Sailing The Specific Ocean

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.

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