Posts Tagged ‘norms’

Standard Bearers

November 18th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

The past two posts have highlighted the potential pitfalls of anonymity – anonymity breeds aberration and as perceived anonymity increases, so does the level of aberration.  Are increasing numbers directly and immutably linked to decreasing standards?  Do groups ditch their (shared) standards rather than retain them?

When you shift from exactly like you to someone like you (who seems to be like everybody else due to the situation being confronted), are you and all of the ‘someones’ like you destined to spiral downwards?  It’s reasonable to think that groups dominate the individual – after all, we talk about being ‘caught up in the moment’ or of being ‘lost in the crowd’.

Recent events have shown how (group) behaviour can deteriorate rapidly but this focus can blind us to the presence and effect of standard bearers, those that can influence groups in constructive ways.

It is possible for a (large) group to remain partly a group and partly a group of individuals.  And therein might exist the key to unleash the positive potential that all groups possess, for individual differences can influence and resist what might otherwise be a mob mentality.  Whether you are alone or in the midst of many others, it is worth remembering the essential message in this song by Bon Jovi:

We weren’t born to follow

Come on and get up off your knees

When life is a bitter pill to swallow

You gotta hold on to what you believe

Choice is ever present; in the middle of a crowd, you can still choose to be yourself or you can choose to ‘follow’ someone like you.  ‘Like you’ refers to standards and, for a range of reasons, someone like you could be the standard bearer you need.  Of course, you can ‘choose’ to follow someone that is nothing like you – groups can do that to you.

Will you bear witness to the standards you bear by being a standard bearer should the need arise?  Walking together in the same direction is not following; rather, it is being led by your shared and positive standards.  Walking away from these standards does involve following – following blindly.  We weren’t born to follow in this way.

Around Is Not Forward

October 26th, 2011 | Specific | 0 Comments

Movement does not necessarily signify progress; neither does change necessarily signify improvement.  Deckchairs on the Titanic or chickens parted from their heads represent evidence that around is not forward.  Around poses problems for individuals but it is an almost irresistible temptation for groups.

Around does have particular appeal for it alludes to effort – satisfying a pre-requisite that people must be seen to be doing something – while progress eludes those making such ‘effort’.  The latter satisfies a second pre-requisite for many such activities – retention of the status quo.

Not only is around not forward, around prevents forward.  In a standard twist, forward must not only be prevented, it must NOT be seen to be prevented.  Prevention is better when unclear!

There is significant evidence indicating how this happens within groups but no clear explanations for why this happens.  Possible explanations will be left for another time – perhaps things will move forward if ‘tis nobler hangs around – so let’s just set out the basic problem.

And the basic problem is ‘around’.  Groups are not the sum of the individuals that comprise them; rather, groups are often the parts of each individual that are shared with all other group members.  Instead of bringing all of themselves to the group, each person brings only those things shared with others.  In this sense, while groups comprise more people, group performance can reflect the limited performance of less than one individual.

If you can’t or don’t use all of your abilities to help the group move forward, look what happens:

Expanding numbers can produce shrinking performance, for all reduce to the shared rather than share the unique.  It’s the opposite of synergy – the whole is less rather than greater than the sum of its parts.

There’s a lot of ‘going around’ going around.  Go forward, not around.

Appearing Random

October 19th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

This is the fifth (of six) ‘strategic’ post in a row, which hardly seems random (for the sole reason that it isn’t).  Yet the appearance of randomness influences learning and behavioural change in a host of ways.  Let’s start with a few questions.

Would your friends describe you as fantastic or bombastic?  Would your friends describe you as gymnastic or inelastic?  Would your friends describe you as enthusiastic or plastic?  Would your friends describe you as ecclesiastic or scholastic?

Would your friends think these rating are drastic or exaggerated?  Exaggerated?  EXAGGERATED??  That doesn’t fit the pattern!

The use of ‘exaggerated’ isn’t sarcastic – it’s stochastic.  Actually, it’s not stochastic, but ‘tis nobler is trying to make a point.  And the point has to do with how you go about explaining things, for your explanations can affect everything you do.

Stochastic means random, a messy word that might be best defined as unpredictable, although this might just mean things are happening according to a pattern of which we are unaware.  Just because things look random doesn’t mean that they are – even many sets of ‘random’ numbers are, in technical terms, pseudo-random rather than truly random.

The difference between things appearing mostly random or mostly predictable is you!

