The Science Behind Building General Skills | Scott H Young - Deepstash
The Science Behind Building General Skills | Scott H Young

The Science Behind Building General Skills | Scott H Young

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The Narrowness of Acquired Ability

The Narrowness of Acquired Ability

Formal discipline theory led to views that learning Latin and geometry were important, even if few students would use these skills in their lives, because by their formal character they acted as the ideal dumbbells for mental strength training.

Training on one task didn’t help much with training on dissimilar tasks. Identical elements theory suggested that in order for training in one skill to apply to another, the two problems must share common elements.


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What About Ideas?

What About Ideas?

Provided a person has the ability to see the correspondence, the problems “three times three” and “3 x 3” are the same, even if they look different. In short, an idea, as a more abstract, general notion, can influence your thinking on a wider range of problems than a procedure you memorize.


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The Power (and Weakness) of Ideas

The Power (and Weakness) of Ideas

  • We need to be able to recognize the idea in different contexts
  • We need to be able to modify the idea to suit our current purposes.
  • We need all the specific skills of implementation.

The easy-to-spot ideas in a field may really just be the tip of an iceberg of invisible tacit knowledge. Wanting skills that float freely of any specific use, we may end up making ideas that are detached from all uses.


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How Do General Skills Get Built?

How Do General Skills Get Built?

Few keys to acquiring more broadly useful skills:

  • Breadth comes from specificity. All general skills are built from specific knowledge and procedures. There’s no shortcut.
  • Deeply understanding ideas helps. While not a panacea, deeply understanding more abstract ideas extends the useful range of your knowledge. But this only works if you really understand it.
  • Visible knowledge is built on invisible skill. The ideas and facts depend on skills which are hard to spot. Recognizing where an idea applies and modifying it for your purposes.
  • Practice in a range of real situations.


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she/her | Cybersecurity Professional | Writer | Sharing what I learn to help others :)

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