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Are We Jumping To Conclusions Too Soon During An Argument?

 Wife initiates: “I’d prefer a cat over a dog.
Husband responds: “But why do you hate dogs?
I know what you mean!” — Wife feels personally attacked and assumes that her husband believes his conclusion to be true; the argument escalates. 
Image by Abdul on Unsplash

In the above scenario, both of their conclusion behind the argument has been inaccurate. Suzanne Jolley in a Psychiatry Research investigated that such false conclusions are often decisions made based on limited data available. 

Similarly, an instance presented by Patrick Freyne pointed out that today there are more number of people arguing online, which is not only unproductive, but also grown bitter. In response, a cyberpsychology expert explains that the rise of argumentativeness could be associated with the lack of visual or auditory cues which are otherwise available in face to face discussion. Lack of information such as being unable to see another person’s frown or angry voice, prevents the arguer in making accurate judgement about over the discussion held online. To fill in gaps, the arguer jumps onto conclusions, projects his own expectations and hence contributes to the argument. 

The Scenario Behind How We Make the Jump. 

When engaging in a routine conversation, adults are entitled to make thousands of decisions. These decisions drift from choosing what to respond next, to ensuring that a conclusion is drawn out of it. However, they are likely to take a leap from a minor detail to a major conclusion, with almost no conclusion. 

An explanation drawn by Colbert, in the Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease was that surprisingly, people are growing intense on jumping into conclusions throughout the day because they lack certainty. This could mean that the adults, being potential arguers hold only partial piece of information, which enhances their desire for certainty. 

In such a desire, Helen, a contributor at Forbes stated that such people develop theories and explanations based on little to no evidence. She pointed out that, they do not spend as much time needed to analyse and reflect on a situation, hence resulting with an error-based judgement. They are quick in making decisions, while being ignorant about its depth and details. 

Are Adults Simply Ignorant Enough To Make Error-Based Conclusions?

Douglas Walton in his research on Jumping to Conclusion observed that when adults engage in behaviours such as: balancing several considerations of a discussion, accepting new premises — such an argument carries weight. 

In contrast, if an adult jumps ahead directly, then it is simply plain ignorance.

Such ignorance could be observed by an instance on October 5th, when the former US president, Donald Trump tweeted how Americans should not be afraid of Covid-19, making his ignorance over the scientific evidence of the virus. However, the same person was tested positive on October 7th which depicted the irony within the situation. The 2020 report concluded by stating that Trump had eliminated the scientific data delivered by well-known scientists, and had concluded that Covid-19 didn’t really exist, which ultimately was a bad move. 

“Is that what you mean?” — Leaving enough room to explore alternatives

It could be evident that people ignore pieces of information when engaging in a conversation. They jump into conclusions which changes the course of conversation. But could it be that bad? Well, Douglas Walton suggests that if such an analysis, brings greater error based judgement, then it is worth examining your alternatives. 

Albert Einstein had once said that if he had one hour to solve a problem, he would spend 55 minutes thinking about it and only five minutes to think about a solution. It could be a relatable statement to understand our judgement-making mechanism during a conversation. We tend to save our energy by rushing into conclusions or completely avoid it, without having a chance to explore alternatives in a conversation. 

Evidently, Forbes suggested that such a thinking-error could be externalised by thinking exercises like writing or reflection and pushing back with rational thoughts. Taking time to — being aware of one’s own information processing and error based judgement could be an essential way to get started.

Lastly, by asking oneself ,Could it be possible that there are other explanations that better explain the situation?, before responding back in an argument. 


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