Discriminate, prejudge, get carried away by stereotypes … all are useful strategies to deal with the complexity of a world full of information when we do not have the keys and the necessary information.
Those strategies would be something like compasses or even more or less accurate signs of the place where some roads die. We will discover the reality when we tread those roads. In addition, although these strategies are not the best way to get to know someone (it is better to do it through a long interaction), given the limited time we have to form an idea of the other, they can be very effective strategies: it would be enough, for example, with the other person saying seven words .
The 7 words
Given that there is an enormous amount of information around us and processing it would require more time than we have in our own existence, we allow ourselves to be carried away by hunch, by prejudice, by emotional inertia. It is not necessarily bad (allows to live), what is worrying is that we use the wrong or too superficial shortcuts. Or that we get caught up in those first impressions and may not be able to get over them when new information arrives .
When it comes to classifying social class, ethnicity, age or gender, in fact, little is needed. Just seven words, as this 2019 study suggests.
In one of the five experiments performed, a group of 27 people were asked to speak 7 words chosen at random . On the other hand, other volunteers were asked to listen to them and classify the speakers according to these four categories, obtaining the following success rates:
- 55.5% for social class
- 64.1% for ethnicity
- 66.3% for age
- 92.4% for gender
In addition, the college-educated volunteers correctly identified almost all of the people in the experimental group with college education .
As you can see in the following video, in which this study is more detailed, these heuristics can also feed a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy; it is inevitable to prejudge, it is inevitable to be wrong. The avoidable thing is that, once we meet the other person, we are flexible enough to adjust our opinion of them based on these new input data (by the way, the image of the thumbnail is of Ivana Trump ):