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In response to Being a teacher
Comment author: Elizabeth 15 March 2011 03:12:28AM 4 points [-]

I find myself in the opposite position, because math always came very easily to me, and yet I've had a lot of success tutoring it. I think, though, that that largely comes out of my interest in why it worked rather than how, and my ability to make connections that weren't explained to me.

Comment author: Anatoly_Vorobey 11 March 2011 11:58:20PM 2 points [-]

One of mine falls in the area of video games: I've never played them much, and I deliberately cultivate a lack of curiosity about them because I don't believe the enjoyment or value they might give me would outweigh the amount of my precious time they would likely take up if I started. However, I spend more time than perhaps I should reading fanfiction.

This is tangential at best, but there's a way to combine these together: try IF (interactive fiction) games. At their best, they're a literary joy and a well-crafted, fascinating challenge. I recommend All Things Devours as a gateway experience.

Comment author: Elizabeth 12 March 2011 04:00:45AM 3 points [-]

That's precisely what I'm trying to avoid with that particular area of anti-curiosity! Do you know how much time I'd spend on something like that if I started?

Comment author: rysade 10 March 2011 10:17:54PM *  0 points [-]

I hold the opinion that one should be curious about everything but some things only superficially. If you dig deep into something, it changes the experience of it. There's something to be said about being intimately familiar with a subject.

Forcing yourself to be curious about every single thing that crosses your path is a good way to make yourself uncomfortable. I consider discomfort of that kind to be good practice when it comes to confronting the possibility I may be wrong about something.

I guess I have trouble living up to that ideal, but at the same time I have learned to be uncomfortable with being too comfortable. I worry that too much anti-curiosity would lead to too much comfort.

Comment author: Elizabeth 11 March 2011 05:16:03PM 0 points [-]

Too much anti-curiosity can easily lead to too much comfort, which is why I suggest periodic uncomfortable examination of areas of anti-curiosity.

The Limits of Curiosity

26 Elizabeth 10 March 2011 03:20PM

In principle, I agree with the notion that it is unforgivable to not want to know, and not want to improve your map to match the territory.  However, even the most curious person in the world cannot maintain equal curiosity about all things, and even if they could there are limits on time and energy.  In general, the things that inspire curiosity are determined by your personal likes, dislikes, and biases, and it is therefore worth considering carefully where these demarcations fall so as not to deprive ourselves of useful information.  This is particularly important when it comes to things that inspire not just lack of interest, but aversion, or "anti-curiosity."

However, not all information is useful, and it can be useful to encourage a bias that cuts you off from information that is not particularly useful to you, so as to better allocate your time and energy.  It is possible that it could also be useful to fabricate an "I don't want to know" stance about a certain type of information so as to better allocate your time, (for example, ceasing to watch television, and denying curiosity about what is happening on your favorite shows), but I will not discuss or advocate that here, largely because it's all I can do to hold the line against new time wasters.

The difficulty and danger of this method is that it is best accomplished by not thinking about the things you don't want to be curious about, and that can lead to not even realizing you aren't curious about them, so important things may slip through the cracks.  For example, I have never smoked a cigarette, and it requires no effort on my part to not be curious about what it is like.  That is such a deeply buried aversion that I might never have consciously noticed that lack of curiosity if I had not been writing this article.  In this case, lack of curiosity about smoking is beneficial, but it could just as easily have been something that would be useful for me to be curious about, and I might never have noticed.

Analyzing your own areas of anti-curiosity is extremely difficult, both because your brain rebels at thinking about things it habitually doesn't think about, and because you will likely find a lack of rhyme or reason in which things you are anticurious about.  Questioning things deeply held enough that you don't think about them is always deeply uncomfortable.

Many such anti-curiosity regions are more a matter of personal preference than anything else.  One of mine falls in the area of video games: I've never played them much, and I deliberately cultivate a lack of curiosity about them because I don't believe the enjoyment or value they might give me would outweigh the amount of my precious time they would likely take up if I started.  However, I spend more time than perhaps I should reading fanfiction.  There are probably people reading this who are just the opposite, and there probably isn't any real difference between the two positions.

There are also many such regions that result from not having much knowledge or skill in an area, and, rather than rectifying the knowledge gap, developing a sense of superiority or disdain in relation to the area.  One fairly common topic for this to occur around (at least for women) is the application of makeup.  It is one I had to overcome myself.  I didn't know how to put on makeup well as a teenager, and hadn't really tried, and looked down on the sorts of girls who came to class after an obvious half-hour beauty regimen.  There were all sorts of plausible excuses for my disdain (women shouldn't make themselves into Barbies, intellect is more important, etc. ), but the real root reason was that I couldn't do it myself.  It took time to overcome that enough to realize the real benefits to having that knowledge (even if I still don't bother on a daily basis), but there *are* real benefits to having that knowledge.  At the very least, makeup is an expected part of formal or business attire for women in the US, and there are tangible benefits to following such social conventions regardless of how logical they are.

