You may not know, but your fingers sure do:
Why is it we can type on a keyboard just fine, but if someone shows us a blank keyboard and asks us to name the keys without touching them, most of us will get only 15 of them right.
A study conducted by a team of cognitive psychologists at Vanderbilt and Kobe universities found that skilled typists can’t identify the positions of many of the keys on the QWERTY keyboard and that novice typists don’t appear to learn key locations in the first place.
The fact that the typists did so poorly at identifying the position of specific keys didn’t come as a surprise. For more than a century, scientists have recognized the existence of automatism: the ability to perform actions without conscious thought or intention. Automatic behaviors of this type are surprisingly common, ranging from tying shoelaces to making coffee to factory assembly-line work to riding a bicycle and driving a car. So scientists had assumed that typing also fell into this category, but had not tested it.
What did come as a surprise, however, was a finding that conflicts with the basic theory of automatic learning, which suggests that it starts out as a conscious process and gradually becomes unconscious with repetition. According to the widely held theory – primarily developed by studying how people learn to play chess – when you perform a new task for the first time, you are conscious of each action and store the details in working memory. Then, as you repeat the task, it becomes increasingly automatic and your awareness of the details gradually fades away. This allows you to think about other things while you are performing the task.
Given the prevalence of this “use it or lose it” explanation, the researchers were surprised when they found evidence that the typists never appear to memorize the key positions, not even when they are first learning to type.
“It appears that not only don’t we know much about what we are doing, but we can’t know it because we don’t consciously learn how to do it in the first place,” said Gordon Logan.
A description of the research will appear in an upcoming issue of the journal Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, which recently posted it online.
How can you get very far if you don’t know who you are?
How can you do what you ought if you don’t know what you have got?
And if you don’t know which to do
Of all the things in front of you
Then what you will have when you are through
Is just a mess without a clue
Of all the best that can come true
If you know what and which and who
- Winnie the Pooh-
"by the time it came to the edge of the forest the stream had grown up, so that it was almost a river. and, being grow-up, it did not run and jump and sparkle along as it used to do when it was younger but moved more slowly. for it knew now where it was going, and it said to itself, "there is no hurry. we shall get there some day."
Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
Miles Davis, American jazz musician
Often, the discovery of one’s unique gift and contribution to the world requires time to unfold through trial and error, practice, patience and persistence.
Like many, I have found “in the meantime” is challenging. There’s a rush to have it all figured out, but as my wise aunt Joni once reminded me, focus on the journey. During my journey so far I’ve learned letting fear keep me on the sidelines does not keep me safe, nor do answers magically appear…
"Diving in" into the deep end and exploring, however, does! (You have to be willing to get in and practice until you are fine tuned.) As the Tao of Pooh reminds, approaching life and its challenges with a student mindset is key to discovering who (you are) and what (unique gift you can offer).
Welcome setbacks as lessons for refinement or indicators you need to head in a different direction. I have. And in the meantime, enjoy the blessings you have today as part of your journey refining your uniqueness.(via cemiddleton)