Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

Will This Make Me Happy?

December 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Naturally, ’tis nobler is flattered that you might interpret ‘this’ as this post.  But we need to think more generally.

Forecasting backwards is a contradiction in terms – how can you predict the past?  In terms of actions, the past is fixed; in terms of meaning, the past is much more flexible.  Even though you can’t change what happened, you can change its meaning – at the very least, the meaning it has for you – or you can forget that what happened did happen.  What does this have to do with happiness?

Happiness is an awkward, nebulous and (unfortunately) often ephemeral condition.  Predicting what will make us happy would be hard enough but it is made even harder because we mess up the prediction process.  And this means that it is very difficult to learn from past predictions and refine our pursuit of happiness through experiential learning.

How do you assess these lyrics in Kid Cudi’s “Happiness”?  He sings that he is:

“…on the pursuit of happiness and I know everything that shines ain’t always gonna be gold

I’ll be fine once I get it, I’ll be good …..”

It’s true – the pursuit won’t be perfect and you will be fine when you get it.  But the imperfections in the pursuit will often work against you.  A series of studies indicated the nature of the prediction process and its inherent problems – ‘tis nobler will keep the details brief in order to keep you happy.  People are generally poor at predicting the happiness that will come from future events, people are poor at remembering their past predictions and people are poor at controlling the influence of how they feel during and after the event on their past predictions.

As a result, people don’t learn from the experience of past predictions and just accept that their current emotional state is what they were expecting.  In terms of predicting happiness, the present is not always a gift – you change the meaning of the past by sending the present meaning back in time.  You don’t learn anything for you think there is nothing to learn.

It’s hard to learn anything when you change the meaning of the past to conform to the present.  And you do need to learn what makes you happy.

‘tis nobler will conclude today’s post at this point.  Are you happy now?

Tweaking The Talk

December 14th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s a well-known distinction between those that do and those that talk about doing – walking the walk compared to just talking the talk.

You don’t often hear about tweaking the talk.  But tweaking the talk – modifying the content of your talking over time – is a very common feature of our interaction with others.  ‘Talking the talk’ is tweaked all the time such that your talking becomes more impressive and more remote from any and all instances of actually ‘walking the walk’.  It is likely that when you talk the (particular) talk today, it will deviate substantially from the first time you talked that particular talk.  Embellishment is an inextricable component of expression.

We often create false memories 

Thinking we know, often without either knowing or thinking, can create all sorts of problems.  One example is in the false memories we have of our performance and behaviour.  To fill in the short-term gaps, we ‘remember’ things that never happened, we assume or infer rather than recall.  How often have you heard people explain their mistakes by saying “I thought that ….” when this thinking is at odds with the situation?

And our recollection of past events is not a process of neutral recall:

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.

Some recent evidence emphasises the social nature of this embellishment process.  We embellish for others and because of others, not just by and for ourselves.   Conformity is a frequent characteristic of group performance – don’t stand up, don’t stand out, just stand in line as that makes it easiest to toe that line.  These studies demonstrated that conformity can affect memories in an enduring way.   Socially-imposed illusion, even ones that are known to be wrong by individuals, can supplant individual memories; these will often remain in place even when the original illusion is shown to be false.  It’s seems true that two (or more) wrongs can make an individual’s right (memory) turn into the same wrong.

Do you often talk to be typical, of your friends, of your generation, of your experiences?  Conversation is often typified by a desire to conform rather than communicate.  Conversation is often the outcome of memory and emotion.  Conversation is not just about facts and passive discourse; it can also be about fictions and ‘theatre’:

Fact may be stranger than fiction but fiction is more frequent than fact.  How do you find your own way through this quagmire?  Do you do it by tweaking your talk?

Can’t Stop Now

September 19th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Let’s start the week with a riddle:

When does -10 equal +10?

And the answer is “Never, for -10 usually equals about +20.”  This isn’t a radical arithmetical revision, it’s basic psychology.  As we explore this issue, there are some below-the-surface connections with the (potential) downsides of persistence and resilience that have featured in recent posts.

