EVALUATION OF 3 ARTICLES IN SHICHIDA’S SUPERACHIEVERS MAGAZINE

There is one key difficulty in ‘disputing’ the claims of many ‘right-brain education’ proponents, (the most notable being those of the successful Japanese ‘educational’ entrepreneur Makoto Shichida). This difficulty arises, paradoxically, from the very fact that their extraordinary claims are rarely, if ever, supported by any scientific evidence – which means that there is nothing there to disprove but bald assertions. As there is no evidence to refute, you are forced to try to argue against something which is so ‘left-field’ and unscientific that reputable scientists have often not even bothered with it, so there may be little direct empirical evidence to support your case.

The only way around this is to try to fit the assertions of the ‘right-brainers’ into the canon of what has been studied, to see how much is supported (and how much is contradicted) by existing – and reputable – research.

In the realms of legitimate, traditional science, observations are undertaken, a theory is constructed, predictions are made based on the theory, then experiments are designed to test the theory and its predictions. A good experiment isolates the variables in such a way that the results will either support or disprove the original hypothesis. A good experiment is also capable of being repeated in different places, by different researchers and with different subjects, so that the results can be objectively confirmed.

With the claims made by the ‘right-brainers’, none of these criteria are adhered to. Statements of ‘fact’ about the ‘powers of the right-brain’ are made without reference to any of the experimental data, even though they run contrary to the ‘accepted realities’ of physics, chemistry and biology (and even anatomy). Evidence presented to support these statements is inevitably delivered in the form of ‘testimonials’ (from eager parents and franchisees, employees or other ‘connected’ individuals – whose objectivity must be questioned). These testimonials have no scientific validity whatsoever, as they are not based on research which can be tested or replicated.

Another difficulty comes from the fact that these ‘right-brain assertions’ are carefully ‘set up’, by placing them side-by-side with simplistic accounts of real research, and ‘scientific-sounding’ terms, cobbled together from the world of neuroscience or cognitive psychology. They sound convincing, but let’s look at them more closely.

As most of Shichida’s writing is in Japanese, and has not been translated, I will critique some arguments presented in support of Shichida’s ‘child development’ techniques in the SuperAchievers magazine (which is published by his franchisee in Singapore). This evaluation will, I believe demonstrate the strategies that this man and pseudo-scientists like him, employ to promote their ideas. The arguments are presented under the broad Thesis Statements Quality Memory and Brain Modification, with the latter comprising two related articles.

Such a critique is not as straightforward as it might appear at first glance. As I have become more familiar with Shichida’s style, so I have come to realise that he presents material that is often based on verifiable scientific research. However, this evidence is frequently perverted to accommodate the introduction of unverified or disproven statements. The reader is, deliberately I suspect, lulled into a sense of security by the “hard” evidence and may have trouble identifying the untenable (often ludicrous) propositions introduced later. This method may well be designed to encourage naïve readers (presumably parents) to believe that his methods are based on sound science and are efficient in instilling superior abilities in children.

Throughout, I will adopt the position proposed by the famous philosopher of science Prof. Karl Popper, encapsulated in his book Conjectures and Refutations. Popper’s views are widely regarded as underpinning the accepted understanding of what differentiates ‘science’ from non-science and pseudo-science. Briefly, for the uninitiated, Popper argued that we can never prove anything, but that we can disprove theories and hypotheses. A million observations supporting a scientific stance can be shown to be untenable by one contrary observation. The classic example is the theory that “all swans are white”. That view was widely held in Europe up to the eighteenth century (indeed all swans in Europe are white). The discovery of Australia disproved the theory, however, because swans there are black! That, in a nutshell, is how Shichida’s theories should be examined and, if they are shown to be untenable, disregarded.

Again, this may not be as simple as it sounds. The reason here is that many of Shichida’s clients clearly want to believe that the propositions are true and that they can be employed to enhance their child’s development – and if we want to believe strongly enough, our ‘confirmation bias’ will make it appear to be so.

