I’ve noticed a series of interesting advertisement posters in airports. They were lining the walls of the ramps as we boarded planes to and from our trip to LA. I don’t know what product they are advertising (which I suppose might be a bad sign from a marketing perspective), but I sure find these posters thought-provoking.

One set of three posters shows identical shots of Niagara Falls, but with three different captions: Beauty. Danger. Power.

Another shows three identical apples, each missing an identical bite: Nutrition. Flavor. Temptation. (I don’t remember all the captions precisely; don’t quote me on these, but you get the idea.)

A third set are a triplicate of a woman’s face, marked up to indicate where the plastic surgeon plans to cut. Confidence? Luxury? Vanity?

I’ve seen lots and lots of different sets of these over the past few years (so I guess they must be selling something successfully).

I take them as reminders that things don’t carry any single inherent meaning; instead, we apply our own meaning to them. Like a Rorshach test, the way we interpret an image, an experience, or a person’s behavior, says at least as much about us as it does about whatever it is we are interpreting.

I’m especially careful about forming impressions of my students, because I know that people under stress don’t show their best or even true selves. I also know that when I meet any new person, what I am “seeing” are mostly my own preconceived notions.

  • Unmotivated? Defiant? Scared?
  • Dumb? Learning Disabled? Frustrated?
  • Lazy? Spoiled? Anxious?

photo taken at The Getty Center, Los Angeles