It takes just a few seconds to make a first impression on somebody. It only takes your brain around 0.2 seconds to fall in love.
Effectively, those two things dictate the extent to which your relationship with somebody may, or may not, develop.
The socially accepted method from observation to decision is a very monotonous one, occupying the space of months, or in some tentative cases, years. There’s an obvious continuity flaw presenting itself in that information: we elongate a process which naturally takes a mere second to complete.
Why create the extra work?
We are a species that strives for laziness, always dominated by a mental lethargy that invokes insatiable cravings for increasingly easier living.
Of course, this is not an observation of the entire population, only what has appeared to me to be an overwhelming majority: the human race is still blessed by hardly occupied minds that desire eloquent enigmas to tease their intelligence.
Idiocy lies in the ability to take something simple and shadow it with complexity. Genius, then, can be defined as a skill, enabling its possessor to manipulate the inextricably difficult into something elementary. I assure you that the motivation behind this week’s column is not a malicious, misanthropic compulsion to point a theoretical finger and name the population as stupid.
The human brain is one of the most highly evolved successes of nature and as such to deny its intelligence could be considered a form of scientific blasphemy. On the contrary, declaring that we are graced with omni-benevolence would also be ignorant, as our knowledge is desperately yearning an extension from the greater unknown.
So, then, what do I hope to achieve by explaining this? At first glance any human being can be judged. The way we choose to present ourselves speaks a thousand words regarding our interests and personalities, but how people see themselves, and the way they’re perceived by others, are often nothing if not opposites. For each individual we have a label and from a young age we’re fed the idea that individuality is both beautiful and hideous. I’ve always stayed true to myself and strayed from the socially accepted lifestyle choices.
First of all there are physical interpretations. It’s human nature to be prejudiced. If you see somebody with piercings, hair dyed neon, ripped jeans and laden with chains and studs, you assume they’re a rebel, who listens to death metal and plays guitar.
Typically anybody who dresses in an expressive or unusual way is associated with distinctly lower intelligence that somebody who might be considered your ‘average’ or ‘normal’ person. Would you be willing to accept the fact that I myself indulge in buckled biker boots and black eyeliner every once in a while? I’m no stranger to fishnets and corsets. Does that change your opinion of me at all? It’s more than likely that you created a picture of me, as you read the first few paragraphs of this piece. My linguistic techniques and subject matter probably didn’t even remotely allude to my alternative personality, nor my unique sense of dress.
It’s unfortunate, but our over-thinking and under-developed analytical skills are leading us astray and creating boundaries. Indeed, if we allowed our minds the freedom to use those few seconds to make a first impression, instead of giving ourselves the time to make superfluous judgments, I’m sure that we’d come together as an entirely different people.
Whilst appearance is probably the most important and altogether most serious prejudice we all conform to, there are other traits that should unify humanity as a symbol of individuality, but instead draw lines and borders, sectioning us all off into stereotypes; telling us how our lives are going to pan out based on nothing more than a small technicality, relative to the scale of a person’s character.
Education makes for a powerful example of this. Most young people are told they won’t amount to anything without first attaining a plethora of qualifications and an endless compilation of achievements and impressive life experiences.
For many, that’s an impossibility. There are of course the broadly intellectual people, who excel within a structured learning environment and take controlled assessments and examinations in their stride with ease. For as long as I can recollect, I’ve been taught that I should strive to be one of those people, as through any other form of self-expression I will be a failure. I wouldn’t have said I’m a failure, and yet in the eyes of a habitual establishment, I’ve done nothing right: I left school mid-way through my A-Levels, with no occupations open to me, and paved my own road as I went along through my life.
Yet I have written quite proudly on my CV that I’ve performed, written, worked multiple jobs and volunteered. Of course I don’t mean to sound self-aggrandising and by all means I welcome you to draw your own conclusions, but the majority of that has been achieved since I left school and none of those opportunities are the result of my qualifications, but rather my own personal motivation. It serves as another reminder that what is commonly accepted does not have to be right in any sense of the word.
Before I conclude my thoughts, I’d like to give one example: quite recently I saw a selection of photos posted on the internet. They depicted both men and women working in quite respectable jobs; a surgeon, a lawyer and a teacher were all featured. Of course, the obvious association would be of intelligence and self-assured certainty of success. Beneath each of the photos was another photograph of each person, unedited. Covered by their uniforms were an abundance of tattoos and piercings, which the alternative clothing in the second gallery made prominent. If you saw just one of those photos by itself, you’d make a quick judgement about the profession of any of those people, or their lifestyles or even personalities. The psychological assumptions we make are emphasized so beautifully by this example, and as thought provoking as it is, it’s also very conclusive in itself. In what way could any of that possibly be related to our intelligence or our knowledge as a species? We love to understand the world around us, and even as I write this, studies and experiments are being undergone by some of the brightest minds currently taking residence here amongst us.
We think about everything and even without conscious thought our brains process things, make things around us up, and make decisions based on the things we see. In fact, our brains make up so much on a daily basis that I can tell you for certain that the colour pink doesn’t exist. It’s a figment, created by the brain to fill a gap. Google it if you don’t believe me. If something so intuitive as a colour doesn’t really exist, how can we possibly trust our judgements and over-considered observations of other people.
I appreciate that intelligence brings with it many questions and more uncertainty than perhaps any other trait, but on occasion these things bring misinterpretation and incorrect theories.
Many scientists got things wrong in their time but they left their mistakes, which were improved upon by their predecessors and colleagues. Is our current use of observation and judgement not also a mistake? I say it is, for such unused intelligence the human race has at its fingertips, so much as could properly equip far more accurate and time-efficient consideration techniques, if we could only harness it.
We take such time in making decisions because we’re smart (mostly). We know what could happen, and so we’re tentative, stepping lightly around anything that might be emotionally uncomfortable. One of those steps is the prejudice we use every day.
Perhaps if I use these techniques I can avoid people who are likely to hurt me, or avoid wasting time on people who could potentially be a drain on my patience? That’s clever, if you think about it. The ability to observe your surroundings closely is impressive and much sought after (not least by myself), and although we don’t necessarily use it to great effect, as we should, it’s interesting to think.
I’m apprehensive of finishing that sentence with a subject of thought, as sometimes just the process of thinking is interesting enough in itself. Rather than using conscious thought to make decisions we should allow our subconscious to guide us and be instinctive.
Just sit and think and allow your mind to wander and question the mysteries of the world. Focus your conscious thought on intellectual trivia and leave superficial appearances to your subconscious – it knows more than any of us give it credit for.
What can be concluded with some degree of certainty is this: Everything tells a story, even if that be a tiny piece of information, but the way a unique mind might interpret that information varies from being of the highest clarity, to warped beyond perception.
Even this article may have more to it than first meets the eye.
Column by Mail guest writer Ruby Hryniszak