Compartmentalization

Humans tend to compartmentalize. We hold ideas in isolation from each other and do not make connections among them. The failure to connect ideas to each other is a major impediment to the construction of knowledge. This can lead to the simultaneous holding of beliefs inconsistent with each other, difficulty in using prior knowledge when faced with a new problem solving task, and a lack of creativity. Compartmentalization of knowledge leads to isolation of ideas. When ideas are stored in distinct areas of the mind without links that are the basis of integration the result is an array of closed systems leading to a lack of cognitive progress. Although evolutionary psychologists have argued that compartmentalization may be advantageous in some contexts, (Kurzban, 2010) and a psychoanalytic interpretation identifies compartmentalization as a helpful defense mechanism (McWilliams, 1994), the cognitive disadvantages of compartmentalization are substantial. It is essential that we as educators equip students to recognize compartmentalization in their own thinking and overcome its effects where appropriate.