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The last part of the twentieth saw significant advances in the empirical study of the brain
through such techniques as positron emission tomography (PET) and magnetic resonance
imaging (MRl). Using such techniques, some connections have been made between
affectivity and mental/emotional processing in general, as well as second language
acquisition in particular. "Neurobiology, including neuroanatomy, neurochemistry and
neurophysiology,. informs several areas of interest for language acquisition studies, for
example, plasticity, affect, memory and learning".
John Schumann's has singled out one section of the temporal lobes of the human brain,
the amygdala, as major player in the relationship of affect to language learning. The
amygdale is instrumental in our ability to make an appraisal of stimulus. For example, if you
see or hear or taste something, the amygdale helps you decide whether or not your
perception is novel, pleasant, relevant to your needs or goals, manageable, and
compatible with your own social norms and self-concept. When a teacher in a foreign
language class suddenly asks you to perform something that is, too complex, your reaction
of fear and anxiety means that the amygdale has sent neural signals to the rest of the brain
indicating that the stimulus is too novel, unpleasant, unmanageable at the moment, and
potential threat to self-esteem.
Schumann examined a number of foreign language motivation scales in terms of their
neurobiological properties. He noted how certain questions about motivation refer to
pleasantness, goal relevance, coping potential, and norm/self-compatibility. His conclusion:
"positive appraisals of the language learning situation . enhance language learning and
negative appraisals inhabit second language learning".
ln more recent work, Schumann and Wood provided further explanation of the
neurobiological bases of motivation as sustaine ee! "ea#nin$ %SDL&, the kind of
learning that requires and extended period of time to achieve. SDL is rooted in the
biological concept of value. Value is a bias that leads humans to certain preferences and to
choosing among alternatives. We have, for example, what Schumann and Wood call
homeostatic value that promotes an organism's survival, and sociostatic value that leads
us to interact with others, and to seek social affiliation.
Within the affective domain, another subarea of interest has been the measurement of
personality characteristics and hypothesized relationship of such traits to success in
various kinds of endeavors. Among dozens of test and questionnaires designed to tell you
more about yourself is the widely popular Myers-Briggs Type lndicator, commonly referred
to as the "Myers-Briggs test". Borrowing from some of Carl Jung's "types", the Myers-
Briggs team tested four dichotomous styles of functioning in their tests:
(. lntroversion vs. extroversion.
). Sensing vs. intuition.
*. Thinking vs. feeling.
4. Judging vs. perceiving.
With four two-dimensional categories, l6 personality profiles or combinations are possible.
Disciplines of the Myer-Briggs research described the implications of being an "ENFJ"
(Extroverts, intuitive, Feeler, and Judger) or an "lSTP" (lntrovert, Sensor, Thinker,
"lSTJs" for example, make better behind the scenes workers, while "ENFPs" might be
better at dealing with the public. Lawrence stressed the importance of a teacher's
understanding the individual differences of learners in a classroom. "Es" will excel in group
work; "ls" will prefer individual work, "NTs" are good at paper-and-pencil tests.
All this have to do with a number of studies in the last decade of the twentieth century,
sought to discover a link between Myers-Briggs types and second language learning.
Notable among these en Ehrman and Oxford's study found that their subjects exhibited
some differences in strategy use, depending on their Myers-Briggs type. For example,
extroverts (E) used social strategies consistently and easily, while introverts rejected them.
lntuitives were better at compensation strategies. The T/F distinction yielded the most
dramatic contrast: Thinkers (T) commonly used metacognitive strategies and analysis,
while Feelers rejected such strategies, and feelers used social strategies while thinkers did
But what's important to bear in mind is that we should not be too quick to conclude that
psychological type can predict successful and unsuccessful learning, as the authors readily
ln another study, Ehrman outlined both, the asset and liabilities of each side of the Myer-
Biggs continuum. Successful learners known their preferences, their strengths and their
weaknesses, and effectively utilize strengths and compensate for weaknesses regardless
of their "natural" preferences.
The discussion of the Myer Briggs test leads to probe the issues surrounding the
measurement of affective factors. Some affective factors can be reliably measured by
means of indirect measures or by formal interviews. But these methods are too expensive
and require highly trained professionals to administrate them. That is why the language
teaching profession has largely relied on "paper-and-pencil" tests that ask for self-rating.
ln these tests we are asked, for example, to decide if we tend to "stay late, with increasing
energy at parties" or "leave early, with decreased energy" (to measure introversion vs.
extroversion). Or indicate if we choose between "being a little late" or "arriving on time" for
meetings (to measure judging vs. perceiving style). Typical tests for self-esteem ask you to
agree or disagree to the statement "My friends have no confidence in me". Empathy test
will ask to indicate in the sentence "l am generally very patient with people".
