In my Composition class last week, we had an interesting activity that was intended to discover how we judge people by looks when, according to the theory of the activity, we are not given time to allow prejudices to enter our judgment. We were allowed to look at each picture of a mostly well-known person–at least at my school for a few–for just 15 seconds and had to write down as much as we could about the person in that time without including their name. I put my answers down below each picture, in the exact order I wrote them. If you want to, you should try to do the same thing; only look at the picture for 15 seconds and see what comes immediately to mind. I also copied the exact pictures that were used in the activity, as different pictures of the same person would obviously elicit different responses. Our professor shared a few other interesting facts including some differences in our answers (a class of freshman) opposed to the answers of other professors.
President, handsome, flag, suit, tie, white house, ears, America, blue
Transformers, pretty, movies, famous, stars
Indiana, suit, tie, flag, bald, old, governor
talented, hat, ring, music, rap, stranded, Haiti
old, grandpa, mean, republican, war, ugly tie, tumor, lost
lost, President, flag, crazy, first lady, loud, cold
ipod, computers, apple, beard, glasses, smart, old
volcanoes, President, lava, school, father, priest, smart, nice
evil, terrorist, beard, dead, new york, Muslim
cute, Avatar, blue, robot, army, tough, trees, Jake, moron
One of the first things that our professor pointed out was that 30% of the professors who did this with him did not know who #10 is, and a few more than that did not know #2. There were no students who didn’t know either of them. Also:
-Surprisingly, he said all but a few professors knew #4.
-Sadly, about 40% of the students did not know who #3 is (he is Mitch Daniels, the Governor of our state).
-A few students didn’t know #8!! He is Fr. Jenkins, the President of our school!! Which is very sad considering he spoke at orientation where every fresh would have seen him in person.
-Over half of the professors used “black” or “African-American” on #1 or #4, and almost half used “girl” on #2. Only 4% of students used the same terms on #1 or #4 and no students used “girl” on #2.
-Boys were, of course, very likely to describe #2 as “hot” and girls to describe #10 as “cute” or “hot”. No professors used those terms on anyone.
-No professors used “old” to describe anyone. Most students used “old” to describe at least one of the people .
What I found surprising was how rushed I felt to write something and I actually did mostly just describe the person’s clothes or something in the picture, even though I feel very strongly about a few of the people. Our professor’s theory is that if you do use “emotional” language to describe someone in this activity (“evil”, “crazy”, and “mean” in my answers), the feeling is extremely closely held and nothing will likely ever change your mind about the person. Did you think about the images as you looked at them? How different were your thoughts from mine?