failed simulations and the surprising psychology of impressiveness
January 21, 2012 9:52 AM Subscribe
...Failed Simulations & the Surprising Psychology of Impressiveness
posted by flex (15 comments total)
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: "Accomplishments that are hard to explain can be much more impressive than accomplishments that are simply hard to do", posits Cal Newport of Study Hacks
("Decoding Patterns of Success" - at work
, at school
). (via AskMeFi)
Also from the blog: The Passion Trap
("How the Search for Your Life’s Work is Making Your Working Life Miserable") and Beyond Passion
("The Science of Loving What You Do").What happened inside your brain when you read the descriptions of David and Steve? According to a clever series of experiments conducted by G. Daniel Lassiter, a psychology professor at the University of Ohio, your first response was to look into the proverbial mirror. Or, as Lassiter describes it, somewhat more formally, in his 2002 paper on the subject: we have a “pervasive tendency…to use the self as a standard of comparison in [our] dispassionate judgments of others.”
Put another way, to evaluate a person’s accomplishments, we imagine ourselves attempting the same feat, allowing your own capabilities to provide a convenient benchmark for assessing others’.
(In Lassiter’s experiments, students took tests made up of difficult mathematical puzzles. He showed that when a student was asked to rate the intelligence of another student, this judging student used a self-assessment of his own intelligence, combined with how well he did on the test, to construct the rating.)
Let’s walk through the logic here. When you first encountered David and Steve, your brain began to compare them to yourself. In essence, your brain asked: “Could I do that? And if so, what would it require?”
For David, this question was easy to answer. Assuming you had more or less the same athletic ability, you could imagine yourself becoming captain of the track team: show up on time to practice, work hard, respect the coaches, etc. The Japanese calligraphy is even easier to imagine yourself learning — it requires only that you sign up for lessons. You might conclude that David has more natural athletic ability and is a harder worker than yourself, but neither of these assessments leads you to think of him as a star.
(Admissions officers would agree. They’re not looking to build hardworking and diligent classes. Instead, they want to build classes that are interesting.)
Then there’s Steve. Your attempts to mentally simulate Steve’s path likely derailed. How the hell does a 16-year old end up lobbying delegates at an international UN conference? Your failed simulation then lead to a powerful conclusion: he must possess something special. This conclusion is soon followed by a feeling of profound impressiveness...
This is the secret of Steve. He’s not brilliant. super passionate, or ultra-hard working — instead, he accomplished something that’s hard to explain. This is why he is more impressive than David, even though his high school career required less time devoted to extracurricular activities.