Gongol.com Archives: October 2023

Brian Gongol

October 20, 2023

News Thinking about dominance

Everyone knows whether they are left-handed, right-handed, or ambidexterous; the question of which hand is dominant plays a role in acts as simple as picking up a utensil. Fewer people know which eye is dominant, even though nearly everyone has a dominant eye, even though it may not be the one that sees best. Ears are subject to dominance, too. ■ The role of eye or ear dominance rarely affects behavior in quite the same ways as right- or left-handedness. Yet it's useful information to have, and takes no more than 20 seconds to determine. People generally don't know about it until they are presented with a skill -- such as a shooting sport -- in which that dominance has a self-evident significance. ■ But its less-evident significance can be valuable. Knowing whether you are looking at a person with your dominant or non-dominant eye can be a psychological signal whether you intrinsically like or dislike the person (or the interaction). And we know that eye contact matters a lot. This little bit of self-knowledge can be quite valuable when used in a broader life context. ■ In much the same way, people often recognize their supposed "dominant" learning strategy from among "visual, auditory, reading, and kinesthetic", but few know about the other dimensions of their learning. Knowing where you fall on each spectrum of learning -- perceptive or conceptual, constructive or exploratory, dialectical or structured, and many others -- can help to raise the reasonable likelihood of success in a learning experience. ■ Schools have generally improved in their approaches to students who can be diagnosed with conditions like dyslexia, dysgraphia, or dyscalculia. But we could do much better in lots of ways if we began to recognize how to account for the many other characteristics that affect learning at the individual level, particularly now that technology permits virtually countless new ways to individualize learning. ■ If one lesson should be abundantly clear with the rise of technologies like artificial intelligence, it ought to be how important that constant, life-long learning is going to be from now on. Knowing how you learn, how to motivate yourself to learn, and what makes your learning stick is no longer the kind of trivia useful mainly for conversation at a cocktail party. Like knowing your dominant hand, these dominant modes of learning need to become first-order knowledge that can be put to work almost automatically.