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Jumping to Conclusions: When People Decide Based on Insufficient Information

How to Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

  • Question the validity of the information.
  • Collect maximum information before reaching any hypothesis.
  • Come up with multiple hypotheses.
  • Don't favor a certain outcome.
  • Find potential flaws in your own reasoning and question your facts.
  • Recheck the premise and the first principles.
  • Use a debiasing technique, visualizing the situation from other people's perspectives.


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Jumping to Conclusions: When People Decide Based on Insufficient Information

Jumping to Conclusions: When People Decide Based on Insufficient Information


Key Ideas

Jumping into Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions is a common phenomenon, where people prematurely decide and finalize something, without having sufficient information or choosing not to consider it.

Jumping into Conclusions: Examples

  • Inference-observation confusion: An assumption made that may or may not be correct. Example: Concluding that a guy is rich, based on the car he drives.
  • Fortune-Telling: Assumption of knowing exactly what will happen in the future.
  • Mind Reading: Assuming based on how to have read someone's mind and concluded something which may not be true.
  • Extreme Extrapolation: Finding a minor clue and making something major out of it.
  • Overgeneralization: Copy-pasting a piece of knowledge over something that you think is related, but is not.
  • Labeling: Stereotyping a set of people based on their likes and dislikes.

Why We Jump to Conclusions

The reason people jump to conclusions is the fact that they find it easy.

Fact-checking and 100 percent accuracy on everything they see or observe consume way too much time for a normal person.

Taking mental shortcuts is the path most people choose to jump to conclusions.

Our Cognitive Bias

People can be biased in many ways and jump into intuitive judgments that may not necessarily be correct. When we need to make a decision quickly, sometimes jumping into a conclusion with insufficient facts maybe the right way to go. Jumping into conclusions becomes problematic when it gets sub-optimal and leads to wrong decisions.

This is observed in the medical field(Premature Closure) and in cases of paranormal belief or witchcraft.

The Common Factors

Certain factors increase the chances of people jumping into conclusions:

  • A certain pre-existing belief, which leads to confirmation bias.
  • A desire for closure or certainty in the future course of events.

Mental Disorders

People with mental disorders sometimes are more likely to engage in a premature conclusion. Their inner delusions and paranoid thoughts lead to this behaviour.
But also a big part of the people who believe conspiracy theories (which may or may not be true) falls into this category.

A Logical Fallacy

While jumping to conclusions is viewed as a cognitive phenomenon, and is unintentional, it can also be a logical fallacy.

This means that the jumping-to-conclusions bias causes people to jump to conclusions when it comes to their internal reasoning process, which in turn causes them to use the jumping-to-conclusions fallacy in their arguments.

How to Avoid Jumping to Conclusions

  • Question the validity of the information.
  • Collect maximum information before reaching any hypothesis.
  • Come up with multiple hypotheses.
  • Don't favor a certain outcome.
  • Find potential flaws in your own reasoning and question your facts.
  • Recheck the premise and the first principles.
  • Use a debiasing technique, visualizing the situation from other people's perspectives.


The argument from incredulity

Is a logical fallacy where someone concludes that since they can’t believe that a certain concept is true, then it must be false and vice versa.

Its 2 basic forms:

I c...

Basic structure of an argument from incredulity

Premise 1: I can’t explain or imagine how proposition X can be true.

Premise 2: if a certain proposition is true, then I must be able to explain or imagine how that can be.

Conclusions: proposition X is false.

It’s ok to be incredulous

... and to bring this up as part of an argument. The issue with doing so occurs when this incredulity isn’t justified or supported by concrete information, and when this lack of belief is used in order to assume that a preferred personal explanation must be the right one, despite the lack of proof.

At the same time, it’s also important to remember that it’s possible that the person using the argument from incredulity is right, despite the fact that their reasoning is flawed.

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Cherry picking

It is a logical fallacy and it happens when we choose and focus only on evidence that supports our views and arguments while ignoring anything that may contradict us.

The problem with cherry picking
  • It fails to take into consideration all the available information
  • It presents information in a misleading way.
  • It might lead to improper analysis and might cause someone to paint a misleading picture of a certain outcome.
The principle of total evidence

Also referred to as Bernoulli’s maxim, it states that, when assessing the probability that a certain hypothesis is true, we must take into account all the available information.

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Begging the question
Begging the question

Begging the question is an example of a fallacy of presumption, also known as a circular argument: The conclusion appears at the beginning and the end of the argument. ...

Begging the question example

"The law says you should drive on the right side of the road, and the law is the law."

When someone is questioning this statement, they are questioning the law. If we say, "because that is the law," we are begging the question. We are assuming the validity of what the other person is questioning.

Structure of circular reasoning

The most simple form of begging the question: A is true because A is true.

