If you judge a book by its cover

By the Free Rider Craig Richards, 6 October 2016

In October every year I think about a miracle. Because that’s the anniversary of meeting my wife. We met in Manhattan, well at the Stage 1 disco at the Manhattan Hotel in Ringwood…Melbourne… Australia.


This current photo doesn’t reflect how the Manhattan Hotel looked back in the 1980s… they’ve spruced the place up a lot since then.

For some reason, when our eyes met on the revolving dance floor she smiled at me while her friend scowled. Then came the most captivating conversation of my life and 30 years plus tax later…

So why did one woman judge me worthwhile while another looked at me like I should be sent to an island with others suffering the same affliction? There’s a theory that the first time you meet someone they’ll make up their mind about you after 7 seconds.

Of course this is a whole 2 seconds more than the 5 second rule that applies to food that’s dropped on the floor being safe to eat.


It’s worth knowing that a Nobel Prize winning study found out that the 5 second rule only applies when the floor is clean. http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/5-second-rule-rules-sometimes-

But here’s the shock: the reality is we spend a lot less than 7 seconds sizing up a person. In fact, it’s quite a lot less: it’s 1/10th of a second according to some more research.

We continue to judge so quickly even though we often get it wrong. I remember taking an important client to the AFL Grand Final way back in 2004. As we made it to the seats I was worried to see we were sitting next to some Port Power fans. Tatts, multiple earrings, sleeveless jumpers and spikey mullet hairdos.  Behind us were business men in suits.

Well during the day the Port fans behaved impeccably. They ate sandwiches bought from home wrapped in grease proof paper. They cheered their team to victory. They never abused a single umpiring decision.

The suits behind us swore, spilled beer on us and were generally obnoxious. I’m ashamed to say my split second radar was way off. I’d fallen for the classic mistake of judging a book by its cover.

If you just looked at the picture on the cover of Hop on Pop it would be easy to jump to the conclusion it’s not suitable for children.


What can we possibly judge in 1/10th of a second? Surely all our mind can do is observe some basic characteristics and mix them with some pre-conceived prejudices to get a verdict?

I’m sad to say that bike riders seem as bad as anyone at book cover judging. I see it at the traffic lights every morning as I ride the Commuter Cup. People who think they’re quicker pass those waiting patiently and sneak further up the queue.

The carbon fibre crew take pole position. Closely followed by track standing hipsters with toe clips. Next comes the fluro vest and pannier brigade. Finally, me and the rest of the allsorts  are left to jostle for the places at the back of the grid.

But it’s a big assumption to make. There’s plenty of all the gear no idea warriors out there. Just as there’s plenty of shabby looking folks who can make a hard rubbish clunker sing. Appearances don’t always reveal who’s going to struggle and who’s going to cruise.


I know you’re busy. I know you don’t have time to find the good in everyone. I know you’re conditioned to judge the book by its cover in 1/10th of a second.

But just maybe bike riders can lead the way when we judge each other. Rather than just sorting the worthy from unworthy in a split second we can start by reserving judgement and not judging other riders so quickly.


Despite her obvious obnoxiousness the super perceptive Willie Wonker gave Veruca Salt until half way through the movie before allowing a final ruling to be given.

Then when we master waiting, we can go further and start from the position that everyone is a good egg (until they prove otherwise).

Oh and one last thing, if you think your 1/10th of a second radar is never wrong, try this exercise of judging books by their covers. http://playjudgey.com/   If you don’t get them all right, might be time to lengthen your judging time.

Ride free!



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