The Monday Morning Memo: Second Hand Knowledge

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

Which testimony is stronger in a court of law, “I personally witnessed it, your honor,” or “someone told me who should know?” So why then, outside a courtroom, do we give the greater credence to second hand knowledge?

Everything we know, or think we know, is the result of someone’s observation; either a stranger’s or our own.  Why are we willing to trust a stranger’s observations more than we trust our own?  Why do we tend to swallow whole everything that is printed in a textbook?  (Find a twenty-year-old science book.  Look at it closely and you’ll see that much of what is printed there has since been proven to be wrong.)

Why do we place so much trust in second hand knowledge? Have we become so adept at learning from others that we have forgotten how to think for ourselves?

I am fascinated by the number of people who will raise their hands in a seminar and say to me with open hostility, “I was taught in college that we remember more of what we see than of what we hear, and that we remember best those things that we see AND hear.  So how do you explain all this stuff about iconic retention?”  (Inwardly, this question always makes me sigh because the answer is so obvious.)

Imagine a test using two focus groups.  The first group hears ten words with a two second interval between each word.  A second group is shown a screen with the same ten words printed on it. The screen remains visible for twenty seconds. The second group has a far higher retention of the words.  Does this test prove the superiority of iconic memory? Does it really prove that we remember more of what we see than of what we hear?

No, it proves nothing of the sort.

The simple truth is that the human brain cannot understand the written word until it has been translated into the spoken word in the mind. Until the auditory association area of the brain “hears” a word, it has no meaning. The focus group test proved only that retention is increased with repetition.  Those in group one heard the words only once.  Given twenty seconds to silently read ten words, the second group “hears” the words an average of five times.

So now it’s time for the follow-up challenge, “Okay Roy, if the ear is superior to the eye, then how do you explain speed reading?”  Gosh. This is so obvious, it’s painful.  “Speed reading is possible due to the fact that the rate of human hearing greatly exceeds the rate of human speaking, or even the speed of subvocalizing. There is a limit to the speed at which we can read, however, and it’s precisely the speed of sound.”

Do the words of your ads make music in the mind?

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Your post will be moderated. Your email address will not be shown or linked. (If you have an account, log in for real time posting and other options.)
0 Characters
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location