21 Jul Georgi Lozanov’s theory of suggestion in its relation to human potential
SEÇIL BESLER TÜRKÖZ
Within the framework of debates on human potential, this study aims to discuss Georgi Lozanov’s theory of suggestion in its relation to human potential. Lozanov, as a believer of profound human potential, argued that suggestion, that is, environmental influences, including weak signals, can have immense effects on human potential and reserves of the mind/brain can be revealed in everyone on the condition that appropriate methods and carefully prepared and stimulating environmental conditions are provided. Through his lengthy interdisciplinary investigations into psychotherapy and neuroscience, he developed a value-laden education system known as Suggestopedia/Reservopedia, based on his conception of suggestion and findings of modern science.
This study argues that Lozanov’s theory of suggestion can help us expand our vision of what counts as human potential by defying all limiting beliefs regarding our capacities and how our understanding of human potential can affect our educational outcomes. It also contends that an educationalphilosophy lacking Lozanov’s conception of suggestion will be misleading considering suggestion one aspect of human nature. Therefore, understanding Lozanov’s theory of suggestion in its many dimensions, particularly its emphasis on love, respect and care for human beings, is essential to adopt an affirmative language for human potential, hence a more humane and egalitarian worldview.
Key words: Lozanov, suggestion, human potential, philosophy of education
1.Human Nature and Potential
Unending debates concerning human potential have held the stage since antiquity. As Scheffler (1985:10) states, “the notion of potential is not only a hoary metaphysical idea that has come down to us from ancient Greek philosophy, it is also widely operative in the thinking of parents, educators, planners and policymakers in the contemporary world.” It seems that this debate has been embedded in the so-called nativism-empiricism or nature-nurture dichotomy in philosophical and psychological worlds.
Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines nativism as the theory that “concepts, mental capacities, and mental structures are innate rather than acquired by learning.” On the other hand, OED defines empiricism as the theory that “all knowledge is based on experience derived from the senses. Stimulated by the rise of experimental science, it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, expounded in particular by John Locke, George Berkeley, and David Hume” (OED). Keller (2010) states that what is meant by nature and nurture is not clear, and it is sometimes the distinction between what is born (nature) and what is acquired after birth (nurture). Notably, the principal question here which is more significant determining who we are, our innate traits, genes, or our immediate and cultural environment.
The response to the above question is of significance due to its implications for educational policy and decision making. “If nature is more influential than nurture in forming human individuals and societies, it seemed there would be much less possibility than many social theorists had liked to think of improving individuals and society by education, social programs, and political change” (Stevenson et al., 2018:271). However, according to recent studies, neither nature nor nurture is adequate to produce a given trait. “It should be obvious that nature and nurture are not mutually exclusive. It does not make sense to ask whether human beings are a product of nature or nurture. Obviously, the answer is both” (Prinz, 2012:6). One remarkable explanation came from Ridley (2003) when he asserts that our behaviours are not confined to our genes; instead, they enable us to behave in different directions given the environmental conditions. It is no longer nature versus nurture but nature via nurture.
At this point, it is important to note that recent findings in epigenetics (the study of how environmental factors structurally alter DNA), brain research and sociology have confirmed the flexibility of human development. “There exists today a notion held by a range of actors that bioscientific research on epigenetics is generating new insights into the molecular mechanisms through which the social and physical environment impact upon the bodies of humans and other animals” (Pickersgill, 2020:73). The concept of neuroplasticity in brain sciences, referring to “the capacity of our brains to change based on either external or internal influences” (Jensen & McConchie, 2020:77) implies that “whatever way a person needs to learn, grow, or heal, it is possible. Whether it be a skill, a content area, or a self-regulation toolkit, it can be learned” (Jensen & McConchie, 2020:83). The theory of the connectome, that is, the totality of connections between neurons in a nervous system, also bears an optimistic message about the flexibility of the human brain. It assumes that any kind of personal change is about connections in the brain, that is, our connectome (Seung, 2012). Beside these, three important projects by the name of The Perry Preschool Project, the Abecedarian Project, the Nurse-Family Partnershiprevealed that contrary to the views of genetic determinists -those who ascribe predestiny to the genes- “intervening early can produce positive and lasting effects on children in disadvantaged families” (Heckman 2013:5). It follows, then, that whatever differences may initially seem between individuals, organizing the environment can play a significant role in improving individuals’ performance; therefore, it is highly likely to make meaningful changes in educational outcomes for all.