It is more difficult to overcome such an issue if it is rooted in lack of ability rather than lack of knowledge.  I have long recognized intellectually the value of recognizing and responding appropriately to social cues, but it doesn't come easily to me, and my frustration often manifests itself in a feeling that I don't want to know.  Recognizing that and overcoming it is an ongoing process.

Maintaining a balance on such things is difficult.  I know that in areas in which I am comfortable, I excel at optimization, but if I am uncomfortable I subscribe strongly to the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" philosophy.  Both approaches have their merits and their place, the challenge is maintaining awareness of which I am using and why I am using it so that I don't fall into a trap of willful ignorance.

Even when you have identified an area in which you should reverse course and cultivate curiosity, the battle is not over.  You still have to overcome the hurdle of learning about the subject.  However, I am not qualified to write an article on overcoming procrastination because I am not nearly successful enough at avoiding it.

Comment author: TabAtkins 09 March 2011 06:41:46AM 1 point [-]

I'm also normally terrible at learning names, but I've learned how to get around it. This may be terribly specific to people who learn like me; if so, I apologize.

I have found that I am incredibly focused on learning through actually seeing things written. I am excellent at spelling because I see the written form of words in my head, and even when I can't immediately recall the precise letters, I always have an accurate sense of how many there are (which is often enough to select the correct spelling from a shortlist of plausible alternatives).

Given that, I find that I can trivially remember people's names after having emailed them and typed their names.

Comment author: Elizabeth 10 March 2011 01:07:36PM 0 points [-]

Yes, if I have emailed someone and typed their name, I will remember it. My problem is that generally I have no reason or means to write the names I'm having trouble remembering.

In response to Ability to react
Comment author: Elizabeth 19 February 2011 04:29:13AM 1 point [-]

I'm pretty sure you'd put me in your 'quick to react' category. I'm the person who remains calm in stressful situations and figures out what to do. I don't think it's a matter of shutting off my internal monologue (my internal monologue never shuts off) but of redirecting it. I tend to be fairly good at thinking about what I want to be thinking about. Useful in a crisis, really bad when I'm procrastinating.

I also tend to be really good at connecting and remembering information, and at taking tests, though, so I'm not sure that the skills are in opposition. I suspect that thinking on your feet and being able to retain and synthesize information are separate skills, but much more effective when put together.

In response to Ability to react
Comment author: moridinamael 18 February 2011 08:03:58PM 5 points [-]

I strongly agree that this type of dynamic intelligence can be enhanced through training.

When humans are placed in a stressful situation for the first time, this is usually what happens by default: 1. Human enters stressful situation. 2. Human experiences a physiological stress response, e.g. sweating, stuttering. 3. Human says, "I am freaking out," and loses all confidence in their ability to perform. 4. Loss of confidence leads to decreasing performance, a vicious cycle of failure is entered upon.

With practice / experience, a human can retrain themselves toward: 1. Human enters stressful situation. 2. Human experiences a physiological stress response, e.g. sweating, stuttering. 3. Human says, "I notice that I am experiencing a normal stress response. This is alright, and I will not let it affect my performance." 4. Human performs well, and enters a cycle of increasing confidence.

For me, this is a hard-won observation. For example, there is a tendency to assume that some people are born "good public speakers." I think it is more likely that there are simply people who are better at noticing their own physiological nervousness for what it is, and maintaining their mental composure despite it.

From my own subjective experience, once this ability is gained in one situational domain, it at least partially translates to other domains.

Comment author: Elizabeth 19 February 2011 04:18:08AM 4 points [-]

I disagree about people being born "good public speakers." I have no stress symptoms when I speak in front of groups of people. I find it quite comfortable. I have experienced an occasional butterfly if I'm going to be on a stage with lights and everything, but that's more anticipation than anything else. I do get a bit of stage fright singing in front of other people, but that's more a matter of extensive early criticism of my singing than difficulty making a fool of myself in front of a group.

