First Impressions and Critical Thinking

How do you decide if you like something? Do you just roll with whatever subjective feeling you have at the time (ie first impression) or do you think about your experience later and analyze why you should or should not like something?

Now that’s a pretty broad question. Objectively I think it’s safe to say for many things we should take a moment to consider things before deciding the worth of something. First impressions are so wound up in emotion and emotions can be influenced by unrelated things. It wouldn’t really be fair to decide you hate something just because you were mad over an unrelated thing when you first encountered it.

To veer away from the abstract let’s focus on something with no deeper implications for life; entertainment media/popular culture. Whether you like or hate something that falls under this umbrella is fairly inconsequential. Some people might take things to seriously and have their impression of you affected by what you like but that reflects more on them than it does you.

When you watch a movie or read a book how do you decide if you like it? Is it the first impression that comes in the first few pages or first few minutes? Is it how you feel at the end? Or do you analyze the experience later, maybe after hearing what others have to say?

What got me thinking about this was two fold. First. over the holidays I need something to read while I was at my parents. So I borrowed a book from my Dad, a Jack Reacher novel by Lee Childs. It’s very different that things I normally read and very different than things I normally write.

And I liked it. Ever since I started writing it’s been harder for me to enjoy the written word. Such a large part of writing it critiquing and editing that it is hard to turn that part of my brain off. It’s one reason why most books I’ve “read” in the last few years have been audio books. I don’t analyze the text when I hear it.

So what was different about this book? Was it actually good or did I just manage to turn off my writer brain for awhile? I’m not sure it matters.

The other thing that got me pondering this was a Cinema Sins podcast. The topic of the Star Wars prequels came up and one of the guys there admitted he liked the movies the first time. It’s become popular to hate on the prequels. Objectively they are quite bad in a lot of ways. But in truth, I came out of the theater after each one have enjoyed them.

Was I predisposed to like them because they were Star Wars? Most certainly. Should I take that into consideration when analyzing the movies and deciding if they were any good and if I should like them? Maybe?

More times than not my first impression of something will usually be fairly positive. But then I’ll go to the internet. I do enjoy the process of analyzing something and learning about all the little subtleties that I missed on my viewing/reading. Unfortunately you can’t do this without thinking about it and that’s where the first impression begins to wear off.

How much of someones second impression is affected by groupthink? If you watch a movie and then go to read some discussion about it on the internet where the prevailing opinion is that it sucks are you going to start to think it sucks too? There’s a fair chance. Especially if you were uncertain how you felt in the first place.

Should bad movies and books be lambasted for being bad even if we could get some enjoy out of them? Isn’t that the purpose of entertainment? If we were entertained, even if it could have been better didn’t it do it’s job?

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