Archive for August, 2011

Break Up Or Down

August 31st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Goals are funny things if you stop to think about them, not that many people do.  Goals are usually and blindly accepted as good things:

People often assume that having goals is a good thing, and it is.  People often assume that these goals are a source of motivation, and they might be.  People often assume that a fixed attachment to their goals is both required and desirable and they are wrong.  Goals are an end, but they can also end the means, yet another behavioural paradox!

Goals aren’t neutral, defining an end and then waiting passively on the sidelines for you to act accordingly in order to arrive.  For as long as they exist, they will have an influence and you must decide, actively and continually, whether this influence is positive or negative at any point.  In the post linked above, tis nobler stated:

If you see your future as fixed, you are less likely to arrive there.

And if you imagine that this future is positive, you are also less likely to arrive there – you should expect the positive and imagine the negative!  Reasonable (in size and probability) expectations of success can direct your efforts towards goal achievement; in contrast, low expectations of success can see you heading somewhere else (which is not necessarily a bad thing if you think it through. It’s healthy to think of ‘failure’ as delayed success).

Now, here’s another finding to throw into the decision making mix – there are benefits in breaking goals down and breaking goals up.  The direction doesn’t matter as either direction can keep you heading in the right direction.  Reframing goals into more easily digested, bite-sized pieces is the key. ‘tis nobler isn’t talking about global goals that can be fixed, fuzzy and forever out of reach; ‘tis nobler is talking about concrete, shorter term goals that affect the next few months or a year or so.  These goals – think of weight loss as the example – require regular effort.

Framing a commitment as ‘3 hours per week’ seems less likely to be sustained than its reframed version of ‘less than half an hour a day’.  It just appears easier and effort is maintained when things are a little easier:

Making things seem a little easier is not the same as making things easier.  Perception is the issue, not effort.  Making things seem a little easier is NOT avoiding the harder stuff; it’s a way of making the harder stuff more likely to occur.  You can construct a better future by deconstructing your goals, and you can do this without altering them. How easy is that?

All Within, Partly Beyond

August 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler has written several posts on the pattern of pattern formation, the gradual progression from coping with lots of little bits to efficiently managing the bigger picture:

Moving from novice to experienced status involves moving from bits to chunks, from pieces to patterns.  It’s incorrect to think that you just get faster at handling the bits and pieces for it is the ways in which you compile larger, more sophisticated patterns from all of the bits that is a true sign of experiential learning.  Whether you think of ‘bigger picture’, ‘mental model’, ‘forest not trees’, ‘holistic assessments’ or ‘internalised representations’, the process is the same.  As a direct consequence of experience, your way of seeing the world around you changes.

Of course, other things change as well for you become more effective and efficient – for example, the ‘bigger picture’ supports multitasking.  If you are no longer ‘drowning in the bits’, you have the resources to handle other demands in parallel.  Patterns that are validated and refined through experience allow you to manage that experience with a minimum of fuss, leaving plenty of time and resources to deal with the exceptions.

Think of some of the things you have learnt through experience, things such as driving a car, doing your job or playing a particular sport.  In a sense, patterns do protect you within your performance of these tasks but they don’t necessarily protect you beyond that performance.  Within that statement hides the logic for the title of this post – ‘All within, partly beyond’.

There are specific performance elements such as (simple) reaction time that can transfer from one activity to another.  It would not be surprising to find (and there is supporting evidence) that those with very extensive experience and considerable expertise on one activity would do well on other activities that do have some common elements.  Whether it is judging whether a pitch is in the strike zone, a cricket ball is going to hit the wicket, a tennis ball is going to (just) go out or an approaching car poses a danger, there are some common elements that allow a top tennis player or cricketer to, for example, make better, yet still simple decisions on baseball pitches or road crossing opportunities.

