Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vagueness: the path to the adjacent possible?

In his Wired article entitled In Praise of Vagueness, Jonah Lehrer writes, "According to an experiment led by Catherine Clement at Eastern Kentucky University, one way to consistently increase our problem-solving ability is to rely on vague verbs when describing the problem. That’s because domain-specific verbs–actions which we only perform in particular contexts – inhibit analogical reasoning, making us less likely to discover useful comparisons. However, when the same problem is recast with more generic verbs – when we describe someone as 'moving' instead of 'sprinting,' for instance – people are suddenly more likely to uncover unexpected parallels. In some instances, Clement found that the simple act of rewriting the problem led to impressive improvements in the performance of her subjects."

Apparently, vagueness allows one to move to the adjacent possible more easily. Therefore, when stuck back away from specificity and get general.

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