We're presented with a limited amount of information -- and time -- and need to make a decision. The good and bad news is that our brains are great at "filling in the gaps."
Here's when jumping to conclusions is efficient. If what we conclude is likely to be
, and the cost of an occasional mistake is
, then this saves us time and effort. But it's much riskier when you're in an unfamiliar situation, the stakes are
, and there's
no time for research
People talk about having intuition. Many times this has to do with your unconscious mind. (It, after all, collects 40 million bits of information per second, versus the 40 in your conscious mind.) Know that this part of your brain is more likely to believe things than your skeptical frontal cortex. That's one reason you're more easily influenced by the empty promises of commercials when you're tired and don't want to make the effort to think.
Watch Out for What You "Know"
You're also susceptible to "confirmation bias." Once you have formed an opinion on something, you look for information that supports this.
One example is the "halo effect." This is your tendency to like (or dislike) everything about a person, including the things you
seen. If you think Kendra is a nice person, then you're predisposed to believe she has qualities you like -- such as honesty -- even if you've never
her act this way.
It's called "what you see is all there is" (WYSIATI).
This is also one of the reasons that first impressions are so important. Unfortunately, when information arises later that contradicts what we
we knew, too often we ignore it. Our brains prefer the simpler, consistent story that we created versus the messier truth.
Raising the Bar
Here are three ways you can pay more attention to the conclusions you're jumping to.