In this conversation, Phillips suggested that the notion of “being smart” often invokes a one-sided paradigm of mental ability that may not be consistent with overall cognitive health. He explained how a proper understanding of brain fitness should also include such things as a well-developed imagination, intellectual curiosity, mental focus and self-control, the ability to think outside the box, the ability to exercise emotional intelligence, the ability to connect knowledge into overarching schemas, the ability to avoid common thinking errors, and many other aspects of a healthy brain that tend to be insufficiently emphasized in our culture.
- In this first installment of the conversation, Phillips explained why the category of brain fitness is helpful in emphasizing a holistic approach to cognition, which has implications to how we approach the whole learning process. He highlighted certain under-valued mental assets such as being able to think outside the box as well as the skill of emotional intelligence. He also highlighted how the avoidance of thinking errors is integral to developing a healthy brain.
- In this second installment of the conversation, Robin Phillips and Graham Taylor talked about the way the human brain organizes what it learns into a series of schemas. Schemas are networks of associations through which the brain organizing everything into meaningful patterns. These patterns then serve as hooks on which to hang new information. In order for the brain to build up schemas effectively, we need to reflect deeply about life in a slow and undistracted manner and remain open-minded to new models of understanding our world. They discussed some factors in modern life that make it difficult to form schemas and instead orient us towards shallowness and oversimplifications.
- In the third part of the interview, Phillips and Taylor looked at some theories of memory and learning. They discussed how a good memory is not a gift but a skill and that we can develop this skill through learning the right techniques. They also talked about the important role that focus plays in the learning process and in career success.
- In the final part of the conversation, Dr. Taylor asked Robin about the role imagination and intellectual curiosity play in having a healthy brain. Phillips shared concern that recent developments in the American school system are diminishing the importance of imagination as learning is reduced to simply a utilitarian tool. Phillips closed by pointing out some areas in which the ancients understood brain fitness better than we do.