Compromise and Cognitive Maps
When people travel to new places or encounter new ideas, they expand their knowledge. As a result, people start grouping experiences together to be able to use this knowledge to their advantage and succeed later on in life. The combinations of events form outlines inside people’s heads that are used for further reference; these outlines are also referred to as cognitive maps. For example, when people find themselves in unfamiliar surroundings, they automatically try to associate new ideas with the past. They use cognitive maps for their own benefit, especially when they are required to fit in in order to be part of a new group or society. Recollection of the past allows people to not only sympathize and adopt foreign beliefs, but also expand their tolerance towards a variety of social groups when they are exposed to them. Success resulting from people being able to tolerate and adapt to new ideas is best explained by Zadie Smith’s writing, “Speaking in Tongues”. In her writing, Smith describes the benefits of people fitting in by finding their voice or their identity when faced with changes in their social environment. They are able to do this by developing intellectual maps as a result of being exposed to new social conditions. The theory of intellectual maps, also known as cognitive maps, is explained by Alison Gopnik, in her essay, “Possible Worlds: Why Do Children Pretend?” Gopnik explains that whenever people encounter new ideas, they create a map to recollect the places and lessons they have learned to have a better understanding of them in the future. In other words, in order for people to find their voices and be successful, they must be able to develop cognitive maps. Cognitive maps do not only help the internal being of people, but also allows them to succeed in society. Smith expands on Gopnik’s theory of cognitive maps by providing examples of individuals such as Obama, Shakespeare, and herself, who were able to create maps to help them succeed in the presence of people they have never met. As people are exposed to new groups, they must not only expand their recollection of places they have visited and their experiences, but must also be able to adapt and change some of their beliefs and values to acquire happiness. Success requires people to compromise their ideals to adapt to different groups. Sacrifice of previous knowledge and application of new lessons in order to adapt to new social surroundings will lead to positive results. In her essay, Smith uses herself, to stress the necessity of being able to adapt in order to achieve goals. She believes that in order to transform from a working class to a middle class, “[s]omething’s got to give –one voice must be sacrificed for the other. What is double must be made singular” (Smith 249). The transformation from social classes not only requires Smith to sacrifice some of her old speaking habits, but also change the way she acts around people. Relocating from a small working town, to one of the most prestigious universities in England impacted her sense of self and how she wanted to be perceived by others. In order to be taken under consideration at Cambridge University, her new home, she had to learn a sophisticated way of talking and change the way she acted in front of people. At the end of this transformation process, Smith was able to adapt to the environment of Cambridge University and find her new self. In order for Smith to be successful, her old voice, or her old habits, had to develop and change to the ways of an opulent society like Cambridge. Smith’s change of voice and thoughts lead to her success and allowed her to become an author. She was able to accomplish her success by following cognitive maps. According to Alison Gopnik these maps, “help us consider all the spatial possibilities before we commit ourselves. We can consider whether it would be...
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