What We Believe Isn't Always The Truth - Here's Proof

As humans we are quick to judge and make correlations between things in a split second. Any of these sound familiar?

  • Smoking leads to lung cancer
  • Aspirin reduces death by heart attack
  • Giving sugar to children affects their behaviour

Are these well worn linkages in society’s vernacular actually true?  Meyer et al (2001) demonstrated that they are not as closely correlated as we think.

  • Smoking leads to lung cancer – 0.08
  • Aspirin reduces death by heart attack – 0.02
  • Giving sugar to children affects their behaviour – 0.00

Any of these numbers surprise you?

In the working world, it can be easy to create a quick correlation when there isn’t one. For example, “Tom keeps an untidy work space so therefore he must be inaccurate..I’ll need to double check his work.” Or, “I saw Laurie crying last week – I cannot put her on the next project as she won’t be able to handle the pressure.” Just like pop culture myths that we assume to be true, we as leaders need to stop ourselves when we make these assertions at work. Are they factual? Or are we jumping to conclusions too quickly? We believe ourselves to be correct far more often than we actually are.

Be humble. Next time you catch yourself in a moment like this, step away. Go grab a coffee or change your scenery and think about it from another viewpoint. Tom’s cluttered desk may be his preferred setup (or maybe its just a busy, frantic week). Perhaps Laurie was crying because she just learned there was an accident involving a family member (or she was stung by a wasp at lunch!).

Take time to pause and think during moments when you may be jumping the gun.

Be great,

Ian