Thoughts from Places: SciTech

Intro to Psych discusses the principle of adjusting one’s understanding of the world, also known as a schema. When presented with new information, one either assimilates evidence that confirms a schema, or modifies his or her understanding in order to accommodate for inconsistencies. Now, one might imagine that room 153 is right in between rooms 152 and 154, but SciTech is designed in a way that is almost deliberately confusing. Although I attempt to modify the schema I have of the floor plan, I still arrive 15 minutes early in hopes of making it on time for my appointments.

I spent most of Wednesday and Friday shadowing a postdoc who was working on his second publication. Although the jargon was heavy, the theme of adjusting transcended the specifics. Fourteen months of research had been devoted to a single topic, but endgame experiments approached the same concepts with wildly more novel methods than initially expected. Although the project was structured, it was not overly rigid as to obdurately continue down an incorrect path. Although the resources and time to search for faint signs of confirmation of the initial hypothesis were available, this was not the path that was chosen.

Near the end of the day, I was told that “science is all about trial and error.” But that statement could use modification: accommodating schema is not something just limited to scientific practice. Instead, it is a fundamental part of how we develop both as a species and as individuals. From rearranging the mental image of a building’s layout (it turns out that instead of two large rectangles, there are a handful of smaller rectangles scattered throughout SciTech), to rectifying perceptions of longtime friends or one-time strangers, there is an unlimited amount of room in our lives for trial and error.

The implications that come with this assertion are simple. 1. Failure does not impede future attempts at trial. Mistrusting one friend is not a reason to stop trusting all of your friends. Taking one class that you thought was just too difficult for you is no reason to not try another challenging course. 2. Effort can be allocated to fields of “unknown” — a lack of expertise on a matter does not warrant a lack of trying. There is nothing stopping an English major from going to a GIM for Synthetic Biology, or a Biomedical Sciences major from signing up for an acting class. 3. Previous conclusions are not final: schemas about the same topic can be updated an infinite number of times. Just because Google Maps suggested one route from Dewick to Miner Hall at the start of the semester, does not mean that there aren’t more efficient routes for you to discover.

Allowing these concepts to govern an evolving worldview, and in turn your interactions, opens up doors that could have previously been hidden. There is such a breadth of fresh interactions on campus that it is virtually impossible to avoid heavily accommodating all of your schemas over the course of your time here at Tufts.

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