Life and learning are not exercises in arithmetic in which we operate as disinterested calculators, adding and subtracting neutrally to conclude the best course of action at any point in time.  Arithmetic is objective, logical and predictable; as calculators, we should be able to change easily and rationally in accordance with circumstances.  New ‘numbers’ should produce different ‘answers’!  But they don’t, for the process is distorted in a range of ways.

Losses and gains don’t just differ by direction for they also differ in perceived magnitude.  We dislike losing much more than we like winning, usually the ratio is around 2:1 (does the -10, +20 relationship make some sense now?).  But this post is not about winning and losing, it is about their implications for learning and behavioural change.

The more you do something, the more likely you are to continue doing it simply because of the time and effort you have invested in it.  This emotional ‘demand’ to receive a dividend from this investment prolongs (unsuccessful) effort and prevents change.  When you’re on a good thing, you stick to it’; when you’re on a ‘bad’ thing, you also stick to it for you hate to lose.

It might help if you view both continuing and changing as ways to get a return on your invested effort – why is change (of direction) seen as a loss?  If you focus on sunk costs, you will continue to sink for flogging a dead horse does not bring it back to life.  As the song goes – ‘alright, already, the show goes on’ but it need not remain as the same show until you find the ‘show’ that is all right for you and you are ready for it:

How will you balance persistence, resilience and change of direction?  Does it help to think of effort as fixed and independent of direction, in which you always give it your best shot until you realise it is time to change rather than continue?  Does it help if you think of direction as flexible and continually created by you, for which the concept of ‘loss’ does not apply?

Many people say ‘can’t stop now’ as they believe continuing is more important than changing.  What is stopping them from saying ‘can’t continue now’?  If you lose the current direction, it’s not necessarily a loss.

I Believe I Know

September 9th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Believing you know something is different to knowing that you know.  Believing you know something is also different to knowing that you believe.  When knowledge and belief go head to head in a fight for supremacy, which one emerges victorious?  Do you know the winner is belief or do you believe the answer is knowledge? T hen again, you could believe the winner is belief or just know that knowledge prevails.

The winner is belief, which raises another important question.  Why does ‘tis nobler continually emphasise that effort is essential?

As learners or changers, our default position is paradoxically the status quo.  We often go through the motions for this ensures that there is no motion involved.  It’s comfortable enough right here; the best way to stay where we are is to go around in small circles, the appearance of effort sufficient to avoid the presence of progress.  We will go to great lengths to protect our beliefs and the best way to achieve this is to ‘stand still’.

We are not rational information processors, neither are we consistent and predictable logicians.  Most everything is at the mercy of subjectivity and we are naturally at the very heart of the ‘problem’ for we are our own and our only subject.  We go to great lengths to protect our beliefs; however, in the face of direct and contradictory evidence, surely it is reasonable to assume that we incorporate this information, revise and adapt.

But we don’t do this.  In fact, information ‘confrontation’ doesn’t just encourage us to protect our beliefs by refusing to move from where we are for it serves to strengthen our beliefs.  This can see us set off in a direction opposite to where we should be heading.  Information ‘confrontation’, which should be a source of learning and a motivation for change, can often be a hindrance to both.  Being exposed to information that should boost often backfires:

This is another example of why effort is essential.  Experiential learning and behavioural change can and do present ongoing challenges; both are made more difficult by the subordination of knowledge to belief.  The ongoing resistance to new knowledge that is inconsistent with our beliefs may be the single greatest reason why we stand still or go backwards.

And yet all the time we still believe we’re moving forward.  Can you believe that?

On Trials

September 2nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things will always go wrong.  Error is a constant companion as you learn and try to change your behaviour.  There is no place for the apostrophe and the space (but there is always time for a rhyme):

I’m perfect never applies; imperfect is one of your defining qualities.

Trial and error learning is based on maximising the trials, learning from the errors and then minimising the mistakes.  However, learning from your errors is easier said than done.  Regardless of the ‘lessons’ contained within the experience that didn’t go to plan, you also have to learn how to cope with these experiences.  After all, getting things wrong can be dispiriting and distressing.  And remember, error is just one cause of negative experiences in your learning and behavioural change journey.  What should you do in order to cope when things do go awry?

