Cognitive Dissonance? That doesn’t make sense.

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Photo by bruce mars on

There is some talk and discussion about how to engage the DPT student in a way that encourages higher levels of thinking and not just memorizing and regurgitating info for the Boards.  See here and here, both at  This line of thinking should be pushed from the very beginning of the PT education, perhaps right after that all intensive Anatomy course.

That’s not to say that learning the foundational sciences and techniques employed in the business of PT should be skipped, but perhaps taught in a different light.  The questioning light of reflection and skepticism.  Perhaps if we were taught how we think as humans and flaws in thinking and how to avoid these flaws to maximize our strengths we would be better off.  This TEDx Talk from Ash Donaldson is a wonderful place to start where he describes cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias in a quite entertaining fashion.

We are getting a large taste of that now in this semester of schooling.  A few professors are really pushing us to think outside of the information and understand physiology and histology of tissues and question all the modes of thinking that can get you in trouble.  I am thankful for this.  Those in the Brain Trust and others have been searching for evidence and understanding of the Deep Model of practice since our first academic semester. This gives the knowledge we gain some context.  And what is information without context?

We are all molded by experience and it can taint our views and approaches to clinical cases and to thoughts of how the world works.  At this point the gaining of experience, however is of utmost importance.  But it is experience bounced off the wall of thought and thrown into the sea of reflection that ultimately returns the reward of expertise.  

Unfortunately it is often the things that we were exposed to when we were not critically thinking that are stuck down with more permanence than the things that were taken in along the side of reflection.  Those experiences that we have where we allow ambiguity and a state of unknowning are often more true, but we hold them less valuable since we are ever searching for certainty.

So, is it possible to add this skepticism and critical thinking to the beginning of this Doctoral level education?  It should be possible. While teaching the requisite knowledge, skills and abilities along with the subjective qualities of professional interaction the emerging physical therapist should be equipped with the contextual framework in-which his/her knowledge is held.  The end result should be skilled thinkers and problem solvers.  This stated goal, tied to function and pathology of the human body, are an invaluable combo.  The tide seems to be coming in and lifting many off the sand of structuralism, biomedical singularity and non-evidence based treatment. It is an exciting time.  We can only hope this does not cause too much cognitive dissonance.

– Matt D

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4 thoughts on “Cognitive Dissonance? That doesn’t make sense.

  1. Pingback: Causality vs Correlation | ptbraintrust

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  4. Pingback: The Crossroads of Philosophy and Physiology (Part 2): Where We Missed the Mark on Pain Education. | PTbraintrust

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