Theory of Brain-Compatible Writing
Sign and Design Minds are Complementary
Human beings are capable of processing the world in two distinct ways: Named Sign and Design mind by Gabriele Rico, the Sign mind (left hemisphere) thinks linearly, parts-specifically, logically, one step at a time, while the Design mind (right hemisphere) thinks in whole patterns, drawing on images, emotional webs, sensory patterns, as in a memory that suddenly flashes into consciousness as a complex whole.
Although writing requires Sign mind sequencing, writing also requires global search strategies for what groups together, requiring the Design mind’s non-linear jostling of emotions, memories, ideas. A too-hasty emphasis on Sign mind sequencing often shuts down the search strategies of our Design mind.
Clustering, developed by Gabriele Rico in her doctoral work, is largely a Design mind process. This non-linear brain-storming encourages playfulness, wide instead of narrow attention, and mental flexibility. By letting Design mind associations spill onto the page, clustering makes this non-linear search for patterns visible, manipulable, and so, teachable and learnable—long before the Sign mind steps in. Once both sides of the brain have a say in the writing process, the creative potential inherent in all of us is activated. The resulting writing flows quickly and easily.
In 1999 the split-brain pioneer neurosurgeon, Joseph Bogen re-emphasized two unalterable facts about hemispheric specialization by listing the lessons of split-brain research of the past 40 years:
Lesson #1: Everything in the cerebrum, except for a couple of glands, is double. They’re in duplicate. Is it in duplicate like the runners of a sleigh? Or is it in duplicate like a team of horses pulling the sleigh? If you take one runner off the sleigh, it won’t go. But if you take one horse away the other horse can still pull the sleigh. Not as fast, not as far, but adequately. Lesson #2 is that “the function of the brain is double. Like a team of horses. Not like the runners on a sleigh.” –in Judy Gilbert Expanding Our Vision
David A. Kolb’s model of experiential learning can be found in many discussions of the theory and practice of adult education, informal education and lifelong learning. We set out the model, and examine its possibilities and problems.