|Alfred Jensen, The Integer Rules the Universe (1960) oil on canvas 75 x 49 in.(May be subject to copyright).|
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within…. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance.
After writing the post below, I was heartened to read in the Times last week that the development of intuition (known as perceptual learning) is being taken seriously—in schools, yet. And when I mentioned it to a friend, she told me her 15-year-old granddaughter is getting this kind of training in a Pittsburgh public school: the practical application of the ideas Malcolm Gladwell put forth in Blink.
…recent research has found that true experts have something at least as valuable as a mastery of the rules: gut instinct, an instantaneous grasp of the type of problem they’re up against. Like the ballplayer who can “read” pitches early, or the chess master who “sees” the best move, they’ve developed a great eye.
Now, a small group of cognitive scientists is arguing that schools and students could take far more advantage of this same bottom-up ability, called perceptual learning. The brain is a pattern-recognition machine, after all, and when focused properly, it can quickly deepen a person’s grasp of a principle, new studies suggest. Better yet, perceptual knowledge builds automatically: There’s no reason someone with a good eye for fashion or wordplay cannot develop an intuition for classifying rocks or mammals or algebraic equations, given a little interest or motivation.
….Experts develop such sensitive perceptual radar the old-fashioned way, of course, through years of study and practice. Yet there is growing evidence that a certain kind of training — visual, fast-paced, often focused on classifying problems rather then solving them — can build intuition quickly. In one recent experiment, for example, researchers found that people were better able to distinguish the painting styles of 12 unfamiliar artists after viewing mixed collections of works from all 12 than after viewing a dozen works from one artist, then moving on to the next painter. The participants’ brains began to pick up on differences before they could fully articulate them. (Read more)