Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Of Complexity, Ignorance, and Educators

Now here’s a scary thought:
“The less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association. “
So reads a press release about a recently published study that explores the links between awareness of social issues and dependence on and trust in government.   Researchers at the University of Western Ontario and other universities reached these conclusions following a series of studies in the US and Canada.   

Researchers presented participants with simple and complex descriptions of the same problem and found that people reading the more complex description felt higher levels of helplessness.  One of the conclusions that co-researcher Aaron C. Kay, reported was that:
“people tend to respond by psychologically ‘outsourcing’ the issue to the government”   
So what does this mean for educators, especially those who teach complex issues and like to emphasize critical thinking?  The authors suggest:  
“Beyond just downplaying the catastrophic, doomsday aspects to their messages, educators may want to consider explaining issues in ways that make them easily digestible and understandable, with a clear emphasis on local, individual-level causes.” 
To learn more, check out Ignorance Is Bliss When it Comes to Challenging Social Issues at

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