Learning failure results when threat shuts down the brain. The neocortex functions fully only when one feels secure. (Hart, Leslie A. Human Brain and Human Learning. NY: Longman Inc., 1983, p 110)

Studies by Geoffrey Caine PhD and Renate Caine PhD (1990): Learner thinking is downshifted in the presence of any behavior-oriented threats and anxiety (e.g., typical reward systems). (Jensen, Eric. Brain-Based Learning. CA: The Brain Store Publishing, 1995 and 2000, p 266)

Minimize downshifting in children during learning (e.g., use the least stressful type of shape – round flash cards). (Barron, Maria Almendarez. Surprising Truths, the Implications of Brain Research. Web article.)

Students who feel out of control of the learning process tend to downshift from cortical learning to the limbic system’s rote learning...the cortex essentially shuts down and only learning of simple skills or rote memorization can occur. (Howard, Pierce J. PhD. The Owner’s Manual for the Brain. NY: Bard Press, 2000, p 506)

Downshifted people can do some things well like rote memorization, because the brain perseverates under threat and repetition provides a sense of safety when you feel helpless. Repetition is compatible with traditional teaching. (Poole, Carolyn.Maximizing Learning: A Conversation with Renate Nummela Caine. Educational Leadership, Vol 54, No 6 March 1997. Article.)