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timtrueman's avatar

Why are we so quick to judge?

Asked by timtrueman (5748points) February 12th, 2010

Why is it that the majority of the time we seem to hear something and immediately pass judgement “that’s lame”, “they suck”, “wtf” instead of asking questions to get a more accurate sense of what’s going on? I’m guilty of this too but I’m alarmed that we look at opinions and anecdotes and make assumptions rather than getting more data. It makes us all look like fools at some point and I figure it’s whatever is simplest is the truth: it’s easier to judge than to research and get to the truth.

Is this assessment accurate in your opinion?

Why don’t we ask clarifying questions or look into things in more detail?

What examples of this have you experienced?

What can we do to change our behavior?

Can we do anything to change humanity’s behavior?

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30 Answers

marinelife's avatar

Well, sometimes a snap judgment is just a mental placeholder, a stake in the ground, something to say.

People do find out more about a topic, and then they change their minds.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Well I’m sure someone will come around and do a much better job of pulling up some sort of study proving that our brains like to categorize people and situations and that what you describe is just an off-shoot of this ‘ability’. Some of us (myself included) are quick to judge because the things people say or do…well, we’ve seen it said and done before and have learned that these are patterns we like or dislike and will judge others by them…yet, we know stereotypes and generalizations are wrong. As people, though, we often go against what we know to be wrong and this isn’t so much ‘human nature’ but just because judging takes less time than research. I try my best to not jump to conclusions – I have learned (after a few examples) that some people really can surprise me.

Dr_C's avatar

It’s laziness and/or indifference. People (I’ve been guilty of this myself on more than one occasion) won’t take the time to delve into a topic or ask questions and find out the “why” behind anything or just don’t care to do so.

TexasDude's avatar

Because most of us are too lazy to try and understand things that are foreign or seem off-kilter to us.

SABOTEUR's avatar

We’re accustomed to having everything placed in easily identifiable categories.

Anything that isn’t categorized confuses/scares us so we’ve made it a necessity to quickly judge whatever/whoever we come into contact will to maintain the status quo.

Steve_A's avatar

Judging is easy, finding the truth is not.

Judi's avatar

I blame the 10 second soundbyte.

noyesa's avatar

Everyone seems to have some kind of opinion about everything else. There were people who I have only met once or twice that seemed to have an opinion about me moving in with my girlfriend after only 8 months. They don’t know me, they don’t know her, and they don’t know what our relationship is like.

In general, that isn’t something you “just do”. So people assume that I “just did it”. They just fill in the blanks with the most obnoxious and dramatic things possible and use that basis to render judgment. They’re never going to be close enough or know enough to know the whole story, but that isn’t going to stop them from sharing a very disrespectful and patronizing opinion with the people around them.

On one hand, I realize that people do this because they don’t know any better. But they’re also smart enough to know that they don’t know what they’re talking about and should just clam it.

People seem to have very volatile and energetic opinions about celebrities. With most celebrities, people will decide what they think about them by what little they know about them, adamantly enough to casually let everyone know that they think that person is a slut or an alcoholic. There’s no consequence for this. But if it’s closer to home, they’re not so quick to render judgment. How quickly to people start spouting off that they think someone in their family or group of friends is a slut? The farther away people are from the situation, it seems, the more likely they are to have a very negative opinion, and the more likely they are share that negative opinion with other people.

stranger_in_a_strange_land's avatar

Our minds seem attracted to putting things in neat little categories, even if we have to bend or mutilate them in the process. Laziness plays a part in this too. Having “loose ends” that don’t fit into our personal categories is disturbing to many of us. We have a large “oh, that’s stupid” category that things get shoved into if we don’t want to think about them.
Peoples categories don’t line up with each other; what is vitally important to one person is an “oh, that’s stupid” to another.

davidbetterman's avatar

It comes from way way back, when James T. Kirk made snap judgments and saved the day. Ever since then, most trekkies are snap judges.

slick44's avatar

Its easier to judge then not to judge, when you judge someone you dont have to think. you would have to take the time to try to understand somthing or someone, not to judge.Ignorance!

Harp's avatar

I read an interesting take on the subject of intelligence recently (which I’ll never be able to find now that I need it). It looked at the difference between having intelligence and using intelligence. IQ tests often have questions that seem to have an obvious answer that your intuition immediately suggests. But if you pay careful attention to what the question is actually asking, without making assumptions, you can see that the intuitive answer is not at all correct.

