September 07, 2006

Leap to theory

Posted by Xun  |  1 comment

My brain is awash, even after ten hours of sleep. Ten hours! What a shame! Martha Stewart and this celebrity chef Rachel Ray sleep only four hours a day. Anyway, my brain is awash, my vocabulary remains at this rudimentary level: Good, Ok, Bad, Sorry ... Emma talks better than I do. I wonder if it is a brain malfunction due to aging or pregnancy.

Probably both.

But even before pregnancy, before aging (getting into mid thirties), I was not much a thinker, much less a talker. I was always an avid reader. Being young, I fed myself tear-inducing extra sappy romantic novel; Western culture worshipping, I devoured volumes of Balzac and Tolstoy, and I was dismayed that no one read them here. One thing exceptional, being in a country of socialism and dire poverty, I never caught any frivolous fever about celebrities.

Anyway, all the reading never made me a good thinker. Never could jump from A to B. Never could made any theories nor argue for any. Writing assays is mind-wringing pain. I once was Assyriology major. I was always amazed that my professors and all the experts could make grand conclusions about city, state, war, religion, culture, royal succession, etc., etc., just by looking at a small mound of mud and a dubious looking collection of fragments of cuneiform tablets. But they were always right and rightly acclaimed for their genius. I was always at loss trying to summon up how Assyrian empire collapsed. I dropped out.

The same thing with tracking babies’ eye movement or watching they grab a spoon, then writing volumes after volumes about children development. But that is what Jean Piaget did. He spent his life listening to and watching children, especially his own four children, and gently experimenting with them, and he became the most influential expert on children development.

So is this Howard cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Spelke. She set up a “National Sippy cup Research Center”, tracking babies’ eye movement using a methodology called “preferential looking”, and challenging Jean Piaget’s notion that knowledge are constructed their knowledge through experience and interactions. Instead, she claims that babies are born with a set of core knowledge and capacities, such as concepts of numbers, and object permanence …

I read all this in the article “The Baby Lab” published by The New Yoker. The article also writes that, “To the layperson, there’s something faintly comic about looking-time studies (eye tracking). So much strenuous effort is made to engage the attention and record the fleeting stares of bobbled-headed babies … and so many lofty claims about human nature about being based on these odd little encounters”.

That is exactly how I, a layperson, feel. I am forever a layperson to all scientific, social, historical research. And I am forever in awe and bewilderment and disbelief of a lot of grand theories claimed by a lot of scientists. Or I am forever a layperson in the kingdom of reasoning, deduction, grand thinking and theory making. Or talking. Especially talking in public, I stutter, I get impatient, timid, and silent, then I venture out, then I slip and become incoherent …

I despair.

I wonder how people differ so much. In appearance, capacity, confidence, personality, in fortune, fame and luck, in possible shapes and forms, in all things tangible and intangible. Jean Piaget wrote and published an essay when he was 9; Adora Svitak published a book at 8. My friend’s son is smart, inquisitive, aggressive, and sometimes a little mean; Emma is sweet, compassionate, articulated, nonphysical, and sometimes a little shy; the 2-year-old son of an acquaintance is burly, assertive, loud and strong …

“One of the most contentious elements of Spelke’s thinking is her firm conviction that boys and girls are born with essentially the same cognitive tools”. My reaction to it is also a big no, NOT Possible. Boys and girls differ at the moment they are able to pick their toys, boys love trains, cars, and guns, while girls love dolls, stuff animals. Boys and girls differ just like individuals differ.

Thursday, September 07, 2006
Read more


Shahzad said...

hey i uploaded some pictures

back to top