Sunday, September 30, 2007

Assignment: Jumping to Conclusions

Posting schoolwork 'cause I'm cool. This assignment for Zoology asked me to define the term "jumping to conclusions" in a scientific context, and then to provide an example of a time when I jumped to conclusions. Then I had to list 3 competing hypotheses as alternatives that, if proven correct, would disprove the conclusion that I immediately jumped to. Finally, I had to list 3 ways of investigating or gathering evidence that would help me determine which hypothesis would be correct in the given situation.

Basically, we're talking about making simple things complex. One girl's whole assignment, (these were posted online as a basis for discussion topics in a class forum), was about being intimidated by a barking dog, which is jumping to a conclusion since there are lots of reasons dogs bark. I chose to take things in a slightly unusual direction, and hopefully don't lose marks for doing so: I discussed the preference at my job at Sears to treat every customer as if they are going to buy something that day. It seems like a legitimate example since it is jumping to a conclusion, (albeit warranted for the sake of selling), that is often not correct. Anyhoo, here's my post:

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1. “Jumping to conclusions” is simply an immediate assumption made about something. While the assumption is possible, and often the most likely conclusion, it has not been proven and therefore should not be considered a fact. The word “jumping” refers to skipping over multiple steps that are necessary for ascertaining the truth about something.

2. My personal tale of jumping to conclusions goes like this. Over the summer I worked for a major retailer as a sales associate in the home electronics department. As part of my sales training, I was taught to assume that every person who set two feet in my department was there to buy something – most likely a TV, the primary cash cow of electronics. For this reason I jumped to the conclusion over and over again that guests in my area were going to buy something, and treated them accordingly. Needless to say, this assumption was proven wrong more than once.

3. There are several reasons people could enter a certain department at a retail store. Here are three of them:
a) The Generic Customer Hypothesis
The position I took for the sake of being a good salesman, this hypothesis states that a person appears in my department because they are planning on purchasing something right then and there.

b) The Planning Ahead Hypothesis
People might decide to come in and look at prices, as well as ask questions about the merchandise because they are planning on purchasing something eventually, for a new home or an addition to their current one. They could easily be coming in just to compare our prices with those of our competitors so that they can make a better buying decision in the future.

c) The Bored Spouse Hypothesis
Another reason people might come to electronics is that, with special thanks to our three walls of TVs showing high definition signals, our department was simply the most interesting-looking part of the store. People could be coming over to simply gaze at the pretty pictures while their spouse looks at mattresses in another department, and kill time by having me explain the difference between interlaced and progressive signals.

4. The predictions that would provide evidence to support any of these 3 hypotheses are all fairly similar and straightforward. Usually, when I jumped to the conclusion that The Generic Customer Hypothesis was true, a visitor would communicate right away whether my or not my behaviour was appropriate for their situation. In most cases, the solution lies in communication.

a) Generic Customer Prediction
If this was correct, then the customer would usually indicate that they wanted a certain kind of product, (a new flat screen TV around 36 inches, for example), or something in particular, (like a 52 inch Sony XBR with a silver frame and one bonus HDMI cable)*. Aside from straightforward communication, further evidence to support the Generic Customer Hypothesis is a confident attitude in customers displayed through body language.

b) Planning Ahead Prediction:
Again, visitors in Electronics would regularly explain their situation, providing immediate confirmation or rejection of the Planning Ahead Hypothesis. In addition to verbal communication, a strong indicator of this hypothesis is a couple investigating names and numbers without employee help, and keeping track of things on a list they brought with them. This sort of behaviour would provide a strong likelihood that the people are “shopping around” and not intending to make a purchase right away.

c) Bored Spouse Prediction
Once again, communication is always the best tool. However, another effective method of prediction is, if I happened to see the customer come into the store I would know who they were with, if anyone. If the customer is with whom appears to be a spouse, goes to a certain department and then shows up alone later in my department, it is likely that they are “just browsing”. Typically, one spouse will not be seriously considering a purchase without their other half present – this is especially true of men.

*Click here to see that I'm not making this stuff up.

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I really enjoy Zoology. I'm enrolled in it because it's a science credit, which I need two of for my degree. Despite it being something that I probably wouldn't have taken otherwise, I'm very pleased with it. It's the best kind of post-secondary education: the kind that says, "Everything they taught you in high school was wrong. Here's the real deal." To unlearn what we have learned. It's like we're all Luke Skywalker, minus Jedi powers and bad hair.

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