you don't know till you know.
“The line between perception and cognition [is] blurred. What we perceive (or think we perceive) is heavily determined by what we know, and what we know (or think we know) is constantly conditioned on what we perceive (or think we perceive).”
~ Andy Clark, Professor of philosophy, University of Ediburgh
Then be serendipitous! Read something new and unrelated in a new place. And do this often.
Thinking creatively often requires detecting associations between seemly random concepts. The best way to prime yourself for this is to teach yourself new concepts and consume them in new places. Turn your brain into a sponge that soaks in interesting and unrelated ideas that you never would have considered learning, like ant colonies, Copernican principle, or scientific realism and the pessimistic meta-induction theory. As your sponge gets bigger and denser, you will make connections between these things and the problems you’re solving in every day life. You may not know that you’re making these associations, but your brain is unconsciously synthesizing all of this information.
As Jason Zweig of the WSJ states in his essay Structured Serendipity, “we should each invest a few hours a week in reading research that ostensibly has nothing to do with our day jobs, in a setting that has nothing in common with our regular workspace”.
So tomorrow go find an undiscovered nook and snuggle up with Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises.
Technology is most valuable when it taps into one of our fundamental human needs.
There are several frameworks and theories that formulate how we make decisions and the processes and variables that are in play. One theory that I prescribe to as a solid foundation for explaining our decision making process is Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM). ELM postulates that we have a dual process system to process information. These two routes are:
1. Central route
Central route processes require careful thought and consideration on the merits of the information presented. This route represents a relatively highly engaged thought process and a deep focus on the central features of the issue, person, or message. People carefully evaluate arguments and scrutinize other relevant information.
Imagine going to the grocery store to buy a jar of spaghetti sauce. You look at the shelf and concentrate on several key piece of information: sodium content, price, organic or not organic.. analyzing all of these details, weighing and considering which are most important to you to come to a final decision.
2. Peripheral route
The other, peripheral route, is more likely to occur as a result of a simple cue in the persuasion context without evaluating the merits of the information. This mental shortcut process accepts or rejects a message based on irrelevant cues, such as likability, appearance, reward, status, color, and so on.
So again imagine you went to the store to buy a jar of spaghetti sauce. You look at the shelf and see a sauce by Mario Batalli. You think to yourself, “Mario Batalli is a great chef, I bet this is good.” The decision was based on an association and using a peripheral cue.
Which route we take depends on the relative importance of the decision, our motivation and ability to process critical information, and how information is presented. I’ll discuss persuasion in context and how to influence central vs. peripheral routes in a later post.
“For me, the iPhone had become a toxic compulsion. It had completed its invasion and occupation of my interstitial time — all those minutes riding the train, waiting in line, that used to be such fertile territory for daydreaming and storymaking.”