Research suggests there is a major overlooked benefit of having dyslexia

The modern world is sewn together by threads of written language. For people with reading disabilities dyslexiathe endless jumble of words can feel like an obstacle to survival.

The neurological condition that makes decoding text so difficult has long been considered purely a learning disability and can also benefit individuals and their communities in a world full of strangers.

University of Cambridge psychologists Helen Taylor and Martin David Vestergaard reconsidered the traditional view of developmental dyslexia as a drawback, and suggested that its neurological features could have benefits under different circumstances.

In particular, they suggest that brains that find it difficult to quickly interpret written words may find it easier to explore their environment for helpful cues that improve decision-making.

“The deficit-focused view of dyslexia doesn’t tell the whole story,” say Taylor.

“This research proposes a new framework to help us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia.”

Developmental dyslexia is characterized by difficulties converting the visual format of a written word into a meaningful set of sounds – what they call in the literacy business”phonemes

It’s thought to affect anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of the population, but it generally sets back reading ability by a year or so, interfering with ongoing opportunities to learn as their peers progress.

The knock-on effect of this delay in a standardized education system can be profound, reducing confidence and self-esteem and potentially leading to a mass of social problems

Reading recruits a complex variety of visual, linguistic and attentional networks in the brain. With as much as 80 percent of the features of the condition Depending on hereditary factors, it’s likely that something in a person’s genes changes how these networks work as a whole.

Since dyslexia affects such a wide diversity of the world’s population, and is so heavily influenced by our genes, it makes sense that evolution somehow favored it.

Against the background of human evolution, the culture of reading and writing is shockingly recent† Our general reliance on effective literacy is even more recent, meaning that the adverse impacts dyslexia has on individual cognition would have been negligible until recent generations.

In recent decades, psychologists have noted that those who show signs of dyslexia are also better at global abstract and spatial reasoning. They are also more inventive and better at predicting outcomes.

This could be a coping strategy in a world that values ​​the ability to extract information from walls of text. Although Taylor and Vestergaard think this is not the case.

“We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia are the result of a cognitive trade-off between exploring new information and exploiting existing knowledge, with the benefit of an exploratory bias that reflects the enhanced abilities perceived in certain areas. , as discovery, might explain, invention and creativity”, say Taylor.

Psychologically, our mind is limited by a constant tug of war, the so-called exploration-exploitation tradeoff† To make a decision, we need to be sure that the information we have is accurate and likely to result in a predictable outcome.

We could wait until we have better information, at the risk of losing that meal (or worse, becoming lunch ourselves). However, if you act too quickly, we may not find out why our decision was a mistake.

“Finding the balance between exploring new opportunities and reaping the benefits of a particular choice is key to adaptation and survival and underpins many of the decisions we make in our daily lives.” say Taylor.

In another lifetime, dyslexia wouldn’t manifest as an inability to turn scratches into sounds in our heads — it would enhance those quick decision-making skills that could make a life-or-death difference to our community.

The frame reflects a broader trend in pathology that views neurodiversity as highly contextualized by pressures within a changing environment.

The point is not that a disorder is a superpower in disguise, but that the biggest impediments are factors that we have direct control over. Changing the way we parent, for example, or how we discuss a skill, purely as a disadvantage, could be a much more effective “cure” than any pill or therapy.

This research was published in Limits in Psychology

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