cognitive biases and the search for meaning

Buster Benson wrote a Cognitive Bias Cheat Sheet in 2016 and it’s worth a look:

Benson’s descriptions of various cognitive biases on wikipedia can be narrowed down to what he describes as four problems:

Problem 1: Too much information.
Problem 2: Not enough meaning.
Problem 3: Need to act fast.
Problem 4: What should we remember?

That is: a) “we don’t see everything”; b) “our search for meaning can conjure illusions”; c) “quick decisions can be seriously flawed”; d) “our memory reinforces errors”.

This might seem to have little to do with practice-as-research but I want to use problem 2 to share some ideas. In practice-as-research, we are in general dealing with experientially rich or “high-resolution” situations: think of complex the act of performing; or perhaps creating poetically detailed threads of meaning and metaphor in film. The conditions and conventions of PaR ask us to somehow make sense of those complexities or experientially rich situations: to search for and generate meaning. Often we do this through reading and para-phrasing theory to create or establish a way to understand what work our research (as practice) does. (I’m being deliberately crude or simplistic here). The danger is that in our desire to search for and find meaning, we simply conjure up texts and contexts that are less rich or what I could call “low-resolution”.

The trade-off between high-res experiences and practices and generating low-resolution texts or materials (such as materials of documentation) is a key problem in PaR.

2 Replies to “cognitive biases and the search for meaning”

  1. And how can one avoid that trap? any suggestions how to high-res experiences can be given voice under PaR PhD, what other modes, documentation can be/or are accepted that maintain and incorporate that complex meaning under the institutionalised PaR within the academia?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Vânia. Thanks for this response and question.
      There are of course plenty of modes/documentation that are accepted by institutions (say as part of a PhD project). But my sense is that none of these modes/methods/documentations are able to get at what I’ve described as high-resolution experiences. This is not so much a trap as a reality. Part of an artist-scholar’s role then is to make sense of the discrepancy between the experience(s) and the representations (through documentation). I prefer to see it as an impossible — yet beautifully creative — problem.
      Does that help at all?


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