The Default Response
That's the default response. When you send an email. When you make a post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or any other social network. We have come to expect this default response. Everyone's too busy, too many people are posting. There's not enough time to give everyone attention.
What's interesting is that the phenomenon also affects our in-person interactions. I teach both online and in-person and see the default response in class all too often. No response. No questions. No interest.
What would happen if you did something different? What would happen if you responded? Would that make you memorable? Remarkable? Perhaps. Give it a try.
Finding a New perspective
Quora Question: How do you start to look at things from a different perspective?
As human beings, we have a unique ability to see things in different ways. Two people can look at the same thing at see differences. Or, the same person can see differences when looking at the same thing at different times. This raises several interesting philosophical questions. What are things really like independent of how we see them? Can we ever know which perspective is the correct one?
Of course, for many people, the answer to the second question is very easy. The correct perspective is theirs! We often find it difficult to imagine how anyone could see things otherwise or that there could be any validity to a perspective other than our own. This inability contributes to many of our most contentious debates on topics of politics and religion.
The capacity for empathy is, in part, the ability to take the perspective of another person. It is a very powerful skill and one that is critical to good thinking. While it doesn't come easily this skill can be learned. But, it requires being open to asking a few difficult questions.
What if my view on this topic is wrong?
What if there is another equally valid viewpoint?
What if there is information I am missing which would cause me to change my perspective?
Here are some thinking tips from the C.I.A. which can also help with this:
1. Become proficient in developing alternative points of view.
2. Do not assume that the other person will think or act like you.
3. Think backward. Instead of thinking about what might happen, put yourself into the future and try to explain how a potential situation could have occurred.
4. Imagine that the belief you are currently holding is wrong, and then develop a scenario to explain how that could be true. This helps you to see the limitations of your own beliefs.
5. Try out the other person's beliefs by actually acting out the role. This breaks you out of seeing the world through the habitual patterns of your own beliefs.
6. Play "devil's advocate" by taking the minority point of view. This helps you see how alternative assumptions make the world look different.
7. Brainstorm. A quantity of ideas leads to quality because the first ones that come to mind are those that reflect old beliefs. New ideas help you to break free of emotional blocks and social norms.
8. Interact with people of different backgrounds and beliefs.
If you look closely at this list and compare it with your everyday life you will see that you mostly don't do these things. Most people mostly don't do these things. We tend to associate with people we already agree with, read material we already agree with, and watch media with views we already agree with. So, it becomes very difficult to even imagine someone thinking differently. And, next to impossible to imagine that someone could think differently for good reasons.
But, keep in mind that since everyone else thinks this way as well there are people who are listening to and watching media with which they agree but which disagrees with whatever view you hold. And, they believe the same thing about your view! Breaking out of this limiting perspective is an important part of becoming a good critical thinker.
No Time for Critical Thinking?
Image by FelixMittermeier from Pixabay
Quora Question: Is modern society structured so that people don't have time to think critically of their life?
I’d like to take a contrarian position on this question and hopefully offer some useful insights.
I don’t think society is structured to work against people thinking critically. However, there are impediments to people engaging in more critical thinking.
I think the main impediments are several cognitive biases that prevent people from taking a critical look at their ideas and beliefs. Let me mention a few of these.
The knowledge illusion. The world around us is very complicated. But, while we tend to recognize this fact when prompted we routinely ignore it when it comes to expressing or examining our own opinions on the world. We tend to recognize the limits of other people’s knowledge while failing to recognize our limits. We all suffer from what Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach refer to in their book The Knowledge Illusion as the illusion of explanatory depth.
Consider the following example from their book:
This is the knowledge illusion. As they point out in the book, “Our point is not that people are ignorant. It’s that people are more ignorant than they think they are. We all suffer, to a greater or lesser extent, from an illusion of understanding, an illusion that we understand how things work when in fact our understanding is meager.”
Related to this is the bias we all tend to have of thinking that our beliefs are correct. This is well illustrated in Kathryn Schulz’s book Being Wrong. In her excellent TED talk on the book, she asks some people a seemingly easy question: What does it feel like to be wrong?
Their answers: “It feels bad.” “Embarrassing.” “Humiliating.” You’d probably agree. But, there’s a problem.
This is not what it feels like to be wrong. This is what it feels like to find out you’re wrong. What does it feel like to be wrong? Nothing. It feels just like being right.
So, we tend to think we know more about things than we do and we tend to believe that our beliefs are right. After all, they feel right. With those two things working against us, you can see why it might be difficult for people to engage in more critical thinking. What would be the point? Their knowledge and belief are already well justified and accurate.
Having said this, I will point out that several factors don’t help individuals to break out of this trap. We are constantly bombarded with news stories that are, in part, designed to polarize us and not require in-depth analysis on our part.
We are also inundated with several other life factors some of which are external and some of which are internal. These factors, such as the pressures of finding and keeping a job, raising children, etc., don’t always encourage critical thinking either.
The irony of this is that all of these other factors, which together you might interpret as society being structured to hinder critical thinking, would all greatly benefit from more critical thinking not less.
But, it will be difficult to see that because of the powerful effects of the biases I mentioned earlier. Overcoming those is the key to improving critical thinking.
Like most other things, people will make time for something if it is an important priority. The popularity of sports is a good example. No amount of societal influence will do much to diminish the drive to watch and participate in sports.
Until the motivation to examine your own beliefs and knowledge is as powerful as the motivation to watch your favorite sports team, critical thinking won’t improve much.
A good first step would be to read these books:
Steven Sloman The Knowledge Illusion
Michael Syed Black Box Thinking
Adam Grant Think Again
Julia Galef The Scout Mindset
Why isn't everyone successful?
Quora Question: Why isn’t everyone successful? Is it because only a few of us are selected before hand to be?
Success has nothing to do with being selected in the sense you raise. Success does have to do with a combination of factors some of which you can control and others of which you have no control.
Your genetics: Your genetic makeup is the result of the union of genetic material from your father and mother and this is a given. You can’t change your genetics, so this is a factor out of your control.
Your environment: Genetic traits get expressed differently in different environments and while this factor is not completely in your control there are aspects of it that you can control.
A major part this your environment that will impact your success is the network of people you engage with. Depending on what field you are in there may be geographic areas that are better suited to work in and seeking out those environments could make a positive contribution to your success.
Your talent: Part of this is the result of genetics over which you have no control. There are things that you are disposed to be better at than others and there are things that you are less well adept at. The part of this that is in your control is the ability to identify your talents and take advantage of them to the best of your ability.
Your effort: This is a factor you can control and can have a major impact on your success. Combined with the talents you identify it can be a major factor in your success. How much practice you put into the skills necessary to achieve success in your field is something you can control and is the major factor you need to seize control over the increase your odds of success.
Luck: Finally, a not insignificant factor in your ultimate success is luck. You have limited control over this but you can do things to increase the odds of good luck finding you. As Pasteur once said, “Chance favors the prepared observer.” So, takes steps to be open to luck. Be open to new opportunities and put yourself in the right place to take advantage of them.
Ultimately, everyone is not successful because they do not take advantage of the factors mentioned above that they can control and optimize. Success requires the elements of talent, effort, and luck. Not everyone has talent, not everyone puts in the required effort, and not everyone is lucky,
Here are some books that might also provide you some insights into this question:
Daniel Coyle The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How
Daniel Coyle The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups
Leonard Mlodinow The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
Daniel Pink When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing
Angela Duckworth Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Seth Godin Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
Seth Godin What to do When It’s Your Turn
Scott Ginsberg Make a Name For Yourself
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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