Everybody knows the saying, ‘S#@t happens’.  Is this just ‘bad luck’?  Was it unavoidable?  Was it a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time?  Was there anything you could have done differently?  In order, ‘tis nobler suggests that the answers to these questions are improbable, probably not, possibly and absolutely.

How would you answer these same questions?

Stochastic systems aren’t entirely chaotic; they have both predictable and unpredictable elements – just knowing how they start out doesn’t guarantee that you’ll know how they finish (if it did, the system would be deterministic, not stochastic).  Traffic is stochastic – you can predict reliably, but not perfectly, what most other drivers will do because most behave in accordance with rules and social norms most of the time.  You can predict that almost every driver will stay on their side of the road almost all of the time but you can’t be completely sure that, as you round the next corner, you won’t be faced with another car coming straight towards you on your side of the road.  Welcome to the stochastic world!

Unpredictability is always from a particular viewpoint – an event may appear unpredictable to you but not to others.  An event may appear unpredictable to you simply because you didn’t notice the things that led up to it.  It may have been surprising (to you) but it wasn’t unpredictable.  If you don’t see something, does this make it inherently unpredictable?

Being ‘unpredictable’ doesn’t mean being unavoidable; the key dimension is time.  You can ‘predict’ something just as it is about to happen but that’s not much of a prediction.  The challenge is to operate ahead of time, to anticipate so that you have the time to work out what to do and then do it.  Anticipation is a hallmark of experience.

Until now, we’ve talked about stochastic things as things you have to anticipate, avoid or cope with.  But there’s another side that is exciting:

“What’s the point of living it without a tiny little bit of ….” 

Don’t be determined by others or by events that you think are beyond your control.  Be determined to find your own way, even when the process appears stochastic. Appearing random can be transformed into being in control through that essential element – effort.

It will remain a partially stochastic behavioural world.  Stochasticity is part of the challenge but it’s also part of the fun.

 

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.

You Are Such A …….

February 9th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

What are the differences between names and labels?  A person usually has the one name and yet they are assigned many labels by others.  Names could be described as traditional or exotic, they might be straightforward, interesting or intriguing.  Names may have historical derivations or they may be without precedent, created by a novel combination of letters.

If you were to describe the perceived qualities of labels, what words would you use?  Labels may be convenient, perhaps inductive, and, or so it seems to ‘tis nobler, invariably negative.  We name people and objects without prejudice while pre-judging them with labels.

Issues are always more complex than labels indicate, so why do we persist with the use of labels?  Labels have as much to do with experiential learning as the legal system has to do with justice.  Little or nothing!  This is not to deny that there is inappropriate or unsuitable behaviour or people behaving like ‘jackasses’.  No age group, no gender, no suburbs or towns are immune; doesn’t the problem begin when you or ‘they’ start to believe that this type of (infrequent) behaviour is the only problem?

Describing something in a general way, like all of the sound bites you get on the news, is light years away from explaining or understanding it.  You are not a label.  You are not a category.  Life would be very different if everybody fitted into a small number of pigeonholes.

You are certainly not a problem.  Sure, you are different but, if just being different was a problem, then ……. hang on, sometimes, some people unfortunately think it is.  But, in these circumstances, it is their problem, not yours.

Recognise the differences. 

Manage the differences. 

Handle the differences your way.  Find your own way.

By your actions, show the labellers they are wrong.  Reject stereotypes, not just by words but also by deeds and thoughts – it’s time to put your best foot forward:

Make your own decisions – don’t just grab at labels.  Don’t do things just because others want you to.  Do your own thing.  Find your own way.  Be strong, be safe.  Stand for something or fall for everything.  Put your best foot forward!  If you decide not to, do you have a reason, or just an excuse?

Harmonious*

January 28th, 2011 | Strategic | 0 Comments

If you have any interest in public policy, what sort of interest is it?  Is it the sort that means you are interested, even if you don’t find it interesting?  Or is it the sort that means you are disinterested? 

Is it possible to be both interested and disinterested in an issue at the same time?  In a semantic sense, it is possible for curiosity or concern and impartiality can co-exist.  And yet, in a practical sense, an interest in something is so closely aligned with self-interest that co-existence is rendered nigh on impossible.  How often do you hear people say, “I don’t care what’s in it for me”?  And, when you do, how often do you think they truly mean it?

It seems that it is not possible to be interested in something without being interested in how this interest can work to your advantage.  If there is no probable advantage, interest disappears rapidly.  Of course, this alignment of interest with self-interest distorts the issue, some would say strategically while others would describe this distortion as expediency or duplicity.  Or is this too cynical?  How do you balance interest and disinterest, and how much of your interest is actually self-interest?

