The Monday morning practice this week is inspired by a hard lesson I learned this week. Don’t jump too quickly to conclusions.
Simple concept right?
And very challenging.
What makes this hard is that our brains are all about jumping to conclusions. Our brains function as prediction machines. We are constantly scanning incoming information and making predictions based on our previous experience. We are wired for jumping to conclusions.
In a recent article in The Journal of Neuroscience, the authors describe this predictive function in this way:
“The human brain, it is being increasingly argued in the scientific literature, is best viewed as an advanced prediction machine. By this view, the sophistication with which brains perceive and act upon the world has evolved to minimise the amount of surprise, or unpredictability experienced in a particular situation.” Chennu, V. Noreika, D. Gueorguiev, A. Blenkmann, S. Kochen, A. Ibáñez, A. M. Owen, and T. A. Bekinschtein. “Expectation and attention in hierarchical auditory prediction.” The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(27):11194–11205, 2013.
Here’s what happened to me this week with my prediction machine:
On Monday my mom who lives in a senior’s residence had a health scare. While eating supper with her friends she suddenly became delirious, pale, and sweaty, and then was sick.
The care attendant rushed her to the hospital within 5 minutes. She believed my mother may have suffered a heart attack. I thought my mother had come down with a sudden case of the Norwalk virus.
In my defence my brain was primed to draw a quick and false conclusion about my mother’s health scare:
- That same day I had run into the director of another seniors home in my facility who told me that all the residents in her home had come down with the Norwalk virus.
- When I walked into the hospital a sign told me that the acute care ward was on lock down due to an outbreak of the Norwalk virus.
- My mom is from a long line of long-lived women with no heart disease.
When I saw my mother’s condition, delirious, grey, vomiting, I jumped to the conclusion – she has come down with Norwalk. I mentioned this to the doctor and he agreed. He was in the midst of treating our local Norwalk outbreak and was primed to draw this conclusion as well.
The next day I realised my error. After sleeping ten hours mom awoke feeling perfectly healthy. There was no way she had the virus.
A second look at the evidence – the lack of fever, the sudden onset, the cold sweat, delirium, all pointed to something more serious. AND since we didn’t get the blood work done at the hospital we won’t know what really was going on.
My lesson, hard learned, is not to jump to conclusions. Instead pause and seek information.
The Monday morning practice this week is dedicated to my mother and this tough lesson. This week watch and reflect on your predictions, have you considered all the angles? Would more information help?