One of the most remarkable things about the human consciousness is that each of us has the capacity to observe our thoughts and feelings as they arise in our consciousness. Why shouldn?t cultivating this ability to observe one?s own mind in action,becoming more self aware or simply more "conscious" be one of the central purposes of education? Even a cursory look at our educational system makes it clear that the relative amount of attention that higher education devotes to the exterior and interior aspects of our lives has gotten way out of balance. Thus, while we are justifiably proud of our "outer" development in fields such as science, medicine, technology, and commerce, we have increasingly come to neglect our "inner" development the sphere of values and beliefs, emotional maturity, moral development, spirituality, and self understanding. This growing awareness of the importance of spirituality in higher education was recently underscored by the Templeton Foundation through its award of a $1.9 million grant to UCLA?s Higher Education Research Institute to support a large scale longitudinal study of spiritual development in college undergraduates. A pilot study of 3,700 students enrolled at forty-six colleges and universities was initiated in spring 2003, and a full-scale assessment of 90,000 students enrolling at 150 institutions will be initiated in fall 2004. Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind about spirituality is that is touches directly on our sense of community. More than anything else, giving spirituality a central place in our institutions will serve to strengthen our sense of connectedness with each other, our students, and our institutions. This enrichment of our sense of community will not only go a long way toward overcoming the sense of fragmentation and alienation that so many of us now feel, but will also help our students to lead more meaningful lives as engaged citizens, loving partners and parents, and caring neighbors.
Dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are well documented in conflict tasks, wherein competition from irrelevant stimulus attributes intensifies selection demands and leads to subsequent performance benefits. The current study investigated whether mnemonic demands, in a working memory (WM) task, can drive similar online control modifications. Demand levels (high vs. low) of WM maintenance (memory load of 2 items vs. 1 item) and delay-spanning distractor interference (confusable vs. not confusable with memoranda) were manipulated using a factorial design during a WM delayed-recognition task. Performance was best subsequent to trials in which both maintenance and distractor interference demands were high, followed by trials with high demand in either of these 2 control domains, and worst following trials with low demand in both domains. These results suggest that dynamic adjustments in cognitive control are not triggered exclusively by conflict-specific contexts but are also triggered by WM demands, revealing a putative mechanism by which this system configures itself for successful task performance.