Have you ever wondered what would happen if you made an important decision too quickly? Without seeking enough information or weighing your options? The consequences could be disastrous.
We make decisions every day, from the food we eat to the strategy we use for projects at work or school. Some decisions are easier and don’t need too much thought. The stakes are low and ‘fast thinking’, or a more automatic thought process, is good enough for them. For example, if you’re painting just to de-stress, you might not spend too much time thinking about what exactly to draw or which colors to use.
But in some cases the stakes are high and the consequences of your decision are also big. You then need to use ‘slow thinking’, which involves a more deliberate analysis of information before coming to a conclusion. You can’t make a snap decision but need considered and logical thinking, a key Harappa skill for success in the workplace.
A classic example of ‘slow thinking’ and reasoning logically is found in the famous 1957 American courtroom drama, 12 Angry Men. It’s the story an 18-year-old on trial for the murder of his father which from the looks of it appears to be an open-and-shut case. But the decision of the 12 jurors in the first-degree murder case is a high-stakes call: If they find him guilty, the electric chair awaits him. So, they have to think carefully before reaching a decision.
Eleven jurors feel the boy is guilty, but one isn’t so sure. Juror number eight, the odd one out, uses ‘slow thinking’ to review the evidence and evaluate the case. He doesn’t necessarily believe the boy is innocent but he does believe there is “reasonable doubt” in the prosecution’s case against the boy. He suggests a deliberate discussion and analysis of all evidence before reaching a decision.
One by one, you hear the prosecution’s arguments against the teenager based on the testimony of witnesses, his unstable background, and his weak alibi. The boy is underprivileged, raised in a slum, and has had a miserable childhood. The old man living downstairs says he heard the teenager’s father hit him and then he heard a body fall to the ground. That fight, according to the prosecution, was a clear motive for the murder.
Juror number eight, however, looks at all the evidence and challenges the prosecution’s assumptions. He first points out that the fight was an unlikely motive because a boy who has been hit throughout his life is probably just used to it. He then turns to another witness who says she saw the murder from her own window, through the windows of a passing train. He asks how the old man living downstairs heard the fight and the body falling so clearly if the lady saw the murder through a noisy train.
If a single jury member could see such gaps, why didn’t anyone else? The answer is simple: Though the boy had an alibi, the prosecution’s narrative appealed to the prejudice that people had about children raised in slums. The men believed slums were breeding grounds for criminals. The jurors who believed he was guilty were using ‘fast thinking’ to arrive at a conclusion; in other words, they were looking at the information from the lens of preconceived ideas by taking mental shortcuts. Juror number eight, on the other hand, used logical reasoning by applying ‘slow thinking’ to overcome this bias and question the preconceived notions against slum children.
So what was the final decision? Sorry, no spoilers.
But what we can say is that just like juror number eight thought logically, we too have to make reasoning logically a habit. In our daily lives, it’s more likely that the information we consume, the opinions we form, and the decisions we make don’t necessarily have such high stakes. But does that mean we should blindly swallow any information without questioning?
No, we shouldn’t. Our biases tend to creep in if we look at information from just one perspective. One of the mantras for success at work is the ability to think logically and look at things from multiple perspectives.
Harappa’s Reasoning Logically course teaches you to evaluate situations and avoid common pitfalls that can cloud one’s judgment and derail one’s ability to think through things clearly. By learning the art of logical reasoning, we can ensure that when we form opinions, problem-solve, or make decisions, we base them on evidence and take our personal biases into account.
This weekend, we highly recommend watching 12 Angry Men to understand the importance of logical reasoning. See how juror number eight thinks logically and find out if he manages to change any minds in the process! If you’re interested in making logical reasoning a habit, be sure to check out Harappa’s Reasoning Logically course. You don’t need to wait for a life-or-death situation!
Haripriya Dalmia is an Associate in the Learning Impact team at Harappa Education. She double majored in Psychology and Economics from UCLA. She enjoys singing and reading feminist literature.
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