When it comes to electrical work one can get easily confused if you have no prior knowledge about what you are doing. This is was just the case a few weeks ago while I was attempting to help my boyfriend renovate a home. He is a certified electrician and me, not so much. He was getting frustrated explaining the difference between “new work” and “old work.” New work apparently is when the house is already built and you are putting in outlet boxes. And old work is when the dry wall is down and you are putting in outlet boxes. This was very confusing to me and as I write this I had to call him again to get him to explain it to me again.
In my mind I thought that new work meant that you were going to be doing all new work to an new house. And I thought old work meant you were going to be doing to new work to an old house. I have no idea where my logic came from, but somehow it made sense to me. After he explained it to me for about 15 minutes, I thought I had an understanding but I didn’t quite understand completely. So I pretended to understand just so he could get a mental break, but I had so many other questions to ask.
This is an example of “Expertise.” In this case my boyfriend was the expert in this field. And I needless to say am the novice. According to our text “experts represent problems within their domain differently than novices. They see the problem at a deeper level, relying on underlying principles to build the problem representation whereas novices focus on superficial characteristics of the problem” (Chi, 1981). This is exactly what I did. I focused on the superficial or not-so- important characteristics of the electrical problem we were trying to solve. Instead of focusing on installing the outlet boxes, I was focusing on why they were named as they were.
According to our text “Like almost everything else in cognitive psychology, problem solving critically depends on the way that we represent the information in our mind” (Wede, 2014). In this circumstance the problem for me was understanding the difference between old work and new work. The representation that I had in my mind was totally different than what the real definition of old and new work is. This caused me to in a way block out or partially understand what my boyfriend was saying because I was so focused on what I believed to be true. Thus I was unable to solve the problem at hand correctly because there were some spaces in the home that didn’t have drywall there and I kept reaching for the outlet boxes that were for “new work.” New work is supposed to be used for spaces that have dry wall already there, so again I was wrong. I think I may finally be getting the hang of it because I actually took a sharpie and wrote on the outlet boxes old work or new work, and wrote with a pencil on the wall next to where the outlet goes whether new work or old work was supposed to go there.