Watch That Generalization

You know, one of the many paradoxes of the human race is the old belief that you can tell a person’s character by his face. There are probably more bosses and personnel managers who think they can tell what kind of a worker a man or woman is going to be and how honest he or she is by their face than you could count. And, according to qualified psychologists, it’s a lot of a baloney.

In fact, one time they tested this theory. They asked hundreds of people to look at a collection of photographs of men’s faces. They were told that one man was a habitual criminal, another a business man, a lawyer, another a psychopathic killer, and so on. None of them could agree on the right pictures. Some of the most brilliant men on earth have looked like the village idiot, and some of the most intelligent looking people hold down the simplest jobs and are down a ways on the ladder of intelligence.

People still believe that a high forehead is a sign of intelligence, a square jaw a sign of determination, spaced teeth were supposed to be a sign of a passionate person, bushy eyebrows denoted to a crook, finely chiseled features were supposed to mean good breeding and refinement, and all the really beautiful women, especially blondes, are stupid.

They’re all wrong. A brilliant man might have a high forehead, but it has nothing to do with his brilliance. A blonde might be dumb, but she might also be the smartest woman in town. In short, if you’ve been a believer that you can tell things about a person by looking at his face, forget it.

It’s also been proved that the old and almost universally believed notion about Latinos and Frenchmen being better lovers and more hot blooded is also a lot of nonsense. A good rule to remember is to always duck generalizations about people.

I know a man who won’t hire a man if he sports a mustache. He thinks it’s a sign of dishonesty. You could tell him about men who were mustaches who are perfectly honest – men such as Thomas Dewey (who cracked the rackets in New York and who is unquestionably of the highest honesty and moral caliber), or of a man like Albert Einstein or Dr. Albert Schweitzer, both of whom affected mustaches – and it wouldn’t mean a thing. It seems that once a man makes up his mind to believe in an absurdity, it’s pretty hard to shake him out of it.

I have a good friend, a writer in Hollywood, who every time he hears a generality about people, smiles and says, “There are no pianos in Japan.” Usually, the person who made the generalization about a particular race, minority group, or appearance, catches on. But not always. I remember when John used his pet phrase one time, and the man to whom he was talking replied, “Really? Yeah, that’s probably right.”

If your son happens to have a receding chin, don’t ever call it a week chin. Some of the bravest men in history had them – men such as General Charles de Gaulle of France. And if your little girl is a blonde, she can still be the smartest student in school. Watch those generalizations – they just don’t work.

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