Assumptions are beliefs that we hold about people, situations, and the world around us. They can be conscious or unconscious, and they shape our perceptions and interactions with others. In her article, “The Psychology of Assumptions: How Our Minds Create Them and Why They’re So Hard to Shake,” Amanda Crowell, PsyD, explores the cognitive processes that underlie our assumptions and why they can be so difficult to let go of.
Crowell explains that our brains are wired to create shortcuts and make quick judgments based on limited information. This is an adaptive feature that helps us navigate the world efficiently, but it also leaves us vulnerable to making assumptions that may not be accurate or fair. For example, if we see someone who is dressed in expensive clothes, we may assume that they are wealthy and successful, even if we have no other evidence to support this assumption.
One of the reasons why assumptions are so hard to shake is that they can become self-fulfilling prophecies. When we make assumptions about someone, we may treat them differently based on those assumptions, which can lead them to behave in ways that confirm our beliefs. For example, if we assume that someone is unfriendly and unapproachable, we may avoid interacting with them, which can cause them to feel rejected and become even more withdrawn.
Assumptions can also be influenced by our past experiences and social conditioning. We may have learned to make certain assumptions based on our upbringing, cultural background, or personal biases. For example, if we grew up in a family that valued academic achievement above all else, we may assume that people who did not go to college are not as intelligent or successful as those who did.
To overcome our assumptions, Crowell suggests that we need to cultivate curiosity and an open mind. We can do this by asking questions, seeking out different perspectives, and being willing to challenge our own assumptions. For example, if we assume that someone is untrustworthy based on their appearance, we can challenge that assumption by talking to them and getting to know them better.
Another strategy for overcoming assumptions is to practice empathy and compassion. When we approach others with empathy and compassion, we are more likely to see them as complex, multidimensional individuals with their own unique experiences and struggles. This can help us to move beyond our assumptions and build more meaningful connections with others.
In conclusion, the psychology of assumptions is complex and multifaceted. Our brains are wired to create shortcuts and make quick judgments, which can lead to assumptions that may not be accurate or fair. Assumptions can be difficult to let go of because they can become self-fulfilling prophecies and are influenced by our past experiences and social conditioning. To overcome our assumptions, we need to cultivate curiosity, an open mind, empathy, and compassion. By doing so, we can build more meaningful connections with others and create a more just and equitable world.