Saturday, July 5, 2008

Leaps of Faith and Jumping to Conclusions

I started loading up my groceries on the belt behind the little plastic divider. A salad from the deli, four bottles of salad dressing, two boxes of crackers, a bottle of ketchup, orange juice, and a box of chocolate covered cream-filled doughnuts.

I bought vegetables a couple of days prior. I began to wonder what the woman in front of me thought of my strange collection of dressings, crackers and doughnuts. I wondered if she would draw a simple conclusion about me based on what I purchased.

The thought of her or anyone jumping to conclusions made me think about the phrase “leap of faith.” There is little difference between the two, except that people are usually asked to make leaps of faith. Jumping to conclusion appears to be automatic.

I began to wonder if jumping to conclusions is neurological or psychological. Most of the time we take the easy path and learn from our mistakes, or we can choose to spend extra time deciding which path to take, and lessen the frequency of our mistakes.

How many times were we told things, then we asked “why?” and the response was “because I said so?”

My parents were the children of the great Depression. Up until 1967 or so, parents were the “because I told you so” generation. They felt they didn’t have to explain anything because of their overriding authority. “Honor thy father” and what-not. But they couldn’t understand why their children ignored them, hated them, or ran away from home.

They were the parents that were raised in tight-knit communities surrounding the local church as the center of decision-making. They were taught never to question, for fear of something bad happening.

Originally, that “something bad” was being burned at the stake. The actual punishments have faded over the centuries, but the tertium-quid emotional responses were carried forward to condition future generations. This is a product of process fluency, and operant conditioning. The best example of which can found in the book “World as Laboratory: Experiments with Mice, Mazes and Men” by Rebecca Lemov.

So, we jump to conclusions and make leaps of faith.
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