How Does Rationalizing Set the Cogjam Trap?

We all have our hypotheses about why events around us happen the way they do. However we also need to take care to validate our hypotheses before we accept them as being reality. This often doesn’t happen when we’re overstressed. If we jump in with both feet and indiscriminately accept hypotheses as we create or hear them, confusion and missteps often follow–as we often see with cogjammed thinking and behaviors.

Book Excerpt

Here’s what Chapter Four of my upcoming book, The Cogjam Effect – and the Path to Healing Divisive Community and Fractured Science,” has to say about letting rationalizing win out over more effective reasoning:

“As with fear-based behavior, interpretations and conclusions drawn when we’re all worked up may or may not be our best. When battling through the heat of the moment, the temptation to accept a logical hypothesis as reality rather than something to be checked out can be powerful indeed. But putting the cart before the horse in this manner is actually a form of rationalization.


Taking advantage of a second barnyard analogy: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Comedians have suggested too many alternative answers to list. Many of them even turn out to be legitimate answers. But the only one who knows for sure why the chicken crossed the road is the chicken.

Multiple logical conclusions can be drawn about anything. But even if all of them are valid possibilities, they can’t all be right—especially in view of the fact that they often conflict with one another. Logic and factual reality are two different things.

Rationalization is when we adopt a plausible explanation as fact, without giving it further scrutiny. Sometimes we turn out to be right. But more often than not, we’re wrong. Acting on assumptions that haven’t been checked out can and often does get us into all kinds of trouble.

This is because rationalizing trots along in the opposite direction of scientific thinking. Instead of systematically observing and assessing and then drawing a conclusion, rationalization starts with a conclusion, then draws on past knowledge and personal biases to build a hypothesis to support it.

Actually, up until that point all is well. It’s taking that next impulsive step—accepting the newly created hypothesis without finding a way to check it out first—that gets us into drawing faulty conclusions.

Rationalizations and their built-in inferential leaps have a way of piling up. That’s how we unwittingly build mindsets for housing life experience that make us increasingly more foolish over the years, rather than wiser.”

Which is exactly what the journey through cogjam may have in store for us, if we do not occasionally take a step back and a good look at how we reason during these trying political times. Remembering to do this takes more concerted effort when we’re under stress.

But we can do it. We prove it every day.

We are indeed resilient.

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