Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I expect it to be that way!!

Suppose you are 25, a fresh graduate out of college, a newbie in the world of work, gone through a couple failed romantic relationships, and in the eyes of others, a trifle bit inexperienced. Get the picture?

Then you meet a 35 year old, who "obviously" has more experience than you in all these aspects of life. Correct?


Sometimes, we indulge ourselves too much with an EXPECTATION BIAS. Yes!! Yet another term coined by psychologists. All that the expectation bias suggests is that when we expect something to happen or be a certain way, even when results suggest it is not true, we continue to be in denial and believe what we always expected. So even if the 35 year old turns out to be "stupid", not really a genius full of wisdom, and certainly has nothing valuable to offer in terms of experience, we continue to believe that he/she is more experienced than us!!

Yes. There is no denying that some people genuinely know more than us but sometimes, they do not. Likewise, when we expect someone not to fulfill our expectations, even when they do, it is hard for us to believe that they did!!

This is an error that we really do not commit as much as the fundamental attribution error or the out-group homogeneity bias, but nevertheless we do. Can you think of times when you committed this error unknowingly only to realize later that you were under an illusion?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


All Indians are dirty!!!

All Indians are great at Math!!!

All Indians live in villages in India.

All Indians are poor and malnourished!!

All Indians have arranged marriages!!!

All Indians have family values!!!

All Indians speak Hindi!!

All Indians are poor!!!

All Indians are smelly!!!

All Indians eat curry!!!

All Indian women are pretty!!!

This are only a few of the perceptions that non-Indians have about us Indians. Some may be right. Some may be wrong. Some stupid. Some worth a thought. Some plainly to be ignored. Maybe some of you are FURIOUS at what others have to say.

Want to know the psyche behind this thought process? It is called OUT-GROUP HOMOGENEITY BIAS. Yes. There is a name for it. What it means that we humans believe that all those who do not belong to our group are the same while we all in one group are different!! Now before you get furious too much, stop to think. Don't we do that too at some level or the other?

All Chinese look alike.
All women take too much time to get dressed.
All men are practical.
All Gujjus are business-minded.
All goris are good in bed. (Read this post of mine on Short and Sweet if you have not already done so!)
All Westerners have no family values.

So the next time, someone says something about Indians that offends you, take a chill pill. Forgive them for the outgroup-homogeneity bias, educated them about the truth, tell them about the bias they committed, and then do not go and tell someone else..."ALL THESE PEOPLE FROM SO AND SO COUNTRY ARE SO DARN IGNORANT!" Not all of them are.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Gay and Happy?

You are a heterosexual man. In other words, you are straight. Your sexual preference is the opposite gender. You prefer a female partner.

Now here is the twist. You are a heterosexual in a homosexual world. Everyone around you has same sex partners. Amongst your school, college, and work friends, no other person prefers someone of the opposite gender. You are committed to a woman and she lives at home with you. But no one knows about it. Sometimes people tease you about the way you walk and talk and make jokes about your sexuality. You just bear it all and hide it quite well.

While driving to work, you turn on the radio and listen to George Michael croon about his boyfriend. You change channels and find the same song playing. It is on the top 5 that week. Sadly, you turn the radio off and play the CD in your player that has the very few opposite sex partner songs in the market. Billboards and commercials talk about proposing to your same-sex partner on 08.08.08. You are unhappy because you know you can never get married to your love because society looks down upon it. You are furious when a billboard advertises shared insurance rights only when living with a same-sex partner.

At work, people ask you what you did over the weekend. You quickly say "nothing", when people begin to share their experiences with you. How can you tell them that you went to a "straight bar"? When using the restroom, you overhear people outside talking about you in a hushed manner.

Do you think he is straight?
Oh no. I hope not.
Ya I heard that's why he never invites us to his place. He lives with a woman.
Oh my god. He seemed like such a nice guy.
Ya. Too bad, isn't it?

You do not know what to do. You are sad. Unhappy. You do not how long you can hide it from the world. You feel judged because of your sexual preference. You do not know how to face your adoptive mothers. You tried therapy in the past to change your sexuality but it did not work. Now you do not know where to go to.

This is how a gay/lesbian feels in a heterosexual world everyday.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On the Highway

Imagine buying your first vehicle. It could be your cycle, your motor-bike, your car, your van, your truck, or even your own bus. It gleams and shines while adrenaline rushes through your body.You cannot wait to be seated on or in it, resting your hands on the steering and driving/riding away to some place that makes you happy. You speed, you slow down for bumps, you accelerate again, you dodge puddles and potholes, brake, change gears, stop at traffic lights, swerve, take a u-turn, come back home, and park your new precious vehicle. And then you look for excuses to go out on it again....maybe.

Many of us get overwhelmed with life, its worries, its stressors, often wanting to run away from it all, wanting someone to come save us, wanting to move ahead happily. How many of us do that while driving, though? If we come across a bridge that is closed for the day, do we not turn around and find another way? If we come across a bump, do we not slow down and go over it such that we don't fall off the bike? If we fall off a two-wheeler or are in a motor-crash, do we not find someone to nurse our injuries, take the required rest, and go about our daily ways as soon as we are well?

Speed breakers are those problems in life that halt us when we are being impulsive or rash, often causing a dent in our plans. Potholes are those problems in life that often come unexpectedly causing us to detour or fall right into it. Closed roads are those problems that cause us to start everything right from the beginning, wasting precious time and energy. One-way roads are those problems that have you stuck in them once into them and there is no looking back. And then we have accidents where someone else's plan does not co-incide with ours and there is a crash, often causing much damage, to our mental health, relationships, stability, and so on. And yet, when these things happen on the road, many or most of us survive with some assistance or not.

Maybe, life is not that hard as we think it to be. Maybe, when the traffic gets too bad, we can take a detour. Maybe, highways are not always the best or the fastest. Maybe, its ok to take another route sometimes. Maybe, we need someone to lend us a helping hand when we are stuck.

This is what I was thinking this weekend as I drove 21 hours from Dayton to Houston for my final stint in my doctoral program. I am now in a new territory, on new roads, trying to find my way around. What road are you on?