I will begin with an article entitled: 

1: ‘The Modifiable Brain – brain changes by developing the sense of hearing’ (Superachievers volume 1 p22-3)

This article is typical of the approach of a ‘pseudo-scientist’ attempting to legitimise claims which have no scientific validity. Shichida introduces some basic information about the development of a child’s hearing, then ties them to a series of unfounded and unsupported statements, aimed at convincing the reader of connections between certain sounds and certain types of permanent brain-changes.

It has been shown through experimentation that a person’s ‘ear’ is tuned by about the age of ten, so that it cannot differentiate certain sounds which do not exist in its immediate environment. The brain focuses, for example, on the sounds of the child’s native language – and any other languages he/she is exposed to often. However, the sounds of a foreign language, if they fall outside the range of sounds the child is used to, will be alien, and hard for the child’s brain to decode and imitate. This explains why languages learned after about the age of twelve are almost impossible to master without some kind of accent. This phenomenon is well-documented in neuroscience literature, and is explained as a result of the activation of neural networks, through exposure to sensory stimuli.

(The same mechanism operates in the visual sphere where connections develop between the retina, the optic nerve and the visual cortex – again through sensory stimulation. A child whose eyes are covered for a significant time at an early age will not ‘learn’ to see well – even if there is nothing physically wrong with any part of the visual circuit. It is simply that the neural networks were never properly ‘wired up’ by experience during a critical period when the circuit still had ‘plasticity’.)

It has also been suggested – by Alfred Tomatis among others – that babies in the womb and new-borns react to high frequencies of sound. This does not mean, incidentally, that they therefore understand what they hear – simply that they are able, like any sentient creature (amphibian, reptile, bird or mammal etc.) to hear and respond.

So far, so good.

The strategy of the ‘right-brain expert’ is to present these ‘facts’ to the layman (or woman), along with reference to the experiments and the researchers who ran them – thus lending an air of legitimacy to what is about to follow. But here is where the ‘three card trick’ is delivered.Having established these scientific ‘facts’, the ‘right-brainer’ now ties to them statements and conclusions which are not, in any way, supported by the experiments previously referred to. Assumptions are made which are not in any way tied to the evidence, but they are presented as assertions – statements of ‘fact’ – without any reference to the fact that they are totally without empirical support.When I was at school, we called this kind of argument a non sequitur­ – a conclusion not supported by the evidence – and it is one of the classic logical fallacies.

In ‘The Modifiable Brain – brain changes by developing the sense of hearing’, Shichida makes exactly this kind of unsupported connection. He begins by paraphrasing the research:

“A child who is exposed [by the age of five] to many different languages… can capture the sounds easily and develop fluency in speech.”

But then he slips in an unsupported assertion – as if it too is supported by the research. He continues:

“The child is able to develop imaging ability from hearing and is able to remember what he or she has heard only once.”

Where does this come from? The notion of the right-brain being the ‘imaging brain’ which communicates through mysterious waves with the energy of the universe is one of the key tenets of the ‘right-brain learning revolution’ – and it is, of course, totally without any scientific foundation, but suddenly a proven neurological process has been hijacked to lend an aura of veracity to a claim which is without any scientific substance.

To the layman (or woman) who has no experience with the vagaries of neuroscience, or scientific method, the reference to reputable scientific experiments at the beginning and throughout the article is enough to make the rest of the article seem believable – in spite of its lack of scientific substance.

We see this when the article refers to the fact that babies respond to higher frequencies than adults – a provable (or disprovable) fact. What follows, however is not only unproven, but also completely unconnected – except in the mind of the author:

“Thus, if children listen to high-frequency sounds, which they used to listen to when they were in the womb, the functions of their ears will be altered… Once the change to your ears occurs, the capacity of your memory expands and, as a result, the quality of your brain also improves.”

And later:

When children listen to Mozart from young, they are more likely to develop right brain memory, which will not forget things once seen or heard.”

