By Sean Zucker –
Dyslexia holds all sorts of daunting emotional and physical connotations.
The Mayo Clinic defines dyslexia as “a learning disorder that involves difficulty reading due to problems identifying speech sounds and learning how they relate to letters and words.” A reading disability stems from individual differences in how the brain processes language. Amazingly, as much as 20 percent of the general population faces the disorder.
Despite misconceptions, those with dyslexia do not necessarily have intelligence, hearing or vision issues. Today, most children diagnosed with dyslexia can overcome their handicaps and succeed in school through specialized education programs. In a unique twist, one new study suggests those dealing with dyslexia may enjoy enhanced creative abilities elsewhere.
Researchers at Britain’s University of Cambridge argued that dyslexia shouldn’t even be a disorder but a possible advantage. The university’s study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, concluded that people with dyslexia are fit to explore the unknown.
“The deficit-centered view of dyslexia isn’t telling the whole story,” Reported Dr. Helen Taylor, the study’s lead author. “This research proposes a new framework to help us better understand the cognitive strengths of people with dyslexia.”
The Cambridge team concluded after re-examining previous studies that claimed people with dyslexia were more creative and inventive. These studies, however, did little to explain why. The researchers applied a cross-disciplinary approach using an evolutionary perspective to dig deeper into the earlier work.
Traditionally, these studies–even the ones that point to dyslexia’s creative benefits–have focused on the condition as a disadvantage. The new approach re-assessed findings from a different angle, working to eliminate any biases and positioning dyslexia as something to overcome.
“We believe that the areas of difficulty experienced by people with dyslexia result from a cognitive trade-off between exploration of new information and exploitation of existing knowledge. The upside being an explorative bias that could explain enhanced abilities observed in certain realms like discovery, invention and creativity,” Taylor explained.
There needs to be more research into enhanced capabilities. Yet, examining dyslexia through a different cultural and societal lens is what the Cambridge findings suggest. “Schools, academic institutes, and workplaces are not designed to make the most of explorative learning. But we urgently need to start nurturing this way of thinking to allow humanity to continue to adapt and solve key challenges,” Taylor stressed. “It could also explain why people with dyslexia appear to gravitate towards certain professions that require exploration-related abilities, such as arts, architecture, engineering, and entrepreneurship.”