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We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

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Today’s Big Idea: Appearances Matter

The Big Idea for Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Young people often find it hard to accept that external markers like punctuality and personal appearance can make or break a career, at least in the early years. The fact is that human cognition is embarrassingly superficial. Making quick judgments based on appearances is an unconscious survival strategy. We view one another in shorthand, using a few external markers as clues to a person’s nature. 

It’s important that we strive as individuals and a society to see beyond appearances and to evaluate one another in greater depth, but in reality first impressions are powerful. 

This is nowhere more true than in politics, where a simple slip of the tongue or the wrong choice of shoes can lodge itself indelibly in voters’ minds, prejudicing them permanently against a candidate.



  1. 1 Simon Doonan – Is Mitt Romney Too Handsome To Be President?
    Jason Gots Think Tank
  2. 2 Voting for a Face, Not a Candidate
    Maria Konnikova Artful Choice
  3. 3 Disgust, Prejudice, and Stereotypes: Pathogen Protection Gone Awry
    Maria Konnikova Artful Choice
  4. 4 The Female—And Extreme-Female—Brain
    John Cookson Women and Power

Today’s Big Idea: Appearanc...

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