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#61: Things Are Never as They Seem

#61: Things Are Never as They Seem

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1. The unfair advantage of being hot – In 2014, Jeremy Meeks was arrested in Stockton, California on multiple firearms charges as well as grand theft auto. Meeks was a member of the infamous Crips street gang and had been in and out of prison before. The police, upon making his arrest, posted his mugshot online to the Stockton community as a kind of trophy. The response was something they never could have imagined. 

See, it just so happened that Jeremy Meeks was ridiculously, absurdly good-looking. I mean, the dude’s mugshot is like a friggin’ Calvin Klein ad. 

As a result, Meeks’ arrest went wildly viral around the world. He became known as “the hot convict” and women plastered his photo on social media along with comments like, “Can he spend his prison sentence locked away in my bedroom?” and, “I’d let him kidnap me any day…” 

Meeks was sentenced to two years in federal prison. While in prison, he was offered a modeling contract. Today, you can see him walking the runways in Paris and Milan and modeling brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Philip Plein. 

Jeremy Meeks is a rude reminder of something we all know but conveniently forget: being hot is a huge advantage in life. 

Research has shown that physically attractive people are generally seen as more likeable, more trustworthy, and more intelligent. They make more money for the same work. And they get lower prison sentences for the same crimes. 

In fact, the advantages of hotness are so consistent and predictable, psychologists have dubbed it “The Halo Effect” because it’s as if attractive people walk around with an aura about them that distorts our perceptions. 

The Halo Effect is why it’s good advice to dress well for a job interview and to get a new haircut when you start dating again. It’s why the taller political candidates win more elections and we strangely expect celebrities to be smart, ethical people and get incredibly upset when they’re not. 

What’s also odd about the Halo Effect is that we all seem to agree to ignore it. We have large civil rights movements for racism and sexism. Yet, there’s a wage gap for height that’s just as pronounced and measurable as any other wage gap. But you don’t see short people taking the streets by the millions. Or people with poor facial symmetry. Or people with weak jawlines. 

Where’s the “Equal pay for big floppy ears” movement? 

I’m not saying this to discount the importance of real civil rights movements or to suggest that people with big ears actually get together and fight for equal pay. I’m simply making an observation that our understanding of inequality is highly contextual, based on history, group identity, and our cognitive biases. 

The reason people avoid making a hub-bub about the Halo Effect is probably two-fold: 1) beauty is in the eye of the beholder—people have wide-ranging conceptions of who is attractive and who is not, and 2) attractiveness is something everyone feels insecure about (even people who are smoking hot), so it’s a topic I think most of us would prefer to not bring up publicly.

2. The strange importance of color – Back when I used to get stoned a lot as a teenager, I remember having an epiphany. I thought, “What if what I see as blue doesn’t look like blue to other people? What if it looks like brown? And what if what they see as brown really looks like blue to me?”

Cue: head explosion. 

Like most adolescents on drugs, at the time, I thought I had just made some great philosophical discovery. 

But as I grew older, I discovered that many people have this same thought at some point… usually when they’re high. That and, as usual, the Greeks were onto this roughly 2,500 years before the rest of us. 

But, I wasn’t wrong. Stoned 16-year-old Mark was onto something. It turns out that our perception of color can be highly influenced by language. 

For example, English did not have a word for “orange” until a couple hundred years ago. It wasn’t until the fruit came through Italian traders to Europe via India that a word was invented to describe the hue. Ancient Japanese and Chinese had no words for the color blue. Russian has two words for blue. These words matter as they can affect our ability to see certain colors clearly. For example, one experiment found that Russians were able to identify light blue shapes more quickly, suggesting their two words for it make them more attuned to the distinctions.  

But the mindfuckery doesn’t end there. As you’ve probably intuited across your life, colors can affect your mood and emotions. Exposure to red light can cause our brains to release melatonin, making us sleepy at night. When stressed, blue light can calm us down. 

In fact, in 2000, Japan had a problem with people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains. They installed blue lights in 71 metro stations and over the next ten years, suicides dropped by an astounding 84%. 

But it gets even weirder. In 2011, Coca-Cola introduced a special edition white can of coke to raise money to protect polar bears. They soon had to discontinue it because so many people complained about how it tasted. This is despite the fact the Coke inside the can was exactly the same. People refused to drink it. The white can affected how they perceived the taste. 

But these sorts of perceptual cross-wirings are actually quite common. Desserts are perceived to be 20% sweeter when served on round plates instead of square. Mousse is perceived to be sweeter when served from a white container. Coffee flavor is judged as more intense when drunk from a white mug. 

I have spent much of this year harping on how humans don’t know shit, our minds are fallible, and our perceptions imperfect. Well, there you go. The next time you drink a Coke, remember that you are partially tasting the color red, and maybe you don’t even know if that’s actually red or not.

3. Signed books and holiday sale – Last week I mentioned that I usually like to offer a batch of signed books for the holidays. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, I wasn’t able to arrange anything with any local bookstores. So what I’ve decided to do instead is offer a promotion for the holidays.

A number of people have asked me about gifting memberships to my website for the holidays, so I decided to come up with the following promotion:

For the next ten days (from today until December 24th), yearly subscriptions to MarkManson.net will be 20% off.  

Membership to MarkManson.net gives you access to all five of my online courses, quarterly “Ask Mark Anything” videos, exclusive member articles and access to every previous Mindfuck Monday newsletter. 

On top of that, the first 50 to sign up will have an option to receive a signed and personalized book from me. 

When you sign up, simply reply to the confirmation email saying you’d like a book. The first 50 to reply will get a follow-up email. My guess is all 50 books will go in the first day or two, so act fast. 

And, if you’re looking for that holiday gift for someone, go ahead and sign up, then email us. We can gift the account to whoever you’d like (my team can also gift it on Christmas Day if you’d prefer).

JANUARY 2022 UPDATE: Instead of site membership to MarkManson.net, my team and I have created what I call The Subtle Art School with 6 brand-new video courses, monthly webinars with yours truly, and plenty other bonus materials that will help you give fewer fucks in life. Learn more about The School and sign up at a discount for the whole month of January 2022.

That’s it! 

Until next week,

Mark