Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to Conclusions

A significant part of my role is collecting, assessing and weighing information carefully and accurately. It takes time and effort, but it is important. It seems to me that far too much public debate centres around perceptions and beliefs, but not facts. The recent incident with Lady Susan Hussey and Ngozi Fulani is a good example. There is a school of thought that instantly assumes that the where do you come from question is automatically racist. There are others who assume that such a question is class-based. I really struggle to see that it is either, particularly. If it was as has been reported, it was certainly clumsy and an apology for that would be due.

If we are to avoid all mention of protected characteristics in case we fall foul of some sort is “ism” we’re going to struggle. Imagine that some particularly violent crime has taken place and someone sees the perpetrator. The take a witness statement. If we apply the logic assumed above the conversation will go like this:

Q Was the perpetrator male, female or other?
A Can’t say – that would be sexist

Q What colour was as the perpetrator?
A Can’t say - that would be racist

Q Was the perpetrator young, middle aged, old?
A Can’t say - that would be ageist

And so on.

References to a protected characteristic don’t automatically make the perpetrator guilty of discrimination. Why aren’t we thinking about this properly? I don’t know, but there’s far too much of this jumping to conclusions and it makes for very poor-quality thinking. It is worse than just poor quality. It’s damaging, divisive and leads to injustice.

I’m not saying that people are necessarily wrong when they say that something is sexist, racist or ageist etc, but I won’t accept assumptions or assertions at face value and in my work I insist in looking at the facts before any conclusion is drawn.

The main way to avoid jumping to conclusions is to ensure that you conduct a valid, evidence-based reasoning process, instead of relying on intuitive judgments that are based on insufficient information.

  • Collect and collate the facts. Sometimes the answers to questions raise further questions and you might need to go back to dig some more. Don’t rely on intuition and don’t decide what’s happened and then try to prove it (in defiance of the facts)
  • If you find yourself making assumptions, actively challenge your conclusions. Is there another explanation that would also make sense? Ask yourself what information could help you reach a valid conclusion, and how you can get that information.
  • Before you reach a conclusion consider plausible competing hypotheses. Question all your premises and ensure that they are well-founded.
  • Think about the situation from the point of view of an outsider. How might they interpret the situation? What information would they need in order to reach an accurate conclusion? Actively ask yourself whether your chosen conclusion is the one that makes the most sense, given the available evidence. Actively try to justify the reasoning process that you’ve conducted so far, and identify any potential flaws in your reasoning.

When people jump to conclusions, they make assumptions based on limited, sometimes incorrect information. While this type of thinking allows for speedy decision making, it also means that these decisions are quite often wrong and can cause far more problems than taking the time to properly consider the facts.


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Although every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this blog, nothing herein should be construed as giving advice and no responsibility will be taken for inaccuracies or errors.

Copyright © 2022 all rights reserved. You may copy or distribute this blog as long as this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author are attached. The author is Kate Russell of Russell HR Consulting Ltd.