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The Dangers of Partial Knowledge of the Way: Failing in School

13 Post author: gworley 06 July 2009 03:16PM

I lost the Way, even when I didn't know what I was trying to follow, when I learned a Dangerous Truth about school.  This is a brief recounting of how I lost the Way, came back, and what I believe we can learn from this.  I hope you find it instructive.

I suffered from insomnia as a child.  Not because of any traumatic events or abuse (if anything I had an exceptionally comfortable childhood), but because I would lay awake in bed, staring into the darkness and worrying about school.  I worried that I wouldn't complete assignments, that I would fail in subjects, and that terrible things would happen if I didn't make straight As.  None of my fears were well founded, though:  I was never at any serious risk of failing to complete an assignment, getting anything worse than a B for a quarter grade in a subject, or having indeterminate terrible things happen to me.  I experienced this anxiety in part because I was suffering from undiagnosed obsessive-compulsive disorder and in part because I believed that the most important thing in life was to succeed in school.  If school was a game, I was playing to win.

I continued in this mode all the way until I entered high school (9th grade in Florida, USA).  Since it's not significant to this post I'll omit most of the details, but the short story is that I did not enjoy high school for a multitude of reasons, not least of which was that I felt held back by teachers and administrators who didn't want me advancing my learning too far past the level they were trying to teach.1  I don't think most of them were being malicious, but had their hands forced by an educational system that is more concerned with average performance and improving the results of underperforming students than allowing exceptional students to succeed.  Looking back, if I'd had more guts I would have pushed to take my GED and gone to early college, but instead I wallowed in my high school's educational mire until I had wasted nearly all of four years.

Having finished my four year sentence to secondary education and graduating with high marks and my belief in the educational system still intact, I began college hopeful that I would find a better learning environment, and with only a few exceptions, I did.  I enjoyed most of my classes, even if I did sleep through the middle 2/3rds of nearly ever class meeting I attended, because I was learning things I was interested in:  math, physics, anthropology, and computer science, my major.  By my second year I was taking all upper level computer science classes, and by taking classes over the summer I was able to graduate at the end of my third year with a BS.

I don't recall what I had wanted to do with my degree when I started college, but by the end I knew that I wanted to join the ranks of academe.  Both of my parents are teachers, and I have always loved to think about better ways to teach what I've learned, so combined with the promise of discovering new knowledge, the academic career path seemed ideal to me.  So in my last year of undergraduate education I made arrangements to stay on at my university to earn a PhD in computer science and work as a teaching assistant for the department.

It was during this time that I lost the Way.  I don't recall the exact day, but somewhere within 2004 it happened.  While researching teaching methods I might find useful, I stumbled upon the writings of Alfie Kohn and Paul Graham's essays.  Between the two of them, combined with my experiences in high school, my willpower broke.  Not because they said anything that made me feel as though I shouldn't try, but because they made it painfully obvious that the whole point of school isn't really learning, and in some cases school's attempt to make it appear as though learning is going on actually hurts your ability to really learn.  Seeing this, I came to the great realization that how I did in school didn't really matter.

As you might have guessed, this is the Dangerous Truth that I learned.  It's a dangerous one because I only learned one truth, that school isn't really about learning but that you have to go through it if you want people to believe that you are as good as you claim to be.  What happened to me from there should be obvious:  I stopped devoting myself to my school work, worrying about its quality, and trying to be the best.  The only way I stayed in graduate school was a combination of raw intelligence and and an ability to finish work to a good enough quality when under the pressure of a deadline.

After two years, though, I was pushed out of the computer science program with my MS.  My university requires us to pass a qualifying exam, essentially a test of knowledge in a variety of subjects from undergraduate computer science education.  Passing is more a feat of memory and determination than intelligence or ability to do academic research, so given my feelings about educational hoops at the time, I failed all of my attempts (though, I will note, I actually passed if you were to superimpose all of my attempts over one another, but I was never able to do it all in one sitting).  Not knowing what else to do, and with my research already tending towards combinatorics, I switched to the mathematics department.

I'm now at the end of my third year in the mathematics PhD program.  I still haven't passed my qualifiers because I am being much more cautious, maybe even too cautious, with my attempts.  But I anticipate a better outcome for me this time, and that's because I found the Way again.

