Ep. 42 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Intelligence, Rationality, and Wisdom | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "Ep. 42 - Awakening from the Meaning Crisis - Intelligence, Rationality, and Wisdom".
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Welcome back to Awakening from the Meaning Crisis. So last time we were taking an in-depth look at the work of Stanovich and rationality, because we are building towards an account of wisdom, because that is deeply intertwined with the cultivation of enlightenment, and of course with the cultivation of meaning. We noted that rationality is an existential issue. It's not just a matter of how we're processing information. It's something that is constitutive of our identity in important ways, and our mode of being in the world. And we'll come back to that again. One of the core things we saw as we took a look at the rationality debate, in which Stanovich was situated, is that debate showed us a couple of important things. It showed us, if I can put this as a formula, that rationality does not equal logicality, and it does not equal intelligence. That debate also showed us that we need multiple competencies when we're talking about rationality. We need an inferential competency, but we need an independent competency of control, and then I propose to you how we could understand what that competency is and what the normative theory is acting upon it, namely insight, good problem formulation. We then moved into what Stanovich saw as the missing piece.
Concepts And Importance Of Active Open Mindedness
Active Open Mindedness (01:48)
If intelligence doesn't give us rationality, what's the missing piece? There's two missing pieces. They overlap in some important ways. One is the notion, he calls it mind-wear, what I've called psychotechnology. And the other is a cognitive style, and the cognitive style that he talked about was active open mindedness, which he gets from Jonathan Barron. And this is the idea that what you should do is cultivate a sensitivity, an ongoing awareness of the present and effect of cognitive biases in your cognitive behavior, your cognitive life, and to actively counteract them. I pointed out that unlike Stanovich who doesn't emphasize this as much, Jonathan Barron, who's the originator of this idea as a constitutive feature of rationality, points out that you can't do that too much, because if you try to override too many of your cognitive biases, you of course will be also overriding them in their functioning as heuristics that help you avoid common and toward explosions.
Humility vs Overriding Cognitive Biases (02:41)
So getting an optimal form of active open mindedness rather than a maximal form of it is crucial to rationality. I want to just briefly stop here and be a little bit more precise about how I want to use this term. I've been using it throughout, and I basically defined it by example and then through exemplification. But I want to be a little bit clear about it because it's going to be relevant as we go forward and talk about wisdom. So here's a definition I want to offer to try and clarify what I mean and how I'm using the term psychotechnology. As I said, I don't claim to be the originator of this idea, but I am claiming that this is the particular slant I'm taking on this idea of psychotechnology. Psychotechnology is a socially generated and standardized way of formatting, manipulating and enhancing information processing that's readily internalizable into human cognition, and that can be applied in a domain general manner. That's crucial. It must extend and empower cognition in some reliable and extensive manner and be highly generalizable among people.
Prototypical instances are literacy, numeracy, and graphing. So I want to just make it very clear it's not just that anything we use mentally will count as a psychotechnology. So the cognitive style of active open mindedness will probably make use of psychotechnologies in order to help track bias. But obviously, Stanovich means something much more comprehensive. He means a set of skills, psychotechnologies, sensibilities, and sensitivities that will help you in a domain general manner note and actively respond to the presence of cognitive bias. We can then ask what is it about people that is intelligent and insufficient for this? This is learnable. We talked about the need for cognition as being an important predictor. So this is the degree to which you are motivated to go out and look for problems. You're trying to find, formulate, and solve problems. So in that sense, you are generating your own instances of learning and problem solving in a quite directed and comprehensive manner. I've suggested to you that there's two ways in which we can think about this curiosity and wisdom. I want to stop here and note something about this need for cognition that I'm now going to be making use of in today's lecture, which is the connection between the need for cognition and what Arlen calls problem finding. Because that's a very central feature, I would think I would say an essential feature of what it is to have a high need for cognition.
