Monday, May 17, 2010

Reducing Our Problems through Insightful Decision-Making

We’ve all wondered why we make certain decisions that lead to dreadful mistakes, although some are unforeseen. We may even ponder the rationale that went into it, and think, “How could I have done that?” Even the most intelligent people become victims of often hasty, poorly thought-out decisions affecting our families and careers.

Each of us sees a situation differently with a unique slant, and we respond according to our learned experiences and what we have learned to believe as true.

To further complicate the rational process, our temperaments, feelings, and cultural backgrounds come into play. Emotional reactions, false hopes, and aspirations become blinders. We do not think clearly as to what the possible outcomes might be.

Although we all make mistakes, some of us will make continual blunders that are hard to rationalize. Somehow some of the working elements become eschew with sudden break-downs in our logic system.

This article is not intended to solve your problems, but to give you insight into your thought processes, and help you cope.  It will encourage you to consider your decisions so you can avoid problems before they appear in the first place. Many psychologists and experts in the field have written about critical thinking, and this blog is simply to review my practical observations so you begin considering alternate possibilities and become more methodical, avoiding hasty, reactive impulses.

My expertise is with creative cognitive skills training applications that were found to work. There are clearly defined, textbook, mental building-blocks that form deductive/inductive reasoning. Right- and left-brain domains enter into the picture. We use our right-brain in detecting patterns like people faces and what they are wearing.  Our left-brain is the analytical, sequencing side.

It is important that we immediately spot patterns, and use intuition to interpret them correctly.  Then rapid sequencing must ensue. We tap into what we already know. Yet, the patterns and sequences rapidly evolve, and we must react instantly, as to avoid an impending auto accident.

Every move we make is reactive in some way to our experiences and how well we spot the patterns and turn them into sequences. The apparent sequences must be rapid, like words on a page link into meaning. If we miss the sequencing and pattern detection aspects, we become “clueless.”

Every twist and turn we make during the day requires a decision of some sort. Whether it is driving the car, performing a task at work, or simply preparing a meal, it is a myriad of sequences laced with potential decisions that could turn into minute problems or large issues. Or, evolve into nothing at all, and remain routine.

Key here is the concept of “situational awareness” like is taught in the military. Being overly aware of your environment with the people, moods, circumstances, timing factors, is a good beginning. Then add your ability to recognize intuitive patterns and sequence them into a logical answer. Think about how you sequence information; do you read rapidly and understand the material? Are you adept at organizing your daily work assignments?

Ask yourself: Is something amiss with a pattern? i.e. a person’s mood, body language, voice, or a situational event. Being able to spot “split patterns” is a good beginning in recognizing and avoiding problematical situations. A “split pattern” is something askew within any typical design, whether it be a facial expression, body language, a conversation, a story line, an art piece, traffic patterns, sports plays, attitudes, meetings, or a work assignment.

Stop and consider the level of your visual and listening (auditory) processing capabilities. My work combines how to interpret patterns and then sequence visual and listening information rapidly.

Much has been written on the topic of pattern-detection and intuition including my writings and insights. Encoding means “getting into information” for better understanding.  The first step is encoding or interpreting patterns for better reasoning capability.  For example, is poor visual pattern processing sabotaging your reading speed and written communication?

Six people can observe an object and see six different things. Do you focus on less important details? Are you missing the point?

Decoding is “pulling information out” of code format. Are poor listening skills interfering with your work performance and with your personal relationships? Do you tune out?

Some examples of poor critical thinking:

Drivers texting in traffic, when they know this causes accidents with sudden death or can leave you seriously injured, in rehab for months, and with expensive car repair or replacement.

Not following your children’s schooling. You will wind up supporting them and living with you at home.

Not taking care of your health, eating right, avoiding harmful habits, exercising, maintaining a spiritual balance.  You “age before your time,” deteriorate much faster, while having to endure serious health problems.

Not considering the corporate culture with a new job position.  You will work with a group of people on a different wave length, work style, and objectives.

Being involved with dangerous, manipulative personal relationships. The tabloids are full of examples showing this type of poor irrational thinking.

Poor real estate purchasing decisions. Not taking into consideration your health, financial, age, and current national economic circumstances. Living beyond your means.

