Art of Good Learning 5 – The Dogma Trap

I will write one more post in this series. We next turn our attention to Chapter 37 The Dogma Trap : Why Ideologues Oversimplify Things.

I have tried doing my version of this understanding test with practitioners who gush about their own learning, their style and their teacher. It is a good test so if you have a chance do try it. Basically, the test is described below :-

…….. researchers at Yale University, confronted hundreds of people with equally simple questions. How does a toilet work? How does a battery work? The results were always the same: we think we understand these things reasonably well until we’re forced to explain them. Only then do we appreciate how many gaps there are in our knowledge. You’re probably similar. You were convinced you understood more than you actually did. That’s the knowledge illusion.

Go to a forum on Tai Chi. Any forum. You will find a few who are staunch defenders of their styles, their schools. Some will even challenge you to a fight if you question them and they are unable to answer you satisfactorily. Rather than be open minded (that’s what they always say as long as you praise their answers) they dig themselves further into their position. As Dobelli wrote :-

Be especially wary when speaking in public. Defending a dogmatic position in public has been shown to beat it even deeper into your brain. It becomes virtually ineradicable.

I’ve been guilty here. So I make it a point to know more about what I actually know. If I don’t know then I work to find out more. Dobelli sums up this chapter as follows :-

……. think independently, don’t be too faithful to the party line, and above all give dogmas a wide berth. The quicker you understand that you don’t understand the world, the better you’ll understand the world.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

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