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Qualifications for Verbal Discussion

  1. Jun 4, 2005 #1
    I propose the following self-test to determine whether your reading comprehension is high enough to engage in rational discussion on a message board:

    Get a copy of an old verbal SAT (these can be found in one of the books "10 SATs"). Find the passage reading comprehension sections, and do them all, taking as much time as you need, but not a ridiculous amount of time. (be honest with yourself and spend on each section about as long as you'd spend replying to a post of equivalent length). Use a reference text such a dictionary if needed, so long as you would use the same reference when replying to posts. At the end of it, find out how many you got wrong.

    The percentage you got wrong is a good predictor of the percentage of things that someone else says in a discussion that you are likely to interpret incorrectly. Pay special attention to any "main idea" questions for the passages or for paragraphs in the passages; if you get any of these wrong, you are probably not qualified for verbal discussion. And in general, if you get more than, say, 10% wrong overall, again you are probably not qualified for verbal discussion.
     
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  3. Jun 4, 2005 #2
    If that is the case then me no understand anything, and am not qualified for verbal discussion. This is why I try to leave myself out of most serious discussions.
     
  4. Jun 4, 2005 #3

    brewnog

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    Riiiight, I think I know what this is about... :wink:

    Although I didn't get involved in that little tiff, I read a good deal of it, and I have a few comments. Firstly, what was encountered was not verbal discussion. While a lot of the discourse on an internet-based message board is conversational in style, the communication is actually done in text, in a kinda "you say, then I say" fashion. While the "Dear Sir/Yours faithfully" formalities are excluded, you are essentially communicating through a series of letters. As a result, it is inevitable that sometimes (especially when there are more than two parties involved) things get confused, some issues are not answered, and it can sometimes escalate into certain people getting a bit annoyed and refusing to back down when it's clear that all meaningful and rational discourse has degenerated into slanging and blind, unfounded argument.

    I'm sure that most people on this board (particularly those involved in General Discussion) are more than capable of verbal discussion. However, some are incapable of admitting when their point has been addressed, and then quickly change the subject in a feeble bid to save face.

    Having your point proven wrong doesn't make you any less of a man (or, urm, woman). Just look at people like Russ, and hitssquad - two of the most opinionated and argumentative* members on the board. However, they know when they're wrong, and they're the first to admit it. Surely that has got to be a better quality in a conversationalist than being able to get 90% in a SAT or whatever?

    Grow up guys. What fun would it be if everyone was right, all the time?

    /Rant.



    * - for want of a better word! You know what I mean.
     
  5. Jun 4, 2005 #4
    You're right, Brewnog--the capacity to admit error is a very important trait, perhaps more important than the reliable ability to understand the other person. But you can't test for it objectively. You would somehow have to find a ratio of the number of times someone admits error in a discussion to the total number of clear errors one makes in the discussion, and calculating the second of those figures accurately requires a quite intelligent and impartial scorer.

    You can test for reading comprehension, which is nearly as important. If you misunderstand 1 out of every 10 things someone says, you're not going to be able to carry on a rational discussion with that person. So, passing the self-test I propose would not necessarily mean that you are qualified for discussion, but if you don't pass it, you likely are not qualified. It seems harsh but you have to have standards.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2005
  6. Jun 4, 2005 #5

    brewnog

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    Sorry BicycleTree.

    We don't need a test for the capacity to admit error here. When you've been here for a while, it's easy to tell which members have this capacity, and which don't. Members build up reputations, which are recognised, in time.

    Any members who aren't able to converse properly are recognised as such by other members, and no amount of blind arguing is able to convince others that they're either right, or capable of holding a sensible discussion.
     
  7. Jun 4, 2005 #6
    No, that's not true. For example, you believe that Russ has that capacity, whereas I know from personal conversation with him that he sometimes does not admit error even in the simplest and most clear-cut issue of grammatical interpretation. (Why does this always come down to grammatical interpretation? I guess, in a qualitative discussion, that's the clearest-cut thing you often come across)

    Now, Russ may admit error in other areas, or he may admit error selectively depending on who he is talking to. But either way, we have talked to this person and have come to two different conclusions.

