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077: Communication (II)

On interpreting reality and shaping beliefs.

Jeremy Finch
Jeremy Finch
2 min read
077: Communication (II)

Have you heard of this concept?

Idea credit :
Chris Argyris

The Ladder of Inference is a handy framework that describes how people interpret reality, create narrative, and form their beliefs.

Here is my rendition :

At the bottom, there's some sort of shared reality. At the top, our individual beliefs and actions.

Between them, multiple layers of abstraction (available data, selected data, interpretations, conclusions etc).

Using the Ladder of Inference

I think this model offers some useful applications:  

1. It reminds me that I jump to conclusions. At each rung, humans apply assumptions and subconscious patterns. Selective attention is in our nature.

2. It describes how subjective experiences can vary widely. Opinions form based on our filters of judgment. We notice information (and take action!) that confirms existing beliefs. We're wired to make meaning and minimize cognitive dissonance.

3. When there is disagreement, the ladder can help identify a root cause.

Next time someone does something strange and (seemingly) inexplicable, try to pause and ask:

At what rung did we diverge?

Is this framework useful?

Share your thoughts:

Update :
Multiple readers have suggested that causality runs in both directions.

Perhaps people create stories that align easily with choices they've already made!

Related :

075: Communication (I)
Ten communication notes to self.
045: Different Scales
What are the smallest / largest things?
063: Team Dynamics
A summary of the Four Player Model.
009: Thinking Fast + Slow
The definitive user manual for your brain.

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