Working Paper Article Version 2 This version is not peer-reviewed

Neuroscience and Literacy: An Integrative View

Version 1 : Received: 6 December 2020 / Approved: 7 December 2020 / Online: 7 December 2020 (11:56:05 CET)
Version 2 : Received: 1 March 2021 / Approved: 2 March 2021 / Online: 2 March 2021 (09:12:01 CET)
Version 3 : Received: 6 April 2021 / Approved: 6 April 2021 / Online: 6 April 2021 (13:26:50 CEST)

How to cite: Ellis, G.F.R.; Bloch, C.S. Neuroscience and Literacy: An Integrative View. Preprints 2020, 2020120139 Ellis, G.F.R.; Bloch, C.S. Neuroscience and Literacy: An Integrative View. Preprints 2020, 2020120139


Significant challenges exist globally regarding literacy teaching and learning. To address these challenges, key features of how the brain works should be taken into account. First, perception is an active process based in detection of errors in hierarchical predictions of sensory data and action outcomes. Reading is a particular case of this non-linear predictive process. Second, emotions play a key role in underlying cognitive functioning, including oral and written language. Negative emotions undermine motivation to learn. Third, there is not the fundamental difference between listening/speaking and reading/writing often alleged on the basis of evolutionary arguments. Both are socio-cultural practices that are driven through the communication imperative of the social brain. Fourth, both listening and reading are contextually occurring pyscho-social practices of understanding, shaped by current knowledge and cultural contexts and practices. Fifth, the natural operation of the brain is not rule-based, as is supposed in the standard view of linguistics: it is prediction based on statistical pattern recognition. This all calls into question narrow interpretations of the widely quoted "Simple View of Reading", which argues that explicit decoding is the necessary route to comprehension. One of the two neural routes to reading does not involve such explicit decoding processes, and can be activated from the earliest years. An integrated view of brain function reflecting the non-linear contextual nature of the reading process implies that an ongoing focus on personal meaning and understanding from the very beginning provides positive conditions for learning all aspects of reading and writing.


Early literacy pedagogy; neuroscience; predictive processing; perception; emotion


Business, Economics and Management, Accounting and Taxation

Comments (1)

Comment 1
Received: 2 March 2021
Commenter: George F Ellis
Commenter's Conflict of Interests: Author
Comment: Major upgrade to paper,including new section
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