Concept of the Month -- January 2005

"I think, therefore it is so": A Costly Error of Thinking

Criminals often function on the basis of assumptions. They see themselves as the hub of the wheel around which all else revolves. There is no need to seek facts or weigh alternative if a person believes he or she already knows it all. Operating on the basis of assumptions can be extremely dangerous to others. On a crowded bus, one man concluded that a fellow passenger (a total stranger) was staring at him. He decided to get off the bus when the other fellow did, to follow him, and beat him up to "teach him a lesson" not to stare. The only reason he deterred this thought is that many passengers were getting off at the same stop, and he knew he'd be identified as the assailant. Thinking something is what matters. The criminal does not see any need to justify this. He operates on the basis of his own premise without checking it out. Of course, if he were to do this while committing a crime, he would likely jeopardize himself. So he is fully capable of ascertaining facts when it suits his purpose. The "I think; therefore it is so" is part of his attempt to impose his will upon others, to exercise power, and control. It provides graphic evidence of his failure to put himself in the place of others and to empathize. The costs of this thinking error are often devastating to innocent people.

Stanton E. Samenow

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