Putting a face on judging others

Big Picture Blog

By: Annie Sragner, Associate Arts and Life Editor

Everyday life requires making split-second decisions and judgments in response to just about everything we encounter. It’s sometimes a matter of survival. Being alive includes staying alive among other living organisms in the environment. The five senses combine to help us understand what is going on around us and to determine if it is good or bad.

Humans are basically moving meat sacks that can sense and respond to stimuli. Each body is unique and differs in height, weight, hair color etc. The skull is similarly shaped in each person, but the way muscle, skin and flesh arrange on it provides a unique face-meat combination that allows us to be recognizable as individuals.

Imagine walking down the sidewalk and encountering another person. The brain uses information gathered from the senses to recognize that person’s specific face-meat arrangement before deciding how to respond.

If it isn’t a familiar face, you respond in “stranger mode” and move on without much interaction. Or, you might recognize it as your mother, best friend, acquaintance, worst enemy or colleague — and react accordingly.

Our brains judge everything constantly. We usually don’t take note of this phenomenon because it has become commonplace and mundane.  This unawareness can negatively affect us. Consider how often you make hasty generalizations about others compared to how often you are aware of others judging you.

When something juicy or controversial stands out of the ordinary, we dart our attention to it and we start assessing and judging. For example, if one were to see a man and a woman eating food together, we may automatically assume “date” and assess their romance.

Simple generalizations like this can have negative effects for the people being generalized about. Friends have complained about how when in public with an opposite-sex sibling, people sometimes assume they’re on a date. A mild example, for sure, but you can think of more extreme cases where our judgments impact others.

Flesh is the matter that confines the complexity of life and we often judge the way it is delivered to us. Our thoughts have power and our perceptions of the external world construct our internal beliefs. Try to be aware of this human condition in your own life. It is up to us to take responsibility for how we affect others in the world, even if it is unintentional. Pay attention to your immediate judgments and consider their impact on others.

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