This post may seem a bit odd coming just one day after I wrote about the controversy surrounding behavioral economist, Dan Ariely.
While I personally don’t think it looks good for Dan, I’m hoping it’s an isolated incident and it doesn’t negate all the other research he has done. Plus, people are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.
What this means is that I will continue to share and comment on Dan’s biweekly advice column in the Wall Street Journal.
Here is an interesting letter he received this week:
My teenage daughter spends a lot of time watching dance videos on Tik-Tok. Last weekend we were at a fair, and she saw a group of teenagers doing a dance she had watched hundreds of times on her phone. She excitedly ran over to join them and told me to take a video, but right away she stumbled, stopped dancing, and insisted I delete the video from my phone. How did she go from being so excited about dancing to feeling so frustrated? —Joelle
And here is Dan’s response:
After watching the same dance routine so many times, your daughter had a lot of confidence in her ability to replicate it. It’s the same feeling of “I could totally do that” that people often have after watching cooking or home improvement shows on TV. But it’s a mistake to think that watching someone else doing something is the same as actually learning a skill.
In a 2018 study, participants were asked to watch a video of a person playing darts and then to rate their confidence in their own ability to play the game. People who watched the video 20 times felt more confident about their darts skill compared with those who watched it only once. But when the participants actually played darts, there was no relationship between how many times someone watched the video and their performance. Similar results were found in studies looking at juggling, moonwalking, and performing magic tricks.
The lesson for your daughter is clear: If she wants to learn a dance, there’s no substitute for practicing.
This one seems kind of obvious.
While watching a video may provide some useful insight on how to do something, it’s no substitute for doing the real thing.
Ariely mentions juggling, and I have direct experience with this. If I am going to try and learn a new trick, watching a video of it, most likely several times, will be my starting point. But then when I try it myself, the odds of doing it correctly the first time, or even the fiftieth time, are quite slim. I know that it is going to take practice, and lots of it. And probably watching the video a few more times.
I also try and impress this upon my students, particularly when I try to teach Accounting. We often provide the students with the solutions to homework assignments after it is due. When it is then time to study for a test, we tell the students to try the homework again, but to not look at the solution until after they have given the homework a fair try. The danger is that they simply look at the solution, perhaps even over and over, and they think they know how to do the problem; it is not an effective learning strategy. When you just look at the solution without trying it yourself, you don’t know where the potential challenges might be.
Watching a video or just looking at a solution is too passive an approach; learning needs to be active, whether it is for accounting, juggling, or dancing.
But going back to the letter from Joelle shown above. I do have to admire her daughter for running out into the crowd and wanting to join in on the dance. That is something I would never, ever do. I think she has a bright future…