Monday, November 19, 2007

Progress by death

In physics, we have the saying "Progress is not achieved by changing people's mind but by people with wrong ideas dying out!" or "Professors with disproved theories never change their mind, they die out." At the core of this effect is the mental bias people have for the theory they believe in. The mental bias is stronger the more you have invested. Just imagine a professor at the age of 50 spending 25 years of his or her life working a specific method or theory, and it is not working. I rarely see them give up, because they have too much at stake. There are some exceptions, but then they never had very strong beliefs.

And the same is true in stuttering. Very little people will change their mind, for example that stuttering might have a physical basis despite overwhelming evidence.


JZ said...

:-) This is the so-called paradigm shift. The paradigm shifts only when the old generation die out. And Thomas Kuhn had a Ph.D. in physics.

Adrian said...

I think in the world of stuttering the paradigm shift will have more to do with the stutterers themselves than with the academics. I find the PhDs and CCC-SLPs are fairly cutting edge in stuttering understanding (treatment is another story though). I am amazed by how many older stutterers I meet in the self help movement who feel strongly that stuttering has no physical basis despite the overwhelming evidence. Some of these people have a strong following among younger stutterers too.

I look forward to the day when the public and stutterers themselves realize stuttering is not a sign of mental weakness.