Saturday, February 16, 2008


On the one hand, you could probably pigeonhole me in an instant: I’m a bicycle-riding, vegetarian, yogi, who lives in the liberal enclave of Seattle, is all for the reform of marijuana laws, shops at the Co-op, supports NPR, and opposes not only the war in Iraq, but the nearly all the Bush administration policies of the last eight years. No wonder I get emails from, catalogues from Restoration Hardware, and unsolicited phone calls from the local Democratic Party.

On the other hand, I only watch three things on TV: sports, the Simpsons, and American Idol; I like cheap American beer—notably Rolling Rock—I drive a Ford (when I drive); I opposed the smoking ban in bars; I enjoy the occasional hard liquor cocktail, and I’ve been to the Demolition Derby more than once.

Like many people, I’m torn between a need to feel like an unique individual and a desire to belong to some sort of like-minded community. But I’m disinclined to align myself with any one particular group—even the Unitarians kind of scare me—I guess I subscribe to Groucho’s old desideratum: I won’t join any club that would have me as a member.

There’s a phenomenon we explore in the Critical Thinking class called the “representativeness heuristic.” That’s where our minds incline us to draw conclusions based on stereotyping. So, for instance, consider Dave: is it more likely that he is a bicycle-riding vegetarian who does yoga and supports Obama? Or that he is a bicycle-riding vegetarian, full-stop? Oddly enough, most people would guess the first, when—as purely a matter of logic—it is necessarily more likely that the second alternative, which has one fewer condition to fill, will be true.

(As a matter of fact, the former IS true, but that’s beside the point.)

I don’t mind being predictable, but I resist being a cliché. That’s why, even though I’m a teacher, I resist growing a beard and you won’t catch me in wire rims.


Post a Comment

<< Home