By Stephen Russell-Lacy. ‘Dick head’ was what I thought when I indignantly watched a driver ahead of me at the traffic lights not moving forward when the signal changed to green. As a consequence of this, I and other drivers behind were held up and couldn’t get through before the red light came on again. … Continue reading Judging people – Why so hard to stop?
Most of us will recall where we were on 9/11. I was in my studio when the announcement came and, like so many others, knew the world would never be the same again. That afternoon I collected my six year old granddaughter from her after-school club. As we drove away, slowing down at the T … Continue reading Muslim attitudes and Western fear.
Is it good to talk about the private lives of public figures? Like the sexual seductions of Dominique Straus-Khan, managing director of the IMF? This is someone who was heading for high political office. Or the widely reported affair of footballer Ryan Giggs with Big Brother star Imogen Thomas? What is more important — the human right to a private life or the media’s freedom of expression? Can talking about people we know be a good thing?
Some people are just harder to get on with than others. Obvious examples are those who are highly strung, aggressive or manipulative. They may need spiritual healing, but what do we need? What is the secret to avoiding unpleasant scenes with people who cause us a bit of grief from time to time? To better deal with the awkward mob?
A clue can be found in the study of social perception. Research psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert, University of Texas at Austin has pointed out:
“We may strive to see others as they really are, but all too often the charlatan wins our praise and the altruist our scorn. Juries misjudge defendants, voters misjudge candidates, lovers misjudge each other.”
Social psychologists have researched the way we see others in terms of attribution theory. This is studying how people make inferences about the causes of a person’s actions. One thing they have observed is how our expectations about how other people will behave can distort our interpretations. We may assume that the little old lady who bumps into us at the supermarket is someone with unintended poor balance whereas the tattooed hooded youth might be thought to be trying to pick our pockets. Mistaken perception can thus arise from social stereotypes, such as race, sex and age.