In part-task demands within ‘unrelated’ activities that have some common elements, some of these overlapping elements that have been highly developed elsewhere can assist.  But there are limits, which is why Michael Jordan didn’t succeed as a baseball player or top cricketers don’t play Major League Baseball.  Elements may help the simple stuff but patterns prevail, for performance on a task never depends on a single element or set of elements.  If it did, young people at the peak of their psychophysical powers would always out-perform older, slower participants.  Anticipation is always better than reaction (regardless of how quick of the mark you are) and anticipation is enabled by patterns.

Regardless of how good you are at something, all good things come to an end when you leave that particular something behind:

A reliance on elements at the expense of patterns is dangerous – it reinforces the (incorrect) view that shortcuts are available and, as a consequence, effort is devalued.  It is important to remember that whatever is developed within can only ever go partly beyond.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 28th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

The very, very strange puzzle of the body on Somerton Beach, found in 1948 and not yet explained.

The City Limits – the contrast is so stark and saddening.

Infinity takes centre stage.

The (brief) story of how we got our alphabet.

In praise of the human curator rather than the statistical algorithm.

On Assignment – wow, what an assignment!

Blurring the boundary between ‘person’ and ‘product’ – what does the future hold?

Wearing You Down Weakly

August 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

From previous ‘tis nobler posts, you are aware that self control – an important component of self management – can be affected by a range of factors.  If you browse the archives, you’ll find posts on the self control benefits of psychological distance (the greater the ‘distance’, the better the self control), the self control trap that is the restraint bias (you’re not as ‘strong’ as you think you are so don’t challenge your self control by seeking temptations), the connection between self control and procrastination (more self control = less procrastination) and the benefits of exaggerating the threat that temptations pose (called counteractive construal):

Perhaps this evidence indicates that it can also be good to go the other way, exaggerating the cost of temptations in order to maintain self control and (longer term) goal adherence.  Be neither a saint nor a sinner for you won’t be perfectly good or perfectly bad.  You’ll just be – doing your best more often than not, dealing with the obstacles and temptations as best you can at the time and making forward progress despite the occasional steps back……If you exaggerate the costs of losing your way whenever temptations appear, it may enable you to continue finding your own way. How do you construe this message?

And this last issue – exaggerating the threat of temptations – introduces the additional concept of strength.  Given all of the interacting elements, how does the strength of a temptation – weak or strong – affect your ability to maintain self control?

By definition, you would expect strong temptations to pose a greater challenge to self control; after all, one of the ways to interpret strong temptations is that they are much harder to resist.  Almost irresistible must mean frequent loss of control – how can you resist when the temptation is almost overpowering?  On the other hand, weak temptations should be more like water off a duck’s back.

However, the evidence reverses these expectations, with a series of studies indicating that weak temptations represent a greater threat to self control.  The explanation is that, effectively, insidious beats irresistible in the self control challenge.  It is true that ‘every little bit hurts’ but because there are so many more ‘little bits’ or weak temptations, their individual and aggregate effect is to undermine self control much more than the infrequent but much stronger temptations:

The message is that you are more likely to be worn down weakly, for weak temptations (and your relative weakness for them) occur daily.  Can you see how this position is consistent with the value of ‘distance’, the operation of restraint bias and immunity through threat exaggeration?

In experiential learning and behavioural change, there are no single answers and no watertight guarantees.  For self control to be sustained, active management of complexity rather than blind faith in a simple recipe is required.

Affecting History

August 24th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

They say history is written by the winners, which makes some sense.  Those who attain (or regain) power are in a position to define, or perhaps rewrite, past events to suit their current needs.  They have the capacity to say ‘This is what really happened’, even if it didn’t.  Of course, it’s an ongoing and dynamic process. In ‘The Changing Of The Reasons’, ‘tis nobler referred to evidence that indicated that our reasoning in support of our actions is unstable over time; yesterday’s reason might not apply today and today’s reason might be changed tomorrow.  Combined with the hindsight bias – past uncertainty is dismissed for the result was ‘never in doubt’ -, history is affected by the winners in many ways.

