Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Causes of poor judgement among urban, middleclass Bangaloreans


Poor judgment refers to the inability to make appropriate decisions. Everyone makes judgements…both good and bad; however  some make mostly good judgements while some make mostly bad judgements. I believe three factors are essential to make good judgements: intelligence, relevant information and a well balanced mind i.e. when making a decision, one should be free of stress, depression, anger, jealousy, mental illness, addiction, obsessions, etc.  Even the experience of positive emotions such as love, joy and hope can impair ability to make good decisions!

Many people among my friends and family in middle class urban India made heaps of poor judgements. These are people with at least average intelligence, more than high school education, with no apparent mental health issues and with access to information.

There are factors unique to the Indian society causing poor judgements. I have not seen these factors in the Canadian society to the same extent as in India. Here are the factors, I believe which impair judgement and decision making among my Indian friends and family.

  • Many people I know don’t think. Or don’t think deeply enough. This leads to poor judgement. Among the folks I have observed, the reasons for not thinking are probably due to the obedience ingrained in them since childhood by teachers and parents and the Indian culture’s refusal to allow children to question adults…it has changed now but not much. With this upbringing, people don’t develop the practice of independent thinking before doing something. Not thinking is a major factor in poor judgement and choices. Many people with  superficial knowledge of a project take major decisions and face massive failures. For example, a student I know chose to study science in grade eleven,even though she had no aptitude for it. When asked why, she simply said, my friends are taking it and so I am too. She failed in grade twelve and then her academic career got stuck and she could not move on. She continued to make poor choices and one of the reasons was she would not think deeply but simply chose to study what 'others' were doing. 

  • Lack of common sense is a major cause of judgement errors. (A search on Google indicated that the average IQ in India is 82 which means the average Indian and majority of Indians are having lesser intelligence than people from developed countries; Low level of intelligence could be a major factor in poor judgement in India.) One sad example of this is the three students who lost their life while trying to take a 'selfi' by a running train in January 2015 in India.

  • Impulsivity &Impatience …the two symptoms of ADD lead many to make   poor decisions ; I strongly believe that ADHD exists undiagnosed in a huge number of Indians; or it exists at subclinical levels in the Indian population, sub-clinical yet enough to impair judgements and cause significant damage. An example of this is getting married to a  guy who came on three weeks leave to India and married a girl selected by his  parents without taking the time to get to know the fiancĂ©e and regretting it for the rest of his life.

  • I have observed in many people an inability to think things through …This is one of the biggest reasons for poor decisions and this inability to think deeply is also a symptom of Attention deficit disorder. A sad example of this is a person who bought a tractor costing lakhs of rupees...though he could not afford it, could not maintain it, could not afford the cost of gas to run it and really did not really need it.

  • Poor planning even for major, expensive projects is something I have observed often. For example, I know of people who travel long distances spending a lot of time and yet refuse to call before going and return empty handed!
  • There are many causes for poor planning which I will not go into at present. Procrastination coupled with wishful thinking and 'unrealistic optimism is one major cause of poor planning I have seen often.

  • Poor knowledge of the relevant matter before making a decision … i.e. the absence of informed decision making. Often people do not do due diligence before embarking on projects. For example, students enroll in terrible colleges and realize it too late simply because they or their parents neglected to do due diligence.

  • Absence of information or poor access to relevant information also prevents people from being fully informed before they make a decision. Many people, often do not bother to google for information though they do have access to Google. They know they could google for information but for some inexplicable reason, do not.

  • Pride or ego prevents people from discussing with knowledgeable people before making an important decision: Some people refuse to seek advice or discuss with people, who are experts simply because of pride or they don’t want to appear ignorant or don’t want to be ‘obligated to this expert. Many people reject good advice from ‘wives’ simply due to the culture of male superiority in India. Unquestioning acceptance of bad advice simply because it comes from a ‘respected’ source  such as ‘elders’, also leads to poor judgements.

  • People don’t approach professionals or professionals with a good reputation for their projects. Instead, they seek the advice of relatives and friends who are NOT professionals or go ahead with major projects on their own or by hiring amateurs.

  • Carelessness because of disinterest, indifference or a callous attitude are  also factors  leading to poor judgements and major mistakes. A sad truth I have often witnessed in India is that often, third parties  become  victims of someone else’s carelessness in the decision making process!