Thankfully, research findings do present a view on this question and the answer is that it depends on your view of the situation and/or the situation that you are viewing, assuming these aren’t similar.  The Mynabirds must have been aware of this as their song ‘Ways of Looking’ has these lyrics:

I lose my sense at the sight of you

The effortless way you take the worst news

You said “You can move mountains with your point of view”

Doesn’t have to be so hard

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You may not be able to move mountains but your point of view can be a useful coping mechanism when negative experiences happen.  Coping strategies must change in relation to the perceived severity of the ‘problem’ that has occurred.  When severity is lower, you are encouraged to be more positive in your assessment – you cannot and should not take everything to heart.  Minor bumps in your journey may provide additional learning value but it might be best to move on quickly for getting stuck (or, even worse, going backwards or giving up) is a much worse outcome.  Don’t over-analyse these minor bumps; giving them more attention than they deserve can paralyse.  Be positive, see them in the right perspective, push them aside and keep going.

When severity is higher, however, being overly positive is negative.  In these situations, it is important to review the ‘problem’ as honestly as you can, while seeking feedback from others if this helps you.  The additional learning value in these situations is much greater – they represent the real ‘errors’ in trial and error learning – and dismissing them with a positive attitude is counterproductive.

You have to decide whether situations are bumps or BUMPS and whether, as a consequence, you should be overly positive or objectively analytical.  In trial and error learning, trials will always have errors but there is no reason why these errors need be a trial.

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!

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?

Spent Without Expending

July 20th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Expect And Dream’, ‘tis nobler reached this conclusion:

Expect the positive and imagine the negative!

This simple statement carries much weight for experiential learners and those pursuing behavioural change.  Unsurprisingly, the evidence indicates that positive expectations are more predictive of success than negative expectations – it’s very difficult to succeed when you have little expectation of success.  In contrast, negative imaginings of the future are more likely to lead to success than when these ‘dreams’ are positive.  Positive expectations and negative dreams push you towards success; however, positive dreams can be counterproductive, making little or no contribution to success. ‘tis nobler explained this surprising finding in this way:

It is possible for positive dreams to become an end in their own right rather than a (motivating) means to the desired end; if the positive dream is enjoyed now, it is less likely to produce goal achievement in the future.  The dream is enjoyed even though it never leads anywhere…….. Having positive expectations, supported by evidence (of effort, insight, progress, feedback etc), leads to success.  Having negative ‘dreams’, the images that the learning process will be demanding, time-consuming and extensive can also contribute to success, for they are directly connected with the evidence on which expectations are based.  Positive ‘dreams’ are unconnected with anything except your dreaming.

Now, recent research has provided an explanation for the failure of positive dreams – they sap your energy!  Dreaming of the finish line in whatever form it takes resembles having finished, with the feeling of completion accompanied by feeling physically and mentally flat.  It’s like running and finishing the race before the starter’s pistol fires – you get the exhaustion and exhilaration without the exercise.  You are spent without expending any effort.

On this basis, it’s reasonable to conclude that these guys have the most positive dreams of all:

Expect the positive and imagine the negative, for these approaches fuel enthusiasm and effort.  Just imagining the positive ensures that the positive remains in your imagination.  Imagine that, for that is a negative!

Outside Assignment

June 29th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler will wait while you read the previous post.  It’s about waiting, which is a nothing act pretending to be a something action.  Believing in ‘nothing to do but wait’ can be the same as failing to realise that ‘waiting is doing nothing’.  No buts!

You can’t delegate your waiting but waiting does involve delegation.  Waiting is a form of outside assignment as you are waiting for others to do something that you can, at least in part, do yourself.  It’s a mindset that says ‘If things are meant to be, if it’s your destiny or fate, then they will come to pass’:

This form of delegation is generally regarded as a negative factor in experiential learning and behavioural change, replacing self management with external control. Performance of open-loop skills, usually in complex, dynamic environments, is a continual challenge and, when things (occasionally) don’t go to plan, it is tempting to seek and supply explanations for these failures beyond ourselves.  ‘It wasn’t my fault’, ‘look at what they just did’, ‘this thing doesn’t work’, ‘this is a silly way to conduct business’: these represent examples of attributional bias.  As you seem to be doing what you’ve always done (importantly this assessment is always from your own perspective) when an error occurs, it must be their fault, not yours.  Attributing blame to external factors is another form of delegation and another way in which you can shirk the responsibility for your own learning journey.   Even though they lead nowhere, ‘outs’ are always easy to find.