Between the posts on Overcoming Bias and Less Wrong, I finally got a missing piece of the truth.  No matter if the intermediate steps seem dumb, if you want to play to win, if you want to follow the Way, you have to push through it if the end result is worthwhile.  As it applies to my life, if I want to get that PhD, even though the qualifying exam is dumb because it doesn't test anything I haven't already demonstrated competence in and doesn't demonstrate my ability to complete academic research, it's still something I have to get through.  If I want to play to win, I have to pass the qualifying exam.  No more placing extra restrictions on myself so that if I fail I have an excuse:  I will pass or fail by my own best efforts.

As this post suggests, partial knowledge of a powerful set of techniques can be very dangerous.  It's a motif that appears in many arts.  To me the most salient examples are in martial arts training and chi cultivation, but other good ones include physics, biology, AI, and economics, where applying partial knowledge could lead to real danger for the applier and the world.  The Art of Rationality is similarly dangerous when only partial knowledge is obtained.  It's almost too bad we can't send aspiring rationalists off to monasteries where, like ancient martial arts students, they can train and learn and keep themselves separated from the world until they have reached sufficient mastery to be safe to return to wider society.

But today most people who learn martial arts spend only a few hours a week in the dojo and maybe several more hours at home training.  The rest of the time they are in normal society, possessing dangerous, partial knowledge of their martial art.  Yet few of them kill anyone accidentally because the first thing they learn is where and how they are allowed to use their art.  Even when tempted, it's important that the martial arts student not use what they know until they have reached a sufficient level of mastery and maturity to use their abilities responsibly in the wider world.  We may need a similar approach for training in the Winning Way.

Footnotes

1 And this was even with me being in the International Baccalaureate Program, an internationally recognized college prep program that allows the transfer of course credits from high school to many universities around the world.

Comments (38)

Comment author: steven0461 06 July 2009 07:43:20PM *  21 points [-]

I wonder if in the extreme case it might make sense to think of college as investing in signalons and educons separately -- go for high scores in as cynical and calculating a way as ethics allows, then use the time you save to efficiently learn important stuff by yourself.

Comment author: Curiouskid 12 November 2011 06:28:51PM 1 point [-]

This is why I cheat on busywork.

Comment author: Z_M_Davis 06 July 2009 04:46:13PM 6 points [-]

Not because they said anything that made me feel as though I shouldn't try, but because they made it painfully obvious that the whole point of school isn't really learning, and in some cases school's attempt to make it appear as though learning is going on actually hurts your ability to really learn.

From time to time I wonder what proportion of this community is composed of incredibly bitter autodidacts. Five percent? Forty-five percent?

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 05:16:49PM 1 point [-]

wrinkles forehead in mock-puzzled look

We're literate. Is there any other way to become literate?

Comment author: asciilifeform 07 July 2009 03:33:46PM 2 points [-]

Is there any other way to become literate?

No.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 July 2009 05:24:38PM 1 point [-]

You can supplement a good education with outside reading. I suppose I was lucky to have a college experience that encouraged grounded rational argument and intellectual curiosity, but it's not impossible.

(University of Chicago, incidentally. I think that many of the people here would have flourished in that culture much more than they did elsewhere.)

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 05:28:24PM 1 point [-]

I am currently in a college where my discussions with the more intellectually-alive people have sometimes involved someone attempting to refute evolution by saying, "But if evolution were true, we'd have humans coming out of the jungle!"

The vast majority just sit there with glazed eyes. High school was more challenging.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 July 2009 05:52:33PM 2 points [-]

Better experiences are out there; is it too late for you to look into transfers?

Given the significant number of college students who seem to be around here, it might be good to have a thread on where rationality-friendly college cultures can be found.

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 06:05:30PM -1 points [-]

I am afraid about the whole money thing. I have heard that you can't get scholarships if you're a transfer student. I have not looked into it, though. I kind of go into paralyzing anxiety whenever I think about The Future.

But, yeah, I think that would be a great idea, if we could pool our knowledge! My college is great for a number of things: Mainly, it's impossible to fail no matter what you do, and you can have hours-long conversations with professors whenever you run into one, and everyone's pretty much unconditionally supportive, which is a good thing if all that takes a lower priority to actually learning or engaging in anything vaguely intellectual. I know there's review sites out there for colleges, but you'd probably have to dig to find a "rationally-oriented culture" rating.

