Many of us have experienced it in our lives . Often we see things ‘as a whole‘ but find it difficult to explain it in parts. You may come up with the right answer but you might not know how you reached at that and you have to work backwards to find steps of it. Well, Centipede’s dilemma suggests that you should not bother much with the details at first otherwise, you will not be able to get those flashes of your genius. In his book The Einstein Factor, Win Wenger tells us about Einstein’s creative thinking process. Albert Einstein was a very highly intuitive thinker. He called his thought process a ‘combinatory play’ of many sensations, images, kinesthetic impressions etc. Roughly you can summarize his ‘Centipede’s Dilemma’ regarding ‘Relativity’ by following:
Einstein, at an age of sixteen, fascinated by the problems of ‘time and space’, used to daydream a lot. He dreamed that he was riding on a light beam and there was a mirror in front of the light beam. He intuitively got the impression that if he saw in the mirror, he would see his face, for his intuition did not suggest him that he would not see a thing while looking into a mirror. Newtonian mechanics details were strictly against his notion and it was his ‘Centipede’s Dilemma’ to work back on details. He played with this question, for about ten years and came up with ‘Relativity’ which revolutionized the science and life in general.
Einstein used to think in images. In his correspondence with Freud, he told him that he rarely thought with words. “Invention is not the outcome of logical thinking, even though final result is expressed using a logical structure” he told. Likewise, there are many gifted ‘visual spatial learners’ ,extremely capable of reaching at solutions very quickly,but find themselves in ‘Centepede’s Dilemma’ when it comes to explain how they do it. They see ‘as a whole’ and it is very difficult for them to explain parts. While ‘auditory sequential processors’ are great in working at the parts. Visual spatial learners are good at complex tasks, though they find it difficult to accomplish even very easy diurnal tasks.
The Centipede’s Dilemma is a concept related to cognitive behavior theory that describes a way of confusing someone who was self-taught. It involves forcing an individual to think about the steps involved in performing a task that he or she does intuitively, rendering the individual incapable of performing the task in question. The mental block that the Centipede’s Dilemma creates is usually temporary. If a task or action can be taught, then it can be understood, and thus a process one has previously performed intuitively can be learned consciously, removing the mental block.
Origin Of The Phrase:
The phrase seems to have two sources: The first is from a story where a centipede was about to consume a spider when the spider asked for a final question.
The centipede said, “Sure, but then I will eat you.”
“How do you keep all those legs coordinated?” the spider asked.
The centipede replied, “I don’t know. I’d never thought about it before.”
At this point, the spider ran off, and the centipede tried to give chase, but was unable to because he couldn’t make his legs walk properly, and he could never move again.
The second is a poem: “The Centipede’s Dilemma”
A centipede was happy quite,
Until a frog in fun
Said, “Pray, which leg comes after which?”
This raised her mind to such a pitch,
She lay distracted in the ditch
Considering how to run.
What are your views on ‘visual spatial learners?’
What are your views about ‘Centipede’s Dilemma?’ Has it been there in your life?