Many problems in life are caused by misunderstandings. Misunderstandings take various forms. These forms themselves are, ironically, often misunderstood.
In this article, I’ll look at ways of representing misunderstandings visually, to clarify what is going wrong, and how to fix it.
I’ll use a positive/negative plot to show the different forms of misunderstanding. This lets you locate a given statement in terms of how positive it is, and how negative it is, as in the image below. This format is particularly useful for representing mixed messages, which are an important feature of many misunderstandings. There’s more about versions of this format here and here.
In a previous article, I looked at the belief structures of the archetypal “crazy uncle” worldview. It’s a worldview with a strong tendency towards whichever option requires the minimum short-term cognitive load; for example, binary yes/no categorisations rather than greyscales or multiple categories.
One theme I didn’t explore in that article, for reasons of space, was premature closure. This article picks up that theme.
Premature closure is closely related to pre-emptive categorisation, which I’ll also discuss in this article. Both these concepts have significant implications, and both involve minimising short-term cognitive load, usually leading to problems further down the road. Both tend to be strongly associated with the authoritarian worldview, for reasons that I’ll unpack later.
So, what is premature closure? In brief, it’s when you make a decision too early, closing down prematurely the process of search and evaluation and decision-making. This takes various forms; knowing these forms improves your chances of stopping at the right point. For clarity, I’ll use examples within the context of common “crazy uncle” arguments.
Students often ask what good academic writing looks like. It’s an important, simple, question. Answering it in words is tricky. However, answering it with words plus highlighter makes answering easier. The answer is that good academic writing features mainly highlighter 2, with some highlighter 1 at the beginnings or ends of paragraphs, and as little grey as possible.
What does that actually look like? I’ll use a worked example to illustrate it, on the topic of the growth of the Internet. This is a difficult topic, because the key points are well known to the general public, so there’s a real risk that your opening text will look like something that a twelve year old without Internet access has hacked together at the last minute for an overdue essay.
It’s a simple-looking question. It invites the response: “That all depends on what you mean by ‘complexity’ and how you measure it”.
This article is about some things that you might mean by “complexity” and about how you can measure them and visualise them. It’s one of those posts that ended up being longer than expected… The core concepts are simple, but unpacking them into their component parts requires a fair number of diagrams. We’ll be exploring the theme of complexity again in later articles, as well as the theme of practical issues affecting visualizations.
This article focuses mainly on board games, to demonstrate the underlying principles. It then looks at real world activities, and some of the issues involved there.
There are a lot of very useful concepts which are nowhere near as widely known as they should be.
One of these is the concept of instrumental versus expressive behaviour. It makes sense of a broad range of human behaviour which would otherwise look baffling. It explains a lot of the things that politicians do, and a lot of the ways that people act in stressful situations, for instance.
This article gives a short overview of the traditional version of the concept, and describes how a richer form of knowledge representation can make the concept even more useful.
Humans being expressive and instrumental
Sources for original images are given at the end of this article
The idea of a Golden Age has been around for a while, in one form or another.
How many forms? There’s a good argument for there being 28 forms.
Why 28? That’s what this article is about. I’ll look not only at the idea of the Golden Age, but also at some of the related issues which ripple out from it, including archetypal plots in fiction, history and politics.
Gold, silver and bronze from the Classical Age
Details of the image sources are given at the end of this article
The words were at first indistinguishable, and then–with a tremendous start–I recognized something about them which filled me with icy fear…
From The Shunned House, by H.P. Lovecraft
In a previous article, I looked at nonverbal signage and wayfinding outdoors. Today’s article looks at the same topic, but focusing on indoors wayfinding.
I’ll begin this article with a discussion of a signage issue that’s a significant problem in most hospitals. I’ll then move on to look at different wayfinding strategies that people use, and at some ways of working with those strategies in indoors wayfinding and signage.
A classic problem, and some solutions
A standard feature of hospital signage is the Wall of Doubt. Here’s how it works. The visitor (the red oval marked “V” in the diagram below) has entered the hospital via the main entrance, en route to an appointment in the Wilson Ward, and is walking along the corridor in the direction indicated by the red arrow. So far, so good.
Now the visitor meets a T junction, and sees something that for many visitors looks something like this: the dreaded Wall of Doubt. Which of these signs, if any, might be the one for Wilson Ward?
At this point, things start to go steadily but unnecessarily downhill. Why? That’s the topic of this article.
Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to about 10% of the people visiting a public place such as a hospital or a school.
About 10% of the population have significant reading difficulties. They might be able to figure out what a sign says, given enough time. They might not.
Here’s what a typical piece of signage looks like to another significant proportion of visitors.
A lot of people have visual problems; this is particularly likely to be an issue in places like hospitals, which people with visual problems attend for treatment. Signage can also look like this to people with good eyesight if the lighting is poor or the weather is bad.
So what can you do about this problem? There are some simple, cheap solutions which aren’t as widely known as they should be. That’s the topic of this article.
Some classic types of landmark: Images from Wikimedia Commons
Lesson structure can be seen as a core aspect of teaching; the method in which lessons are planned can influence the whole learning process. Most teachers plan the structure of their lessons using a few well established techniques. One is a three level approach commonly known as a traffic light sequence, as shown below.
This traffic light system can be used for assessing pupil progress and for differentiation of tasks, as well as clearly showing the lesson structure. This system however has various limitations. For example, this system implies that unless a pupil “moves” from one colour to another, progress has not been made, even though the pupil’s understanding may have been deepened. The criteria for progress also have to be correct; a pupil could, for example, achieve the red objective in the figure above without completing the amber, as these may not be progressive objectives.