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Professor Kathleen Taylor on "Jiggling Our Synapses"

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Published on Mar 3, 2014

Kathleen Taylor, Ph.D., is a professor in the Kalmanovitz School of Education (KSOE) at Saint Mary's College of California and studies adult learning. "The brains we have were developed in the primeval forest, and they're very good at figuring out things like who's my enemy, what's food and where can I mate," says Taylor, an internationally recognized authority on adult learning who teaches in the KSOE's Educational Leadership Program.

"Luckily, we can train our brain so that it grows past what developmental psychologists call the "socialized mind" of young adulthood, when we try to meet society's expectations, to the mature, "self-authoring mind," where we discover a new way of thinking.

But first we have to buck the brain's default modes, like the tendency to make distinctions between our kind and not our kind, Taylor said. Moreover, in the forest, the brain needed to make life-or-death decisions very quickly. "But this is a very different, global, interactive world where we have to understand how to transcend our tribalism and tolerate ambiguity," Taylor says.

How can we do that? The key is to break out of your routine, which will build new neural pathways in the brain. Or, in Taylor's words: "We need to jiggle our synapses."

For more information on Kathleen Taylor visit her faculty expert page at stmarys-ca.edu/faculty-experts/find-facu­lty-by-name-expertise/kathleen-taylor-ph­d

For more information about the KSOE's Educational Leadership Program, visit stmarys-ca.edu/educational-leadership

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