It's funny, though, I just realized that if you want to talk to anyone vaguely interesting here, you generally have to put up with some pseudoscientific belief of theirs. Ah, Utah: Everyone's a Mormon or a pagan. (Or a Catholic who believes that quantum physics somehow supports their faith, or an agnostic/atheist/ex-Christian who believes scientific fields are about on par with literary criticism, and so on.)

Oh, how I wish I'd had enough mental health to investigate and apply to colleges my senior year of high school instead choosing a default last-minute option.

Comment author: CronoDAS 07 July 2009 08:13:02AM 4 points [-]

Oh, how I wish I'd had enough mental health to investigate and apply to colleges my senior year of high school instead choosing a default last-minute option.

After touring the colleges that accepted me, I decided which one to attend by rolling a die.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 July 2009 06:26:55PM *  3 points [-]

I kind of go into paralyzing anxiety whenever I think about The Future.

Incidentally, saying this isn't an excuse here! You need to make the analysis and correction of this a high priority if you have any strong preferences about your life in the future. Namely, try to figure out why this causes you anxiety, and don't just stop at listing the reasons that make rational sense. I believe you'll find you have some strong desire to avoid changing some aspect of your current life, but it may be one you're not proud of being motivated by— and it is probably something which isn't incompatible with future planning once you acknowledge it.

(Holy Feynman, I sound just like PJ!)

EDIT Of course, YMMV. But have you tried some version of respectfully interrogating your anxiety?

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 06:43:12PM 5 points [-]

No, I think this is good. I do need to confront these things more.

I developed a mode of procrastination and associated depression and anxiety that consumed most of my time for four or more years. I resist making changes in part because when I start doing anything, I get anxious about all the other things I think I SHOULD be doing, which is certainly irrational because I don't get attend to all of them better simply by not attending to one of them, but I've also developed extreme laziness. It's hard to get out of bed because for a long time I was UNABLE to get out of bed and I stopped expecting that from myself; it's hard to work on math or anything like that because for a long time my anxiety completely stopped me from it; and so on--I'm still trying to claw myself out of that vicious cycle.

I'm afraid to look into potential future opportunities because I'm afraid I won't qualify or won't be competent enough--I'm looking at my past performance record and the part that's most real to me, the part where I spent most of my day (and still do) almost every day engaged in an activity I would characterize as simply "not doing X" where X is any activity I thought would improve my life or fulfill an obligation. I'm also afraid to "tie myself down" because of opportunity cost--not to myself but to whoever else I might be able to help by my choice of occupation. I'm intensely aware of the sorts of suffering that are invisible in the everyday lives of most people in our society, and I know that I need to resolve that awareness by dedicating myself to something that will make a real and necessary difference, and I'm not sure how "far" away from commonly accepted cultural values my personal values demand me to go. I'm afraid of making a choice that's polluted by fear. And so on.

But, yeah, it helps to keep bringing it into focus. The world looks DIFFERENT as your mental health changes.

Comment author: MBlume 06 July 2009 08:02:52PM *  12 points [-]

Here is my take on your situation, having been in a similar one myself recently. YMMV

(tl;dr: if you know that you must do X, go do X. If not, take the pressure off yourself and spend some time making yourself stronger and reading whatever will excite you)

Either you have something to protect, or you do not. If you do, it is not a fact about your identity, about who you want to be, but some state of the world outside you which either must come to pass, or must not be allowed to come to pass.

If you do have something to protect (and if the epistemology on which that something rests is sound, and you have rationally examined all its assumptions), then that should give direction to your growth. Put all else to the side and figure out what you can do to best advance that something, who you will need to be to best advance it, and how you can become that person.

But perhaps you do not. There is no shame in not currently having something to protect. Do not claim to care about X so that you can congratulate yourself for caring about X. The test is this: If someone were to tell you now that X is well and truly taken care of, would you feel gladness and relief, or would you feel disappointment that no one got to see you slay the mighty X?

I claim that it is a basic fact that there are things in the world which need to be done. People suffer and die. The world is not yet the place it should be. This should move you, even if you have not yet discovered the front on which you must fight. One day, you may come across one, and you will want to do everything you can to advance it. Make yourself stronger now, in whatever way you can, and on that day you will be glad of it.

How do you make yourself stronger when you do not yet know the task you will face? Your designer, blind as it is, has encountered this challenge before, and given you a drive with which to meet it. This is nothing more or less than what curiosity, the burning itch to know, is for.

