Reading skill requires well-trained multilevel networks

Parsing four clauses, and forming connections, illustrating some component networks of reading skill

Parsing four clauses, and forming connections

Working memory keeps new information active for one to two seconds while it carries out the appropriate processes.

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for recognizing words

The most fundamental requirement for fluent reading comprehension is rapid and automatic word recognition… Amazing as it may seem, fluent readers can actually focus on a word and recognise it in less than a tenth of a second… Thus, four to five words per second even allows good readers time for other processing operations. Both rapid processing and automaticity in word recognition (for a large number of words) typically require thousands of hours of practice in reading.

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for parsing syntax

In addition to word recognition, a fluent reader is able to take in and store words together so that basic grammatical information can be extracted… to support clause-level meaning. Syntactic parsing helps to disambiguate the meanings of words that have multiple meanings out of context (e.g. bank, cut, drop).

Reading skill requires well-trained networks for assembling clauses

A third basic process that starts up automatically as we begin any reading task is the process of combining word meanings and structural information into basic clause-level meaning units (semantic proposition formation). Words that are recognised and kept active for one to two seconds, along with grammatical cueing, give the fluent reader time to integrate information in a way that makes sense in relation to what has been read before. As meaning elements are introduced and then connected, they become more active in memory and become central ideas if they are repeated or reactivated multiple times. Each semantic proposition reflects the key elements of the input (word and structure) and also highlights linkages across important units (in this case, verbs), where relevant. Semantic propositions are formed in this way and a propositional network of text meaning is created.

Reading skill requires forming networks connecting text

As clause-level meaning units are formed (drawing on information from syntactic parsing and semantic proposition formation), they are added to a growing network of ideas from the text. The new clauses may be hooked into the network in a number of ways: through the repetition of an idea, event, object or character; by reference to the same thing, but in different words; and through simple inferences that create a way to link a new meaning unit to the appropriate places in the network… As the reader continues processing text information, and new meaning units are added, those ideas that are used repeatedly and that form usable linkages to other information begin to be viewed as the main ideas of the text… they become, and remain, more active in the network. Ideas that do not play any further roles in connecting new information…, or that do not support connecting inferences, lose their activity quickly and fade from the network. In this way, less important ideas tend to get pruned from the network, and only the more useful and important ideas remain active.

Reading skill requires forming networks summarizing ideas

As the reader continues to build an understanding of the text, the set of main ideas that the reader forms is the text model of comprehension. The text model amounts to an internal summary of main ideas… Background knowledge… plays a supporting role and helps the reader anticipate the discourse organisation of the text…

Reading skill requires forming networks modeling narratives

At the same time…, the reader begins to project a likely direction that the reading will take. This reader interpretation (the situation model of reader interpretation) is built on and around the emerging text model. The ability of fluent readers to integrate text and background information appropriately and efficiently is the hallmark of expert reading in a topical domain (e.g. history, biology, psychology).

Reading skill requires controlling attention

…we know that an executive control processor (or monitor) represents the way that we focus selective attention while comprehending, assess our understanding of a text and evaluate our success. Our evaluation of how well we comprehend the text is dependent on an executive control processor.

Reading skill compacts multilevel information into working memory

…the many processes described here all occur in working memory, and they happen very quickly… Roughly, in each and every two seconds of reading, fluent readers:

  1. focus on and access eight to ten word meanings
  2. parse a clause for information and form a meaning unit
  3. figure out how to connect a new meaning unit into the growing text model
  4. check interpretation of the information according to their purposes, feelings, attitudes and background expectations, as needed
  5. monitor their comprehension, make appropriate inferences as needed, shift strategies and repair misunderstanding, as needed
  6. resolve ambiguities, address difficulties and critique text information, as needed [1]

  1. Grabe, William Peter, and Fredricka L. Stoller. Teaching and researching reading. 2nd ed., Routledge, 2011, pp. 13-23.

Industrial basic research brings practical problems to strong networks

Industrial basic research and industrial total R&D was performed in a few sectors by a few companies in the US in 1984

Industrial basic research and industrial total R&D was performed in a few sectors by a few companies in the US in 1984 [1, 2]

Industrial basic research plugs industry networks into universities

Most basic research in the United States is conducted within the university community, but in order to “plug in” to these research centers and to exploit the knowledge that is generated there, a firm must have some in-house capability. The most effective way to remain effectively plugged in to the scientific network is to be a participant in the research process.

When basic research in industry is isolated from the rest of the firm, whether organizationally or geographically, it is likely to become sterile and unproductive.

