Windows and Mirrors - Thought Experiments - Florence Sprague - November/December 2023

This month I want each of us to create our own content by trying a couple of thought experiments.

It will be easiest to do these when you have some quiet moments. Some may want paper and pencil, but they are not required. Don’t judge yourself, just observe carefully. Try not to anticipate or predict; just observe.

Sit quietly. Close your eyes, if that helps you to focus.


Experiment number 1

Call to mind the image of a generic newscaster.

Make a mental note of how you would describe this person. Truthful? Articulate? Personable? Biased? Your first thoughts are often the truest.

Now, in your mind’s eye, change the physical appearance of the newscaster.

Do the characteristics you saw in the first person still apply?

Now give each person you have visualized a BBC accent. Do you sense any changes to your opinions?

Experiment number 2

Call up a mental image of a prison.

Put a convicted individual into one cell inside that prison.

Note what this person looks like, and how the prison you see makes you feel.

Next visualize a white-collar criminal.

Put that person into a prison cell.

Is this cell the same as the first you imagined?

Experiment number 3

Call to mind a homeless encampment.

Who do you see living there?

How do the place and the residents make you feel?

How would you respond if they spoke to you?

Where would you go if you lost your home?

Trying to craft a closing paragraph makes me aware of other assumptions and stereotypes that I harbor. I can also see patterns of growth and of stasis. The examples I create and the places they lead me may not be the same for you. Can you think of other scenarios potentially imbued with similar emotional content? It is so easy to lose sight of the assumptions we make unconsciously all day, every day.