For this question can produce harmonious, inclusive solutions or discordant, exclusive reactions.  There are always choices and, as a society, we are defined by our choices.  More accurately, we are defined by the choices made on our behalf.

It is important for interest and disinterest to co-exist in experiential learning, for curiosity and objectivity extend learning and understanding.  Self-interest is not the pariah you might imagine, for positive self-interest need not operate at the expense of others.  Commit to positive self-interest at the beginning and then put it away in the bottom drawer for it is a cause and not a consequence of sustained learning and sustainable behavioural change.

Where interest, disinterest and self-interest are concerned, it seems that we still have a lot to learn:

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*  this post is in response to the disgraceful notion that, rather than contributing equitably to flood reconstruction ourselves through a temporary levy, we should pay for it by reducing foreign aid.

It’s Not Just For Them

October 22nd, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Advertising is a huge, huge industry, with most corporations investing millions and millions of dollars to get their message out to consumers.  If you buy our product, your teeth will be whiter, your clothes will be cleaner, your popularity will increase and the entire family can spend countless hours of fun playing the very latest, the very best electronic game.  It’s guaranteed; just spend your money on our product and life will just get better!

And yet most of us think that advertising – in fact, any form of persuasion – only influences other people.  I am immune but all of you are affected.  I make up my own mind whereas everybody else does what they are told, buys what they are encouraged to buy.  Persuasion is not for me, it is for them.  It’s always for them.

Yet again, there is a swirl of cognitive biases at play – we believe we are better than others on specific activities, we believe everybody is similar on broader issues and now we think that others are more influenced by persuasive messages than we ourselves are.  It’s a funny mix of miscalibration, conformity (and possibly pluralistic ignorance when we misperceive norms) and perceived immunity or strength.

Many forms of persuasion are persuasive but persuasion itself is pervasive.  While it may sometimes represent a frontal assault, it is often in the background chipping away.  And it is difficult to be, in the words of Fireflight - unbreakable:

“Now I am unbreakable, it’s unmistakable

No-one can touch me, nothing can stop me ….”

A  learner’s aim is not necessarily to withstand or reject persuasive messages; the ongoing challenge is to be discriminating.  How will you discriminate between the positive and the (potentially) negative attempts at persuasion?  You are neither unbreakable (in every sense) nor are these messages only for ‘them’.  It would be nice if there was a simple recipe to follow but life is not like that.  You have to find your own way, using real-time self-management.  ’tis nobler wonders whether you find this message persuasive.

Throw It Away

October 18th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Take the wool.  Pull it over their eyes.  Tell them how good you are, despite having little experience.  You can fool some of the people some of the time.  It is easily done but it will eventually bring you undone.

Take the wool.  Pull it over your eyes.  Tell yourself how good you are, despite having little experience.  Can you ever really fool yourself?

It’s your experiential learning journey, not theirs.  Fundamentally, you are accountable to yourself, not them.

One way, perhaps the best way, of generating valid self-assessments is to be held accountable for them.  Who is the best person to hold you to account for your self-assessments?  As Jose Delhart sings in a song titled ‘Accountability’:

“And I won’t be ashamed of what I’ve done for my freedom …”

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Don’t be ashamed of what you’ve done as you learn.  Don’t be ashamed of what you cannot yet do, as there will always be more to learn.  Don’t think that impressing others is more important than being honest with yourself.

Take the wool.  Throw it away.  Be accountable.

My Eyes, Your Eyes

September 27th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

While it is a statistical impossibility, apparently everybody is better than everybody else.  This was addressed in ‘Compounding’, which stated:

Personal distortion can be created and sustained because:

I am too inexperienced to know how inexperienced I am.

And this is a real problem, largely because the learner doesn’t realise that a problem exists for them and then is unaware of the need to manage the learning challenge.  They usually recognise that challenges exist for their peers but they themselves ‘know’ they have more talent or natural ability.  It is a statistical impossibility for everyone to be above-average; this miscalibration exacerbates the situation.

Overconfidence in your ability to perform a skill is a very common feature in experiential learners.  There have been a number of explanations proposed for this feature; one that has received recent empirical support emphasises the social dimension.  After a series of experiments, researchers concluded that reporting of overconfident estimates reflects a desire to communicate our apparent strengths to others.  Perhaps we are made up to make ourselves look better; the ‘social’ in social learning can be both an asset and a liability.