The history of basic research in industry suggests that it is likely to be most effective when it is highly interactive with the work, or the concerns, of applied scientists and engineers. This is because the high technology industries are continually throwing up problems, difficulties and anomalous observations that are most unlikely to occur outside of a high technology context.

High technology industries provide a unique vantage point for the conduct of basic research, but in order for scientists to exploit the potential of the industrial environment it is necessary to create opportunities and incentives for interaction with other components of the industrial world. …the performance of basic research may be thought of as a ticket of admission to an information network.

Industrial basic research often is the unplanned byproduct of paying talented people to work on great practical problems

…the history of basic research in… industry suggests that a very large part of this research has been unintentional.

…if… Sadi Carnot… had been asked… what he thought he was doing, his answer would have been that he was trying to improve the efficiency of steam engines. As a byproduct of that particular practical interest, he created the modern science of thermodynamics.

If Pasteur had been asked what he thought he was doing back around 1870, he would have replied that he was trying to solve some very practical problems connected with fermentation and putrefaction in the French wine industry. He solved those practical problems – but along the way he invented the modern science of bacteriology.

Industrial basic research at Bell Labs, for example, started with practical problems and ended up producing scientific advances

Back at the end of the 1920s when transatlantic radiotelephone service was first established, the service was poor because there was lots of static. Bell Labs asked a young man, Karl Jansky, to determine the source of the noise so that it could be reduced or eliminated. He was given a rotatable antenna to work with. Jansky published a paper in 1932 in which he reported three sources of noise: Local thunderstorms, more distant thunderstorms, and a third source. which he identified as “a steady hiss static, the origin of which is not known”. It was this “star noise”, as he labelled it, which marked the birth of radio astronomy…

…Bell Labs decided to support basic research in astrophysics because of its relationship to the whole field of problems and possibilities in microwave transmission, and especially the use of communication satellites for such purposes. It turned out that, at very high frequencies, rain and other atmospheric conditions became major sources of interference in transmission. This source of signal loss was a continuing concern in the development of satellite communications. It was out of such practical concerns that Bell Labs decided to employ Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson. Penzias and Wilson… first observed the cosmic background radiation, which is now taken as confirmation of the “big bang” theory of the formation of the universe, while they were attempting to identify and measure the various sources of noise in their antenna and in the atmosphere. Although Penzias and Wilson did not know it at the time, the character of the background radiation that they discovered was just what had been postulated earlier by cosmologists favoring the “big bang” theory. Penzias and Wilson appropriately shared a Nobel Prize for this finding.

Industrial basic research at Bell Labs also started with practical problems and ended up producing practical advances

…basic research can provide valuable guidance to the directions in which there is a high probability of payoffs to more applied research. In this sense, William Shockley’s education in solid state physics during the 1930s may have been critical to the decision at Bell Labs to look for a substitute for the vacuum tube in the realm of semiconductor materials – a search that led directly to the invention of the transistor.[2]

  1. National Science Foundation. National Patterns of Science and Technology Resources 1986. NSF 86-309. 1986, pp. 59, 56.
  2. Rosenberg, Nathan. “Why Do Firms Do Basic Research (with Their Own Money)?” Research Policy 19.2: 165-174.

Serving customers best requires radical innovation

Paths from market orientation to new product success illustrate that serving customers best requires radical innovationThree market orientation–learning style–innovation–new product success paths.

Market orientation is expected to be positively related to generative learning (1)
and negatively related to gleaning (3)
but is not expected to be related to adaptive learning (2)…

Serving customers best still takes incremental innovation

…market orientation may be characterized as ‘‘ pervasive commitment to a set of processes, beliefs, and values reflecting the philosophy that all decisions start with the customer and are guided by a deep and shared understanding of customers’ needs and behavior, and competitors’ capabilities and intentions, for the purpose of realizing superior performance by satisfying customers better than competitors’’…

Although market-oriented firms are expected to be adept at adaptive learning inspired incremental innovation,… it is expected that this will also be true of most firms regardless of their market orientation.

Typically, innovation takes the form of brand or line extensions, modifications to existing products, or repositionings. There is a comfort to the learning and innovation that takes place in this mode because organizational members are not questioning the successes of the past. They are merely improving on them.

Although the results show that this type of innovation is the most common and least variable in the sample of firms, they also show that it is not related to market orientation. Incremental innovation was the most common form of innovation in firms. The priority firms place on it, however, was not related to new product success.

Serving customers best requires more radical innovation, and less imitation

In general, radical innovations have greater value to firms than incremental innovations, particularly when radical innovators have deep pockets and strong market power… New product concepts have greater value than line extensions… and technological breakthroughs are more profitable than incremental improvements… [Researchers] reported… product advantage and product innovativeness—two correlates of radical innovation—to be strongly related to new product success. Radical innovation priority was positively related to new product success; imitation priority was negatively related to new product success.

