Common steps and sub-activities
Learning - verification
What are we doing when we verify the models we have built up? We are using the observations we have – the perceptions to test the model to see that it is correct. So some perceptions will be used to build the model whilst others may be used to test its validity. In practise synthesis and verification go hand and hand – or should do.
There are two ways in which perceptions help us to test the model:
- Learning from mistakes - In the first place, we may make mistakes, we may have acted on our model or acted without a model and as a result suffered adversity or pain. Real pain plus perceptions show us that we have got things wrong and we maybe need to relearn
- The review of perceptions - In the second place we may get an overwhelming number of perceptions – or shall we say enough to be convincing - that the model we have, simply does not match the actual system – ‘reality’.
Learning from mistakes
George MacDonald - Afflictions are but the shadows of God’s wings
Our perceptions form the basis of our memory and those perceptions with the strongest emotions have a tendency to become the strongest basis for memories.
We learn from good experiences and we also learn from bad experiences, but the mistakes are probably in the end – as long as they don’t kill us, the most valuable of all.
We may long for a stress free life, with hours of happiness and joy and no problems, but we learn nothing from them. Real learning and as a consequence real freedom from fear, comes from experience and experience cannot always be good – very very often it has to be bad to really make us see what the system is.
I am sure there are numerous psychologists able to explain why it is we learn better from bad experiences than good, but we seem preprogrammed to need pain to learn – to really learn. Mistakes maketh the man. Adversity hones his understanding.
It may be very hard to accept when the experiences are really bad, but every learnt lesson is a useful lesson, the more we are burnt the less likely we are in the future to touch the fire.
We have seen in the past sections on learning that we learn principally from experience - from perceptions. The mental models we build up might be provided in part by tuition or advice, from teachers or books, but we need always to be aware that what works for others may not work for us. In the end we do have to ‘suck it and see’.
The best most robust models are those that have been built up from what we have done, so bad experiences are not only inevitable they can be a huge learning aid – as long as we do learn. Repeating the same mistake over and over again is hardly learning.
Anyone who says ‘Why does it always happen to me’ might be as well to remember that it might be because they haven’t learnt anything from all the previous times.
The review of perceptions
At each stage of learning, the original set of perceptions on which memory is based are gradually extracted, selected, filtered and further extracted.
During the first extraction process, selection is based on factors such as personality, emotions, the models already built up, core experiences and so on. During the understanding process we have a tendency to reject perceptions we don’t understand, can’t tag and name or recognise.
During the analysis and synthesis process, we also have a tendency to favour perceptions which fit the models we have because any change of model or new model requires a great deal of work and effort.
Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death – F W H Myers
Errors of memory are much more difficult for a thoroughly honest person to avoid, since very few are aware of the untrustworthiness of their own memory. This ignorance aids unconscious tendencies to bring events into harmony with one’s own beliefs and opinions – whether religious or scientific – and with each other; to exaggerate the clearness and precision of recollections, and to simplify them, either by bringing any group of events into a connected whole or merely by dropping some of the details.
The end result is that we may well have rejected perceptions that have real value.
There may be good reasons why perceptions are rejected in our learning process. Within the perception log, these rejected perceptions will stay as unclassifiable observations to be handled later if more observations of this sort suddenly start to appear. But a one-off observation is not a cause to change a system which has been built on numerous other observations.
Statistically, the odds are still in favour of our learned belief system.
At a certain point, however, there may be so many observations that do not fit the system, that we have to reappraise the belief system we have built up.
In order for this to work properly, we thus need to be 'spiritually balanced'. If we are so logical and left hemisphere oriented that none of the right hemisphere checks work – or they are ignored, the models will never be reviewed. Although there is nothing to prove this, a left hander [the left hand is connected to right hemisphere] probably stands a better chance of achieving the balance than a right hander [right hand connected to left hemisphere]. But then I would say this because I am left handed!!
Overall we have to realise that even though we have perceived a great deal, the model we have eventually built of the world may be based on only a tiny percentage of the perceptions – statistically it may not be a representative sample, meaning our whole model may be incorrect or scewed. At this point it may be worthwhile to use the mechanisms of accessing perceptions [dreams, visions, hallucinations, via the composer] to gain access to past rejected perceptions; simply because the only real 'truth' is unadulterated pure experience – the original perceptions.
The original perceptions are thus the nearest to truth we are ever likely to get in order to force a change of model when it is realised it is not correct.
Things that go wrong with verification - the reluctance to change
If a belief system is a cherished belief or it gives some sense of security, or the events that led up to it were highly emotional or memorable, you find that it does not matter how many observations a person receives which contradict the belief system they have developed, they will not change the system they have developed and will deny that any new observations have come in that change the belief.
