Monday, May 16, 2011

Social babble

Where right-brain skills trump left-brain ones... at least if your audience is sufficiently right-brained:

As Mr. Gardner shows in his survey of expert prediction-making, the more you sound like you know what you are talking about, the more people will believe you. This point is driven home by another expert, the "renowned" Dr. Myron L. Fox, a specialist in "mathematical game theory as applied to physician education"—or, if you prefer, pure drivel. Dr. Fox was, in fact, an actor who, in the early 1970s, was chosen by three psychologists from the University of Southern California to be at the center of an experiment. They set out to test the responses of the audiences who attended Dr. Fox's lectures. The fabulous Dr. Fox was drilled "to present his topic and conduct his question-and-answer period with an excessive use of double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradictory statements . . . interspersed with parenthetical humor and meaningful references to unrelated topics."

All this he executed with aplomb. "He spoke with clarity, confidence, and authority," writes Mr. Gardner, and "that was all that mattered." Dr. Fox's meaningless lecture was a hit with three separate audiences composed of academics and graduate students; an overwhelming majority felt that he had stimulated their own thinking. One person even described him as "extremely articulate."

*From a recent WSJ book review of Dan Gardner's Future Babble

Perhaps this also captures why right-brainers are ruling the roost in education and why the humanities have gone off the deep end.

1 comment:

Niels Henrik Abel said...

Reminds me of the saying: If you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, baffle 'em with BS!