Market orientation had a direct positive relationship with new product success. Market orientation also had a positive indirect influence on new product success through generative-learning-inspired radical innovation and a negative indirect influence on new product success through gleaning-inspired imitation. Market orientation had no influence on firms’ adaptive learning priority or incremental innovation priority.

Overall, the results suggest that market orientation shifts the weight of a firms innovation programs away from imitation toward a balance between incremental and radical innovation.

Relative priorities of firms by market orientation, showing that serving customers best requires radical innovation

Serving customers best requires new learning and experimenting

Maximal long-term success requires a two-pronged innovation strategy.

In the short run, firms must remain competitive and alluring by engaging in incremental improvements that appeal to their customer base. These types of innovations can be discovered and prioritized by talking to customers and by monitoring competitors through traditional marketing research and intelligence activities.

In the long run, however, the most successful firms accompany adaptive modifications to the marketing mix with framebreaking initiatives. …long-term market leaders must innovate relentlessly and must be willing to cannibalize their own products to maintain their leadership position. These initiatives must be proactive and planned and must encourage employees to be selectively destructive (e.g., to identify and undo the obsolete). Although short-run incremental innovation programs can be linked explicitly to deadlines, budgets and outcome measures (e.g., ROI), longer-run destructive programs are not likely to produce results in a linear manner. As a result, they may best be pursued offline.

…a strong market orientation appears to be a key to the ability of firms to balance incremental and radical innovation programs. Prior research has also identified learning orientation as a key element of this process.

Managers should strive to improve their market and learning orientations by diagnosing their performance on each and benchmarking progress relative to exemplar firms.

In addition, long-run radical innovation requires firms to foster the motivation, opportunity, and ability to implement change…; in other word culture is key…

  • Motivation can be instilled by a reward system that makes experimentation and failure psychologically safe and the maintenance of the status quo psychologically unsafe.
  • Opportunity requires that employees be given the money, time, and voice to engage in change related behaviors.
  • Ability requires firms to hire the right type of people: ‘‘Individuals with low needs for uncertainty avoidance, high tolerance for ambiguity and the lust to experiment should be recruited for decision-makers’’…

  1. Baker, William E., and James M. Sinkula. “Does market orientation facilitate balanced innovation programs? An organizational learning perspective.” Journal of product innovation management 24.4 (2007): 316-334.

Touch in infancy and adolescence teaches our brain networks what we value

Brain networks have patternmatching layers that make predictions and sense prediction errors. The anatomy shown here for vision has a counterpart for touch.

…the hierarchical neuronal message passing that underlies predictive coding.

…neuronal activity encodes expectations about the causes of sensory input, where these expectations minimize prediction error. Prediction error is the difference between (ascending) sensory input and (descending) predictions of that input.

On the left: this schematic shows a simple cortical hierarchy with ascending prediction errors and descending predictions.

On the right: this provides a schematic example in the visual system.[1]

Touch is crucial to emotion

Affective touch may… convey information about available social resources…[2]

interoception… refers to the perception and integration of autonomic, hormonal, visceral and immunological signals…—or more informally as the sense of the body ‘from within’.

…we propose that emotional content is determined by beliefs (i.e. posterior expectations) about the causes of interoceptive signals across multiple hierarchical levels.

Emotion produces conscious experience

It is tempting to speculate that deep expectations at higher levels of the neuronal hierarchy are candidates for—or correlates of—conscious experience, largely because their predictions are domain general and can therefore be articulated (through autonomic or motor reflexes).

…interoceptive predictions can perform physiological homoeostasis by enlisting autonomic reflexes… More specifically, descending predictions provide a homoeostatic set-point against which primary (interoceptive) afferents can be compared. The resulting prediction error then drives sympathetic or parasympathetic effector systems to ensure homoeostasis or allostasis, for example, sympathetic smooth-muscle vasodilatation as a reflexive response to the predicted interoceptive consequences of ‘blushing with embarrassment’.