There is no reputable experimental evidence tying an ability to hear high sounds (or Mozart) and the development of ‘perfect’ memory – in fact there is considerable doubt as to the existence of ‘perfect’ memory, and especially the notion of it being a ‘trainable’ phenomenon.

There is not even any evidence suggesting that exposing a child to high frequency sounds will even increase his/her ability to hear them – this is a ‘long-bow’ assumption extrapolated from the existing research.  But these are the links that are being made in the article – and this is typical of the approach used by the exponents of ‘right-brain learning’. 

Placing this fanciful theory immediately after a reference to reputable research makes the whole thing sound legitimate, but the assertions have absolutely nothing to do with the few facts which are presented.

Basically, the developmental stages outlined in this article are reasonably correct. Indeed, the neonate’s sense of hearing is superior to its vision (Lewkowicz, 1988) and, as with input to all sensory modalities, is improved with stimulation. This improvement appears to occur quite naturally, even without special “exposure” procedures, and has been widely demonstrated using sophisticated measurement devices such as MRIs and so on. This is a biological change of the brain that is a normal part of human development. Whilst newborns have virtually all the neurones they will ever possess, the connections between them are not fully developed. This process occurs rapidly in the infant and potentially continues across the lifespan (hence the expression, “use it or lose it”). At the same time myelin, a substance that aids the neurones in communicating amongst themselves, develops rather independently of enhanced sensory input. So far so good for Dr. S.

However, there are some rather disturbing elementary inconsistencies – coming from someone of his supposed ‘eminence’.

1)     The normal range of human hearing is generally considered to be between 30Hz and 20,000Hz, rather than the lower limit being 100Hz, as mentioned in the article. Miller and Taylor demonstrated this as long ago as 1948. For the technically-minded, hearing occurs when vibrations of air waves are detected by neuronal receptor cells (known as auditory hair cells) located in the basilar membrane deep within the ear structure. The hair cells are sensitive to different wavelengths (Hz) but not to very low ones. The hearing of frequencies below 200Hz is caused by vibrations at the tip of the basilar membrane itself in a process called temporal coding.

2)     In spite of what Shichida claims in the article, unborn babies (the foetus) do not have the “most complete set of ears” (Sigleman & Shaffer, 1995) (unless he means the pinna or outer ear and they are no more complete than in adults). In fact, Shichida virtually contradicts himself when citing research by a Dr. Tomatis here. Dr. Tomatis is said to claim that unborn babies can capture sounds higher than 8,000Hz. Well, 20,000Hz is indeed more than that, but it’s an awful lot more! So much higher (over twice as high) that one has to wonder how Dr. S. can use Tomatis to back up his initial comment on the remarkable hearing range of the foetus. If in doubt, quote some research – even if it doesn’t actually support whatever claim you have just made – the reader is probably not going to check it out anyway.

3)     The reference to stimulating Wernicke’s area [with high-speed sound stimulation, the brain-cells are stimulated and Wernicke’s area of the speech centre activated.”] is only truly correct if the sounds used are speech sounds. This is because it is known that damage specific to Wernicke’s area does not disturb recognition of other types of (non-speech) sound, such as dogs’ barking, doorbells, bird song and so on (Saffran et al, 1976). He would be correct only if the reference was to the primary auditory cortex. Strangely, given all the emphasis on right brain “powers”, Wernicke’s area is located in the left posterior temporal lobe. So how this alleged improvement of memory functioning and so forth relates to the previous claims is unclear.

4)     By the way, if any reader can inform me what “high-speed sounds” are and what “rejuvenating” and “energising” the brain actually means, I would really like to know. But I suspect they are obfuscationist terms thrown in to impress the gullible.

5)     “When children listen to Mozart from young,” claims Shichida, “they are more likely to develop right-brain memory.” [This is due to the ‘fact’ that, ”music composed by Mozart contains richer, high-frequency sounds than those of other composers”!]  “Thus,” he concludes, “high-frequency sounds overcome obstacles to auditory development.” All very authoritative-sounding, but without a shred of supporting evidence of any kind.

