Monday, March 7, 2016

The Elephant, The Rider and the Path

A commonly held belief is that human behavior is the result of rational decision making based on available information. A closer look into the science of behavior reveals the powerful role our emotions play in our decision making process. In this animated video we look at the behavior change process using Jonathan Haidt’s analogy of an elephant, a rider, and a path.

Technology and the teacher’s personality

Teacher extraordinaire Mr Keating appears as the epitome of the charismatic teacher – one that his students are sure to remember long after their school years are over. Way over the top as this might be (though I am sure that, whatever we may say, many of us would love to feel we are a little bit like Mr Keating) it is only natural to ask ourselves: does the personality of the teacher matter in this Brave New World of technology and on-line courses?
As teachers we are in the business of influencing people. How can we do that? It helps if we imagine each individual as a big elephant with a rider sitting on top of it (a metaphor first used by J. Haidt 2006). The elephant is our emotional side; it is big, strong, somewhat impulsive and not as predictable as we would like it to be. The rider is our rational side; it can guide the elephant and the latter usually allows itself to be directed by the former (but if there is a disagreement, we all know who we should bet on! J )
So how can we influence people? There are 3 ways: a) We can motivate the elephant; this is what charismatic teachers do – they inspire their students, and this clearly works best in a f2f context. b) We can direct the rider – appealing to the logical part of our students and telling them what to do. This can work equally well in a f2f and an online context. c) We can shape the path down which the elephant and the rider will walk (an idea first proposed by Heath & Heath 2011 – click here to watch a 2-min clip). By careful use of choice architecture (see Thaler & Sunstein 2008), we can ‘nudge’ the duo in the direction we would like them to go. * An on-line environment is ideal for such an approach. However….
  • Bloom, P. (2008) Introduction to Psychology. Yale Courses, You Tube
  • Haidt, J. (2006) The Happiness Hypothesis. London: Arrow Books
  • Heath, C. & Heath, D. (2011) Switch. London: Random House
  • Lieberman, M. (2013) Social. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • Thaler, R. & Sunstein, C. (2008) Nudge. Michigan: Yale University Press