Art 204 Breaking Cognitive Biases

Part of the course I teach at a local university is helping my students to realize what issues hold them back from thinking and feeling differently.  The following article and exercise is part of Art 204, a course in sculpture and will be used to begin to help students to, as I call it, “self illuminate” and begin the process of reflecting on their most cherished creative tool; their minds. So with that in mind, a brief introduction to the concept of cognitive bias.

Our brains are amazing biological machines.  They are known to record perfectly the events that happen around them.  It is known that underlying our cognitive function is a perfect record of what has taken place in our lives.  The only problem, though, is that we aren’t merely recording machines.  We have all kinds of filters that are thrown into the mix and many of these resolve around unresolved emotional issues that serve to direct or distort memory.  We wind up seeing or experiencing things differently than perhaps they are.

The writer Anais Nin once said that we do not see the world as it is but as we are, and this helps to explain the concept of cognitive bias very well.  The effect is that of carrying material from our past into new events in the present and then either reacting to them with the old bias in place or remembering events differently then how they actually happened.  Its a process of seeing the world through tinted glasses or blinders.  What blinds is is most often unresolved emotional material and we have a very hard time often even admitting that these blinders are in place.  It’s probably pretty obvious how such blinders can effect you as an artist.  When so much of making art involves questioning what has come before or seeing the world in a new way, addressing these cognitive biases in your own life can lead to new ways of seeing and feeling as well as impacting your creative life.  Most of the movements in art would not have been possible were it not for artists who were willing to see and think different, to ask hard questions not only of their culture or world, but also of themselves.

The article I am including a link for that will help to provide the bulk of the information on cognitive bias has about 100 different types of biases listed. Click on THIS to go to the article.  As a student of Art 204, you will need to read through the list to familiarize yourself with the material.

In this exercise I want you to look through the following article on Cognitive Bias and find four biases that you have found yourself falling for or suffering from, and then work through some strategies for overcoming them. Knowing what you now know, how do you avoid the issue in the future?  Think about times when you may have been affected by this cognitive bias. It may take you some time to realize that a given bias is one that has affected you.  It might be helpful to read through the list and then spend a few days just thinking about them in order to gain a clearer picture of how it has had an impact on your life. Then think about strategies that will help you to avoid this cognitive bias in the future and record them.  These will be shared in class and I will be taking them up after the class in order to grade them.  Be complete and descriptive in your response, although you could easily use bulleted responses that get directly to the point.  Offering more than one strategy for overcoming a given bias will be graded more favorably.

Creative thinking is influenced by the patterns that we  fall into. Learning to be both aware of and able to work out of those patterns is part of seeing, thinking, and feeling differently.  This will naturally have an effect on your own creative process.

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