Question special
Expert

In a previous question we discussed the concept of the ladder of inference – the cognitive process we use to move from an observation to a decision or action. Each “rung” in the ladder represents a cognitive step in that process, beginning at the bottom at step 1 to “ascend the ladder” through each sequential step:

6) Take actions that reflect the conclusions and updated belief systems
5) Refine belief systems
4) Draw conclusions
3) Make assumptions about the meaning of the data
2) Interpret that data
1) Select the data to pay attention to

One key point about the ladder of inference is the reflex loop inherent in it – each time we ascend and refine our belief systems, those refined beliefs influence what data we choose to pay attention to, and how we interpret, make assumptions, and draw conclusions about the meaning of that data. As Rayma pointed out in a previous question, “reputations” at work reflect a belief system that others hold about an individual– for instance Sam thought of Nina as not particularly engaged in patient care after their time together in the ICU. This belief system then influenced how future data was interpreted - when Nina was distracted on the phone, Sam interpreted her behavior as being disinterested.

Being aware of this cognitive process is crucial to understanding how biases and assumptions influence how we interpret the world around us, but also how others may interpret our actions.