Joshua Rothman

‘In everyday life, the biggest obstacle to metacognition is what psychologists call the “illusion of fluency.” As we perform increasingly familiar tasks, we monitor our performance less rigorously; this happens when we drive, or fold laundry, and also when we think thoughts we’ve thought many times before. Studying for a test by reviewing your notes, [neuroscientist Stephen] Fleming writes, is a bad idea, because it’s the mental equivalent of driving a familiar route. “Experiments have repeatedly shown that testing ourselves—forcing ourselves to practice exam questions, or writing out what we know—is more effective,” he writes. The trick is to break the illusion of fluency, and to encourage an “awareness of ignorance.”’(from the New Yorker)

This was a very typical New Yorker article, on the subject of rationality, which I enjoyed reading, even though I find an emphasis on rationality generally rather infuriating – or perhaps it’s just the people who claim to be rational that irritate me. This paragraph struck me as not just true, but a great advertisement for beginner’s mind.


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