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CONSEQUENCE: Being black can get you killed.

We have been talking a lot about consequences lately. I tend to think about them a lot, both because of how powerless we are at times to control them and simultaneously how powerful we can be to prevent negative consequences from turning into harsh realities. Consequences are complicated.

I mentioned the case of Trayvon Martin, the young teenager who was shot and killed because he was perceived as a threat while the shooter did not face any consequences for killing the young man. People are so scared of this stand your ground law and the relationship between wearing an hoodie and being shot that they are making and wearing this:

After you read through the details, you realize the role social cognition and social perception played in the situation. Of course, the trial was also a big media frenzy, and competing and contradictory attitudes of people became quite obvious. Attributions were made, a child died. The shooter justified this act through means of “proving” in a court of law that Trayvon was perceived as a threat. PERCEIVED.

Counterfactual thinking isn’t always a good thing, especially when it turns into rumination, but lets use counterfactual thinking to address the issue of consequences. Lets rewind in our minds to what could have been and make ourselves sensitive to the realities of consequences. Here is an interesting article doing just that: “The 6 Decisions That Could Have Saved Trayvon Martin’s Life”. My absolute favorite is #6.

Take a pause, use controlled thinking, identify social psychological processes, and reflect on the realities of the world we live in. Not at all the just world we wished we could have been a part of… right?


16 responses to “CONSEQUENCES: Social Cognition and Social Perception

  1. We are judgemental ,we just rush into conclusions . We judge and assume ,thinking we know it all ,when we really don’t .We all have our biases that we are ashamed of or even unconscious of . Maybe in time we will learn not to be as judgmental ,when we try to control our thinking .

  2. kbalbaa1

    We make assumptions based on factors that should not be decisive. Race, religion and culture make us judgmental and immediately form judgments that are most probably incorrect. The world we live in is messed up and too many innocent people are being hurt because of inconsiderate people who are racists in every way possible.

  3. ayaattwa

    How do people accept such acts like killing another person just because he’s different than you?? Who gave that person the right? This was a really depressing story and how the rest of the community acted was even more depressing.

  4. nohaezz ⋅

    It’s just so much easier to take decisions and make stereotypes based on our automatic thinking. To cut it short, the article is more or less saying: “The 6 minute controlled thinking that could have saved Trayvon Martin’s life”; it just needed Zimmerman to stop and think for a while, to see what are the real reasons for him “Perceiving” Martin as a threat. It was all very automatic thinking and very spontaneous! If you thought about it, you can never imagine that having a non-evidence based thought can lead to someone being killed but it really can…. It’s horrible and pathetic the way we became. We are too lazy to think deep inside us and to control our decisions. If we scrutinize daily decisions that we make, we will find ourselves relying more on our automatic thinking which makes us make horrible decisions. It just needs us to stop a while and think! Turn off your auto-pilot and get in charge… a very minute stereotype that you might have can affect the way you deal with others and might really change the way they think and react. Think, think and think before you act, please!

  5. Mona

    decisions based on automatic perception are not justifiable but I cannot believe that these decisions could include killing! I believed that they could lead to bad consequences like hatred or even bullying but ending a life ?! just because of perception and receive no punishment as well. This is too depressing !!

  6. If we all follow Zimmerman’s footsteps (using automatic perception in a situation where he is misusing his authority of neighborhood watch to randomly kill people), then this world would be a miserable place. In fact, i don’t think we are far away from that level of injustice. People like him didn’t think for a second, and took action right away, even though he was specifically told not to by the police. Now, WE have to think more than twice to wear a hoodie? Who is supposed to have the controlled thoughts here: the innocent youth choosing what to wear in the morning or the adult shooter?? This world has become very scary.

  7. I cannot believe the amount of automatic thinking one does in life. I myself just realized how often I do it and how much I make judgements and jump into conclusions without even questioning their accuracy. I know there is a lot of discrimination in this unjust world. However it does not exist in my family in any way. Therefore I was shocked to learn about the killing of the young black man. However I was not shocked it was in the US. During my time there I took 2 classes on race, ethnicity and discrimination. I realized that People love to discriminate and they lack so many important principles that human beings should have. The US says that they are the most civilized nation in the world however I believe that they are the biggest human right violators in the world. The fact that the shooter did not face any consequences for his actions proves that they violated the rights of the innocent young black man for no good reason.

  8. sabrinek

    Personally, I think that it is absolutely stupid to even consider scenarios or decisions to try to explain Zimmerman’s behavior. I think that he is guilty for shooting that young boy and it’s sad to see that justice sided with Zimmerman and that is probably because he’s white and therefore this makes him for reliable. I can’t believe to which extent racism is spread and can make you subject to death. The six decisions referred to in the article can explain the steps that led Zimmerman to shoot Travyon Martin only in terms of social psychology and by that i’m talking about “self-fulfilling prophecies” but is that an excuse to end some innocent’s life just on the basis of his skin color and end up not being guilty just because the jury relied on the ambiguity factor of the situation. Nothing could explain this behavior nor the jury’s decision. In addittion, Zimmerman turns out to have a history of violence and they still didn’t take that into consideration? That he simply did what he did because I think he’s a racist and he’s violent and that explains for me his action of hunting down a black little boy. Further, I would say that he’s disturbed I might be judging or stereotyping anyone who has a violent past but I think that his excuses of mis-perceiving or whatever are not valid, after all like the article says he is not a law enforcement official to care at first place and the rules set fo carrying weapons in the United States are not ideal like Zack Carter mentioned. I’m furious and astonished so basically because I’m not the typical white american, I’m subject to violence and death just by walking in the streets in any american state. I don’t think the little boy’s family should give up but instead show the world how unfair justice is in the States and try to sue him over and over again.

