The best example of how different paradigms inform different modes of thinking lies in how our language influences how we think. Being exposed to a more complex lexicon from an early age will definitely set apart two speakers of the same language. This is all rather basic – knowing more words enables greater self-expression. Paradigms can also present themselves in much more subtle ways. Fans of different genres of music will have different opinions on the best albums of the century. Likewise, both visible as well as imperceptible life experiences eventually culminate in two people having radically opposing outlooks on politics. To the individual living out their own unique experience, all of the examples mentioned thus far – language, taste and politics – may feel like paradigms that we are born into, that our membership and subscription of these ways of thinking is purely coincidental.
The truth is that conscious exposure to instructive external experiences helps us both construct new paradigms and grow out of obsolete ones. Neuroplasticity describes how even the brain changes shape, to reflect our experiences. Scientists, medical professionals, and philosophers alike have long observed the effects of this phenomenon. Our brains can be moulded by our thoughts in the same vein that traditional exercise strengthens other muscles. What this means is that habits impact and determine how our brain works. Repeated behaviour forges neural pathways which fire more quickly with every repetition. An integral part of learning therefore involves the delightful process of unlearning outdated paradigms.
The concept of cognitive bias was first introduced by researchers Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Since then, researchers have described a number of different types of biases that affect decision-making in a wide range of areas including social behaviour, cognition, behavioural economics, education, management, healthcare, business, and finance. These biases reflect inaccuracies in our paradigms that are far from reliable and prove that we sometimes have ways of viewing the world that are outdated and over simplified.
We also need to be aware that strong, self-constructed paradigms can sometimes cage us and prejudice us from shifting our named reality to embrace new facts. Ultimately, the game of paradigms involves a constant process of rearrangement, self-reflection, and love. Love, because we need self-compassion in allowing ourselves to overcome paradigms constructed in hurt and shame and explore paradigms based on healthy experiences that will carry us into deeper authenticity.
Test out, upgrade and experience the value of unlearning, the expansiveness of new paradigms, and the neuroplasticity that opens the doors to a greater depth of knowledge and skills. Take advantage of your ability to unlearn!