Lessons from Sherlock Holmes: Don’t Judge a Man by His Face
How do we perceive someone we’ve only just met? How to we judge him, assign him to some sort of category in our mind, explain to ourselves what he is and what he is likely to be?
In “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder,” Dr. Watson demonstrates an approach that we are all too likely to follow naturally: judging too quickly from our initial impressions and failing to correct for the specific circumstances involved. After Holmes enumerates the difficulties of the case and stresses the importance of moving quickly, Watson remarks, “Surely the man’s appearance would go far with any jury?” Not so fast, says Holmes. “That is a dangerous argument, my dear Watson. You remember that terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted us to get him off in ’87? Was there ever a more mild-mannered, Sunday school young man?” Watson has to agree that it is, in fact, so. Many times, people are not what they may initially be judged to be.