Caleb’s Concepts: How René Descartes will help overthinkers ace their exam

Calebs Concepts: How René Descartes will help overthinkers ace their exam

Caleb Garbuio, Columnist

The first day of class got off to a rocky start. AsULearn crashed when students scrambled to access their courses and our class schedule became uncertain after the University of North Carolina Chapel-Hill suspended in-person classes. Unfortunately, exams will still happen, however, René Descartes is here to save the day

Born in Renaissance France, René Descartes offered a then-revolutionary way of learning through introspection. In his 1637 book “Discourse of Method,” Descartes elaborates on the necessity of alone time to gather your thoughts, discover yourself and create new ideas. Contrary to previous philosophers, like Plato and Aristotle, Descartes argued for introspection versus logical proofs. 

In the spirit of Descartes, I will highlight the importance of innate intuition on tests. I have gotten many answers wrong during exams because I over checked my work.  However, I am not the only student to over analyze a test. Psychological research suggests that our memories are unreliable and prone to bias. For example, when I am taking a multiple-choice test I always second-guess myself when I have circled many of the same letter in a row. I find myself thinking “this cannot be the case” and will go back and change one of the answers to find out later that it was right all along.

Herein is the paradox of intuition. While my first response was correct, I changed my answer after seeing similar answers which resulted in a poor decision. In his 2012 book, “Righteous Mind,”  Moral Psychologist Jonathan Haidt refers to “reason as the servant of the passions.” Haidt states reasoning steers our emotional responses, the way a charioteer steers a chariot. Therefore, mastering your emotions to master reasoning.

In his 2005 book “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking,” Malcolm Gladwell highlights the importance of emotional intelligence. In one instance, Gladwell discusses the J. Paul Getty Museum’s 1983 purchase of an ancient Greek statue. The statue appeared flawless, passed numerous archaeological tests and cost the museum a hefty sum of money. However, one art historian  saw the statue and realized its fakeness immediately. His intuition proved correct, Getty latter discovered the dealer had falsified the documents proving the statue’s legitimacy.

Note the historian intuitively knew the statues fakeness immediately. Why? Because he had studied art for a long period of time and knew something wasn’t right. The same should be for studying, study hard and when exam time comes, trust your “gut.”

Unfortunately, Descartes’ is wrong because you can think yourself out of right answers. However, the beauty of Descartes method is he advocates for alone time and thinking as a method for learning. Practice analyzing your emotions and master them. Therefore, you will trust your “gut” during your exam.