The article said that some people lack the intelligence to ever see beyond the intuitive answer; others have the intelligence, but lack the perspicacity to reserve their assumptions and look carefully at the question; others have both the intelligence and the diligence to keep looking beyond what seems obvious.

As an example, it cited the well-publicized factoid that G.W. Bush has something like a 130 IQ, but constantly made snap judgments based on his gut feelings when a careful examination of the facts clearly suggested that those feelings had no basis. He ended up looking downright stupid. When people like this are taking an IQ test, they may be extra vigilant for misleading cues and look more carefully at what’s being asked, but their default mode in typical life situations may be to just let their “gut” take over.

timtrueman's avatar

What can we do to change our own behavior?

Harp's avatar

I try to cultivate a healthy skepticism of my own opinions. I’ve been wrong way too many times to lightly claim certainty about anything.

gemiwing's avatar

I think a lot of it comes from not living in the moment. Instead of reacting to what the reality of a situation now, we instead are actually reacting to things that have happened to us in the past.

A man with dark hair punches us in the face while screaming about women staying in the house and not working. The next time someone says something about ‘woman’s work’ we have a tendency to use this as a way to confront the past abuse to our person instead of looking objectively at this new ‘now’ situation.

How to change this? Ask yourself if you are really reacting to this ‘now’ event or if it does come from something else in the past. It’s hard to master but worth the effort, I feel.

gailcalled's avatar

Milo here; I have never used “lame” or “suck” in my life. Either someone’s a cat or he’s not. That’s a universal truth.

ucme's avatar

A man died & went to the judgement.St Peter met him at the gates of heaven & said “Before you meet with God,I thought I should tell you,we’ve looked at your life & you really did’nt do anything particularly good or bad.We’re not at all sure what to do with you.Can you tell us anything you did that will help us make a decision”?The newly arrived soul thought for a moment & replied.“Yeah once I was driving along & came across a woman who was being harassed by a gang of bikers.So I pulled over got out my tire iron,& went up to the leader of the bikers.He was a big, muscular, hairy guy with tattoos all over his body & a ring pierced through his nose.Well I tore the nose ring out & told him he & his gang had better stop bothering the woman or they would have to deal with me!” “I’m impressed!” said St Peter “When did this happen.” “About two minutes ago” came the reply.

A little off topic but that’s for others to judge.

Cruiser's avatar

I laughed when I read this question as it asks about every aspect of the comings and goings here at Fluther. Makes me laugh just to apply each question above to how things go here! GQ! lol!

J0E's avatar

We judge everything, and we do it all the time. But our judgements are always changing, what we thought about someone before can change over time. So I think it has something to do with maybe speaking too soon, because I know i have hated things at first but then learned to like them.

rangerr's avatar

Is this assessment accurate in your opinion?
Yes. I’m guilty of it. Even in conversation with you about your nerd stuff.

Why don’t we ask clarifying questions or look into things in more detail?
Because we are lazy, sometimes we don’t understand it even if it IS explained, sometimes we just don’t really care about the subject. Sometimes we already have some knowledge about the subject and well.. still think it’s lame. Sorry, Milo. I’m not a cat.

What examples of this have you experienced?
I’m refraining from using Star Wars related experiences.
A lot of it is projects that I’ll be working on when people ask “Hey, what are you doing?” so I explain before I realize I lost them about two words into my explanation.
Even when people ask about why I’m so shy around people, I’d never explain that whole thing and I reply with “personal reasons”, I tend to get a “Oh, that’s weird.” response. I immediately feel judged, even though I know I’m being a hypocrite by feeling that way. Did this even answer the question? I have no idea.

What can we do to change our behavior?
Think before you speak.

Can we do anything to change humanity’s behavior?
Mind control, maybe? You can build something for that, right Tim?

IBERnineD's avatar

I think for some people it is easier to not like something or disagree with a statement that is different from their own. I hate to quote a Disney song but in Pocahontas there is a line, “They’re different from us. Which means they can’t be trusted ” <—that unfortunately is how a lot of people think when it comes to the new or different. And 9 out of 10 times they learn more about something or someone and come around to it.

