation for long-lasting emotional memories. An emotional experience causes attention to be focused on a narrow aspect of the event and pushes the less important details to the periphery where it is less likely to be remembered. Witnesses to a bank robbery, for example, can often remember the gun or knife in great detail but cannot describe much detail about what actually happened. Because the traumatic component of the event was the overriding focus of attention, it will be remembered for a life time.

Curiously enough, although emotional experience can account for long-lasting memory, in some circumstances it can also be the cause of memory loss. Such amnesia is usually the result of trauma that causes actual brain damage and it is characterized by an inability to recall events immediately before and after the traumatic experience. While new memories can be readily formed and memories of the distant past seem to be unaffected, memory recall of the actual traumatic event are usually never recovered.

Moods are essentially an expression of one’s emotional state and as such they too can have a strong influence on memory. Both good moods and bad moods are significant though the latter tend to stimulate the recall of negative memories. In particular, depression is associated with poor memory in general. Depressed people may recall negative events but where these are the root cause of depression they tend to disperse more rapidly.

Aging has long been associated with memory loss but research shows that it has no effect on the relationship between emotion and memory. This is accounted for by the fact that the amygdalae region declines far less than other cerebral regions and older adults are therefore able to form long-lasting memories when they are associated with strong emotional events. One curious difference, however, is their tendency to recall favorable memories rather than negative ones. Older adults seem to forget negative experiences more easily, even when they have been relatively traumatic or upsetting.

The relation between emotion and memory is now well established. This is significant for teachers at all levels and should be taken into account in the planning, preparation, and delivery of lessons. A better knowledge of emotional impact on learning can only enhance and improve education in general.

John Brownridge

Next Week

Pedagogical Theories in Early Childhood Education