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Mar-14-2014 10:48printcomments

Defining Ourselves: How Deductions Lead to Decisions

My tentative conclusion: Decisions rest on two pillars, circumspection as well as introspection. They provide the strength and reveal the weakness of who we are.


(SALEM) - Perhaps one under-researched arena in the World of Psychology is just how each person paves the way to reaching a decision. Without decision, our very lives would be devoid of direction. As we reach our maturity, this realization becomes clearer.

An English philosopher named John Locke offered us the key.

He is said to have pictured the human mind as a "blank slate" at birth. With every life experience, that slate received etch marks for its memory terminal. Frequently that memory was buried beneath the surface, but it never really disappeared.

Locke's theory of knowledge became known as Empirical, based on experiences. It was missing in gathering the how-to on the process part. How do we perceive so-and-so? And how does one set of experiences lead to forming a decision later on? In this, I'm not claiming an iron-clad answer but I do observe that data from the past seems to provide a framework for the present.

Many years ago, I first heard the word "deduction" used in Sherlock Holmes telling his assistant sleuth that he employed that art in gathering clues. Although we generally don't think of ourselves as detectives, on an informal level we actually are. One dictionary I consulted defined it: "A process of reasoning in which a conclusion necessarily follows from the premise presented, inference from the general to the particular". That is the flow of logic in action.

It is also true that life's negative experiences can inhibit future decisions. Thus we are sometimes captives to our own fears. We pull back lest setbacks repeat themselves. We indulge is free association, when one circumstance reminds us of yet another.

In still other instances, we find ourselves as somewhat valiant risk-takers. The end result we are after will make a decision quickly crystallize, followed by swift action, even impulsive at times. If the rewards bear fruit, our decisions get reinforced.

Finally, the question crops up: How much information do we need to decide which path to take? Of course, this varies from person to person. Some minds can fathom the missing pieces of a puzzle from only a few fragments. Still others will require a plethora of evidence (or at least credible clues) before they reach a comfy decision.

There is most definitely a muzzle on our minds--the interpersonal aspect of how others out there will interpret what we do and say. It's the "no man is an island" restraint working its way through our subconscience to figure the bigger picture.

My tentative conclusion: Decisions rest on two pillars, circumspection as well as introspection. They provide the strength and reveal the weakness of who we are.



NOTE: B. Lee Coyne first emerged as a Caucasian cub reporter for the Black weekly NY Voice and was assigned to cover numerous civil rights struggles. It has left its indelible mark on his mindset. He can be contacted at:

B. Lee Coyne, a NYC native, blends three careers: Journalist, Counselor, Educator. His writings have appeared in newspapers and magazines on the East and West Coasts and the Southwest. He loves the art of the interview and has covered such persons as Dr. King's 1963 "Dream" speech and Sen. William

Proxmire as an advocate for the environment. A global traveller to some 30 countries aboard, he speaks Spanish semi-fluently and very rudimentary Russian, Tagalog, German, Arabic and Hebrew.

Lee's legacy here in Salem includes launching the Salem Peace Mosaic at the YMCA and doing a radio talk show for KMUZ/88.5 FM. It airs Mondays and highlights lives of proactive, productive senior citizens. He invites you to contact him at:


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