This morning I was cruising my social media feed as I normally do. Some friends posted their daily stuff, others posted Amber Alerts that were no longer active (as people tend to), and others still posted political propaganda (which is often extremely polarized and oversimplified). Most of the stuff that came across my feed was the normal stuff that I fly right by looking for something interesting to read or for someone’s actual status update that clues me in to what’s going on in their lives far away from my city. Then I ran in to the video below. I’m not sure who posted it, but the 8 minutes of bicycle brain twisting was incredibly entertaining, yet also revelatory. Watch.
You know, he makes the most fascinating point there at about 1:20. Knowledge does not equal understanding. There are lots of things we know how to do that we really don’t understand. Think about this; you know how to play music off your iPod, right? But do you understand the process that makes that work? I know you can identify the steps in the process, but do you understand those steps. Do you understand how the flash memory in the iPod stores the music? How about the exact process by which vibrations in the air become sound in your ears? When you consider what you really don’t understand, it’s a little more humbling.
But he goes even further with the experiment. He spends 8 months attempting to learn to ride the new bike. After 8 months, he can definitely ride it. At this point he must finally understand how riding a bike works, or so he thinks. When he gets back on the normal style bike, he is completely incompetent at it. He had changed the way his brain responded to riding a bike, but he didn’t understand it any better. When the ability came back, he was as stunned as one could imagine that it even returned, and those around him didn’t believe he ever couldn’t ride the bike.
The message that I got from this video, and the one I hope you got, was that even though we know how to do something, we don’t necessarily understand it. It’s that lack of understanding that makes changing an action – a behavioral habit – so tremendously difficult. However, it’s also that lack of understanding that makes it difficult to go back to a bad way of thinking or a bad habit once we’ve redesignated its cognitive bias to a new habit. That lack of understanding could possibly save our future. Maybe we shouldn’t try so hard to understand why we do certain things that we don’t like. Maybe, instead, we should put energy in to changing them and never look back.
That’s it for today! Share this video with your friends and let us know what you thought about it in the comments section below. Have an awesome Wednesday, and we’ll see you next week!