6)     According to Sigleman and Shaffer (1995, p. 155), “It is not yet clear whether infants prefer Mozart to Muzak or Madonna”. What is clear is that they prefer listening to natural, harmonic, music over atonal or disjointed music, but that’s all we seem to know for sure (Kruhansl & Jusczyk, 1990). This fails to support the claims Shichida makes. Neither does there appear to be any scientific support for the notion (also proposed by Shichida in this article) that high-frequency sounds are necessary for auditory development, or the ability to remember things experienced only once, and to capture sounds easily. In fact, using Popper’s principle, we can strongly argue that a strong connection to right brain functioning is disproved. Auditory processing of all kinds seems to be primarily a left-brain function of the primary auditory cortex.

7)     As it happens, children up to six months old do not (as claimed by Shichida) have such “exceptional” hearing. They are less sensitive to sounds of low volume (amplitude) than older children and adults (Aslin et al, 1983).

8)     Finally, with regards to “hearing imaging”, there is an extremely rare psycho-neurological condition or dysfunction called synesthesia. Unfortunate people with synesthesia “see” smells, “hear” colours, “taste” music, and so on. This can be very disturbing (as we might imagine) and can cause disruption of normal behaviour. That is the only case in which I’ve heard of the phenomenon of hearing images and I don’t think I would wish it on any child.Now a word on the writing style (and this, of course, applies to the majority of Shichida’s work). Firstly, a number of technical terms are introduced without explanation. I wonder how many of the intended audience are aware that frequency of sound waves (Hz) is an indicator to humans of pitch. There are other important properties of sound waves, such as volume (amplitude of waves) and timbre (the complexity of sound waves). These are not mentioned. (Notice how simple it is to include a little more information that helps clarify meaning). Similarly, other obscure, esoteric, terms such as “diapason” are used as though they were common parlance. This is probably to give the writing an air of authority – it seems so technical that it must be right! Actually, I’m not sure that diapason is used quite correctly here, but that’s a minor point compared to other tricks and flaws.

Secondly, we need to be careful when interpreting the (I suppose) “lay terms” that pop up throughout. As with the technical terms, there is no explanation of what is exactly being referred to when the terms are used. Some are relatively innocuous, such as “native ear”, which we can understand to mean the tonal range of the main language(s) that the child is exposed to (notice the easy terms come first). Other terms, however, are more sinister. I failed to find any mention in reputable, scientifically sound, writings of “basic ears”, “integrated ears”, “image ear” or “language ear”. Thus, they appear to be what are technically termed neologisms, that is, new words that are made up either for a specific purpose, in introducing a new construct or, more commonly, in the speech of people suffering from schizophrenia. Whatever, but since no explication is given the reader is left to their own interpretation. This, of course, means that previously unknown or uninvestigated theories can be introduced as accepted fact, which is quite contrary to any scientific approach to the enhancement of children’s abilities. Yet another term, “high-speed sounds”, needs to be clarified. Sound waves travel at a constant velocity in any given medium, so how Shichida’s ones get to be “high-speed” must be patently false in terms of physics. One can only assume that what is meant is presumably speeded up speech? An interesting point might be to ask past or potential users of the Shichida technique what they think the terms mean.

2. Foetal development and pre-natal stimulation (Superachievers volume 1 p31)

This article attempts, without reference to any specific supporting research to convince the reader that meaningful communication can take place, telepathically, between the parent and the foetus, enabling “ability development during the foetal stage to take place.” It advises mothers to “stimulate the five senses, by reading and talking to [the baby]”  

Unlike the “hearing” article, these topics are not even loosely related to fact. Similar flaws also exist in the writing style (e.g., new terms without definitions, misleading statements, unsupported assertions, etc.).

