How Do We Draw Conclusions

Have you ever thought about how we draw conclusions/make inferences? Have you ended up drawing nonsense conclusion or super biased thinking without accessing the facts? You are not alone!

Let’s try to put things into perspective and use some example:

  1. Observable Fact: The Sun rises in the East and sets in the West.
  2. Selective Detail: The Sun appears to be moving.
  3. Inference: The Sun is Moving.
  4. Assumption: The Sun circles around the Earth.
  5. Conclusion: The Earth is at the center of the Universe.

Caution: Even though stated as is, it sounds logical, BUT the Earth is not at the center of the universe.
Mental models include what a person think is true, not necessarily is actually true.

They affect your thinking patterns, recognizing patterns and the learning process. They are insights, not knowledge (conscious and unconscious)…. Your memory is a treasure of mental models.

What is mental model?

A mental model is an explanation of how something works or as per one -Peter Senge ( The Fifth Discipline) have stated:

Mental models are deeply ingrained assumptions, generalizations or even pictures of images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. Often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effect they have on our behavior.

Our mental models of how bicycles work can “simulate” this to know it won’t work.

We can avoid jumping to conclusions by using The Ladder of Inference or also known as “Process of Abstraction” which describes the thinking process that we go through, usually without realizing it, to get from a fact to a decision or action. The thinking stages can be seen as rungs on a ladder and are shown below:

Ladder of Inference

Now that we are familiar with the Ladder of Inference, we must be stay aware about our thinking process and make sure it works in our interest. We don’t want no faulty ‘Mental Models’ that would lead us to poor conclusions and decisions, do we?

Let’s looks at the Baby Elephant Syndrome and how this faulty mental model formed a belief that he/she can’t break free:

Baby Elephant Syndrome

The name comes from baby elephants raised in captivity. If a baby elephant is tied to a tree with a strong rope or a chain and cannot roam freely, it instinctively tries to break the chain, but can’t because it lacks an adult’s strength. Eventually it accepts its efforts as futile, stops struggling, and won’t try for the rest of its life, because of its prior conditioning. Fully grown elephants raised in captivity can be tied to a small tree with a thin rope, and don’t try to break free, because of what they learned when they were young. Sad, right?


Whenever you feeling: Surprised, Shocked, Angered, Upset, Depressed, Defeated or Disgusted, stop for a moment and examine if the reaction is in response to any real threat of danger. If it isn’t, take that as a loud and clear sign that your mental model is flawed in some way. You expected things to go one way but instead it went the other way in which case you simply didn’t have the model in place to anticipate the change or event that originally caused the reaction/emotion of surprise or anger.

So what do we do? How do we challenge our beliefs? How do we know if my belief is based on facts, not assumptions?

Keep calm and get your facts straight! — Ask provoking questions, gather information from different sources, use facts, inquire others thought and one this is for sure — Stop Jumping Into Conclusions and start asking yourself:

  • Why have I chosen this course of action? Are there other actions I should have considered?
  • What belief lead to that action? Was it well-founded?
  • Why did I draw that conclusion? Is the conclusion sound?
  • What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid?
  • What data have I chosen to use and why? Have I selected data rigorously?
  • What are the real facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?

Bottom line:

  • Becoming more aware of your own thinking and reasoning
  • Making your thinking and reasoning more visible to others
  • Inquiring into others thinking and reasoning

Thanks for reading!

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