We weigh other people up. It’s adaptively useful to assess how others might interact with us. Could they be threats? Allies? Very quickly and usually unconsciously we judge someone’s age, gender, height, strength, social status, sexual potential, mood and wealth. Although it takes longer we also make judgments about personality and about intellectual and other capabilities. There are many ways of expressing assessments of capabilities: she’s bright, he’s thick, he’s got bags of potential, she’s a sandwich short of a picnic, he’s in a low ability group, she’s very intelligent, she’ll never be a gymnast, he’s got amazing talent.
Jon will argue that ability and intelligence are fictions that have spread beyond the thinking and the practices of psychologists and teachers to permeate global culture. We are ability-labellers by default. Jon will argue that this matters, that it is unjustifiable at best and, at worst, could be regarded as abusive and even violent. But all is not lost! Drawing on the concept of ‘mindset’ from Carol Dweck and others there are ways forward.
The session should be particularly helpful to those with children and provocative to psychologists and teachers.
Dr Jon Scaife researches and teaches in the School of Education at Sheffield University. His main interests are in the nature of knowledge and in how people learn. He is invited to teach on these themes in many countries. He plays guitar and fiddle, enjoys puzzles and is an ever hopeful golfer.