Mind your step on the Ladder of Inference

How to stop jumping to conclusions

Scrumpy Dad
5 min readNov 25, 2021
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Do you get irritated when you hear people jumping to conclusions based on a single piece of information? Are you surprised how others come to a totally different conclusion than you based on the same situation? Let’s see what’s going on here, and how to deal with it.

We are all aware that jumping to conclusions is risky. When we go too fast in our thought process, we overlook relevant data that completes the picture. Incomplete data causes misunderstanding which leads to incorrect conclusions. Hence our decisions and actions will not be appropriate for the situation at hand. Actually, we often make things even worse resulting in frustration and conflict. This happens everywhere, at work as well as at home.

We can blame it on our brain. First of all the brain is very good at filtering data. If we had to process all incoming sensory data, our brain would overload. So it automatically filters out data it deems irrelevant. The brain is also very good at pattern matching, i.e. comparing certain inputs with previous experiences for easier decision making. From an evolutionary point of view, this is very helpful. It helps us to detect danger in a split second, so we stand a better chance of survival.

Luckily for most of us, life is no longer a basic struggle for survival. But our lives are also not that simple anymore. The world around us has become complex. The amount of information to process is overwhelming, new technology is rapidly transforming society, and global challenges are knocking on our door. It’s a tough world to navigate, so even more reason not to jump to hasty conclusions.

A mental model

Let me introduce you to the Ladder of Inference, a mental model introduced by Chris Argyris and later covered in Peter Senge’s bestseller The Fifth Discipline. Unaware we climb this Ladder of Inference many times per day, each time we interpret a situation.



Scrumpy Dad

Scrum Master & Agile Coach, passionate about personal development, applying work practices at home to build a happy family life.

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