Our first impressions are powerful. Research by Willis and Todorov of Princeton found that we make a decision about a person’s competence, likability, and trustworthiness within the first tenth of a second that we meet them and those impressions hold true for us months later. Take a moment and think about how long one tenth of a second really is …. a snap judgment. Yet we are constantly advised not to make decisions too quickly … but rather to think about it, sleep on it, so that we don’t make a rash decision we will regret later. While all this advice sounds good the reality is that we rarely follow it. We form our instant opinions and then convince ourselves that we are right regardless of evidence to the contrary. The impressions which cause us to make snap decisions come from deep inside our subconscious where intuition, biases, genetic messaging, character traits and social norms have been slowly, over years incubating to become such a part of us that we don’t even realize they are constantly front and center in everything we see, feel and believe. The unconscious basically decides what we are either drawn to or repelled by on a momentary basis.
While we would like to think that we are in total control – on a conscious level – of everything we think, feel and do nothing could be farther from the truth. Our subconscious mind is constantly giving us a barrage of messages and feelings. This amazing part of our brain is the ‘true brain behind the brain.’
As David Brooks said in his New York Times bestseller, ‘The Social Animal,’ the subconscious is the source of character, love and achievement. It collects the wisdom of the ages. In fact, as we learn more, experience more of the world and develop deeper character traits this amazing part of our anatomy is so powerful it constantly orders and reorders the new information to help us become wiser and more adept at living. Brooks went on to say that his book “would not try to discern God’s role in all this but if there is a divine creativity, surely it is active in this inner soul sphere, where brain matter produces emotion, where love rewires the neurons.”
Amazing to think about right – especially when we have been taught that the subconscious simply contains the the baser elements of survival – particularly the fight or flight instincts.
Realizing that our unconscious mind affects so much of our behavior it behooves us to learn from research how to decipher the patterns, tendencies and predictable behaviors so that we harness the strength of decision making. Some of these facts I will be writing about will shock, some will surprise but all will cause you to shake your head in wonder. Think of the next few blogs coming to you as ‘The Farmer’s Almanac of Human Behavior.’
Have a great few days!
Changing our minds and hearts occurs when we take the time to understand something more deeply – to walk for a moment in another’s shoes. We know when such a change is real because the person has nothing to gain politically or economically but much to gain emotionally. These type of changes give us hope that as human beings truth will ultimately prevail as we strive for fairness and equality for all.
Michael Bowers, the former Attorney General for the state of Georgia, notoriously known for his anti-gay credentials, epitomized such a change of mind and heart this week. While occupying that office in the ’80’s he upheld laws that discriminated against gays. However, recently he spoke out against newly proposed legislation in Georgia that would allow personal religious faith to be used to justify discrimination of those same groups. At 73 years young he gives us hope that positive change is possible regardless of age or standing. Since he is still viewed as a powerful and respected Republican, long after his 16 year stint as the top legal mind in his state, we can believe in the adage, ‘Hope springs eternal.’
When interviewed regarding his change of position on gay rights he said simply, “I know I’m different. I’m not as mean as I used to be” and he expressed regret for the pain he had caused in the past. We have to admire a person who comes forth publicly, to shout to the world, ‘I was wrong and want to correct my error in thinking.’ I want to make things right.’
There will come a day when the remaining states will join the existing 36 and support the right for gays to marry. Mr. Bowers willingness to speak out about his change of understanding and position regarding what constitutes discrimination will have a positive effect on the when and where of it all.
For a culture that often believes that the younger among us have a hold on truth and accomplishment this statement by a former Attorney General can move mountains among his peers – a group that was raised during a time when exclusion was valued over inclusion and fear reigned supreme. His statements will serve as a lighthouse of truth that will shine through for others to find their way to a deeper knowing that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes. In our hearts we know that everyone has the right to live free of discriminatory practices but it will take all of us, regardless of age, to be brave enough to speak out and promote this truth.
Our opinions or biases were formed from scant information often heard around the family’s kitchen table as we were growing up. But when something continues to niggle at us and seems to confront those beliefs it is time to reassess why we believe as we do. Then the wiser among us will choose to challenge those biases and opinions by seeking to understanding more deeply the rest of the story. Let’s make a commitment to join the ranks of this later group and continually seek to understand while keeping in mind the importance of the age old statement, ‘Judge not lest ye be judged.’
Have a great few days!