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Avoiding Thinking


Explanations > Thinking > Avoiding Thinking

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



A range of thinking problems can occur if you try to make life easier by thinking less or otherwise avoiding mental effort. We also avoid thinking where it leads to discomfort of some kind.


A person buying some clothes is with a friend and just bases their buying decision on their friend's opinion rather than thinking about what clothes they need or their own sense of style.

A sales person knows that their customer is concerned about price, so they leave this question until last and then hurry through. The grateful customer just signs without having to worry more about whether they can afford it.


Avoiding thinking can come from a range of causes, including:

  • Laziness: Just not liking work.
  • Overconfidence: Believing you know it all already.
  • Anxiety: Fearing that thinking will lead to more problems than it solves.
  • Priorities: There are things that seem more important than thinking.
  • Hurry: Having insufficient time available for thinking.
  • Deceit: Knowing that open thinking will uncover things that will disadvantage you.
  • Convenience: Just using what is available and easy rather than a fuller consideration.

When you avoid thinking, you are gambling that the thought put in so far is enough. However, when risks are higher, this can be a poor strategy. It makes sense when considering avoiding thought to first consider the risks in doing so, then putting due effort into the process rather than avoiding thinking for one of the reasons above.

While we often avoid thinking for such reasons as above, the most useful reason is to save time and focus thinking on the most important things we have to consider. Things about which we are reasonably confident can often be left to the unconscious to decide. These are those which are predictably repeatable and where rule-of-thumb heuristics and habits lead to acceptable results.

So what?

Reflect on your decisions and where you think and do not think. Are these sensible and helpful or do they lead to later problems? Where you are avoiding thought, make deliberate effort to think more carefully, even if it is uncomfortable. With time and practice, comfort levels and success will increase.

You can also use this in persuasion, encouraging others to avoid thinking by escalating discomfort around decisions where you do not want them to think. This is a common method in sales.

See also

Habit, Tension principle, Uncertainty principle


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