8.2 Broadening perception
Particular perspectives and points of view underpin speaking and writing. Being successful at many academic tasks, including balanced argument, often requires us to be conscious of and to try to break away from our usual perspectives and ways of thinking, and to attend to things we might not normally notice. The challenge is often to be more open-minded and broad in our thinking, to consider more than one point of view in the way that the caffeine article did. It can be useful to have strategies for helping us to examine and change our perceptions. Activity 23 will start you off on this road.
Print out or copy the figure below then, without taking your pen off the paper draw four straight lines so that all the dots in Figure 5 are joined.
There are many useful thinking tools for helping you to 'think outside the box'. Playing 'devil's advocate' is one - that is, what would somebody with an opposite view or someone who disagrees say?
Think of as many ways as you can to finish the following sentence.
People should be encouraged to smoke because …
Did you find this difficult? Perhaps you have particular principles or feelings that influenced your ability to respond to the task? Here are some reasons you could have given: many people find smoking enjoyable; smoking helps people to cope with life; smokers generate employment in the tobacco industry; smoking raises taxes; smoking lowers the cost of geriatric care because smokers tend to die younger than non-smokers; smoking reduces the level of chronic illness in the elderly population because smokers tend to die younger than non-smokers; smoking saves on pension payments because smokers tend to die younger than non-smokers; young people think smoking is cool - it makes them feel they belong (adapted from Seedhouse, 1997). Looking at this list were you itching to argue against some of them? If so, you can see how valuable this is in stimulating thinking! We hope that this activity will help you appreciate that we can consider other points of view (even if we do not agree with them).
The PMI technique (de Bono, 1999) is another tool to help you think outside the box and make a balanced argument. The idea is to look at the plus (good) points, minus (bad) points and the interesting points.
Use the PMI technique to look at the case for promoting smoking or another subject of your choice.
If you chose smoking, you could put the points noted above on the plus side. On the minus side, some possibilities might include: smoking causes sickness and shortens lives; smoking makes people unfit; treating smoking related diseases is a drain on NHS resources; smoking leads to absenteeism and loss of productivity; smoking damages non-smokers through passive smoking; smoking is dirty and smelly; smoking causes accidents such as fires and other damage to property (adapted from Seedhouse, 1997). On the interesting side, some suggestions might include: if we promoted it, would smoking become less fashionable among the young, would the price of cigarettes go down, and would a cure for cancer be found more quickly?