Saturday, September 27, 2014


I was reading an article by a woman called Julia Galef about a new teaching strategy called Surprise Journals.  The thinking here is that we get locked in to our opinions and beliefs and then seek affirmation from those with similar thinking.  She writes:  "Many behavioral psychology and cognitive science studies demonstrate that humans find it difficult to change their opinions.  In what is known as the "bias blind spot," it is much easier for us to see other people's biases than our own. The "confirmation bias" reveals that we seek out feedback from people who are likely to agree with us: We read newspapers and watch TV talk shows that are probably going to tell us things we already agree with. Galef says that there is much more research about how biased humans are than how to change these biases. "I really wanted to get better at changing my mind...This is not a perfect solution, but it has gone a long way to making me more open and less defensiveness about when I'm wrong."
 The writing technique asks us to note down the times/circumstances we fall into this trap and then challenges us to change our thinking, especially when we must go counter to people or institutions that we don't usually disagree with or that whom we respect so much that we couldn't possibly imagine being of the other side of their ideas.
It's easy to see this "bias blind spot" all over our culture these days.  From TV stations that are slanted to our deepest thoughts about public institutions like schools and political parties, and law enforcement.
The photo here shows the teaching strategy as students write potential Surprise Journal entries on Post It notes.

The Surprise Journal helps us change our mind about things and argues that it's healthy to do that.  So what would be some of your first entries in a Surprise Journal?  What assumptions, I keep asking myself, do I make about things I assume to be true but are probably not?
Recently I nixed a move because I felt the new place was just too small.  I was adamant.  I may also have been wrong.  At least I was decisive, I kept telling myself.  But I now have the option of allowing myself to be surprised by this assumption and can work to change my thinking.
It's easy to see how this would work with something of real significance, too.  We all assume things about the important people in our lives and our skills and abilities.  Any surprises there when you stop to reconsider?
In the end, this is all about opening our minds even further than we think they are.  Many surprises to follow.

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