Author and researcher Kathy Kolbe walked on stage. She picked up the microphone and faced a room full of students Thursday on the Tempe campus.
“I’m going to tell you what most people who do brain research have no idea exist,” she said.
Kolbe spoke to students about what she has coined the “Kolbe Index,” a theory that states people have the innate ability to problem-solve based solely on instinct. Kolbe has been called psychologist Abraham Maslow’s successor for the extensive work she has done researching the different parts of the mind and how they operate in tandem to problem-solve.
Offering her audience a chance to “get up and go” if they weren’t interested, Kolbe spent the next hour dispelling the widely accepted notion of right and left brain psychological science, saying, “It’s all bull.”
She went on to describe the difference between cognitive and what she calls conative learning.
“The conative is the innate pattern tied to your instincts,” she said. “It’s embedded in the primitive part of the brain. You have it since birth. Cognitive is how you deal with learned behaviors.”
People’s motivations trigger their instincts, which are then channeled into purposeful action. Such action does not need to be constant, Kolbe said.
“Do nothing, when nothing works,” she said.
Kolbe developed a test to determine an individual’s “Action Mode,” or way of problem-solving. The test, a series of simple personality questions, sorts a person into one of four categories: fact finder, follow through, quick start and implementer.
Each mode of operation affects the way people learn, in addition to their creative process. A person can embody traits of multiple categories, but it is the dominant mode with which they most align.
To exemplify the four Action Modes, Kolbe asked students who had previously taken the test to come to the stage and work together to create a children’s game. At the end of a three-minute period, she asked the audience to identify whether the participants were fact finders, follow-through, quick starters or implementers.
Kolbe developed the index after going through her entire life with severe dyslexia.
“I realized the right way isn’t always the best way to go,” she said. “Sometimes the wrong way proves the most interesting way.”
This understanding of learning patterns is especially vital at a university level, when students are presented with so much material to comprehend, often in a short period of time, Kolbe said. With this much to learn, Kolbe gave the unusual advice that it’s OK to cram if that’s the only way to pass a test.
Interdisciplinary studies senior Emilio Neriz, who attended the lecture, said the presentation had an impact in changing how he views his own education.
“There’s been times where I’ve been told ‘Do this’ when there are no guidelines, and it kills me,” he said. “I have a hard time trying to figure it out.”
Digital culture senior Katlyn Kaiser said the lecture was interesting and validating.
“Each person has their own way of thinking, and even in a class where we’re all assigned the same thing, everyone is going to attack it in a different way,” she said. “And that’s OK.”
Kolbe left the room with parting advice.
“Never compromise the truth of your form of creativity,” she said.
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