Simon P Walker

My recent papers

discovering how steering cognition contributes to life

Steering Cognition research publications

Research papers can be downloaded for free as pdfs.

2015- Simon Walker

Thinking, straight or true? (2015)

This report summarises key findings and conclusions of a 13 year research programme conducted by Human Ecology Education between 2002 and 2015 into what has come to be called ‘steering cognition’. The report documents key experimental findings and, where required, references previous papers in which detailed results were published. From the findings a best model that accounts for them is proposed: functional circuitry integrated around the imagination serves as an ecological executive system, involved in governing the self-regulation of conscious specific, effortful attentional biasing for the purpose of managing and responding to the epistemic demands of unpredictable, varied environments. Such a series, variable-state metacognitive system, referred to here as ‘steering cognition’, may account for some of the phenomena that have been interpreted as a parallel or dual processes. Evidence suggests steering cognition may also be a functional locus within which environmental priming has an attentional biasing effect. As such, steering cognition measurement may provide an empirically calibrated means of observing commensurate priming effects, of a wide variety of social and environmental cues, at both an individual and collective level.

 Evidence is presented for a kind of heuristic ‘steering cognition’ which unifies dual-mind processing models
 The evidence supports a functional metacognitive executive system centred around the imagination
 A 13 year research programme involving 11,000 people has resulted in new understandings of the factors contributing learning, school ranking, pupil mental health and social cognition and personality formation
 The findings shed new light on existing research traditions, including dual-mind, automaticity, priming, self-regulation and cognitive linguistics
 Implications are posited for how we understand the relationship between errorful knowing and wise action

Navigating the world by heuristic bias (2015)
Heuristic bias has been largely assumed to introduce error into human thinking. Whilst some authors have identified efficiencies in speed and effort gained by heuristic cognition, it has not been demonstrated that heuristic bias may also improve cognitive accuracy in learning. This study provides evidence that heuristic bias contributes to both cognitive accuracy and cognitive steering. Using a novel cognitive-affective-social state assessment technology, overall success across GCSE maths, science and english subjects was shown to require regulation between subject-specific heuristic biases. Different curriculum subjects were shown to require specific heuristic biases for high academic outcome. Students who exhibited the ability to regulate their heuristic bias to the optimal state for each of the specific curriculum subject were higher performing than those who did not. Factor analysis revealed that this ability correlated with a measure of general intelligence but also explained an element of academic outcome not explained by general intelligence. Evidence that students can improve their affective heuristic bias in response to local environmental stimulus was also shown. One implication of this study is that epistemic self-regulation may be located in mind or process 1 of a dual-mind model rather identified mind/process 2 as has been identified by other authors. A description of a cognitive-integrator function filtering data passing into and out from the mind is outlined. A conjecture that heuristic biasing is the basis for, rather than the enemy of, accurate epistemic navigation of the world is proposed

Educating the regulation of heuristic bias (2015)
A series of studies explored the impact of school as a ‘priming environment’ upon the heuristic bias regulation of adolescent and pre-adolescent children. School impact at adolescence was not found to impose patterns of habitual or instinctive heuristic bias. However, contextual biases relating to specific school environments were observed. Epistemically homogeneous and heterogeneous schools had different priming effects on heuristic student bias. In addition, local environmental conditions and interventions could prime academically improved heuristic student biases. These results support a model of cognitive-affective-social state (CAS) as a regulator between internal data processing and external epistemic demand, in which liability for heuristic bias state is jointly related to the individual and to their environment. Implications for investigating the effects of school-based education are suggested.

2015- Jo Walker

A psychological and developmental understanding of affective-social self-regulation. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

A psychological understanding of over-self-regulation. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

AS Tracking: A psychological and developmental understanding of embracing change. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

AS Tracking: A psychological and developmental understanding of self-disclosure. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

AS Tracking: A psychological and developmental understanding of trust of others. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

AS Tracking: A psychological and developmental understanding of trust of self. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

How the AS Tracking assessment measures self-regulation. DProf. University of Winchester, UK.

2014 and earlier- Simon Walker

The role of imagination in heuristic cognition - short paper

Academic Outcomes are Improved in Year 10 Students by Optimising Cognitive-Affective State (CAS) of Students

Cognitive Affective State (CAS), an ecological component of executive function, explains variance between CAT scores and GCSE grade predictions

Activated or deactivated? The relationship between grade predictions and state of self-other trust in yr 10 students

The Relationship between Sequential Cognitive Processing and Emotional Compliance in Year 10 students

The Relations of Cognitive Ability Test Scores in yr 10 students and Detached-Personal Thinking in Lessons

Walker, Simon P. (2002): Resistant to Change. The stability of CAS state in adults

Grounding Biblical Metaphor in Reality: The philosophical basis of realist metaphorical language

Challenging Deconstruction: A Look at Persons, Texts and Hermeneutics

Relational Truth: Personhood, texts and hermeneutics

These papers can also be downloaded at

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Steering Cognition in schools


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