However, given the robust evidence of the effects of the environmental factors on human beings, “not just the physical environment but also the biotic and social environments” (Wedell et al., 2019:245),“nativism still plays a role in shaping education policy, and practice and many teachers subscribe to an informal nativism, viewing some students as bright and others as lacking in ability. Notably, the influential philosophers of education from the Ancient Greeks to the present day have endorsed versions of nativism” (Marley-Payne, 2021: 144). Therefore, within this context, some crucial figures, who expressed their views on human or endeavoured to explore human nature, warrant a closer look due to their historical importance.
The origins of the general usage of the terms nature and nurture can be traced back to Greek philosophy (Royle et al., 2019:131). Plato, one of the first defenders of innate ideas, believed that we come to the world equipped with an understanding of ideas of love, religion, morals, mathematics and many complex domains of inquiry (Prinz, 2012:8). In his ideal state described in The Republic, Plato (427-347 B.C.) divided people into three categories: gold, silver and bronze, thereby attributed differences between the social classes to nature, that is, to differences in innate capacities. He wrote in The Republic (1991:94): The God, in fashioning those of you who are competent to rule, mixed gold in at their birth; this is why they are most honoured; in auxiliaries, silver; and iron and bronze in the farmers and the other craftsmen. The class structure of Plato’s ideal society is created (and rationalized) by an educational theory based on the ideas of in-built potential and meritocracy (Burbules, 2018:1417). The point here is that Plato attempts to establish a correlation between the social structure and intellectual capacities of individuals.
Plato’s student Aristotle (384-322 BC), who was influential until the end of the Middle Ages, echoed his teacher Plato’s idea of social inequality regarding the intellectual capacities of individuals. He wrote in his Politics (1959:3): Those then who think that the natures of the statesman, the royal ruler, the head of an estate and the master of a family are the same, are mistaken. Nevertheless, Aristotle challenged Plato’s innate ideas and asserted that experience is the source of all knowledge (Prinz, 2012).
In the Middle Ages, Augustine’s theology, which finds its typical expression in the idea of Original Sin, exerted its influence. According to this view, all humans have inherited a sin nature from Adam “an infection which propagates itself from father to son through the act of generation, which being an act of organic trouble caused by sin, is sin itself and determines the transmission ipso facto of the sin to the new creature” (Cohon,1948:293). Nothing we can do by ourselves can reconcile us to God. Mired in original sin, we cannot free ourselves from it by our own efforts. Only God’s free action, his unmerited grace, can save us (Stevenson et al., 2018:157). Niebuhr (1949:118) states that original sin infects all human culture. Its essence is man’s unwillingness to acknowledge his finiteness.
From the mid-seventeenth century onward, in the Enlightenment, science was seen as the only way to understand human as well as solving the problems of humanity (Stevenson et al., 2018). This new modern era was characterized by an awareness and trust in humanity’s own capacities, reason and hope for human life in the world (Livingston, 2006). In this era, the notion of the malleability of human nature emerged, “which asserts that the nature of men depends upon the nature of the societies in which they have their existence” (Mandelbaum, 1971:171).
Rene Descartes (1596-1650), considered the father of modern philosophy, emphasized the rational aspect of human nature. Believing in innate ideas, Descartes argued that “what people call good sense or reason is naturally equal in all men, and that the diversity of our opinions does not arise from the fact that some people are more reasonable than others, but solely from the fact that we lead our thoughts along different paths and do not take the same things into consideration (1998:1). This means that Descartes, different from Plato and Aristotle, emphasizes the equality of reason shared by all humans.
The reactions to Descartes innate ideas came from the British empiricists. As Cassirer (2004:100) states, “they (empiricist) want to do away with the distinction between internal and external experience and reduce all human knowledge to a single source.” This source is experience. John Locke (1632-1704), attacking the doctrine of innate ideas, believed in the flexibility of human nature. Locke’s tabula rasa, or blank slate view, expressed that human behavioural traits are determined by the nurture (environment) experienced during growth and development (Royle & Moore, 2019:131). Additionally, in his Two Treatise of Government and A Letter Concerning Toleration Locke (2003:101) wrote: Creatures of the same species and rank, promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same faculties should also be equal one amongst another without subordination or subjection. It appears, to Locke, then, equality is the natural state of nature, and differences probably result from the environmental conditions of individuals in which they live.
