What do we mean by 'wiring of the brain'? Are all our brains 'wired' the same at birth? Is it possible for individual brains to become 're-wired' in similar ways by ensuring they all learn the same things in the same way and by the same means?
In a recent post by Tony Karrer, Brain 2.0, a fascinating series of discussions arose around learning, and whether the methods used in learning actually affect the development (wiring) of the brain. A current belief is that if someone acquires learning through a particular process or method, then the way the learning happens in the brain (the way the brain becomes 'wired') is necessarily set according to the means used to learn.
The assumption is that if everyone learnt the same things by the same means their brains would become similarly ‘wired’. By the same token, if everyone learnt the same things but by different ways and means, then everyone’s brain would be uniquely ‘wired’. No two people would have their brains ‘wired’ the same way.
This could well be what happens in life. Even people from similar families with similar cultural backgrounds must necessarily have different learning experiences. The sequence in which even like experiences may have occurred for each individual, is going to be different from person to person.
Are these differences likely to affect each individual's perception (the way they see things) even if the differences are small? If so, it would be reasonable to think that everyone's perception of things would not be exactly the same. Could it be that this is because their brains are now 'wired' differently? And can this difference in perception affect the way each individual continues to learn?
Darwin put to the test
In a comment I put to Tony, I used an example to illustrate how perception could possibly affect learning:
Suppose a fundamentalist and an agnostic follow an elearning course in Darwin's theory of evolution. Neither participant knew anything about Darwin’s ideas beforehand. Is it conceivable that, even if these learners learn the theory using precisely the same method, the way they learn will be different because of different ways that their brains were 'wired' beforehand?
Let’s assume that both learners attain a similar level of understanding of the theory of evolution as assessed by an exacting test. The fundamentalist who may not agree with the theory - it being at odds with the religion - will nevertheless understand the principles to the same degree as the agnostic.
Bearing in mind that the fundamentalist will disagree with what was learnt and the agnostic may not, are the learners' brains still 'wired' differently according to their beliefs? Or has some degree of alignment occurred through following precisely the same course along the same ideas?
As a teacher, it has never ceased to fascinate me how people see things so differently. Even the most straightforward topic broached in a discussion forum of like people can often bring forth a huge diversity of opinion. Might it be difficult to align or re-align individual brains through learning methods, simply because of their different degrees of perception to begin with?
What do you think?