Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Judging Book Covers

Don't judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.” ―Georg Christoph Lichtenberg

I am sure many of you remember the stories that have been told over and over again. It was also very hard to miss all of the videos and clips on the various news programs. You may have even watched all of it unfold on television as everyone collectively held their breath awaiting the first notes to fill the microphone.

I am speaking of the night that Susan Boyle walked onto the stage of the British television show Britain's Got Talent. It was April 11, 2009 when she shocked many people by beautifully singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables. She went on to take second place to a dance troupe called Diversity.

Did nearly everyone of us judge the book cover at first?

Intellectually we each know we should not judge another simply by the way they look. We have been told over and over again "not to judge a book by its cover." But researchers have found that outside appearance does matter in people's judgments on all manner of issues. As the lead researcher, Chia-Jung Tsay (both highly honored musician and a psychologist at University College, London) indicated, "There is something about visual information that is better able to convey cues such as passion or involvement or creativity. These elements are very much a part of high-quality performance."

So our opinions, our judgments are shaped by what we see. While we know that judging someone simply by appearance is not the complete story, the folks that advertise and try to sell stuff to us know we do anyway. Even economists and political psychologists have found that voters can predict the winners of elections when they watch videos of the candidates, with the sound off. If you believe our politicians are shallow, chances are we voted them into office more on appearance then by substance.

Is all of this bad?

No, not really. We are human and we have been endowed with many senses, which we use to make many decisions in life. My belief is in the biology of our make up, the fight or flight decisions we sometimes have to make happen subconsciously. Visual judgment is a nearly instantaneous piece of information that is used in the raw makeup of who we are as humans.

Think of yourself walking down a partially dark street, no one else around and someone walking towards you. Your first instinct is to judge the appearance and manner in which that person is walking towards you. The dust cover of that person is being judged at that very moment. All of this is happening in response to you trying to assess the situation. It is quick and as the person approaches, your intellect starts to process more information such as the person is whistling or maybe talking on the phone.

Does that mean we should have seen Susan Boyle come on stage and ran in fright? Of course not, but our biology is still there, just under the covers and holds a strong place in how we respond. Our intellect is slower and processes many more sources of information. We do this hundreds of times a day whether we realize it or not.

Quick visual judgment is going to happen.

Just try to understand that it goes on and if you use your visual information along with all of the information to be collected, you will have greater control over your own reactions. You will be better equipped to understand when marketers, politicians and a host of other stimuli are trying to manipulate your responses. It will allow you to make better decisions in your life.

Dream the dream and always know the cover of a book will never tell the entire story.

Stay inspired my friends.

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