Another dot in the blogosphere?

Categorise to organise, not oversimplify

Posted on: May 10, 2022

Tweets like the one below accelerate my curmudgeonliness.

It reminds me of meaningless BuzzFeed quizzes. You can find out which Harry Potter character you are in a quiz or you can relate to one of the panels above. So what?

Yes, the quizzes and the tweet are for fun and entertainment. But it is not a stretch to say that such thinking transfers to schooling and education. Ask any serious educator how often they struggle to undo years of lazy thinking shaped by oversimplified categorising.

This sort of lazy thinking can be insidious. Take the MBTI instruments students take for career development, for instance. Some workplaces even use it for recruitment and promotion. 

Instruments like MBTI are based on pseudoscience and lazy thinking allows them to persist and entrench. People do not fit neatly into the MBTI categories because the categories are neither valid nor reliable. 

I am not saying that chunking and categorising are wrong. These are fundamental to human thinking because we can only process so much at one time. And yet this cognitive limit can teach us to prioritise and make good decisions.

But we do not get to that sort of thinking by being lazy. Categorising to organise is good. Categorising to oversimplify is not. The first type of chunking acknowledges nuance, incompleteness, and complexity. The second dispenses of all these.

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