FLUENT THOUGHTS

It is subjectively easy to pronounce a familiar name. It is a fluent thought. A foreign name is subjectively difficult to process. It is a disfluent thought. Adam Alter says that you feel differently when you experience fluency than when you experience disfluency. The basic theme Alter propagates is how seemingly innocuous things, such as colours, symbols, even names, influence how we think and behave. Names that are easier to pronounce influence how one feels  about the person. The simple logic behind this idea is that people feel more positive about things that are easy to process. Disfluent things, on the other hand, look more remote. Things that are more difficult to remember seem to have happened years ago. Similarly, a fuzzy or a difficult to perceive thing looks far away. When it is harder to process or make sense of that person or that target, we generally end up feeling more negative about them. Familiarity and fluency have strong bonds. Familiarity is a cue that something is safe and is not going to harm us. Fluency leads us to like those things more.

We are cognitive misers. We feel happy touching the surface of the problem. We don’t like to process information deeply. We try to avoid those problems, solutions of which need deeper understanding. We often face difficulty in understanding simple things. Think of a person you think you know pretty well. When you are asked ordinary details about that person, to your utter surprise, you come to realise that you don’t know enough about that person. You are surprised at your ignorance about that person whom you thought you know so well.

Fluency, no doubt, is preferable, but disfluency is also an important part of our way of thinking. Disfluency teaches us to deal with difficult situations. When we face difficult situations we think longer about that situation. When we think longer there is better possibility of thinking more deeply. From the surface we try to reach the core of the problem. Disfluency gives us an opportunity to examine non-ideal situations. There is a possibility of our becoming more committed. Disfluency makes us better equipped to deal with the uncertain future. Those early experiences of difficulty are important, because they prepare us for later experiences.

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