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Learning & conditioning (and learning about conditioning)

By August 3, 2011Uncategorized

How do you learn new things? When you were very young you learned a complex language without any formal instruction. If you wanted to learn a new language now, you’d almost certainly opt for some kind of formal instruction.

Many people who move to a new country just wind up picking up the language by trying to use it in everyday conversation. No formal instruction; just practice.

Formal instruction isn’t always required to learn something powerful.

Learning a language is just one kind of learning. There a lots of things you learned as a kid without formal instruction. Some people keep learning amazing things, without formal instruction—even after they’ve grown up.

What if I told you there was an amazing trick that would let you remember all kinds of useful information that you currently have to use paper and pen (or some kind of digital device) to remember? Would that sound enticing or would you dismiss it as uninteresting or irrelevant?

Granted, we don’t all have unlimited time and we have to make choices about what we spend time on—including learning. I get that. But, I also notice that sometimes we are driven to make (or avoid) certain choices. Driven, not by a mind that carefully considers options. Driven by deeper forces.

Have you ever stopped to think about the force that is called “conditioning”?

Humans are conditioned just as all animals are, even if we aren’t conditioned in the same way or to the same extent. How much does conditioning govern the way we see the world? How much to does it shape what we learn, or even our inclination to learn new things?

The answer to that question might itself be largely shaped by conditioning. Of course, if you discount the influence of conditioning then there is nothing to consider. Only problem is: there’s a lot of scientific evidence that our thoughts and beliefs are shaped by externally created experiences (i.e. ones that we didn’t seek out, or consciously “choose”).

Many people believe the effect of “conditioning” is negligible. Many people believe things just because many other people believe them. Beliefs are notoriously susceptible to conditioning.

Just because you believe something is true doesn’t mean it is. What if your beliefs were strongly influenced (or possibly even dictated) by social forces? How would you know? Is that kind of self-awareness something you can learn?

Maybe. But you almost certainly can’t learn it anywhere that provides “formal education.”

Hmmmm, must not be worth learning then…


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One Comment

  • You can learn just about anything you want to by finding the motivation and drive to go through with learning it. Formal learning exists, in large part, because so many people want to depend on someone else to hold them accountable aside from themselves. Not that you can’t learn a lot from other people, but that’s not what most people are after. You can learn a lot from other people by reading what they write, etc…-Karen

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