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December 22, 2011 / compassioninpolitics

Transformational Learning, Paradigms, & Bias

By ‘framework’ I mean any one of a range of conceptual or belief systems ā€” either explicitly articulated or implicitly followed. These include narratives, paradigms, theories, models, schemas, frames, scripts, stereotypes, and categories; they include philosophies of life, ideologies, moral systems, ethical codes, worldviews, and political, religious or cultural affiliations. These are all systems that organize human cognition and behavior by parsing, integrating, simplifying or packaging knowledge or belief. They tend to be built on loose configurations of seemingly core features, patterns, beliefs, commitments, preferences or attitudes that have a foundational and unifying quality in one’s mind or in the collective behavior of a community. When they involve the perception of people (including oneself), they foster a sense of affiliation that may trump essential features or beliefs.

What changed my mind was the overwhelming evidence of biases in favor of perpetuating prior worldviews. The brain maps information onto a small set of organizing structures, which serve as cognitive lenses, skewing how we process or seek new information. These structures drive a range of phenomena, including the perception of coherent patterns (sometimes where none exists), the perception of causality (sometimes where none exists), and the perception of people in stereotyped ways.

JAMSHED BHARUCHA is the twelfth President of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. Prior to this position, which commenced on July 1, 2011, he was a Professor of Psychology, Provost, and Senior Vice President, Tufts University.

Prior to joining Tufts in 2002, he was John Wentworth Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College; his tenure at Dartmouth included service as deputy provost and as dean of the faculty. His research has focused on the cognitive and neural basis of the perception of music, using perceptual experiments, neural net modeling, and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). He is a respected innovator in advancing knowledge about music perception.

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