Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Sometimes it's hard to be someone

It's really easy to find fault with people, and it can be so easy to not like them no matter how interesting or intelligent you find them.
This is what is known as confirmation bias, a phenomenon in which our impression of something or someone is so strong that we ignore evidence contrary to our beliefs and interpret neutral behavior from them (the object or the person) as our impression suggests.

One time a friend of mine told me that "even people you don't like have something to be proud of." (Like that, Ms. Glaaser? Within the quotations... who knew?) It is apparently, circumstances which cause us to dislike or even like one another. I suppose that could be true. Do I ignore the bad things my friends do? No, but I don't say much either.

Perspective is such a hard thing to turn around sometimes, and we change ourselves based on who we are talking to. Some people do this more than others... I've come to think that I have an opposite extreme. I tend to say what I think regardless of who is listening, except in extreme cases, involving forensics judges or my dad's patients. All of this makes me feel like who we are is not concrete. I am intelligent and hardworking, yes, unless you expect me to do fine handiwork. I am loud and talkative, unless I am writing a poem, or focusing deeply on a concept, or in choir class.

People have a tendency to look at a person and think they know everything. I know that I do. Our mind does this on purpose, we adopt generalizations and prejudices to allow us to differentiate between different stimuli. To help sort out who people are, we put them into concepts of cool nerd, nerd nerd, stoner, stalker, wannabe, pretty boy, girl with a cause, loser without a cause, hockey player... just like a robin is a bird, Robin* is a nerd. The only difference is that the robin is a bird because it has uric acid, and wings to fly, and a 4 chambered heart, and a backbone and Robin... well, she has a book with her all the time and acts quietly in class. At least, that's how Robert sees her. Robert doesn't know that Robin is loud and has a 19-year-old college boyfriend that she grinds with on the weekends at clubs where she uses a fake ID. And how would he know? All he sees is a representation of a nerd. Classifying animals and classifying someone's character appear to be similar sciences, but they are not.

The underlying thought is that we are not just human beings, set in stone, defined once and never again. Most of us know this for ourselves, but we must see it in others as well. I'm a little tired of remembering what a something she was freshman year, and what stupid thing he did in 8th grade. I know that if you had even known me in seventh grade... you would not like me at all. So, 'tis similar for all.
But if this is a fact of life, it's not something that changes with the wave of a wand or a twiddle of a finger.
So, why even write this? No reason too special. I want to let out these observations that have been afloat in my brain for enough time, and perhaps, for whoever is reading this to take a second glance at what they think and how they feel about people. We need a more understanding world... one that gives second chances, respect, maybe a little love? To be paralyzed by others' opinions is an awful fate indeed.

*Not real people.