1)     The article makes no differentiation between the stages of pre-natal development. Initially, after the highly specialised first division of the fertilised ova, the organism is termed a zygote. This stage involves only about 100 cells and is when the cells are arranged in three layers that form the basis of later development of:

a) sensory organs

b) respiratory and gland cells

c) muscle cells

This takes about 2 weeks and once the 3 layers are present the organism is termed an embryo. Within a month the heart starts to beat, a tiny brain has formed and started to function and the major body structures begin to form. After about 8 weeks, bone tissue begins to form and the embryo becomes known as the foetus until the time of birth. Shichida is correct that this development is amazing and mysterious, but not necessarily in the way he implies. It is correct that during the first 2 stages there is a resemblance between species, but this applies to almost all living organisms and is not peculiar to humans. The reason is probably that, contrary to popular belief, there exist relatively small differences in the genetic make-up of all living organisms.

2)     Shichida states (without offering any corroborating evidence) that, “The brainstem, also known as the basis of life, forms rapidly after fertilization. It is an unconscious area where telepathy is a means of communication… [employing] a different circuit from the one we would use for processing information later in life.”

The fact is that the brainstem does not form any more rapidly than other systems necessary for development and I have never before heard it called the basis of life. Indeed it would seem just as relevant to call, for example, the heart the “basis of life”. It does not “employ a different circuit (whatever that means) from the one we would use later in life for processing information”. In fact, it is the source of the ascending reticular activating system (ARAS) which serves to activate the cortex (Eysenck, 1967). It has been observed, even from relatively early research, to be implicated in processes essential to information processing. These include such psychological necessities as concentration, learning, wakefulness and attention (Fuster, 1958; Mouruzzi & Magoun, 1949). In this instance Shichida is clearly mistaken (or just plain wrong).

3)     As for the foetus “feeling its mother’s emotions and [receiving] images”, foetuses are almost certainly affected by the mother’s emotional state, but this does not seem to have anything to do with the brainstem – or any mysterious, unexplained telepathic communications. Emotions involve the release of glandular secretions and, via the mother’s blood flow, these reach the foetus. These often include powerful hormones such as adrenaline (Kaplan, 1986). Mostly, the effects experienced by the foetuses that have been studied are detrimental. It seems that positive emotional states do not necessarily manifest positive outcomes in the newborn but prolonged negative emotions do so, with various studies reporting effects such as low birth weight and behavioural abnormalities (e.g., Rothberg & Lits, 1991; Vaughan et al, 1987).  So the child’s well being seems to depend more on chemicals than telepathic communication, as Dr. S. suggests.

4)     As for talking to the child in the womb, which the article also recommends, newborns appear to be able to recognise and to prefer their mother’s voice to that of others (DeCasper & Fifer, 1980; DeCasper & Spense, 1991). This does not mean, however, that the foetus understands the meaning of speech, just that they appear to be able to differentiate amongst sound patterns. As Sigelman and Shaffer (1995) point out, acoustics in the womb are poor, the foetus’s nervous system is immature and thus it is extremely doubtful that factual information can be instilled prenatally. Attempting to do so however is by no means new. In the 1960s-70s a popular “hippie” -cum- “new age” movement developed in California (known as the Prenatal University) to promote this method. There were seemingly positive outcomes, (e.g., higher birth weights and so on) compared to the general population. Closer inspection however revealed that there were no differences if the parents were of the same social class, income and education. It seems that it is parental understanding of good practices (nutrition, non-smoking, etc.) during pregnancy that is of most importance, rather than talking to the foetus. Anyway foetuses become aware of their mother’s speech whether or not it is foetus-directed.

Of some interest, I fail to see how talking to the foetus “stimulates the five senses”, as Shichida claims. Any ideas anyone?

5)     Finally we need to address telepathy. I will undertake this under the more general rubric of extra sensory perception (ESP). It is worthwhile to point out that Shichida is, according to his web profile, engaged in psychic writing. Bearing in mind the principle of falsifiability, the evidence presented below clearly indicates that, according to scientific criteria, ESP does not exist. Even recent books recounting anecdotal accounts of ESP (e.g., The gift: ESP, the extraordinary experiences of ordinary people. Feather & Schmicker, 2005) state that there is no proof that ESP actually exists. Reviewing that book Brown (2005) agreed emphatically, only noting that it is “an interesting read”. In a similar vein, Bauer (2001) argued that ESP may exist but will be denied by orthodoxy, invoking one to question how many failed experiments are necessary before science finally convinces cult followers to abandon ESP. So, what evidence can rigorous investigators present?

