How the brain processes mistakes

Learn about: How the brain processes mistakes from JoAnn Deak, PhD,...
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How the brain processes mistakes

One of the things we’re finding in the brain research is that making a mistake, or I like to call them a misstep, actually enhances brain development. I tell kids to think of the brain as a muscle – it’s not really a muscle, it’s an organ – but it acts like a muscle. And when you struggle to do something and you fail, your brain goes, “Oh. Now what?” And it makes you think more. If you just memorize something and give the right answer, we don’t see much change in this thing called the brain that acts like a muscle. So we want kids to struggle, even if they don’t know the answer. We’re especially worried about girls who often don’t try to do something, unless they can give the answer right away. And it’s the struggling brain, the brain that makes mistakes and then tries it again that grows the most. Just think about it like a muscle. And the more it struggles, and the bigger the task and the harder, and the longer it works, the more we see changes in the brain. The more you just wait until you have the right answer or memorize, we see hardly any changes in the brain.

Learn about: How the brain processes mistakes from JoAnn Deak, PhD,...


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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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