Of course, winning allows the winners to hide their mistakes, sanitising the past so that they appear in the strongest possible light.  Errors of omission (things they should have done but didn’t) and errors of commission (things they did that they should not have) are removed, leaving an impressive but misleading track record.

They say winners are grinners, which also makes some sense.  Personal achievement warrants celebration although the exaggerated triumphalism that accompanies relatively modest results can be annoying.  Still, success produces smiles!

What does it mean if you try to combine the rewriting and the grinning?  Is there a relationship between changing the past and enjoying the present?  What is the relationship between predictions of the future and affect?  For emotional measures, recent evidence suggests the relationship takes this form:

We are inaccurate in predicting how we will feel after an action or event takes place.

We are revisionary in that we alter our past predictions to accord with our current emotional state.

There can be an emotional dimension to many of the decisions we make – doing this will make me feel good or better.  ‘tis nobler wonders whether these findings encourage you to either place more emphasis on other decision making factors or downplay the role of your anticipated feelings as a reason for acting.  Welcome (yet again) to the labyrinth.

If you knew how you were going to feel, would you be happier?

This is yet another example of how our current version of the past is modified by current experience.  Time can be both a coin and a sword – it can have two sides or be double-edged.  Think about this when you use the way you think you’re going to feel in the future, once you have done what you have decided to do.  Your predictions are most likely wrong and you’ll rewrite the past to cover this up.

The anticipation of affect affects what you do but this does seem unreliable.  How else would you act if using (future) affect as a criterion was history?  That’s something to think about right now, for past, present and future feelings are linked in ways that you may not expect.

You Raise Me Up

August 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

When describing the labyrinthine nature of experiential learning and behavioural change, ‘tis nobler mentioned Daedalus and his son Icarus.  Daedalus was the designer of the Labyrinth that housed the Minotaur.

Icarus is an excellent example for today’s topic – being raised up – which is about the ways and attendant dangers in which your performance and adherence to self management can be elevated by what you know about others.  It all depends on where you start.

Icarus was ‘raised up’ by the joy of flight and the escape from imprisonment that his father had enabled by the making of artificial wings.  As a result of over-exuberance, Icarus flew too close to the sun, something his father had warned him explicitly to avoid, and the wax holding his wings together melted.  He crashed into the sea and was killed.

And this is where the extra research ‘tis nobler undertook (without hacking into Daedalus’ voicemail) shows the connection with some recent research.  It seems that Icarus was initially doubtful of his father’s plan but seeing Daedalus take to the skies removed these doubts.  If you have doubts or anxieties, knowing that others can perform translates into a belief that you can also perform, another example of priming, this time priming with competency.  Don’t forget that ‘tis nobler has already explored another way to combat doubt and that is to doubt your doubts.

Replacing doubts with self belief is great; however, priming with competency in the absence of doubts can lead to overconfidence.  In the first instance, priming calibrates you by raising you up to where you actually belong whereas in the second instance, priming can miscalibrate you by raising you up beyond your capabilities.  As noted, it all depends on where you start.

That’s why, in this song, there needs to be a small change to the lyrics – You raise me up to more than I (thought I) can be:

When assailed by doubts or anxieties, prepare yourself to perform by making reasonable relative comparisons.  These have been shown to raise you up to where you can be.  If these comparisons are unreasonable or unnecessary (for you already are where you should be), they may raise you up beyond where you should be.

And we all know what happened to Icarus!

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 21st, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

What separates Man from other animals?

Would you like to ride a bike like Danny Macaskill, basejump in a wingsuit like these guys or fly like Jetman @ the Grand Canyon?

Could DRACO (but not Malfoy) be the cure for many, if not all, viral infections?

Exploring moral hypocrisy and insights into why we’re annoyed by moral leadership.

How to build a fantastic music video, starting with a typewriter!

The sad and sorry history of FIFA.

Be near me, when my light is low ……


Generally Correct?

