First impressions and assumptions

I’m currently sitting in a lounge at Gatwick Aiport waiting to board my flight to Reykjavik, Iceland (the stop-over on the way to the USA). I haven’t done much at all other than graze on the buffet for breakfast. However, in simply resting and watching what goes on around me, I am finding it absolutely fascinating just observing the other lounge ‘guests’.

First let’s put some context here – and I invite you to make assumptions about me and my lifestyle as you look at this list:

  • The lounge I am in is accessible only by way of paying a premium fee
  • All ‘guests’ of the lounge have access to the premium security lane
  • The bar in the lounge consists mainly of upmarket beers, wines and bottles of champagne
  • The ‘guests’ are well presented (no one in flip-flops and Bermuda shorts!)
  • No kids, at least from what I can see
  • The staff are clean and crisp, always with a smile while they wait on people and clean up after them

So what do you think? What assumptions can you make about me or the other guests here? Are those assumptions fair? Which assumptions are easier to establish as fact rather than stereotype or prejudice?

While I watch and listen, there’s an elderly well-dressed poshly spoken couple adjacent to me who are doing this exact thing at an audible volume. “Look at that couple over there not talking to each other on their phones… Probably on Facebook”; “She looks awfully young to be waiting on tables” etc. In my peripheral vision I can see them look in my direction but they make no comment, internalising their thoughts about me sitting here tapping on my laptop.

Interestingly, the ‘young couple’ did not stay on their phones for long at all and they engage in conversation over a couple of classes of white wine. The elderly couple have noticed this but made no comment or acknowledgement of this gear-change – is it possible that their first judgement has solidified their assumptions? “First impressions” indeed!

This mini social experiment was very interesting – I wonder what Gareth Yassin and the other teachers who teach Psychology back at school think about this.

My flight now has a gate – so time to go. But before I do I engage in conversation with one of the members of staff as she clears the table next to me. We don’t chat for more than 60 seconds as she continues to work. But in that 60 seconds, she has a brief story behind my face and I have a insight of how and why she does what she does. Just 60 seconds, and assumptions start to melt away… Try it sometime!


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