However, external control does have a positive side.  A study investigated whether external control assisted the grieving process and found that those who assigned cause to external factors – it was their time, that’s life etc – coped with the loss better (as measured by life satisfaction scores).  ‘tis nobler is wondering whether the protective benefits of external control in the grieving process extend to error or task failure.  Could something that dilutes or damages learning also offset the costs of making mistakes?

External control may be mainly a drag on learning and change but it might, just might, help you cope with the inevitable but infrequent serious failures.  Is it possible to exclude ‘fate’ from learning and include ‘fate’ in coping?  Providing a personal, durable answer to this question is not an outside assignment.

Take Them Off

June 1st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

In ‘Step Outside’, ‘tis nobler asked:

How do I gain insights into my own behaviour by gaining insights into the way you see me?

And then noted:

The short and incorrect answer is to put yourself in the other’s shoes.  The starting point for this leap into different footwear is the way you see yourself; you take your view of yourself and transplant it onto them.  This is where the inaccuracies emerge for research has shown that there is little or no association between my assessment of your view and your view itself.  I don’t fit into your shoes!

Don’t just put yourself in their shoes for this act simply changes your shoes.  Step outside yourself before stepping into their shoes and your understanding of how they see you will be a better fit.

But, and it’s a very important ‘but’, this is much easier said than done for there is a lot of evidence that supports the view that we are generally inaccurate in our assessments of our own behaviour and that such assessments are positively skewed.  Wrong and too rosy is a difficult combination to overcome, in part because being accurate and honest can be confronting.

‘Know Thyself’ may be one of the more common philosophical principles and yet may be the one that is most difficult to achieve.  You might find it difficult to know others for what they do tells you more about the situation than it does about who they are.

And you will always find it difficult to know your own behaviour if you persist in wearing rose coloured glasses.  As Kelly Rowland sings:

Everything is beautiful when you’re looking through rose coloured glasses,

Everything seems amazing when you see the view through rose coloured glasses,

Take them off.

Self monitoring and self assessment are core elements of experiential learning and behavioural change.  The ongoing question concerns the person being monitored and assessed.  Is it actually you, is it the ‘you’ you think others want to see or is it the ‘you’ that you’d prefer to be?  Wear clear lenses when monitoring and assessing your behaviour.  If the lenses have a rosy tint, there’s just one thing you must do.

Take them off.

Self Serving Attribution

May 13th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Things didn’t go well for me.  It’s not me, though, it’s you.  And if it’s not you, then it must be them.  If it wasn’t for you, or possibly them – I’m still not sure about you -, things would have gone much, much better.  Why do you, or they, do this to me?  It is clearly someone’s fault, either yours or theirs.  Probably yours, unless it’s theirs, of course.  Come to think of it (in a biased way), they did this to me the last time things didn’t go well.  Now I see what’s going on, they’ve got it in for me.

Things did go well for me.  Well done me!  It was a creditable performance for which I deserve all the credit.  You didn’t lift a finger and they were totally irrelevant.  Thanks for nothing for that is exactly what you and they did.  Nothing!  It all came down to me and me alone, and I came through.  I deserve everything I get, for what I get is because of how well I did.  I have to accept full responsibility for this great result as I am fully responsible for it.

Taking responsibility for the good while ‘blaming’ others for the bad is another type of cognitive bias – the self serving bias.  Can you identify examples in your own learning journey?  But the bias doesn’t stop there because we can be biased in our application, turning things upside-down:

Things didn’t go well for you.  It’s you, not me or them.  It’s all down to you.

Things did go well for you.  It’s not you, it’s due to me, or them, or dumb luck, or just being in the right place at the right time.  It’s anything but you.

