Implications of Affective and Social Neuroscience for Educational Theory



The past decade has seen major advances in cognitive, affective and social neuroscience that have the potential to revolutionize educational theories about learning. The importance of emotion and social learning has long been recognized in education, but due to technological limitations in neuroscience research techniques, treatment of these topics in educational theory has largely not had the benefit of biological evidence to date. In this article, I lay out two general, complementary findings that have emerged from the past decade of neuroscience research on emotion and social processing, with a view to beginning a dialogue about the meaning of these findings for educational theory. First, emotion and cognition are intertwined, and involve interplay between the body and mind. Second, social processing and learning happen by internalizing our subjective interpretations of other people's beliefs, goals, feelings and actions, and vicariously experiencing aspects of these as if they were our own. Together, these two results from neuroscience could have important implications for the design of learning environments; to discover these will require reconciling established educational learning theories with the current neurobiological evidence.