Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Development of Cognition

As children we are very naïve and innocent creatures. We assume nothing but good in everything, and we don’t really notice or care to understand when something criminal or immoral happens. Our biggest worry is what toy we’re going to play with. The most upset we got is when we couldn’t eat dessert before our vegetables (or imagine something else inherently petty; the effect is the same). As we grow up, so do we develop, and our problems and values do the same. At thirteen and fourteen, as we grow slightly older, we start to understand long term versus short term gratifications. We start to see that not everyone is a good person, acknowledge — maybe not be able to understand necessarily —  when something criminal happens. Our biggest problems expand, and we continue to develop. We decide who we question, why we question them, what we like, what we don’t like, and how we live — our values.

We are influenced very easily by the people around us to believe in certain community-held views. When a community cycles through many generations, the populace also recycles the same views. It is similar to a group mentality — without the negative connotations. Eventually, to no fault of our own, we manage to think the same basic principles as everyone else (Yes, I am aware this is a slight generalization, but when talking in a very general sense, sometimes it’s required.).

Allow me to say right away that I am not casting shadows on my home town. I am very lucky to have grown up where I did. It has made me who I am, and I do not frankly see where I would be without my upbringing.

That being said, there is a lot to learn from an exuberant amount of people around the world. To limit myself to the teachings of one place is isolating. The chances of you learning the extensive cultures and history of China or India while staying in your hometown are not very high (unless of course you grew up in China or India, in which case I am really impressed with my coverage.). We require immersive experiences to capture everything we possibly can. This example isn’t exactly as subtle as others, but the principle stands.
This immersive way of learning new ideas was something I had realized after leaving to go to college. I left the Western New York area and went to Long Island to pursue my education. Almost my entire perspective changed after coming to college. I started thinking about different ideas that the community presented, refuting some, researching others, and adopting some myself. Now, I didn’t just start blindly following whatever ideas came my way. I listened, understood the source, and researched. I did not develop opinions based on shreds — but it was the act of leaving my home town that initiated these developments in myself.
I have found that one of the most important things you can do to further your development as a person is to constantly listen to the opinions and values of others. More importantly, the opinions and values that you disagree with. There should always be a challenge of views in your life. With social media and the ability to connect to anyone anywhere, people find it very easy to seek others who agree with them — a possible reason many arguments have become so polarized — but it’s the act of finding people you disagree with and hashing out intelligent conversations that yields progress. Opinions and values are here to be challenged. My own views are no exception and will be continually changing.
I have been asked to share what I have learned, how it is so much different than what I knew growing up, and what views did I come here and have challenged. There were some I purely just never thought about until now, and some that actually changed my mind.
One thing to remember, my words are that of one lonely experience. I cannot, nor do not, try to speak for all. My objective is to share my experiences, and display the differing values I have learned about. If in writing this I persuade others to change their views, then so be it — because the only thing in life that is constant is that nothing is constant. Opinions, values, beliefs, views, exist to be challenged, reinforced, and changed.

Derick Sears is pleased to have an outlet for the creative minds that persuade him everyday. Send comments to