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How are neuromyths perpetuated?

Paul Howard-Jones explains that often a neuromyth contains a kernel of truth, which may have been either misinterpreted or become distorted over time.

Throughout the course we’ve invited teachers to share their experiences of using research in the classroom. Mari is the headteacher at a national research primary school. Eleanor is the director of science at an academy trust in the north of England. In this video, they discuss with Paul what makes neuromyths attractive.

Often a neuromyth contains a kernel of truth, which may have been either misinterpreted or become distorted over time (Howard-Jones, 2014). For example, another very common neuromyth is that drinking less than 6 to 8 glasses of water a day can cause the brain to shrink. Whilst there is no evidence of under-performance amongst school children who fail to drink this amount of water, and 6 to 8 glasses is a contentious recommendation in itself, there are studies which have shown that dehydration can affect cognitive function.

Another reason myths can become prevalent is the lack of accessible evidence to contradict them. Most research is in journals which we have no access to, so myths have been able to continue unchecked.


What perpetuates neuromyths?
“I remember carrying out ‘brain gym’, thinking that it was a way of gaining the attention of my class. It was something that a SENCO (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) had suggested I do and I didn’t think to question it.”
At some point in your life you will most likely have fallen for a neuromyth and perhaps have let it inform the way you teach. Being more aware of how neuromyths are perpetuated will help you be more critical (and ask more questions) when new ideas are presented.
In the comments below share one example of a neuromyth that has informed what happens in your classroom. How did it come about? Why were you persuaded?
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