Mezirow (1991) states that, “A distorted assumption or premise is one that leads the learner to view reality in a way that arbitrarily limits what is included, impedes differentiation, lacks permeability or openness to other ways of seeing, or does not facilitate an integration of experience” (Mezirow, 1991 p. 118). To better understand this statement, we need to look at what a distorted assumption is, and what effects it has on creative learning.
Defining Distorted Assumptions
Symbolic models, meaning perspectives, metaphors, and meaning schemes are basically products of personal experience and cultural assimilations which impact the psyche of each one of us. These influences lead to personal assumptions of how things should be, and what should happen under various conditions. In other words, because of what we’ve experienced and what we have been taught, we assume certain outcomes of situations we encounter.
Sometimes, these assumptions are founded in preserved knowledge which, for a lack of a better term, is totally wrong. It is not because of any intentional wrong doing on our part, but nonetheless, we have assumed something to be one way, when it is actually a different way all together. Thus, when we go to view a situation or experience in which we are currently involved, we are trying to understand it through logic which is askew. These distorted assumptions can cause havoc on students as they try to reflect on what they know (or think they know), in an effort to bring clarity to a given situation.
Dr. Nelson Benggeli describes this act of distorted assumption this way,” Frequently, cognitive distortions develop in childhood as the result of unfortunate and difficult life experiences and/or being taught to use them by significant others (e.g., parents and peers). We also become more prone to cognitive distortions when under stress, because under pressure we are apt to take more “cognitive shortcuts” resulting in less accurate and more extreme interpretations and reactions” (Benggeli, 2010 para. 23).
Effects of Distorted Assumptions
For the creative student, distorted assumptions can lead to learning results that are less than satisfactory. For instance, if a student has grown-up with the understanding that tomatoes are a vegetable, and they then enter a classroom where the teacher is teaching on the powerful advantages that the tomato fruit can have on the human body, the learner is left wondering why the teacher is calling the tomato a fruit when everybody from the student’s hometown knows that indeed tomatoes are vegetables and now the teacher cannot be trusted to teach valuable, and much needed information.
Obviously the example above is quite elementary, but the premise behind the scenario is valuable. The things we are taught, and the experiences we have over the course of our life, can cause distorted assumptions, which can undermine the education we are pursuing.
For creativity to thrive in the classroom, our students need to understand that as they continue on the road of life, they are going to become privy to, and experience, situations that will clash with what they’ve been told, or experienced in the past. They should view the intake of information as a continuous cycle which leads to continuous improvement in the area of wisdom and creativity. As their educators, we need to teach them how to have open minds so that they can allow new ideas and concepts in, while at the same time, letting useless and incorrect information flow out. We do this by expressing the importance analyzing. The student (and educator) needs to analyze what is being taught and then reflect on the information in an effort to glean what is valuable and do away with anything that does not add value to the lesson at hand.
Benggeli, N. (2010, February 5). CBT techniques part 1: Cognitive restructuring. An Introduction to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Restructuring. Retrieved from http://www.nelsonbinggeli.net/NB/CBT-CR.html
Mezirow, J. (1991). Transformative dimensions of adult learning. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.