Consider implications and consequences of any action you are taking, whether large or small. Adding insight to your problem-solving will smooth out bothersome rough edges in your life.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

"Understanding Cognitive Skills Testing: What Is It? Why Have It Admin? & Where To Find It?"

We can now all move forward to new learning and achievement heights, providing we understand how our own information processing works. Our reluctance to be the very best we can be, can now be left behind us. My work is based upon the premise that “intelligence” is trainable, and that skills, like reading, writing, mathematics and problem solving are dependent on cognitive information processing basic blocks called “primitives.”

Why understand what these blocks are? Because all work proficiency, including academic achievement, depends upon how our “mind works” operate. The renowned psychologist, J. P. Guilford, identified 150 cognitive skills cubes, called the Structure of Intellect theory (SOI), which has been used as a foundation and measurement of general intelligence for decades. See footnote.

Why should we care? Because our future endeavors, how we cope with everyday life and our achievements/life styles will depend upon our information processing capabilities. It will become our lifetime path we lead, and how contented we will be with what we end up doing as a livelihood.

How do we find out what capabilities we have? It is through standardized cognitive skills testing and evaluations can show information processing strengths and weaknesses of the individual.

Why is testing and evaluation not routinely prescribed? Why do we not know about it? It is because testing can only be administered by highly trained, state certified, professionals at the masters/doctoral degreed levels. These people include psychologists, school psychologists, and learning disability specialists. Testing companies will not sell testing materials to anyone other than these highly qualified and trained professionals, who are trained to do measurement and evaluations.

Subsequently, the testing requires trained expertise, money, and takes time. One set of cognitive skills tests usually runs from $2,500. - $3,000. Therefore, parents often go to physicians or psychiatrists who can prescribe medication to calm the learner, which may appear to be a quick, inexpensive solution. Yet, this intervention is not low-cost, and can run $100. a month or more depending upon insurance coverage. And, prescribed medication can become habit-forming.

There is little, if any, scientific knowledge, summarizing the life-long effects of any kind of stimulant medication on the brain and body that is used to increase focus and concentration needed for learning new material.

Cognitive skills training and cognitive skills assessment has been available for some time. In 1975, Guilford's student, Dr. Mary Meeker, formed the "Structure of Intellect" (SOI) Institute and trained educators how to measure cognitive skills according to task. She and her husband, Robert, designed tests and materials. The SOI Institute exists today with clinicians in every state that have been trained at their "Advanced Level" out of four levels of experienced practice and training. The program has focused on reading, math, and learning problems, early childhood weaknesses, Gifted instruction with remediating missing blocks, and career counseling.

Yet, cognitive skills measurement and standardized testing has not been mainstreamed for the average, yet ambitious person, due to training, time, and cost constraints. Generally speaking, individuals needing remediation were tested either privately, in schools, clinics, or within learning institutions.

Subsequently, many who who were fortunate enough to obtain low-cost assessments and training, or at no cost through their school, later felt embarrassed that they might be considered as "inadequate or a slow learner." Yet, they could subsequently experience giant steps forward in perceiving and learning new information faster and reaching greater career heights. Now, this sense of "being singled out as imperfect or having a problem " is no longer the case, as we move forward with a new dimension of identifying learning strengths and weaknesses to create the high performing, confident individual. We must all excel. Tomorrow's world is demanding it of us.

How can I get started with solid, eye-opening measurement of my own or my children’s cognitive skills if it is expensive and time consuming? Is this beneficial, and worth the time and trouble?

Soon there will be available online options that will offer access to finding the right professional in your area, who will now charge less for solid evaluations. And, the online options will give you the information you need and want, and point you in the right direction for not only testing, measurement and evaluations, but for instructional, learning solutions.

My dream is that most of us will want optimum mental fitness in the future for our children and ourselves the same way we want physical fitness and personal well-being. It will be our choice to move forward to higher levels. We can be competitive in the new, global world.

Footnote: Guilford, J.P. (1967). The Nature of Human Intelligence. New York: McGraw-Hill. In Guilford's Structure of Intellect (SOI) theory, intelligence is viewed as comprising operations, contents, and products. There are 5 kinds of operations (cognition, memory, divergent production, convergent production, evaluation), 6 kinds of products (units, classes, relations, systems, transformations, and implications), and 5 kinds of contents (visual, auditory, symbolic, semantic, behavioral). Since each of these dimensions is independent, there are theoretically 150 different components of intelligence.