For the observer: a cloak of invisibility?
(Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) With a laugh, I pass on to you today a couple more cognitive biases, ones that students are likely to enjoy. We could, of course, despair over how deep our biases seem to go and what a challenge it is to achieve an open mind, but I find it curiously entertaining to learn about the quirky biases of our human minds. Maybe it even creates some patience with other people – those others who are so stubbornly wrong! – if we recognize that we are also naively wrong ourselves.
When considering reason as a way of knowing, we Theory of Knowledge teachers have long treated fallacies that derail clear thinking. When considering intuition as a way of knowing, we have a wealth of material in all the biases that kick in before we’re even consciously thinking. At moments, I’ve idly wondered whether we could teach the entire TOK course centred on confirmation bias, our tendency to notice and accept only information that reinforces what we believe already. Continue reading
Standing at the centre of the world: it’s a compelling image. But just who or what is at the “centre”, and what does planting that centre do to our knowledge? Clearly, this question of “centrism” threads through the Theory of Knowledge course, and there are plenty of good entry points to take students into discussion of its complexities. For one such entry point, I’d like to suggest using the image above, with its claim, “Whoever holds a camera stands at the centre of the world.” Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Oh no! More suggestion, in an article I’m reading, that gaining reliable knowledge from the media might be even harder than sticking to a diet! Just as we’re assaulted with tempting displays of candy and chocolate as we head for the supermarket check-out, we’re faced with screaming headlines, awful photos, and our own fear and excitement as we open the news. Alas! I’ve never been a fan of that smug term “delayed gratification”, and I’ve long felt morose about advice – getting it or giving it – to pause, and think… to counter first intuitions and impulses with the slower responses of reason. Nevertheless, a current analysis of “the terror news cycle” confronts me, yet again, with the importance of not grabbing on impulse but paying attention to what I take in. Resolution for the week: not to go instantly for the tasty or flashy. TOK teachers, beware: this is a spoiler alert! Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) “In the moral domain…empathy leads us astray,” argues Paul Bloom, professor of psychology at Yale University. “We are much better off if we give up on empathy and become rational deliberators motivated by compassion and care for others.” Bloom adopts a provocative stance to focus attention on what we in IB Theory of Knowledge would call “ways of knowing”, and ties emotion, imagination, and reason to ethics as an area of knowledge. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) I’m taking a little holiday from watching the news. I do this sometimes. I turn off the volume to watch all those mouths move, then let all of the frustrated and angry people float away, sealed in their lovely bubbles. Escapism? Yes – and no. Sometimes it’s the only way to imagine myself outside my own bubble of news and views, to try to see how people get sealed off from each other in their internally coherent mini-worlds. If I quiet my own rage at the world and stop myself from yelling about “truth”, I think I can see that the people inside all the bubbles are a lot alike, and are using similar ways to create their different versions of the world. It’s those ways that grab my attention for Theory of Knowledge. The following story is likely to grab your attention as well. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Where do new ideas come from? Is it inevitable, I wonder, that in trying to talk with students about using ways of knowing creatively I’m inclined to turn to individual stories of “getting ideas”? Today I’d simply like to share two or three resources for raising discussion of creativity in class. Continue reading
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Cute, isn’t he? May I introduce to you the Beach Beast, and a playful class example for sense perception and intuition as ways of knowing? Oh yes, we TOK teachers all have our collections of optical illusions and suggestive images to create a gestalt moment. (Aha!) We might even use the word “pareidolia” in class for the brain’s inclination to find pattern in random sense perceptions – with human faces, for example, startlingly apparent on the surface of the moon or the melted cheese sandwich on our plate. But, really, I think you’d have to go far to find an example with the appeal of my local Beach Beast!
(by Eileen Dombrowski, from OUP blog) On this fine day in May, most Theory of Knowledge students in the northern hemisphere are surely preoccupied with only a certain aspect of knowledge: how well they have demonstrated it, in relevant forms, on examinations. So today let me suggest that tired students deserve to be invited away from exam stress through their senses and imaginations, and through a gentle form of TOK reflection.
I’d give them no taxing questions, but instead the chance simply to watch and respond to Theo Jansen’s Sandbeasts:
(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Our intuitions can take us in leaps to some crazy places. And yet, if we’re going to consider how we really build what we claim is knowledge – in real life rather than in some tidied and rational abstraction – we do have to look at some of those crazy places and the pre-rational cognitive biases that take us there.
My last post dealt with conspiracy theories as a significant but frequently entertaining entry point for recognizing some of the flaws of intuition as a way of knowing – that is, if it is not supplemented by awareness and the more rational processes of critical thinking. This week’s post picks up that background and applies it in a series of classroom exercises to get students to engage their minds. After all, we can’t teach critical thinking by telling students about it. They have to do it themselves. Continue reading
(by Theo Dombrowski, from OUP blog) Did you know that the Charlie Hebdou attack was not, as the media tell us, an attack by terrorists offended by the satiric magazines’ portrayal of Muhammed, the Prophet? Did you know, rather, that it was orchestrated by the U.S. in order to punish France for its foreign policy decisions? Did you know that pop star Kate Perry is, in fact, a member of the Illuminati, bent on world domination? Both of these are carefully hidden facts, of course. And if you need any proof of the effectiveness of the cover-up of either and, therefore, the terrible power wielded by those running the world, what better proof than the fact that you cannot find a single shred of evidence for either claim? These are but two of literally hundreds of “conspiracy theories” reported in many media, but most widely on the internet. Continue reading