Intuitive Theories- I was wrong!?!

in General Discussion edited January 2014
Being on my break, I am of course doing some reading. I'm going through some Howard Gardner and he spent a bit of time talking about intuitive theories that many children and adults seem to form regardless of their educational level.

He lists these forms of common sense (or nonsense depending upon your view) as follows:

Intuitive theories of matter:

* Heavier objects fall to the ground more rapidly than lighter ones.

* When you break a large object into parts, and repeat the process, you have increasingly smaller parts. When you can't see the parts any more, there is nothing left.

Intuitive theories of life:

* If it is moving, it is alive. If it is still it is dead.

* All species, including human beings, were created essentially at one moment and they have not changed materially since.

* If something important happens to an organism, that experience will be passed on to his or her offspring.

Intuitive theories of mind:

* All organisms have minds. The more that they resemble us in outward appearance, the more their mind is like ours.

* We can't have a conversation with a fish, but we can certainly chat with a dog, cat or a monkey.

* I have a mind, you have a mind. If you look like me, then your mind is like mine and you are good. If you look different from me, then you mind must differ as well, and we are enemies.

Intuitive theories of human relations:

* Individuals who are big are powerful. It is desirable to be on their side. If you can't seize power yourself, align yourself with those who wield power.

* The goal of life is to secure goods. Whenever a good is scarce, you should try to get as much of it as you can for yourself and for those to whom you feel closest.

* If you can't corner the market on a precious good, it should be divided equally among all parties (so much for the 80/20 principle).

* If someone takes advantage of you, retaliate in kind.

Now understand he is stating that most people tend toward these beliefs and that they are very hard to overcome. He is not saying they are right or wrong, but rather intuitive to most people. I know it is pretty easy to probably take cheap shots with these. In fact, some will (sadly) probably start claiming and assigning these beliefs to others in personal/political contexts, etc. Please don't turn this into a flame thread.

So my rules for this thread are as follows, (I can't enforce them, but I would hope you would respect them) before you can comment on the intuitive theories in any manner or even respond to someone else, you must state at least ONE misconception you held at one time, why you felt it was later wrong, and in what way did you alter your belief/theory/change your mind?

After you do that, you can state whatever you wish about the theories above in a generalized context and we will see where the thread goes.

Obviously I have to start. Geesh, finding something I was wrong in the past about... much harder to do than you could imagine.

I would say that the biggest misconception, one that I have to even clear up for myself today even as an adult, is that others have the same expectations regarding goals/outcomes or even conclusions when placed in the same circumstances or when given the same choice.

I sometimes call this, if you knew what I knew, you would do what I do, or given the same opportunities, almost all people would make the same (good)choices.

This is obviously wrong because I tend to use the mixture of risk-taking, logic, reasoning, returns, etc that I consider to be "best." Others might use different reasoning or none at all. They might be driven only by emotions like fear or pride. They might seek security above all else, returns above all else or their own definition of fairness. They might have entirely different sets of priorities than I do. Their priorities might extend further into the future, or not much past next Friday.

I constantly catch myself (especially as a teacher or landlord) thinking about what criteria would motivate me, help me achieve, move me, and when I do, it sometimes fails since the decision making of others isn't even driven by anything resembling my criteria for a decision.

So the way I have altered that of course is two fold. One is that it makes me faster to write some people off in terms of being students or tenants. The second and similar off-shoot of that is I no longer am willing to devote my time and efforts equally to all people, even my students. I can give inspirational stories, show factual data, motivate via external factors, predict where present courses of action will lead, etc. But for certain people, their desires and the actions related to them are so dramatically different than mine, that I likely cannot reach them.

Your turn, two cents please,



  • Reply 1 of 5
    Interesting. I don't remember having heard of this concept before, but I do remember being surprised when, as a kid, I learned that heavier things do not in fact fall faster than light things (and I still don't really get why some people consider fish as pets...I've always kind of regarded them as being akin to houseplants).

    I have about 50 things going on in work right now, so I can't really comment more...but my initial reaction is that many of these intuitive theories probably result partially from the worldview experienced in early childhood and partially from the human ability (need?) to make quick 'snap' decisions. When the entire world revolves around you (ie - when you are two or three year old), you interpret the world only in so far as you experience it personally. When you need to make a decision without having a lot of additional data or time, you go with what seems to make the most sense based on what you know.

    As for keeping these kinds of ideas into adulthood, I guess a lot of people find it difficult to reverse a once strongly held opinion.
  • Reply 2 of 5
    whisperwhisper Posts: 735member
    I used to think that the stiffer/harder/brittler something was, the less water it had in it. Then I took chemistry.
  • Reply 3 of 5
    faust9faust9 Posts: 1,335member
    One of my favorites is:

    *If something is true then the converse must be untrue.

    This little faux pas is applied all the time--especially in the relm of political discussions.
  • Reply 4 of 5
    existenceexistence Posts: 991member
    When I was a toddler, I used to think Germany and Russia were the same country, and that they were filled with evil militaristic people.

    You can thank the media for that.

  • Reply 5 of 5
    johnqjohnq Posts: 2,763member
    One simple example that blew me away was when I learned that caffeine is not directly a stimulant but an adenosine blocker. explaination

    I always had the layman's notion that caffeine directly increased nerve activity itself.
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