I almost always experience aha! moments when I hear Ruby Payne speak, and one of her comments at the Bridges National Conference in October was, for me, among the greatest ahas ever. During her session Ruby Payne shared research (Farah et al., 2006) showing that although poverty has a detrimental effect on the development of some parts of the brain, “visual and spatial cognition did not differ significantly” among those raised in poverty and those reared in more affluent households.

Recently I shared this research when I introduced the concept of mental models during a Framework Day Two workshop. The value of mental models and their connection with cognition and student success were immediate and clear. I think this is a powerful research finding, which I’m so glad to add to my repertoire.


Farah, M. J., Shera, D. M., Savage, J. H., Betancourt, L., Giannetta, J. M., Brodsky, N. L., … Hurt, H. (2006). Childhood poverty: Specific associations with neurocognitive development. Brain Research, 110(1), 166–174.