August 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Just recently, we went sailing on the Specific Ocean: on this journey, ‘tis nobler noted:

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions…….More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways. This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies…….It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way. Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

You might think it’s best to get as far away from the Specific Ocean but trekking what ‘tis nobler calls the Plains of Vague also has many pitfalls.  These pitfalls can be summarised as follows:

Appealingly vague statements aren’t vaguely appealing – they are very appealing!

And this particularly applies when the statements are about you; welcome to the world of subjective validation in which positive and general are perceived as specifically personal and generally correct.  Unlike the Specific Ocean, where you can’t seem to avoid the most available, single ‘reef’ on which to founder, the Plains of Vague envelop you in a blanket of generalities from which there is no escape – not that you ever try to escape -, just the security and warmth of identification.  This blanket is so comforting, so reassuring and so, so true!

The Plains of Vague convince you for its general features can be massaged into any shape that fits you.  Ultimately, though, generalities convey little information for they rely more on affect than effect for their power – of course, that’s me to a T, all the good things that you’re saying about me really ring true.  But information is defined as that which reduces uncertainty and generalities can’t reduce uncertainty; they’re like saying “Thank you for everything, thank you for nothing” in the same sentence, sweeping statements that sweep away little if any uncertainty:

Most of the time, you wander around in the vast region between the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague, trying to understand the more than specific and less than general information that confronts you.

Availability of specific information is no guarantee of accuracy or utility.  The accuracy and utility of general information, information in which everyone can find a ‘home’ if they go looking, is equally suspect.  How much of your experiential learning and behavioural change journey is spent at the ‘Poles’ – the Specific Ocean and the Plains of Vague?

As you must find your own way, you are the only valid subject of your learning journey.  Don’t waste your time by subjectively validating the vague!  This is NOT generally correct.

Our Problem

August 17th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler set out this morning to write a post about some new evidence on the value of self-affirmation.  As the thoughts started to coalesce, the post changed into this:

Compile a list like this in your own head: rioting, looting, assault, alienation, exclusion, hopelessness, contempt, criminality.

Compile another list in your head, this time like this: hope, inclusion, effort, respect, morality, achievement, compassion, community.

Compile a list of the (post hoc) contributions of commentators, journalists, academics and politicians, competing to have their own voice heard, as they present their assertions, opinions or dogma in the guise of explanation of recent events.  You can’t measure the gap between the rhetoric and the reality for it is incalculable.  It is an odd fact of modern life that the race to the bottom is won by those who are the shallowest.

Imagine the ways in which you can bring the first two lists closer together, eventually reducing the appearance of the first so much that it all but disappears.  The ‘talking heads’ focus on legal sanctions or constraints on technologies such as social media; a focus on (re-)affirmation of normative behaviours seems to have been barely mentioned and yet this could provide the most constructive, most durable ‘solution’.

But normative behaviours, shared values and re-affirmation are neither simple nor straightforward. In ‘That’s Wrong, I Believe’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

When there is evidence that a belief you hold is incorrect, you generally do not modify the belief; rather, you set out to protect your belief.  You will look for mistakes in the evidence, try to get other information that supports your position, attack the messenger, ignore the evidence or simply and more strongly re-affirm your belief, often with the support of those who share your view.  While there are a number of factors that will mediate your response, the principle of belief protection in the face of correct and contrary evidence is a clear and common practice.  Things may not be as different as chalk and cheese if, for whatever reason, you ‘believe’ that chalk is cheese.  It is difficult to convince you otherwise.

In ‘Able, Yet Unable’, ‘tis nobler noted:

There is evidence that the value of your learning can be sustained by your values or, to be precise, affirmation of your values.  Essentially, if people reinforce the fundamental things that are important to them, this effort can act to strengthen ‘the able’ and push ‘the unable’ away………The important thing to note is that this affirmation must be relevant at a personal level.  There is little point in saying ‘learning is important’, ‘people should have more tolerance’, ‘money is not the only motivation’ or ‘tomorrow will be better than today’.  Such sentiments often last no longer than their utterance and are almost entirely disconnected from the learning and change challenges that you are confronting.

