Posts Tagged ‘mixed metaphor’

Well, isn’t that nice.

Unconscious plagiarism is valued as wrong by people who only see black and white. ‘Wrong’ in the sense that someone is taking credit for something that was generated or created by another person and the interloper was not giving credit for the source of the new idea or ‘thing.’

Do you know who wrote the “Dick and Jane” book series or what the best way is to grill lobster tail? How about the basics of the scientific method or the definitions of reinforcement or punishment? Right…you don’t remember. Yet you have them and you didn’t create them so you must have got them from someone and you need to give that person credit.

However some versions of plagiarism when we write may be due to inattention rather than to intention. When people who use the words or thoughts that are not their own they call it plagiarism. Those questioned about copying or using another’s words and ideas without giving them credit invariably state that their behavior was ‘unconscious.’ They were unaware of their copying when they used those words or ideas as they used. When unintentional plagiarism happens it is referred to as cryptomnesia.

This “concealed recollection,” is the name for a theoretical phenomenon involving suppressed or ‘forgotten’ memories. It refers to cases where (apparently) a person believes that he or she is creating or inventing something new, such as a story, poem, artwork, or joke, but is actually recalling a similar or identical work which he or she has previously encountered. The term was addressed extensively by Federal Judge Richard A. Posner in his book, ‘The Little Book of Plagiarism’.

Could there be any clearer case for learning?

As humans we learn at an intense rate not even closely appreciated by most academicians or those who spew content on the different media channels. We do it for all of our lives. And all the learning we do is not equal. In the thunderstorm of what is learned from before we are born and throughout intense learning periods and even during less intense periods there are millions of discriminative stimuli [SDs] that get linked with the environment surrounding the paradigms of antecedents and consequences. These morph and are reshaped repeatedly. We mix them together regularly as in a “mixed metaphor” such as “It is pitch quiet in here!”

The SDs that come to control the different elements of what is leaned become diluted differentially over time due to conflicting cues [SDs] as well as disuse of the information.

In the case of cryptomnesia the person is supposed to bookmark or otherwise categorize and account for the reading in Dr. Suez that led to thinking that there was a button maker that used the same color combinations. Or, was the person watching TV’s American Idol supposed to categorize statements [time, date, person, context] made by the stars on the show so that when a viewer’s book was written 3 years later, “Skill follows Will” credit could be given for the title of the book written about athletics?

I hope you consider the quagmire that this level of accounting requires. It may generate a set of people that refuse to write, compose, paint or speak if the logic is carried comes any more pervasive than it is.

Blogs appear to be somewhat beside themselves when it comes to references and original content. Yet the American Psychological Association has made a science out of referencing and citing what one close friend has called, “old dead men” to the point where we reinforce citing less ideas for what of having to explain where we got our more profound ideas.

Sounds like learning is the same as cryptomnesia in that it represents the case of integrating what is consumed in books, lectures, friends, movies, neighbors, parishioners, colleagues, TV or anything else. It can be ascribed to someone other than its original creator (another interesting myth) or another condition and be treated as intuitive or common sense…

Consider the following:

In a conversation with colleagues [over beer, martini’s, scotch, margarita’s or spring water] at [the office, racquet club, saloon, grocery store, etc.] you outline an idea that is not in the mainstream of the company. You go over the usual dichotomy of good vs. risks and why or what is the net of the idea.

It is considered and absorbed by the others and when appropriate, it is tied up and put into a package in some way that allows it to be identified. Comments like

“…well it is something to think about…”

“…I think it was tried in 2004 and never got a sponsor…”

“…there is good reason that it won’t work… don’t bring it up again.”


“…let me have a synopsis of it and I’ll bring up at the manager’s meeting in June.”

When providing an idea or approach, strategy or process to others they often absorb it and subsequently either

  • deny its validity
  • provide its validity but question its significance
  • after time has past bring it up as if they just thought of it.

Who should get credit for the idea?

is the originator in the loop in the above example?

Do we really want to live like this when data and information grows faster than our global national debt?  Isn’t there a better way?

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