Touch is central to selfhood and boundaries

…experiences of selfhood unfold across many partially independent and partially overlapping levels of description… A simple classification, from ‘low’ to ‘high’ levels, would range

  • from experiences of being and having a body…,
  • through to the experience of perceiving the world from a particular point of view (a first person perspective, …),
  • to experiences of intention and agency…,
  • and at higher levels the experience of being a continuous self over time (a ‘narrative’ self or ‘I’ that depends on episodic autobiographical memory,… )
  • and finally, a social self, in which my experience of being ‘me’ is shaped by how I perceive others’ perceptions of me…

In this putative classification, interoception plays a key role in structuring experiences of ‘being and having a body’ (i.e. embodied selfhood) and may also shape selfhood at other, hierarchically higher levels.[1]

The emotions we feel are largely predictions based on past experiences

…interoceptive inference involves hierarchically cascading top-down interoceptive predictions that counterflow with bottom-up interoceptive prediction errors. Subjective feeling states – experienced emotions – are hypothesized to depend on the integrated content of these predictive representations across multiple levels…[3]

Intuition suggests that perception follows sensation and therefore bodily feelings originate in the body. However, recent evidence goes against this logic: interoceptive experience may largely reflect limbic predictions about the expected state of the body that are constrained by ascending visceral sensations.[4]

Reward and motivation are predicted, based on emotions that are predicted, based on touch that was experienced previously

Reward is a complex construct comprised of a feeling and an action. Components of reward include the hedonic aspects, i.e. the degree to which a stimulus is associated with pleasure, and the incentive motivational aspects, i.e. the degree to which a stimulus induces an action towards obtaining it… Typically, the feeling is described as “pleasurable” or “positive” and the actions comprise behavior aimed to approach the stimulus that is associated with reward.[5]

…the representation of self is constructed from early development through continuous integrative representation of biological data from the body, to form the basis for those aspects of conscious awareness grounded on the subjective sense of being a unique individual.

Interoception refers to the sensing of the internal state of one’s body. …interoception… is proposed to be fundamental to motivation, emotion (affective feelings and behaviours), social cognition and self-awareness.[6]

  1. Seth, Anil K., and Karl J. Friston. “Active interoceptive inference and the emotional brain.”  Trans. R. Soc. B 371.1708 (2016): 20160007.
  2. Krahé, Charlotte, et al. “Affective touch and attachment style modulate pain: a laser-evoked potentials study.”  Trans. R. Soc. B 371.1708 (2016): 20160009.
  3. Seth, Anil K. “Interoceptive inference, emotion, and the embodied self.” Trends in cognitive sciences 17.11 (2013): 565-573.
  4. Barrett, Lisa Feldman, and W. Kyle Simmons. “Interoceptive predictions in the brain.” Nature Reviews Neuroscience 16.7 (2015): 419-429.
  5. Paulus, Martin P., and Jennifer L. Stewart. “Interoception and drug addiction.” Neuropharmacology 76 (2014): 342-350.
  6. Tsakiris, Manos, and Hugo Critchley. “Interoception beyond homeostasis: affect, cognition and mental health.Philosophical Transactions B: Biological Sciences 371.1708 (2016): 20160002.

English-language networks bring a better quality of life

Per-capita income vs. English Proficiency Index score, showing rising impact of English-language networks







Low Moderate High


Where English skills are very high (where EF EPI Scores are 63.2 or higher), per-capita income jumps above the trend line, or well above.

English-language networks open up research

English serves as a bridge that connects employees across countries and cultures, weaving networks for innovation.

By a wide margin, researchers in the United States publish the most scientific papers every year, and the United Kingdom ranks third in publication numbers, after China. However,… Chinese research accounts for only 4% of global citations in science publications, compared to 30% for the U.S. and 8% for the U.K. …Chinese research is less integrated into the global knowledge economy.

English skills allow innovators to read primary scientific research, form international collaborations, bring in talent from overseas, and participate in conferences. English proficiency expands the number of connections innovators can make with the ideas and people they need to generate original work.

English-language networks open up business

English spread as a language of international trade and diplomacy first under the British Empire, and then during the postwar economic expansion of the United States.

An increasing number of companies headquartered in non-English-speaking countries (e.g., Rakuten, Renault, and Samsung) have adopted English as their corporate language.

Networks bring better salaries and quality of life

An improvement in English proficiency is tied to a rise in salaries… In many countries, higher English proficiency correlates with a lower unemployment rate among young people.

The Human Development Index measures education attainment, life expectancy, literacy, and standards of living. …all High and Very High Proficiency countries are rated “Very High Human Development” on the HDI.

…English is a core skill today. …it should be taught and tested at a level equivalent to native language reading and math skills.

EF EPI methodology

The data for this sixth edition was calculated using results from 950,000 test takers who completed three different EF English tests in 2015. Two tests are open to any Internet user for free. The third is an online placement test used by EF during the enrollment process for English courses.[1]

  1. EF EPI: EF English Proficiency Index. 6th ed., Education First, 2016.