If your own curiosity is what drives you to learn, akrasia will be a feeble foe. If you have a task to achieve, naturally you should learn what seems as though it will help you achieve it. But as long as you have none, you must learn whatever will excite you. Feed the flame of your curiosity, and it will grow brighter, hotter, and will demand more fuel.

Right now, your curiosity is not driving your learning. Thus, my recommendation (and it's extreme, so I will repeat again, YMMV) is that you make your time, and your education, your own for a year or so. Find some way to support yourself at a minimal level through minimal expenditure of time, and then devote the rest of your time to unshackling your curiosity and allowing it to grow.

It sounds as though the flame of your curiosity has been guttering lately. So had mine. Examine yourself carefully, though, and you will find it. Would you like to learn to play go? Do you wonder why rainbows take the shape they do? Do you wish you knew better how life came to take the shape it has? Is there a book you thumbed through years and years ago, that excited you, but which something else distracted you from finishing?

(I should pause to add that of course you must distinguish between the solid fuel which will make your curiosity stronger, and feeble fuel which will make it flash brightly for a moment, but grow no more.)

If you would be strong, it is not simply your knowledge you must increase. The whole of your mental health may need attention (if this seems like an implied insult, perhaps saying that mine certainly did, and still does, will blunt it). If you are depressed, seek treatment. If you feel isolated, seek like-minded others whom you can see in real life. If your self-worth is lacking, well, every means of making yourself stronger will aid this, but there are means of self-improvement which will make you feel stronger sooner. I recommend the gym. Your body knows, on the level of basic chemistry, what it means for your health to improve, what it means when you can lift a greater weight, and this will feed directly into your emotional well-being. And hell, if you bring a book that interests you, you can do both at once, and keep yourself away from YouTube and Reddit for a couple hours. For me at least, this was win-win-win.

As you learn, you will become strong, and when you discover a task, you will have some chance of being able to advance it. That does not mean that you should not be looking now. Keep your eyes open. Look to see what others whom you respect are trying to do. Do not seek to signal virtue, or to claim a praise-worthy task; simply try to ensure that if there is something that really, absolutely needs doing, you will hear of it, and you will take action.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 July 2009 08:44:17PM 6 points [-]

That's a lot of excellent advice (or at least, I think so), but I'd steer clearer of the deep portentous tone and quasi-mystical air when giving advice. It's hard to adopt Eliezer's exhortatory style without looking a bit like a parody of him, and you have a pretty good style of your own most of the time.

Comment author: CronoDAS 07 July 2009 08:09:53AM 1 point [-]

Wow, you sound a lot like me...

Comment author: loqi 06 July 2009 04:34:21PM *  5 points [-]

As this post suggests, partial knowledge of a powerful set of techniques can be very dangerous.

Was your losing the Way really so much to do with acquiring rationality? It seems you just stumbled into some potent truths. Those truths may well have been the fruits of rationality, but they grew on a different tree.

I read your story as largely consisting of three segments:

  • Coasting on your initial assumptions.
  • Reality deflating those assumptions, with confusion and disillusionment ensuing.
  • Letting go of those assumptions and their associated emotional fallout in favor of a more practical perspective.

I don't see where "powerful techniques" entered the scene. Hollow justifications tend to leave marks when they implode.

Comment author: gworley 06 July 2009 06:23:35PM 0 points [-]

I try to avoid using "rationality" because I tend to think of it as having a precise mathematical definition, and nearly everyone seems to have a slightly different idea of what it means outside of mathematical literature. Sorry if it snuck in, but I really do try to refer to this as "the Way" or maybe "The Art of Rationality".

That said, part of following the Way is accepting the truth, but one of the dangers for the student is not pulling at all the strings before you let the truth change you. That was my mistake: I let what I realized change me before I had understood the whole issue (or at least more of the issue). This partial understanding of reality was caused by a partial application of techniques. Looks like I didn't make that clear in the article, though, so I'll go back and edit it later if I have time to better reflect that.

Comment author: loqi 06 July 2009 11:02:07PM 0 points [-]

I let what I realized change me before I had understood the whole issue (or at least more of the issue).

I still don't see where you're getting the "ought" from the "is". The Way doesn't contain the commandment "If you ever figure out school is bullshit, stop trying!" Information didn't make that decision, you did.

