There are times when instant judgement is absolutely necessary: firefighting, avoiding pedestrians while driving, running away from a saber-toothed tiger. The announcement of a new phone is not one of those times. Yet whenever a tech company releases something new, we instantly lay on the praise and critiques based on marketing presentations and without any in-depth knowledge of their design, how they work, or any evidence of how people will use them. If they include new features that are similar to others, we critique the individual pieces without considering the whole. But the biggest problem is that we hold tightly to our initial beliefs (and I catch myself doing all of this as well). We have turned the first impression into our only impression. That’s not making good judgement, that’s dogma.
We tend towards snap judgements not because we are intentionally dense jerks, but because our minds are geared to taking new input, judging quickly, and moving on. In the wild, we had to immediately analyze a new situation to see if it was harmful. We couldn’t stop to think deeply because it could be a snake or jaguar about to strike. And even though we (well, most of us) are no longer surviving in the wild, the last several thousand years is not enough time for our brains to evolve beyond making snap judgements1.
First impressions are often useful but they are also dangerous, especially when they continue coloring our judgements long after we know better. A lot of research has shown that we often make up our minds and then post-hoc rationalize2. We must train ourselves to step away from our first impressions and stop jumping to judgement3. Look long and hard at the complexities and analyze the details. I call it train, because that is exactly what we must do. Rationality is not a switch that we can turn on, it is a habit. Delibrately being deliberative takes a lot of work and a lot of energy4, just as a runner needs to train up for marathons, we must train up to stop ourselves from jumping to conclusions.
Holding off on judging new technology is only the tip of why training ourselves to work beyond our initial judgements. People depend on our opinions. It is not just about being able to provide the best unbiased technology advice to our less technology-literate family and clients. This is about judging people unfairly based on our own biases without trying to understand their problems. This is about empathy and caring for each other. This is about making our communities better for everybody.