  9. marabm712

    This is really ridiculous… I think if George Zimmerman had sometime to engage in conscious thinking he may have not done what he did… All what he did was based on automatic perceptions and automatic thoughts that may or may not be true. I know we all do that, but does it reach the extent of “killing” a person just because someone had a gut feeling that the other person in front of him/her was “suspicious”, and “appeared to be on drugs or something”, as Zimmerman reported about Martin to the 911 operator??!!!!!! And according to “The 6 Decisions That Could Have Saved Trayvon Martin’s Life” article, even after the 911 operator told Zimmerman not to follow Martin, he continued to follow him!!! What made him very sure that he was on drugs?! and even if he was, does this gives Zimmerman the right to kill Martin?!!!!
    And would it have been so if Martin had not had a dark colored skin? Would Zimmerman had all those suspicions about him? Or was it pure prejudice and hatred to a certain skin color or race? Who made Zimmerman superior to Martin at the very first place?!!
    It is just depressing to see how judgmental the human race is, and how I can fall into the same trap of jumping to conclusions based on automatic perceptions of the person before me… I just hope I won’t kill anybody because of that!

  10. marabm712

    Just wanted to note that the second link of “standing to your ground law” is not opening. Thank you Dr. Mariham 🙂

  11. Mohamed Ghoneim ⋅

    The story is a typical form of corruption we have in our world today. In one way or another, we are indirectly being taught to classify people around us into meaningless categories. Even the ones of us who are aware of that still face the dilemma of their intuition which has been strongly influenced by everything around us. The book I was referring to in class is called ‘Thinking, fast and slow’ by Daniel Kahneman. His man idea is that the development of thoughts in our minds occur in two ways; System 1 and System 2. Our System 1 is the fast, automatic, subconscious thinker who is more likely to stereotype people. System 2 is responsible for the formation of slow, logical and conscious thoughts. I believe this can be directly related to how we rush into categorizing and judging people before we really see where they’re coming from.

  12. ftyebjee

    I followed the Trayvon Martin case while being home over the summer and in general. Its scary to think about that by just being black and wearing a hoodie you can become a threat and possibly be killed. It is kind of like the situation here where people are scared to have beards in the fear of being accused of being MB and facing whatever the consequences.
    The article of the 6 decisions that could have prevented Trayvon from being killed was a good read. I also like number 6, Zimmerman did not have to take out his gun. A few bruises might have actually done him some good…
    Regardless the fact that we assume things and then decide to act on them without knowing all the facts is dangerous. I wish there was a way to make people learn and realize there are better ways of handing such situations or having them not arise at all.

  13. I think this man is very violent… I don’t think that everyone could have reacted in the same way. He is mentally ill. We can all perceive someone as being “bad person”, but this does not mean that we are going to kill the person. I don’t know if the court checked his mental health or not… but they should have done that. Zimmerman was also very rude by pleating guilty of killing the boy, and it’s very weird that he did not feel any shame or disgrace when he said those words.

    This shows us that what we sometimes perceive as the truth, might not be the truth. The boy who was killed turned out to be a smart kid and a good boy. This is sad because zimmerman judged him only by his appearance.

    I don’t know why I am so angry at what happened even though i only read about it and i did not see it or anything, but this man should not have gone free like that. Even the government now looks like they are racists. They are sending out a message that says that it’s ok to kill African americans because they might dress a certain way. This man should be punished by the death penalty.

  14. sarazaky

    Definitely not at all the the just world we wished we could have been part of. Especially when something like this happens in a country that claims to fight for social rights. But when I actually came to think about it, we do the same thing on a daily basis, it doesn’t of course lead to murder. But how many times have you judged, assumed, or thought you know it all just by looking at someone? How many times have you thought twice about how ‘safe’ the driver looks like when stopping a cab? How many times have you feared certain people and others not when walking down a street? But the question then becomes, do we act in this way because we have inert judgments or because of the subconscious effect situations like this one have on us? the hen or the egg, which came first?

  15. We as human beings tend to “judge a book by it’s cover”. We know that we shouldn’t do that, but we do so unintentionaly (without being aware) most of the time. The trick is we should be careful and try to notice when we judge people without enough infotmation and try to gather more information before comming up with a conclusion. I really don’t understand how that man got away with such an act. Alot of times outr perceptions are not true and thats why we should be very careful.

  16. I think that Zimmerman should’ve faced the consequences of his actions and the fact that he was let off the hook shows that others engaged in some sort of stereotyping by accepting how Zimmerman perceived Travyon. Zimmerman simply assumed that Travyon was a threat to him just because he was dressed in a certain way even though there was no proof of Travyon doing anything that would pose a threat to anyone, including Zimmerman. I believe that this was an extreme case of stereotyping and misjudging; however, if we come to think about all the assumptions we make in different situations, we’ll find that we always unintentionally think of others in a certain way or form schemas even when we’re not aware of it. I, personally, experience this all the time and I believe that we should all pay attention before judging someone because most of the time, what we initially thought of that person isn’t necessarily true.

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