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Reordering Perceptions

Some early studies concerned with prejudice show that we’re quite capable of reordering our perceptions of the world around us in order to maintain our conviction that we’re right. A group of white, middle-class New York City residents were presented with a picture of people on a subway. Two men were in the foreground. One was white, one was black. One wore a business suit, one was clothed in workman’s overalls. One was giving his money to the other who was threatening him with a knife. Now as a matter of fact it was the black man who wore the suit, and it was he who was being robbed by the white laborer. But such a picture didn’t square with the prejudices of the viewers. To them, white men were executives, black men were blue collar workers. Blacks were the robbers, whites the victims. And so they reported what their mind told them they saw—that a black laborer was assaulting a white businessman.

As human beings who desperately desire our lives to be consistent and untroubled, we’ll go to great lengths to reject a message that implies we’re wrong.

Em Griffin, The Mindchangers, Tyndale House, 1976, pp. 48-9