Saturday, October 15, 2011

How we judge people: What if we could not see each other?

When we meet a person for the first time, we immediately have an idea about them even before they utter the first word. We look at them and our brain takes in all the different aspects of their looks: age, gender, height, weight, hair, eyes, clothing etc. We get a lot of information from what someone looks like and some of the information is usually quite correct: e.g.  (approximate) age and gender.

We often make assumptions based on our observations. Many of our assumptions can be wrong because looks can be very deceiving. A few examples:
  •   Just because someone looks like an angel, does not mean the person really has an angelic character. Often people hide their real agenda behind a smile.
  •  Just because someone does not wear the most fashionable clothing, does not mean that they do not have a sense of style. You might just have caught the person on a day on which they had most of their clothing on the line and it had started raining, so all the good clothing was not dry enough to wear.
  • Just because someone is overweight, does not mean that they are lazy. They might be able to out-walk you but their metabolism is not working very well and they gain weight faster than other people even though they do not eat that much.
  •  Just because someone has bad skin, it does not mean that they only eat junk food. Some people suffer from acne when they are stressed, no matter how healthily they eat.
There are many other countless examples. I am sure that you could think of some of them yourself. We all are guilty of making some assumptions, esp. when we do not know someone very well (yet).

What would happen if we all were blind or were put into a dark room when we meet a new person? Do you think it would make a big difference if every single one of your first contacts would not be influenced by the way someone looks like?

Imagine, you were in that dark room and all you would learn about a new person would be the way they talk and the content of what they say. When you then see the person, you might be surprised that the person is younger or older than you had expected or that the person looks very different from what you would have expected.

How much do the looks of a person influence you? And do you want to get to know someone who does not look “nice” in your eyes? How do you think people perceive you when they meet you for the first time? And what would be different if they would only judge you by your words?

What do you see when you look at this photo? Do you see hearts drawn in the snow or do you only see marks from car tires?

1 comment:

  1. I've read the book Irrationality from Stuart Sutherland, and he writes about this very interesting phenomenon. Visuals mislead us. If we think, that we are all equal, then we should suppose, that a good looking person, has deficiencies in other parts of his character, but instead, we generally think of a good looking person as one being better, than he actually is... May be we should not think anything at all... and may be bad look even helps us to "see", what really matters.