Ep. 114: Mary Helen Immordino-Yang – Emotions in Learning Matters


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Jun 23 2020 45 mins   3

Do emotions mess up clear headed thinking? For centuries, culture and science has dismissed the value of emotions when it came to thinking about intelligence, learning, and critical thinking. This may have led to classrooms with a certain level of sterility and emotional reciprocity. Instead however, by focusing on how students feel, what emotional connections they make during their learning experiences, and how they translate that experience into a personal narrative is proving to be at the heart of transformative personal growth. 

On this episode Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, and founding director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, discusses what creates a tapestry of rewarding and engaging learning experiences for all kinds of learners. Through her work she suggests, “learning is dynamic, social and context-dependent because emotions are, and emotions form a critical piece of how, what, when and why people think, remember and learn.” 

About Mary Helen Immordino-Yang
Mary Helen Immordino-Yang is a Professor of Education, Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Southern California, and the founding director of the USC Center for Affective Neuroscience, Development, Learning and Education. She studies the psychological and neurobiological development of emotion and self-awareness, and connections to social, cognitive and moral development in educational settings. She uses cross-cultural, interdisciplinary studies of narratives and feelings to uncover experience-dependent neural mechanisms contributing to identity, intrinsic motivation, deep learning, and generative, creative and abstract thought. Her work has a special focus on adolescents from low-SES communities, and she involves youths from these communities as junior scientists in her work.

She has received numerous awards for her research and for her impact on education and society, among them an Honor Coin from the U.S. Army, a Commendation from the County of Los Angeles, a Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences editorial board, and early career achievement awards from the American Educational Research Association (AERA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the Association of Psychological Science (APS), the International Mind, Brain and Education Society (IMBES), and the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences Foundation (FABBS).

Immordino-Yang was a Spencer Foundation mid-career fellow. She served on the U.S. National Academy of Sciences committee writing How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts and Cultures https://www.nap.edu/read/24783/, and on the Aspen Institute’s National Commission on Social, Emotional and Academic Development, writing: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/publications/the-brain-basis-for-integrated-social-emotional-and-academic-development/

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