micro metacognition

Maybe because I home schooled my children all of these years and spent a lot of time thinking about how individuals (my guinea pig children) best learn and get excited about learning, one of the things I really enjoy about my college experience is observing how the Professors come to this issue. How to get the students interested. I will leave aside my irritation at the necessity of this in college, but it is there: both the necessity and my irritation.
In one class the professor was talking about Aristotle and wanted to know if anyone knew who Aristotle’s student was. Silence. He would give us a hint – oh goody I thought, what sort of hint will he give? I tried to think of a hint that I might give. I waited, and then he said, “He was from Macedonia.” hmmm, okay…not the hint I might have offered and, apparently, not the hint that had any effect.  “Alexander the Great,”  I answered in the interest of – let’s just keep this moving. An hour and twenty minutes flies by.
I tried keeping my mind from reeling off into an examinational tangent considering how he came to choose that hint and how differently my neural path of breadcrumbs would have lead me. I failed of course and instead began to build a probability tree diagram in my mind. The “event” being, how to either jog the memory of the (largely) sleeping brain matter around us, or get them to an educated guess of Alexander the Great. Using the Fundamental Counting Principle you can imagine that there are a myraid ways to get there. Perhaps the first branch could consist of:
Ancient Greece, Philosophy, Conqueror, Macedonia.
And then the second branch:
AG (i.e. = Ancient Greece): Greek islands, Greek Gods, the Mediterranean;
P:  Plato, Socrates, Locke;
C:  Genghis Khan, Julius Caesar, Attila the Hun;
M: King Philip, Hellenistic greece, The Aegean Sea.
And so on, we will end up with an enormous sample set, but, if I can mix my statistical metaphors, where does the weight that we assign each piece of information come from? Is it merely a personal inclination (i.e. I like philosophy therefore it is a straight downstream flow: Socrates to Plato to Aristotle to Alexander the Great).  Or maybe you are keen on military conquests, then your flow would stem elsewhere. Or is it simply a frequency pattern? Maybe I’ve just heard of Alexander as Aristotle’s student more times than I have as Darius’ nemesis.
I looked out the window of my mind back to my professor, wondering what this all suggests about his mode of thinking and recall of information: how are we different, how are we the same. How come we that way?


10 responses to “micro metacognition

  1. Dunno…if I recall instead of just straight IQ (which is a pretty piss poor way of understanding intelligence), there’s now something like 7 or 8 categories of intelligence (existential, naturalistic, mathematic, etc., etc.), along with that a scaled level of complicated mental activity (from basic memorization to synthesis and creation), followed by preferential learning styles (kinesthetic, listening, reading, etc.). I think you can choose to develop different areas however you want, but most people just go along without bothering, and public school barely gets people past memorization for anything besides math type stuff most of the time. History class has a heavy focus on memorizing meaningless data; comparative politics is a little more difficult, and most people hate it. Additionally, this emphasis on memorization leads everyone to hate memorization, owing to the fact that it’s really intellectually unrewarding except for earning good grades, which is what ultimately leads to blank stares and inability to answer basic questions in lecture halls or classes. That which you don’t care about is rapidly forgotten. Curiosity can’t kill the cat if curiosity got shot in the back of the head early on in everyone’s youth. If that makes sense. Incidentally I like cats, and don’t think they should be butchered by curiosity.

    • I agree with that. I sometimes wonder if it is all a percentage. Total intelligence is 100%, and everyone has 100%, it’s just distributed differently and in some,out of balance. You might be 10-% mathematical, but 60% kinesthetic, and a %30 mix of everything else. This is my explanation for very smart people who are assholes. They just lack some essential percentage of emotional or social intelligence. Which can occasionally manifests itself in urges to kill cats…

  2. Be grateful you didn’t have one of our lecturers. He began by crashing a large ruler on the desk, smiled at the number ofyoung adults having heart attacks and soiling themselves, then asked us how we felt. It was a lecture on stress.

  3. The multi-sensory approach can be effective. Nothing like a heart attach to sear information onto your brain.

  4. I like the balance idea. Although with assholes I think it’s more like if you’re an asshole, you’ve got a high level of emotional/social know-how, you’ve just elected to turn it off when it comes to yourself-or you decide the rules are different for you and everyone else. Or that there isn’t anyone else. To destroy someone’s feelings you have to understand them perfectly via empathy then rationalize what you’re doing. Granted you can do things like this by being careless, but someone who’s careless can be reasoned with and experience guilt and shame. For some people there’s a conscious decision to embrace carelessness and stay that way. I think it’s a deliberate skewing of reality.

  5. Well, that could be an equivocation of the word asshole: mean people and rude people, although they can be one in the same, I was speaking to the rude (in a socially retarded manner).

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