Discussion by: QuestioningKat
I have come to the conclusion that we will never rid society of incorrect perceptions and magical thinking until the average person knows how to deconstruct/analyze a situation in order to find the source of a current state. Recently participating in several online topics, I've come across comments in which the person responding has jumped to an incorrect conclusion because of the inability or unwillingness to consider certain facts outside of the article or their understanding of a situation. It's as if they automatically assumed that their perception of the matter was correct without digging further into the matter to get a better understanding.
Recently a woman stepped aside letting a little old lady in line. Needless to say, the little old lady won a massive amount of money in the lottery. The news jumped onto the story stating that someone is kicking themselves for being nice to this little old lady. The woman who did the favor finally stepped forward to say that she has no regrets, "Sometimes it's better to be patient than rich." She considers this a teachable moment to her daughter. But was she really the cause of the other woman winning?
Many comments online express the opinion that the little old lady should give the woman some money for this favor and allowing her to win hundred of millions of dollars. Fewer have chimed in to mention "In the time it would take to push a little old lady out of line, thousands of people in other locations would step in front of you." One person called a commenter who pointed out the odds of this kind favor resulting in this little old lady's win "smarty-pants" and defended her position that it was still possible, no matter how really really small, that the kind woman still could have won if she did not do this kind act. Sound familiar? Haven't we heard this argument for the existence of God? There is always a possibility no matter how minutely small and impossible, right?
By not fully seeing how thousands of acts happening around the US switched the odds of this woman winning, people settled for seeing the immediately obvious and incorrect cause which was physically closest to the winner – all thanks to the media. No mention of the numbers being automatically generated by computer either. It could have been the result of someone sneezing in another state among the thousands of other possibilities.
I've seen this mindset elsewhere when an intermediately skilled artist gave thanks to God who at times guided her to paint works of art that were beyond her level of skill. Linking to her website, I could see that she still had much to learn and in no way rivaled artists with great skill. Several more proficient artists (many theists) pointed out that great skill is the result of lots of effort, knowledge, and practice and had nothing to do with the intervention of God. Of course, she disagreed. I don't think pointing out the Dunning Kruger effect on her limited ability to understand the art process would have helped her understand her flawed perception either.
Many people seem to forget how knowledge and skill is built upon previously learned information and abilities. At some point in our lives, depending on the complexity of the ability, we utilize so many skill sets that we forget the stages of the learning process that took years or decades to learn. Mastered skills become automatic, we no longer need to consider some of the minor detail to perform an action. Knowledge and abilities that transfered from one ability to more advanced learning may have simply been accepted and its source forgotten. In turn, some see an action coming from some magical place especially if they haven't experienced or deconstructed the massive amount of effort it took to get to a certain point of skill or ability.
Another overlooked factor is the internal brain processes utilizing our senses (auditory, visual, tactile, etc.) and various modes of reasoning, analyzing, abstract thought, measuring… have on our learning process. IMO, people tend focus on external observable actions and not pursuing the understanding our physical brains. Admittedly, I never really think about how my brain is working. I simply focus on what needs to be done. The simple act of recognizing a pencil, picking it up and drawing a square involves many more steps that are unseen or long forgotten. With effort this vast and complex web of brain processes and can actually be traced back through its stages to better understand the details of what actually happens when a skill is performed. Perhaps someone here might elaborate on the actual process -from initial skills learned as an infant to brain processes- just to make a point. You can even consider how nutrition or neurological problems can aid or disrupt this act. My point is a simple act really involves much more when you delve deeper down the rabbit hole. No wonder many attribute magical causes to consciousness, when the complexity and speed of our thoughts is off our radar.
We seem to be better at accepting causes of how memorized and synthesized knowledge which is built upon over decades comes to be, while certain skills which have less to do with information and more about ability and practice (painting, music, singing, etc.) seem to be attributed to a vague wishy washy source.
Rarely if ever do we need to trace skill/ability/causes back to its source. It can be burdensome. IMO we tend to generalize an action down to, more or less, the beginning, the middle and the end. On one hand, this is great because if we needed to think about every step we would have probably been eated by something lurking in the grasses. On the other hand, this can also be problematic. Consider someone who sees life on this planet and is unable to trace Evolution backwards over millions of years. They can barely relate to two hundred years – 400,000 might be too much of a stretch. They see an immediate, obvious and incorrect cause which was closest to the result or pie in the sky simply because they cannot ( or will not) relate or analyze what is or was actually going on. Consider people who think that their child's autism is a result from getting a vacinnation. These assumptions seem to partially result from the problem of people not fully "deconstructing" a situation and following a cause "backwards" like a row of dominos. …and maybe it's not dominos but a vast web coming to and leading from them in all directions.
The importance of deconstructing and analyzing can help lead us to fully seeing the bigger picture of what is going on. By delving into the details of a situation, we can come to a understand the bigger picture.
Ok enough of my rant and preaching to the choir. I know what I say may seem like common sence, but I have come to believe that all of us have this problem to a certain extent. We may even wrongly attribute a cause to a situation involving a personal relationship. We know that this problem exists and is pervasive because we deal with it all the time here and outside of the internet in various situations. So, what's the solution? How can we encourage children to deconstruct and analyze? How can we get adults to do this as well? How can we prevent or stop people from accepting quick and easy answers and assumptions? What clever, fun way can be utilized to make this point? What stories, movies, learning materials have you come across that may help?