Why have I had such a hard time learning to change a light bulb, fix a car and cook dinner, while for others it seems such a breeze? Generally I did pretty well in school but ran into deep problems with analytic geometry, inorganic chemistry and differential equations. Others do it, why not me? I am well aware that many will say just try harder, but I think it must be something other than that.
After more than 50 years of psychology I think I am just beginning to understand. We are learning about neural networks underlying skills and how they are shaped by genetic variation and early experience. New skills often reshape old networks: my problems in sequential movement in handwriting might make other multistep tasks difficult to learn. My learning handicaps are still a mystery but now I know where to look.
Mike Posner is Professor Emeritus at the University of Oregon and Adjunct Professor at the Weill Medical College in New York (Sackler Institute). He is a pioneer in the field of attention and in 2002 was listed among the most influential psychologists of the twentieth century by the Review of General Psychology.
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