Problem finding (06:34)
Arlen argues that problem finders are very good at finding problems, as the name indicates there. They are able to realize problems and connect things together in ways that other people have not previously done. Some people have argued that this is central to creativity, but important for our purposes is that Arlen, and this is kind of prescient of this whole argument. She made this argument in 1990. She argues that this is central to wisdom. That one of the crucial features of being a wise person is the capacity to find problems that other people have not yet found. I want to take a moment here and offer a suggestion of how we can think about what makes somebody a good problem finder. This is not in Arlen, this is my attempt to extend and develop Arlen and make it a little bit more concrete and practicable. I want to propose to you this idea. We don't find problems typically in a vacuum. We don't do anything in a vacuum. There's already a background of existing issues we're dealing with. Other people are dealing with in a culture. I would suggest you that a good problem finder can do this. Here are some existing problems in the space in which human beings are operating. What a good problem finder does is not just simply add to that. That would be kind of a basic skill and problem finding. I think people that we regard as being exemplary in this and doing it very well and therefore demonstrating an aspect of creativity helps to explain why problem finding overlaps between wisdom and creativity. They can do the following thing. They can find a problem that if solved would make a significant impact on these existing problems. What I'm suggesting to you is that good problem finding is the ability to generate a problem nexus. If you go in and say here are some problems in various domains, then they are all centered on this core problem. If we can address that core problem, then we can go back and make a significant impact on this. I think many of the people, I don't take credit for this. I think the person who should be given credit for this, and I'll talk about that later today, is Dreyfus.
Understanding and wisdom (09:29)
The idea that many of the central problems of cognition are centered on this ability to realize relevance, I think that's a very powerful kind of problem finding. It's the generation of a problem nexus and I've tried to show you how it can be very generative of theoretical and empirical research. I think that's part of what it is to be a good problem finder. It is to generate a problem nexus. I also want to point out something that I'm going to come back to, which is this is going to overlap with an important aspect in some current theories of the nature of understanding that have to do with the effectiveness of how we are relating to knowledge. That sounds very vague and I will come back to that more carefully. What I need you to understand right now is that this problem finding, the ability to generate a problem nexus will also make a significant impact interact with some of the best accounts that are emerging about the nature of understanding. That's going to be important because we want understanding to be part of our theory, our account of wisdom. I want to come back to the affective side of this. I've suggested to you that one part of good problem finding, one part of need for cognition, is good problem finding. Then good problem finding is the ability to generate a problem nexus.
Need for cognition (11:21)
Need for cognition, I look at this word here, also points to obviously an affective, a motivational component. This takes us into the few things I talked about before, wonder and curiosity. Although these terms are slippery, one way in which we can pick up polar opposites is that curiosity is much more in the having mode, manipulating and controlling things, and wonder is much more in the being mode, it's much more about encountering mystery and calling into question, one's worldview, one's identity, etc. That's why wonder can shade into awe or potentially even into horror. I want to pick up on something here because this again has some very deep connections to wisdom. I actually have this on a plaque in my apartment. It's a famous quote from Socrates, which is wisdom begins in wonder. Like everything about Socrates, it is simultaneously provocative and enigmatic as to what did Socrates actually mean by that. There's two different interpretations. You can see this in the different ways in which wonder is treated by Plato and of course by Aristotle. You can see this sort of distinction to some of the current work on wonder. But for Plato, the point of philosophy is to develop and extend that sense of wonder so that what you're actually trying to do for Plato is you're trying to deepen wonder into awe. Because he feels that this awe will have the greatest capacity for transforming us, for getting us deeply involved in the anagogic ascent. That makes sense. Aristotle also thinks that philosophy begins in wonder, but I think you could make a good case that many people have. Aristotle sees this more in line with curiosity, trying to figure things out. What you're ultimately doing, I would say for Aristotle is this. You're trying to basically shape wonder into curiosity in philosophy and then resolve the curiosity in some answer to some question. So for Plato, wonder sets you on a quest of anagogic. But for Aristotle, wonder gets you to formulate questions that you then answer. And that's a fundamental difference between them. And it's interesting because Plato is here sort of pushing for meta accommodation.
Wonder and curiosity (14:45)
As we've seen before, when we talked about this, when we talked about the new minutes, and Aristotle is of course pushing for meta assimilation. Of course, when I answer questions, it may force me to do conceptual accommodation. But overall, this is trying to stabilize and assimilate and sort of home things for you. The kind of stuff we saw in Gert. So philosophy is working within that whole structure. And why am I pointing this out? Because of course, again, we're invoking this higher order relevance realization that's at work within this need for cognition within wonder and curiosity. All right. So we saw that Stanovich was able to respond to many of the defenders of human rationality in the rationality debate.