While enormously challenging, strengthening normative behaviours is preferable to the coercive compliance model that underpins most social policies.  ‘Talking heads’ generate a clamour of contentions that may be motivated by a demand for personal attention.  And this focus on the discrete individual downplays the role of the things we have (or should have) in common, the shared norms and values that define our community by transcending the narrow legal and political frameworks.  Individual freedoms flourish within shared responsibilities, enabling you to strive to ‘win every day’:

It might be considered trite to suggest that every day is yours to win.  But we are measured as a community by the extent to which your life is yours to win.

If your life isn’t yours to win, it’s not just your problem. It’s our problem, for we are all diminished if any are left behind.

Before Connecting

August 15th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In experiential learning and behavioural change, connections are crucial.  It is important to recognise that connection is not the same as co-incidence; it is even less similar to coincidence.  Being contiguous and contemporaneous is neither necessary nor sufficient for connecting.  The ‘appearance’ of connection does not indicate that connections have actually appeared.

Being in the same place at the same time does not mean that a connection is made.  Doing the same things that you’ve done successfully before does not mean that a connection has been established.  Connection has to occur in your head before it can emerge and influence your activity.

Connection can occur during activity – let’s call this engagement.

Connection can occur after activity – let’s call this reflection.

And connection can occur before activity – let’s call this anticipation.  Anticipation is not doing things before connecting; rather think of it as one form of connecting.  It’s ‘before’ connecting in the same way that you have ‘during’ connecting and ‘after’ connecting.

Some recent research has indicated the value of ‘before’ connecting as a technique for reducing (test-taking) anxiety.  ‘Before’ connecting took the form of writing down anxieties just before the examination commenced; those that did so outperformed their equally anxious peers who didn’t participate in the ‘before’ connecting exercise.  It is important to note that ‘before’ connecting is the important message, realised through the act of writing, rather than the act of writing itself.  If just writing something down was the solution, Eccles wouldn’t find himself in such a pickle:

Appearances can be deceiving; connection can appear to be present without putting in an appearance.  As experience is gained, ‘during’ connection becomes more and more automated but you must actively pursue ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections.  Active ‘before’ and ‘after’ connections work together to make ‘during’ connections more enduring, more effective and highly efficient.

There shoudn’t be anything before connecting, there is just ‘before’ connecting!  And ‘before’ connecting comes before ‘during’ and ‘after’ connections.  Connect in every way in order to find your own way.

Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 14th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

A mesmerising a capella performance by Local Vocal.

Peter, the Wild Boy.

Has anything really changed for Orwell’s ‘outcasts’ in the 80 years since the publication of ‘Down and Out in Paris and London’?

The heady thrill of having nothing to do.

What sort of short film could you make if it could only last 3 minutes and contain just (the same) 6 lines of dialogue (What is that? It’s a unicorn. Never seen one up close before. Beautiful. Get away, get away. I’m sorry.)? Here is the winner of the 2011 Phillips Constrained Cinema “Tell It Your Way’ competition.

Beyond Einstein – is Phase Space (rather than space-time) the concept that will finally unite general relativity and quantum mechanics?

The theft and recovery of the Mona Lisa – did you know it had been stolen?

Slipping Through, Working Through

August 12th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Last week, it was noted that retrieval of memories is not a neutral process – it’s not a case that we remember something and then file this untouched memory away again.  The present influences our recall of the past, revising pre-existing memories or creating false memories.  The retrieval process is active, not passive.

Now, you would expect that vision is a neutral process; after all, our eyes do the seeing and the brain supplies the meaning.  But the more we understand visual perception, the more the balance shifts towards the brain.  The eyes let the light in and the brain does the rest – it’s more about perception and (as we’ll soon see) perceptions than sensation.  Vision is an active process, not passive.

