Recently I just finished two MOOC courses, i.e Learn How to Learn and Think 101: Think Again. I put them together to talk, because they focus on the similar topic: how to improve thinking and learning .
We human beings have some inborn intuitions, and we use them automatically in thinking or decision making, but it is possibly incorrect even it works for most cases. There’s an example given: to fill 1 barrel needs 1 person to work 1 day, how many days will it cost to fill 3 barrels for 3 persons? You might say 3 days out intuitively, but it’s incorrect, since the answer is 1 day.
Decision making from intuition is called System 1 thinking, while think slowly, and overcome the intuition, which will make the System 2 thinking.
Another important thing is anchoring, not only prices we notice everyday, and also everything else. You’ll think Jim will be very smart because he’s in Harvard even he’s an idiot, but we have the anchoring point of the average Harvard students. And you’ll feel $2 is a good price when you notice that other branded similar products are around $3, but actually it might only deserve $1. So for our thinking, we need to overcome the anchoring others try to trap us, and make the correct decision.
Judge based on situation(objective) instead of personality(subjective). When we try to predict somebody’s behavior, we always try based on the person’s personality(or past behaviors), which is always incorrect from scientists’ experiments. A cheater might cheat on a specific situation or not, which mostly depend on the situation itself, not because he was a cheater. We all know Jim is a brave guy, but he might freak out when seeing a snake.
When we know it will always go wrong when predicting a person’s behavior based on the personality, we can try to use it to make others behave as we expect. The point is to put yourself into others’ shoes to get acquainted with the situation he’s facing, and based on the situation we can judge the possible behavior he’ll do, and try to change the situations to make his behaviors as we expect.
We also need to employ the focused mode and diffused mode, in focused mode we will try to dig as deep as we can on a specific point while diffused mode we’ll view the stuff in a higher level, and try to bridge the connection with our existing experiences. So we’d better to use both modes as we need when learning and thinking. If we get stuck, we might go for a walk and later we might have the solution in hand.
Regarding to memorizing, the teacher mentioned spaced learning, which will improve the long term memory converted from short term memory. Only when the knowledge go to our LTM, it can be fetched later easily and we can use them in our diffused mode thinking. Test also plays a great role to tell whether you have grasped what you seem to grasp(illusion).
There’re also some psychological effects we should indentify and try to avoid if possible, e.g confirmation bias, availability heuristic, expectancy effect, etc.
Finally, it’s not that easy to change our thinking, overcome intuition, avoid the psychological effects in our daily life, but when we know it well, we can identify them and try to avoid.
BTW, I got my first MOOC certificate from Think 101: Think Again .