Perception: Our City is How We Confirm It

She said kiss me somewhere dirtyThey gazed into each others eyes, longing. He reflects on this experience and in a deep, burly tone he says,

“She said:  Kiss me somewhere dirty. So we drove to Hamilton”.

This is a piece of artwork by Dave Kuruc, a Hamiltonian designer/artist and co-founder of Mixed Media, an art-shop on James Street North.

Though this piece of art and its double entendre is hilarious, this artwork is simply a jumping off point. When we look at our city, the community we reside in, we as humans have certain stereotypes. For example, Toronto is high-speed, Vancouver is beautiful, Hamilton … is dirty. What is important about these perceptions though is the fact that they are formed, many times, before we actually have personal exposure to the environment ourselves. So, then why is there the stereotype of Hamilton being ‘dirty’, if people haven’t been to it?

The importance of social feedback is emphasized here. By just hearing others talk negatively about a community, we start following these beliefs, if we have no others to feed off of. Newspaper article, friends brining up a negative aspect of an experience in Hamilton – the continual addition alots to the formation of negative perceptions for those listening. On top of this, there is a compounding effect provided by the confirmation bias – a tendency to ignore evidence which doesn’t support a certain belief and only recognizing evidence which supports the belief (Check out the Confirmation Bias article dealing with football/soccer here).
I am challenging you the reader to one simple task. Defy that urge to pay attention to the negatives in your community. Instead, try actively to encounter, seek out and explore the positives. Redefine what Hamilton is for you, by filling your experiences with cool new experiences. Instead of smelling sewage, smell the amazing array of different cuisine along James Street North. Instead of seeing undesirable traits in those that are less fortunate in Jackson Square, see the smiles that many of them bare when you interact. Instead of thinking that all Hamilton has to offer is old steel mills, take a walk in your back yard and find wonderful waterfalls and areas to hike.
They are there, you just need to take a look and

Three things happen when you actively attempt to transform the perception of your environment from one which is slightly negative, to one which is positive. First, you will start to notice that beauty is easier to see and understand in things which may not have been, and it is also easier to find. Second, by talking positively about your community, the perceptions of others around you will start to change as well – their confirmation bias will be challenged with a consistent amount of facts that go against their beliefs, until the bias breaks! Third, you most likely will find yourself making more connections with those with similar views on Hamilton – more positive, forward views.

David Kuruc’s artwork shows us how simple it is to make these changes. By simply making light of a negative association through humor, we as the viewer perceive the stereotype of Hamilton being dirty as more of a joke than a truth. Help to add to the redefinition of your community – help to shift the negative perception into one which is more positive and constructive.