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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Discerning Information

Let's say the writers of Jeopardy! want to give Alex Trebek a hard time and give him the longest answer possible and you were a contestant on that episode. The category is World Capitols:

Located at 48.8742° N, 2.3470° E and with a population 2.2 million people this city has a famous structure that has 2.5 million rivets and each year around 5.5 million visit that structure. Also, this city is the site of the end of a 2,000 mile annual race. The average temperature in January is 39F and the July temp is 69F. The city boasts over 70 museums and was founded by a Celtic tribe around 4200 BC. Cuisine, arts, culture, and fashion are a big part of this French capitol.

Okay, so that was a lot of facts thrown in at once, wasn't it? Did you get the question right at the start with the latitude and longitude? How about the population? Average temperature? Or that it was founded in 4200BC? No? To end the answer I gave the easiest thing to understand, "this French capitol." so the correct question would be, "What is Paris?"

Now, before you go off thinking I'm auditioning for a role as a writer on Jeopardy let me tell you how this all is relevant. Going through life discerning information is important and I have always had a had time doing so when too much information is thrown my way. If you ask me what the French capitol is I would known it instantly. However, if you throw out all those obscure facts and get to the end and still say French capitol I am going to be processing all the other information and I am going to be unable to discern what is and is not relevant.

I suffered with this is school in a way. If things were presented one at a time I was able to do it, but when presented with a long list of topics, or a long list of assignments I see everything at once and become overwhelmed. This too happens with me today with e-mails; if I get an e-mail that has a forwarded message that's been forwarded I can't focus and see what the e-mail is telling me because I get lost in the length. And this is something that I think could baffle some teachers. Yes, they can have a really smart person with Asperger's in their class but when a bunch of information is given at once there can be a delay or confusion.

I think this all goes to seeing everything at once and a concept I put forth that will be in my fourth book of, "Life Unfiltered." Without the ability to filter out the non-important words or facts the actual meaning of a question or task can be lost. Sometimes we need things to be made a little bit easier to understand or, as in the example above, we may be processing what on Earth has that many rivets or what race covers 2,000 miles when in the end the only thing that mattered was, "What's the capitol of France?"


  1. I get overwhelmed when a barrage of information is thrown at me too! But reading your post I realized that is why at times my son will just throw up his hands and give up. He is extremely intelligent and builds on his knowledge in his own way, but if I ask him to try something new and give a ton of info, he quits. I now understand! My epiphany! Thank you. I should have realized this but didn't. Where I get overwhelmed I can come back and work something a little at a time, piece by piece. I see now that my son needs to be given less info up front so he can piece together in his own style. Thank you Aaron. Sometimes I don't see the trees for the forest. ;>

  2. In my line of work, multiple things are presented at a time. A classic case is learning how to do assessments/evaluations. Yes, it's one task. But there are many components that goes with this task. Moreover, you are expected to perform the task in an adequate pace after 2-3 times of practice/demonstration. If you learn by component by component, it may take you ages to learn the assessment/evaluation... and that would not be acceptable.