You may be familiar with the challenge that it is to change someone else’s mind. If you have ever argued with someone whose beliefs are different from yours, whether they are a friend or a random stranger on the internet, you likely know that even the strongest arguments against their view, that are utterly convincing for you, seem to make them believe even more strongly that they are correct.
This is because our ideas, regardless of what they are or how truthful they may be, become thoroughly embedded in very strong connections in our brains, and they are extremely persistent. In reality, everybody has misconceptions about the world.
Here’s a short video from Derek Muller of the YouTube channel Veritasium.
These misconceptions about the world, combined with what is known as confirmation bias, meaning that we give more credibility to ideas we already agree with, and less credibility to ideas we disagree with, lead to a situation where it is very difficult to change someone’s mind.
When you think about it though, learning is changing your mind about something. That is why learning is difficult. It takes focussed work and effort.
Here is another video, this one from Destin Sandlin at Smarter Every Day. As you watch, consider the role of neuroplasticity in teaching and learning.
The difficulty of learning a skill like riding a backwards bike is a good example of how our patterns of thinking can become rigid and inflexible. If you recall the readings from the textbook about constructivism, you will realize that the cognitive process of integrating new knowledge into older knowledge structures can be a difficult one. One exposure to an idea (like in a lecture, or reading) is rarely enough for a person to develop a deep and accurate understanding of the idea.
This is why the learning strategies from the ‘What is Learning?’ post are so important. It takes time to learn well.