The other side of the self serving bias is the (fundamental) attribution bias; when it’s someone other than me, good outcomes are produced by external factors while poor outcomes are entirely their fault.  It’s not, however, an assessment process that should be determined by the outcome (as in these biases) but by the nature of the process.  Otherwise, you do unto others the opposite of what you do unto yourself.  And whatever you do may have little overlap with the available evidence.

Reflective thinking is a core strategy in monitoring, reviewing and directing your learning efforts and it may not be helpful to simply say that you must be honest with yourself; after all, honesty is such a lonely word:

Lonely or not, honesty can be a value-laden and ‘flexible’ concept.  Perhaps it’s better to think in terms of validity or congruence – how closely your assessments align with the objective evidence, starting with the things that are beyond dispute.  As always, it’s much easier to find excuses than it is to uncover reasons.  Self assessment is a difficult task, one which most do inconsistently, but it is necessary and important.  The default position might be that you can fool yourself, and diminish the efforts of others, all of the time, but you can progressively avoid this position through effort and evidence.

How Close? How Far?

April 27th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you cannot be a passive consumer of experiences for your learning will be less effective and much less efficient.  While learning opportunities are a feature of the immediate world around you, they are incidental rather than ingrained.  You must actively pursue them rather than just wait for them to roll past.

But there are limits and so direct experience can and should be complemented by vicarious experiences.  Learn directly by doing and learn indirectly by engaging with the doing done by others for it will comprise both shared and independent experiences.  It’s good to ‘walk a mile in their shoes’:

But the answer to ‘when to learn vicariously’ is not whenever, for there is one application that appears to have costs greater than benefits.  Self-control seems to be hindered by ‘wearing other shoes’; in this circumstance, watching may be better than wearing!

In Other Shoes, ‘tis nobler stressed the value of distance to enhance self-control – Putting yourself in other shoes can help you succeed in your own.  Distance, whether it is physical or psychological, is one way to enhance self-control and maintain your own journey – but there is distance and then there is greater distance.  And greater distance seems better than distance in this instance – can you see now why wearing might be better than watching?

The vicarious experience of ‘wearing the shoes of another’ may provide useful insights into self-control but recent research indicates that this distancing may not be sufficient to overcome its costs.  Those that ‘wore the shoes of another exercising self-control’ were subsequently unable to match this level of vicarious self-control whereas those that ‘watched’ (actually read about someone practising self-control) demonstrated subsequently enhanced levels of self-control.  Insufficient distancing exacted a price.

Both direct and indirect experience can be valuable but this is not guaranteed.  In many ways, indirect may mean insufficient.  And insufficient is neither effective nor efficient.  Can you untangle proficient, sufficient and efficient in order to guide your learning journey?

For Others

April 25th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

We’ve all had the experience of being completely and utterly bewildered.  Then along comes someone who, in the blink of an eye, sorts things out.  To compound our ‘misery’, they proceed to explain what they did in language we can barely understand – ‘the problem was that the hotchclocker wasn’t interfacing sequentially with the floudleflap, so I’ve reglunted the squizzlepepple to offset the gain in the off-centre centrifudge.  Got it?’

Absolutely, with both hands.  Clear as a bell.  We just weren’t familiar with it.  Does this sound familiar?

If you search for ‘Familiarity’ on Wikipedia, you are automatically re-directed to the entry on ‘Intimate Relationship’.  ‘tis nobler will not enquire whether you are familiar with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra; if you are, how do you find the time?  But this post is about another aspect of familiarity – its breeding capacity.

Familiarity breeds contempt, a shorthand way of describing the expertise bias.  When I am able to do something, I find it difficult to understand why you, as a berginner, can’t do it.  I compare your ‘now performance’ with the ‘now me’ rather than compare it to the ‘beginner me’.  I can’t imagine how the ‘beginner you’ can be so hopeless.  After all, I have done this many, many times and it is so easy to do.  What is wrong with you?