The most convincing accounts are presented in the form of so-called meta-analyses. These involve reviewing studies into ESP phenomena to assess their efficacy and give us an insight into a wide range of investigations. In terms of legitimate science, bear in mind that any experiment is placed in the framework of a theory, for example “It is possible for human thought, without any physical intervention, to affect events in the physical world”. That theory allows us to generate hypotheses that can be empirically investigated – human thought can predict the numbers on cards, human thought can affect the random outcome of dice throwing, and so forth. So let’s see what happens when those hypotheses are examined.

Firstly, Milton and Wiseman (1999) reviewed 30 studies from 7 laboratories into Ganzfeld psi experiments. This procedure requires a person in one room to identify a picture being viewed by a person in another room, under strict conditions – a task remarkably similar to the ‘intuition’ training which Shichida claims to have perfected. Could the outcome from many (1,198) individual trials show better than chance recognition? According to Milton and Wiseman the “studies show a near zero effect … and a nonsignificant overall cumulation” (1991, p. 390). In other words the hypothesis had been tested and disproven – ESP did not exist. Bear in mind that this and the following citation appear in the Psychological Bulletin, one of the most respected APA psychological journals.

An even more rigorous analysis was conducted into psychokinesis by Bosch, Steinkamap and Boller (2006). This is a particularly detailed, technical and statistically complex paper, a difficult read but all the more believable for that. It involves over 2,000 people in some 380 studies and many thousands of separate trials. The hypothesis involved is that, if ESP exists, people should be able to influence randomly generated numbers. The authors go so far as to exclude experiments involving dice throwing. This is because (something I didn’t know) dice vary in weight on their different faces because of the “pips” drilled into them. All the numbers they examine are derived through computer generations depending on the random decay of atomic particles, an exceptionally rigorous methodology. After all the analyses (hard going I assure you) they reached the conclusion that there was no difference to chance outcome to many (at least 6) decimal places. This indicates that empirically ESP does not exist, one might as well just guess outcomes – the hypothesis is disproven.

For Shichida to claim – without a single new piece of verifiable evidence – not only that ESP does exist, but that

a) it exists between mother and child, and

b) that he has developed ways to train it, is worse than preposterous, it is quite disturbing in its hubris. 

3. Quality High-Speed Memory

This is a very cunningly-written, manipulative piece, which is clearly designed to mindset the reader and then direct them down a pathway to belief in Shichida’s ideas. Consider this situation:“Memories are often associated with some of the most pleasant events in our lives. Just think of that great holiday you had. How the children enjoyed the fun, how you renewed your bond with your partner, of the great meal you had in celebration. Chances are that you can recall some of the happiest moments of your life and many of the details. Positive emotions flow from these happy memories and we cherish them and don’t want them to fade or alter.”

This is a scenario where our memory has provided us with “good” experiences. Does Shichida’s team give us this impression? No! They go straight into many parents’ nightmare recollections – examinations and the fear of failure rather than success. Of course, once that scenario is set up, it becomes much easier to offer a solution that will help their kids to not experience those fears.

Unfortunately, having a better memory does not, in any way, guarantee a lack of “exam nerves” (more technically, performance anxiety). A number of excellent students in my University courses suffer from this disorder to an extent that they find giving oral presentations an ordeal. The same often applies to written exams. If the problem is very severe, I always direct them to professional counsellors who can give them tips to bring down their anxiety to acceptable levels. There are good reasons why I chose the word “acceptable”. It is common knowledge in psychology that an acceptable level of arousal (anxiety) is necessary for peak performance. Even great champions like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Pele admit that they have a touch of “stage fright” before performing and that it is this arousal that gives them the incentive for great performance.

