Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Why people talk about the Inauguration

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Interesting point by Art Markman, a Cognitive Scientist at the University of Texas whose research spans a range of topics in the way people think. It begins:

Unless you crawl into a dark room, unplug the TV, the radio, and the phone, and avoid every living person on the planet, you will probably end up hearing about, and talking about the inauguration of Barack Obama. In fact, whether you are excited or concerned about his presidency, whether you are a US citizen or not, you have probably been engaged in a lot of conversations about him since he was elected in November. Why is he such a big topic of conversation?

The obvious answer is that this is a big deal along a number of dimensions. Many people are dissatisfied with George W. Bush, and are excited about a new administration. Obviously, the election of the first African American as President has huge social and historic implications.

But what is it that makes people want-and need-to talk about this? There are lots of events in the world that are enjoyable and widely known, but they do not engage this level of conversation for this long.

The way that human beings make sense of our world is by creating knowledge structures called schemas. A schema is a bundle of knowledge that tells you what to expect in a situation and why it is happening. For example, going to a party at a friend’s house could be a buzzing confusion of people if you did not have knowledge about what to expect and how to act. Because of your knowledge about parties, though, you may expect loud conversation, music, dancing, or drinks. You know that you should find the hosts and let them know you are there. You might not ordinarily throw a coat on someone’s bed, but if they are having a big party, that is an acceptable place to pile coats. All of this knowledge helps you get around the world.

An important way that we form these schemas is by …

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

20 January 2009 at 2:04 pm

Posted in Daily life, Science

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