The Quiz Show Mentality Around ‘Needing To Know’


Needing to Know Is Prevalent In Culture Everywhere

Before our obsession with reality TV and contrived celebrity, our Saturday night television viewing used to involve at least one quiz or game show. 

These shows present questions to the contestants. If the answer the contestant gives matches the answer on the card in the hand of the host, they win points. If the contestant presents enough correct answers they win against their opponents, and often walk away with a grand prize. In this case, correct (or knowing the answer) = money!

The franchise of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” is the ultimate promoter of this mindset. Moreover, for the player and the audience, it uses music, emotional manipulation by the host and pausing tactics, to link negative emotions to uncertainty and positive emotions to certainty. And we can’t get enough of it! It’s entertainment.

The Pressure To Know The Answer

Have you noticed how much pressure we’re under to know the answer? From our first day at school we were praised for knowing the answer and, often, overlooked if we don’t.  We may even have been reprimanded if our teacher believed we 'should' know.

What if you come from a culture where you are expected to learn textbooks and the ideas of others by heart, and then regurgitate them in your written or oral tests? Did that mean you were wrong if your opinion differed from the one in the textbook? Did this approach to education encourage or discourage creative thinking for you?

We have been programed to acquire knowledge. To become knowledgeable.  We have to know when something is wrong and when something is right.

But who is really deciding on what’s right or wrong, true or false?  Is it really you?  Could it be society?  Perhaps it's your parents or family?  Could it be someone categorizing something as “Fake News”? 

You Should Have Known That

What’s the result?  As we get older we become the voice of our teachers inside our own head.  “You should have known that!” Triggering further, shame-driven data collection, just in case we might get caught in the uncertain space of “not-knowing” again.

So, the question is, do any of us really know what’s right or wrong for us, as individuals?

Comedy Allows For Creativity - But At What Cost?

Comedy allows us the freedom to see things from a different perspective. In fact, comedians are admired for stepping outside the “knowing” space.

Popular comedians are able to turn ‘known’ concepts upside down and present them as something entirely different. It’s funny, because it’s “silly”. Or it’s funny because it’s something that you “shouldn’t say” or might be impolite in your culture. Amusingly enough, “silly” and “acrimonious” is allowed when it falls within the categorization of comedy.

I can remember watching Saturday night TV in the UK in the 1980s. There was a show called “Child’s Play”. The premise of the show was to ask children to define a single word, explaining what it was, and without saying the actual word. The adult contestants would then try to guess what the word was. Millions of people in the UK tuned in, every week, to watch this comedy show.

The kids delivered beautifully creative, honest and often highly descriptive answers. And it was funny – in a way that allowed us to laugh with the contestants and children, rather than at them!

What If They Weren't Children?

I wonder, would it still have been funny if the children had been teenagers, rather than under tens? What would have happened if we’d asked adults to make the same definitions? Would millions of people still have switched on the TV to watch and giggle? If the audience laughed, would they be laughing with the participants or at them?

It’s okay not to know when you’re young, right? So, how does age impact our perception of right or wrong around the concept of ‘knowing’?

The older we get, we’re supposed to conform to the rules of society.  If we don’t we’re categorized with label that has a negative connotation.

So Why Is Needing To Know So Important?

It’s no great surprise that we feel emotionally compelled to know things.  People who are knowledgeable are praised by society.  People who don’t are referred to as “stupid” or “ignorant”.  Furthermore, this concept of ‘knowing’ goes beyond the ability to acquire facts and retain them in our head.  It’s also about ‘knowing’ how to conform to societal rules.

When I searched for words which meant unknowledgeable in the thesaurus, this rather derogatory list was returned:

"apprenticed, benighted, birdbrained, blind to, cretinous, dense, green, illiterate, imbecilic, in the dark, inexperienced, innocent, insensible, mindless, misinformed, moronic, naive, oblivious, obtuse, shallow, thick, unconscious, uncultivated, uncultured, uneducated, unenlightened, uninformed, uninitiated, uninstructed, unintellectual, unlearned, unmindful, untrained."

