Cognitive Biases: Part 1 – Falling Off the Ladder of Inference

Cognitive Biases: Part 1 – Falling Off the Ladder of Inference September 28, 2016

Falling Down Ladder of Inferenceby Cindy Kunsman cross posted from her blog Under Much Grace

All images by Cindy Kunsman and Under Much Grace used with permission.

Well, we don’t actually fall off of it.
We just don’t climb it very gracefully,
and don’t end up where we’d like.

Before diving into additional cognitive biases, let’s take a look at how we can put them into perspective by considering the Ladder of Inference. (We named the Hindsight Bias as our first in the CranioRectal Inversion (CRI) that results from falling into their trappings. Honestly, I intended no pun when I wrote that post and created the image!) Think of the Ladder as a section in the toolbox for cultivating safety in recovery from trauma, and you may choose to tuck cognitive biases neatly into it.

Ladder of InferenceMy choice of examples and especially the pictures that accompany each to follow post won’t represent a complex interpretation of each bias. I hope to kickstart thought and self-awareness. I like the ladder which I’ve adapted to illustrate how we take in information which eventually leads to action. (If anyone notices that I’ve created more ambiguity by using a poor illustration, please let me know. But know that I might ask you to write a guest post for the benefit of us all.)
If you look at the Ladder of Inference, starting at the bottom with rung #1, we begin with stark, objective, hard reality. The “just the facts, Ma’am” phrase from Dragnet gives us an excellent example of what we might hope to start with – as though what happens around us were recorded for future reference. Jack Webb’s character on the show aims directly at avoiding cognitive bias. It might be worth watching an old episode or two to help appreciate the process.
Your Side, My Side, and the Truth
The second rung points out the trappings of attention and the information that we “select” to tuck away in our memories. This is a complicated and vast subject, but there’s an amusing and effective way of demonstrating the way our attention limits what we observe in a given situation. Think about the way a manipulator might take advantage of a situation to exploit this tendency as you watch.

I offer you CranioRectal Inversion #2:

Inattentional Blindness illustrates well just one of many the biases that affect us when we take in information. But that’s just the start of the process as we venture further up the Ladder of Inference. Read more in Part II HERE.

For Further Reading:

moreRead more by Cindy Kunsman:

Cranial-Rectal Inversion and Cognitive Bias


Cindy is a member of the Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network.

Cynthia Mullen Kunsman is a nurse (BSN), naturopath (ND) and seminary graduate (MMin) with a wide variety of training and over 20 years of clinical experience. She has used her training in Complementary and Alternative Medicine as a lecturer and liaison to professional scientific and medical groups, in both academic and traditional clinical healthcare settings. She also completed additional studies in the field of thought reform, hypnotherapy for pain management, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that is often associated with cultic group involvement. Her nursing experience ranges from intensive care, the training of critical care nurses, hospice care, case management and quality management, though she currently limits her practice to forensic medical record review and evaluation. Most of her current professional efforts concern the study of manipulative and coercive evangelical Christian groups and the recovery process from both thought reform and PTSD.

She blogs at Under Much Grace and Redeeming Dinah.

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