I was half way through my Engineering degree when I realised that I should have been doing something else. I probably felt it as an epiphany, but looking back I can definitely say it was just another case of the elephant in the room. I had always known I should be doing something else and that something else was Psychology, but I had chosen to ignore it until it was no longer possible… Well, no longer possible is a clear overstatement, because I not only ended up finishing my Engineering degree, but I’ve managed to work several years as an Engineer.
In 1984 Piaget developed the Three Mountain Task to test up to what age children have an egocentric view of the world. In this task children are shown a model with three mountains of different sizes and a doll seated at one of the sides. Next, children are asked to select among different drawings that drawing that represents what the doll sees. Piaget found out that children up to seven years of age select the drawing that represents their own point of view.
As adults we are able to imagine what other people see; we know that different positions generate different perspectives. However, everything seems to change when we need to imagine how others think and feel. In this case, we often act like Piaget’s children and imagine that others think and feel the same we do. If, on one side, this egocentrism avoids the paralysis of analysis, on the other side it drive us to take decisions that quickly convert, at the eyes of others, in bad intentions.
(Note: this post was initially published in Portuguese in http://www.150palavras.blogspot.com)