Another influential philosopher of the Enlightenment epoch deserving attention is Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), who achieved an original synthesis of rationalism and empiricism. Though aware of the dark side of human nature, he believed in the potential for reason to improve the human condition (Stevenson et al., 2018: 171). Kant described human as a rational being and thought that culture develops this nature from brutishness and lawlessness into a state that enables the moral stance. Thus, culture is the way human nature must be developed in order to be able to meet the demands of practical reason (Huggler, 2012:95). Kant (2003) wrote On Education man is the only being who needs education and man can only become man by education. To him, education means nurture (the tending and feeding of the child), discipline (Zucht), and teaching, together with culture. Kant (2003) also argued that there are many germs lying undeveloped in man; therefore, through education we need to make these germs grow.
In the nineteenth century, measuring and quantifying individual differences through scientific methods became widespread. However, the claims concerning human nature are as questionable as the older theories as they include value judgements (Stevenson et al, 2018) because leading intellectuals have assured the general public that modern science revealed that there are innate racial and individual differences in capacity (Lewontin, 1995). Within this century, Charles Darwin (1809-1882) arose an interest in human differences and their inheritance, and he “proposed that many of the traits observed in nature evolved through a process of natural selection. Traits would appear by random mutation, and those that increased the prospects for survival were most likely to be passed on. Darwin believed that some human psychological traits might be explained along the same lines (Prinze, 2012: 9). For the early Darwinians, the idea of perfectible man had been swamped by the central lesson of the new biology -that all creatures operated within the scope permitted by their structure. For man, the scope might be great, even vastly greater than other animals, but limitless it was not (Hernnstein, 1973:4).
Following in the steps of Darwin, the first to apply empirical methods in studying the inheritance of mental ability was Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton (1822-1911). Galton, popularizing the phrase nature-nurture (Prinz, 2012), in his book, Hereditary Genius, claimed that humans differ in their intellectual capacity and genius was hereditary; therefore, nurture did not affect one’s status in life. Galton also shared Platon’s idea that the state should prevent “inferior” humans being born (negative eugenics), and encourage the production of “superior” types of people (positive eugenics) (Stevenson et al., 2018:257). As Prinze (2012:59) notes in the climate of the nineteenth century, with scientific racism and a growing underclass of factory labourers, this idea had strong appeal. One problem, however, is that there was no reliable method of measuring intelligence, so the hypothesis could not be put to the test. Prinz (2012) adds that it changed when Alfred Binet and Theophile Simon developed an intelligence test, and the concept of an intelligence quotient, or I.Q., was born.
The first half of the twentieth century was the twilight of a science era when everything had to be counted, including human intelligence (Bryant & Brown, 2021:39). A critical figure in this era was Cyril Burt (1883-1971), influenced by Galton and his eugenic movement, argued that intelligence is innate and social class differences stem from heredity. Burt (1969:77) asserted that “if by intelligence we mean a genetic characteristic of the fertilized ovum from which a given individual develops, then, by definition, its amount is fixed, no matter how he actually develops it as he grows up.” Criticizing extreme environmentalism, Burt (1969) believed that the differences in home and school conditions had no effect on intelligence. Alongside this, he (1969: 92) argued that the paramount need is not equality of educational opportunity, but diversity. According to his own innate potentialities, each child should, in an ideal system, be provided with the peculiar types of opportunity that can best minister to his needs.
In the twentieth century, one remarkable debate between innateness and environment appeared in the work of Noam Chomsky (1928) and B.F. Skinner (1904-1990). Skinner in his 1957 book Verbal Behavior, proposed to show that all human speech can be explained in terms of the conditioning of children in their early social environment, namely the speech of surrounding humans and their reactions to babbling by the infant (Stevenson et al., 2018:268). Skinner rejecting innate ideas, believed that the environment has a profound effect in shaping the behaviours:
“People are extraordinarily different in different places, and possibly just because of the places. The nomad on horseback in Outer Mongolia and the astronaut in outer space are different people, but as far as we know, if they had been exchanged at birth, they would have taken each other’s place. The expression “change places” shows how closely we identify a person’s behaviour with the environment in which it occurs” (Skinner:181).
In contrast to Skinner, Chomsky (2006:84) believes, just as did Kant, that a “pure” science of innate forms of human thought, independent of all experience, is possible. He also asserted that “the amazing speed with which children learn their native language from exposure to a very limited and imperfect sample can be explained only by the assumption that there is in the human species an innate capacity to process language according to grammatical rules of the special kind common to all human languages” (Stevenson et al., 2018: 269).
