Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Power of Perception

I had an interesting opportunity on Tuesday night.
One of the classes that Aaron has to take as part of his Nursing degree is Interpersonal Relations.
Like that hasn't been a source for a million jokes.

He had to do a presentation this week and chose to present on perception.
As part of that presentation, I was asked to come and stand in front of the class.  So were three other people.  Yes, all we did was stand there.  Crazy bunch of overachievers we are!

He did ask that I dress in business clothes.  Actually I believe he asked me to wear a suit.  To which my response was "Uh... suit?  How long has it been since I've worn a suit on a regular basis?  Riiiight."  Truthfully I just parted with my last suit not too long ago, within the last year I think.  I finally realized that not only did I have no reason to keep it (yes it still fit though, woo-hoo!), but someone else could probably get some use out of it before it looked dated.  I did happen to have some slacks and a nice crisp white button-down, so we went that direction and fancied up a bit.

It made me immensely glad that I do not have to get up and go to work every day.

The class had the chance to look me over and then answered some basic questions about me based on what they saw.  I found it incredibly ironic that as they sat there making judgements about me, I found myself looking around the room doing the same about them.  Hmm.

So, what did a room full of strangers think of me as I stood there in business dress and was introduced as Catherine?

The questions, and their answers were:
1. Is this person male or female?  Thankfully everyone answered female.  Phew!
2. How old is this person?  21, mid 20s, 30, 32, 28, 35, 30, 35, 32, 32, 30, 26  So apparently I look roughly my age (32), maybe a touch younger.  We'll ignore those 35s.
3. Does this person have children?  If so how many?  no, no, no, no, yes-1, yes-3, yes-1, no, no, no, no, no.  Interesting.
4. What does this person do for a living?  Education, waitress, "Business type", no answer, another no answer, work in an office, business lady, administrative job, teacher, receptionist, another slacker with no answer, and works in an office.
5. How much money does this person make every year?  33k, 24k, no answer, 50k, no answer, 50-55k, 40k, 27k+, 40k, 30k, 40k, no answer.  If I could just make all that money and keep my current job...
6. Is this person a US citizen?  If so from which state?  Yes-Idaho, Yes-California, Yes-Utah, Yes-California, Yes-NewYork, Yes-California, Yes-Utah, Yes-Utah, Yes-Utah, Yes-Utah, Yes-?, Yes-?
With the Ca answers, I'm hoping that means I'm looking tan?
7. Would this person be easy to approach or talk to?  Sort of, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.  I guess I am slightly scary to one person, and approachable even if I'm a New Yorker.
8.  Is this person religious, if so which religion?  Yes-Mormon, no, no, no answer, no answer, yes-not sure, no, Yes-LDS, Yes-LDS, no, Yes-Mormon, Yes-?  (And just to clarify, LDS and Mormon are the same, and yes, I am!)

I found it interesting how the answers lined up.  Those who thought I was older with no kids also guessed I was not religious.  Consequently they also thought I made more than the others.  And that I wasn't local.  huh.

I think I could throw the word interesting in here about 50 more times, but I'll spare you.  I did wish that we would have thought ahead enough to bring one of my brothers along to be a prop too.  Interestingly (there it is again!), people often wouldn't necessarily peg us as being from the same family judging solely on appearance, even though there is definitely a family resemblance.  My older brother was out at our house helping with a project once (I think it was laying sod?) and a neighbor from across the street asked after he left "Who was that guy?  how do YOU know him?"  This neighbor had felt a camaraderie with my brother because of their tattoos and they'd had a nice long talk about them which led to general conversation about all sorts of things.  He was shocked to find out that he was my brother. I guess we don't look like a matching set!  With as shocked as people were to find out that I have 8 kids and am Aaron's wife, I would have loved to have seen the reaction to either of my brothers and hear what their guesses were about them.

It was a fun little project to be a part of and really made me think about the way I react to people based solely on first impression.


XLMIC said...

What an interesting presentation/experiment! Perception is such an interesting phenomenon.

Cheryl said...

I am going to have to go along with what you said, Interesting!! Sounds like fun. I always like to hear what people think of me soley on my looks just because I look so young. The last election I was asked if it was my first time voting, I actually laughed in the lady's face!! Good times. :)

I think its funny that just because you were in business clothes people thought you didn't have any children. Because mom's can't possibly dress up every once in a while! Too funny!

Cindi said...

Perceptions are very interesting (see the word works). Randy once had a conversation with a colleague who was going on and on about how Mormon mothers are just fat slobs. About that time a friend of ours, a SAH mother of 10, who looks amazing (like you) walked up to say "hi". After she left, Randy informed his co-worker that she was indeed a mother. He was shocked. He would never have guessed.

Kelsey said...

I cannot think of anything worse than standing there being judged. At the end did Aaron tell who you were and how many kids you had?

Catey said...

yep. We went through each question and the real answers vs what they guessed. After I said 8 kids he told them that I was his wife. They were pretty surprised!