In biological terms, this is similar to the difference between diffusion and facilitated osmosis, between slipping through and ‘working’ your way through, between effortless and effortful (ignoring the detail, regular osmosis can be passive).  Diffusion and the two types of osmosis are explained in this short video, perhaps more fascinating than entertaining:

The specific trigger for this post was some recent research that indicated that exposure to gossip affected vision as well as judgement.  As noted, vision transcends sensation and perception is, in one sense, just a subset of perceptions (which can be cognitive as well as sensory).  Images with negative information were given preference (by the brain) if this information (gossip) was socially relevant, that is, it allowed users to pass judgement.  Negative but socially irrelevant information (e.g. broke their leg) did not attract preferential treatment.  Can you imagine why we subconsciously direct our visual attention more to those associated with socially negative information?

But there’s a broader issue at play here, with implications for experiential learning and behavioural change.  Perhaps novices operate more as diffusers, ‘allowing’ information in and out with little effort or control and unable to operate strategically.  Gaining experience can be seen as a way to shift from passive to active, to move from externally controlled (or pushed around) to internally controlling (or effectively self managing).

Diffuse or osmotic applies at the cellular level and can be used as ways to describe (in a non-technical sense) vision and memory processing.  In the labyrinthine ‘world’ of experiential learning and behavioural change, can you connect these concepts, and the shift from one to the other, to effortful practice and self management?  Is it ever possible to simply slip through to success or do you always have to work your way through the challenges?

Sailing The Specific Ocean

August 10th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Sailing can be spectacular but, when you are sailing the specific ocean, spectacular is only the start.  The full equation for this type of ‘sailing’ is:

Spectacular  =  Available  =  Dominant  =  Distorted

Just because something is more available to you in thought, knowledge or memory – which is itself often a function of how spectacular the subject matter appears – does not mean that it is more important, more likely or more true.  The association of these qualities – importance, likelihood or truth – with availability (known as the availability heuristic) can produce biased reasoning.  Think of it as a type of error in inductive reasoning, the mistakes you make when going from the specific to the general.

Sailing the specific ocean can be disastrous.  If something or someone dominates your reasoning by being ‘spectacularly available’, there is every chance that dominance will create distortions.  Imagine that you’ve been told, again and again, that Kramer dominates the dojo.  You’ve had this dominance described in great detail – how he throws his opponents around, how he wins every bout and how nobody else can lay a finger on him.  These vivid descriptions, spectacular and thus readily available to you, lead you to conclude that Kramer has all the makings of a great martial artist.

But spectacular and available need not mean accurate:

More spectacular does mean more available and more available pervades and distorts your thinking in many ways.  This is one explanation for the ways in which important public debates can be hijacked by ‘spectacular’ irrelevancies.

The potential distorting effects of the spectacularly available can also be used as a demonstration of the labyrinthine ‘world’  of experiential learning and behavioural change.  Can you imagine the interactions between these spectacularly available distortions and the creation of false memories through the influence of present actions on (manipulated) memories of past actions?  And these are just two issues in a universe of competing, compounding and conflicting issues.

It’s little wonder, then, that the only valid way to navigate this messy ‘world’ is to find your own way.  Finding your own way is not spectacular but it is always available to you.

No Strings Attached

August 8th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

Should I turn left or right?  Should I just keep going?  Does it make sense to backtrack for a while?  What does that mean anyway?  Where should I head next?  How do I know if I’m heading in the right direction?  Isn’t there a path I can follow?  Everything looks the same, nothing makes any sense, progress is very difficult to detect and I’m starting to wish I’d never set out.

Welcome to the labyrinthine world of experiential learning and behavioural change:

Despite many and ongoing attempts to present the learning and behavioural change ‘world’ as simple, straightforward and structured, the reality is that it’s messy.  But this doesn’t mean that it’s a mess for it is always possible to find your way and find it in a way that becomes increasingly effective and efficient.

Perhaps the most famous, yet mythical, labyrinth was that constructed by Daedalus – no bull!  Actually, there was a bull (well, that’s half right) but that’s another story.  You might like to ponder what implications Daedalus’ son’s behaviour also has for learning – his son was called Icarus – but that’s also another story.  The story to be told today concerns the way that Theseus found his way in the labyrinth and slew the Minotaur, the half man, half bull.  He used a simple ball of yarn; he overcame the labyrinth because of (his) strings attached.