In the 1970s, the debate over human potential began between Arthur Jensen (1923-2012) and Richard Lewontin (1929). Jensen, influenced by Galton, argued that there is a significant genetic component to intelligence and environmental factors lead to a minor portion of differences among individuals. In his Educability and Group Differences, questioning the egalitarian environmentalism, Jensen (1973:4) wrote,
“A largely genetic explanation of the evidence on racial and social group differences in educational performance is in a stronger position scientifically than those explanations which postulate the absence of any genetic differences in mental traits and ascribe all behavioural variation between groups to cultural differences, social discrimination, and inequalities of opportunity -a view that has long been orthodox in the social sciences and in education.”
Yet, Lewontin et al., (1984:267), disagreeing with Jensen wrote: We do assert that we cannot think of any significant human social behaviour that is built into our genes in such a way that it cannot be modified and shaped by social conditioning. Criticizing Darwin’s idea that organisms were acted upon by their environment, Lewontin (1995) stated organisms are not passive agents living in isolation from their environment; therefore, Nature – love it or leave it is incorrect. Variations among individuals could be ascribed not only to the genes inherited from parents but also to the environment in a constant interaction.
Similar to Chomsky, Edward Wilson argued that the human mind is innately structured to make combinations of words in certain arrangements and not others. It is a misconception, he claims, that social behaviour can be shaped into any form, as man is not the creation of his culture as some theorists assumed, culture makes the man formula might go makes culture makes man, that is, culture is mainly influenced by the inborn traits of human nature (Wilson, 2004). Combining Darwinian evolution, the biochemical understanding of genes and the study of innate capacities, Wilson applied it to the study of human nature in his book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, which was attacked by his colleagues Lewontin and Stephen Jay Gould (Stevenson et al., 2018). There was a strong feeling that in emphasizing the biological factors in human life and apparently neglecting the role of culture, Wilson was giving (presumably unintentional) aid and comfort to reactionary tendencies in American society (Stevenson et al., 2018:271).
Another influential scientist of the twentieth century is Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002), who stated that different behaviours among human populations usually reside in the nongenetic products of cultural evolution; they are not consequences of biological variation. Culture exerts power on nature, and human uniqueness is in the brain, which is also the biological foundation of intelligence (Gould,1996). Gould also strongly argued for human equality; inequalities must have been socially constructed. Additionally, he found the intelligence testing dangerous as it justifies inequality between individuals (Prindle, 2006).
As for Richard Hernnstein (1930-1994), a student of Skinner and a former environmentalist, after studying the intelligence testing, convinced that individuals differ in terms of their mental functioning as a result of their inherited genetic endowment. He focused on the study of genetic differences among humans and stated that what interested him was not race but individual and social class differences (Hernnstein, 1973). Rejecting the idea that humans are equal Hernnstein (1973:59) explains:
“The false belief in human equality leads to rigid, inflexible expectations, often doomed to frustration, thence to anger. Evermore shrilly, we call on our educational and social institutions to make everyone the same, when we should instead be trying to mold our institutions around the inescapable limitations and varieties of human ability”.
As far as the above-mentioned claims are concerned, it appears that they have provided insights into what counts as being human and human potential throughout the ages. Given the continuum of educational theories from the assumption of fixed, innate intellectual capacities, which education has a very little effect, to the assumption that human is flexible and education has immense effects so much so that it can reveal human potential, that educators are aware of such views is of utmost significance so that they can understand their role in how to make an impact on their student’s potential. To reiterate, the view of innate abilities, that is, human potential or intelligence resides in the nature of the gene itself, offers less possibility to improve human potential through education. As Scheffler (1985:93) maintains that the traditional myths indeed reflect an ancient view of society fixed in design and functions- meant to arrest rather than to open possibilities of change and choice.
Within the twentieth century, there appeared one seminal work, which, to my conviction, seemed to have answered the problem of human potential better than it has been answered before: Georgi Lozanov, similar to many of his contemporaries working in the realm of human capacities, drawn his own empirical conclusions, also confirmed by the UNESCO. In the light of the above-mentioned claims concerning human potential, Lozanov’s theory of potential, originally embedded in his theory of suggestion can be chronologically placed at the end of major theses on human potential. Hence, to understand his ideas on human potential, his theory of suggestion must be introduced.
