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Inquiry vs. Judgement

  • Goal: to avoid jumping to a conclusion when there might be other possible explanations for what has occurred.


  • Technique:  when you are aware that you are making assumptions about an event or a person, stop and ask yourself if there are other possibilities?  Could there be circumstances at play of which you are unaware?


  • Evidence: Practicing inquiry vs Judgment is one means of avoiding a well-studied bias called the fundamental attribution bias, mistakenly attributing a behavior to a particular intent.  This bias leads to a misdiagnosis, in medical terms.  Practicing inquiry vs judgment is akin to avoiding a wrong diagnosis by the practice of always creating a differential diagnosis. This practice is really a form of re-appraisal or re-framing, and there is evidence that this reduces negative emotion and opens up possibilities for different interpretations of the same event or behavior( Ochner and Gross 2008,Otto et al 2014). Fundamental attribution error seems to occur more frequently under stress.  (Kabuta 2014)


  • Suggestions for use: The key to this tool is recognizing when you are making judgments without full evidence. Try doing this in your everyday life by asking questions in situations where you think you may already know the answers.  By utilizing the tool in common activities, it makes it easier to recognize when you need to use it more heated or difficult situations.


  • Potential Barriers and how to overcome: Recognizing the opportunities to use this tool is the biggest challenge.  It is natural to jump to judgment rather than to ask a question. Engage others in helping you to recognize opportunities to be curious.  Consider questions like “I wonder why…” or “What other possible explanations could there be?