The Bigger Picture

Lesson powerpoint here

  1. Systems 1 and 2. Put up the slides showing an optical illusion and a thinking problem. Ask the students what their responses are. (The correct answers are they are both the same length and the ball costs 5 pence, NOT 10 pence.) Each slide is designed to highlight the difference between the 2 systems in the brain for decision making: system 1, which decides quickly and on emotion and system 2 which takes longer and is more rational. These slides illustrate the mother of all thinking traps ‘jumping to conclusions’. (There is a video here where Daniel Kahneman explains systems 1 and 2).
  2. Thinking traps. Provide students with some more examples of thinking traps (on slides). Discuss the emotional/physical/behavioural consequences of holding beliefs like these about the world/people around us.
  3. Situations that open up traps and the first Pie Chart: Provide students, in small groups, with a challenging situation (on slides) which could cause them to fall into thinking traps. Put the first pie chart up and ask them to give initial thinking reactions to these 6 situations. What thinking traps have they fallen into? Ask them also to think about how they would feel or what they would do if they fell into a thinking trap and mis-read a situation. Keep ideas/thoughts and put to one side for the moment.
  4. Either…play ‘the interview game’. The aim of the game is to illustrate the importance of gathering plenty of information before making important decisions. Ask 4 students to play the interview panel and ask one student to play the interviewee and leave the room. Whilst the interviewee is gone, tell the panel the job they are interviewing for (e.g. Beefeater at Tower of London). When the interviewee returns, the panel has to ask them a maximum of 10 questions assessing their suitability for the job, without giving it away (e.g. would you be happy working in red? Do ravens trouble you?) When the panel thinks the interviewee knows the job, they can offer it to him/her. The interviewee then responds saying I accept/reject your offer of being a…(e.g. Beefeater): they will either be right or wrong. Discuss whether or not the interviewee made good use of information available, or jumped to a conclusion.
    Or…video. Play interview with Chesley Sullenburger, who landed his aircraft on the Hudson River after both engines failed. What thinking traps could he and his crew have fallen in to? How did they avoid that? What about the passengers? How might the cabin crew have helped the passengers deal with their thinking traps?
  5. Back to Pie Charts: Go back to the challenging situations. Put up the second pie chart and ask students to come up with alternative thoughts/explanations for these situations: ideas of what information might have been missed due to falling into a thinking trap first time round.
  6. Critical questions: get the students to try to come up with three simple, critical questions that could help them get to missing information before deciding on a course of action. Are the questions different for things that have already happened and for things that we think might happen?

Plenary and prep: gather examples of critical questions and discuss situations we might use them in. For prep, put critical questions into action and write about experiences ALSO ask students to notice times when other people annoy, irritate or wind them up and make a note.