Like it or not, we judge people by the way they dress

We all like to believe we are what we think we are. We trust the superiority of our supra-morality to be right about us and our guts to be right about the others. But psychoanalysis is right again: they are more beliefs rather than truths. Perception is what we trust, and not reality.

Research says we are judgmental

A recent study revealed yet another disturbing truth about the pranks, perception plays on us confirming once again how judgmental we are. Authors Oh, Shafir, and Todorov took a chance on how humans judge people by the way they dress and decide whether someone is competent or not.

Participants’ perception of competence was tested in a series of 9 studies. For each study they revealed different guidance, and each test had different tasks. For each of the 9 studies participants had to assess people’s competency based on pictures of them.

Even if they had limited time to look at a picture, even if they were asked not to pay attention to clothes, or being offered rewards, the participants’ perception was highly influenced by the way people in pictures were dressed. Those wearing expensive clothes were considered to be more competent than those wearing cheap clothes.

In one of the studies, people who were previously dressed in chic expensive clothes and considered to be competent were dressed in cheaper clothes. This time they were labeled as not so competed.

Why are we judgmental?

As bad as it may sound, being judgmental is what helps us evolve. We experience something and we use that experience to assess new experiences. Learning means becoming judgmental. If fire burns, it would be life-saving for us to become judgmental with fire sources. It is an inherent learning tool.

When a new experience comes our way, we look for the things we recognize in that experience and the things we haven’t yet met and we need to learn about. The more we know about something the more in control we feel about the situation. And we all need to be in control, in various degrees. The more control freaks we are, the more we’ll fight to make the novelty of an experience something we knew about.

Unfortunately, we can’t be judgmental and non-judgmental at the same time. We need to make decisions. And most of the time, we’ll decide to be comfortable. And nothing is as comfortable as the things we know and the new things that confirm what we already knew.

Can we stop being judgmental?

“All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure,” said Mark Twain. Why would we keep having experiences if they teach us nothing? It’s alright to be judgmental since it is your nature to be so. But it is alright also for your judgment to be wrong. So, just check it. Make room for doubt in your judgment.

We shouldn’t want to get reed of judgment, at least because it’s impossible. But we can decide to make our judgment adjust, adapt, and become flexible. We should become judgmental with our own judgment and investigate our perception of things.

It takes a lot of work and experience to gain judgmental flexibility. But it’s rewarding work. You can start with a simple question: “am I right?”. You think you know something, or understand something. But how sure are you?

Instead of running for the things that confirm your rightfulness, walk to find those that could make you change your mind. Even if you can’t do it at the moment it happens, do it the next day. Reevaluate things and yourself. Maybe there is something new to understand about things and yourself. It’s called evolution.

“Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves” – Albert Camus