While self-check tests have a number of inherent assessment, they represent a standard
for applied linguistics research today. One test frequently used in research on anxiety is
the Foreign Language Classroom Anxiety Scale (FLCAS) by Horwitz, to measure the
construct of language anxiety. The FLCAS were specifically designed to use in the field of
the second language acquisition, and ask learners to judge themselves across a number of
Tests like this have been well validated across different context and cultures. However they
represent a number of inherent shortcomings worth nothing.
First, the most important issue in measuring affectivity is the problem of validity. Because
most test use a self-rating method, one can justifiably ask whether or not self-perceptions
are accurate. True, external assessment, interviews, observation and multiple methods
have shown to be more accurate, but often only at great expense (very expensive, long
time duration, etc). We can conclude, cautiously then, that paper-and-pencil tests are only
reliable if (l) the test have been scientifically and widely validated) and (2) we do not rely
only in one instrument or method to identify a level of affectivity.
A second related problem in the measurement of affective variables lies in what has been
called "self-flattering" syndrome. ln general, test takers will intuitively select what they think
may be the right answer, or the answer which make them "look good". ln doing so, the
answers are based in what the test taker perceives as a highly desirable personality type.
Even though, test makers consider there is no right or wrong answers.
Finally, personality tests can be culturally ethnocentric. lt means that their judge the whole
according their own culture and values. They use concepts and reference that are difficult
to interpret or interpreted in a different form cross-culturally. l.e.: The extroversion item
mentioned earlier that asks whether we prefer to "stay late at parties" or "leave the party
early" also has sociocultural schemata that varies from culture to culture. Even the word
"party" carries cultural connotations.
There are so many applications and implications of affective variables at work in the
classroom. You could not begin to instruct a classroom of students without attending to
their self-efficacy, anxieties, motivations and other personality variables. Some books cite
the importance of emotion as a key factor for success in the classroom.
Brown limit to just one issue: intrinsic motivation. There is interplay in the classroom
between intrinsic and extrinsic motives. Every educational brings with it certain extrinsically
driven factors: a prescribed school curriculum, a teacher's course goals and objectives,
parental expectations, institutional assessment requirements, etc. ln a language course,
extrinsic pressures are more often manifested in foreign language requirements set by the
institution and in established standardized test scores that must be achieved.
One attitude that would be useful is to recognize that such extrinsic drives are not
necessarily "bad" or harmful, and the teacher's job is to capitalize on such factors through
your own innovations. For example if school policy mandate a certain "boring" teacher-
centered text book, perhaps your own creative efforts can add interesting learner-centered
group and pair activities that gives students choices in topics and approaches. lf
institutional tests are a bit distasteful in their multiple choice, impersonal format, your
innovate action could add some peer evaluation, self-assessment, that would build intrinsic
interest in achieving goals.
Another way to apply issues of intrinsic motivation is to consider how your own design of
classroom techniques can have an added dimension of intrinsic motivation.
Suggestions for creating intrinsically motivating classroom activities:
(. Does the activity appeal to the genuine interests of your students? ls it relevant in
their lives?
). Do you present the activity in a positive, enthusiastic manner?
*. Are students clearly aware of the purpose of the activity?
4. Do students have some choice in choosing some aspect of the activity and7or
determining how they go about fulfilling the goals of the activity?
-. Does the activity encourage students to discover for themselves certain principles or
.. Does it encourage students in some way to develop or use effective strategies f
learning and communication?
/. Does it contribute to students' ultimate autonomy and independence?
0. Does it foster cooperative negotiation with other students in the class? ls it a truly
interactive activity?
1. Does the activity present a reasonable challenge?
(2. Do students receive sufficient feedback on their performance?
Another suggestion is to consider the l0 commandments for motivating learners that
Dorney and Csizr offered:
(. Set a personal example with your own behavior.
). Create a pleasant, relaxed atmosphere in the classroom.
*. Present the tasks properly.
4. Develop a good relationship with the learners.
-. lncrease the learners' linguistic self-confidence.
.. Make the language classes interesting.
/. Promote learner autonomy.
0. Personalize the learning process.
1. lncrease the learners' goal orientedness.
(2. Familiarize learners with the target language culture.