Monday, April 19, 2004

Thoughts on Our Thinking Tendencies [-]

A quick write-up of some thoughts on some tendencies we seem to follow in our thinking. Nothing rigorous.

Two people are in conversation. Person A makes a comment to Person B about their country's favourite sport. Person A says that people in the country are way to devoted to the sport, and place way to much importance on it. Person B responds claiming that just because Person A doesn't like the sport, they can't say that it's right or wrong.

While Person B's response may be right in its own way, it is flawed as a response to Person A's point. Person B's response is framing the issue as an aesthetic one, and implying that Person A was saying it was wrong to like or play the sport. What Person A was saying was not so much about the sport, however, but about the level or importance or devotion accorded to it (e.g. because the level of devotion given to it draws resources away from more important issues).

I think Person B's mistake is quite a common one: I think we have a stronger tendency to perceive issues in terms of the subjects involved -- the sport itself -- than to see it in a "contextualised" fashion -- the importance accorded to that sport by the society. In the case of Person A's statement, they're talking about a property of the relationship between the sport and the society.

I'm not sure yet exactly how I'd define "contextualised", but by it I mean things like: seeing things as a system, and seeing the properties of the system, seeing the processes going on, seeing the relationships between the elements of that system, and seeing the nature of our own perception of the system.