Most people have heard of the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and yet this is generally what happens. We see that someone is wearing a certain item of clothing, looks or acts a certain way and a judgement is made.

This judgment is automatic and is a consequence of the unconscious mind. And how one came to such a conclusion is often unknown, as a result of this process happening so quickly.

What is observed, fires of associations in the mind and based on these associations that are triggered, one makes a judgement on what is seen. Now, sometimes these associations will be accurate and sometimes they won’t be.


These associations are generally the result of the conditioning that one has received. And the media is one of the most powerful forces in shaping the associations that one has about people.

Friends, colleagues and romantic partners can also have a say in the associations that the ego mind has of people.

And then there is the childhood environment. This is another incredibly important influence in what associations one will come to have of people as an adult.

The Ego Mind

Although this article is to do with the associations that one can have around people, this is the way the ego mind functions with everything. And these don’t have to be based on what is true or functional; they can be completely dysfunctional and have no truth to them.

But then the ego mind doesn’t form these associations based on whether they are functional or empowering. They are formed as a result of being familiar.

Once something has been classed as familiar, it means that it is now recognised as what is safe. And now, instead of one having to think about something it becomes automatic and leads to less energy being utilised.

Many years ago, when humans lived in tribes and were at risk of being eaten by animals: making snap judgements not only saved energy it also would have saved lives. And perhaps this is when this ability was formed.

The Benefits

When it comes to reading people and making snap judgements, these associations make life easier. If this ability didn’t exist, it would lead to all kinds of problems. From spending minutes and even hours on finding out something that usually takes seconds.

And instead of being able to read the clues, one may even end up putting their life in danger. This could be through not being able to read a person’s facial expression or unable to interpret what someone is holding could be dangerous.

The Halo Effect

There is something known as the halo effect. And this is where one associates someone as being a certain way based on them having just one positive trait. This one trait then leads to many other traits being attributed to them.

This goes on automatically and without one having to make any conscious effort. A good example of this is when one comes across someone who they perceive as being attractive. And as they are attractive, one will typically associate them as being intelligent and even successful.

How attractive someone is, has very little to do with how intelligent or successful they are. In reality, some people who are perceived as attractive will be intelligent and successful and some won’t be.

This also works in the opposite way; with associations being made if someone has a trait that is personally or socially classed as negative. One may see another person taking drugs and out of this one trait could label them as; being dangerous and as having criminal tendencies.

And as the media likes to portray drug users in a certain way, a lot of these associations will be the result of the media. However, people of all walks of life take drugs and not everyone who takes drugs will be dangerous or a criminal.

Inaccurate Associations

The above are examples of inaccurate associations. If one were to employ or to date someone based on the first example or to speak to or get to know someone from the second example and the associations proved to be incorrect; it could lead to a new awareness being created.

Countries And Religions

As a result of watching the news or reading the papers certain associations can be formed around people from different countries or religions. These can also be wrong and lead to all kinds of challenges being created.

Violence, racism and prejudice can be a consequence of this. Here, based on the associations that have been formed through the media, one doesn’t see the person for themselves. What they see are the associations that the media has created in their mind, being projected onto others.

The Younger Generation

The youth of today are often described as: unruly, dangerous and troublesome. This may be the case for some of the younger people, but it is not an absolute truth. However, through buying what the media says about the younger generation, one’s mind can form these associations.

It will then be difficult to keep an open minded and to see each situation for what it is. Interpretations will automatically be made and this will make it hard to see otherwise

Men And Women

A man with a muscular physique may be associated as being aggressive or unapproachable, by men and women alike, and yet this may be far from the truth. This will be true for some, however it won’t relate to all of them.

Women who are attractive can be associated as being arrogant and aloof. When in reality this may be wide of the mark. For some women this will be the case, but not for all of them.

Absolute Meaning

The ego mind works in absolutes and this means that everything is either black or white. There is no middle ground or grey area with the mind. And this means that the ego mind will have a tendency to either see these associations or to edit and deny anything that goes against these associations.

Another thing that can also happen is the ego mind will interpret reality in a way that does correspond with these associations. And this can involve the use of projection. The saying "We Don't See The World As It Is, We See The World As We Are” by Anais Nin encompasses this perfectly.


The ego mind often perceives the present based on the past or a combination of the past. And this is why it is important to be aware how the ego mind functions. We also have what is called intuition, instincts or hunches and this can be another way of coming to conclusions and making quick judgements.

Associations make life easier and save a lot of time and energy. Through being aware and questioning these associations, one will be able to have a choice, instead of being controlled by them.

Author's Bio: 

My name is Oliver J R Cooper and I have been on a journey of self awareness for over nine years and for many years prior to that I had a natural curiosity.

For over two years, I have been writing articles. These cover psychology and communication. This has also lead to poetry.

One of my intentions is to be a catalyst to others, as other people have been and continue to be to me. As well as writing articles and creating poetry, I also offer personal coaching. To find out more go to -

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