Judgmental Heuristics

Learning about low-effort (automatic) thinking this week was particularly interesting. All of a sudden I became aware of all of the snap judgments and assumptions I make on a daily basis. I am also not immediately conscious of many of these mental shortcuts. Usually, I realize the cognitive reason behind the way my behavior changed after leaving a social situation. Furthermore, I was kind of appalled at all the assumptions I make about people. Though they don’t really negatively affect my interactions since I do try to always keep an open mind, they do have the potential to hinder possibilities. For example, I went to karaoke with a group of people I don’t know all too well – friends of friends. There is one girl, short and small and seemed quiet when I first met her. I placed her right into my schema and really made no effort to disprove it: I thought, she is shy, probably awkward, sheltered and probably a bit judgmental (how ironic). At karaoke, however, she started belting out intense screamo music and I have never been more surprised. These judgmental heuristics that guide the way I perceive people are so often wrong. I wonder how much they have changed in the past couple years as my world view has changed.

Regardless of how much my schemas of people and the judgmental heuristics have changed as I’ve grown up, I do think how I react to them has changed a lot. Just the act of realizing that you have made a snap judgment about someone is a good first step towards loosening the grip of low-effort thinking on guiding your actions. I am far more ready to accept deviations from what I have as my accepted base world view.

I’d like to observe the effects of consciously fighting against heuristics I impose on myself as well. The Seinfeld clip of George all of a sudden doing everything opposite to what he thought was the best idea was particularly interesting for me. As innately social beings, I find that people change their behaviors to accommodate what they believe a social setting expects of us. At least in new social situations I often find myself acting the way I think other people expect me to be. And then, following a conscious reminder, I override this automatic tendency. Maybe next week I’ll spend a day (or a part of it, depending on how brave I’m feeling) challenging some of the default behaviors I subconsciously resort to.

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