Why is my (our?) reasoning process noisy?post by emanuele ascani (emanuele-ascani) · 2020-04-25T12:19:44.972Z · LW · GW · 4 comments
This is a question post.
I especially notice this is a problem after a written exam. Even if I am 100% prepared and if I check the answers multiple times, I end up making mistakes that are the stuff of dreams. This can make a huge difference for me, because these mistakes are not isolated, they are often in many exercises or questions and they are often macroscopic.
They can range from changing a number to another number (not due to bad calligraphy, I have perfectly intelligible calligraphy. I'm inclined to think that somewhere in my neuronal processes that number literally turned into another one), or completely botching the correct process for solving the problem even if I have solved similar problems with the correct process tens of times before.
This can mean the difference between (translating to American grades) an A and a C. Or a C and botching the exam. It makes a big difference.
One time, I had botched the screen-off test of an exam due to this kind of mistakes. The screen-off test consisted in a multiple choice questions sheet that the professor used to screen-off what tests to spend time correcting in full and what tests not bother correcting. The real test consisted in the open questions and exercises after the screen-off. I managed to convince the professor to correct the rest of the exam even if I botched the screen-off, and I got an A.
I'm pretty sure this problem doesn't happen because of
- Anxiety: I'm perfectly calm.
- Calligraphy: It is good and very intelligible.
- Distraction: I don't get distracted... I remain concentrated on the exercise.
I don't think it happens because I'm in a hurry either. I often have tight time limits, but I do the exercises at the speed I usually maintain. Even if I was in a hurry I still wouldn't understand how I could make such incredible mistakes, given that I already had done the exercises tens of times before.
I'm using the example of exams because this is the area where this problem shows up the most. It also shows up when programming, but that's not as impactful, because I can correct the mistakes. I am wondering if there are other areas of life where this is a problem but I am not noticing. If it is a phenomenon isolated to tests or not. It is entirely possible that it is something affecting my usual thought processes in a bad way, but which I'm not aware of, because I can't check immediately if the thought processes are correct (and even if I could I would make the same mistake, because that's what happens) and I don't receive a grade or an error message from the compiler. So this might be much more important than just performance in tests.
More than how to avoid these mistakes I'm asking: why on Earth do they happen? Could it be that they are more widespread in my/our reasoning and I'm/we're not noticing? I know that other people suffer from this too, but how much exactly? Nonetheless, if you want to shoot suggestions about how to avoid these problems I'm all ears.
Bonus: My brain is also noisy in other ways. I have tinnitus even if I am in my early twenties and many symptoms of Visual Snow. I'm much more inclined to think they are completely unrelated to test mistakes and higher cognition, but I want to include this information anyway. Wild associations can sometimes bring interesting stuff up.
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