# Learned Helplessness

I have a friend who always links me to articles from a site called Less Wrong. Every time I visit, I get some really interesting insights about various topics. For example, did you know absence of evidence actually IS evidence of absence? Yup! Sure is! I’ll let you look up - or figure out - why on your own time, this post is about something else.

This post is about a phenomenon I’ve had first-hand experience with countless times as a tutor: Learned Blankness (a variation on learned helplessness). The phenomenon is, in a nutshell, when people close themselves off from learning or thinking about certain topics because they’ve convinced themselves that the topic in question is beyond their grasp. I tutored Math, and I noticed this when I saw people who were utterly unable (read: who refused to allow themselves) to figure out how simple concepts work on their own. The rules of exponents, for example: they are derived directly from the very definition of exponents, they’re fairly intuitive if one just does a little bit of messing around with them, but people are unwilling to do that, they think these rules that govern how to use exponents either exist by magic or were made up arbitrarily, and they’re in some magical realm inaccessible to the student, so they have to memorize all these bullshit ways to do things, and they usually forget sooner or later because they never took the time to understand how the rules were derived.

Well, HERE’S THE ARTICLE

So, ask yourself, fellow philosophers, sophists, thinkers and unthinkers: have you been limiting yourself like this? Is it useful to do so? Would you rather not do so?

Excellent article, Humpty. It should be required reading in so many contexts. Pretty much any context. In the workplace? People really do think there are magical rules that govern how to make intelligent decisions. The depth and scope of the problem is mind boggling really.

And yeah, I suck at math. So…

On the flip side, many people here think nothing is beyond their grasp, when it is…

Yeah like grade schools physics concepts such as melting point, and terminal velocity---- and while we’re at it, numerical constancy.