An observation by AKH
Untold Arsenal is a website which uses the important notion of evidence based research and argument to outline a position, viewpoint or idea. For this current season I have been observing that a number of opinions have been given on the website, some even overtly aggressive, without reference to much evidence if any at all!
Furthermore, trawling through other so-called Arsenal supporter websites and referring to various Arsenal social media groups on You tube; Facebook; Twitter etc, a similar pattern seems to prevail with opinion being the norm, but little or no evidence to support the opinion other than personal observation. Similarly with the national media, and especially the opinions of punditry personified by ex-professional footballers.
Can possible reasons for such unsupported opinions be understood and even explained?
It is my contention that the nature of evidence based research and argument is difficult to comprehend for many people and thus such people revert to ‘their concrete coping strategies’ in order to try to make their point of view accepted.
In past Untold Arsenal articles, Tony Attwoood has occasionally referred to the work and model of the behavioural psychologist, B F Skinner. Two developmental psychologists, Piaget and Inhelder suggest a model to represent how people develop their thinking and reasoning capability throughout their lives (although original research concentrated on such development in children).
I hasten to add that all models are representations of reality but some are more powerful and hence more useful than others.
Their view is that people must construct their own knowledge. Bits of information and experiences can be provided but only when a person has actively put these together for him/herself has the knowledge become their own They further suggest that there are a number of stages through which people from a very young age upwards to and through adulthood pass, as they develop new thinking and reasoning capability.
Two particular stages of thinking and reasoning exhibited by people can be termed ‘the concrete stage’ and ‘the formal stage.
Concrete thinking and reasoning. The early stage
There is great growth in language development – words are used to represent thought as opposed to actions. However, language acquisition and reasoning ability are not necessarily synonymous. Language does not completely impose on the person the culturally desirable ways of thinking.
- The person is more likely to distort language to fit its own mental structure.
- The person is perception prone or perceptually predisposed. I.e., the person judges by what is seen rather than by logical reasoning. (if it looks different it is different)
- The person does think but does not think about ones own thinking (is not reflective)
- The person has a tendency to centre. (Concentrates on one attribute of an object at a time, ignoring other characteristics).
- The person has little notion of reversibility – thinking in one direction only.
- The person cannot cope too well with transformations (changes in sequence) and thus concentrates on the start and the end and pays little attention to the ‘in-betweens’
- The person is egocentric – the person is the centre of the universe, everything revolves around the person.
- The person can only consider one thing at a time and is unable to consider another person’s viewpoint simultaneously with their own.
Concrete thinking and reasoning. The later stage
- The person can perform mental operations on real objects, events, ideas, but will have difficulty with abstract ideas or verbal generalisations
- The person has the ability to conserve although some elements will be more difficult than others.
- The person does not judge by perception alone but also by applying some form of logical reasoning.
- The person can de-centre.
- The person recognises simple relationships within transformations
- The person is less egocentric
- The person can describe events but has difficulty in explaining events.
- Continuing with this notion of later concrete operations, the mental manipulations are becoming more varied and powerful. The developing ability to handle variables such as multiple classification means that problems can be solved in more ordered and quantitative ways than was previously possible.
Transition to the Formal stage of abstract thought.
- The person can think about one’s thinking (is able to reflect)
- The person can think about the implication of their actions
- The person can abstract
- The person can use propositional logic
- The person can explain as well as describe events.
This is the stage in which, for some people, the ability to think abstractly is developing. When this development is complete their thought is capable of dealing with the possible and hypothetical and is not tied to the concrete and to the here and now.
Each main stage can be divided into sub-levels. Each sub- level does not replace the preceding level but includes it as part of the new level. According to Piaget, the human species will all move from the lowest to the highest level in the same order, although the rate which this occurs will depend upon a number of factors which can include: genetic factors; factors concerning the maturation of the central nervous system; factors affecting the environment.
Now consider these observations…
“My grandmother is 76 years old and has smoked all of her life. She does not have lung cancer! So I do not believe you when you say that smoking causes lung cancer.”
This person is making a 1 to 1 association that- if you smoke then you will get lung cancer!
Since the grandmother does not have lung cancer, the notion that smoking and lung cancer could be associated is false!
When a group of secondary school children were asked to predict the chance of winning the UK National lottery, a number gave the answer that there was a 50% chance of winning it. Their explanation being “you either win it or you don’t!”
Here people are utilising so-called concrete thinking as outlined above. Indeed most people will only need to utilise concrete thinking and reasoning capability to live their daily lives. Simple events, ideas or concepts that relate to a person’s existing knowledge and understanding may simply be added into their existing knowledge system and thus act as a further reinforcement of the success/failure of their lives
More complicated events or questions may cause perplexity because they cannot be readily understood. If, with some mental effort, understanding can be reached, it is because the cognitive system has become more powerful in order to take on board the higher level of thinking required.
Even people who have reached a stage of formal thinking and reasoning capability may not always utilise this capability and might need one or more other people or events to help them realise the type of thinking required.
Evidence based argument is difficult! It requires formal thinking and reasoning capability to understand the nature and the content of the evidence involved as well as the arguments then presented.
Much evidence on Untold Arsenal involves the study of multi-variable systems; the use of statistics involving patterns of correlation and probabilistic theory; the use of systems involving ratio and proportionality; the use of classification systems; of equilibrium systems etc, etc. One often needs to use logical reasoning in order to make the evidence and argument appear meaningful.
Without such formal thinking capability it will be very difficult for a person to make sense of the evidence or of the argument by using concrete thinking and reasoning alone and as such will refuse to accept it or believe it.
This season I believe that on the Untold Arsenal website, a number of contributors are using concrete thinking and reasoning skills to purport a particular viewpoint which, when not accepted or when challenged by the website come back with the same argument as before, time and time again, or even show overt aggression through their use of expletive language towards the website.
Pundits are no different! I would imagine that most football pundits live within their immediate concrete experiences and do not need to or cannot utilise formal thinking and reasoning capability for whatever reason. I may not like and agree with what they say, but I can begin to understand where they are coming from.
Certain pundits are even called football gurus! My response when I see or hear this is that
“pundits are only called gurus by such people because such people cannot spell the word charlatan.”
Two years ago Arsenal finished 4th in the Premier League. Last year 3rd and this year 2nd. Concrete thinking and reasoning capability suggests to me that next year Arsenal will be……. champions!
However, formal thinking and reasoning capability tells me that next year Arsenal will be………..Champions – Oh well, I still get by with living in my simpler concrete world.
Hamaker AK and Backwell J (2005) Cognitive Acceleration through Technology Education
Inhelder, B. and Piaget, J. (1958) The Growth of Logical Thinking. London. Routledge and Kegan Paul.
Light, P., Sheldon, S. and Woodhead, M (1991) Learning to Think. London. Routledge.
Shayer, M and Adey, P. (1981) Towards a Science of Science Teaching. London. Heinemann Educational Books.
Trojcak, D.A. (1979) Science with Children. New York. McGraw-Hill Inc
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978) Mind in Society. Cambridge Mass. Harvard University Press.
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20 May 1910, the Earth passed through the tail of Halley’s Comet. Instead of ending the world it actually marked the first upturn in Arsenal’s financial fortunes as against all the odds the club survived, thanks to the largesse of Henry Norris.
And elsewhere appears near the foot of the home page each day reflecting on something odd, or interesting, or both, that happened on this day in history.