I RECENTLY met up with a group of people I’d known years ago. We all got a little tipsy and even though much time had elapsed since we’d seen each other, they felt comfortable enough to chide me. ‘‘Yes, but you’re the type of person who…” ‘‘Tell Ruth that story, she loves that sort of thing . . . Ruth’s a party girl…’’
I found it all very odd at first since I wasn’t quite sure what they meant. And then I worked it out. They were talking about a Ruth they knew a decade ago. And although so much had changed over 10 years, they were guilty of what so many of us are guilty of: primacy error.
Primacy error is an irrational process where the brain remembers its first impressions of a person’s traits and gets locked into its original opinion. Examples of primacy error are: ‘‘Jenny is mean with money’’; ‘‘Simon isn’t that bright’’; ‘‘It’s always grey and cold in Melbourne’’. The error doesn’t make rational sense. Jenny may well have been mean at one stage, but may have been short of money at the time, and is now comfortable. Simon may have had depression at the time he was judged. He then went on to invent the internet. Melbourne can have lovely days too. Continue Reading →