Let me do that for you

Miser Silas Marner

Miser Silas Marner

Cognitive effort and auto-pilot

Psychologists have long observed that muggles like us shift into auto-pilot to save cognitive effort.

We’re all cognitive misers.

But sometimes it’s a good idea to break habits.

For example, I look for teaching moments throughout the day: opportunities when I can help a student figure our something for herself.

Know what?

Sometimes I end up doing rather than guiding.

I’ll sit in class, pen in hand, scribbling notes as students ask questions.

Someone will ask me a question about theories or books or history.

When I should be saying, “you can look up that information yourself,” I find myself saying, “Let me do that for you.”


I need to learn to be more nimble in helping students learn to help themselves.

And while I want to be adored by my students, I will be a better teacher if a can guide them rather than provide them with the answers.

Starting today I am putting in the front of my mind a reminder to wait for that teaching moment and to be better prepared at helping folks help themselves.

Painting by Joshua Hargrave Sams Mann (1826–1886) used on a book jacket for the novel, Silas Marner, one of literature’s most noteworthy misers, penned by George Eliot.



About Cynthia Coleman Emery

Professor and researcher at Portland State University who studies science communication, particularly issues that impact American Indians. Dr. Coleman is an enrolled citizen of the Osage Nation.
This entry was posted in american indian, authenticity, framing, Native Science, science communication, writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Let me do that for you

  1. I try to keep this in mind. I think I’ve become much softer in my late middle age.


  2. Stevie B says:

    My college days consisted of endless “to-do” lists, side notes, and cell phone reminders. I just started a new job managing and marketing a local storage facility. Last week I misplaced my checklist packet of notes and functionalities within my position. At first I stressed over the idea of not having this convenient cheat sheet at ease. Recalling the information I realized I remembered alot more than I gave myself credit for. Sometimes we overvalue misers such as these and fail to realize that the human mind is alot more powerful than we think. Convenience has replaced critical thinking and isnt doing our memory any favors. Leave the notes at home, turn the cell phone off, write down questions for yourself and quit letting other things do it for you. You’d be amazed what you can find.


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