Snap Judgments R Us

Fresh research out of Princeton shows that human brains — mine, yours, Rush Limbaugh’s, Mohandis Gandhi’s, Osama Bin Laden’s — are hard-wired to make snap decisions about whether a face is trustworthy within a tenth of a second — so fast that our reasoning minds simply may not have time to intervene or even become aware of the process.

"We decide very quickly whether a person possesses many of the traits we feel are important, such as likeability and competence, even though we have not exchanged a single word with them. It appears that we are hard-wired to draw these inferences in a fast, unreflective way."

Interesting.  Probably some survival thing rewarded by natural selection.  Among a group of hunter-gatherers, I guess the ability to read the faces of potential competitors would be a big factor in an individual’s survival.  Although these days it’s probably more trouble than it’s worth, given that unexamined racism and xenophobia from all sides are an enormous threat themselves.

Still, I couldn’t help but think of the faces you see below.  See what snap decision your brain makes:

All ten of these are innocent Americans illegally placed under surveillance by the Bush administration, typically because of their constitutionally-protected peaceful opposition to the Iraq war.

I don’t know what your instincts are telling you right now, but I do know what mine are telling me.

I mean, never mind the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, or the democracy we’re supposed to be fighting for.

I guess we’re just supposed to trust this guy instead: