Monday, October 8, 2012

cathy davidson & dan ariely course

how do we know what we know

Professor Dan Ariely has called this the “predictably irrational” aspect of human nature, that we believe ourselves to be logical, rational actors but, quite predictably, we deceive ourselves about how rational we are.   

The “surprise” of literature is the narrative ending which catches us short and makes us think or rethink our ideas about human nature.  Professor Davidson argues that these moments of disruption and distraction--when suddenly we are forced to see our own habits and behavior in a new way (“now you see it!”)--are a good opportunity to catch ourselves in our predictable irrationality. 

This method emphasizes the process of moving from personally thinking through an idea to making it convincing in practice--especially in collaboration with others.  Besides being an important workplace skill,  working together to make ideas public prompts what John Seely Brown calls “metacognition,” an ability to think about our thinking.   In literary and cultural criticism, this has been described as “defamiliarization” (being introspective about our own habits and reflexes).