It is unfortunate if learners are more concerned about how they look in the eyes of others rather than how they look in their own eyes.  This video presents a beautiful Ben Harper lullaby titled “Happy Ever After In Your Eyes”; seeing happiness in your eyes should always be produced by your happiness or my honesty:

Placing more emphasis on convincing others that there is no distortion instead of making the sustained effort to make this appearance real rather than apparent may have some short term benefits.  It is possible to fool some of the people some of the time.  But that’s not the real concern here – there is another, deeper question that should influence your effort, your learning and your ongoing commitment to change:

“Are you able and willing to fool yourself all of the time?”  Look for the answer in your eyes, not mine or theirs.

Say Or Tell?

September 20th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

It’s a common phrase, one that you hear all the time:  “I tell you what.” 

And then people proceed to tell you ‘what’, usually prescribing or proscribing the way they believe issues should be dealt with or how they think others should behave.

But if you want to encourage me to change my behaviour, what should you tell me?  Actually, it’s probably better to ask, “What should you say?”, for the sender is more important than the receiver for the effectiveness of persuasive communication.  Where an individual is concerned, ‘tis nobler has previously talked about turning telling off; where interpersonal communication is concerned, it is preferable to concentrate on the quality of your message rather than the perceived desirability for others to change their behaviour.  It’s often unproductive and always unsustainable to tell people what they should do, regardless of how compelling you believe this course of action is.  A commitment to your way leads to contention, exhortation and argument; as The Cranberries sing, there’s no need to argue:

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There are many dimensions to the persuasion process but the research gives clear guidance on how information should be used and, therefore, what you should say.  Do you think it is best to give information on what people are currently doing (descriptive norms)?  Can you reduce vandalism or binge drinking, as examples, by stating that people are damaging property or drinking excessively?  Do descriptions of occurrence discourage?

The answer is ‘No’.  The evidence indicates that the use of this type of normative information leads to a higher likelihood that those receiving these messages will engage in the very behaviour the message aims to deter!  The saying about roads, Hell and good intentions comes to mind – look/listen to how many ‘naughty’ people there are, without realising that your admonitory pronouncements are encouragement rather than deterrence.

It is more effective to be active; presenting information on social disapproval of the target behaviour has been shown to discourage this behaviour.  But this type of approach must be normative rather than condemnatory.  Injunctive is a more powerful form of information than its descriptive counterparts.  Seek to explain in a social context rather than simply describe.  There is a powerful parallel with experiential learning, which often fails to transcend the descriptive domain.

Naturally, you can’t deal with this aspect of persuasion in isolation.  However, if you aim to discourage and not encourage, explain socially rather than describe globally.  Do say, don’t tell.

The Gaps

September 3rd, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

You say you will do it tomorrow.  Two days pass by.  Why didn’t you do it yesterday?  Oh, you are going to do it tomorrow.  Welcome to a gap, the gap between intention and behaviour.

This gap does not conform to the laws of physics.  It can be non-existent, and then appear instantaneously.  Its breadth may be measured in nanometres or light years.  It can be narrower than the eye of a needle or wider than the known Universe.  You might never find yourself in this gap, although this is most unlikely; you might be in it for seconds, hours, days or years.  This gap can be summoned by will and despatched by will.  The question is; what will you do about this gap?  Whether this gap prospers or withers will depend almost entirely on your will; will they flourish or fade away?

All the damn kids have something to say about this gap and I’m not being disparaging about youth.  All the Damn Kids  sing:

“…and it is hard work, its hard work

It’s tempting to give up

and this thing seems too much

but i know we’ll come top ….”

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The gap between intention and behaviour, between saying and doing, between just talking the talk and actually walking the walk, is just one of many gaps that plague learning and behavioural change.  Their combined effect is to keep things as they are; breaking free produces the effort to make things better.  These gaps thrive on inaction.

Behavioural intentions are considered to be most proximal to, and more predictive of, behaviour.  However, they are themselves influenced by other factors, which can dilute the impact of intentions and create a series of other gaps.  So, there are other gaps into which you may fall – I don’t need to do this, I am unable to do this, I don’t want to do this, I don’t think this will work, I think this is a silly thing to do.  Strip away the theories, labels and jargon and what you see is a large number of gaps, gaps between inaction and action.

It is possible to spend a large part of your learning journey wandering around in various gaps, jumping from one to the other as you strive to maintain the status quo and justify inaction.  If you so choose, avoiding effort can be effortless.

