HTML programming defines check box and radio button usage for standard answers on websites, we’ve all seen them. Radio buttons only allow for the choice of a single response; checking different boxes changes your entire answer. Where check boxes allow for multiple appropriate answers at the same time.
How many times do we make snap judgments of people based on very little information? Maybe just appearance will click a certain mental radio button in our head about someone. There is a graphic that is making the rounds on Facebook of a young man with a Mohawk doing something kind for a younger girl which shows the scene one way in shadow and another in actual; one seemingly menacing and one kind.
For a brief time, I had a boss who had spent years at the CIA prior to our shared work experience and I didn’t find out until her retirement party. (No wonder she was so good at sneaking up on people.) My mental radio button pegged her as a micromanager, narrowing my view of her and making me forget that she also gave me a chance and promoted me within 4 months.
Years ago my family was coming home from an extended family event where we had arrived in multiple cars. I left first because my car was ancient, then my mom and sister, and finally my dad. I arrived home without incident and a short while later, my dad arrived home. Hmmm. This was long before cell phones, so we waited. And waited, pondering what we should do.
At last my mom and sister drove up, with a story to tell. Mom’s fuel line broke on the way home, which meant that she was driving along the highway spraying gas. A car-full of young Goth looking hooligans came alongside mom’s car and got their attention, trying to get mom to pull over. Mom shouted back at them and tried to pull away. Finally it became clear that they were pointing out this problem. These kids stayed with mom and my sister and helped them to get the car repaired to a degree that would allow them to get home safely.
Maybe we should not be so quick to use mental radio buttons, for simplicity’s sake, to categorize people that we encounter. Maybe we should switch to mental check boxes and one that we check should always default to ‘still taking in information’.
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