In ‘Overpowering’, ‘tis nobler wrote:

In learning situations, you shouldn’t necessarily attribute the behaviour of others to their character but rather to the way they are dealing with their circumstances.  Context trumps character, specific, short-term needs override general, longer-term orientations.  It is possible for situations to turn saints into sinners and sinners into saints; between these extremes is the fuzziness of life.  To learn about situations, place more emphasis on understanding the action rather than passing judgement on the actors.

But the expertise bias operates the other way – 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.  I find it so easy to walk in a straight line that I can’t imagine you being unable to do so.  Yet, when your inexperience imposes a ‘blindfold’, look what happens:

Unfortunately, familiarity can breed contempt, contempt for others.  Effort will remove the ‘blindfolds’ that are inescapable for novice performers; squashing this effort through unfair criticism or inadequate explanation is inexcusable.  Everybody begins at the beginning!

How Green?

April 22nd, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It is not really a fact but, through extensive use, has become folklore.  And folklore can morph into apparent fact when it remains unquestioned:

“The grass is always greener on the other side.”

But aren’t proverbs like this built on a foundation of fact?  Doesn’t our everyday experience of our own lives reinforce the view that others, whether friends or strangers, are having – must be having – easier, more fulfilling, happier lives?  Wouldn’t we be like them if we could only get to the other side, the side that they are on?  Isn’t it always greener on the other side?

Research findings paint a different picture.  We have a tendency to underestimate the ‘problems’ on the other side; we estimate that those on the other side have many less negative experiences and emotions and slightly more positive experiences and emotions than ourselves.  It might be expected that we’d be more accurate when friends rather than peers are the subjects of our scrutiny but closeness doesn’t seem to exert much influence on our accuracy.  Others, all others, face fewer problems and have better lives because they live ‘where the grass is greener’.

In addition to the ‘greener’ effect, our estimation issues also reflect the ability of others to hide their ‘less green’ experiences and emotions.  Even though this is what we ourselves do, we appear unable to recognise when others erect similar shields.  And so we persist in believing that we struggle relative to others.  We answer ‘OK’ when asked how things are, even though things might be (much) less than OK, yet we accept ‘OK’ from others as an accurate summary of their situation.

There is a range of ways in which the ‘greener’ fallacy affects our learning journey and our efforts at behavioural change.  Think through what these might be.

Experiential learning has a substantial solo component and yet you are never alone, your experiences are rarely unique and your difficulties are seldom unshared.  Believing that things are ‘less green’ for you than they are for others is untrue.

It’s always as green on the other side!

Easy To Believe

April 11th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s a common saying – easy to believe.  Appearances can be deceiving, even to an experienced performer, which is why experience builds in multiple redundancies.  Looked at in one way, an appearance can be deceiving; when looked at in different ways or when different things are looked at concurrently, the ‘deception’ can be revealed.  Still, notwithstanding the various fail-safes we use, we are never safe from failing, underscoring the need for robust self-management in addition to skilled performance.

But nothing’s perfect and even robust self-management has its lapses.  This is where deception can make an appearance; this appearance is all about deceiving!  If it was just a bit of harmless deception, the little ‘white lies’ that are often used to lubricate the wheels of interaction, this post would come to an early conclusion.  However, it’s more than that for the ‘lies’ are not as ‘white’ as they might seem.

It’s not just deception; it can also be about self-deception, a combination of deception and delusion.  There is evidence that self-deception is resistant to self-correction, in part because we fail to see the need for correction.  In this sense we are, as Smoosh  tell us, our own lies:

We are so afraid to be ourselves …

We are our own lies…


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Pretending that we know is much, much more frequent than knowing that we pretend.  There are, however, choices.  We don’t know what we don’t know but we can discover what we don’t know through effortful practice.  Similarly, we may not know when we are pretending to know but we are not destined to be our own lies.

These are difficult learning paths to navigate – can you find your own way?


March 30th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

What?  What’s Oobleck?

Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid.

What?  What’s a new non-tonian thingy?