It is possible to exist in the gaps; it is equally possible to live outside them.  What will you do about the gaps?

In The Dark

August 30th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

The Hawthorne Effect describes atypical responses by those being studied that are due to the fact that they are being studied and not to the effect of the independent variable(s) that form the basis of the study.  Many of the original studies, from which the effect derives its name, manipulated factory illumination levels.  You could say that employees saw the light and reacted positively even when there was very little light by which to see.  Everybody likes to feel wanted and, as they are made to feel wanted, workers did a gloomy job in the gloom very well.  The gloomier it became, the better they worked.

But the results had nothing to do with illumination and everything to do with knowing that they were being subjected to being a subject.  What effect does actually being in the dark have?  Well, if you believe The Balconies, ‘if you do it in the dark, no-one sees it’:

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In fact, though, the evidence indicates that the fact that ‘no-one sees it’ is not all that relevant as being in the dark is sufficient to affect your behaviour even when darkness does not provide anonymity.  In two studies earlier this year, participants in relatively darker conditions (who could all see one another) displayed less ethical, more self-interested behaviour than their counterparts in lighter conditions.  If you behave poorly and other people can see you, it’s seems more likely to be dark!

Darkness as a metaphor can also apply to learning and behavioural change.  When you commence your journey, you are ‘in the dark’ and must work effortfully and persistently to illuminate and then manage the challenges.  At every stage, it is possible for you to remain ‘in the dark’ but this is now a different type of darkness – it’s the sort of darkness that you might consider enables you to cut corners, take shortcuts and place short-term interests ahead of lifelong learning.  After all, if you do it ‘in the dark’, then others may not see it; all you have to do is fool yourself.  And this is such an easy thing to do for legitimate reasons are scarce and flimsy excuses are abundant.

Find your own way – it’s harder but still possible ‘in the dark’.

Do Minds Ever Meet?

August 25th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Can we ever be on the same page?  Do our minds ever meet?  In a broad, figurative sense, the answer is ‘Yes’; we are generally with (many but not all) others on a range of issues.  We say the same sorts of things, we align ourselves with normative standards and we generally behave in socially acceptable ways.  This is the big picture and, while it’s valid, it provides limited guidance for this picture is fuzzy.  It can be difficult to see the standards for the ‘snow’.

A person is clear about what they are doing and why they are doing it.  After all, their thinking is generating their thoughts and, therefore, they know exactly what they are thinking.  Inside your head, your decisions, motives and actions are clear – all (personal) standards, no ‘snow’.  But this can’t, and doesn’t, extend to others; after all, you can only see their head, you can’t see inside it.  Therefore, it’s unclear just how accurate Fiona Apple’s  lyrics to ‘I Know’ actually are:

‘…I will pretend, that I don’t know of your sins

Until you are ready to confess, but all the time, all the time,

I’ll know, I’ll know

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How, and how well, do you interpret the actions of others?  Evidence indicates that we are biased in this interpretation, seeing ourselves as objective (because we know and justify (to ourselves) our own actions on the basis that we know exactly why we are behaving in a particular way) and others as wrong or misguided (because we fail to realise that we lack the complete picture that may explain their actions).  Assuming that the actions of others are as transparent to us as our own actions are (to us) leads to many attribution errors.

Interestingly, we also treat our future selves in this way.  We cannot know exactly what we’ll be thinking at some point in the future and so we predict our actions as that of ‘others’ rather than ourselves.  We equate others now with ourselves in the future (as both are similarly opaque to us) and become more biased in our assessments of both as a consequence.

Can you see how this relates to learning and behavioural change?  Knowing what you think is very different to thinking that you know.  Knowing what you think is an imperfect guide for learning, behaviour and change, unless you are, in fact, perfect; in fact, you are not perfect so this shouldn’t be used as the justification!  Thinking that you know (without the experience or understanding to support this view) can lead to overconfidence and error.  It’s vital that you find your own way to sort out the connections between knowing, thinking, doing and learning.

That’s Wrong, I Believe

August 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

There’s no real difference between “I believe that’s wrong” and “That’s wrong I believe”.  Both relate to a judgment that something is incorrect (or unacceptable).  However, there is a big difference between “That’s wrong I believe” and “That’s wrong, I believe”, and it’s all in the power of the comma.  The second version, the one with the comma, does not necessarily mean that the something is incorrect (or unacceptable).  What’s going on here?