    Personally, I also think that hitssquad is a fairly upstanding figure in discussion. But I am aware of several incidents wherein Evo and others decided that his threads actually needed to be closed because of the manner of discussion. He and those who think like he does has had people yelling at him, misinterpreting him, etc., usually with respect to his ideas about race (not all of which I agree with, but I could see what was going on and it was not because of what he was doing). So judgments vary.


    Ultimately, there is only one objective way to determine whether you are likely correctly understanding what other people have to say: find out how well you do on a standardized test of ability.
     
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2005
  8. Jun 4, 2005 #7

    Evo

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    What never ceases to amaze me is that the people that need to improve their discussion skills and be able to admit when they're wrong (or not seeing clearly) and move past it, never realize it's them.

    One can only hope that they will catch on. Some do, some don't.
     
  9. Jun 4, 2005 #8

    brewnog

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    What's wrong with just letting people decide for themselves who they think is worth having discussions with?! I've made up my mind about most of the regulars in GD, most other people have too. A reputation can be a hard thing to gain, but it's the best thing you can have in earning the respect of others in a discussion.

    If you feel you must quantify this objectively, I'm sure starting a poll along the lines of "who's the best/worst person to hold a discussion with" would yield many interesting answers. However, I feel that certain members might be surprised and upset at the outcome. Something to think about.
     
  10. Jun 4, 2005 #9
    You know, we're pretty much starting a discussion here, so before we continue, why don't both of you try that self-test? It should take you less than an hour once you get the book. Then you'll see how much you're really understanding.

    I have passed it.
     
  11. Jun 4, 2005 #10
    Brewnog, a popularity poll is hardly a measure of discutative acuity. Take the self-test then get back to me.
     
  12. Jun 4, 2005 #11

    brewnog

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    No.

    Ask yourself why people become popular in an environment where the sole activity is discussion.
     
  13. Jun 4, 2005 #12
    They form alliances and social networks that have nothing to do with discussion. The environment here is not only discussion, but also casual chat.
     
  14. Jun 4, 2005 #13

    brewnog

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    No alliances are ever formed between people who are not capable of communicating effectively with one another, and respecting (if not agreeing with) points of view and opinions raised therein.
     
  15. Jun 4, 2005 #14

    Hurkyl

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    Doh, brewnog beat me to it. I would say that the ability to communicate effectively is far more important than having an above average ability to figure out what people are trying to say.

    This is especially true in an environment such as this when most communication is "one-shot" -- it's often not reviewed and edited by the poster, let alone by an independent source.
     
  16. Jun 4, 2005 #15
    There is a difference between understanding the amount of material required for social interaction and understanding complex arguments. Even mentally disabled people have friends.
     
  17. Jun 4, 2005 #16

    Evo

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    Doesn't matter much if you understand what someone is saying if you are incapable of making yourself understood.
     
  18. Jun 4, 2005 #17
    It's not about whether you're above average or below average, it's whether you're understanding it or not. It's not a matter of percentile score, it's a matter of whether you're actually correct or not, which is a higher standard. Effective communication is impossible if the other party cannot understand what you're saying.
     
  19. Jun 4, 2005 #18

    Hurkyl

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    Nor if one is unable to communicate what they are saying. If it's not about being "above average", then why are you suggesting one should score very well on a SAT test?
     
  20. Jun 4, 2005 #19
    Personally, I know that many people have difficulty understanding me. But they also have difficulty understanding clear-cut and simple grammatical situations. e.g., from my most recent discussion, that wikipedia article, and the qualifications for having access to a potential bus stop "without much trouble." Therefore, where lies the error?
     
  21. Jun 4, 2005 #20
    Hurkyl, it's not about being above average because you probably have to do much better than "above average" before you are capable of reliably understanding another person's argument. 100% is necessary for good discussion, or else the error rate must be so low that upon presentation of the error, it can be quickly resolved by the other party. Maybe 95% (and that's pushing it).
     
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