Visiting Israel these days, I rented a car at the airport for the duration of my stay. A nice compact car, which the rental agent, directing me to pick up outside the terminal, mentioned by brand and color. Being that cars and makes are not of great interest to me, the brand didn’t register in my mind. I did remember however, that the agent said “white.” After roaming the parking lot for a while, I finally identified the car by the plate number; a number identical to the one on the key-chain. Turns out the vehicle’s color was actually gray; (mind you, just one shade of gray, not fifty.) The agent was misinformed. “Oh well,” I thought, “aside of several wasted minutes, no harm done.”
Curiously, during the past week, since I took the car, I find myself, whenever looking for it in a parking lot, or when describing it to a friend I am to pick up, as… “white.” Damn. I cannot get that color out of my head! That initial description of the car’s shade by that agent seems to be engraved into my gray cells.
All this reminds me of Dan Ariely’s excellent book, Predictably Irrational. In it, Ariely discusses how, for instance, the first number we ever hear as the value of an item, remains embedded in our memory as the object’s real cost; regardless of whether it is in fact a price inflated or deflated. That is why, Ariey argues, all of us who have been driving for some years, suffer whenever we go to fill up the car at the gas station. Those prices at the pump always seem much too high, compared with the $1 a gallon we used to pay way back when; a cost that our mind tells us is the real value of this commodity.
Thus, so it seems, this principle — that whatever description we first hear, is so powerful that it remains in our memory for eternity and a day, holds true not only for prices but for other matters as well. All this goes hand in hand with the notion of how first impression counts. Like the overweight kid from elementary school, that years later, despite shedding many pounds and becoming a superb athlete, for his childhood friends will always remain the fat one.
In light of this I am wondering what other first impressions I still hold on to; “facts” that were never true or are no longer correct? How do I reset my mind, wiping clean these false notions, filing “gray” into a spot currently occupied by “white”?
Learned from: a white car that is actually gray.