These words aren't particularly attractive are they? Even more fascinating is our reaction to, what we consider to be, a wise statement falling out of a young child’s mouth; often followed by a comment such as “out of the mouth of babes”.

What's The Impact?

Searching for meaning where meaning may have no benefit.  Do we need to analyze everything we feel, or everything that happened and find out why?  Or, is it more helpful to accept situations, move on and search for future possibilities?

Then there's the distraction of it all. Does the need to know the right answer distract us from knowing how we feel in the moment, our intuition (inner teaching), or what we truly believe about something.  Perhaps our desire to know the right way to do something blocks our progress.  Or maybe it doesn’t.

Stepping away from self truth. Does the search for meaning or knowledge, for the sake of knowledge, split our focus in such a way that we become confused as to know we really are, what we want and what we believe?

Relying on others to dictate the parameters of our thinking.  If we’re unwilling to examine the original thought parameters of our societies and the impact of living within them, will be ever really know what we truly believe as individuals?

Hindsight 20:20

Hindsight (which is always frustratingly 20:20) suggests to me that my best experiences in life have been the result of me trusting my instincts, rather than following in the footsteps of others, or societal protocol.

I just knew, with every bone in my body, that it was the right thing to do.

Success Based on Total Alignment - Knowledge & Gut Feelings

Ashton Kutcher and Gwyneth Paltrow are just two people who have found success outside of their initial careers. Some would argue that their success is down to fame and money. What if it’s not?

I’m sure anyone who’s set up a business, successful or not, might suggest that it was much more.  Probably, it was a great deal of determination to hold focus during experiential testing and feedback that culminated in their successful transition into the business world.  So, what if it’s more than that?

What if their ability to creatively think about business allowed them to see windows of opportunity that others could not?

Gwyneth Paltrow created GOOP at her kitchen table.  She has successfully grown it to a leading lifestyle brand, well-recognized across the globe.  Respect!  In 2018 she was accused of promoting pseudoscience as her brand offered alternative ideas and solutions for health and well-being.

It’s interesting how challenging the status quo of society, the standard protocol for generating revenue in healthcare, and empowering people to make their own decisions can cause such a fuss. Naughty, naughty Gwyneth!

Mind you, in the modern day, the ‘conformist police’ attack reputations.  A few hundred years ago, pioneers in science and philosophy feared for their lives.

I'm Still An Advocate of Education and Learning!

To be quite clear, I am still a major advocate of knowledge and learning, in all forms.  What concerns me is the learning of knowledge for the sake of it; especially in topics we have no interest in.  Accumulating data, just in case we might need it one day.

I personally have received major benefits from my ‘need to know’ mindset of the past.  Firstly, I enjoy reading and wondering how one topic connects or relates to another topic.  Secondly, I believe that having a strong foundation of knowledge gives us a powerful perspective, especially when we’ve benchmarked new information against our own inherent values and beliefs, to decide whether or not we want to accept it into our data vault.

How To Move Forward

I am interested in how we can use knowledge as a source of inspiration, rather than a ranking or measure of social status.  Without doubt, my learning journey (beyond that which led to a certification) has been thought-provoking and joyful.

I delight in the idea that in our search for answers, knowledge is a powerful part of that journey, and one that helps us to connect the dots.  In fact, many of us have learned a process to access creativity by using certainty as a springboard.  And now I’m wondering if there’s a more effective way.

I’m also curious as to how we can get more comfortable with uncertainty and ‘not knowing’ in order to access a more expansive level of creativity; one that we’re probably going to need to solve future challenges. 

I’m wondering how we can encourage our children to go out and have personal experience of topics in which they’re most interested. 

I’m scratching my head as to how we can marry the modern day ‘data-dump’ trend with personal experience, in order to develop wisdom rather than walking libraries!

And most important of all, I’m fascinated to see how we can strip back our layers of ‘need to know’, relinquish the need for external mass-approval, and reconnect with our authentic selves to expand and flow into the future.

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This article was originally published at Reprinted with permission from the author.