Looking around

Here’s another jolt that explores one of our favorite themes: You have to unlearn something old in order to learn something new. A nice thing about this brief activity is that you don’t need any supplies or equipment.

Goal

To experience problems associated with unlearning previous associations.

Instructions

Flow

Brief the participants. Ask all participants to stand up. Tell them that you are going to give them instructions on which direction to look. They have to turn their head (only their head, not the body) and look in the appropriate direction.

Explain the details. When you say, “Up”, the participants should tilt their head and look at the ceiling (or the sky). When you say, “Down”, the participants should lower their head and look at the floor (or their feet). When you say, “Left”, the participants should turn their head to their left. When you say, “Right”, the participants should turn their head to the right.

Give directions. Say the words up, down, left, and right in a random order and encourage the participants to follow your instructions. Keep giving directions at a fairly rapid pace.

Change the meaning of the words. After about a minute, tell the participants that you are going to make a change. From now on, up will mean down and vice versa. So when you say “Down”, the participants should look up at the ceiling. Similarly, when you say “Up”, the participants should look down at their feet. Explain that the meaning of the words left and right remain the same. Call out the four directions in a random order and ask the participants to follow instructions. Remind them, however, that they have to remember the new meaning of the words up and down. You will see many “mistakes” and lots of embarrassed laughter.

Conclude the session. Announce the end of the activity after about another minute.

Debriefing

Ask the participants how difficult it was to follow instructions when the meanings of words were changed. Ask them to discuss any similar experiences they might have had in their real life.

Learning Points

  • It is difficult to learn new concepts without unlearning some old concepts.
  • The old way of doing things interferes with learning new procedures.

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