I see the outline of a moral here, I think I'm just disagreeing with the way you're presenting it. Perhaps it's something like "don't make high-impact decisions when your worldview is still in flux". From a disheartened perspective, the question "why try?" feels rhetorical, like a conclusive statement of futility. Nonetheless, it's not rhetorical, and it does (often) have a reasonable answer, if your emotions don't prevent you from asking it honestly.

I certainly empathize with your situation. I never really recovered the motivation I had for school prior to academic disillusionment. Understanding that it's a necessary means to an end doesn't necessarily make it exciting again.

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 05:13:59PM 11 points [-]

Wouldn't this be more of an identity thing?

Before, your motivation to do well in school was to Be a Smart Person. Smart possibly replaced by competent, studious, curious, etc. Since socialization had taught you that those who do well in and go far in academics are Smart People, your motivation was fine. You had trouble in high school in part because you didn't think they were helping you Be a Smart Person, but you didn't come to see the goals of the educational system as opposite your own.

But then you did. You thought, "The stated role of graduate school is to make Smart People, I know that's not what they're doing, now I have no assurance that merely by being a student I am Being a Smart Person--and I'm afraid that merely by being a student I am making myself WORSE at Being a Smart Person," so you were extremely uncomfortable.

I don't know, I think there's a fairly common tendency to see what one is asked of by society as being in harmony with one's own goals and well-being. I would assume that's a big part of how people maintain their social lives--going to church because it's what their community does and they've never questioned it, shaving their body hair and wearing make-up and torturous clothes if they're women, trying to Be the way they're supposed to be. But then you realized that a major part of the socially-required aspect of your life conflicted with your deeper values of learning and truth and competence, and you had to restructure your life to stop merely Being and instead see yourself as someone who is DOING something for a particular reason that can't just be taken whole from society but actually has to be figured out.

Comment author: gworley 06 July 2009 06:15:37PM 1 point [-]

This is very likely the sort of thing that was actually going on in my brain, although it's not what it felt like from the inside. Thanks for pointing this out.

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 06:29:24PM 0 points [-]

You're welcome. ^_^

Of course, a variety of alternative scenarios would also seem plausible as insights, but it did seem very much like you were refocusing from a "I do this because this is who I am and this is what I do" position to one of "I do this because this will help me achieve a goal"--and with that rationality becomes more important. I was trying to understand your perspective that this was the result of acquiring thinking skills: you first acquired the ability and habit of questioning the motivations of the authorities who promoted schooling and certain tasks in school, and then you acquired the ability and habit of asking what you really wanted to do regardless of the way things are supposed to work.

Comment author: spriteless 08 July 2009 01:22:19AM 3 points [-]

I felt held back by teachers and administrators who didn't want me advancing my learning too far past the level they were trying to teach.

I never felt like that. I felt completely free to study obscure math and interesting literature on my own without ever telling teachers. In fact, since I'd read these books in class paying just enough attention to remember the last 5 words or so before my name, and knew the material well enough to answer such questions, I felt damn superior.

But how come noone ever tells highschoolers to GED out of there?

Comment author: Bo102010 07 July 2009 01:42:23AM 2 points [-]

Well written post, and good to read about your experience.

I had some similar experiences (bored in high school, able to keep straight A's with little actual effort, but always anxious about grades and how they tied into my identity). In college (Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering), I had a much better time (many intellectual friends), and kept up my good grades.

Then, I took a semester + summer off to do an internship, and found out how little being "smart" in school relates to being "smart" in the "real world." That broke me, at least temporarily.

After returning, I was back to being bored. I started reading more for pleasure and helping friends study their subjects, in an effort to build general knowledge to combat this, but in my own classes I couldn't bring myself to put in much effort.

Eventually I hit upon playing a dangerous game. I knew I had a psychological compulsion to be someone who got good grades, so I slacked in doing assignments and tests until I had only a slight margin for error. In Linear Algebra, after the first test, I had 6 points to lose the rest of the semester to still get an A. Similar story in a few other classes.

The dangerous game worked in that it motivated me to pay attention to my classes. Sometime in the next semester everything clicked again, and I was able to take interest in academia for the sake of academia. I wound up thoroughly enjoying the rest of my classes (and graduated with a 4.0).

I never articulated my strategy to myself (handicap yourself so the task is more interesting), but I kind of knew what I was doing in the back of my mind. Even though it worked, it could have just as easily backfired. My professors could have shrugged and stopped taking an interest in me, and if I'd done poorly in classes I might not have rekindled the flame, so to speak.

