Thought du Jour

Experience without reflection and interpretation is just experience entertainment distraction.


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Posted on January 31, 2012, in Learning, Life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I assume that you are permitting for unconcious reflection and interpretation, too (though it seems difficult to reflect unconciously). Our instinctive nature allows us to learn from experience without reflection per se (e.g. – child touches hot stove and burns hand and learns that doing so is a bad idea). If the counterpoint to that point is that the child will reflect on that, though maybe for an instant, then I agree with your postulation, but doing so would cut the meaning of reflection down to a marginal level. So, in conclusion, while I agree with your point re: larger issues and events, I don’t think that it applies to a lot of learning that humans do as a result of experiences that we have. If we did, I suppose that we would be a more thoughtful, but possibly less productive, group (reflection and interpretation takes time!).

    • Yup, this Thought du Jour is much too pithy to serve as a proper definition of the term “experience.” The context of it came from a class that I started this semester, a graduate seminar style course on communication in organizations. The prof was commenting on ways that people broaden their view of the world, such as by travelling to other countries. He referenced the idea of mindfulness and how different people might be affected by experiences on different levels. You brought up the additional angle of unconscious reflection/learning… great point to consider as well… subliminal advertisement, social learning, cultural context and all that good stuff.

  2. from Wikipedia entry on W. Edwards Deming:

    “Experience by itself teaches nothing.”This statement emphasizes the need to interpret and apply information against a theory or framework of concepts that is the basis for knowledge about a system. It is considered as a contrast to the old statement, “Experience is the best teacher” (Dr. Deming disagreed with that). To Dr. Deming, knowledge is best taught by a master who explains the overall system through which experience is judged; experience, without understanding the underlying system, is just raw data that can be misinterpreted against a flawed theory of reality. Deming’s view of experience is related to Shewhart’s concept, “Data has no meaning apart from its context”.

    The citation provided by Wikipedia goes to this page on, which has the following quote:

    “If you don’t have a theory, you don’t have an experience. (…) Without theory there is no observation; there is no experience.”

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