Educators are charged with the shared responsibility for helping to create individuals as moral beings, accountable for their decisions and responsible for their actions; with the ability to seek what is true and to do what is right.

If this is so, then we must ensure that learners have as much exposure to the affective as to the cognitive domain. This is especially so in the light of the rapid-fire nature of much of the entertainment, news casting and information gathering to which we are exposed.

A study, Neural Correlates of Admiration and Compassion, shows higher emotions to be as rooted in the body as primal impulses and that emotions linked to our moral sense awaken slowly in the mind.

This suggests that digital media culture may be better suited to some mental processes than others.  It’s not about the tools but how they are used. Adequate time and reflection is needed for some types of thought such as moral decision making about other people’s social and psychological situations. Admiration and compassion, recognition of virtue and another’s sorrow and joys, take much longer to process than, for example, detection of physical pain in others. Persistent emotional attention is necessary in order to respond to another’s psychological suffering.

There is an implication that fast-paced digital tools may direct heavy users away from traditional avenues for learning about human relationships and emotions, such as face-to-face social interactions or literature. Literature, after all, is subjective, or it’s nothing.

This is not to say that digital technologies do not have very significant place in education; just that their use needs to be judicious at home and at school. If things are happening too fast there is little opportunity to experience empathy for other people’s psychological states. The study found that social experience shapes interactions between the body and the mind. There are profound implications for individual and collective morality if developing minds in particular do not have opportunities to muse at a slow pace.

The study demonstrated that we use physical feelings as ‘platforms for knowing how to respond to other people’s situations’: evidence of the insight of poets and novelists that deep emotions are experienced viscerally: a ‘broken heart’ being the obvious example.

Do we always create a space for our young people to reflect in tranquillity?

 

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