Thinking Allowed: What we notice is not all good

Some people notice shoes, right? Walk down the street and that's what they'll look at.

For others, it's haircuts. I get that. I notice other people's hair if mine really needs a wash or if I've actually got round to washing it and think I'm looking flicky.

And I have to admit to a bit of a footwear fetish. But the thing I notice more than any other in daily life is language.

The things people say, the way they say it. T-shirt logos. The snippets of written words.

There's a name for it. Logophilia. Love of words.

It's not just the etymology of the things, it's the mouthfeel of a good phrase or the absurdity of a collision of sounds that get me as excited as a kid in the Santa lolly line.

I realise I am in a minority here. In a highly scientific study, my fellow Facebook time-wasters list things on their everyday radar as colours, eyes, wrinkles and, umm, boobs.

Boobs are the new windows to the soul apparently.

Not eyes. Not shoes. Boobs.

Smells and sounds also feature in people's perusals, but nobody but me mentioned words.

The closest it came is a friend who spies on what people are reading on public transport while pretending to read her own book.

What does this mean? Well, seems that most people use their visual sense to form impressions of people.

Few of us rely on what we hear or just the way we feel. The gut reaction.

Interestingly, use of our olfactory sense is apparently underrated by most people - a subtle, supercharged information conduit that informs our first impressions.

We can smell fear, attraction or that dodgy man who thinks that boobs are the windows to the soul way before we visually perceive them.

Even if we're not consciously aware that we're sensing it. The nose, then, is the window to the soul.

In boob-guy's defence, recent research from the US shows that both men and women stare at people's chests when they meet new people.

And the bigger the boobs, the longer the stare. Who does this research?

Why? Isn't that just the blindingly obvious? Or the extremely annoying?

Hmm. Back to safer territory. The weather, perhaps. Or this. Isn't olfactory a yummy word? So good, you can almost taste it.

See, while one of my survey guinea pigs admits to always noticing people's hands and the cleanliness of their nails, I'm off on a word tangent again.

Example: I make snap judgements about anyone, anywhere who uses an X in Christmas. It's not like I'm hung up on my religious upbringing of never taking the Christ out of Christmas, I don't think. Much.

It's just that life is not Twitter and there's plenty of room for saying things properly when you can.

I notice, as well, the amount of lazy phrases we throw away in conversation. I'm as guilty as anyone with ''It's all good''.

Is it? What is?

Usually the context implies that whatever it is is far from good, but I get that it's a mask. Like make-up for language.

''She'll be right'' - another classic. Contextually related to a woman being correct? Yeah nah.

If you're going to file your nails and iron your clothes, why wouldn't you buff up your language too? I guess it comes down to the eyes of the beholder.

Is it worse to judge someone by their shoes, their boobs or their propensity for x-citing x-clamations?

It's not all good to do any of the above. We know that. But we do it anyway. It's human nature.

We are shallow animals at heart when it comes to first impressions.

Of course, first impressions are fleeting. They don't always last.

None of my shoe-loving friends can remember what footwear their partner had on when they first met.

And in 2008, a British survey showed that white men with beards were judged to be less trustworthy than their clean-shaven counterparts.

But don't tell that to Santa.

It's all good. She'll be right.

- Liz Breslin 


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