2.Lozanov’s Conception of Suggestion and Its Implications for Human Potential
Lozanov, as a believer of immense human capacities from an egalitarian and humanist standpoint, believed that each individual regardless of race, social class or gender has hidden potential that has not been released so far due to the influence of negative suggestions from the society. According to Georgi Lozanov (1926-2012), the human individual as a psychosomatic entity is a product of the natural and social environment. It is impossible to regard the individual outside his environment, the social environment where he grows up and develops. The biological heritage is moulded, directed and rebuilt under the conditions of the social environment (Lozanov,1978:33). Given the discussions concerning human potential above, it is likely to argue that Lozanov is on the side of nature via nurture argument, which is also congruent with the findings of modern science. Therefore, he drew his attention to explore even subtle effects of the environment on individuals, which has been mostly neglected in the realm of education.
Lozanov warned us against widespread beliefs, carrying negative messages concerning human potential as “the limitations in our intellectual capacity are most often suggestive due to the suggestive influence of the society which does not stimulate our development” (Lozanov, 2009:43). To Lozanov, yet, most people seldom question social suggestive norms regarding their capacities and thereby their potential becomes determined by the value system of the society. In other words, due to the influence of negative suggestions, individuals believe that they are made that way. Lozanov (2009:117,1978b:14) explains:
“We are all neurotically ill, under society’s psychotraumatic suggestion that our abilities limited to their current state. We do not believe that it is possible to increase our memorization, to accelerate our creative development, to have more self-control both over our mental and physiological functions. The social suggestive norm teaches us that it is impossible and it contains a note of warning not to attempt it. And if it really happens, somewhere it is considered to be a miracle, an exception or a falsification.”
Lozanov maintains that the existing education system does not allow students to attain their potential reserves which “are normal possibilities of development-part of the innate genetic capacities, probably suppressed by social suggestive norms” (Lozanov, 2009:18), “the unmanifested but genetically predetermined capacities operating mainly in para-consciousness and surpassing the normal ones many times over” (Lozanov, 2005:14). Considering this, Lozanov contends what we need most is authentic humanitarian communication to help us realize our potential, which is almost neglected in schooling. Hence, as a consequence of his work, he developed a new type of communication based on his conception of suggestion, which is scientifically informed and practically valuable for guidance not only in education but also in every moment of our lives where we choose to communicate. In Lozanov’s vision, suggestion is a universal communicative factor exerting its effects in every moment, in every sphere of life, albeit not always in an organized way. Lozanov (2009:83) explains this as follows:
“In any meeting, in any conversation, simultaneously with the logical and rational side of communication, we communicate consciously but most often unconsciously and intuitively by means of verbal intonation, numerous body movements, significant undertones and verbal metaphors, through energetic fluctuations and countless known and unknown factors…the spirit, the soul, and the body continuously experience influences and react to these influences in order to develop or vice versa, to suffer or degrade. Nothing and nothing in the universe is absolutely isolated. Everything is interacting.”
As Lozanov notes (2009), there are many definitions of the term suggestion, in different languages, these definitions have different nuances, and what distinguishes his comprehension of suggestion from other definitions is his emphasis on love. In Lozanov’s vision, the teacher’s genuine love for the human being, accepted by the student on all levels, logical, intuitive, subconscious, spiritual, is an important factor in accessing the reserves of the mind, revealing the personality’s universal reserve capacities and stimulating its creativity as love creates conditions for positive emotions such as serenity, trust, calmness, inner confidence, and freedom (Lozanov, 2009).
Lozanov (2009) states, due to the lack of a more suitable word for this psychic phenomenon, he defines this kind of suggestion as “spontaneously absorbed non-manipulative suggestion”, it is more like sincere, friendly and even motherly communicative interaction based on mutual trust and freedom, directed towards the release and unblocking of former psycho traumas and acquired limitations. Along with this, his definition of spontaneously absorbed, non-manipulative suggestion involves the seven laws of Suggestopedia/Reservopedia education system, that is, the conviction of the teacher that something unusual is taking place, the golden proportion, the motherly love and the freedom of the students to choose and decide, the large volume of study material, the global-partial dynamics, the use of classical art and aesthetics (Lozanov, 2009).
