Snap judgments may become baggage

Snap judgments prove to be very effective when we're in situations where the "Laws of the Jungle" apply. There's only a fleeting moment where we can make a kill and not completely waste the opportunity. There's no time to analyze a situation in depth when a large carnivore is eying us like we're on their lunch menu. It pays to jump to conclusions when we can take a shot at exchanging genetic material with a total babe or hunk. It's foolish to second guess an invitation to join the protection of a herd, gang or tribe.

Snap judgments overreact to dangers and opportunities. We assume it's: "all or nothing", "now or never" and "win the prize or lose out totally". Snap judgments wreak havoc in our relationships. We jump to conclusions like "if someone is not nice to me, they're being really mean", "if I didn't go all the way, I didn't get anywhere" and "if they don't accept me, they've completely rejected me and my kind". This binary thought process opts for idealizing the good thing and catastrophizing the failure. It cannot find middle ground or more reasonable, time consuming assessments. It's only good for high pressure, "Law of the Jungle" situations.

Whenever we make snap judgments, we then enjoy or suffer the consequences. When we repeatedly score a win, pull off a victory, seize an opportunity or come out ahead, our snap judgments have become a success routine. We've learned to get a quick read on a situation and zero in on which thing to do that makes a significant difference. We function well under pressure and amaze others with our ability to respond adeptly. We have made a habit of achieving objectives and meeting goals. We do things right and get things done consistently.

When it feels like we're paying a price for being short sighted, fixated, impulsive or naive, we've made snap judgments that became emotional baggage. It seems like we keep making the same mistake over and over again without ever learning from the results. We turn down favorable opportunities and chase after rainbows that never materialize. We think we know who to trust, which option to choose and when to make a move, only to be proven wrong again. We lose faith in our ability to make a good decision, an accurate assessment or a viable change for the better. We feel like we've been beaten down, shown up and boxed in. We eventually accept the "proven fact" that we're inferior, inadequate, deviant, defective or somewhat deficient. We've got some embarrassing baggage to deal with.

Baggage persists when there's no context and no alternative. In other words, baggage sticks around when we make snap judgments about it. When we realize how we came by our baggage by making snap judgments, we create a context that is more considerate and responsive to the processes involved. When we then consider how snap judgments can also become success routines, we avoid making " all snap judgments" into something that's entirely bad for us. We have moved into a middle ground where our snap judgments can work for or against our best interests. What comes to mind when we're entertaining context and alternatives like this is a joy to behold. We may see ways out of our dilemma and avenues we had never considered. We get over our baggage and into our minds working in our favor.


  1. Kia ora Tom.

    I have a theory about snap judgements. It's linked to my theory about procrastination and there appears to be some evidence that suggests that our minds get tired when we procrastinate.

    A snap judgement prevents procrastination which saves the mind getting tired and also moves away quickly from a dithering situation that may be uncomfortable.

    Unfortunately, snap decisions are not always the right decisions, as you alluded to. So the energy spent in making a considered decision may well be worth the expense.

    Catchya Later

  2. Hi Ken
    Thanks for the links to you post and the Scientific American article! I can testify to the validity of your theory. The executive function of my brain definitely gets tired, especially when it's imposing self control on my irrational urges, impulsive choices and animal instincts. A short nap works great for me to recharge my batteries.

    I recently read a new book by the editor of the brain science section of Scientific American, Jonah Lehrer, titled "How We Decide". He adds a valuable refinement to the idea that quality decisions result from careful deliberation by the executive function of the brain. Here's a synopsis of his argument:

    1) In situations where we have so much experience that we perceive lots of subtle patterns and make insightful predictions with them, our feelings function better than rationality. We'll get a feeling about who to trust, which to choose, when to act, how to respond, etc --- that's right on the money.
    2) In situations where we're in danger of significant losses, setbacks, embarrassments, or catastrophes, our executive functions serves us best. The situation calls for thinking about our emotions, framing our panic in rational frameworks, complicating our panic reaction with added considerations. A snap decision will lead to a disaster.
    3) In situations with tempting bait or promises too good to be true like offers of easy money, free rides, no consequences -- our executive functions avoid taking the bait. We suspect the motives, look for clues of hidden agendas, check out the background, etc. We regard our appetites and immature inclinations as sources of poor judgment.
    4) In situations involving lots of risk, chance, luck of the draw, or unknowns, a combination of thinking and feeling works best. Our rational minds need to assess everything it knows then realize what it does not and cannot know. What comes to mind in this state of "informed innocence" is a precise feeling of how to proceed, like those situations where we know the patterns from so much experience. In these situations, I've found it works to take a snooze after reviewing everything I know about a problem, and wake up with the guidance I was looking for.

    My own theory of procrastination looks for ways to avoid either framing it as a problem or stigmatizing the person plagued by procrastination. The two posts I wrote are Questioning procrastination and Mentoring a procrastinator

    Happy deliberating and deciding, Ken!

  3. Kia ora Tom

    I've read Lehrer's work and am impressed with it. Yes, snap decisions definitely have their place and can be very useful. I guess the master touch lies in being able to recognise when to deliberate and when to make the snap decision, like the one I'm making now about the length of this comment :-)

    Catchya later

  4. Greetings Ken!
    I agree the master touch lies in knowing when it's time to make a snap decision. Upon further deliberation myself, I'm seeing snap decisions becoming more effective with age. The younger we are, the more we need to deliberate first. We don't have enough experience yet to perceive patterns and make reliable predictions about what will happen next. We're naturally short sighted, selfish, inconsiderate and impulsive. We cannot yet conceptualize other people's issues, our interpersonal dynamics, or the effects we have on situations. Rather than finding feelings in us we can trust, we're dealing with strong urges. We need to sort them out, consider the long term consequences and assess from other viewpoints. It's tiring because, not only is the rational mind like a muscle, the urges are too. We've got arm wrestling going on with two muscles wearing each other out. The two are favoring opposing approaches: inhibition and exhibition, repression and expression, conformity and autonomy.

    Take care!