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Analysis of the Example

Now let's analyze this exchange using the elements of thought:

  • Purpose. Both Jack and Jill presumably seek a successful romantic relationship. That is their implied shared goal.

  • Problem. They see a problem or issue standing in the way, a problem they conceptualize differently. To Jack, the problem is, "When is Jill going to deal with her paranoia?" To Jill, the problem is, "When is Jack going to take responsibility for his flirtatious behavior?"

  • Conclusions. Both Jacks and Jill's inferences (conclusions) about the situation derive from the same behavior in the same circumstance, but they clearly see the behavior differently. To Jack, his behavior is to be understood as merely "friendly." To Jill, Jack's behavior can be understood only as "flirtation."

  • Facts. The raw facts of the situation include everything Jack actually said and did at the party. Other relevant facts include Jack's behavior toward other women in his past. Additional facts include Jill's behavior toward former boyfriends and any other facts that bear on whether she is acting out of insecurity or "paranoia."

  • Assumptions. Jack is assuming that he is not self-deceived in his motivation with respect to Susan and other women. Jack also is assuming that he is competent to identify paranoia in another person's behavior. Further, he is assuming that a woman could not behave in the way that Jill did without being paranoid. Jill is assuming that Jack's behavior is not compatible with ordinary friendliness. Both of them assume that what they have heard about the other from friends is accurate. Both assume themselves to be justified in their behavior in the situation.

  • Concepts. There are four key concepts in the reasoning: flirtation, friendliness, paranoia, and male ego.

  • Implications. Both Jack and Jill imply by their reasoning that the other person is entirely to blame for any differences between them regarding Jack's behavior at the party. Both seem to imply that the relationship is hopeless.

  • Point of view. Both Jack and Jill may be seeing the other through the bias of a gender-based point of view.

Both see themselves as a victim of the other. Both see themselves as blameless.

Given what we know about the dispute, it is not possible to assess who is correct and to what extent. To decide whose interpretation of the situation is most plausible, we would need more facts. There is a variety of subtle but observable behaviors that—if we could verify them in the behavior of Jack toward Susan—might lead us to conclude that Jill is correct and that Jack was behaving flirtatiously. Or, if we heard the conversation firsthand, we might decide that Jill's response is unjustified.

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