Circular reasoning can also be a bit longer:

  • A is true because B is true, and B is true because A is true.
  • A is true because B is true, and B is true because C is true. C is correct because A is true.
Take bold stands

Research shows humans prefer cockiness to expertise. We naturally assume confidence equates with skill.

So stop saying, "I think" or "I believe." Stop adding qualifiers to your spee...

Adjust your rate of speech
  • If your audience is likely to disagree, speak faster. It gives them less time to form their own counterarguments and you have a better chance of persuading them.
  • If your audience is likely to agree, speak slower. It gives them time to evaluate your arguments and factor in a few of their own thoughts.
Start with small "wins"

Gaining agreement has an enduring effect, even if only over the short term. So instead of jumping right to the end of your argument, start with statements or premises you know your audience will agree with. Build a foundation for further agreement.

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False equivalence

It is a logical fallacy and it occurs when someone incorrectly asserts that two or more things are equal because they share some characteristics, regardless of the notable differences...

The problem with false equivalence
  • The equivalence exaggerates the degree of similarity. I.e, stating that two people share a specific personality trait, but ignoring that they differ in other aspects of this trait.
  • The equivalence exaggerates the importance of the similarity. I.e, focusing on a personality trait that two people share while ignoring that many other people also share this trait.
  • The equivalence ignores important differences.
  • The equivalence ignores differences in orders of magnitude. 
Responding to a false equivalence
  • Show that the similarities between the things being equated are exaggerated, overemphasized, or oversimplified.
  • Highlight the differences between the things being equated. 
  • Explain why these differences are more significant than related similarities.
  • Provide counterexamples.
  • Ask your opponent to justify why they believe that their equivalence is valid, and then demonstrate the issues with the reasoning they provide.

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Opportunity Cost

It is the estimated value of the best alternative or the best option that one misses out as a consequence of picking one particular option.

Example: Spending a limited resource, lik...

Opportunity Cost in Non-financial Situations

Opportunity cost in non-financial situations is more difficult to quantify. The loss or gain with choosing an option while foregoing another can be subjective and not readily comparable.

Example: While deciding on which job offer to take, we may consider job satisfaction, brand name, commute time, long-term growth, and the salary offered. While finalizing, we have to forego the other best offer. While deciding on a career, we have to consider options like prestige, impact and the work sector.

Calculating Opportunity Cost

The way to calculate the opportunity cost is to subtract the value of the option from the value of the alternative that is foregone.

Opportunity Cost = Return on the best foregone alternative - Return on the chosen option.

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Convince Them With Confidence
  • Speak confidently, be concise, and try not to repeat yourself. 
  • Give the appearance that you truly know what’s right from the beginning, even if you don’t have all o...
Avoid Common Argument Fallacies

Winning an argument often comes down to who can go the longest without contradicting themselves and keeping sound logic, not direct persuasion of the other party.

Anecdotal Fallacy

Using a single personal experience as the foundation of your argument or your big piece of evidence. 

For example, your phone may have broken right after you bought it, but you can’t use that to argue that those phones are not worth the purchase for others.

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Jumping Into Conclusions
Jumping Into Conclusions

It is a form of cognitive distortion which generally gravitates towards the negative. This happens without any justifiable cause or reason and is not based on any fact.

It ...

Two Types Of Cognitive Distortion
  1. Fortune Telling: When one believes that the negative outcome is already a confirmed fact. The baseless assumptions are a reality inside the mind of a fortune teller. In most cases, things that seem to be a big worry have nothing to do with reality.
  2. Mind Reading: Instead of focusing on probable bad situations, a mind reader creates unverified negative assumptions about people. These can be about people not respecting you, or about not getting acceptance from someone.
Why People Visit Fortune Tellers

The basic psychology about visiting a fortune teller is that the mind is cognitively distorted and needs reassurance. When a fortune teller tells you that everything is going to be ok, the negative thoughts start to diminish.

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The Appeal to Force
The Appeal to Force

This fallacy occurs when a person makes a threat of physical or psychological violence against others if they refuse to accept the conclusions offered. It can also happen when a person clai...

An Examples of the Appeal to Force

Adults use the fallacy more subtly.

"If you don't support the spending bill to develop better airplanes, our enemies will think we are weak and will attack us at some point, killing millions." The person offering this argument is using psychological pressure to get agreement. There is no apparent connection between "our enemies" and the conclusion that it will be in the country's best interest.

Decision-making errors

Most decision-making errors boil down to:

  • logical fallacies (over-generalizations, comparing apples and oranges, circular thinking)
  • limiting beliefs (underes...
Confirmation Bias

If you already have an opinion about something before you've even tried to figure it out, chances are you'll over-value information that confirms that opinion.

Think about what kinds of information you would expect to find to support alternative outcomes.

Attribution Bias

The “fundamental attribution error,” is when we excuse our own mistakes but blame other people for theirs.

Give other people the chance to explain themselves before judging their behavior.

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