It might be clearer if I write, “That’s wrong, I believe differently”.  In this case, the something may still be incorrect (or unacceptable) and your belief is valid; however, it is also possible that the something is correct (or normatively acceptable), an outcome that you refuse to acknowledge due to your belief (part of which has been shown to be invalid).  And the evidence is that we’ll do most everything we can to discredit and reject (correct) information that is contrary to our beliefs.  An open mind is a laudable aim and a difficult practice.  When you look at the world around you, what do you see?

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.  In such circumstances, it can be surprisingly difficult to convince you otherwise.

You will have beliefs and expectations of your learning before you have experience of it.  Before the first ‘practice’ session or before you commit to changing your behaviour, you may already have a belief as to what it will be like, how you will go and what you need to do.  And the temptation is ever-present to force your experience to conform to these beliefs and/or to reject evidence and outcomes that remain inconsistent.

Will you place your beliefs about learning above your learning?  Will you distort your experience so that it conforms to your beliefs?  ‘tis nobler suggests two answers to these questions for your consideration:

Firstly, that’s wrong I believe.  Secondly, that’s wrong, I believe.

Expecting, Reflecting

July 27th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

Reflection is an important thinking strategy in experiential learning, one of a number of metacognitive strategies that assist understanding.  How am I going?  How will I do?  What could I improve on?  Why did I miss that information?  If you are committed to your learning, you should expect to reflect.

Reflection on past behaviour and reflections on predictions of future behaviour are designed to influence subsequent learning.  But there is a way in which another type of ‘reflection’ shapes behaviour – the reflection of expectations that others hold about you and to which you often conform.  You see their expectations in their words, their actions and their attitudes.

It’s an established aspect of social psychology – a reliable connection between an appreciation of others’ expectations and your behaviour.  This connection can have both direct and indirect foundations; it may be derived directly from learned associations between you and your past behaviour or indirectly from presumed links between your characteristics and the past behaviour of others who share these characteristics.  Regardless of origin, the effect on your behaviour can be significant; as you reciprocate by ‘broadcasting’ your expectations of others, your effect on others can be just as significant.  Sometimes, this can spiral out of control:

In Shakespeare’s “As You Like It”,  Jaques speaks the following well-known lines:

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts …….

We all play many parts, with some of these parts being determined by the expectations of us held by others.  In many situations, this is standard interaction; in learning situations, it’s equivalent to foregoing your way to follow that expected by another.  It’s the difference between toeing their line and walking your way.  Which way is best for you as an experiential learner – your way or their way?  To answer that, expect to reflect!

A Prompt Or A Problem?

July 13th, 2010 | Specific | 0 Comments

As an experiential learner, you’ll have to deal constantly with uncertainty.  One way to do this is to fill in the gaps yourself, using expectancies (or likelihoods) derived from your experience to date.  When you don’t know, you’ll fill in the gap with what you (have come to) expect, with this information becoming increasingly refined over time.  But that’s another story.

You can also follow the lead of others.  This is where the concept of social proof – a fundamental relationship between individual and group – arrives to muddy the waters for learners.  When uncertain what to do in a given circumstance, a person will often assume that those around him know what they are doing and thus provide the necessary guidance.  I’ll do what they are doing because they know and I don’t – a conclusion that inexperienced learners will often reach.

Social proof is meant to help but it can often hamper, particularly when novices try to use it, and the potential culprit in social proof is normative standards.  Normative standards are the informal behavioural ‘values’ that are shared and accepted by broad user groups (e.g. drivers, lawyers, athletes etc).  While they may have some overlap with formal rules and regulations, they can also be (substantially) different.  While many of our experiential ‘worlds’ have a formal framework, our behaviour reflects much greater flexibility within and beyond this framework. 

Trying to behave like those with much more experience creates a host of problems.  You can pretend that these problems don’t exist and that this approach is OK but you’d need to convince yourself that, as a novice, you’re the same as others who have been playing the sport, driving the car or doing the job much longer than you have.  In her song “I Don’t Know”, Allison Crowe  sings “And I won’t try to be judgemental, I won’t try to be holier than thou, I don’t get this, And I am not going to pretend I do.

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Just seeing what others do doesn’t enable you to imitate them.  Knowing what they’re doing doesn’t mean you’ll understand their actions.  As an experiential learner, you must find your own way rather than try to follow the path shared by those with more experience and a more developed skills base.

Social proof can be a prompt or a problem – only you can decide which one applies at any given time and what you’re going to do about it.