He was able to respond to Cohen by crucially noting that we have to challenge Cohen's assumptions. Do not have a single competence. Well, I also added in that we shouldn't think of it as static or completely individual. All right. He was able to respond to Czerniak by pointing out that Czerniak was quite right about the centrality of dealing with computational limitations. But that what Czerniak is really giving is not a theory, because Czerniak's theory is a theory of relevance realization, is not a theory of rationality but a theory of intelligence. Something that Stanovich also agrees with. And then to Smadzland, he Stanovich acknowledges that we need an independent normativity on construal.
Problem formulation (16:35)
And we've already seen that we can answer that, well, at least I'm proposing that we can answer that by a different area in psychology, which is to work on good problem formulation and insight. The problem formulation that avoids combinatorial explosion, ill-defined-itness, and the way in which we can be misdirected by salience to misjudge what is relevant. I now want to refer, I now want to return to Stanovich's theory properly. What's his positive account of what rationality is? So the way Stanovich does this, and I don't want, sorry, the way he's doing this overlaps with a lot of other work, and this is a point that he himself makes. There's a lot of convergence in psychology on the idea of a dual processing theory that we have multiple competencies. And what this dual processing is is it's self very controversial. Initially people talked about two systems, and then they talked about two styles, and because of critiques, it was hard to maintain those terms. And I'm not even convinced that they are distinct things, they might lie on a continuum. But the basic idea, so to avoid all that controversy, they're simply called S1 and S2. And like I say, I'm not claiming that their discrete systems, or even discrete styles, it's quite possible that they are polar positions with on a continuum of processing. I'm going to put all of those aside because it's not relevant for what we're talking about here. So the main idea here is that these are different ways in which you process information. And this process works largely intuitively. And it works very much in a highly associational fashion. It makes use of a lot of implicit processing. And it's very fast.
Rethinking S1 and S2 (18:51)
So this is the kind of processing that you're using all the time in what we talked about this when Varela talked about your ability to cope. This is your coping. So when I'm moving around the environment, I'm relying a lot on my intuitive knowledge, my capacity for implicit learning, the way I can quickly associate things together. And so I would add to this, of course, as I argue before, that this is also sort of how we're primarily caring for things, being involved with them, finding them salient, et cetera. But nevertheless, this is the part of your cognition that is operating a lot of the time in the background. In fact, I want to step aside from Stanovich for a moment and propose to you that instead of thinking of these discrete systems, we can think of different states where you're in where one style or other is more foregrounded and the other is more backgrounded.
The difference between S1 and S2 (20:00)
So I'll come back to that. What's S2? Well, S2 operates more deliberately in both senses of the word, like deliberation where I'm engaging in reflection and deliberate in the sense that I am aware of it and intentionally directed in it. So it's deliberately. So it tends to not work, it tends to work inferentially, argumentatively, argumentation in the philosophical sense, not in the sense of having an emotional conflict with somebody. The processing, of course, all processing has, and this is an important point, some aspects of it that are implicit. So this is more of a contrast of emphasis. But this processing is much more explicit.
Example of splitting S1 and S2 (20:50)
And it tends to be very slow. So Kahneman has a book out right now thinking fast and thinking slow that is a very good sort of discussion of this dual processing model, because as I said, there's a lot of theory that is very slow. There's a lot of theoretical argumentation and evidence that is convergent on this. So this is a very highly plausible thing. You see it's showing up in many, many different domains within psychology. All right. So one way of thinking about this, and this is a way in which Standavitch and Evans have tried to get a clearer, more precise way of distinguishing the two, is the degree to which they're doing the same thing. And the degree to which they're tapping, making use of working memory. So the idea is S2 really relies on working memory, whereas S1 relies much less on it. And so it's much more automatic in that sense in its operation. So let's take an example where you use the two systems. So your grocery shopping, and you come up to the cashier and they're ringing you in, and you've got a normal sort of basket full of normal groceries. And the cashier says to you, well that'll be $1,000 please. And you go, what? Now where did that what come from? Right? Where did that what come from? Well you have associations between sort of these objects, their prices, sort of the amount.
