Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…


Via Keith Stanovich’s “What Intelligence Tests Miss” I’ve come across David Perkins and his concept of “Mindware“.

If reflective intelligence is the target of opportunity, then we should examine its nature more deeply. What is it “made of?” Is it a bag of tricks, a bundle of attitudes, a repertoire of habits?
All those things and more. One encompassing way to describe reflective intelligence is to say that it is made of “mindware.” Just as kitchenware consists in tools for working in the kitchen, and software consists in tools for working with your computer, mindware consists in tools for the mind. A piece of mindware is anything a person can learn — a strategy, an attitude, a habit — that extends the person’s general powers to think critically and creatively.
Mindware does three jobs, all of which concern the organization of thought. It works to pattern, repattern, and depattern thinking. Concerning patterning, a student may not have an organized approach to, for example, writing an essay. There are a number of strategies that help to pattern the writing process, not in rigid ways but in flexible and fruitful ways. As to repatterning, a person may suffer from bad thinking or learning practices. For example, many students adopt the strategy of reading something over and over as a way of understanding and remembering it. Research shows that this is not in fact a very effective strategy. Students need to repattern their reading, adopting more powerful strategies.
As to depatterning, a person may suffer from overly rigid or narrow ways of approaching problems and managing situations. For instance, people display a strong tendency to look at situations in one-sided ways. Also, people generally fail to question their tacit assumptions. Brainstorming, assumption identification, and other tactics of exploratory thinking can help people to depattern their thinking, opening it up to more possibilities and evading the ruts of habit and prejudice.

Seems reasonable enough, though of course any brain-as-latest-technological-invention metaphor needs a warning label attached…

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