In this article we are left with an emotionally evocative diatribe (no science) designed to induce blind acceptance of Shichida’s concepts. What do the Shichida team offer then? Recourse to the “mystical right brain”. It is thus time to see what reputable science has to say about that subject.

1)     It’s not just the right brain but the whole brain that offers scientists the unknown lands in which to journey. It is the prospect of such a journey into the unknown, one that may provide a better understanding of what it is to be human, which drives many explorations in science. We’ve seen already that notions such as ESP are unfounded, so what is out there? Well, the right brain, as far as we know from scientific research, adopts functions that must be genetically pre-determined – just like all functions in the human body. Brain function then is affected by dominant and recessive genes just like other human characteristics, such as eye and hair colour. This genetic pre-disposition is expressed in brain function by the preference of handedness. Most people are “righties” but a fair proportion (about 10%) are “lefties” or ambidextrous. Shichida only once mentions this possible anomaly when talking about his proposals. Why? Probably because we would then have to consider the “mysterious left brain” as well!  The only mention of a person who was probably truly ambidextrous is da Vinci and the suggestion that he had somehow, long before Shichida’s time, developed “special” right brain powers. Powers that science has shown to be non-existent in Dr. S’s. sense. Apparently, according to the article, “geniuses are known to engage both sides of their brain equally well”. Let’s hope they, and the rest of humankind, do so or we would lose a number of important functions! Once again, one of those general statements that are true but perverted so that we are directed only to a specific point, in this case “geniuses”. Add to this the fact that, as far as I know, people such as Einstein have never been reported to use both hands equally well. The lone exception appears to be musicians who, in general, must play with both hands. But does this mean that every competent pianist is a genius?

2)     Very fortunately, for some poor individuals who suffer brain damage such as strokes, our brains have what is known as plasticity. This is especially true in children. If we lose function in one hemisphere, the other does its best to take over the function. This applies equally to each side of the brain. Redundancy is the term used and suggests that whatever attributes one hemisphere accounts for, so can the other. So much for the “mysterious right brain powers”. They can’t be all that special if natural left-handers and stroke victims are able to switch so easily.

3)     Let’s turn to the case of imaging. Many theoreticians argue that, in the sense Shichida uses, mental images or “the mind’s eye”, cannot exist (e.g., Pylyshyn, 2003, a,b). This position is backed by empirical studies (deGoort,; Minsky,) which have shown that people said to have this capacity in fact use mnemonic (memory training) techniques. Shichida’s claims regarding “the mind’s eye” and so-called photographic memory are not supported by the scientific evidence, and, using Popper’s criteria, should therefore be disregarded.In relation to claims that the Shichida method – for all its lack of scientific rigour – actually seems to work for some children, one more important factor must also be taken into account. That is that any extra attention provided by care-givers is likely to be beneficial to the child. A similar phenomenon occurs in psychological counselling (Egan), where any attention paid to clients sees an improvement. It is hardly surprising then that spending extra ‘quality time’ with the kids is going to be for their betterment – regardless of the ‘methods’ employed.

Just because someone can quote studies and experiments, does not mean that they necessarily support what he is claiming, and just because someone claims something is true does not make it so. Rarely, if ever, have I seen such a blatant disregard for even the most basic evidentiary requirements from anyone purporting to present scientific ‘facts’.

Our children’s education and development is too important to place in the hands of people whose grasp of the science of the mind is so obviously flawed and confused. Before you take any claims about education and brain-development seriously – before you trust in the fanciful claims of any educational provider – ask the hard questions.

Does this evidence support the claims being made? Are any of these amazing claims backed up with reputable, verifiable evidence from respected and peer-reviewed studies?

If they are not, then it is safer and more sensible to assume that the claims are false. After all, if there were evidence which truly supported the claims, you can bet that it would be quoted – chapter and verse.

Until next time, this is Gerry signing off.

REFERENCES

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~ by gerryp on March 26, 2008.

 
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