Comment author: handoflixue 15 February 2011 11:51:55PM 1 point [-]

I've been interested in growing long hair, and would love to hear advice :)

Comment author: Elizabeth 17 February 2011 05:47:46AM 12 points [-]

Principles for growing long hair:

  • It takes a long time. I've been growing mine for fourteen years, and it was at least seven before it was long enough to be at all remarkable. Growth rates vary, and mine isn't all that fast (4-5 inches a year), but it may be a long time. Don't get fed up and chop it all off.
  • Stop doing damaging things. No more blow-drying or coloring or straightening or curling. Minimize the amount of product you put in. Never tease your hair.
  • Get trims. A half inch trim every three months or so will take off the split ends and make your hair healthier.
  • Conditioner is your friend. Use it liberally. As your hair gets longer, less of it will have any exposure to scalp oils. Be sure to condition all of your hair, not just the ends. I always brush my hair with the conditioner in it before I rinse. This makes sure the conditioner is evenly distributed and there are no tangles.
  • Braid your hair before sleep to prevent tangles, and brush gently. Work knots out patiently, don't just tear through them.
  • Don't wash your hair every day. Every other day is plenty for hygiene purposes, and more often is hard on your hair.
  • Once your hair is too long to brush in a single stroke, pull it back in a bunch like a ponytail, and then pull it over your shoulder. Brush from the bottom up. *Bear in mind that not all people can grow their hair really long. Every hair follicle has a cycle, which is why your eyebrows don't grow down to your chin. The length a hair from a particular follicle can reach is the duration of the cycle times the rate of growth. These factors vary from person to person, and can also vary within a person's lifetime. If your hair gets to a certain length and the ends get really straggly even though you're taking good care of it, it may have reached its limit.

These principles should work for varied hair types, and should allow you to get your hair long. Hopefully, by the time it's really long, you'll be used to it and won't do anything stupid, like the time I did a backbend, adjusted my feet, and then tried to stand up without realizing I was standing on my hair.

Comment author: SRStarin 09 February 2011 07:35:40PM 9 points [-]

When I started running study groups in college, the training included teaching how to learn student's names. The trick to remembering names is to say the name out loud, with focus on the name and the person at the same time. So, Joachim introduces himself, and you say "Joachim? Nice to meet you, Joachim!" Give the name and face enough time to sink into long term memory. If they don't introduce themselves, ask them their name, simply apologizing if it turns out you've met before.

Then, at the earliest good opportunity, reinforce the name. Using it during the conversation is good. Any time the topic goes in a new direction, or you or your interlocutor have a new idea, you say "So, Joachim, I have another way of looking at that..." or "Joachim, that is an excellent point." This is totally normal, but might not feel that way to a person who doesn't use names frequently.

Finally, it is minimally awkward to, at the end of a conversation, say to the person "Well, Joachim, it's been so good talking to you!" Or, if you've totally lost the name, say with a smile "I've enjoyed talking with you so much I've managed to forget your name!" And they will be quite pleased to remind you.

Not using people's names is like a microcosm of this thread--if you don't use the name, rightly or wrongly, you won't get affirmation or correction.

That all works if you have the capability of recognizing people but just have not practiced it. But you say specifically that you're not good with faces. A large number of people are partially or completely face-blind. Many (maybe most) don't realize they have differently functioning brains from the majority of people when it comes to faces. They often recognize people by their distinctive hair color or facial hair, by particularly large or small noses, chins, etc, or even in some cases, by learning the wardrobes of people they are frequently around. I read about one fellow with 4 young children and he is completely unable to tell them apart. So when one jumps in his lap, he hugs them and smiles and says, "So who are you, then?" His kids think it's a running joke, which is how he treats it, but it's the only way he'd know who he's got in his lap.

The point is, if you are not just "bad with faces" but instead face-blind, you may have to use other, more you-specific techniques for identifying people.

Comment author: Elizabeth 09 February 2011 09:32:06PM *  5 points [-]

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I first consciously noticed that I was incapable of using other people's names to their faces. I could do it with immediate family, and I could do it in third person "Howard was telling me..." I have since made strenuous efforts to get better at it, but it is still really psychologically difficult. That's also when I realized that it was almost impossible for me to leave a message on an answering machine. I'm working on that one too, but doing so is a serious effort. One of my roommates my freshman year of college had the same issues, but neither of us had a clue why.

Comment author: Alicorn 09 February 2011 07:42:53PM 1 point [-]

If there is some metadata about names that you can remember more easily (rhymes with X, name of Y character from fiction, would have been taunted on the playground because of Z) use that. I tend to ask people how to spell their names so I can embed the information as text instead of much-more-slippery-for-me sounds.

Comment author: Elizabeth 09 February 2011 09:28:41PM 0 points [-]

Having people spell their names does sometimes help, but also tends to be a bit awkward. I occasionally wish everyone would just get their names tattooed on their foreheads!

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