Lozanov (2009) came to such an understanding of suggestion in his psychiatric work where he witnessed the phenomenon of hypermnesia (super recollection), which also leads to improved healing. In order to corroborate his assumption that hypermnesia is a result of normal, spontaneous, liberating communication, Lozanov launched a series of experiments based on the communicative, soft, tender suggestion, which has the potential to alter the state of mind (Lozanov, 2009). It is also important to note that underlying Lozanov’s conception of suggestion is Pavlov’s idea that suggestion is the simplest form of conditioned reflex. Pavlov as a physiologist was interested in how verbal suggestions could be used to exert an influence on various types of somatic disease. The word, which can signal everything to people, is much more comprehensive stimulus connected in the cortex with all the other external and internal stimuli in the life of an individual. Pavlov emphasized the role of the word as the signal of the signal. In Pavlov’s view, perceptions, ideas, emotions, and the like can also function as suggestive stimuli (Gheorghiu,1989).
It appears that in order to point out the mistaken taken for granteds on human potential and to provide a sound justification to his assumption that there might be no limit to human potential Lozanov (2009:17) started his experiments with the following objectives:
1.To demonstrate that the human personality possesses potential capabilities far exceeding those recognized by generally accepted social norms.
2.To analyze the extent to which various documented individual achievements demonstrating the use of potential reserves can be expected from all or most members of society.
3.To promote interest in the search for methods capable of releasing the unused potential reserves of the brain/mind.
From these experiments through which he “looked for ways of tapping man’s reserve capacities with the aid of suggestion” (Lozanov, 1978b), Suggestopedia/Reservopedia education system was born. Lozanov (1978a:5) noted, “Suggestopedy started as a psychological experiment aimed at increasing memory capacities in the educational process. Suggestopedy gradually developed into a method for experimental study of suggestion itself, to determine its basic components, specific features and laws”. He argued that “potential abilities of the personality, the brain and the mind reserves could be accessed in every individual, provided the appropriate methods were used” (Lozanov, 2009:26) and concluded that well organized Suggestopedia/ Reservopedia education system accelerates learning five times on average and if applied accordingly, memory reserves, intellectual activity reserves, creativity reserves, and the reserves of the whole personality are revealed (Lozanov, 2009).
Lozanov stated (1978b:1), one of mankind’s perennial aspirations has been to release man’s reserve capacities and stimulate their development; therefore, he (2009) examined the literature from ancient sources and also some sources pertaining to later ages where the problem of human potential was discussed. He compared the data in the literature to the data obtained from his experiments to see whether they shared any common psychophysiological mechanisms concerning human capacities. Lozanov (1978b: 11) concluded that the tapping of man’s reserve capacities could be achieved only under the conditions of excellent suggestive organization and harmonization of the conscious-paraconscious functions. Though inseparably connected with consciousness, yet the basic store of the reserve capacities is paraconsciousness. He added that (2009:66) “one should have a good understanding of these interactions (consciousness-paraconsciousness) in order to achieve an efficient teaching process maintained in the scope of the potential capacities of the brain/mind.”
Lozanov (2009) investigated the effect of peripheral perceptions, the unconscious and affective stimuli and teacher’s personality, objective and expectations, “expectancy directed to the potential of the personality” (Lozanov, 2009: 99). Lozanov (2009:51) stated that the teacher for sure must believe in student’s reserves. That is an axiom because the peripheral perceptions reveal the truth. Lozanov (2009:59) states due to the genuineness of these signals and the impossibility for these to be stimulated by the teacher, the students perceive them without hesitation. This automatically leads to the tapping of the reserves. It is a mutual process of teacher’s expectations affecting the expectations of the learners, i.e. expectations create expectations, and this happens naturally, spontaneously, without any force.
Lozanov (2009) defined peripheral perceptions as weak signals radiated through the teacher and physical setting; they are received by the students without being realized. Once they enter consciousness, they become conscious perceptions. Lozanov (2009:52) explained that teachers reveal this truth through their gestures, gait, facial expressions, expressions of the eye, diction, intonation and a number of ideomotor movements unnoticeable to consciousness. He (2009:52) expressed that when a highly prestigious teacher has an overall behaviour which manifests clearly his deep conviction that high results will be obtained, the effect of his/her teaching is really on the reserves of the mind. He (2009: 54) further clarified accessing the reserves is possible only when the teacher- reservopedagogue has a high personal and professional prestige. Lozanov makes use of the word prestige in the sense that reliability and credibility of the source of information, that is, the teacher.