Cognitive Leaping And Rationality
The leap between inference and deduction (22:39)
You've picked up implicit patterns, right? Notice how intuitively, associatively, implicitly, and quickly you do. What? That's wrong. It can't be a thousand dollars. That makes no sense. So you call the cashier into question by using your S1 processing. Now what the cashier has to do, right, though, she can't just, she or he, can't just respond this way to you. The cashier can't go, nah, it's a thousand. I can sense it. What does they have to do? They have to libertly. No, they have to take out each thing. They have to get out the bill. They have to libertly, right? Notice they have to concentrate. They have to pay attention step by step. Make the argument to you explicitly and slowly. No, no, look. Look. Look. Look at this matches this matter. They're using S2 processing. Now these of course are in a trade off relationship because the problem with, and this of course is, instead of it, it acknowledges this, but part of the problem with this is how much demand it puts on your working memory, how slow it is. So you cannot rely on it yet another argument why you can't day cart your way through your whole of your existence, right? You can't rely on it for most of your behavior because you will just head into the ocean of combinatorial explosion. So we get so slow down and so overwhelmed that you won't be able to live your life. You'll commit cognitive suicide. But of course we have this for a reason. We have this because it is supposed to override to a degree this. So notice that these two systems are in basically an opponent relationship. They are both working towards the same goal of making you adaptive, but they tend to work in opposite fashions. And instead of it sees S2 as largely having, and there's deep truth to this, having a corrective function for S1. Alright, so now I can first give you his theory of foolishness, which he understands as dysrachialia, like dyslexia. And then by implication his theory of rationality, which because it's a comprehensive kind of rationality, it deals with a comprehensive kind of foolishness, it's now bordering on an account of what wisdom is. So here's the idea. What is active open mindedness doing?
The importance of cognitive leaping (25:22)
Well, what's happening is this is the place where, you know, all the heuristics and biases are. This is where they're operating. And what happens here is they make you leap to conclusions. Remember when I did the problem with you, you know, where you've got the pond and on day one, there's so many lily pads and it doubles every day. And on day 20, it's done on what day was the pond half covered and your S1 shouts at you. Ten days, ten days in because it's half and half and that's how it works. And that's wrong because on day 19, half the pond was covered. Right? And what you have to do is S2 has to basically override how you're leaping to conclusions, how you leap to the conclusion that the people at the airport are in danger because of the representative heuristic or the availability heuristic. So S1 is constantly giving, but I need this. That's what makes me fat. If I'm not leaping, I'm not fast. I'm not coping. Leaping and coping are deeply interdependent. But the thing is sometimes, and again, it's unclear what the degree is. That's one of the ways in which I think Baron is a little bit more clear than Stanovich. But sometimes, we need to override this leaping to conclusion. So he sees that what active open mindedness is basically doing is teaching you to protect this processing from being overridden by the way S1 makes you leap to conclusions. You are foolish. You have dysraterinaia. If you are highly intelligent and yet you do not, you have not trained S2, right, to be properly protected from the interference from S1. Do you see what's going on here? This is how he's ultimately responding to Cohen. You have these two competencies. You need both of them. They are constitutive of your cognitive agency. So they're both constitutive competences. But this one can interfere with this one, and that can cause you to behave irrationally. What active open mindedness does is to protect this kind of processing from that interference. So that's Stanovich's central model. Now, I think that's definitely a good account of active open mindedness. My central criticism of this is I think it's an insufficient account of rationality. It's insufficient. I grant that a lot of work has been done here. Rationality is not being equated to intelligence. It's not being equated to logicality. It's centered on overcoming self-deception. There's an account of self-deception. It's so platonic, eh? It's so platonic. Here's the monster, and it's interfering with the man, right? So platonic. And so we get that interference effect. That's what's causing us to be foolish. That makes us self-deception. If we cultivate active open mindedness, then we can reduce the interference, and that makes us more comprehensively rational. I think that's all, well, it's all elegant. It's beautiful. And the fact that it keeps this kind of work keeps getting replicated and massively convergent. It's so highly plausible and profound. That's all, I think that's all worthy of being noted. However, let's look to this. Because it's leaping, always a bad thing. Well, I already implied you need to leap to cope, but let's take a look, right, at the work of Baker, Senate, and CC from 1996. Okay? So what they investigated a thing they called inductive leaping. I think calling it inductive leaping is a mistake because I understand induction as an inferential procedure, and what they're explicitly