We Are Each The Product Of The Efforts Of Many Other People
When you read the title of this article you had one of two predictable reactions: A. You said “ah, yes!” or, B. You scoffed. Both of these are predictable reactions and they mark the mindset you carry. The title of this piece is a statement that, on the surface at least, flies against our perception of our sense of agency.
In cognitive neuroscience the sense of agency we experience is an awareness that we are the cause of our actions. This leads us to believe that we are the architects of our journey in life and the force behind who we become. Because this I something we all experience the predictable reaction to the title stems from the mindset you carry. Mindset theory proposes that the beliefs we hold determine our attitude to the stimuli the external world provides to us.
That attitude shapes our behavior. Our reaction to the title of this article is then determined by whether we have an open (or growth) mindset that is receptive to fresh ideas and new experiences or a closed (or fixed) mindset that considers who we are as an inalienable quantity fixed in time and space. The former allows us to constantly expand our concepts, ideas and store of knowledge and change our belief structure, attitude and behavior. The latter does not.
Carol Dweck’s mindset theory is tangential here and of passing interest only.
The point is that if you are willing to consider the proposition that a lot of other people have had a hand in the construct you consider to be yourself you will then need to know exactly how much their past work pulls the strings that guide you now.
“Give Me A Child…”
The contemporary view of personality considers that the process that leads to the development a sense of agency in children begins from birth.
Aristotle, a lifelong student of human behavior, is credited with the maxim “Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man.” The phrase, often misattributed to Ignatius of…