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Edinburgh Techniques

Brian Hill MA (Edin) Mar 2005
Edinburgh Techniques

Over the last 25 years we have more than doubled our understanding of how the brain works. All the new research is good news for humans, but it severely dents many long held beliefs.

First of all, intelligence is not fixed at birth. It can, and should be developed throughout life from childhood to old age.

Second. Intelligence does not deteriorate with age. We do not lose 30,000 brain cells every day, or every time we have a beer or a whisky, though an excess of alcohol or drugs can cause brain cell deterioration but so too can the stress hormone cortisol.

Third. Intelligence isnít even a single entity. Professor Howard Gardner of Harvard has identified 7 different types of intelligence, two in the left hemisphere of the brain, what I call the masculine brain and five on the right hemisphere, what I call the feminine brain. The masculine intelligences are maths/logic and linguistics and until the mid 80ís were still regarded as the only intelligences worth having. The school system is based on them.  Gardner eventually recognised an 8th intelligence, spirituality now called naturalistic IQ, based in the right hemisphere. Below is the full list. See if you recognise yourself.

Our 8 IQs

Linguistic Ė well developed in people who are good with words, who like to write and read a lot. Examples: authors, journalists, orators and comedians.

Mathematical/Logical ó well developed in people who are good with numbers and appreciate step-by-step, logical explanations. Examples: engineers, economists, scientists, lawyers and accountants.

Visual/Spatial ó well developed in people who are good at art, visualising, navigating. Examples: architects, photographers, painters, strategic planners, and sculptors.

Musical ó well developed in people who are good at music and rhyme, and who have natural rhythm. Examples: composers, musicians and recording engineers.

Bodily/Physical ó well developed in people who are good at sport, dance, and handicrafts. Examples: athletes, sportspersons, carpenters, surgeons, builders.

Interpersonal ó well developed in people who are good at persuading, selling, teaching others, and who can read other people's moods well. Examples: teachers, trainers, politicians, religious leaders, sales people.

Intra-Personal or Reflective ó well developed in people who are good at self-analysis and reflection, drawing conclusions from their own experience (and mistakes!), setting goals and making plans.  Examples are philosophers, psychologists, therapists, entrepreneurs. People who make things happen.

Naturalistic Ė well developed in people who like and respect nature and are interested in subjects like astronomy, evolution and the environment. Examples:  farmers, vets, biologists, gardeners and environmentalists.

Do you recognise your strongest intelligences from the list?

Finally, and perhaps the most startling point of all. Women are potentially far more intelligent than men. That statement isnít 100% true. It should read: Feminine thinkers are potentially more intelligent than masculine thinkers, because feminine and masculine in this case cut across the genders of male and female.

The most obvious example of this was Margaret Thatcher, a very masculine, machine like thinker. Her strictly utilitarian, non feminine approach to problems did immeasurable social damage to the UK from which we are still suffering today, almost 15 years later. The late Carl Sagan on the other hand, was primarily a feminine thinker, despite being a scientist. He was brilliant, charming and worked tirelessly for the benefit of humanity.

Feminine of course, in the context of thinking should not be confused with effeminate or female. Many men are born right hemisphere dominant. The theatre, the music industry, advertising and films are full of right brain dominant men.

Of our eight intelligences six are on the feminine right side of the brain, our creative intelligences. They can handle information at the rate of one and one quarter million bits of information per second i.e. 1,250,000 bits per second whereas the poor old masculine brain can only handle forty bits per second, yes 40, four zero.

Masculine thinking is straight lined, sequential, non-emotional and thinks in words. Feminine thinking is flexible, has depth and breadth, is creative, emotional and almost limitless in itís imaginative properties and it thinks in pictures, which is why itís so much faster. A picture tells a thousand words. Masculine thinking demands one task at a time whereas feminine thinking allows multi-tasking. The BBC programme Panorama did a programme in 1997 called the Future is Female. What they meant is, The Future is Feminine. They failed to take into account the large number of feminine male thinkers.

School Failures

From all this new research has sprung three new terms: Wholebrain Learning i.e. Accelerated Learning; and its consequence, Integrated Intelligence. Wholebrain Learning is Left and Right Hemisphere (brain) working together but because the Right Brain is so much faster it is dominant. Despite this, the majority of school failures are Right Brain Dominant. They are totally misunderstood and often put down by a largely Left Brain teaching staff as being lazy and difficult. They often end up withdrawn or downright disruptive.

Right Brain pupils, especially boys, are sensitive, creative daydreamers who take failure and criticism very badly, unlike their left-brain counterparts who are much less emotionally affected by other peopleís perception of them.