  • Poor assessment of one's own abilities...usually overestimation of one's capacities coupled with unrealistic optimism  are two other causes of judgement errors I have seen in many people.

  • Inability to learn from past failures is a frequently observed cause of poor judgement. There is often no learning from mistakes; they make the same mistakes again. Many people cannot or will not change.

  • Some people with poor judgement   do not take responsibility for their failure but often attribute failure to bad luck such as Shani Kaala or suspect their enemies have put a curse on them or done black magic on them and so they failed.  Many people would rather consult an astrologer, a priest or a palmist rather than science and professionals in the field to make major decisions. Belief in the supernatural than science to make major decisions is a major factor influencing judgements and decisions in India.  Success is attributed to Gods and failure of the project is attributed bad luck; in case of failure, the remedy is appeasing the Gods and not trying to find out what went wrong with the planning.


  • People often embark on projects with limited resources; they don’t have extra resources to buffer them if plans go awry. Ergo, there’s no leeway if things go wrong; Instead of buffers, people seem to rely on Gods & wishful thinking...that God will protect them; they are adamant in their  refusal to consider things may go wrong.

  • People tend to deny unpalatable realities when in the thrall of positive emotions during decision making. Undue Optimism helps people avoid facing reality and is a factor in poor judgement. Hope, Love or passion about a project are positive emotions which interfere with rational thinking and good judgement.

  • Two other factors of poor judgement are Rigid thinking and refusal to change ..a few people are proud of their rigidity and boast , how they will never change, come-what-may!

  • Failure to correctly analyze the cause of failure and fixing it is another cause of repeated poor judgements. As I said before people do not analyze cause of failure due to their impatience, refusal to learn or refusal to change,  due to attribution of the failure to  illogical things such as bad luck. There are many ways analysis of cause of failure of project can go …the wrong way.


  • People who make poor judgements are often those who do not experience appropriate emotions such as sadness when they fail. For example, a man who attributes the failure of his project to ‘things din’t go well’ and not to ‘his own poor planning’ will not feel bad or try to change. These people continue making poor decisions, causing loss, yet feeling no remorse. They simply move on and expect that the mess will be taken care of. They don’t want to fix what they messed up but want to simply move on to their next project.

  • Greed and the intense desire to get rich and sometimes the desire to out-do relatives and friends can lead people to lose their judgement and make illogical plans which fail.

I cannot fully understand or explain, why I see poor judgement among so called 'educated, intelligent, Indians in India ;  I don't see similar poor judgement among Indians living in in the west; I don't see such poor judgement among Americans or Canadians  with similar levels of intelligence and education. Why is this poor judgement seen only in 'educated, urban, intelligent' Indians of India?
The factors contributing to poor judgement to Indians is :
a.Belief in God and attributing many things to God and not taking personal responsibility;
b.The belief in superstitions and attributing causes and effects to superstitions and not to the proper source of cause/effect;
 c.Low quality of education which contributes to lack of common sense and inability to think, analyze, deduct, etc.
d. Knowing what is the right thing to do, yet for inexplicable reasons, making the wrong choice.  For example, the person knows he better go to a doctor, yet, he will go to a temple or a relative who had similar symptoms. In the given example, Do Indians make wrong choices to please others, or do they lack trust in professionals as they have been let down by unscrupulous or poorly qualified professionals in the past? I know that many professionals such as doctors and engineers are worthless and so it is understandable, if people would rather trust a layperson, than a professional!
e. Low self-esteem and self-confidence is a national malaise of not just India but maybe all Asian countries(in my humble opinion!) This low sense of self may also contribute to poor judgement.
f.Many Indians don't have access to information freely like in the developed countries and so they make poor judgements.

  • In my next article, I will be talking about people who are victims of the poor judgement of others under whose control they have to live. I would be talking about the limited choices people have and how, it seems to them that no matter what they do, they are screwed and so what's the point in wasting time to think deeply before making a decision? I would also be talking about the people who seem to be making poor judgements but who are in fact doing what is right and not what will lead to success. I would be talking about people who fail even after  doing 'all that is right' ...due to factors unique to India...such as absence of  qualified professionals with integrity, the wide spread prevalence of corruption  and the interference run by criminal elements which render all efforts to make good judgements useless.

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