After three weeks of hematology, our third ethics week started and with it followed numerous readings on patient personality types and the different physical and psychological developmental stages children go through. There were also videos included, and one TED talk stood out to me.

In this TED talk, psychologist Alison Gopnik spoke about the development of a child’s thinking, but one of the points she made seemed to resonate within me. She expressed the idea that adults’ and children’s way of cognition or thinking differed.

The adult had a ‘spotlight’ view of thinking while the baby had a ‘lantern’ view. The adult when presented with a problem comes up with a solution and then focuses on it. The adult spotlights onto that specific idea and everything else goes dark. The baby, however, is designed to learn, and thus when presented with a problem, will come up with many solutions or hypotheses. The baby will even come up with the most unlikely hypothesis that the adult would never think of, and this is why their view of the world is like a lantern. The world is bright – every single corner. They see it as a land of further exploration.

I couldn’t agree more with Alison.

We adults usually live life looking straight ahead. We have the ability to look at many different angles or perspectives but we usually settle on one thought quickly. We have the creativity, but we somehow lack the whimsical imagination that we see in children’s eyes. We are still curious, but many of us lack the awe and wide-eyed wonder babies experience upon learning something new.


As we grow older, we become goal-driven and purpose-driven. Our minds begin to narrow down upon a couple ideas that we need to accomplish, and suddenly this life’s ride starts to drive high speed down a narrow tunnel only illuminated by single spots of light overhead. We passively listen to others instead of actively listen because we are too preoccupied with the thoughts inside our heads. We forget to appreciate the wonders around us, and because of that, our memories of the past are blurry and fuzzy.

I’m guilty of that.

Maastricht, The Netherlands Fall 2010
Maastricht, The Netherlands Fall 2010
During my time abroad, I was so focused on exploring and hitting as many spots as possible that I forgot to explore the clear air, running rivers, and paddle boats of my own home abroad, Maastricht. Even now, sometimes I get into a mindset where I can see the finish line at the end of final studying week, and then I’m just cramming, cramming the information in my head spotlighting on the goal of getting a good grade.

But then there are moments that turn off my spotlight and cast light into the lanterns, illuminating and brightening the reality of the situation. Earlier during our hematology module, we were supposed to have a panel of pediatric leukemia patients come visit and speak to us, but on the morning of, we discovered that they could not come for they had fallen sicker and were admitted into ICU. Woah. Everything we are learning – the hairy cells, the cytogenetic markers, Hodgkin versus Non-Hodgkin – will be a patient one day. These facts will come with emotional attachments and tears and smiles. The goal will be effective treatment, but we, as physicians, must remember to not spotlight the end and instead illuminate all ideas, even unlikely ones, to improve the care of others and to fully, effectively sympathize and empathize.

So as I’ve said before in my very first blog, let’s shine a little light – a lantern perhaps – brighten up the room and really see.


The TED Talk Video:


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