doing is not inferential nature, but it is not inferential in nature. So I'm going to suggest that we don't use that term, and I'm instead going to use the more neutral term of cognitive leaping. What's cognitive leaping? Well, cognitive leaping, how do they test it? They tested it in the following ways. I give you various patterns that are unfolding across time, and that, right, at various times I stop and I ask you if you can tell me what it's going to be. One version of it is there's, like, we talked about this before, I'm a bunch of dots, and what's it going to be and more dots get filled in? Eventually you're able to leap and say, "Oh, it's going to turn out to be a sofa." And notice how you're doing a good stuff, really going from features to gestalt, you're doing that leap, and you're going from looking at the dots to looking through them, you're doing an opacity transparency shift, all that stuff we talked about, right? Mindfulness is involved. Now, why does that matter? Well, what they found was something very important. This allowed them to operationalize kind of at least an aspect of the ineffability of insight, because often you don't know what's going on in an insight, there's this leap. And how they operationalize it was this. You're a good leaper, if you can use fewer cues and accurately say what the final pattern is going to be. So if you use fewer cues and you're making lots of mistakes, you're not very good, if you're largely accurate but you have to get a whole bunch of cues, then you're not a very good leaper. But if you use few cues and get to the full gestalt reliably, right, then you're a very good cognitive leaper. Okay, you're doing this, you have this skill, this facility with pattern detection, pattern completion. Why is that so important? Well, because that, and that's what the experiment showed, this is directly predictive of insight. The better you are at leaping, the better you are at insight. So do you see the tension here? If I try to shut off too much leaping to conclusions, I'm also shutting off the machinery that makes me more insightful. It's right, we have, look, we have to give up simplistic notions, naive simplistic notions of rationality.
Reasoning and rationality (32:13)
Okay, I'm not accusing Stanovich of this, not at all. But what I'm saying is, being rational is a very complex process in which there are trade off relationships and a very complicated kind of optimization needs to be trained. So, we want active open mindedness to, let's make this the error of interference. So, sometimes I leap to conclusions and that causes a lot of mistake in inference, the kind of stuff that Stanovich, and what I need is active open mindedness to moderate that and ameliorate it in a significant degree. Right? But, I want to leap to insight. And I need that for good construl, and good construl is central to being a problem solver, central to being rational. So what do I need? Well, it's interesting because if you turn to a domain outside of the academic domain, and we have to, because rationality is existential, we have to pay attention to the question.
Rationality is a meta-cognitive process (33:30)
We have to pay attention to the context even in which we're theorizing about rationality. Right? And if we're in a largely academic context, we're going to think of rationality as primarily about theorizing. So, this is a great danger to theorizing. And so, I would argue, if the rationality, if the project you're engaging in rationality is the project of theorizing, and I mean that broadly in the sense of generating scientific or historical theory, then active open mindedness is crucial. But there are domains, well it goes the other way. There's domains in which what you need to be able to come up with a transformative insight where you need a radical reconstral of the problem or the issue, where that's crucial because you're somehow locked in. Where's the domain and where that's crucial? Well, we've talked about it. So, this is good for theorizing. But Jacobs in his book, and you can see some related work by Teesdale, points out there's an opposite context. There's the context not of theory, but there's the context of therapy. I think it's broader than this, but I'm using this because it's a good contrast and there's an allative relation to help for mnemonic purposes. So, in therapy very often what's needed is, and we've talked about this, remember you're existentially trapped and you need this fundamental kind of transformative insight, and you cannot infer your way through it. We've already tackled that argument in detail. You cannot infer your way through it. And the problem in therapy is people try to think their way through it. That's Jacobs main point, and I say a book called the Ancestral Mind, and the same point is being made, I think by Teesdale when he talks about metacognitive insight being central to therapy. Often what you need is to try and shut this down, try to trigger this, I mean think of fright and free association. You have to try and shut this down, prevent it from interfering, right? Bring this into the foreground, keep this in the background. So, when we're theorizing we need this in the foreground and we need it protected, we need it to seriously background and constrain this, active open mindedness and doing this. But in the therapeutic situation, this needs to be much more foregrounded, this needs to be backgrounded, and it needs to be constrained so it doesn't unduly interfere with this. Now, what we can ask ourselves is, well, what's a cognitive style that makes this much more focal, tries to constrain this and really improves insight.