In short, I think it is rational to be careful with what experiences you expose yourself to if you suspect they might undermine your motivation.

Comment author: thomblake 07 July 2009 02:20:52PM 0 points [-]

I actually used a similar strategy for rather different ends. In my undergraduate work, I would routinely write the first paper of the class so that I would have graded it a "D" or worse. Then I would use that as a reference for how hard I'd have to work in the class.

Sadly, there was a class or two where I got A's on those.

Comment author: Bo102010 08 July 2009 12:41:34AM 1 point [-]

I once bought the wrong textbook for a class (it was on a related subject, and mis-labeled in the bookstore) and did the first homework assignment out of it.

It seemed to be a pretty tough assignment, which should have tipped me off, as I didn't expect the class to be all that challenging. I did it, though, and turned it in.

The second problem set was assigned, and then I noticed that my book did not have the problem numbers included in the assignment. Someone showed me the correct book, which made me realize what had happened.

After I got the right book, I got the first homework assignment back. I got a 75%.

Needless to say, I figured out then that I wouldn't have to work too much in that class. I do always wonder what the grader was thinking, though - "What the hell is this guy doing? This problem didn't require any simulations..."

Comment author: mr_t 06 July 2009 05:23:12PM 2 points [-]

As someone who just finished qualifying exams for a PhD program (in history), I agree with your assessment somewhat. However, I wonder if you're not too quickly discounting their value. You might consider the value of studying material for the exams. You may end up seeing old ideas in a new light and may find your notes useful years down the line for teaching.

Comment author: MineCanary 06 July 2009 05:32:48PM 1 point [-]

Seconded.

Even though better pedagogies might exist--that, say, require you to do the memorization at the same time as doing something that involves more in-depth thinking and learning--you have to be there and do the exams anyway, so it's best to see them in a positive light, which will hopefully increase both your ability to pass and your ability to get something out of them. The information IS a valuable tool, and seeing it as such will help you use it.

And, certainly, rote studying is FAR better than coasting by on one's enormous intellect--at least, if one doesn't have anything better to do.

Comment author: MichaelBishop 06 July 2009 04:43:17PM *  2 points [-]
Comment author: gworley 06 July 2009 06:13:41PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for those links. I honestly hadn't looked too hard at what he advocates because what he says generally matches up with my experience and I've never had more than maybe 20% control over what I teach and how I teach it.

Comment author: MichaelBishop 07 July 2009 04:45:35PM 0 points [-]

What do you teach?

Comment author: gworley 09 July 2009 06:20:28PM 0 points [-]

I have taught computer science 2, intro to discrete structures (comp sci intro math class), and college algebra. I no longer teach anything, though, because I got a nice job with the university's IT department that pays a hell of a lot better and leaves me with a lot more free time.

Comment author: ciphergoth 09 July 2009 11:06:08AM 1 point [-]

I'm very grateful to my Mum for making it clear that school was nothing to do with learning, and everything to do with getting the bits of paper that would sustain me in later life.

Comment author: narrator 07 July 2009 07:16:34AM 0 points [-]

Right now your field of empirical experience with the world is very narrow. You're still in plato's cave with regards to all that's out there. You've invested an enormous amount of emotional energy into your PHD thesis program, this creates a strong "initiation effect" on you that might cloud your thinking as to its worth and your actual enjoyment of it as opposed to alternative opportunities, especially if they involve risk of failure.

As for partial knowledge, this has to be taken on a case by case basis. Knowing to wash one's hands to prevent disease is a useful piece of information that I can use even though I'm not a doctor.

Comment author: [deleted] 13 June 2014 08:06:10AM -2 points [-]

This happened in the past. What makes you think its such a good idea to represent it as reality now?

"In earlier experiments using interactive computer animation with healthy subjects, it was found that displaying compulsive-like repeated checking behavior affects memory. That is, checking does not alter actual memory accuracy, but it does affect ‘meta-memory’: as checking continues, recollections are experienced as less vivid and less detailed while confidence in memory is undermined. This procedure provides a model of OCD checking and suggests that checking is a counterproductive strategy to reduce memory distrust. The present experiment was carried out to specify the phenomenological quality of memory distrust after checking and to see if repeated checking produces a shift in the memory source that is used to decide about the outcome of checking: from ‘remembering’ to ‘knowing’ (Tulving, 1985)."