Oobleck is a mixture of cornflour and water, a mixture that is both a liquid and a solid at the same time.  While other materials are either one or the other, depending on temperature and pressure, oobleck can be both at the same time, depending on force.  This video probably explains it better:

Many things can appear to be fixed and unchanging, including the limits we place on ourselves or, for that matter, the limits that are imposed on us by others.  And these limits are reinforced through framing, feedback or (initial) failure.  Whatever ‘it’ is, you may soon decide that ‘it’ is not meant to be, that you are unable to do ‘it’ or that ‘it’ is only for those who are smarter, quicker or better than you.

When things are fixed, we say that they are written in stone.  But, in experiential learning and behavioural change, it might be more appropriate to think that everything is written in oobleck.  To change oobleck from the liquid it appears to be takes one thing and one thing alone – effort.  Stop and you sink; try and you can change things.  Success, however defined, depends on you moving forward rather than standing still.

There is evidence that demonstrates the positive effects that flow from believing that limits are variable rather than fixed.  You will never move forward if you think that you have gone as far as you are able.  Self-fulfilling prophesies stem from a belief that subjective limits are objective realities.

There are limits but they are always beyond the limits you might accept.  Put your learning on a firmer footing – change your own ooblecks through your own efforts.

Compared To What?

March 4th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

A glorious future awaits – a future where we are happier, more fulfilled, better paid, healthier and more successful.  We just have to work out how to get there.  Once we arrive, it’s going to be great.  Tomorrow never comes fast enough, in part because the tomorrow we really want constantly recedes.  Unless we act.

If you are trying to realise a goal – trying to make it real – what should you do?  Dee Dee Bridgewater drops a hint in this song:

The hint is the use of comparisons.  But, as you may have come to expect as you explore the various elements of experiential learning and behavioural change, the comparisons are not necessarily simple and neither are they ever simple comparisons, for there is a difference.

If you just focus on the goal-achieved future, you may never get there.  Then again, if you just focus on your current situation, you may never leave.  There is evidence that a key to commitment and achievement of goals is in the active contrast of today and tomorrow – where you are and where you want to be.  If you’re trying to make it real, this answers the ‘Compared to what’ question.  Compare and contrast the now with the soon to be, the present with the future.

But wait, there’s more, otherwise this could just be another exercise in despair as the contrast is too stark, the gap too wide.  The contrast process is a two-way street controlled by the ‘success expectations’ police who direct traffic one way or the other.

They’ll direct it towards the goal if, and only if, the contrast process is fuelled by reasonable expectations of success.  In these circumstances, the contrast strengthens commitment and initiates the effort.  You can see where you are, you know where you want to be and you believe you can get there.  And so off you go.

They’ll direct it away from the goal if expectations of success are low or lacking.  This contrast procedure need not be negative for it can direct you towards other goals rather than just leave you in a vacuum.  And so off you go, heading to elsewhere.

Both directions have a desirable destination that is defined by you.  All that the contrast process does is assist you in determining your direction of travel.  Without contrast, you may never arrive or you may never leave.

Are You My Mirror?

January 21st, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

According to Wikipedia, mirrors are commonly used for personal grooming or for admiring yourself.  Of course, all ‘mirrors’ require a reflective surface.  Or do they?

It’s good to take a long, hard look at yourself.  Not literally, of course, for admiring your reflection in the mirror – pleasing as it may be – is often frowned upon by others, where ‘others’, of course, denotes those of a jealous disposition.  Looking at yourself, figuratively more than literally, is an important component of self assessment, self management and experiential learning.

When you could, and should, be your own mirror – reflecting on, and then acting on, your learning experiences – it is more common to use others as your ‘mirror’.  As the video demonstrated, some are fortunate enough to see themselves (or the closest approximation possible) in another.  Yet, most of us will look at anyone else in order to see ourselves.  In their eyes, in their faces, in the tone of their voice and in the words they use, we extract our own value:

I know what you think of me, or at least I think I do.  I can see it in your eyes whenever we meet.  I can see it in the ways you behave towards me.  I’m not blind, you know, it’s as plain as the nose on your face.  Unless I’m mistaken, and I’m not, it’s a nose that is screwed up in disgust.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop at our self assessment of your ‘me-assessment’.  We use this information in ways that shape our own behaviour.  For a moment, a minute or a month and beyond, I become what you expect me to be.  Rather than using these expectations as one means, they become the only means.  And this means (no pun intended) that the end is different to that which it otherwise might be.

