We Can Be Reprogrammed for Sustainability…and Other Good Things

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, he delves into the psychology of our immediate and unconscious decision making and judgment processes, which is literally judging a book by its cover within milliseconds. In chapter three, Gladwell pointed out that our unconsciousness will make associations that follow the patterns of the dominant culture. However, he also reminds us that we are not completely doomed to blindly follow the dominant culture’s way of thinking and functioning. Through effort, consistency, and commitment, I believe we can in a way “reprogram” ourselves out of the dominant culture and into a different way of thinking and being. Just as Gladwell suggests for those who are white who wish to truly treat those with darker skin as equals to change their habits and are encouraged to frequently “expose” themselves to consistent interaction with other people, which in turn eventually creates a new routine and habit that encourages equal treatment for all. We can apply this reprogramming technique to more sustainable living habits by participating (reading, watching, volunteering) on a daily basis with anything considered regenerative or anyone who is already a member or mentor of this way of living and thinking. The idea and concept of regenerative living will no longer be so foreign or scary if you consistently expose yourself to it daily, little by little so as not to overwhelm. However, I also feel it is crucial to keep in mind that this method should only be used to reprogram yourself for your own benefit and well-being and shouldn’t be forced upon others without their consent, or that would just be doing exactly what the consumerist culture is already doing.

To further understand Gladwell’s chapter three and out of curiosity, I participated in an online Implicit Association Test (IAT), which is a test in which you categorize whatever you see on the screen based on snap judgement. I took the Presidents IAT. My results:

The sorting test you just took is called the Implicit Association Test (IAT). You categorized good and bad words with images of Donald Trump and Barack Obama.

Here is your result: Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Barack Obama over Donald Trump.

Your result is described as an “Automatic preference for Barack Obama over Donald Trump” if you were faster responding when Barack Obama and Good are assigned to the same response key than when Donald Trump and Good were classified with the same key. Your score is described as an “Automatic preference for Donald Trump over Barack Obama” if the opposite occurred.

I admittedly enjoyed this test and even laughed most of the way through considering our current political environment. To be serious however, I am not at all surprised by my results as I had gone into the test well aware of my unconscious and very conscious disliking towards Trump and my obvious preference for Obama and his family and administration. However, to put out a very hypothetical analysis: If the situation still held with Obama (positive) and Trump (negative), and my current beliefs, yet if my results showed a preference for Trump, I would be deeply troubled. That would imply that my unconscious associations with black men would be so negative that I would prefer Trump over Obama simply due to race. I hate to admit I can see how it can happen as Gladwell pointed out our pro-white culture.

If I had gotten these results instead, I would try to reprogram myself like mentioned above. The first step to remedying the negative associations is to first admit that it is a problem. Nothing can be change if the status quo is not considered an issue or wrong in the first place. Second, I would visit our campus cultural center (or any local cultural center if not a student) and make some new friends while being upfront and honest with them about how and why I came to visit. A friendship is not a true friendship without honesty. I would want them to know of my intentions of changing myself and would want them to be willing to help or have the option to decline. The third step would be consistent interaction through activities until they became habit, then retake the test after some time has passed to monitor any change. Rinse, repeat.

If only solving this world’s race issue was that easy, huh?


Gladwell, Malcolm, The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall for Tall, Dark and Handsome Men, Chapter 3 from Blink, the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Back Bay Books (2005)

Online IAT