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Blind Spots

Why Smart People Do Dumb Things

Madeleine Van Hecke

Young boy who responded to derisive comment from older brother telling him what a bad job he was making of a task "Well of course. I'm just learning. This is the first time I've done this."

Two handy Q's when anyone who treats you as stupid when you are simply ignorant of the information. 1) "How would I know that?" 2) "How did you learn that?"

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Women do "troubles talk" where they tell someone their problems simply so they won't feel alone with the situation. But the guy comes with his "problem solving" advice and gets frustrated when she won't implement the suggestions. Or in a meeting, woman can see that one person needs sympathy and understanding, whereas guy just wants to deliver a fix and move on. Each side with blind spots.

Uni assignment where had to choose a contentious topic and then find someone with opposite POV to your own. Had to try to understand how that person had formed that view. Assignment triggered deep anxiety in students. If recognized that alternative view reasonably founded, makes it difficult to morally judge them as stupid and/or ignorant.

We are quick to stereotype racial or other groups, but there is not a single individual who is interchangeable with any other.

Conservatives and liberals see the other side as illogical. Liberals ask how conservatives can defend rights of unborn child, yet abandon them after birth. Conservatives ask how libs can support the American Dream while punishing the successful with higher taxes.

But the logic of each is in tune with the metaphor they choose. Suggestion that both camps see nations as families, with govts acting as fathers. Politically conservatives favour a 'strict father' while liberals favour a model with a 'nurturing parent'. many of the apparently contradictory stances of each group flow logically from the metaphor they have chosen.

Most of us are unaware if the metaphors we use to make sense of the world. We don't stop to think about them because they seem obvious; common sense. For example, for many years the doctor-patient relationship was based on the parent-child metaphor, and the doctor-nurse relationship was based on the master-servant metaphor. Today each of those underlying metaphors questioned as patients want to be involved in health care decisions and nurses want their professional expertise recognized.

Distinguish between closed problems and messy problems. Closed problems have a single correct logical answer that can be deduced from the info given. Real life is full of messy problems, for which there is not enough data, and for which there is no single right or perfect answer. Logical thinking is helpful for dealing with messy problems but is not enough by itself.

When dealing with questions such as "How serious a threat is global climate change?", people often discount evidence from the other side on the assumption that it is unreliable. And, the big problem in attempting to answer the Q is that you have to extrapolate into the future. This involves making assumptions based on our knowledge of the past, and that is full of gaps. We fill those gaps with assumptions based on our world views.

"A man, driving home late at night, has an accident and hits a tree." How many possible causes for this accident can you come up with? (Class produces multiple possibilities - wet road, pothole, distracted by cell phone, wind, lightning flash, tired, vehicle malfunction, medical misadventure etc) "Now, do you think the causes of ...... would be more or less complicated than the causes of this man's car accident?"

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