A few days ago we ran out of apples. I went to the store and came home with a bag of apples. I hardly remember the trip because it happens so often. I certainly don’t remember making deliberate decisions about the shoes I wore, which store I went to, or even the apples I bought. The entire process seemed automated.
I would guess you’ve experienced the same thing in your day already. Think about it. Why did you choose to brush your teeth? Why did you choose the blue shirt and not the yellow sweater? Why did you use the bus rather than your car for your commute? Have you ever taken the time to determine the thinking process you use to make everyday decisions?
Gray explains by saying it begins with a need. Needs arise all the time and some are more urgent than others. Hunger can be more urgent than shopping for new socks. In this example I needed apples.
Next, I access my internal ‘guidebook’ for navigating reality; my beliefs (for formation of beliefs in detail look at Unpacking Beliefs). When I need apples my attention is focused on things that will address that need by constantly cycling through theories and judgments to form beliefs about how to get more apples. They tell me which footwear to use, which store to go to and which apples to purchase.
Next, I take action. I put on my winter boots. I travel to a particular store. I buy a bag of apples.
Finally, I make note of the result. By following my belief, was I able to meet my need for apples? And by making note of the result, what have I learned?
Gray calls this the Learning Loop. Need – Belief – Action – Result. Out of apples – Store has apples – Go to store and buy apples – Don’t need apples.
Each time I progress through the Learning Loop to address a need, my beliefs are either challenged or reinforced. If the store had my apples, my belief is reinforced, creating what Gray calls habits of belief. There’s no need to change my behaviour because my need has been served through my belief that the store has the apples I need.
However, when the store doesn’t have the apples I need, my belief is no longer valid. So I begin the process of building another belief by cycling through the other options for buying apples. I go to the other store and buy apples. I make note of the result. In the end, I may have formed a new habit of belief if the new store addresses my need better (cheaper, tastier apples) than the old store.
In itself, Gray’s learning loop is quite straightforward. It becomes more interesting when my learning loop interacts with yours which I will explore in my next post.