Filling in the Blanks

September 26, 2008
Posted by Jay Livingston

Sociology is about the social situation, about context, and how it shapes what people do, what they feel, what they see. The micro version is words. Show people cards with incomplete words
  • S _ O R T
  • R _ C E
  • P O L I _ E
  • S _ Y
Sport, Race, Police, Shy. That’s easy. Except if it’s an Asian woman showing the cards, people are more likely to see Short, Rice, Polite, Shy (why not Soy?).*

Which word you see depends on the cues in the immediate situation. It also dpends on your background, your expectations, your interests. Here’s a magazine whose graphics department thought they could afford to hide a few letters.

Those of us who do a lot of sewing would see instantly that the magazine is Butterick. But try showing it to your students. Or colleagues. They might fill in the blanks using a schema from some other (what’s the mot juste here?) background interest.

Me, I’ve just gotten the pattern for my Halloween costume. I figure I'll finish the basting next week, but the facing is going to require a lot of backstitching, and I just don't know how I'll manage.

* Gilbert, Daniel T. and Hixon, J. Gregory, “The trouble of thinking: Activation and application of stereotypic beliefs.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 60 (491, 509-517).

Hat tip to Doug at Photshop Disasters.

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