What People think when they look at your Appearance

It is virtually impossible not to formulate some kind of opinion about an individual from just their appearance, since the way they look can indicate their belonging to a particular ethnic group, subculture, or class; their gender; and how attractive they are perceived to be. People are conditioned to expect different kinds of behaviour from different groups in society, so that there may be a tendency for people to automatically assume that a ‘gang’ of youths wearing hooded tops are up to no good due to the influence wider society has on their views and attitudes, particularly through the media.

People would like to think that they treat everyone they meet fairly and are not influenced by appearances, but it is virtually impossible to avoid making preliminary judgements about other individuals. These preliminary judgements may be confirmed as true or proved wrong, but they give individuals a starting point from which to work. This can be useful for those who encounter many people in their day-to-day lives.

Most people are aware of the people around them, whether they are on a train, shopping, or at work, but different situations require different levels of engagement. When someone is shopping they are hardly likely to talk to everyone they meet, and will only take a fleeting glance at the people they pass, without being able to assess whether their judgements are accurate or not. However, if they were to start a new job they may make initial assumptions about their colleagues from their appearance, but change these beliefs once they get to know the individuals concerned.

It is therefore clear that going by appearances can be problematic, but at the same time the assumptions individuals make are often shaped by the society in which they live. It is not an individual’s fault if they have got it into their head that teenagers who wear tracksuit bottoms and hooded tops, have their heads shaved and lots of tattoos are thugs and likely to pounce on them. Yet, a person’s reaction to a group of youths may change according to the situation. A teacher who encounters such a group in a classroom is hardly likely to respond in the same way as an elderly individual walking down a dark alley and confronted by a gang of youths.

It is an unavoidable fact that people constantly judge others by their appearance, especially when encountering strangers, and that these judgements are informed by wider society’s expectations and beliefs, as well as the context within which people connect. However, the fact that a person judges another by their appearance is not as negative as deciding to act upon these judgements and thus to discriminate against them for failing to conform to their own particular world view.