Tag nuance

Music As An Evolutionary Adaptation to Help us Overcome Cognitive Dissonance & Retain Contradictory Knowledge. …*

Music As An Evolutionary Adaptation to Help us Overcome Cognitive Dissonance & Retain Contradictory Knowledge. ...* |rethinked.org - photo: Elsa Fridman

Integrative Thinking, as Roger Martin defines it in his splendid book on the subject, The Opposable Mind: Winning Through Integrative Thinking, is:

The ability to face constructively the tension of opposing ideas and instead of choosing one at the expense of the other, generate a creative resolution of the tension in the form of a new idea that contains elements of the opposing ideas but is superior to each.

The cognitive dissonance we experience as we work our way through this tension often comes with a high level of emotional and cognitive discomfort. It’s painful–frightening even–to question the ‘truth’ and reality of our knowledge and beliefs. All too often, in an effort to rid ourselves of this highly unpleasant sense of unease, we disengage with one of the two elements procuding the dissonance; disregarding one idea or point of view to focus exclusively on the one that feels familiar and safe to us. In disengaging, we lose out on the vast possibilities of the tension. Not only is this a lost opportunity for us to grow as teams and individuals, it often holds a heavy social and human cost as we hold on to harmful and negative stereotypes and assumptions about who other people are and what their beliefs may be.

Just a few days ago, I read an intriguing theory from physicist and investigator of human cognitive functioning, Leonid Perlovsky, that suggests adding music to our Integrative Thinking toolbox as a coping strategy to stay in the uncomfortable, if highly productive, space of cognitive dissonance long enough to work through the tensions and derive the benefits. Music, according to Perlovsky, is an “evolutionary adaptation, one that helps us navigate a world rife with contradictions.”

The idea is that music – which can convey an array of nuanced emotions – helps us reconcile our own conflicted emotions when making choices. And the more diverse, differentiated emotions we possess, the more well-founded our decisions become. Whether it’s choosing to play with a toy or deciding to propose to a boyfriend or girlfriend, our research shows that music can enhance our cognitive abilities.

Thus, because we constantly grapple with cognitive dissonances, we created music, in part, to help us tolerate – and overcome – them.

This is the universal purpose of music.

Perlovsky backs up his theory by sharing some of the experiments he and his team have conducted on the subject. One of the experiments that he shares will be of particular interest to educators and integrative thinkers:

we gave a group of fifteen-year-old students a typical multiple choice exam, and asked them to record the difficulty of each question, along with how much time it took them to answer each one.

It turned out that more difficult questions were answered faster (and grades suffered), because students didn’t want to prolong unpleasant dissonance of choosing between difficult options. However when Mozart’s music played in the background, they spent more time on the difficult questions. Their scores improved.

Source: How music helps resolve our deepest inner conflicts

{ A Knowmad’s Perspective } A Nuanced Take On The Classroom Versus Online Education Debate, From An 11th Grader…*

“In recent months, online education has been a hot topic full of impassioned arguments. On one side, some have said things like, “the ivory towers of academia have been shattered to their foundation.” On the other side, people have said that online learning will promise to “make intellectual life more sterile and abstract than it already is.” After a year of learning online, I don’t agree with either of those extremes. Here’s what I think: classroom education shouldn’t be fully replaced by online courses, but it can draw on what works well online. Huge online courses have many virtues but need to do better at fostering the sort of side by side back and forth collaboration that we all need to learn.”

In the short video below, eleventh-grader, Sophia Pink, shares some of the insights she gathered while spending tenth grade learning from home, using a mix of online learning courses and independent projects.

While Sophia is far from being the only student who has decided to take her learning into her own hands–it seems there’s a new TEDx talk about a kid somewhere attempting to rethink….* his or her education in my YouTube stream every day–I find her ability to reflect upon and deepen her understanding of her own learning truly remarkable. While I applaud the sense of agency and motivation that many of these other young independent learners possess, I have been a bit put off by how narrowly a lot of them seem to define their options and opportunities for learning. It seems many of them have unfortunately taken the national conversation at face value: schools are good or bad and just attempted to confirm that bias, aping and repeating what the ‘adults’ are saying. Sophia didn’t set out to confirm a bias, she set out to rethink…* the terms of the conversation altogether–the mark of a true rethinker…* Sophia’s year off {on} was not about trying to prove that the classroom is obsolete or that online learning courses are ushering in the end of rigorous learning and academics, it was about experimenting with different learning strategies and figuring out how they could be integrated into a new more fluid, fulfilling and productive whole.

For more of Sophia’s insights on learning during her sabbatical, be sure to check out her article in the Washington Post: Why I Spent 10th Grade Online.

 

learn & rethink…*

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