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Tuesday, 10 January 2017


Image source: www.jonlieffmd.com

A fraction of every man’s grey matter somehow, has created a virtual folder of expectations so that the resonance of certain words or the sight of a specific substance triggers this folder containing the attributive expectations. It’s psychological; it’s the way we have been wired. To an ice-cream lover, a mere mention of ice-cream sets his mouth watery, evoking a mental picturesque and a craving for one. To a young dude who is perusing through movies on the shelf of a movie store, a movie titled “The Battle Line” would trigger an imagination of warfare and jaw-breaking heroism (assuming there was no graphics preview). Surprisingly, such an expectation may be dashed on the rocks if the predicted warfare movie turned out to be a high school break dance competition.

Just like the ice-cream and movies store illustrations, we apply the same form of assessment to a wide range of things including fellow humans. Keep following me and it will become clearer. Certain qualifications and tags tend to influence our primary perception of the tagged. For instance, when someone is introduced as “an academic doctor,” in a meeting of “academically average” people, something in the brain gives the picture that such a person is highly endowed with wisdom to handle whatever purpose the meeting was scheduled for. Incidentally, the impression of his tag could command his being appointed as the chairman or a figure in the meeting or planning. Unfortunately, this so much “hoped on” epitome of knowledge may turn out to be unsuitable for the particular role of spear-heading the affairs of the gathering.

In another setting, someone may be tagged an illiterate. This word is usually a heavy connotation. It creates an impression of the absence of academic qualification, very low level of societal exposure and of course, financial limitation. (The tagged, in the true sense, may be educated just to the apex of primary or secondary stratum and may have a relatively small level of social exposure. This may make people who feel they are well educated to label them with such a slanderous name.)

As it is, this piece will not delve into the morals behind negative tagging or labeling since it has a primary focus already which is to condemn the falsifying effects of primary perception. Primary perception—a term I coined myself, which I will try to define as simple as possible— is a mind picture or imagination which is triggered by words used to describe or name a particular item or person. It is similar to what we popularly call “first time impression”. Tagging someone the description, “market seller” is likely to paint a mind picture of a  person  who is poorly dressed, dirty, bad mannered and noisy. Labeling someone an illiterate (which so many times, we use it wrongly) will automatically paint the picture of an uncivilized and highly primitive person who has no impressive reasoning ability etc. Similarly, tagging someone a graduate (and probably attaching the name of a prominent university) will create a picture of a sound-minded fellow who is eloquent in speech, well-mannered and has a good sense of organization. Calling someone a Minister of God paints a grand picture of a gentleman that commands maximum reverence. In the actual sense, these individuals may just be opposite of what their tags portray.

Like earlier mentioned, it is natural to picture things this way as our brains are wired so. But this is when wisdom should be employed. It is insufficient to give a verdict based on primary perception. It is unwise to segregate one’s self from another, merely because of proliferating rumors that the person is a harlot. It is unwise to sideline people from taking active roles in a function or program on grounds that they do not have university education. It does not suffice to start drawing up the “he is evil” perception after discovering that your next door neighbour is an atheist. This primary mental perception has gone miles in causing dents to reputations and undermining/over-rating personal abilities. So many people we downgrade and steer away from based on the labels they carry or that are given to them are actually better than the perception we have of them. I’ve seen university graduates who cannot correctly read two out of four sentences. I’m sorry to say this but back in school, there were a couple of people I deliberately did not want to be seen with as their level of self presentation (grammar, dressing and conduct) and academic commitment was terribly disheartening. Unfortunately, they are in the society today, with the tags “graduates”. I’ve also come across a very outspoken and intelligent young fellow who does not have up to university qualification but is excellent in planning and coordinating events. I usually seek her guidance many times the occasion demands. This is one in many.

What am I emphasizing? Do not judge a book by its cover. Learn to observe for yourself. Discover the potentials and abilities in people. Don’t be blinded by the tags they’re given or they carry. Even the ones with applaudable tags may not be suitable for that role. Again, primary mental perception could be deceptive, don’t judge a book by its cover.

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