Snap Decisions

One of the challenges James has faced in his homeschool class is participating in “timed essays”.  James can usually come  up with a thesis statement and ideas to back it up but to spell it out letter by letter is hard to do in the amount of time allotted.  His teacher has been great about letting him start with the class so he can get a sense of doing it like everyone else but then finishing it later at home.  The prompt for this essay was, Are snap judgments better than decisions to which people give a lot of thought? Plan and write an essay in which you develop your point of view on this issue. Support your position with reasoning and examples taken from your reading, studies, experience, or observations.

Here is his essay.  Thesis:  Snap decisions do have negative consequences, making them inferior to rational decisions.

“There is a black man near the school and he has a gun.” A concerned citizen calls to alert the police. The police lock down the public schools. The manhunt begins for this armed black man. After a struggle, an officer tightens cuffs around this criminal.

The police worked given the information a scared citizen provided. In most situations, police must make snap decisions based on limited information. These situations allow room for error, a calculated risk preferred over other outcomes. For example, imagine a man evading police and a witness reporting he might be armed. The safe decision, to arrest and disarm the man, requires little thought and exemplifies the value of snap decisions. Unfortunately, snap decisions do have negative consequences, making them inferior to rational decisions.

In Stafford, Virginia in June 2010, a teenage boy with autism sat outside a library waiting for it to open. The next few hours changed his life forever. The female called the police based on her assumptions and began a series of snap decisions devoid of reason that devastated a family. In order to change the outcome, the woman should have thought about other possibilities beyond her initial judgment.

Experience influences snap judgments in the form of stereotypes. Stereotypes are useful and necessary tools, but they will persist until challenged by new information. Without rational thought, stereotypes perpetuate their own existence. A self-fulfilling prophecy ensues and the original stereotype strengthens. The woman allowed her stereotypes to influence the police, leading to hundreds of students and their parents fearing for their lives and a teenager afraid of what chased him. The autistic boy ran without knowledge of why the police were chasing him, he refused their search of his body, and he fought the handcuffs because the police neglected to tell him why or even ask him a question. The officer made snap decisions, understandably, but he also failed a citizen he swore to protect.

The benefits of snap decisions pale in comparison to rational thought when time is available. The time for the female caller to research the situation or to provide more information to the police could have saved everyone their hardships. A snap judgment should only be used when the time is restricted or when one decision will allow for a more rational decision. In this situation an innocent teen would have solace in the library instead of frustration in a cell.