The effect of external expectations on a learning journey can make a useful contribution or distort it beyond recognition.  And this gives rise to some important questions.

Are you my mirror?  When I look at you looking at me, does what I see tell me anything about me or just something about you?

Paying For It

November 19th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Making decisions can be a weird or wonderful process.  How did I make the decision to use ‘or’ rather than ‘and’ in that first sentence?  Does it make any difference?  If it doesn’t, was there a decision to make in the first place?  Cue the sound of one hand clapping.

Weird or wonderful might equate to inexplicable (usually to others) or accurate/helpful (usually to ourselves).  There is a huge range of factors that can impinge on individual decisions, so let’s just examine one for a start.  As you would expect, this one is, itself, the tip of a decision making iceberg.  An iceberg can be a slippery slope but only until you hit the water.  Then you start floundering and sinking.  Or then you start swimming.  Sink or swim – the outcome is determined by the decisions you make.

There is evidence that we discount the advice of others in reaching our ‘own’ decisions.  One of several factors that affect the discount rate is whether we have invested in this advice.  A series of three experiments concluded that we are more likely to follow advice if we have paid for it, presumably because we need to demonstrate ‘value for money’.  This resonates with the more general ‘sunk costs fallacy’ – a personal investment is pursued beyond the point where it makes sense on the basis that we are averse to loss.  And the most obvious loss would be the money we have paid, which explains why we endeavour to extract continuing value from it.  In all sorts of investment decisions, the perceived ‘point of no return’ recedes into the distance so that you feel that you never reach it.  In fact, you passed it some time ago!

Think more broadly about how discounting and investment affect the decisions you make in your learning and behavioural change journey.  There is always a price to be paid – an opportunity cost or a consequence – for the decisions you make.  How will you make these decisions?  Does the value of something increase just because you paid for it?  What price are you prepared to pay?

Sometimes, the price you pay is more than the price you pay. Above all, perhaps, it’s best just to pay attention to your journey rather than pay others to take you for a ride.

Do, Not Don’t

November 15th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

‘tis nobler spends a lot of time thinking through the power and pitfalls of ‘Do’.  It’s a simple word that, in the context of experiential learning and behavioural change, can be more complex and confusing than it is short.  And, comprising just two letters, it is very short.

‘tis nobler spends a lot of time thinking through the power and pitfalls of ‘Don’t’.  It’s a simple word – actually, it’s a contraction – that, in the context of experiential learning and behavioural change, is designed to make things simple through contraction.  ‘Don’t’ is meant to simplify your options by reducing your choices.  As a result, the power of ‘Don’t is confused rather than confusing; the power of ‘Don’t’ is a mess.

In this heartfelt song, Sharon Van Etten sings about the limitations of ‘don’t do it’:

And you want to do it,

And you want to do it,

If you want to do it,

You are going to do it,

Even if I don’t want you to

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External avoidance requests or demands have some common ground with the shortcomings of internal suppression (see previous ’tis nobler posts here and here); essentially, they are ineffective.  Avoidance instructions can produce either ironic or compensatory outcomes.  Ironic outcomes are those that ‘disobey’ the avoidance instruction (in much the same that thought or behaviour suppression makes the thought or behaviour more likely).  Compensatory outcomes, more properly over-compensatory, are those in which avoidance behaviour is exaggerated.

When told to avoid doing something when doing something else, there may be a pattern of ironic or over-compensatory behaviours.  And this is where the mixed bag comes in.  Research studies have shown that, for individuals, there is little, if any, pattern.  At times, you will be ironic, at other times you will over-compensate and there appears no way to predict when either will occur.

Avoidance instructions may be well-intentioned but you cannot allow them to determine your behaviour in isolation.  Rather than guiding more effective performance, they may distort it.

Ironic, isn’t it!  And, if it is ironic, there’s no compensation.  Unless you over-compensate, that is, for then there’s no irony.  How will you avoid certain things without irony or over-compensation?  Perhaps it is better to focus on what you have to do, not what you have to avoid.