Regardless of the complexity, the seeming impenetrability of Daedalus’ design, there was a simple solution.  And this is diametrically opposed to experiential learning and behavioural change, for there are no simple solutions.  ‘tis nobler suggests that acceptance of two guiding principles will ensure that you will always find your own way through each and every learning and change labyrinth:

There is no one right answer, but there can be many right answers.

Conversely, history tells us that there have been many wrong answers, but there is no reason why any particular answer should be wrong.

The only truly right answer is the one you provide to yourself through your effort and engagement; looking for others to supply it will ensure that you’ll remain lost in the labyrinth.  At any point in your journey, being ‘lost’ or confused is never an indication that you’re going the wrong way – change of direction is much, much less important than maintenance of momentum.

Just keep going and, while you never escape the learning labyrinth, many of the internal walls do disappear. Navigate the labyrinth your way, no strings attached.


Slow Down, It’s Sunday

August 7th, 2011 | Related | 0 Comments

Every Sunday, ’tis nobler presents seven things that you may find inspiring, intriguing and informative. Enjoy!

This is why the little boy feels sorry for the panda.

Science is going back to the scale of life—that middle ground of minute energies and high complexities that lies between the immense galaxies and the infinitesimal particles.

Is morality absolute, relatively absolute or absolutely relative?  Perhaps, for most of us, it just doesn’t matter.

And you thought infinity was just, well, infinity!

Metropolis II – the most amazing kinetic sculpture.

Did Earth once have two moons?

With fear and volatility everywhere, is it time to break the spell of money?  It might be time to think in terms of community rather than economy.

Is It True, Man?

August 5th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Have you seen ‘The Truman Show’ , a 1998 film starring Jim Carrey as Truman Burbank?  The plot revolves around Carrey’s character unknowingly being on television since birth, the realisation of which gradually dawns on him and he sets out to discover what the truth is.  At the end of the movie, he escapes from his artificial ‘prison’ and enters the real world.

The essential elements of the plot – what is fact, what is fiction and how do you tell the difference? – echo throughout experiential learning and behavioural change.  It is difficult to validly imagine an experience before having it, it can be difficult to accurately understand an experience while you’re having it and it can be difficult to reliably reflect on an experience after you have had it.  As these experiences accumulate, anticipation, understanding and reflection become increasingly refined; while error rates decline, specific errors (perhaps refelcting inaccurate or false memories) can continue to plague performance.

But this doesn’t just apply to the experiences you have, it also applies to your vicarious exploration of the experiences of your peers and the experiences you think you had but never actually did.  Welcome to the world of the suggestion, false experiences and false memories.  ‘tis nobler remembers talking about these things when we all took that balloon ride several years ago:

Using past experiences as building blocks for present performance is not necessarily a neutral process.  Injecting the past into the present can and does assist in meeting current task demands but this can and does change your memories of the past.  You effect their retrieval and they are affected by this retrieval.  The past is fenced off in time but the fence is not impervious to the present.  Over time, facts can soften, fiction can harden and the lines between them can become less visible.

The power of suggestion and the creation of false memories is a standard technique in advertising, they can cause problems in the legal system and they can influence your daily behaviour in many ways (you can view the results of a recent survey into the beliefs people hold about memory here).  It is a subtle, pervasive and insidious process.  Imagine how this process can distort the feedback process and dramatically affect your learning and change journey.

Striving to understanding the real world underpins experiential learning and behavioural change.  Striving to eliminate uncertainties also underpins experiential learning and behavioural change.  However, both understanding and uncertainty are not immune from intentional or incidental manipulation.  Self management must involve the management of both your actual reality and your apparent ‘reality’.

Ask yourself – Is it true, man?

