Avoiding the Fatal Fourth Stage of Learning Part One: The Four Stages

The Conscious Competence Matrix is a theory in psychology which describes the four stages of competence in learning any skill.  The stages go from unconscious incompetence, i.e. when we don’t know anything about a certain skill or even that it exists (such as spelunking), to unconscious competence, wherein the skill is so familiar and routine (like driving a car) that we aren’t even consciously aware of it anymore.  (please see the wikipedia article for a detailed breakdown of the four stages http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_stages_of_competence#The_four_stages ).

The theory hasn’t really been added to or improved upon since it was developed in the 1970s, though two additions suggest themselves.  The first is the time factor, the fact that each of the four levels lasts for a particular amount of time.  This seems apparent enough.  The second addition to the theory, I would suggest, is that the fourth level of learning can be fatal, either to the skill itself or the person practicing it.


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