For example in my field of study contemporary and modern art is something that REQUIRES one to examine all aspects. Who the artist is, what they are alluding to, understanding what is or was going on in the art world and the real world, relationships they had, why they used the materials they did, and even down to how they applied the paint, and where the artist grew up. I found that most of the time, the people who look at Kazimir Malevich’s Black Square and say “I could have done this! Why is this considered art?” Are the ones who have no knowledge of what is required to fully appreciate it. I guess Greenberg was right!

I think we are all guilty of initially putting something down. Sometimes people take the stance of, “Well everyone else seems to hate it. There must be something wrong with it!” the difference is, that after acknowledging that, some people will go to find out themselves and make their own decisions. While others will be lazy and side with the masses.

I believe the way we could fix that behavior is just understanding that we are all different people and we perceive things differently. I think we should just become more interested in why we may think a certain way. And also have confidence in how we think, and that it matters.

Cupcake's avatar

Because of the ego. We are afraid to be hurt, afraid to be wrong, afraid we’ll look dumb, afraid we’ll look different, afraid of change.

AstroChuck's avatar

I don’t. And BTW, damn you for this ridiculous question.

Jeruba's avatar

I think it’s yet another holdover from some primal instinct. We have to stay on alert for danger at all times and pick up any signal that says something is a threat. It’s not laziness, indifference, egotism, or obstinacy. It’s hard-wired for our own survival.

When we meet another creature in the jungle or on the savannah, we have to decide really quickly “friend or foe?” We have to be able to tell our guys from their guys at a glance. We have to know where not to step, which branch not to trust, which plant not to touch. Those of us who are to slow to judge don’t survive to reproduce.

This is no different from what birds do when they take flight at the least motion or disturbance. They don’t care if they’ve misread a signal and there’s no actual danger, or if they’ve misjudged their friends or hurt someone’s feelings. Better safe than sorry.

Most of the time in our modern civilization we don’t need those skills. We have supermarkets to separate the good plants from the bad plants, and we have a bigger survival stake in getting along with others than in killing them. But rapid judgment still tends to be automatic. Our rational sense is supposed to tell us to slow down and examine the evidence.

However, I can think of two civilian situations in which we still see this instinct in full force. One is when we’re behind the wheel and the other is when we have an infant on the hoof.

When driving, we must constantly make snap judgments that we don’t have time to study and confirm: this guy is going to cut in front of me, that driver is moving erratically and I want to stay out of his way, I can cut in here, I’d better wait, she looks like a nut case, he thinks he owns the road. We may even go with stereotypes and prejudices if they have served us well in the past. (And is it truly an unjust stereotype if I can predict with 90% accuracy the ethnicity of the driver of that blue car up ahead just from watching its movements?)

The point is not to be fair in sizing up everyone else on the road and correct any misjudgments. The point is to get to work and back safely.

When we have a toddler, we must constantly scan for danger the moment we enter a room. We’ve seen a mother of an 18-month-old walk in, put the baby down, and immediately pick up every object on a surface lower than 24” and put it out of reach. We know what the child will grab for and drop and what he will try to put in his mouth. As parents of small children we are attuned to our environments in a way that we will never be before or since.

The point is not to make a scientific analysis of what our youngster will and will not grab for and move only those things he will actually touch. The point is to remove anything he might grab for—either to harm himself or to harm the object—to avert the possibility.

Malcolm Gladwell has amply treated other kinds of instantaneous judgments in Blink. I just think it is absolutely useless to imagine we can scour this behavior out of our systems. Instead we have to recognize it and mitigate it where it does not further our interests.

galileogirl's avatar

Check your pronouns Bub, your we does,‘t include me.

evandad's avatar

I make rash decisions on a regular basis, but I often change my mind after I’ve thought it over.

ChaosCross's avatar

It is a normal conscious sub-routine in the mind to make funnels of information and condense things together than yo actually calculate it critically, saves the brain energy. As such, if you are raised to think a certain way about a certain aspect, attitude, or anything else in particular, you brain would like to put that in with all the other “mental stereotypes” it has to make things easier.

That said, instead of taking a long time to evaluate a person’s every aspect, we usually just take in a few and then write who they are in our minds.

DrMC's avatar

Why does the primal require so much non-primal processing?

I think your species is too indirect oh furless ones.

thriftymaid's avatar

You talking ‘bout me?

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