Message More Than Medium

August 3rd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Almost 50 years ago, Marshall McLuhan introduced the saying ‘The medium is the message’, which noted that the method of message transmission influences how the message is perceived.  This contention has many implications for experiential learning and behavioural change but these are not the focus of this post.  Can you imagine what some of these implications are?

So, when ‘tis nobler writes ‘message more than medium, what exactly does this mean?  What changes if ‘message’ in the title is a verb rather than a noun?  What changes if ‘medium’ in the title is an adjective rather than a noun?  Making sense of the world around you is never as direct or straightforward as your initial interpretations suggest.

The starting point for this cryptic title is in some recent (business-related) research that investigated the effect of information flow on project completion.  In summary, the research indicated that managers who were deliberately redundant in their instructions – building (necessary) repetition into the communication process – were more successful in getting projects completed.  Deliberate redundancy was considered more important than clarity of message.

Imagine how the expertise bias affects the frequency and clarity of communication.  Think of the problems that the basic proposition of this bias creates for learning and behavioural change:

I’ll explain your behaviour on the basis of who you are simply because what you do is, for me, so easy that your performance can’t hold the explanation.

Creating redundancy requires repetition, even if you think repetition is no longer necessary (which most people believe well before that moment arrives).  Repetition is never exact and all of the little variations add more value and understanding.  This is the point made by Nelly and Tim McGraw:

Cause it’s all in my head

I think about it over and over again

Whether the communication source is external or internal, the challenge is to get the message into your head and then keep it there so that you can think about it over and over again.  Of course, redundancy transcends communication; it applies more generally to learning and behavioural change.  Redundancy as, for example, practice of perfect, is one way to make both yourself and your behaviour more robust.

One person’s repetition is (eventually) another person’s redundancy, even when they are the same person!  If you are sending messages to others or to yourself, message (verb) more than medium (adjective).  Messaging and practising more isn’t a redundant strategy – it’s an effective strategy to achieve redundancy.

Experience, A Placebo?

August 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It seems that medicine need not be medicinal for benefits to accrue – welcome to the placebo effect.  Placebos are traditionally denoted as inert substances that have the appearance but not the mechanism for a therapeutic role.  Give one group a white pill containing an active agent and a second group apparently the same white pill without the active agent; it could just be a sugar pill.  It stands to reason that the difference between the groups will be due to the active agent.  It’s reasonable but often incorrect.

The more we investigate the role of placebos, the more interesting their role seems to become.  There is evidence that placebos are becoming more effective and, more recently, some initial evidence that positive effects are produced even when people know they are receiving a placebo (usually, deception has been thought of as a pre-condition for the placebo effect).

In psychology, the Hawthorne Effect (and a range of other ‘effects) could represent types of placebo effects whereby the process of being studied is an active agent in its own right.  Sometimes, perhaps all the time, just being there (or even being nearby) can effect change.  In experiential learning, can experience itself operate sometimes as a placebo?

‘tis nobler suggests that the answer to this question is ‘Yes’.  Fundamentally, the issue is not whether experience offers learning value, for it always does; the issue concerns the efficiency with which this learning value is extracted from the experience.  Participating in any experience, directly, indirectly or vicariously, offers learning opportunities even when you think these experiences are nothing more than ‘sugar pills’.  Despite just going through the motions, learning is still taking place, albeit more slowly, more half-heartedly and much more inefficiently:

‘tis nobler was reminded of ‘experience as placebo’ when reading about some recent happiness research.  The conclusion was very telling – ‘We conclude that happiness interventions are more than just placebos, but that they are most successful when participants know about, endorse, and commit to the intervention’ (emphasis added).

Experience can be a placebo but it can and should be more than just a placebo.  If you know about, endorse and commit to experiential learning, learning outcomes will be more effective and much more efficient.  ‘Spectators’ learn but participants learn more quickly and more deeply.

Going through the motions is a form of self-deception. How do you deceive yourself when exposed to each and every experience that adds learning value?  Find your own way to enable your experiences to be more than placebos.