What is Intelligence?

Intelligence is the linking of brain cells (neurones) by connective tissue known as dendrites.  The gaps between the connecting dendrites are known as synapses (the synaptic gap). Everyone is born with 12 to 15 thousand million, brain cells, each cell capable of holding information. But each cell can make up to 100,000 connections to other cells and itís those connections, which effectively make up Intelligence. The more cells which are connected the more information we can work with and the more ideas we can come up with. Effectively the more synapses we have the greater our intelligence. Unfortunately much of our Right Brain creativity is being killed off by an over abundance of Left Brain training at school or by many university courses.

Live Longer

What this means is that everyone on the planet has the same intellectual potential. It means also that there is no such thing as stupidity, only levels of intelligence, all of which can be developed up to the day we die. Indeed, if stupidity exists at all, it exists as a defence mechanism. It also means that age is no barrier to intellectual development. On the contrary, the more we keep our brain active, the longer we are likely to live, i.e. healthy mind, healthy body. To this end The Edinburgh Techniques are about to launch a Thinking Skills programme in late 2005.


Expectations are crucial in any field of development, but especially in education. If you expect something to happen, you are already half way to achieving it. The American psychologist Rosenthal divided a class in two, following a series of class IQ tests. He told the teacher he had divided the class in two halves according to the results, bright on the left, less bright on the right, but not to tell them why they were thus divided and above all, not to treat them differently.

Eight months later the class results of the Ďbrighterí group were up by 30%, even their IQ tests scored higher. Incredible really as Rosenthal had chosen the names for the original lists at random, but because the teacher expected the Ďbrighterí group to do better, as much as she tried, she unwittingly conveyed this message to them over the months following Rosenthal dividing the class. She also conveyed the opposite view to the other half of the class.

For this reason it is crucial that all teachers be made aware of the new research which offers neurological evidence, that all intelligence can be developed. Without question, some of us are natural mathematicians, or musicians or organisers or writers, but all of us can and should develop the weaker parts of our intellect to bring them up to at least average.

Social Conditioning and Lack of Confidence

One major reason for poor academic achievement is the switch from really trying to make the grade, to looking as if you have already made the grade. Weíre talking image building here. Even those who are making the grade as footballers, pop stars etc get caught up in teenage image building where loud mouth and super cool swagger replace reality. A false confidence often bordering on arrogance masks the reality of fear, lack of confidence and low self-esteem. This means individuals never solve their problems therefore never move on because their attitude is, problems? What problems? So how can you begin to solve what isnít (perceived) to be there?

This is all perfectly understandable under the circumstances, but unfortunately by not facing up to the problems of lack of confidence, low self-esteem and poor educational standards, it hinders the progress of intellectual development.

To over come any problem we must first of all recognise that the problem exists. Parents and teachers must find ways of encouraging their children to learn without putting them under unnecessary pressure or trying to terrify them into working. Parents and teachers must find ways of learning how to relax so they donít over-react to their childrenís normal mistakes by shouting and they should never physically hit their children for making mistakes. That is so counter productive.

Parents must continue to stretch their own intellectual potential at every opportunity to lead their children by example. Love, kindness and gentleness should be by words in all schools and homes. All children need that. All children deserve that. You deserve that. You also deserve the joy this new approach will bring to your homes and communities.

Defence Mechanisms

Every Human Being is programmed to learn. Therefore any child who shirks the learning process is doing so because his inner defence mechanisms, over which he has no control, have been set up to protect him from further emotional hurt. They are designed to shield him from the pain of failure, which he is experiencing during the learning process. Let us all adopt these simple concepts:

Failure is OK. Itís part of the Learning Process.


Mistakes are our Best Friends.

The only people who donít fail are those who never try. We learn from our mistakes, pick ourselves up and try again.  And when our students make a mistake letís not be too ready to point it out before first pointing up the part of the answer they have got right e.g. 95% correct, but just a little mistake here, rather than: WRONG! With the emphasis on the mistake and completely ignoring the bits he got right. Letís remember that children are easily hurt. Indeed. Are even we as adults not easily hurt if we look silly in front of others? But whoís perfect? People, especially the young should always be given credit for trying and if they fail they should be encouraged to have another go and helped where possible to succeed next time.

Teachers Fail, not Students

Because everyone can learn and is programmed to do so, anyone who is failing to learn is not being taught properly. If our students arenít picking ideas up, isnít it up to us as educators and/or parents to find another way of presenting the information? Humans arenít machines all programmed exactly the same way. We now know there are numerous learning styles, which we should all become familiar with.

