Etherless Learning

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Posts Tagged ‘Expert blindspot’

False-belief task

Posted by Ming Ling on August 25, 2010

Description of original task by its developers, Wimmer & Perner (1983):

Understanding of another person’s wrong belief requires explicit representation of the wrongness of this person’s belief in relation to one’s own knowledge. Three- to nine-year-old children’s understanding of two sketches was tested. In each sketch subjects observed how a protagonist put an object into a location x and then witnessed that in the absence of the protagonist the object was transferred from x to location y. Since this transfer came as a surprise they had to assume that the protagonist still believed that the object was in x. Subjects had to indicate where the protagonist will look for the object at his return.

Even as adults, we still make similar errors (whether in belief or behavior). Lesson: Just because you know something doesn’t mean others do (as in flawed perspective-taking). Or: Once you know something, it’s hard to imagine (yourself or others) not knowing it (as in expert blindspot).

Original paper:

Interesting critique of the false-belief task:


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How facts backfire

Posted by Ming Ling on August 21, 2010

On “How facts backfire“:

Researchers discover a surprising threat to democracy: our brains

This has profound implications for educating the general populace. I’ve actually just been pondering the ethics of educating people up to (down to?) the trough of the U-shaped curve of learning and development.

Lately I’ve found myself coming back to Strike & Posner’s “intelligible, plausible, and fruitful” criteria for conceptual change. If our target audience doesn’t perceive these new ideas to be fruitful, they’ll have no motivation to change.

I’ve also been thinking of all these ways in which a little (or a lot) of knowledge can make learning harder: backfire, U-shaped development, expert blindspot, information overload. I’ll probably think of more to add to the list later. Given the considerable risks of this happening through so many different mechanisms, how can we equip learners against them? It seems that some of the answers may lie in influencing the learner’s affective, motivational, and metacognitive states: making errors and belief change nonthreatening, incentivizing accurate information and valid reasoning, and developing an understanding of these cognitive errors. But I’m still concerned about learners for whom this doesn’t succeed and who then get left worse off than they began.

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