Theory of rationality (36:46)
Well, we know what that is. And Teesdale in fact argues for it explicitly as what triggers metacognitive insight. That's mindfulness. So, think about how much in a mindfulness practice, I've tried to argue that we need an ecology of psychotechnologies to cultivate the cognitive style of mindfulness, right? Think of one, think of meditation. Think of how much in meditation you are trying to really constrain this, shut this down, reduce all that inner speech, all that inferential processing, the deliberate direction, right? And you're trying to open this up in a very powerful way.
Rationality as an existential issue (37:28)
So, notice that I now have a cognitive style that is in a very important sense opponent, not adversarial, but opponent to active open mindedness. Notice that they are both sharing the training of attention and what you're paying attention to and how you're paying attention. So, this is great for planning, and this is, I said, this is great for coping, and especially when the planning is epistemic, when we're trying to theorize, when we're planning for truth, this is very good for coping, especially when we're doing a kind of coping that's therapeutic in a broad sense in which we are needing to transform and undergo important qualitative development. So, I think what's missing from Stanovich is a broader account of our competences and how they can be, how they are played off against each other, how there's a trade off relationship with them, and part of what I would argue, and I'm going to come back to this more directly later, what goes into wisdom is a cultivation of both active open mindedness for inference and mindfulness for insight, and then what we're going to need is, well, what coordinates them together, how are they coordinated together, how do I optimize the opponent, not adversarial, how do I optimize the opponent processing between them. I want to come back to that and explore that in detail with you, because I can't push this any farther because as we push this farther, we're getting farther and farther away from Stanovich's theory and moving in towards a theory that I myself am going to propose to you, the work I've done with Leo Ferraro, and then sort of critically reflect on that. So, I need you to remember this for when we come back to more explicitly talk about a theory of wisdom, and to be fair to Stanovich, he's ultimately not offering a theory of wisdom, and I think when he talks about rationality, he really means theoretical rationality, as opposed to what we might call practical or therapeutic rationality. Okay, I want to stop here though, and continue on with our investigation now of explicit theories of wisdom, but I want to sort of pull one thing out of our discussion of some Stanovich before we leave Stanovich's good company. And I want to use somebody else's work to extend that a bit and to just add more teeth to this claim that rationality is ultimately an existential issue. A way of understanding what Stanovich says is the following, right, when I use intelligence to learn the psychotech and the cognitive style, I can use intelligence to actually improve how I'm using my intelligence. I can use my intelligence to improve, right, how the competencies are optimizing, and I can therefore overall enhance my capacity for relevance realization. And I would give that as rationality. But something else is emerging, right, out of this, which I'm only suggesting now, but we may perhaps be able to use our rationality to improve our rationality, to make it more optimal overall. And just to you, that's going to be crucial to wisdom. That's going to be an essential feature, I would argue, not everybody agrees with me on this, I'm trying to be really clear about this, but I would argue that that is a place in which we can find the locus for understanding the nature of wisdom, how it relates to rationality and how it relates to intelligence.
Stenovich'S Assumptions And Dweck'S Views On Intelligence
Problematic assumptions made by Stenovich (41:51)
And the nature of this is, we're going to have to come back to one more time. Please remember when you see this word that I am not equating it to logicality or intelligence. I've given you long arguments about it. I've tried to expand this notion, right, it's as much more about the reliable and systematic ability to overcome self-deception and to afford the enhancement of development and meaning in life. And that's what I mean by that. Okay, so let's keep this in mind. Let's take some time now, right, to take a look at some more explicit theories of wisdom. I can't look at them all. This is a growth industry. I'm going to a conference tomorrow that has a lot of the people that are working in this. And it's going to be a discussion to try and see if we can come to some consensus about this precisely because it is such an important topic.
