Source Type: Campaign & Documentary
Suppose you own a listed company. One day an interviewee walks up to you and introduce himself as an ex-convict. What is the immediate image of him that you form in your mind? Clearly, each of us holds different perceptions of the people around us, regardless of whether we know them personally or not. Unfortunately, most of the derived assessment about others contains misinformation that distorts the truth behind them. What if the ex-convict had already realized his mistakes eons ago, but was still unable to be accepted for a job due to his past? This is an unfair treatment to them, and it is due to the societies’ deep-rooted perception of an ex-offender.
“Help unlock the second prison” as the slogan of the Yellow Ribbon Campaign goes. “Every year 11,000 ex-offenders are released from prison, yet many continue to carry the label that is our prejudice. Help them put their past behind them.”
To view their website, check out this link: http://www.yellowribbon.org.sg/pages/crossroads.html
Since selection is a critical aspect of perception that influences our communication and behavior, it is often the culprit of perceptual errors. Our mistake of over-prioritizing the most noticeable, but the unimportant information, may lead us to the pathway of oversimplification. We only select the fact about their past, but overlooked the possibility of a change in their behavior as well as their attitude in the present. No wonder we see the appearance of the word “second prison”, where they are unable to be freed from our prejudice.
Concurrently, as we try to organize the myriad of information around us, we subconsciously rely on prototype as a convenient template for us to categorize groups of people. Hence, we often associate people with tattoo to have connections with the underworld and that “masterpiece” on their body as a logo of their gang tribe. However, using this method to draw conclusions will cause us to have a tendency to ignore individual details that could easily lead us to stereotyped responses that birds of the feather flock together.
What if that piece of tattoo was not totally intended by them but was forced by the wrong company they mixed with while they were at their adolescent stage? This brings us to the next question of how we attach meaning to what we select and organize information- interpretation. Are we making a dispositional attribution to the underlying cause of their behavior, and assume that they are born with evil intentions thus crafting tattoo and committing crimes?
Here’s a real life example from a television documentary, Tuesday Report, on 9Sep08, telecasting the life of Mr Paul Ang Chiong Kiet. He was an ex-offender who has an extraordinary childhood where fighting was his favorite past-time. As years goes by, he took up drugs and was put behind the bars. While he was in jail, he found out that his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He prayed to God to allow him to have a chance to take good care for his mum for at most 3 months after his release. Indeed, his prayer request came true and his mum pass away after 3 months. He was agonized, but was determined to quit his habit, and he did it. Fortunately, when he wanted to enroll into Chin Lian Bible college to become a pastor, his dean did not look down on but accepted him. Mr Paul was filled with gratefulness towards his dean who acted differently to the rest, and was willing to remove the label of prejudice that the society holds. Today, Pastor Paul shares with the other ex-offenders about his life and makes a difference to their life by encouraging them to walk out of their past.
In retrospect, if not for the dean, he will not have this day. The dean’s mental process of selection, organization and interpretation of ex-offenders like Mr Paul was neither distorted, influenced nor colored by the common societal views.
Are we conveniently holding the thought that “Once a convict, always a convict”? Should we pause for a moment to reflect on our own process of perception?