Think of our memory as a sort of castle. As we constantly build up more perceptions – gain experience of the world, the perceptions are being used to add to this edifice – this model, with its information and its classes and its functions and data.
But as we get older, the edifice usually becomes extremely large – more like a city rather than a small castle or little house. We feel safe in this castle, this edifice we have built on what we hope is solid foundations. It gives us confidence and authority.
But what happens when perceptions start to appear that do not match the model?
Do we admit the whole edifice needs to be demolished and rebuilt along new lines or do we just dismiss the perceptions as being anomalies that shouldn't affect our model? Initially, as we have seen, this is exactly what we do, because quite rightly, a few observations should not change a lifetimes experience.
But what happens if the number and quality and veracity of the perceptions grows, what do we do then? Some rebuild, some dig their heels in and bury their heads and say – this is what I believe and this is the way it is. I WILL NOT CHANGE!!
Children and adolescents tend to rebuild. The more open minded adults with a vast range of experiences tend to rebuild.
But for many, - those who struggle to learn, those who are naturally dogmatic and narrow in their views, - they don’t. This is a huge failing of human beings. They learn maybe once, and then keep on, heads down, ignoring the messages round them – completely oblivious to the changes that have taken place in the world, or the new information which has been generated.
So the man with the wrong model, and before him the evidence of a huge number of perceptions he has to admit to, but still ignores, is a dangerous man, because in his heart he knows his castle, his city is built on shifting sand and the more the perceptions appear the louder he shouts and the more belligerent he gets, and the more dogmatic, and the more reluctant to change, and the more grumpy. Men in positions of power are truly dangerous when they get to this stage.
It often takes a new generation for a new idea to get accepted.
The more entrenched the beliefs the more hostile will be the resistance to change. People are often violent in their opposition to being told information that challenges their beliefs – partly because they may have built their whole life style on them – however unsuccessful or unhappy or futile that lifestyle may be.
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- Abu Menba Carawash, Sultan of Mousel – To Adversity
- Agassiz, Louis – Essay on Classification – Deducing the natural system of animals
- Agassiz, Louis – Essay on Classification – Improving our observational skills
- Alain Danielou - While the Gods Play - 01 The Experimental Method (Vaisheshika)
- Alain Danielou - While the Gods Play - 02 The Experimental Method (Vaisheshika)
- Bergson, Henri - Matter and Memory - Relearning from perceptions
- Blake, William - I heard the fury of the wind
- Chesterton, G K - Orthodoxy - The Loyalty of Women
- Comenius - Didactica Magna - Improve people's observational powers
- Comenius - Didactica Magna - Teach the value of meticulous observation
- Damasio, Professor Antonio - The lying memory
- De Morgan, Augustus - The Budget of Paradoxes – There’s a paradox to blame
- Eliot, T S - Four Quartets - 05 East Coker III
- Eliot, T S - Four Quartets - 15 Little Gidding III
- Krishnamurti - The Network of Thought - Where there is attachment there is corruption
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher - 00 The children took their own share in the instruction
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 01 His first lesson was one in looking
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 02 Trusting your pupils with all the material available for observation
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 03 Treating pupils as friends and equals
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 04 Promoting a broad education and set of interests in pupils at all levels – avoid specialisation, encourage generalisation
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 06 Learning how to observe properly
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 07 Avoid book learning, suit the subject to be observed to the interest of the student
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 08 Vary the objects being studied in order to improve perspective and objectivity
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 09 Make every mistake into an opportunity for learning
- Lane Cooper - Louis Agassiz as a teacher – 10 - 'Look, look, look'
- Lowell, James Russell - Through suffering and sorrow I have passed
- Mesopotamia - Its technology and culture 02 Divination
- Nietzsche - On the Genealogy of Morals - Pain is the most powerful aid to mnemonics
- Nietzsche - The Gay Science - The poison which destroys the weaker nature, strengthens the stronger
- North Whitehead, Alfred – The nature of discovery and learning
- O'Reilly, John Boyle - In this brief life despair should never reach us
- Obiter Dicta - Louis Agassiz
- Plotinus - The Enneads - As for violent personal sufferings
- Professor William James - Louis Agassiz, Words Spoken at the Reception of the American Society of Naturalists [Dec 30, 1896]
- Ramachandran, Dr V S - The distortion of perceptions to fit belief systems
- Ramacharaka on Louis Agassiz - On learning to observe
- Samuel Johnson - On adversity
- Socrates - Epictitus The Enchiridion - Learning from experience
- The Sutra of Hui-Neng - There is nothing true anywhere
- Wallace, Alfred Russell - The use of observations as evidence