Developmental Dyslexia is an Evolutionary Advantage

Figure 1: Depiction of people helping the brain function

Julia Chivu ’24

Modern approaches tend to view learning disabilities as impairments. Current research, however, may prove otherwise. Developmental dyslexia is a neurocognitive disorder in which individuals have difficulty learning how to read. Dyslexia creates a variety of educational challenges, including inaccurate word recognition, frequent misspelling, and the inability to obtain advanced reading or writing skills. While this disorder may be considered a deficit in terms of education, research has shown that those who have developmental dyslexia display advanced cognitive abilities compared to those without. The University of Cambridge has proposed that the advanced cognitive traits and challenges associated with dyslexia are specialized for human adaptation. 

Majority of research relating to dyslexia has been focused on its causes. However, recent research has shifted to look at the superior cognitive abilities that appear to be advantageous. Using a framework referred to as cognitive search, observations regarding cognition and behavior relating to dyslexia were analyzed. The framework identified that many who have developmental dyslexia have extraordinary artistic abilities. In addition, those with dyslexia often have a greater ability to identify and understand complex systems. Rapid pattern recognition and enhanced memory are also associated with this so-called deficit, causing dyslexic individuals to be more likely to excel in fields such as engineering, art, and entrepreneurship.

Dyslexia is argued to be essential in the advancement of human evolution. Dyslexia has a high prevalence and heritability, with 20% of the international population having this evolutionary advantage. In addition, it is unlikely that reading and writing skills have made an impact on evolutionary selection pressure seeing as they are recent human developmental advancements. Ultimately, these findings indicate that the cognitive traits of those with dyslexia are selectively chosen and are pertinent to the study of human evolution.

Works Cited: 

[1] H. Taylor and M. Vestergaard, Developmental dyslexia: disorder or specialization in exploration? Frontiers in Psychology 13, 1-19 (2022).

[2] Image retrieved from:


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