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To What Extent Should One’s View Be Dependent On Empirical Paradigm?


August 2, 2016 by jayeren


A paradigm shows how things mostly work out, or what things may normally lead to in our lives. The formation of paradigms may take years of observation, thousands of experiments, with uncountable times of confirmations that the paradigm is accurate enough to represent the pattern that occurs most of the time. Though the word “most” exposed that there WILL be exceptions that work against the paradigms we divined. Down to the laws and theories that we learn in science classes, up to our value views, the way of thinking that helps us identify the good and the bad, the rights and the wrongs, should we always stick with the general paradigm that people believed in, even though there are exceptions that most of us chose to ignore? These thoughts came to my mind after I watched Regina Hartley’s TED Talk: Why the best hire might not have the perfect resume.

As a VP Human Resources at UPS, Hartley takes in applications and decide whom to hire. She and her colleagues divided the applicants into two categories: A “the Silver Spoon,” the one who clearly had advantages and was destined for success; B “the Scrapper,” the one who had to fight against tremendous odds to get to the same point.

Our instinct, based on most people’s experience (the empirical paradigm), tells us that “Silver Spoons” would do a better job; those who have sound financial support to receive tertiary education in top universities, and the ones who have strong connection are better equipped with the capability of working. On the other hand, “Scrappers” who do not have this good background, or even experienced trauma or other great odds in their lives mostly end up with distress and dysfunction. Therefore, we may find “silver spoons” more favoured by Human Resources in our lives.(This is why we are fighting our heads off to get into a top university).Though Hartley holds a counterclaim.

Hartley “was highly motivated to understand the relationship between business success and Scrappers”, and urges people to hire the “scrapper”. She herself was a scrapper, coming out of a poor family with a mentally sick father. Though she ended rather successfully, standing there on the stage giving out this speech. She observed successful business people and her colleagues and noticed that most of them had experienced early hardships. In other words, they are the “scrappers”. Lastly, she argued with data: “Companies that are committed to diversity and inclusive practices tend to support Scrappers and outperform their peers. According to DiversityInc, a study of their top 50 companies for diversity outperformed the S&P 500 by 25 percent”.

We see that both claims, the main stream one and the relatively exceptional one, are all empirical judgements, since the conclusions rely on observation and experience. These judgements have gone through some inductive reasonings, where we put many particular examples into a general term and make the generalisations as our models of realities—the paradigm. The vast majority see the “scrappers” around them end in failure, gradually they observe the pattern of adversity – suffer – failure. On the other side, Hartley, with her own experience and her observation of people around her, she observed the pattern of worst circumstances resulting in growth and transformation.

The collision of idea between the two can be seen as a shift in paradigm, which is also called as a falsification. The limitation of a paradigm is that we never know exactly how many particulars can make a good generalisation, neither do we know that how much observation is enough to justify inductive conclusions. Therefore Hartley’s conclusion is a shift of paradigm of the conventional thinking. More apparently, the falsification of Hartley’s conclusion would be the mainstream point of view, which happens with larger probabilities.

Thus I have come up with the knowledge question: to what extent should one’s view be dependent on empirical paradigm? This empirical paradigm that is more of a shared knowledge, where the knowledge is shaped by processes that operate at a social level and is accepted by the general public. In this case, Hartley formed her own empirical paradigm that violates with the general paradigm, and went with it all along. She believes in her paradigm because she had the experience and know clearly about the positive impact of early unpleasant experiences. What about the vast majority that has not been through all these? Is this speech influential and powerful enough to shift their paradigms and take the risk to hire “scrappers”? Hartley’s shift of paradigm may be inspirational for some people, but it can also confuse the people who held fast to the mainstream paradigms. Apparently mainstream paradigms work most times, but when the situation is raised to a new level, preexistent paradigms no longer matter that much. The extent that the paradigms weigh, and the timing that it should be “abandoned”, is up to debate.

Link for Regina Hartley’s speech: regina_hartley_why_the_best_hire_might_not_have_the_perfect_resume/transcript?language=en


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