Monday, November 01, 2010

I'm Nice...not Dumb

When we encounter someone new, we quickly seek answers to two questions rooted in the evolutionary need to make correct decisions: What are this person's intentions towards me? and is this person capable of being true and act on these intentions? 

Because we lack the brainpower to weight someone's true merits quickly, we seize on our sometimes mistaken answers to these questions and rate the person high or low on imaginary scales of intention and capability. Moreover, intention and capability assessments influence how we intend to interact with others. We like to assist people we consider to be warm (intention) and avoid people who we see as not being warm. We desire to associate with people we consider to be capable and ignore those whom we consider to be otherwise.

To further add to our parameters of assessment, we tend to find clues on people's race, gender, nationality, their brought-up and the social environments they were part of. Thus our decisions about whom to trust, doubt, defend against, are based on faulty data. The intention/capability approach helps us understand a lot about others. Why people disrespect the elderly while feeling positive towards them (they are seen as incapable but warm). Inaccurate intention-capability judgments can lead us to trust untrustworthy associates or undervalue potentially important connections.

It is particularly interesting to note that we can observe a gender polarity to this trend. Men normally  attach more value to capability component of the judgment while women value the warmth (intention) component. More so, the way we see others is a reflection of how we ourselves. Men normally tend to understand themselves and others by their capability to be true to the intention/emotion, while  'warmth' component comes second. While women normally tend to value 'warmth' more, thus associating with people who show more concern/warmth towards them, and whether or not the other person or they themselves will remain true about intentions/emotions is always a secondary point of concern.