Student failure is a failure of communication between educator and student. Itís the educatorís job to find a way of communicating his information to the student. Accelerated Learning Techniques, which are now available to schools via Classroom Resources in Bristol, can overcome any problems with spelling, tables or reading. We have no excuse for not having the tools to overcome our problems as communicators.

Anxiety Problems

As a therapist in the 70ís and 80ís working in the field of dyslexia and slow learners I soon discovered that all of the students, irrespective of age or background, were being hampered by anxiety or second stage anxiety, tension. I used visualisation to help the under 12ís (The Magic Garden) and hypnosis for the over 12ís (The Study Relaxer). The techniques were not only successful in calming the students down (including stopping bed wetting, nightmares and sleepwalking within days) they also produced dramatic improvements in the learning process.

Modern research shows why. The seat of short-term memory is in the Limbic System, i.e. mid brain. It also controls, among other things, the emotions. When the emotions are upset, the brain switches to fight or flight mode during which time little or no learning can take place until the student is calm again. Fear is the enemy of learning, whether the student is 5 or 55. More frightening is the permanent damage which the stress hormone cortisol can do to the Hippocampus, an integral part of laying down new memories.

Up to 40% of the Hippocampus can be destroyed by prolonged stress

The Edinburgh Techniques

Almost everyone who has learning difficulties is right brain dominant, i.e. big picture thinkers. They prefer to see the big picture first then fill in the details as they go along. Despite the right side of the brain being far more powerful than the left, RB children fall behind at school because they canít pick up on the details of tables and spellings. They appear Ďstupidí whilst often being far more intelligent than their Ďclevererí LB classmates.

The first thing this damages is confidence and self esteem, without which learning is much more difficult. After a short while on this downward spiral, they begin to lose hope and give up. The Edinburgh Techniques, developed in the mid 80ís for children of the rich and famous (as it turned out), are based on Wholebrain Learning which is Right Brain dominant, allowing even 7 year old dyslexics to spell words like Psychiatrist and Encyclopedia in the first session. (Because the technique is visually based, students can also spell the words backwards. That has to be seen to be believed. If anything shows they are not stupid, spelling PSYCHIATRIST backwards does.) The best then go onto learn a technique for the 12 times table (up to 12 x 19) in the same session.

You can imagine what this does for flagging confidence and low self esteem. Suddenly students see a way forward and are keen to learn more. The techniques cover all aspects of learning and include 2 Relaxation CDs, the Magic Garden for the under 12s and the Study Relaxer for 12 and over. A written version of the Garden is now available in 6 languages. Dutch and Turkish will be added in March 2005.

The techniques can be viewed and downloaded at:


Every one of us has the same intellectual potential, but not the same Intellectual abilities. I can give a speech in front of thousands of people from only a few notes and keep the audience interested and amused for 2 or 3 hours. I can organise and run political campaigns with ease. I have a good grasp of BIG subjects like politics and psychology but I am slow at learning languages and other detailed subject matter. Engineering and maths beyond 10th grade leave me cold. Many of you reading this will say no, maths is easy, itís logical. You can check your work. There are guidelines. I donít know how you can work with such amorphous subjects like politics and psychology.

The reason for the differences are the way our intelligences link up and whether we are right hemisphere dominant or left, people orientated or fact orientated.

Two important facts to bear in mind are these:

One: It is never too late to take up or resume learning. All learning makes the brain progressively better.

Two: Information in itself is not intelligence. Intelligence is the use of information not the gathering of it.

Finally. As we move through the 21st century change will become even faster and more complicated. We must always be ready to move with the times. No generation in history is right about everything. Even the most deeply held beliefs of past generations have been found to be ridiculous. Spare the rod and spoil the child belongs in the 19th century and has no place in a modern society. If we canít lead our children to the Promised Land we certainly arenít going to be able to beat them into it. Letís take off the pressure. Letís encourage and applaud effort. Letís try and be more understanding about the difficulties of our students. Letís remember to accentuate the positives, not the negatives and we will all be amazed and delighted with the results.

Brian Hill MA (Edin) is an Educationalist, formerly at the Edinburgh Centre for Accelerated Learning and the Stress Management Centre in Harley Street, London. He is a specialist in Accelerated Learning and Stress Management.

In the 80ís he developed a range of Whole-brain Learning Techniques to help dyslexics and slow learners who came to his Centre from all over the UK. In the mid 90ís he wrote the Techniques up and they have been selling ever since over the Net. From 1997 to Dec 2004 he licensed Classroom Resources to sell his Techniques throughout UK schools.

Those techniques and more can now be downloaded from the new website:

For further information about points in this article please email Brian on  or ring:  0066 90 550 414

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