Lozanov (1978:2) pointed out how words and peripherals accompanying them have powerful effects on individuals, thus he stated “teachers exert an influence on the students not only with what they say, but also with the intonation of their voices, their smiles, gestures, clothes, movements and their whole attitude toward pupils.
The Pygmalion in the classroom effect is due to the expectations of the teachers that they have been given a class of gifted and clever pupils to work with. Such classes achieve better results because of a number of effects in the behavior of teachers who have raised positive expectation. (Lozanov,2009:97). Teachers know that any individual possesses potential uncovered up to that moment and teacher’s expectations affect student’s achievement (Lozanov (2009:99).
In their book, Pygmalion in the Classroom, Rosenthal and Jacobsen (1968:vii) wrote: how one person’s expectation for another person’s behaviour can quite unwittingly become a more accurate prediction simply for its having been made. They stated that 20 percent of the children in a certain elementary school were reported to their teachers as showing unusual potential for intellectual growth. Eight months later, these “unusual or magic” children showed significantly greater gains in I.Q. than did the remaining children who had not been singled out for the teachers’ attention (Rosenthal & Jacobsen, 1968: viii). Moreover the authors argued that one person’s expectations of another’s behaviour may come to serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy. When teachers expected that certain children would show greater intellectual development, those children did show greater intellectual development (Rosenthal & Jacobsen, 1968:83).
In parallel to Lozanov’s view on expectancy, Richardson (2017:323) states:
“Because they have read some genetics -or at least popular and media accounts- teachers will readily assume that those pre-education differences are at least partly innate. So they will behave toward children in different ways according to those preconceptions. Children soon assimilate the subliminal messages to reinforce self-efficacy beliefs already obtained from preschool experiences in family and neighbourhood. So the early perceptions become self-fulfilling. Richardson (2017:318) also adds “it is difficult to feel self-confident and aspirational for self or children in a society that has certified you as deficient in brainpower. People guide their lives by their beliefs of personal efficacy.”
Perceived self-efficacy refers to beliefs in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to given attainments (Bandura, 1997:3). Therefore, educators are supposed to assume their responsibility to create “growth-mindset-friendly environments” where children feel free from judgment, where they know that teacher believe in their potential to grow (Dweck, 2017). Research findings give strong support to the notion that every child needs a significant adult to express positive regard in him or her (Hattie & Yates, 2014:20).
One seminal work that provides an illuminating insight into Lozanov’s conception of suggestion belongs to the scholar-researcher Sonia Dougal. Dougal (2001:13) wrote: Dr. Lozanov, a neuroscientist and world specialist on suggestion who founded the teaching method called Suggestopedia, explained the routes by which suggestion enters personality, developing it, moulding and changing attitudes.
In order to distinguish Lozanov’s theory of suggestion from all others, she refers to it Suggestion with a capital “S”, a theory of liberation from negative conditioning, which has not been explored by other scientists and researchers, she adds that “what distinguishes Lozanov’s theory from other theories is its potential to tap the brain reserves, releasing capacities of human being within” (Dougal, 2010).
Dougal applied Lozanov’s theory of suggestion to account for the case of the British soldiers during World War II. As a consequence of war propaganda in England, the soldiers felt negative feelings towards Italians when they landed in Italy. Dougal on reading the writings of the British soldiers in the daily newspaper Union Jack was amazed by the change in the attitude of soldiers towards Italy and Italian culture, and also by the boom of artistic and intellectual activity in the soldiers (Dougal, 2001, 2010).
Dougal wanted to know when, how, and why the change in soldier’s attitudes occurred as part of her research. To that end, she examined some theories to find a proper explanation to her questions and concluded that those theories left many questions unanswered. It was when she came across Lozanov’s theory of suggestion that she discovered it provides a comprehensive explanation to her research questions (Dougal, 2001, 2010).
Experimenting with Lozanov’s theory in and outside the classroom to confirm its validity convinced Dougal that it could be applied in different real-life situations Dougal (2010:20) makes the following explanation:
If we apply Lozanov’s definition of suggestion as a positive, communicative factor which can create conditions for tapping the functional reserve capacities of the personality to explain the emergence of what appear to be almost inspired articles and letters appearing in the front line Daily newspaper Union Jack in Italy during World War II, we shall see how potentially important his theory could be also for social sciences in interpreting attitude change (Dougal, 2010).