Dweck & Two Views of Intelligent (42:51)
A lot of good work has been done on it. But again, because there is such a multitude of viewpoints, getting a clear consensus on this is going to be a theoretical challenge. Okay, now I want to, as I said, do one more thing before I do that before I move to the explicit theories. And I want to show you a bit about this. And the point about this is to bring out something that Stenovich is not addressing, which is the existential aspect of rationality, the degree to which we identify with our higher cognitive processes. Okay, so this is the work of Dweck, Carol Dweck. And let's work on mindset. She has a book entitled that. And this is, of course, is again an ongoing thing. It's been taking up in a lot of different research. So I want to describe an experiment to you. And then I want to sort of challenge a little bit of a potential ambiguity or confusion in Dweck that I think we can clarify by making use of this work from Stenovich. So Dweck did the following thing. She brought, she has a whole bunch of experiments, but let's talk about one. She brought in a bunch of school children and she randomly assigned them to three groups, group A, group B and group C. Now Dweck talks about two different ways in which you can set your mind towards your traits. And the trait that's really crucial and this is relevant is intelligence. So she talks about two views, you can have two ways in which you can set your mind. Now it's a mindset because it's not just a belief, it's the way in which you are identifying with, right? It's the way in which you feel you are embodying the traits we're talking about.
Viewing Traits as Fixed or Malleable (45:11)
So you can have a fixed view of your intelligence or a malleable view. And so in the fixed view, you think intelligence is like fixed basically, sort of birth or early on. And then once it's locked in, there's not much you can do with it. So for example, my height is a fixed trait. There's not a lot I can do to modify it. It's a fixed trait. My weight is a much more malleable trait. It's quite variable, it can change quite a bit. So you may think that intelligence is more like my height, you're sort of born with it, you're fixed, you got this number assigned and that's it. Or intelligence is malleable, it can develop and change. Now notice your behavior is going to be different if you think intelligence is fixed.
Viewing Mistakes as Permanent Revelation or Challenges (46:04)
If you think intelligence is fixed, your attitude towards error is that error will reveal that you have a defect in a non-changeable trait. It'll reveal, it'll permanently disclose that you are not smart.
Viewing Errors Pointing Towards Skills to be Developed (46:33)
So fixed intelligence tends to turn error into permanent revelation. If I make mistakes, that will show that I have low intelligence. Once everybody knows that, including myself, there's nothing I can do about it and then I'm doomed to being a stupid person. If you have the malleable view of intelligence, error doesn't do that for you.
Priming Fixed View In Specific Scenarios (47:10)
If you have the error, error is now, oh wait, error points towards the skills I'm using. I need better skills or the effort I'm putting in. I need to put in more effort because if it's malleable, I can do things to change it. So the error says the error is basically pointing, you need to make some changes, you need to cultivate more skills, you need to cultivate more effort. If you have something right away, please, notice how the fixed view focuses you on the product. It focuses you on, you just get fixated on the error, oh no! This focuses you, remember the key of rationality, it focuses you on the process. She has a lot of experiments showing that the fixed view and the malleable view have a huge impact on your behavior. Interesting thing, how can you trigger people into this mode? If you're in an authority position, like being a teacher at a school, the one way you can trigger the mode, and this is really a mode, right? The mode that people are in is how you praise them, the kind of feedback you give them. If I praise you using trait language, like you're so smart, you're so bright, that's going to tend to trigger this orientation. If I praise you for the process, wow, you're using a really good skill, you're putting in a lot of effort for that, that's going to make the process salient to you. The more I make this salient, the more you're going to be in that mode, the more I make this salient, the more you're going to be in that mode. So, I can praise the trait, right, or I can praise the process. Think about how important this is to parenting or schooling. Okay, so let's go back to the experiment. These three groups, let's see group is the control group, they're all given a set of problems that have been pre-tested for, I think they were grade four. They could all solve these problems, they're challenging, but they're all solvable, and they all solve them. So, all groups solve them, but group A is praised for its trait, group B is praised for the process, and then group C is given the neutral just acknowledgement of, oh, the praise is used, exceeded so well in that problem.
