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What is the difference between overuse of abstractions & confusion between symbol and symbolized object?

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FAA Regulations, Flight Instructor

I have read the IPH on what the definitions for the two are, but they seem interchangeable. Is there a fundamental difference between the two, or does it depend on the frequency abstractions are used? The way I am interpreting them, abstractions can cause confusion between symbol and symbolized object, but I can not think of an example in which the confusion would occur without using an abstraction.

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1 Answers

  1. Best Answer


    Mark Kolber on Apr 25, 2015

    The way they are used in the AIH, they are not interchangeable, although the difference can pretty subtle.

    The key is that all words are just symbols. When the IAH talks about symbol confusion it’s mostly talking about words that may have different meanings – Telling an ME student to feather the “right” (right as in starboard or right as in correct?) engine. The confusion can take place even with people with common experience.

    OTOH, when the IAH talks about “abstractions” it is generally referring to the use of concepts that may bring to mind different pictures to different people based on their past experience.

    Problem is the writers of the IAH don’t use particularly good examples. The IAH uses is “aircraft” which, to one person may bring to mind and airplane and to another a helicopter (how many realize the “Good “Ship” Lollipop” was an airplane?). Not a particularly good example to illustrate the difference (although it actually does (albeit poorly).

    “Abstractions” more generally consist of using concepts that are not directly related to the subject that might be relevant to some and not to others. I think a personal example is a good one. I don’t sail. One day I was sailing with a friend and she was trying to teach me how to correctly set the main. After a number of attempts to get me to understand, she finally hollered to me, “It’s an airfoil!” There was a concept I understood from aviation and I immediately set the sail to its efficient angle of attack for the conditions.

    I try to separate the two myself by thinking of “symbol confusion” being a problem of definition and “use of abstractions” as being a problem of common experience.

    The good news is, don’t worry too much about getting that deep. Despite the IAH’s discussion of the 4 levels of learning, most of the testing of IAH concepts tends to be pure rote.

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