Lozanov’s theory of suggestion, above all, not only expresses the belief that reserves of the mind are accessible for everyone but also it offers an underlying rationale for it. The account of human nature Lozanov presents centres on flexibility, and his theory of suggestion seems to provide informed guidance for demystifying the theses on human potential. As Scheffler (1985:11) also states, the idea of fixed potentials is a myth “the more the brain/mind is used, the more it develops” (Lozanov,2019:17).
3.Suggestion in Relation to the Philosophy of Education
The concept of potential is one of the most fundamental concerns of educators and educational theorists as “the notion of potential fulfils significant functions in educational decision making at the critical junctures of past and future, fact and value. To identify and analyze such functions seemed to us to promise new insights into educational practice and to point the way to improved norms by which such practice might be guided (Scheffler,1985: 3).
As Lozanov investigations have revealed one important concept concerning human potential is suggestion that many philosophers, scholars and educators seem to have neglected to explore it in its relation to human capacities. Lozanov’s conception of suggestion tends to pull the pendulum further away from its traditional meaning so much so that the term came to be associated with a path to tap into human capacities in the realm of education, which inevitably involves philosophical work. Hence, at this point, it is important to note that Lozanov’s concept of suggestion can go deeper than this to become a significant concept expressible in the philosophy of education, to determine the exercise of educational decision making
Concerning the relation of suggestion to the philosophy of education, one noteworthy explanation pertains to scholar Hilmi Ziya Ülken, who in his book entitled Philosophy of Education, took a critical look at the views of philosophers of education. Ülken (2013) stated that many philosophers of education from Rousseau to Dewey overemphasized the significance of will in education. Yet, the reverse side of the coin, that is, suggestion has not been that much appreciated. Ülken draws the attention of the educators to the fact that they are not in front of individuals who are composed of the mind or active intelligence only, or who can only function with their mind, will and emotional ability. In Ülken’s view, what stands before us is not a conquered secret realm of the soul, but one of the two neglected aspects of human nature that defines human, that is suggestion, which is underestimated as it has been probably confused with the hypnotic phenomenon and even with the unscientific experiences of occultism (Ülken, 2013). In a similar vein, Gheorghiu (1989:3) adds that suggestion is a phenomenon whose ubiquity, persistence, and subtle influence are seriously underrated.
Ülken (2013) also states that will correspond to human’s state of tension and consciousness, whereas suggestion to the relaxation and subconsciousness. Notably, Ülken argues that these, that is, will and suggestion, are the two real aspects of the human soul. It is not possible to understand and know an individual through only one of them. Therefore, an educational philosophy based on only one aspect of human nature would be one-sided and faulty. Ülken also adds that a critical task of the educator is to perpetuate intelligence through relaxing it with suggestive acts and keeping it alive from inside. He states that the mistake of the old pedagogy is to dwell on the first of these only, namely, will (Ülken 2013).
As Scheffler (1985:103) states, “recognition of human dignity as an ideal policy is a matter of prizing people’s powers to order their own lives; it is equally a matter of prizing social arrangements that honour such powers. Policy inescapably influences lives”. In so far as Lozanov’s strong emphasis on respect, love, and care for humans and his findings that potential capacities can be revealed for everyone are considered, his theory of suggestion seems to provide us with the best plausible solution to enable individuals to take part in the constantly changing world to actualize themselves. Therefore, its adoption as an underlying conception in the philosophy of education is highly likely to stimulate a growing sense of human capacities shared by all humans.
Since academic achievement is substantially attributed to the potential or intelligence of an individual, it is significant to be cognizant of different perspectives concerning what counts as human potential. Considering the assumptions of some philosophers and scholars that human potential is constrained by innate traits or genes, therefore individuals cannot be helped to develop it, it seems highly likely that such beliefs could hinder for alternatives. As the literature review of this present study reveals, a considerable number of philosophers or scholars who expressed their views on human potential seem to have adopted discriminating and limiting point of views concerning human capacities.
Lozanov, on the other hand, through his theory of suggestion, above all, endeavoured to develop an optimistic language for human potential and thereby demonstrating the direction to the free and harmonious realization of potential capacities for all. Therefore, an attempt to ground our educational decision making on Lozanov’s scientific findings and conviction that potential abilities can be accessed in everyone can bring about maximum contribution to the growth of the individual and society. Last but not least, it is significant to identify the role of Lozanov’s conception of suggestion in this rapidly changing and complex world, and seeking the ways for benefiting from it as fully as possible.
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