Critique On Rationality
Okay, so neutral. So the idea is this is going to trigger, right, these people into the fixed view, this is going to trigger people into the malleovole view. So now what you do is you give the kids a bunch of tests. You ask which ones want to take on some more challenging problems. Notice what I'm doing here, I'm looking for need for cognition, looking for need for cognition. And what I find is this group, yeah, sorry, that was completely wrong. This group says no, I don't want to try harder problems. Why? Because if they try harder problems, there's a very good chance that they will generate error, and then error will generate, right, the recognition that they're less intelligent, and then they're permanently stained with that, permanently marked. The process people say, yeah, I'd like to try harder problems, they have a need for cognition, seems to be triggered, of course, neutral, right? Then you give them some harder problems and ask, do they enjoy them? Oh, do not enjoy this. Yeah, I enjoy this, neutral. Now, here's the crucial thing. Now you give them a set of problems that were equal in difficulty to the first set of problems.
Criticizing rationality (51:04)
You get a set of problems that were equal in difficulty to the first set of problems. This has all been massively pre-tested, so it's safe, right? And what you find is, this group does about the same, this group does much worse, and this group does better than it did before. And now I want to extend this, and notice how this is starting to fold into a kind of self-deception, right? You ask these kids to write to, I believe the experiment was done in America, you ask these people to write to a student in Germany that they'll never, they will never meet, but they'll never meet, right? And report how they did on the experiment. So these two groups largely tell the truth. They just, you know, 40% of these people lie about their performance. Okay. What am I trying to show you? I'm trying to show you the way you frame yourself, the way you identify with your processing has a huge impact on your problem-solving ability, your proclivity for self-deception, and your need for cognition. Rationality is an existential thing. It is not just an informational processing thing. Now, one thing that comes out of this is the question. Yeah, but is intelligence fixed or malleable? And Dweck is not quite clear about that. The evidence is pretty clear that there's a few things you can do to modify your intelligence. There's some suggestion that long-term mindfulness practice, by enhancing attention and working memory, can improve your measures of general intelligence. One large intelligence is fixed. It's not that malleable. And then you may say, "Oh, then this whole thing is based on lying to the kids." Basically, getting them to relate to intelligence is something malleable. Not really. Not really at all.
Something highly malleable (53:33)
Because what we're actually talking about here, and that's what I've been continually alluding to here, is that something that is terrifically- malleable is terrifically malleable. This is exactly what mind-setting is. The way in which intelligence recursively relates to itself is a way in which we can think about it being rational. But that might, sorry, the way in which we can think about it being malleable. And my word slip shows you what my thinking is. A better way of talking about this is that intelligence is fixed, and this is what Santa Vitra argues, but rationality is highly malleable. And then here's Santa Vitra's main point about this. We care too much for intelligence and not enough for rationality. Because, yes, intelligence is highly predictive of all these things, and that's why measurements of G are such powerful predictors. But if I wanted to know something about you now following Santa Vitra's argument, I want to know not how intelligent you are. I want to know how rational you are, and that is highly malleable. Okay, so what I'm trying to show you is this, that rationality is an existential issue. It's about how you're identifying with your own cognitive processing, and the way in which that identification process can impede how you're applying and using your intelligence, or it can enhance it. And then there's the possibility of cultivating the right kind of recursion and identity, the right kinds of cognitive styles. So somehow we have to put processes of identification, processes of coordinating cognitive styles together, and we can get a clear path for becoming much more rational.
Discussing Psychological Theories Of Wisdom
The Psychological Theories of Wisdom (55:20)
And as I'm suggesting to you, therefore, much more wise, because if we use rationality to better learn how to use rationality and identify with our rationality, then of course I'm suggesting to you that's wisdom. And as I promised, we should now turn to some of the explicit psychological theories of wisdom. Now I can't, as I've already mentioned, I can't do all of them, I'm going to zero in on four theories that I think are quite representative of central ideas in the psychology of wisdom. And then I will then propose, I'll put my, I'll propose my theory, the work I've done with Leo Ferraro, and I'll put that into sort of dialogue with these existing theories, as well as critiquing the theory that I did with Leo. And then ultimately what we want to do is re-situate that account of wisdom, right, into its connection with the cultivation of meaning and the pursuit of enlightenment. We will take a look at that next time. Thank you very much for your time and attention.